November 2018

Finding the Right Tutor for Your Child

By Jan Pierce

There are many reasons for a child to fall a bit behind in one school subject or another. Maybe your family moved and the new school does things differently, or maybe your child is operating on a different developmental clock than the curriculum.

Whatever the reason, being behind other learners is never a happy situation for your child. You may be able to do extra work at home to catch up, but often a tutor is the best way to help a child make great strides in learning.

Hiring a tutor is a serious venture. You don’t want to risk adding more stress to your child’s life and the additional expense can be a strain on your budget. You definitely want the dollars spent to bring positive results.

Here are some things to consider when finding the best tutor for your child:

Safety and Convenience

Your primary concern is for the well-being of your child. You’ll be entrusting your little learner into the hands of another adult. Be sure to get references, check them out and plan to have the lessons take place either in your own home where you can be nearby, or in a public place such as a school or library with supervision.

Skills and Experience

The best tutors are retired or currently not employed teachers. They are certificated and have lots of experience with children needing additional support. Sometimes businesses that offer tutoring for children are able to provide encouraging lessons in basic subjects, but just as often their teachers are not certificated and have limited experience in teaching a subject with learning styles in mind. They may not be able to present a lesson in a number of different ways to help the child understand.

Occasionally a family member may be able to step in and help your child in a certain subject. In that case, work with your classroom teacher to get proper materials for the lessons. It’s important that the tutoring sessions not confuse your learner by teaching lessons that conflict in any way with the classroom expectations.

Be sure that you work with class- room teachers and the tutor to set specific goals for the time spent in tutoring sessions. One good way to build learning confidence is to “see” progress over time as certain goals are met.

Patience, Empathy, and Confidence

Children who have fallen behind in their classroom work are often very discouraged. They may feel they can’t learn and may have taken a hit to their self-esteem. So anything additional in their schedule can feel like punishment. Avoid that possibility by hiring someone who understands the problem, offers nothing but positive lessons presented in small bite-sized pieces so that failure is not an option. Good tutors will have games and activities that are both instructional and fun. They may use some sort of reward system that encourages a bit of risk-taking, but also makes your child feel hopeful and accomplished.

A good tutor is on task but upbeat and friendly. He or she will be patient but expect the best so that sessions are worthwhile and have specific milestones to achieve. Often charts and stickers, etc. work very well for a child who has not been able to earn them in class.

Enthusiasm for the Subject, Positivity

Typically children who have experienced a degree of failure are sure that they’re “bad at math” or “bad at reading.” A good tutor can present material in which your child can shine. And enthusiasm for the fun of reading a good book or solving a math problem can literally change your child’s mind about that subject. An enthusiastic tutor who truly loves the subject matter may be able to overshadow all those unhappy experiences in the classroom and offer your child new hope.

Reliability

Your family’s schedule is important and adding a tutoring session may be a stretch for you. So if your tutor is not on time, or fails to measure up in any way, please feel free to find another one.

It’s also a good idea to schedule tutoring sessions for a month or two at a time and then re-evaluate the need for the extra support. You may decide that the extra boost in learning was all your child needed to get back on track. Or you may decide that certain times of the year are just too busy to add another timeslot. Maybe waiting until spring or even summer would be the best choice for your family.

It’s important that your child never feel that working with a tutor is an embarrassment or a punishment. It may be wise to explain that throughout history children have worked with tutors and that classroom instruction is a relatively new way to learn.

Finding the best tutor for your child will take some research and some time. It will cost some money. But a strong, capable tutor may be just the boost your child needs to become a confident, successful learner.

Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and writer specializing in education, parenting and family life. She is the author of Homegrown Readers and Homegrown Family Fun. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net .

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