Should I Hire a Tutor For My Child?

Tutor working with a student

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Parents want their kids to succeed in life, and school is no exception. Some students are quick learners and pick up material easily in class, whereas other students need additional academic support. If classroom instruction just isn't cutting it for your child or you or their teacher think they would benefit from more direct instruction, hiring a tutor might be a good option for you.

What Do Tutors Do?

Tutors work with your child one-to-one. Tutoring sessions are typically half an hour to an hour long, once or twice a week. However, tutoring frequency can vary depending on your child's needs.

Since a tutor is the only one teaching your child during a session, rather than working with a large class or a small group, they can put all of their attention on helping your child. They can pinpoint areas extra help is needed and they focus their teaching on these areas. They can also tailor their tutoring style to the way your child learns best, instead of having to cater to multiple learning styles.

Some tutors will help your child complete their homework, while others will come up with their own lessons and activities to address academic areas for improvement. Tutors can provide assistance in all subjects, or they can focus on just one subject that your child needs help in, such as math, reading, or a foreign language.

Signs Your Child Might Need a Tutor

If your child is struggling in one or more subjects in school, they may reach a point where the rest of the class is moving on but they haven't mastered the basics. This can leave your child behind, making it harder and harder for them to catch up.

"If your child is struggling to keep up with the regular pace of work or if you see that your child's grades are beginning to drop in a class or subject...[they] might need a tutor," says Joy Billops, Ed.S, the assistant principal of Breckinridge-Franklin Elementary in Louisville, Kentucky, and a member of the Global Game Changers National Educator Advisory Board.

Your child's teacher may also notice signs and reach out to you about getting your child extra academic support.

"Connect with your child's teacher to identify how your child is progressing compared to the average student in the class, and to identify any barriers to success you can eliminate together," says Billops. "Once those barriers have been eliminated, if your child still cannot keep up, a tutor may be able to help."

What to Look for in a Tutor

When searching for a tutor, it is very important to review the person's qualifications. Ideally, try to find a tutor who is a credentialed teacher. They will have the right kind of training and be able to come up with new and more effective ways of teaching your child when the standard ways don't work.

Certifications aren't everything though. Ask potential tutors about their teaching experience and request references from other parents who have hired them. "Call at least one person who that tutor has worked with before and speak with them about their experience," suggests Tina Marshall-Bradley, an educator with over 30 years of experience and the academic coordinator for Walden University's MS in Education program.

A talented tutor who has worked effectively with many children in the past may be a better choice than a credentialed teacher without much experience. It's also important to consider the tutor's personality. Since your child will be spending a lot of time learning from their tutor, you want to ensure they'll be a good fit. Some kids work best with a person who is kind and nurturing, whereas others prefer a no-nonsense, more serious individual.

How to Know if a Tutor is Helping

It's one thing to hire a tutor, and another to make sure your child is benefiting from working with them. Talk with the tutor yourself about their progress monitoring. "Parents should expect to have a conversation with their child's tutor every two weeks," notes Billops. Allowing for direct communication between the tutor and the classroom teacher will also be helpful.

The surest way to know if a tutor is helping is to ask your child's teacher. Let the teacher know that you have hired a tutor and check in with them frequently. "Remember to allow enough time, two to three sessions, for your child and the tutor to establish rapport," notes Dr. Marshall-Bradley. "You may not see an immediate change but over time, you should."

You might already know that the tutor is helping, however, if you notice an improvement in homework and tests. Your child's blossoming confidence may be another telltale sign that their tutor is making a difference.

Barriers to Finding a Tutor

It is not always easy to find a tutor. If you are not sure where to start, begin by asking your child's teacher. "Families can contact their local high school, community college, or university to see if there are students who would be interested in tutoring," suggests Dr. Marshall-Bradley.

Affordability is a big concern when it comes to hiring a tutor. A major benefit to having a tutor is the one-to-one attention your child will receive. But, that means that tutors will cost more than group extended care or after-school learning programs. Sometimes, public libraries will have programs that offer low-cost or free tutoring services.

Alternatives to Tutoring

Tutoring may not be the right fit for your child. If they need a little extra help but tutoring is not an option, or you don't think it's the right choice, there are a few alternatives to consider.

An after-school program that helps kids with their homework and makes sure they get it done is one option. Online learning sites such as Khan Academy may work very well for some kids. The video tutorials can be repeated, paused, or rewound as necessary, which can make a big difference for kids struggling to keep pace with their teachers' lectures.

Group tutoring is also an option. If there are a few students who need additional support on a given subject, parents can consider hiring one tutor to work with a small group of two to five kids. This way students are still getting direct support in a small group setting and parents can divvy up the cost.

A Word From Verywell

Tutors work individually with your child on one or more academic subjects. The undivided attention that a tutor can provide may allow them to better meet your child's specific needs. Look for a tutor with experience and a good track record. If possible, hire a credentialed teacher.

Tutoring can be expensive and it's not always easy to find a tutor. Reach out to your child's teacher or school if you are having trouble finding or affording a tutor. You can also check at your local public library for any free or low-cost tutoring programs.

Maintain good communication with your child's tutor and check to see whether your child's grades are improving. If you want to know more about your child's academic progress, their teacher is the best person to ask.

By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.