After months of shuttered schools and virtual learning, many parents worry that their children have fallen behind academically. Other parents see their students excelling in certain areas and want to provide them with more enrichment. So, whether to shore up a lagging skill or to encourage an area of interest, parents often find themselves in need of private instruction for their children.
Private tutoring can take place in the family home, at a public space such as the library, at school, in a tutoring center, or in the instructor’s home or office. Tutors range from teachers moonlighting after school to people who make tutoring their career. What should a parent consider in searching for someone to work with their child?
Elizabeth Kraemer and Joann Hill, co-founders of Capitol Teachers which provides tutoring services, suggest that parents start with some basic questions, such as how long the tutor has been teaching and what grades and subjects they have experience with. Someone who works well with lower elementary students might not be the best fit for your teenager. As Krista, mother of a rising freshman with dyslexia says, “First and foremost I look for someone that I think will be a good fit for my child – someone who can connect with teenagers well. When it’s a good fit, we see more success.”
Capitol Teachers further advises that parents question potential tutors to see if they’re familiar with the child’s grade level standards and skills and how they will use them to guide the tutoring sessions. They suggest asking what assessments the tutor will use to tailor the lessons appropriately so that they can focus on the problem areas and not waste time. The private instructor should be willing to work with classroom teachers to make the most of work outside school. There should be a clear plan of action on the deficits or areas to improve and how to move forward.
If a child has a specific learning disability, it is essential to find an expert in that particular field. Working with an unqualified tutor could be time and money wasted and could even be detrimental. For example, if your child has dyslexia, working with a tutor certified in Orton-Gillingham or a comparable approach is best. This sort of specialization will cost more money in the short term, but will produce better results in the long run.
Similarly, if your child has developmental issues such as autism or attention issues, you should seek out a tutor who is experienced with those challenges. A tutor accustomed only to working with typically developing children will not know how to approach these kids, and again it could just mean time wasted and frustration on everyone’s part.
Cost is, of course, a consideration. A child needing enrichment might be successful with an enthusiastic high school or college student who would be significantly less expensive. On the other hand, someone with a significant learning disability requires an expert in the field. If money is a factor, using an online tutor can be more economical, if that works for your situation.
Traveling to the tutor rather than having the tutor come to you can also save money. A tutoring center will generally be less expensive than a private tutor who comes to your house. Often tutors will negotiate a lower rate for more hours per week or if you can work around their schedule. Pairing up with another student with similar needs can also be cost-effective.
Both tutors and parents stress that it is important to find a tutor who works to understand the student as an individual. The tutor/student relationship is a close one, and the right fit is crucial to success. Madison, a mother of three children, was searching for someone to help her kids get back up to grade level after an entire year of online learning. She explains, “I wanted someone who had experience with kids from differing backgrounds and learning styles because no kid learns the same. The same thing would never work for all three of my boys.”
Developing the Relationship
Once you have found the right tutor, it is important to work on the tutor/child relationship. Tutor Jamie Klein notes that she always wants to set her students up for success by matching them with a tutor whom they trust wholeheartedly. She continues, “This means that they spend time getting to know each other and do not jump into academics right away. Maybe they go for a walk for their first session or grab an ice cream. Who wants to do hard things with someone they don’t know? Students can only find success when they can show their most vulnerable selves with their tutor. That’s when the change happens!”
E.V. Downey is the principal educational consultant with Downey School Consulting. She also works as a private tutor, behavior therapist, and flute teacher and is the Co-Director of Busy Bees Camps.