Deciding if you should get a tutor for your child can be a difficult process. As a parent, there will probably be many things running through your mind! How does tutoring work? Can you find something that’s both affordable and accessible? And, most importantly, will your child thrive under the supportive eye of a tutor?
Well, I’m sorry to say it, but there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this last question. There’s no doubt that every single child can benefit from tutoring. However, your young person is a wonderful, unique individual. Their learning requirements are going to be very different from the next student’s. So, it is important to consider whether your child actually needs tutoring and what kind of setup will work best for them. The more you know about your child, the better their success will be.
But where should you start? How do you even begin to find out if your child could do with a tutor to help them? Well, here is a list of things to think about when you’re hunting for the very best for your child.
Please note: this blog post contains affiliate links.
Realise That Tutors Can Help With Many Different Things
I have spoken to way too many parents who think that tutors are only for struggling students. In fact, it’s probably one of the biggest misconceptions to haunt my career as a tutor! They view tuition as a way to cure a problem that already exists. Parents often see that their child is struggling with the content in school, and they rush to find a tutor to come and save the day.
Sure, that is a big part of our job, and I’m happy to do it! It really fills me with joy to give a struggling child hope. However, when we treat tutoring like a cure for a preexisting problem, it’s the child that ends up with all the pressure and stress of catching up! Tutors are also capable of being a vaccine to prevent the issue in the first place!
As well as giving support to struggling children and helping them to catch up, you can also recruit a tutor to:
- Boost confidence
- Spark the interest of a bored but gifted child who is ahead of the class.
- Promote structure and aid a healthy study routine.
- Support students with homeschooling or home learning.
- Consolidate the knowledge that your child learnt in class with exercises and exam practice.
- Outline areas of improvement so that your child can study efficiently.
- Prepare your child for their exams.
- Provide a child with skills that they don’t learn in school or fill in any knowledge gaps that may be left behind.
- Prepare students for exams early to minimise stress later on.
So, when you are thinking about getting a tutor for your child, don’t just ask yourself if they’re struggling. Take the time to go through the ways that a tutor could support their study process and make an informed decision.
Understand That Every Child Can Benefit From Tutoring, But…
There are other things that can be just as successful as a tutor for some children. Trust me when I say that. Tutoring is my job. I wouldn’t claim something like that for no reason!
A good tutor can always put your child on the right path. That’s because they (should) understand what the exam boards want from your child, keep copies of all the mark schemes and have a great understanding of the government’s national curriculum for their subject. With that much knowledge under their belt, they’re bound to nudge your child onto the right path.
However, that nudge doesn’t always need to come from a tutor! They could have some other great clubs, support and resources in their area that could fill that role! For example, their school or local library could offer a supervised homework club. The teachers could offer a drop-in workshop hour or two – especially for A-Levels. Or, study groups could be a free alternative for social learners with hardworking friends! Plus, some tutors offer group classes that can be a little less intense when compared to one-to-one sessions.
Ultimately, there are loads of factors that are going to play a part when you’re deciding if your child needs a tutor. As well as thinking about how much it could help your child, you need to work out if it’s in your budget and available near you. So, you should definitely check if there are any other alternatives to tutoring that could work for your child. Try them out! See how well they work, too! Then, if you still need a tutor, there are plenty of us out here who would love to help!
Consider Your Child’s Strengths and Areas of Improvement
Every child has their own strengths and things that they can work on. So, it is a good idea to find out what these are for your child, as it can be a big help when you need to decide if they need a tutor. This consists of two main parts: testing your child’s knowledge and finding out if they have the necessary skills that they need.
Every child needs to develop their basic literacy and numeracy skills, like reading comprehension, addition and subtraction. They should also know how to use a calculator and a dictionary, as well as how to research a topic using both the internet and physical books. If your child is unsure or inexperienced in any of these skills, I advise that you reach out to a tutor as soon as you can.
Also, they will need to build subject-specific skills. For English (and many other essay subjects), these skills include the ability to analyse a text, formulate an argument, write an essay and back up their ideas with evidence. To add to this, children will need to have the knowledge that they need to do well in their exams. This could include events, characters and quotes from the texts that they’re studying, as well as knowledge of different types of words and literary techniques.
