If you’ve hired a tutor for your child, obviously you’ve decided your child needs more help than you can provide on the given topic. However, you may discover there are more questions than answers, like who decides what is covered, how much time is enough, should there be homework, and when is tutoring no longer needed? Before we can answer those questions, you need to know a few things yourself.
Why did you hire a tutor?
Not all families hire a tutor for the same reason. If your child needs help to learn a specific concept like borrowing in subtraction or to improve a general subject area like writing, the answers to those first questions will be different. Are you simply looking for homework support, help with overall organization, or is there a specific project to be completed? Many families find alternate ways to provide extra academic support without the extra expense (ie. neighbors, family, friends, sitters, au pairs, nannies, after-school, community, church or library programs).
Be sure you know why you have a tutor and have an idea of what to expect out of the relationship. After all, you are likely paying upwards of $25-$40 per hour for an experienced tutor (or even more from chains like TutorDoctor). Many tutors have basic ground rules, like communicate about changes to schedules, specifics of what will be covered, payment details, etc. Be clear with regard to these details whenever possible. Kids should know, too, that the tutor is here to help with a specific task and is to be treated as a professional.
Who decides what is covered?
That depends on your reason for hiring. If you need a specific project completed, a specific skill mastered or regular homework help, the work of the tutor is mainly driven by the assignment at hand (ie. topic of the project, homework assigned that night). If a child is attempting to master subtraction with borrowing, for example, the tutor may use examples from the book, homework assignments, or provide manipulatives to practice the concept like base ten blocks, chips or others. If a child needs homework help, it would not make sense for the tutor to bring in extra work or make up additional assignments to add to the load. In my experience, parents do not provide materials or dictate specific content but may have suggestions about what might work best for their child. Both must have input; after all, it is the tutor who has the academic knowledge and the parent who knows their child best.
Should there be homework?
The answer again depends on the reason for tutoring. If the tutor is hired to support the completion of some assignment or project, there should be interim steps completed without the tutor’s assistance. Progress should not come to a screeching halt without the tutor. Kids need to learn proactive steps to help themselves whenever possible, even if they will struggle. Encourage ownership and work ethic in every child, rather than dependence on others.
If you’ve hired a tutor to help with homework or organization, the “homework” should be to accurately complete daily assignments, write in a daily agenda or planner, and keep folders organized until the next meeting. While tutoring may occur once or twice a week, kids who need organizational support often need daily check-ins. This may happen by phone or email with a tutor, or become a task assigned to a parent, sitter or older sibling between tutoring sessions. Teachers may be willing to work with a tutor to provide consistent support from week to week.
When is tutoring no longer needed?
Naturally, the answer varies. For the individual who needs to improve organization or overall writing skills, there may be no clear end date. It may be when the student or parents feel there has been some progress, or a change in school year, teacher, attitude or approach may eliminate the need for tutoring. Often just the process of having a tutor, discussing the process of learning and becoming more aware of the steps to success will result in students taking more responsibility for their learning.
Generally speaking, with regular and focused sessions (on a specific concept, task or assignment), positive results may be seen right away or within a couple of weeks. Effort on the part of the student is required, though, for improvement and success. While I have tutored some kids for as long as two school years, the purpose and goals morphed over time with my students, responding to needs as they arose.
Is it over yet?
For whatever reason you decided to hire a tutor, be sure you have an idea of what your child’s learning or behavior will look like when he or she no longer needs the extra help. It may be that your child matures, finds success where he or she had struggled, or completes the desired project or assignment. When you feel the tutor has been successful or helpful to your child, ask your child to determine if he or she feels the same. Don’t pull the rug out from under a kid who still needs help, but also make sure your kid knows you may not pay for extra help indefinitely.
On the other hand, if you’ve been paying a tutor and see no change after several weeks, it is fair to look for alternate ways to support your child (which you may have done before hiring a tutor). Talk to your child. Is there something he or she could be doing differently, does he or she have a desire to improve or are there other issues needing addressing? Even the best tutor with the most patience and the newest manipulatives cannot cure a bad attitude or motivate an unmotivated person. Consider a tutor as extra support, guided practice or help in times of struggle, not the solution to every academic or educational pitfall.
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