Whether your child needs extra academic support or extra academic challenges, help can be found in tutoring.
Janice Pope used to dread helping her 7-year-old son, Logan, with homework. “He would get frustrated and cry, and I would become angry,” says Pope, a high-school teacher. “It was a big mess.” Months of trying to work it out on their own were just making things worse; Logan seemed overwhelmed by his workload, and he didn’t want to go to school. “He started to withdraw and didn’t seem like himself anymore,” she says. So Pope handled the problem in the same way many parents do — she hired a tutor.
At least $5 billion is spent per year on private tutoring, according to industry reports. Part of the reason for the growth: Kids are getting tutors at a younger age. In a class of 20 second graders, three or four may see a tutor while only one or two of those kids actually need it.
Does yours? Study about it before shelling out the cash.
The Suddenly Struggling Student
Like Logan, kids find that second and third grades bring a huge leap in schoolwork and expectations. If your child begins to have a hard time keeping up with his work, consider the possible underlying causes such as too many after-school activities. If your child’s not able to get to his work, he’s going to run into trouble.
“Some parents contact us to help their child catch up,” says Teresa Flores, Ph.D., center director at Sylvan Learning Center of Murfreesboro. “They see their child struggling in school and have confidence that a personalized learning plan provided by Sylvan will help their child improve their academic skills to make better grades at school.”
If your child isn’t overscheduled and you’ve eliminated all the reasons why he could be struggling, talk to his teacher about how to proceed. She may offer to get him extra help during the school day or request that he be tested to see if there are areas of weakness.
Tutors for Better Grades
If you want to hire a tutor to turn your “B” student into an “A” student or qualify for a gifted program, experts urge caution. Pressuring your child can backfire on you. For the child who needs more enrichment, take regular outings to library events, science centers and natural-history museums even if their programming and exhibits don’t match up to what he’s learning in class at the moment. “Kids who have a variety of experiences outside of school tend to be more enthusiastic learners,” says Jennifer Graham, a third-grade teacher in Nashville. “And that’s better long term for your child than an A-plus on any given social studies test.”
But if your child comes to you and says he thinks he could do better if he just had some additional help, then go for it.
“Tutoring is not just for those who are struggling with a class,” says Vanessa Adams, director of Gateway Academy at the Learning Lab (the Learning Lab has three Middle Tennessee locations). “Academic support is extremely helpful for students who wish to better prepare for their classes on a daily basis, to obtain reinforcement on key concepts and to help with test taking and study skills,” she adds.
The Reluctant Reader
Is your child having a hard time in a single subject, like reading or math, and falling behind his peers? Many schools have specialists with specific content training to help get children up to speed. If yours doesn’t or your child’s teacher thinks even more help is in order, consider hiring a private tutor who specializes in the subject. Ask your child’s teacher for recommendations; freelance specialists are typically less expensive and as equally qualified as the ones at learning centers. Also consider chipping in for a tutor with another family.
Common Core Standards
Just what is, or isn’t, going on in class many parents wonder? Critics point to an inflexible curriculum that is too advanced for all but the top 10 percent of kids, combined with a pace that prevents complete comprehension, internalization and application of material. Add to this an inordinate amount of testing (e.g., a unit test plus three quizzes every two weeks, multiplied by five classes, equaling 20 evaluations for every 10 days of school), and the result is panic, cramming, memorization and crazed phone calls to tutors at the 11th hour.
“We have seen an increase in students, who all come for various reasons,” says Adams. “With increasing demands on kids in school, extra tutoring support is often needed to keep up with the curriculum. Additionally, we hear quite often from parents and students who want to boost their TCAP or general standardized testing scores.”
Homework Avoidance, Frustration
Nicholas Connell was about halfway through first grade when his parents realized he was having academic issues. “As we read with him at home, we noticed he was memorizing words rather than sounding them out,” recalls his mother Deborah. “I was concerned and didn’t know if he was a slow learner or just having problems.” After talking with his teacher and guidance counselor, the Connells decided get their son help.
“Frustration while doing homework is a sure sign that help is needed,” says Adams. “So is hiding test scores. One thing I hear from parents is that they themselves are frustrated and oftentimes don’t know how to help their child. When it gets to this level, the family should consider tutoring,” she adds.
There are a number of signs that a child needs a tutor, says Flores. These can include difficulty doing homework, unfinished assignments, poor test grades, frustration and tears.
12 SIGNS A CHILD NEEDS A TUTOR
- Doesn’t want to go to school
- Difficulty doing homework
- Gaps in learning
- Poor test grades
- Hiding test scores from parents
- Teacher reports missing assignments
- Unable to keep up
- Multiple wrong answers
- Unfinished assignments
- Frustration and possibly tears
- Decreased self-confidence
- Parents are frustrated and don’t know how to help
QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING A TUTOR
- What age do you tutor?
- Is it for remedial work only? Or do you do enrichment and maintenance, too?
- What subjects do you offer?
- Do you have summer programs?
- Can my child go during school hours?
- Do you offer diagnostic testing? Is it required?
- Is it small group sessions or one on one?
- Where does tutoring take place?
- What qualifications do you/your teachers have?
- If there’s a personal conflict with the tutor, can I get another one?
- How often is the child required to go?
- Can you work sessions around my family’s schedule?
- How often will I receive progress reports? Will they be written or verbal?
- What is the duration of the contract?
- How much do you charge?
- Are there any hidden fees?