A tutor can help your child to build up their skills and acquire the knowledge that they need. So, finding out what your child is confident with and where they need extra help can make a huge difference to the success of their education. As well as deciding whether you need a tutor in the first place, it can also help you to find the right person for the job and make tutoring as efficient as possible.
How To Check Your Child’s Skills and Knowledge
But how do you actually test those skills for your child? Well, there are many great ways to do it.
For GCSE (or pre-GCSE) students, the Pearson’s Catch-Up 2020 packs are great. You can find these packs for maths, English Language and combined science. These are the three compulsory subjects that every child needs to pass, so they are a great place to start! If your young person is going into Year 12 soon, they can also be a great help by checking if they have the necessary skills to move on to more complex things.
In addition, it’s good to do a trial exam paper or two with your child. Ask them to try their best to answer all of the questions, but also give them space to make notes and mark all over the paper so that they can highlight the exact questions and processes that they need a little bit more support on.
If you’re on the hunt for a tutor, many of us also offer self-assessment or level-checking quizzes (the Shani’s Tutoring level check quiz is coming soon). Tutors use these quizzes to get a better idea of where your child may need some extra help so that they can focus on building the skills that your child needs the most. Many of these quizzes are completely free to do, and you often don’t need to commit to anything.
Combine these methods to come up with a great, comprehensive way to test your child. By the end, you’ll understand if your child needs a tutor and where they need extra support. Plus, if you give the results to the tutor to look over, they can plan lessons accordingly!
Consider if Your Child Learns Best Socially or Independently
Social learners study best with others. They like to discuss points, bounce ideas off their peers and doing projects with others. They often learn very well when they’re teaching or explaining the topic to someone else! On the other hand, independent learners like to figure out things on their own. They learn by taking notes and going over their hard work and thrive in environments where they have the freedom to learn as they see fit.
Both learning styles are completely valid! A child can be successful no matter their learning style. However, the help and guidance that they get need to reflect this style. Social learners will benefit from a more comprehensive tutoring regimen when compared to independent learners. For the most part, you can leave an independent learner with some good materials (like videos, revision guides and worksheets) and be sure that they can get the work done – if they have the motivation to do so.
In my experience, no child is completely one or the other. It’s a spectrum! They can be more social than independent, more independent than social, or smack bang in the middle. Most (good) schools cater to both styles, with a mix of independent research, writing down notes, discussing with other students and group-wide projects. University does the same thing, too. Lectures are more independent, while seminars and workshops are more social.
If you find out whether your child is more independent or more social in their learning style, this can help you to know if they need tutoring, what type and how many hours. A primarily social learner may benefit from more one-to-one sessions and even group classes! A more independent learner may just want some essays marked or someone to check in with them every now and then.
Think About Your Child’s Workload
When it comes to deciding if your child needs a tutor, you need to consider their workload. This is essential!
If your child is always busy with work and other activities, introducing more study time could make them feel stressed and resentful. It could actually hurt their studies more than it helps them! After all, a child needs a good night’s sleep and regular, healthy breaks to make the most out of their education.
On the other hand, a child who doesn’t get enough work can fall behind. Schools are very limited in the time they can dedicate to each subject. So, it is important that they make up the extra hours in their own time to make sure that they learn all they need to know for their exams.
That’s why it’s important to think about what your child is doing outside school hours.
Students should have homework at least twice a week. For those above the age of 14, I believe that between 30 and 90 mins per day is the perfect amount. It’s enough time to allow them to consolidate their knowledge, but they also get to relax after a long day of school.
In addition, think about any extra-curricular activities that they may do. Sports, art, creative writing, self-defence, drama and music lessons are just some examples of activities that help to create a well-rounded individual. Combine this with family time and spending time with friends, as these help your child to bond with you and build much-needed social skills.
If your child has extra time after all of that, a tutor could work well. Otherwise, don’t overload them! For an overloaded child, tutors could help them with homework set by the school, but nothing more.
Ask Yourself if Your Child’s Needs Are Being Met in School
School is great. When done right, it helps to prepare children for the real world, give them essential skills and promote their wonderful creativity. However, there’s only so much that teachers can do.
Teachers have so much on their plate. They have lessons to plan, work to mark and classes to manage. Plus, they have to keep learning and adapt their techniques when presented with new information and changes to exam boards. When you combine that with budgeting problems, oversized classrooms and undersized salaries, there is really no wonder that they can become overwhelmed.
