Some students sail smoothly through school with little need of additional help. Others struggle, sometimes painfully. A family move or extended illness can cause additional challenges that make it difficult for your child to keep up. Tutoring can help.

What is tutoring?

One-on-one tutoring is an intimate form of education that allows for immediate feedback between tutor and student. Experienced tutors can fill learning gaps as well as provide a bridge between family life and the more formalized school setting. Professional tutor and author, Marina Koestler Ruben, notes that, at its core, tutoring is a combination of homework help, strengthening weaker skills and enrichment. She makes the point that in academic terms, tutoring serves a role that is akin to parenting. Her book, “How to Tutor Your Own Child,” offers a broad perspective for parents who wish to fill at least some of the functions that tutoring can provide.

Whether a parent provides academic support alone or seeks tutoring for their child, the parent’s perspective is crucial. You are the one who knows your child the best and loves your child the most. Trust your instincts in knowing when to seek help.

When to call a professional tutor

Homework help may already be part of your family routine. However, when stress and strain develop between parent and child over schoolwork or the subject matter becomes too complex for either parent to handle, it is time to reassess.

When your child avoids homework, complains of stomach aches or headaches, takes a long time to complete assigned tasks, does not turn in work or is falling behind in grade level work, it is time to intervene. Decide whether a generalist can help or if specialized instruction is needed. Is your child is an independent learner or a child who learns best with explicit direct instruction?

Tutoring builds confidence

Even short bits of tutoring can help build confidence in your child. When my daughter, Natalie, reached Algebra Trigonometry level math in high school, she hit a wall. She was unable to follow her math teacher’s explanation of the concepts and she floundered. We found two sources of help for this challenge. Several sessions with a Sylvan tutor provided additional explanations of the problematic math principles. Additionally, one of the high school teachers donated math tutoring sessions which we won in a school fundraiser. These brief but determined efforts helped Natalie complete her final math course with a grade that she could be happy with.

Tutoring can help with a learning disability

Testing by a professional may be needed. Your neighborhood school will test to determine whether your child is eligible for special public education services. To acquire a detailed report or diagnosis of your child’s learning abilities, a clinical psychologist or private testing service may be in order. Conduct your own research independently to best advocate for your child.

Even though I recognized my son’s challenges, tears flowed fast during his fourth-grade parent-teacher conference where we confronted the reality that he needed testing for a learning disability. Relief followed when his difficulties were identified, and we understood that Thomas would develop his language skills with the help of a highly trained tutor who used a program designed for students with dyslexia. The years of tutoring that Thomas received served as a key turning point in his life and literally made his later achievements possible.

Tutoring doesn’t have to cost a lot

Most private tutors charge an hourly rate depending on experience and credentials. Whether getting ahead academically is the goal of tutoring or there are basic reading or math skills that need help, search for creative cost solutions.

  • Tutors can be found who provide passionate help as volunteers.
  • College students often tutor in their major area of study.
  • Tutors gaining experience through a practicum offer reduced rates.
  • A grandparent may be available to assist your fourth-grader in learning the multiplication tables.
  • A parent can act as tutor. Academic programs are available that are scripted so that parents can deliver the lessons with little preparation and learn right along with their child.

In some cases, the cost of not remediating is greater than the fees charged by a specialized tutor. Each family must answer the question: What do you want to achieve with tutoring and is it worthy of the expense?

Be sure to measure your child’s progress

Many professional tutors make a practice of writing notes after every tutoring session and provide regular reports to parents and teachers. Look for a consistent format that documents your child’s progress.

Working with a tutor opens an additional avenue for you as a parent to learn how your child learns best. Allow this resource to inform your own continued quest to model and share a love of learning with your child.

– Diane Turner Maller

10 Questions to Ask a Prospective Tutor

  • What are your qualifications, degrees, certifications and training?
  • How long have you been tutoring?
  • Tell me about your teaching methods or educational programs that you use?
  • Do you have references I can speak to?
  • What is your availability and do our schedules match?
  • How often will you meet with my child and for how long?
  • How will progress be measured?
    How will you communicate with my child’s school?
  • Please explain your fee structure and cancellation or make-up policy.
  • Can we schedule a free consultation to ensure that tutor and student are a good fit?

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