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Is It Time for a Tutor?

As a parent, it is frustrating to see your child struggle academically and lose their self-confidence. Maybe a tutor is the answer – someone suited to help your child achieve better grades and assist in rebuilding their self-esteem. Once you decide to seek help, finding the tutor and/or tutoring facility with the right qualifications to fit your child’s exact needs may prove to be a challenge. But with some practical advice and tips, you will be able to help your child overcome their struggles with a successful tutoring experience.

Signs of trouble – Families should be on the lookout for some specific, tell-tale signs of academic trouble with their child. For instance, is your child reluctant to go to school? Is he exhibiting newfound fears of failure? Has her behavior become the exact opposite of her personality? Or, has he lost interest in learning? Additionally, it may be as painfully obvious from a single report card or a parent/teacher evaluation meeting that your child may need assistance. First and foremost, parents are the most important teacher a child can have, and it is vital that when you see your child growing frustrated or overwhelmed by their classwork or homework, you should talk with them and discuss their fears.

How a tutor can help – A tutor needs to be someone that your child will feel comfortable with and who is well-educated in the subject matter that your child is having a problem with. Tutors can provide your child with not only a new sense of reassurance and confidence building, but they can show your child how to apply new learning techniques to the subject(s) that are troublesome. A good tutor has the potential to become a critical part of your child’s academic support.

After a family has determined that their child requires the assistance of a tutor, one of the best places to turn to first is your child’s teacher/guidance office. Inquire if they have a list of available tutors/tutoring facilities in your area. But remember, the costs for tutoring can vary - although many schools may be able to assist you with finding someone within your budget or help in other ways if the tutoring need for your child is clear and you need help affording it. Some schools offer peer tutoring programs where your child will be placed with an older student for a period of time either before or after school. Most importantly, if your child’s academic struggles are related to a developmental issue, your pediatrician/ primary care physician should also be consulted.

Start your research – One of the next factors to take into consideration during your research is the frequency, length and type of tutoring session. Would your child benefit more from the individualized approach that addresses their needs? Or would your child naturally gravitate and thrive in a group setting, which will allow your child to see that there are other students who have the same challenges that they do? Celeste Kirychuck, field consultant at the Calgary branch for Kumon Canada, explains that each has their own unique characteristics. “One-on-one tutoring allows the time to focus on the individual student and determine what the learning gap is and directs attention to ways of helping the student, while a group setting may be more effective as students will see that others can overcome challenges, and it will give them confidence that they will also achieve success.”

However, there are some possible drawbacks to each that parents need to consider during their initial research. First of all, cost. Private tutors can charge anywhere from $25 to $100 an hour, depending on the type of tutor. Additionally, you may also have to pay for your tutor’s travel expenses. Most importantly, one-on-one tutoring has the potential to become, according to Kirychuck, “a temporary solution to the child’s learning difficulties at hand as the tutor does not necessarily work on developing the student’s independent thinking skills and good work habits.” The tutor is only present for a short amount of time, and if your child becomes too reliant on the tutor, learning opportunities can be overlooked and a pattern of dependence is developed. For families considering group tutoring, Louise Ridout, B.Sc. (Hon), M.S., Founder and Director of the Calgary-based EducationWise, Inc., explains that although there are benefits of students being able to “share knowledge and concepts that they come to understand with other group members, a child may get discouraged if other students learn faster and do not encourage the slower students.”

Once your family has settled on the type of tutor that specifically addresses your child’s needs, there are several questions that parents who are interviewing a prospective tutor/tutoring facility should ask: “Does the program or person focus on developing learning skills? Is the program designed or will the person help with specific concepts? And most importantly, what are the long-term goals of the program/tutor and will they have the same goals in mind for your child as you do?” advises Kirychuck. Some tutors, particular tutoring facilities, give children a complete skills evaluation to identify precisely where they struggle.

Family involvement is key – Continue to evaluate your child’s tutor even after the sessions begin. It is important for parents to ask their children if they are comfortable with their new instructors and whether or not they understand the lessons clearly. Be sure to monitor your child’s grades as well. Encouraging and praising your child throughout this process will go a long way as the changes in both their grades and attitude may become immediately apparent. “Notice the successes, even small ones, and speak to them in a positive and matter-of-fact way,” says Ridout. “Ask your child to teach you what they have learned, and show them a positive attitude toward learning by studying and reading yourself, discussing ideas and talking about how life is easier and more interesting when you have more knowledge.”

Seasoned teachers and educational specialists will agree that once a child has been working with a tutor for a while, the changes are clearly visible, and they will become more confident as they master their subject material.

How to win the homework wars

1. Establish a specific time and place in the home to start homework. Don’t put it off until later or when you get the chance. It’s important or the teacher wouldn’t have sent it home, so parents should make a concerted effort to lay down some laws.

2. Take breaks during long homework sessions. If your child is working for more than half-an-hour, have a snack and take 10 minutes or so to talk about their day and then get back to work.

3. Make homework fun. Learning is not confined to the school. It occurs everywhere. Trying to relate your child’s lessons to the real world may prove to be the link to a better understanding of the lesson.

4. Stay involved and offer positive feedback.

Parents should always check over the homework together with their child when it has been completed. If there were any difficulties encountered while working on it, discuss them together. Praise your children for their accomplishments.

Following her college journalism professor’s advice to “write what you know”, Jennifer has specialized in covering pregnancy/family health and lifestyle issues for well over a decade. Her award-winning work has been featured in numerous national/regional publications.


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