As a result, some children may feel as though their needs aren’t being fully met by their school. This could be for many reasons! They may lack the safe space that they need to express their concerns to their teachers. They could have special needs that the school isn’t equipped to deal with. English could be their second, third, or even fourth language! Plus, you have things like bullying, mental health issues and lack of personal time with their teacher.
It’s even worse right now. The lockdowns have taken their toll on many students, leaving them feeling unmotivated and stressed. Teachers aren’t faring much better, either! They’re being expected to manage the home learning of their own children and adapt their whole teaching style to remote learning.
So, as a parent, it’s a good idea to think about the unique needs of your child. I recommend writing down a list of things that you think your child is lacking in their education. Then, ask yourself the all-important question: can a tutor help with at least some of these things? If they can, you know what to do!
Book a Consultation With a Tutor to Discuss Your Child’s Needs
A good tutor will always be honest with you. Sure, we usually want to take on new students. That’s how we make a living! However, any honest tutor will realise it’s not in their best interest to give you false expectations. So, they should always be realistic when telling you how much they can help your child.
Take the time to meet trusted tutors. Ask them if they think your child needs to have tutoring sessions. When you do that, be as specific as you can be. Highlight the areas where your child needs help. Tell them your child’s strengths and weaknesses. If you can, give them feedback on what teachers have said about your young person in the past. It is all useful for us tutors!
The more of a picture that you paint of your child’s needs, expectations and goals, the easier it will be for the tutor to understand if your child needs their help. Plus, if you decide that you want your child to take sessions with them, it will help them to prepare proper content for your child that matches their unique, individual needs.
Many tutors out there offer a free consultation or phone call for you to discuss your expectations. Other tutors will have detailed chats with you over text, email, their website or social media. In that time, they may offer other suggestions of how your child can boost their studies, like books that they can read, flashcards or great websites. Those are the tutors that you can trust the most to give you their honest opinion on whether your child needs tutoring.
Ask Your Child’s Teachers Whether They Need a Tutor
If you know and trust a teacher at your child’s school, why not ask them for their opinion on getting a tutor? They have spent time with your young person. They will probably know best if your child is falling behind on their subject, and they can often inquire to their colleagues about other subjects, too.
This is particularly true of teachers who take care of your child’s form class and potential SEN requirements. It is their job to know and understand the students in their care and to be the one that other teachers go to when they have an issue. So, they can be an extremely valuable resource when it comes to finding out more about your young person’s needs.
So, it’s a good idea to ask questions about your child’s needs during parents’ evenings and check their school reports for any extra information about things that can be improved upon.
However, take this one with a grain of salt. There are many amazing teachers out there who you can trust to tell you the truth. However, some teachers may see your question as an insult. Rather than acknowledging that the child may have unique needs that they don’t have the time or resources to deal with properly, some teachers see tutors as competition. They may incorrectly think that tutors only help students with “incompetent” teachers. So, they could simply say that your child doesn’t need help out of pride.
Find a teacher that you can trust. Feel free to ask them questions. Take their unique perspective on board when making your decision!
Discuss Your Idea of Getting a Tutor With Your Child
It is never a good idea to thrust a tutor upon your child. Children thrive off open, honest communication with their parents. If you want them to be mature and take their education seriously, you should treat them as though their actions and opinions matter. If they feel like you’re going to do things without talking to them anyway, why should they work hard in school? What happens to them in their life is out of control, anyway.
So, let your child know why you want them to try a tutor. If you have followed the advice in this blog post, you’ve thought long and hard about the specific reasons why your child should get tutoring. Plus, you may have spent some time thinking about what kind of tutoring would suit their needs. So, convey this to them! Lay out all of the points that made you come to your conclusion.
Then, give them a safe space to share their opinions. Allow them to voice their concerns and tell you what they think about tutoring. Sure, loads of kids may baulk at the idea of getting a tutor because it means extra work for them. So, don’t be afraid to separate their legitimate concerns (like days where they feel more tired or anxieties about a subject) from their desire to be free of work. Listen to their feedback and take it on board. It could give you a whole new insight into their work ethic, struggles and feelings about their grades.
Then ease them into it! If you’re considering a Shani’s Tutoring membership, you can change every month. Start low and get higher – if you need to! Just make sure your child feels heard and understood.
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