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Mendo Lake Family Life

Hire the Best Tutor for Your Child

By Denise Yearian

Tutors offer a wealth of educational resources for students who need remedial work, as well as for those who want academic enrichment and maintenance. To choose the right tutor for your child, consider these ten tips.

1. Pitch and persuade. Before searching for a tutor, discuss it with your child to get his or her buy-in. Keep the conversation positive: “You know how reading is kind of hard sometimes? We are going to find someone who can help you.” Most students don’t like to struggle, so if your child is aware that there is a problem, he or she may be more likely to want help. Even so, expect apprehension and offer encouragement.

2. Ponder priorities. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to tutoring. It depends on needs, setting, convenience, and cost. Some people choose a private tutor while others go with a tutoring center. Still others opt for an online service. When choosing a setting—either small group or one-on-one instruction—determine which is the best fit for your child. If you choose a group setting, find out the maximum number of students per class. Convenient location is important, too. Studies show that more frequent tutoring sessions yield greater results. When it comes to cost, bear in mind that one-on-one tutoring may be more costly than group sessions and in-home tutoring more expensive than traveling to a center.

3. Reach for recommendations. Begin your search by asking your child’s teacher, principal, guidance counselor, or others within the school unit. Some school districts have a list of tutors and are willing to make recommendations. Other parents are a good resource, too.

4. Check credentials. Find out if the tutor has experience teaching the subject your child needs help with. Although the instructor may not be credentialed for your child’s grade level, it’s a good idea to find one who holds a college degree and has completed a tutor-training program. This will ensure she or he understands educational theory, instructional strategies, and remedial approaches. Graduate students with strong content knowledge may be a good option, too. Equally important is experience and teaching style. Ask if the tutor has taught children of similar age and learning style as your child. Likewise, consider personality and attitude. Is she or he patient, upbeat, and encouraging?

5. Tally the track record. It’s equally important to check references and track record. Does the tutor you are considering have satisfaction surveys from past parents and students that prove she or he has helped raise test scores, improve classroom grades, and/or better homework completion?

6. Time it right. Although extracurricular activities and parents’ work schedules often dominate the clock, try to be flexible so tutoring sessions are held at a time when your child is most open to learning. Some students need a 30–40 minute break after school. But if you give other kids that same downtime, it will be a battle to get them to work. Know what timing works best for your child and adjust your schedule accordingly.

7. Collaborate on goals. When formulating tutoring goals, get everyone on board— teacher, tutor, parent, and child. Teachers and tutors are aware of what the goals should be, but parents know their child best and should be involved in the goal-setting process. It’s ideal if the tutor and teacher work toward a common goal and communicate regularly to reinforce each other’s techniques. The teacher may also be willing to give feedback on your child’s progress in the classroom.

8. Request progress reports. Many tutors offer periodic progress reports and will check off goals and redefine them, if necessary. Ask for a sample of progress reports to see if they are clear and helpful. Also inquire how often reports will be given.

9. View policies. Clarify policies before signing on the dotted line. Some tutors charge clients if an appointment is canceled without a 24-hour notice. Others have detailed policies for scheduling makeup sessions. Also ask about substitutes. In the event your tutor is out due to illness, how much say will you have in who teaches your child?

10. Show support. Remember, parents play an important role in the whole learning process, so look for practical ways to support your child’s academic endeavors. At the end of each tutoring session, find out what he or she is expected to do before the next one—whether it’s memorizing multiplication facts or completing all classroom assignments—and couple those learning efforts at home. 

What to Ask 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?
• Can my child go during school hours?
• Do you offer diagnostic testing? Is it required?
• Do you teach in small group sessions or one-on-one?
• Where does tutoring take place?
• What qualifications do you/your teachers have?
• What if my child has a personal problem 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?

Denise Yearian is a former educator and editor of two parenting magazines, and the mother of three children and four grandchildren.