I try to help my fourth- and sixth-grade sons with their math, but I often find myself saying, “I have no idea.”
Their teachers have been a wonderful resource and very patient with our questions, but as I watch the almost nightly struggles with homework, I wonder whether I should seek additional help outside of school.
Should I hire a tutor?
There are several signs that may indicate a child needs extra help, according to Jessica Bradtke, a school counselor for grades 9-12 at Weedsport Jr./Sr. High School in Cayuga County. She suggests watching for failing grades or grades that are consistently lower than typical performance, homework avoidance and teacher feedback that interventions have been attempted, including academic intervention services (AIS), but the student is still struggling.
Reaching out to your child’s teachers and school to see what extra help may be available is a good first step if you see your child struggling in school. But if you feel like you’ve exhausted the options, it may be time to look for help.
There are a number of benefits to students who work with a tutor, according to the National Tutoring Association, a not-for-profit education association.
“The goal for every tutor should be overall progress for the student, which is measured in academic success, improved self-esteem, and increased independence as a learner,” according to the National Tutoring Association. “Tutors deliver content information, they motivate, coach, challenge, and provide feedback to students. Well-trained and experienced tutors work with the student’s overall study skills, not just the academic assignment at hand.”
Linda Seymour, an elementary reading teacher in the Bethlehem Central School District in Albany County, said she primarily tutors students during the summer months when they are at risk for losing some of the skills they learned during the school year, a phenomenon sometimes called summer slide.
“It lets them start in September where they were when school ended, or even a little bit ahead,” said Seymour, who has tutored for about 10 years, served as a response to intervention (RTI) teacher for 19 years and was an elementary classroom teacher for eight years before that.
Tutoring can also be beneficial for those students who may be below grade level and need an extra boost, she said. Sometimes parents ask for a tutor because they have a hard time getting their child to do the work with them. Seymour said she tries to make her time with the students she tutors fun while still targeting areas where they may need extra help.
“I really try to target where their deficits are,” she said.
Typically tutors will communicate with a student’s teaching team to get information about what they are working on, including current assignments, so an individualized approach to the current work load can be created, according to Bradtke.
Tutoring also may have benefits in addition to improved academic achievement. According to the National Tutoring Association, parents may also see their child’s self-confidence and self-esteem increase as their academic achievement grows.
While we still struggle with homework, we’ve been lucky in that some of my sons’ teachers have posted online short videos showing examples of the strategies that may be used to complete their math assignments. I know their teachers are going the extra mile to support our at-home struggles. But it’s nice to know that if we reach a point where more help is needed, a tutor could be the answer.
Other benefits from tutoring
- Improves attitude towards the subject matter and school in general
- Encourages greater persistence in completing tasks and courses
- Encourages the use of appropriate and efficient learning and study strategies
- Provides an opportunity for individualized instruction
- Provides opportunities for questions and clarification of difficult concepts
- Provides additional review and practice of difficult material
Source: National Tutoring Association
Hiring a tutor
So you’ve decided you want to hire a tutor. Now what?
“What to consider before hiring a tutor” from the National Tutoring Association has a wealth of information and tips on how to proceed.
Nancy Cole is a public information specialist and grant writer for Capital Region BOCES. She lives in Onondaga County with her fourth- and sixth-grade sons.