Does my Child Need a Tutor?

tutorWe all know what a tutor is, but sometimes the difficult part is deciding whether or not your child needs a tutor. I talked with Amy Griffith from Toga Tutor to answer some of the questions parents have when making the decision to find some extra help. Amy has almost 20 years experience in the education field teaching both Special Education and Elementary Education students in this area, as well as Phoenix, Arizona and Boston, Massachusetts. She has worked with children and families from all walks of life, children with diagnosed disabilities, and "typical" learners both in the school setting and as a private tutor. Currently she works primarily with children in grades Kindergarten through Eight.

Mamatoga: If I find that my child is struggling with a certain subject, how will tutoring help?

Amy Griffith: Tutoring is helpful for a variety of reasons. It creates a stress-free environment where a child can receive one-on-one attention, direct instruction in deficit skill areas and very importantly, the instructor can assess and revise the lesson as they go. In a classroom, or even in a small group at school, it can be difficult to accommodate each student so specifically - particularly with the pressures of the Common Core. This is not to say that teachers do not try to accommodate individual student needs, it is just very difficult with the increasing class sizes combined with increasing learning standards. In addition, many struggling students also are reluctant to ask for help in school, have difficulty keeping up with the pace of instruction, or have gaps in their learning that preclude them from mastering new material. Tutoring can help in all of these areas, as well. Lastly, but certainly not least, one-on-one instruction can also help an insecure or anxious student build the confidence they need to achieve higher in the classroom.

It is important to remember though, that one hour a week will not fix all school-related concerns. It is important that parents and children are following through on the recommendations from both school and the tutor. Communication between the tutor and the child's teacher(s) can be an additional and important part of this process, as well.

M: Is the tutoring goal based (like wanting to get a good grade on a final for example) or does it work differently?

AG: Tutoring goals can be highly personal. A student may be performing poorly in a subject for a variety of reasons. A good teacher or tutor will be able to ferret out these reasons and address them directly. Poor organizational and study skills, a weak vocabulary, inattentiveness/distractibility, a learning or language disability, or social-emotional issues can all impact a child's achievement in school.

Goals of tutoring may include:

Increase achievement in a subject area or test scores (weekly, unit tests, or "high stakes" tests).

Increase skills such as vocabulary understanding and retention (helpful for ALL subjects), sight word recognition, decoding skills, math problem solving skills, strategies for reading in the content area, or writing skills.

Learn better study skills (organization, time management, creating an effective homework routine, studying for tests). Deficits in any of these areas can make achievement difficult in the core classes.

Tutoring can also achieve other goals.

Some students benefit from reteaching and review of what is taught in the classroom, extra time to practice new skills and learn new vocabulary.  These students learn better when provided with individual instruction where they have ample opportunity to ask questions, get clarification,  and build their confidence. This approach will also help to motivate students to participate in class more, be a more independent learner, and ask for help when they need it.

Sometimes parents like to hire a tutor to help their child with homework in a certain subject area. The parent may not feel comfortable with this subject and recognizes the benefit of having a tutor oversee and assist.

M: How do I know my child really needs a tutor?

AG:You need a tutor if any of the following are occurring:

Your child is performing poorly in one or more subjects and you have tried to help without much success.  Instruction is much different today that when most of us went to school, so it can be challenging for parents to help their children at home. Many parents find it especially difficult to help assist their child in math.

You have difficulty helping your child with homework because of the fights that ensue or their reluctance to be cooperative. A tutor can help take the strain out of your relationship and possibility ferret out the reasons for the homework issues.

Your child (or his/her teacher) tells you they are having trouble keeping up in the classroom or is consistently struggling with both homework and classwork.

Your child says they hate reading or math (or another subject area). This is usually a sign they are experiencing difficulty. Children may avoid homework in this subject, as well.  This of course is most commonly seen with reading and math. Sometimes, too, parents do not realize how important these subjects are to success in other subjects, particularly reading. Older student who have reading deficits may begin to struggle in other classes as well, as reading becomes a larger part of the curriculum and homework demands.

You think your child could be doing better in school and want them to have one-on-one instruction to work on the areas of need.

M: You offer Education Consulting and Advocacy to parents.  How does Consulting and Advocacy help parents and children?

AG: The Consulting and Advocacy division of my business is designed to help parents directly in fostering their child's education. My major motivation in starting my business was to work with parents to assist them in creating learning opportunities at home that will support what they do in school, as well as learning the importance of appropriately advocating for their children at school.  Children do best when home and school communicates effectively for the sole purpose of providing the best education for each child. It is so important that parents are involved in their child's education, know what is going on at school, and establish and maintain a positive and productive relationship with school.

M: How can you as a Consultant and Advocate help parents whose children are having difficulty in school?

AG: I consult with parents to help foster learning at home, create an effective homework routine, advocate for their child at school, communicate effectively with school, and assist with any special education concerns, as well. I can assist with meeting preparation, meeting attendance, understanding how a disability affects a child both at home and at school, and placement recommendations (if necessary).

M: How could a parent benefit from hiring a Consultant?

AG: Many parents today are very busy and feel overwhelmed when school issues arise. Or they are so busy, they do not realize there is a problem until it has festered for some time. They have busy careers, maybe are single-parents, or maybe they care for aging parents and find it difficult to keep up with their child's education day to day. It can be a real challenge for many families. Also, not all children will be forthcoming with information about school. I can help parents manage the day-to-day or weekly needs, such as communication, checking on process, attending meetings or anything else they needs to be monitored or addressed. My goal is to help children get the best education possible and supporting the parents is one way to achieve this goal.

Thanks so Amy for taking the time to be part of this helpful piece, to find out more about Toga Tutor click right here.