How Do You Know When to Get a Tutor?

Here are 5 signs that can help you decide:

There are many great schools in this area that really differentiate instruction based on individual student needs.   However, sometimes the school can’t provide everything that will give your child the best chance for success.  Here are five signs that your child could benefit from a tutor or Educational Coach.

1. Your Child is Not Doing Homework

Although there are certainly students who just aren’t putting the effort in to complete their homework or think that homework is not important, there are also many times when students get overwhelmed by their homework and shut down.  This is especially common in technical subjects such as math and science, or subjects that require a lot of repetition to fully learn concepts, such as foreign language.

I remember struggling in my Pre-Calculus class in high school at the beginning of the year.  Although I understood everything the teacher said in class, I often couldn’t verbalize or apply what I had learned outside of class.  In the first few weeks of the class, I had an experience where I sat down to do homework on my own and couldn’t get past the third problem.  I tried looking in my notes from class and re-reading the section in the textbook, but there just seemed to be a disconnect between what I had in front of me and what I was being asked to do.  As a result, I got very frustrated and started to question my ability to learn Pre-calculus.   As I continued to have this experience, I eventually lost motivation to even try.   I ended up completing all of my in-class assignments, but not really doing the homework.  My grade suffered as a result, and I also ended up taking a lower level math class in college because I had lost confidence in my abilities.

The experience of getting “stuck” can be a huge setback for motivation.  Without any guidance, kids may start to think that they are incapable of completing the assignments and develop anxiety and a lack of self-confidence in that area.  This only leads to more negative thinking, which in turn can lead to a fixed mindset in that subject area, when it may have been that they just needed one simple concept re-explained to succeed.

A good tutor will give guided questions so that the student is doing their own thinking to arrive at conclusions.  The tutor will be able to not only teach the content, but also teach strategies for approaching problems that the student finds challenging in the future.

2. Your Child is Spending Too Much Time Doing Homework or Studying of the common phone calls that I get from parents is that their child spends so many hours doing homework that they have no time for socializing, spending time with the family, or doing any other activities that they might enjoy.  Although it is certainly a testament to that child’s work ethic, the hours and hours spent on assignments may not be necessary for the same level of academic success.

For a child who is spending excessive hours on homework, it can be a combination of issues causing them to do so.  They may understand a lot of the concepts, but have to constantly check their notes or textbook to look up information that they forgot about or didn’t fully understand in class.   Although it’s great that this student is trying to be independent and use their resources, it may mean that they could benefit from having information explained to them in a one-on-one setting by a tutor, where they can comfortably ask questions and have things explained in a way that fits their learning style.

Additionally, many students haven’t learned strategies to help them become more efficient.  They may be spending hours reading everything in their textbook instead of looking for key information, or starting and restarting an assignment over and over again because they hadn’t laid out a structure beforehand.  These students can benefit from Educational Coaches, who teach students how to strategically complete their work.

3. Your Child Studies, but Still Does Poorly on Tests I was a teacher, many of my students told me that they didn’t study, because they didn’t think that it helped.   After some investigation, I found that the real issue was that they didn’t know how to study.  So many students “study” by re-reading text or highlighting documents that they have received in class.  These methods have actually been determined to be the most ineffective ways that a student can study, which explains why my students didn’t think it was a valuable use of their time.

In order to study effectively, students need to break information into small chunks that they can go back over in short, frequent bursts over a period of time.  I’ve also heard that you “haven’t studied unless you’ve made something.”  Examples might be students creating practice tests or study guides on their own.  The actual act of creating these items is part of studying.

In this scenario, an Educational Coach could teach the students research-based study methods that will both be more efficient and help them see the value in studying.  Meeting with a subject area tutor would also help, because it would reinforce the information that they learned in school and allow them to engage directly with the material.  Having a subject area tutor would also prevent the student from studying misinformation, and would also help them determine what information is the most important to study.

4. You Are Trying to Help Them Understand, and They Keep Getting Defensive

The majority of parents who call tell me that they have tried to help their child on their own, and it’s just not working.   Some children get upset more easily when their parents help them because they feel like they are letting them down or disappointing them if they don’t get something right away.  Other kids are resistant to their parent’s help because of other factors in the relationship. For example, most teenagers go through a phase when they are trying to become more independent and therefore don’t always want to listen to their parents.  Regardless of the reason, this type of interaction can waste time and cause a lot of household stress.

Even if you are a parent who has taught before or has really strong content knowledge, trying to work with your child on their homework may not be the best option.  Bringing a tutor into the equation really simplifies the relationship and provides for a designated time to get things done.  Kids are also less willing to show up without having their work done, because they are more likely to be embarrassed in front of someone that they only know as their tutor.

5. Your Child is Bored at School

Tutoring is not just a tool for students who are struggling.  It can be used as enrichment for students who are ahead of their classmates and find school to be boring, or for students who have a strong interest in a certain content area.  Having this type of academic stimulation and keeping things challenging for your child will help to foster a lifelong love for learning instead of keeping the focus on grades.