Free or Cheap Educational Support

HelpNow. This is tutoring Silicon Valley style. HelpNow is a virtual tutoring program available for grades kindergarten to adult through the San Mateo County Library System. Students are connected to a  live tutor after they log into the system, enter their grade level and the subject they need help with. Students can receive assistance in math, science, social studies, English/language arts, writing or reading. 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Any San Mateo Public Library or
Paws for Tales. If your child is struggling to read, maybe they just need the right audience. In this program, supported by the Peninsula Humane Society and hosted at libraries throughout the area, children read to trained therapy dogs. Studies show that children who may be afraid to read in front of peers are less anxious with animals, because they are not judgmental. The program takes place about once a week at various libraries throughout the Peninsula and is for children ages 5 and older. For more information, visit
San Francisco

The Bridge to Main. This  new resource and education center inside the San Francisco Main Library offers free family literacy workshops, tutoring and technology training. Classes range from Girls who Code to Intermediate Computer Training. It also has a resource collection for adults and children with dyslexia, attention disorders and other learning differences. It has books, audio and video cassettes; magazines and newsletters; and state-of-the-art assistive devices to provide and enhance library accessibility. It does all this in a beautiful setting overlooking Civic Center Plaza. Open Mon. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Tue.-Thur. 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri. 12-6 p.m.; and Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. 100 Larkin St., fifth floor, San Francisco.
Newborn Connections. Perhaps there’s no time you need education more than when faced with becoming a new parent. Everything is foreign territory, from sleeping to collapsing that expensive stroller. California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco has a great resource center, offering a library and classes for new parents. You can get schooled in the basics, such as how to change a baby’s diaper and breastfeeding tips. They even offer a class for expectant siblings. The best part: Most of the classes are fairly low-cost, running from $15 to $95 per couple. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 3698 California St., San Francisco. 415-600-2229.
Edupath. This free SAT/ACT prep class readies kids for the transition to college through live training with veteran instructors and virtual tutoring. The program, offered through the San Francisco Public Library, is limited to 25 students per topic, which range from college essay writing to navigating the college financial aid process. Students join a two or four class series, with about two hours of homework between sessions.
Peninsula/North Bay/San Francisco

Parents Place. This is one of the best resources in the Bay Area for low-cost parenting classes, offering courses on every topic imaginable from juggling two children to managing strong emotions in young kids. Classes are low cost, with the average costing about $40. Perhaps the best deal is for CPR training, which runs $45. Hundreds of workshops annually are taught throughout the Bay Area at one of five campuses. If you can’t get out of the house, they also offer webinars, consultations over the phone or via Skype. www.parentsplaceonline.
East Bay
The People’s Test Preparation Service. Prepping your child for the SAT is an expensive proposition. That’s why a group of students at the University of California, Berkeley started this non-profit service in 1995. The free program targets low-income youth in Berkeley, Oakland and Richmond. Each class is 10 weeks long. Weekday classes meet twice a week for two hours, while weekend courses meet once a week for four and a half hours. Students must register online. Classes are conducted at various schools around the East Bay.
Jennifer Christgau-Aquino is a freelance writer in the Bay Area and mother of two.


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