Is Tutoring Right For My Child?

School is back in session, at least here in California, and in the next few weeks parents will be coming in and asking me if tutoring is right for their child. Perhaps a better question is, “What are the benefits of tutoring?” or “What should I expect my child to get out of having a tutor?”

First and foremost, tutoring should help your child gain the confidence and skills to realize that they can be successful in school, which will translate to feelings of being able to be successful in life. Now, don’t misunderstand my last point. I’m not talking about success as measured by wealth (though that may be a benefit) but rather success as an adult in the workplace, in his relationships, and his quality of life.

Tutoring gives your child personalized attention that a teacher, no matter how acclaimed, can’t do in a classroom of 20, 30, 40 students. A good tutor develops a personal relationship with your child, helping him to feel safe to ask the ‘stupid’ questions he was too embarrassed, or shy to ask in class; or afraid to ask mom or dad for fear of disappointing them.

A tutor can tailor her instruction to your child’s needs and perhaps find a different way to approach an area your child is struggling with. She is able to give encouragement and praise as he tackles previously overwhelming or intimidating subjects. As your child’s knowledge and understanding of a previously difficult subject increases, his self-esteem and confidence will increase. With each new success, your child’s attitude about school and about his own abilities will increase.

Good versus bad tutoring

Good tutoring encourages self directed learning. Depending on your child’s needs, a tutor can help teach your child new study skills: skills they will be able to use throughout their education.  A tutor who helps a struggling student master new skills is a good one, one who does the child’s work for them so they don’t have to push themselves is a bad one. According to the first line in the National Tutoring Association’s ethics code, “I understand that my role as a tutor is to never do the student’s work for him or her.” (http://www.ntatutor.com/code_of_ethics.htm)

So, back to the initial question: how do you know if tutoring is right for your child? Some cues can be that your child becomes increasingly reluctant to go to school, you notice his grades dropping, there is a loss of interest in learning - often seen as an “I don’t care” attitude, especially among teenagers, he spends hours on his homework but seems to be getting little done, is easily frustrated with his homework, or his self esteem seems to be dropping.

Tutoring should not be used to boost a parent’s ego when comparing their child to their friend’s children, other children in your child’s class, or even other children across the nation. Tutoring will not raise your child’s SAT scores by 300 points, but it will put your child on a path to success.

What can you expect to pay for a tutor? In my area you can hire a high school student for $15 to $20 an hour, an adult - often a former teacher or classroom aide - will run about $20 to $40 an hour. Nationally the average is $45 to $65 an hour according to Mr. Pines of the Education Industry Association. In New York City one can expect to pay $85 to $150 for a reasonably priced tutor, and up to $400 an hour for the higher priced tutors. (Looking at Tutors as an Investment www.nytimes.com/2010/08/21) As you can see prices vary widely by area.

Probably the best ways to find a tutor are to ask your child’s teacher, the office staff at your child’s school (these people can be a wealth of information), or even ask around among your friends. Listen to what they have to say. Why did they think this person was worth recommending? Keep in mind that what was important to your neighbor, may not be important to you and your child. Remember, your child’s tutor needs to be able to form a relationship with your child where he will feel safe to take academic ‘risks’ -  a professional friendship of sorts.

If you see your child beginning to struggle, seek help early, before he gets too far behind. There is nothing shameful about seeking out help for your child. Some parents worry that it reflects poorly on them or their child, but as I see it, it proves that you care for your child and want what’s best for him today, tomorrow, and in his future. After all, isn’t success in school and life what all parents want for their children?

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