by | Oct 16, 2007 | Uncategorized

REALITY CHECK Can you name one of the fastest growing businesses in this country tailored to children (P.S. $4.3 billion yearly)??

There’s no doubt about it–tutoring has turned into a billion dollar business. Tutor prices can vary from $10 to $250 an hour. It’s really little wonder with all the emphasis on test scores and the push to try to get kids into the best colleges. But do you really need to hire someone from that pricey tutoring site or can you just use the kid next door? Those were questions I was asked this morning on the Today show.

Remember the best tutor isn’t necessarily the one everyone in town is using or charges the most. The key is always to “Know thy child” and find the person who matches your child’s learning needs.

Here are five tips to help you hire the best tutor for your child.

1. Figure out the need. Why do you think your child needs a tutor? Is he struggling in a subject? Has homework turned into World War III? Is your relationship with him suffering? Does your child have a learning disability and need specific help the teacher can’t provide? Is she behind because of illness or a move? Is a major come up and that test score is critical? Are grades plummeting? Be very clear as with your objective, and then find a tutor who can best match it.

2. Seek out your child’s teacher. Your goal give your child’s learning a boost, so connect with his teacher and find out her take. You might ask: Do you think my child needs a tutor? What specific skills or subjects does he need help in? Is there a test schedule so the tutor can review the material? Does he need a tutor with teaching experience? Do you have any tutor recommendations? What tutoring schedule would best fit my child’s attention span and learning capabilities?

3. Tailor the tutoring to fit your child’s learning style. Here are three more areas to consider when choosing the best tutor for your child:

• Schedule: What would be the best tutoring schedule for your child? Is it once or twice a week; thirty minute, one or two-hour sessions; individual or group sessions? How long can he attend to his homework without being distracted?

• Personality: What type of personality would your child be best receptive to? The tutor should be someone your child feels comfortable with. So match the tutor’s personality to your child.

• Learning style: What kind of learner is my kid? Is your child a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner? (If you don’t know, ask the teacher). If your child is struggling, then teaching the concept the same way may not be advisable. Your child may need a more creative tutor who customizes his sessions to your child’s learning needs.
There are alternatives to that $250 an hour tutoring center: a retired teacher, a high school student who is a Spanish whiz, the 12-year old next door your kid adores who help your kid with those math flash card. Do interview the person. Ask for recommendations. Then hire the person who would be best for your kid’s personality and learning style, and is experienced in the subject matter.

4. Create a tutoring plan. Once you hire the tutor, sit down and create a plan together. Ideally your child should be in on that plan. She needs to be comfortable with this person. A few things to discuss with the tutor include: What specific steps does the tutor plan to take to help your child? How will progress be assessed? How will school assignments and tests be covered in the sessions? What feedback will you get that progress is being made? Be clear from the start as to the tutoring schedule as well as payment. Also: does the tutor have expectations of you? (Are you supposed to be reviewing lessons as well?) And then check briefly in at least every other week to see how things are going.

5. Prioritize tutoring. Your child needs to know tutoring is just as important as soccer practice or violin lesson or scouting. In fact, something may have to give so your child isn’t overscheduled. If you want the tutoring to help your child’s learning, then you must prioritize it. Also arrange the tutoring at the best time in your schedule so he can concentrate at those sessions.

Keep your expectations realistic!

No tutor is a miracle worker so it may take time to see progress. And do keep encouraging your child’s efforts. Above all remind your son or daughter that real success is a four-letter word: G-A-I-N. “I know this is tough. But here’s where you were last week. Look how much you’ve learned in a week!”


Michele Borba