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10 Free Educational Sites to Try Before Hiring a Tutor

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In a landscape of rising tuition costs and long school supply lists, online tutoring is one area where an investment in a child's education doesn't have to cost a cent. Free educational websites can reinforce the lessons children are learning in school, introduce new concepts in a home-school environment, or polish skills that got a little rusty over summer vacation. Here are 10 free educational sites recommended in online reviews by experts, consumer reviewers, and professional educators.

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A general education website created with high school and college students in mind, HippoCampus covers a wider array of topics than the other free tutoring sites on this list. The design is polished and professional. Tools range from multimedia video presentations to simulations and slide shows. Subjects covered include math, natural sciences, social sciences, and religion. One warning: HippoCampus relies heavily on Adobe Flash, which some Apple devices don't support.

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This free online tutoring site offers high school math students clear lesson plans on subjects from algebra to calculus, including a multitude of examples and integrated online worksheets. Although the design looks somewhat rudimentary, the layout is straightforward and easy to navigate. A website can't replace professional, one-on-one tutoring sessions for a struggling child, but IntMath is a good choice for students who need extra practice to wrap their heads around a concept, or for test preparation.

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Designed to help pre-K through high school students grasp grade-appropriate mathematical concepts, this site's biggest strength is its repository of video lesson plans. OnlineMathLearning.com also offers interactive games and non-printable worksheets. Lessons are sorted by subject and grade level, with additional sections for standardized test preparation, including the SAT and ACT. Much like the results in Google searches, the each page is populated with ads at the top, so scroll down before clicking.

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Beginning readers can hone their abilities with this phonics-based website. Chock-full of interactive activities and stories, Starfall appeals to young children who are learning the English alphabet and the sounds each letter makes.

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For a site geared toward the complex composition and grammar needs of middle schoolers on up, Purdue University's Online Writing Lab is worth a bookmark. Not only does the site document the ins and outs of proper punctuation and word usage, it covers correct formatting for common assignments, such as book reports and research papers. It also caters to graduates with resources for writing cover letters and résumés.

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Well-planned tutorials, complete with diagrams and questions that test students' level of understanding, are one draw of this thorough physics site. Other notable features include multimedia movies and animations that illustrate real-world physics and interactive review sessions. Primarily oriented toward high school students, The Physics Classroom is also a good resource for teachers.

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Tweens and teens can use this free, intuitive site and app to learn and practice 13 different languages, from oft-studied tongues such as Spanish and French to less common options such as Turkish and Dutch. Easy-to-use lessons incorporate imagery and recorded sound bites to reinforce vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar. Duolingo has a few limitations -- there is no way follow along with specific coursework, and it doesn't offer Asian, African, or Middle Eastern language options. Still, this is a free way for students to increase their fluency.

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When it's time to study for the weekly spelling test, this site provides an alternative to flashcards. The free membership is more limited than a premium, paid membership but allows custom spelling lists. Students can take a practice test online or increase their familiarity with the words through word searches, word scrambles, or a hangman-style game called Hang Mouse. Computer speakers are necessary to get the full benefit from this site. There is also a free app for practicing on the go.

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Students won't find engaging games or colorful animation on the Khan Academy site, but it has an impressive repository of educational content. Video lessons guide students through classroom-style lectures on a wide variety of subject matter, including math, science, economics, art, and computer programming. There is even a test prep section to help students prepare for the SAT or GMAT. Although some math lessons are geared toward younger pupils, this resource is primarily for high school and college students.

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This no-cost Scholastic website teaches elementary school children about math and science through high-quality animated videos. After viewing each video, students can test themselves on the subject matter, or choose to sing a karaoke song that puts the lesson to music. This simple and engaging site has a colorful, appealing design and isn't plagued by ads, like many other free offerings.