Here’s what parents and experts have to say.
Mattais had struggled with math from an early age. When he was starting Grade 9, his mom, Louise, realized he was going to need some help beyond the classroom in the form of a tutor.
“We were lucky to find a university student who was studying to be a teacher,” she explains. “She came once a week to our home, helped him with his homework, and reviewed the basics, such as fractions and algebra. Mattais looked forward to the sessions and made a lot of progress. I think it was money well spent.”
Jessica has a similar story. When her daughter Brittany was in Grade 2 French immersion, Jessica became concerned about her abilities in both French and English.
“I wanted to reinforce what she was learning in school. We had success with a tutoring company that drilled her in both languages. Now in Grade 11, Brittany has regular math tutoring from a recently qualified teacher. I think tutoring has really made a difference to her academic achievements,” says Jessica.
Determining the need
If your child is having difficulties with a certain subject or with school in general, talk to the teacher first to determine if there is an underlying cause that needs to be addressed, says child psychologist Dr. Charlie Menendez.
“If it seems that tutoring is the answer, make sure the child receives the type of tutoring that is right for them.” If there is a lot of repetition of rote skills and the child feels frustrated, for instance, then more of the same is probably not going to work.
“But giving them alternative methods, such as finger strategies for math, could make a difference,” says Dr. Menendez. “And one-on-one attention can be beneficial for some children.”
Joan’s daughter, Fiona, who has been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder, “thrived with the one-on-one learning” provided by her tutor. Mike, a university student studying education works with Fiona “on a variety of subjects such as math, reading, geography and piano,” says Joan.
“Mike sends home a report card indicating her progress, what grade level she is working at, and areas that need work. Fiona can now read quite well and is up to her grade level in math.”
Finding a tutor
When it comes to finding a tutor, there are lots of options for parents.
◆ Homework clubs. Sometimes schools hold homework clubs at lunch or after school where teachers or senior students help kids with math, reading or social studies. After school community drop-in centres may have older volunteers available to help students free of charge.
◆ Tutoring companies. These typically offer programs in reading, writing, math or science. After a consultation and evaluation of the student, the company will recommend a course of study in areas where the child needs reinforcement.
◆ Private tutors. These include retired teachers, senior high school students, or university education students. Ask teachers or other parents for a recommendation. Or call the nearest university with an education program, check bulletin boards, or search online in your area.
Questions to Ask
? What are the tutor’s qualifications and rates?
? Does the tutor have certain subject specialties?
? What age or grade level do they tutor?
? Has the tutor had a police check?
? If it is a private tutor, will the sessions be in your home or theirs? Ensure there is a distraction-free space in which to work.
? If it is a tutoring centre, what is the tutor-to-student ratio?
? Does the centre follow their own lesson plans, or do students bring their homework from school?
? Do you have to sign a contract or are the arrangements flexible?
? Is there a periodic written assessment of the student’s progress?