School's in and so are online tutoring services

Tutor.com and Brainfuse.com are just two of the online tutoring services that give instant, even anonymous access to a little help.

Summer's over and if you're a parent of a school-age child, so is the reprieve from nagging kids to do their homework. In an article in the New York Times, one parent reports that there is a lot of homework help to be had on the Internet these days, but finding the right sites can be a bit daunting.

"There's a lot of players getting into the mix, but it's a young industry and there's not a lot of clearinghouses or evaluations," said Don Knezek, chief executive of the International Society for Technology in Education, a nonprofit organization.

There are two main types of sites — those that provide online resources to help students find answers to their questions, and those that allow a student to interact with a tutor through instant messaging. Tutor.com and Brainfuse.com are two of the major tutoring sites and work through libraries and schools. Tutor.com is free to kids and libraries pay for the service.

Students can log on to Tutor.com even if they're not working in a library by using their library card number. Once logged in, they can IM with a tutor to ask a specific question.

"The idea is to help figure it out, not give the answer," said George Cigale, chief executive and founder of Tutor.com. About 50 percent of the questions, he said, involve math.

Brainfuse.com, another online tutoring company, is contracted by a number of states under the federal No Child Left Behind law. It offers tutoring help in schools that have failed to make adequate progress under the law for two or more years.

"There are clearly times students need a face-to-face tutor, but sometimes he needs anonymity. Online, a student might be more willing to ask the same question eight times in a row, or to admit he doesn't't know how to do long division even though he's in 7th grade," said Francesco Lecciso, director for the company.

Other sites such as GrowingStars.com, hires tutors from India and charges about $25 an hour.

Other sites focus on search engines geared toward younger students such as AOL's newly launched StudyBuddy.com - a free homework site for grades K-12 — with content broken down by grade.