What Are Homework Therapists? Parents Are Hiring Them For Extra Help

It used to be that when it came to homework help, parents had pretty much only one choice: tutors. But now, there seems to be a whole cottage industry full of people who are able to help kids navigate how to get through everything school-related, from homework to college applications, and beyond. So what are homework therapists? Parents are now hiring them for extra help.

According to CafeMom, there is growing concern among today's parents over homework (some of it warranted, in this veteran mom's opinion). But this concern has spawned a new person to pay: A "homework therapist" who comes over and gives guidance and emotional support to your youngsters as they take on their after-school workload.

Actually, as it turns out, that is this not such a new thing in some parts of the country, with the New York Times having noted the trend last year.

However, before you run out and book one, the original idea was getting professional educational support for kids who genuinely need additional help, as Babble and other sites have noted.

That's different than hiring someone because a parent doesn't want to sound out "See Spot Run" with their elementary schooler (by the third kid around, I admit, I fantasized about such a thing, not knowing it existed). Homework therapists may truly be able to help kids who experience anxiety.

But as the CBS show The Doctors reported, the trend may be catching on with the general parental public as well.

The TV medical news show noted that some families are finding it worth their while to pay up $200 to $600 a session to get their kids a homework helper, who also offers encouraging texts mid-week and helps come up with a study plan or schedule the kid can stick to.

All of which made the show's experts skeptical, with psychotherapist Mike Dow weighing in that many tutors won't be trained therapists, and therapy in general should be for kids who need it. Otherwise, the show's cast argued, today's parents should let kids should be allowed to work things out themselves.

I agree with this, but parenting and cultural experts have also noted that today's kids face new pressures.

CafeMom added that an increased college prep workload prevails for today's kids... and many others may also suffer from either diagnosed or undiagnosed learning and attention deficits that make today's heavy homework load overwhelming (not to mention things like depression or anxiety).

So for the right kid, this new type of expert may be a godsend. More than just helping with assignments, such an expert, whose formal title might be an "educational therapist," pushes kids along in their tasks while also helping to manage their anxiety, according to Child Mind, a mental health nonprofit for kids.

But for another type of parent — what some are now calling the "lawnmower" type of mom or dad — this new addition to the domestic staff adds another layer to the riddle of how to teach kids to be independent problem-solvers who are OK with making their own mistakes and not always being the best in a competitive world.

This job is fascinating; I can see both the genuine need for it in some cases, and the potential for overuse of such an expert. It can be frustrating when you feel like you don't see any progress or immediate reward. But then, on other days, it seems like everyone and everything has taken a quantum leap forward.

Come to think of it, that's also how the process of learning and growing as a person goes. And I truly don't think we should deprive our kids of the experience of living and learning on their own when possible.