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Free Tutoring Thanks to Advertising


Advertising usually gets a bad rap in our society -- and sometimes rightly so. It seems there is nowhere you can go where you aren't subjected to a marketing message of some type.


However, it's also important to recognize remember the positive role advertising plays. It often pays for the delivery of information and services that would not otherwise be available, or that would cost us more if we had to pay from our own pocket.


Web sites (like my own site at ParentPreviews.com) also use the same business premise, and one has been brought to my attention that has a particularly valuable offering to any parent who has wondered if tutoring might help their child achieve better grades at school.


MindSprinting.com began delivering tutoring services over the Internet a few years ago. Founded by Douglas J. Golden, a retired attorney, and his brother Steve, the concept (like most great business ideas) is deceptively simple:


Golden's daughter was in need of tutoring assistance a few years back and, like many of us, he paid the fees to a traditional "brick and mortar" tutoring service in his neighborhood and was pleased to see her performance improve. But, as he went through the weekly ritual of returning worksheets and having new assignments provided to her, he recognized that effective tutoring could be done through a systematic process, as long as a parent was willing to provide just a few minutes per day assisting their child.


Some time later, with the Internet reaching out to virtually every home in the nation, these brothers came up with a (ahem...) "Golden" idea -- develop a web site that would assess student's abilities in math and language skills and then, based on an evaluation of a preliminary test, provide them with the exercises they required to improve in deficient areas. Even better, make it affordable enough so every family could access the help.


Opening the web site in early 2004, the services were well received at the nominal fee of $15 per month. In fact, they had enough visitors to the site that they recognized they could achieve their ultimate goal and supply the materials to visitors at no cost and support the effort through advertising. Retooling the entire idea, they reopened the "new" MindSpringing.com in May of 2008 and are already seeing a huge number of visitors from the United States, Canada and many other parts of the world.


They are also getting visits, according to Golden, from "hundreds and hundreds of schools and boards of education... even hospitals." The latter, Golden presumes, is from parents of children who are missing school due to illness and needing to maintain their study skills.


And Golden notes that all of this has been achieved with very little promotional effort.


From a user's perspective the MindSprinting.com site provides a very professional approach. Registration can be done on a child's behalf by a parent, or children can register themselves. There is also an option for teachers to register an entire class. And, in case you were curious as I was, you can also register as an adult and discover if you could still pass high school math. (No comment from this author...)


A "dashboard" is what you will see every time you log in. It keeps track of any students you are working with, charts their progress and offers assistance. It makes it easy for a parent to keep tabs on the progress of more than one child. From this you can access virtually everything you require including a selection of custom reports.


Another nice feature is the "fast tracking" ability. This allows you to jump around in the curriculum if you feel your child is able to progress more quickly. Or, you can go back and revisit previous lessons and concepts.


Finally, most of us parents are looking for ways to have children do something that doesn't involve sitting at the computer (or video game, or television, or...). Thankfully, after you take the initial test to assess your needs, the skill building sessions can be output from your computer's printer, allowing a child to work anywhere and not require a computer.


Obviously, when it comes to motivating a child to learn, nothing can replace a dedicated teacher along with a helpful parent -- a fact Golden brought up repeatedly during our interview. But parents especially usually need some extra support. Mindsprinting.com can provide parents, who may be rusty with their own skills, with the materials they need to give their kids that extra boost. Considering the price, it's definitely worth a click.


Rod Gustafson

Besides writing this column for the Parents Television Council, Rod Gustafson authors Parent Previews - a newspaper and Internet column (published in association with movies.com) that reviews movies from a parent's perspective. He's also the film critic for a major Canadian TV station, various radio stations and serves on the executive of the Alberta Association for Media Awareness. Finally, his most important role is being the father to four wonderful children and husband to his beautiful wife (and co-worker) Donna.

Parenting and the Media by Rod Gustafson

The Parents Television Council - www.parentstv.org

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