Thursday, August 7, 2008

How to Find a Qualified Tutor

If your child is reluctant to talk about his progress in school, or he's "hiding his report card," it may be time to look for a tutor. You may think that you do not have the time or resources to hire a tutor, but it will require more time and be much more expensive if you wait. One of the biggest mistakes that parents make is waiting too long to intervene. For instance, in most subjects, especially math, the student must have the beginning concepts mastered in order to understand and succeed in the next. By waiting too long, the student develops learning gaps, which cause the entire learning structure to collapse.

There are several ways to find a tutor.

1. The very best source for finding a good tutor is the referral of a friend, someone that is a satisfied customer already.

2. School guidance counselors may be able to provide you with the names and phone numbers of some local instructors.

3. Homeschool organizations have many resources, including e-mail chains that may locate a tutor for you.

4. Bulletin boards at large churches may have business cards of local tutors, or you can write your own notice asking for tutor referrals from church members.

5. The Internet is increasingly becoming a source for local tutoring businesses that have a large teacher pool from which to choose.

When you find tutors that seem to fit your needs, there are several questions to ask that will help you pick the best one for your child. An interview with each tutor will help you decide if they communicate well, and can speak to the teacher on the child's behalf. You can also discern if your child will have fun with this instructor. If your child cannot relate to this tutor, the process will not succeed. Don't be intimidated by their teaching degree. It is best to come with a list of questions in hand.

1. A teaching degree is a must! Ask for a resume and discuss whether they have ever worked with children your child's age.

2. Three referrals from previous students will help you feel confident about their experience and competence.

3. Ask them to supply a background check or conduct one on your own.

4. Their payment policy should be discussed to guarantee a good business relationship with no surprises. For instance, ask about their cancellation policies, including possible charges you may incur.

5. Ask how many and how long the sessions should be each week. Depending on the age of the student, I recommend two, ninety minute sessions per week. Younger children do better with sixty minute sessions.

6. An assessment procedure is necessary to identify your child's learning gaps, and ensure that the tutor will be effective in helping them to succeed. They should be able to furnish this information readily.

7. Reward systems help to motivate students. Quite often the lack of motivation may be the very reason your child needs a tutor, so it is important that they provide some sort of incentive. Because some parents object to the sugar in a candy reward, I use a star system with a prize bag.

8. Most importantly, ask what is required from you, the parent, for your child to succeed. It might be as simple as checking that assignments are completed between visits. It's a small price to pay to assure that the tutoring you're paying for will be productive.

If your child is locked in a downward spiral of frustration and failure in school, it is probably time to hire a tutor. Use the above guidelines to find a good tutor who can break the spiral by analyzing the problem, building basic skills to erase learning gaps, restoring motivation, and inspiring a love for learning. This will help your child reach their fullest potential and develop the self-confidence they will need to succeed in life.

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