|Find the right tutor for your child.|
With so many choices for tutors available, how do you pick the right one? Follow these strategies to determine which tutoring option is best for your child.
Your friend recommends the private tutor she’s hired for her son, while your neighbor swears by the tutoring center in town. How do you choose? The answer lies in determining the individual needs of your child. After all, every student is different so there is no “one size fits all” solution.
Parents hire tutors for many reasons. Perhaps you work crazy hours and don’t have time to assist your child with homework. Or even if you do have time, your child may not want to listen to mom. Maybe the homework is just too difficult to help with, often the case once children enter high school (who remembers chemistry?).
Whatever the reason, the first step is to establish why your child needs a tutor. Is your child looking to catch up…or get ahead? Are you searching for summer learning enrichment so your kid can maintain lessons learned over the school year? Is your child looking to prep for a standardized test?
Figuring out the goals first sets the direction for the entire tutoring search.
Assess PersonalityDifferent children thrive in different environments. Look at your child’s personality, and determine if he is self-motivated or tends to need more guidance every step of the way. Assess your child’s focus – would he flourish in a group session or become too distracted? Would a one-on-tutor proved stimulating or stifling?
Setting also plays a big factor into the results. Take into consideration if your kid is going through a phase of parental resistance. “If parents think their child would perform better away from home or from parents, then a center might be a better choice,” says Katie Koster, a tutor at Jumpstart Tutoring in Eastchester, New York.
Koster continues, “Going to a tutoring center offers them a chance to run into fellow students being tutored, which could be a pro or a con. Pro: if they see they are not alone in having a tutor, they might be more excited to go to their sessions if hopes of running into friends. Con: they might not want other kids to know they are getting tutored, and it could be briefly distracting.”
Another factor is determining the type of teaching style your child best responds to. If he dislikes his tutor, he will put up walls and not listen. Christina Ha works at a private tutoring company in Palo Alto, California and says, “My personal teaching style is on the more serious side, although I do joke here and there to connect with the student. I try to draw connections between what they're learning in school and how it relates to real life. This works great with driven, ambitious students who want extra help to excel as well as maybe some students who have attention-span issues since I try to gently >corral them back onto the subject at hand.”
Ha points out, “But there can be some students who respond better to a tutor who has more of a ‘friend’ vibe or maybe a ‘crazy professor’ type. A good private tutoring company will be able to make a really educated guess at what type of tutor will work best for your child.”
Once you’ve assessed your child’s personality and what he best would respond to, the next step is to find a tutor.
Start with Word of Mouth
Word of Mouth comes up time after time when parents and tutors discuss the best ways to find a tutor. “People start with referrals, so ask around,” recommends Heather Gebhardt, a former New York high school teacher with both tutoring center and private tutoring experience.
Gebhardt also suggests asking your child’s school for recommendations: “Many tutors are former teachers, and this means they’ve been exposed to many types of students. This can be helpful as they may intuitively know what a kid needs. Some need structure and rules while others need a customized hook such as having the tutor weave into lessons something the child is interested in (e.g. child likes baseball so use baseball analogies to get lessons across).”
If Word of Mouth proves unfruitful, try searching local community boards and the internet. Search online for reviews of any options you find.
Now that you’ve collected recommendations, research each one thoroughly.
Conducting a face-to-face interview with a tutor or owner/director of a tutoring company can provide essential information.
"You are your child's advocate so it pays to ask many questions,” states Teresa Kuo from Ann Arbor, Michigan. The mother of two has used both tutoring centers and private tutors for her children.
Kuo notes, “There are no wrong or dumb questions - only the ones you're afraid to ask as this is your child's future. If your child doesn't get the right foundation in subjects he’s not strong in, it’s going to be difficult to build upon it, move ahead, and be successful."
Questions to Ask Tutoring Centers or Private Tutors:
- How do you assess my child?
- How will I know my child will get the attention he needs?
- Will the lesson plans be customized to my child or will the
tutor just assist with homework?
Does the teaching methodology focus on memorization drills or will the learning be more of a hands-on experience?
- How will you track my child’s progress?
- Do you allow parents to observe a portion of the tutoring session?
- Can you work around my child’s schedule?
- Does the Center share a tutor, and if so, what is the teacher to child ratio? (For tutoring centers)
- Does the Center offer a trial plan to assess how the tutor is working out? If the tutor and my child are not a good match, can my child switch tutors? (For tutoring centers)
- Are you equipped to handle students with disabilities such as dyslexia or mild developmental disorders? (For children with special needs)
Price doesn't mean quality, and one option is not necessarily less expensive than the other. Many variables go into determining costs, so make sure to ask about all fees and requirements.
A tutoring center offering group lessons may appear more budget-friendly than a private tutor, but many charge a-la-carte fees per test in order to assess your child. On the other hand, a private tutor may charge an hourly rate, but then require a two hour session minimum to make her time worthwhile.
Tutoring centers usually charge set fees for their services whereas with private tutors you’ll negotiate rates. The pay for a private tutor depends on factors such as qualifications, experience, travel time, and hours needed.
Costs also factor in geographic location. Tutoring centers and private tutors in large cities will likely charge more than say, the Midwest, where the cost of living is much lower.
Just like your child, every place is different. There is no one set cost that applies to every scenario.
Parting Tips for Parents
Get your child involved from the beginning so he won’t be shocked at the first tutoring session. Allow him to have a say in the matter because if he isn’t happy then he’s not going to be cooperative.
Be proactive and maintain communication with the tutor online - don't discuss your child’s issues in front of him as that may embarrass him or put the tutor on the spot. Parents need an ongoing dialogue with the tutor and should monitor progress.
If after several sessions your child voices he is not clicking with the tutor ("too dry", "not energetic"), then make a change. Your child will know you are listening to him and will likely be more open to the next tutor who will better suit his needs.
No matter what option you choose for your child – tutoring center or private tutor – the quality of the experience ultimately depends on the tutor. Keep this in mind when utilizing the strategies above.