Thursday, February 09, 2017

5 Signs Your Child Needs a Tutor (And How to Find One)

Your child seems to be struggling in school. Maybe in one subject or several subjects. How do you know it's time to hire a tutor?


My daughter, Bria, began the 4th grade in a new state with an entirely new type of math curriculum. As far as math homework was concerned that year, it was awful with a capital A. One would think that even though math isn't my strongest subject I would at least be able to help my daughter with her 4th grade math, but one would be wrong.

The new curriculum involved learning multiple ways to do mathematic functions. I could show her how to do long division the traditional way,  but I had no idea how to help her do lattice multiplication.

It was a very long school year! Bria spent the year crying over her math and I spent it Googling how to do her math for hours each night. It didn't help that Bria was a very shy child who was terrified to ask her teacher for help when she didn't understand something. And even though I spoke to her teacher about it, that particular teacher wasn't willing to help her if she wasn't willing to ask.

So I kept Googling, and Bria kept crying, and somehow we muddled through 4th grade math.

The summer after 4th grade, I had a new voice student, Joe, at the university who happened to be a math major. One day he mentioned in passing that he tutored other university students in math and I had a lightbulb moment.

A tutor! Why didn't I think of it before.

I asked if Joe would be willing to tutor a 5th grader and he jumped at the chance. Bria wasn't super excited about it at first, but it turned out to be one of the very best things I ever did for her. Coupled with a 5th grade teacher who was willing to work with her, meeting with Joe every week for two years helped her to be confident in math.

If I had it to do over again, I would have hired a tutor much earlier. Bria showed all the signs of really needing one, and knowing how much it helped her, I know that would have been the best decision for all of us!

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5 Signs Your Child Needs a Tutor


1. Her grades are falling despite working hard


For Bria, it started with math. But then the stress of not understanding that one subject began to leak into her other schoolwork. If you notice that your child's grades in a particular subject are slipping, it may be time to think about hiring outside help. There are, of course, many other reasons that grades could fall, so be sure you talk to her teacher and notice whether any other signs are pointing to not understanding the subject matter.

I personally check my kids' grades online fairly often so I can catch these things sooner than later.

Related: The Pros and Cons of Checking Your Child's Grades Online (And Why I Still Do It Regularly)

2. Homework takes longer than is reasonable


You know your child best. If he is suddenly taking longer on his homework, you may want to do some investigating. It could be he just needs a break before starting, is hungry, or tired. But if it is consistently happening, there may be something big that he just isn't understanding.

When kids are struggling to understand a subject, they will often keep trying and trying while becoming more and more frustrated. Alternatively, they will give up and not do their homework at all.

3. He shows frustration with certain school subjects


Homework is one thing, but if he loudly proclaims how much he hates reading on a regular basis, that is cause for concern. Listen to what your child says about his school work. Sometimes you will have to outright ask, but if he is constantly telling you he doesn't get it or dislikes a subject, it's time to start thinking about getting him extra help.

4. She no longer enjoys school


When a child who once enjoyed going to school, if only for the social aspect, suddenly stops wanting to go to school at all it may indicate that she is struggling to keep up with the subject matter. Likewise, if she is feeling more anxiety than is normal when there is an upcoming test, it's time to investigate what is causing the problem.

5. Parental help isn't helpful


Sometimes you are enough to help your child through the difficulty. But sometimes the parental help is either not enough or simply doesn't actually help. You may understand the subject matter just fine, but the dynamic of having a parent help doesn't always work. It's often better to have a more objective third party help out with the subject your child is struggling in.

Or, you may be like me, and 4th grade math turns out to be completely over your head! In that case, it's always better to hire someone who thoroughly understands the material.

So you kid needs a tutor—here's how to find one


Talk to the teacher


Besides helping you to figure out whether or not a tutor is the right route to take, your child's teacher will probably have some suggestions for you as well. She will be aware of people in the community who offer tutoring services, or special programs the school might offer that will be helpful for your child.

If your child is in elementary school, you might also try calling the local high school or university/community college and asking if there is a qualified student who would be willing to tutor your child.

Ask other parents


Other parents have had to hire tutors, too, and will be full of suggestions. I love asking questions like this on Facebook—it's such a great way to quickly get the request out there and I have found that other parents are always so willing to help with things like this. Those other parents may also be willing to offer their own expertise in tutoring your child, too.

Sometimes other family members can help, and your child might be more receptive to that. My youngest daughter, Sophia, always does better when her grandma helps her with her homework instead of me! It was nice to have my mom around when we lived with my parents for a semester last year, because Sophia always got the homework help she needed without tantrums!



Look into tutoring programs


We don't have anything like this in our area, but I know many areas have tutoring centers that can help in many areas as well as with standardized testing preparation. These can often be a little pricier, but they may also be well worth the money if it gets your child back in the game.

Try online tutoring help


Sometimes scheduling is too difficult for a live tutor or a tutoring program. In that case, you might want to try YouTube videos such as The Khan Academy for math, sciences, and test preparation.

I have also recently discovered a cool math tutoring app called Thinkster Math. Your child will do the work on a tablet or other device, and then a tutor who is assigned to them will work with them remotely. To learn more about how it works, you can go to their site and watch the video.  You can also sign up for a one-week free trial and see if it's the right option for you. The app offers tutoring for math in levels Kindergarten through 8th grade.

The pricing for Thinkster Math is comparable to using a live tutor, in my experience.



Whatever you decide to do, if your child is showing signs of needing extra help in school, you won't regret hiring someone to help. It's the best thing I ever did for Bria, and although math still doesn't come easily to her—especially now that she is in high school—she has more confidence in her abilities. And now she isn't embarrassed to ask for a tutor when she needs one. Above she is pictured with a math tutor we used for a while for Algebra, and she has gotten some help from one of my friends this semester.

Make sure your child knows she isn't dumb just because she needs a tutor. Frame it in a positive light, and she will most likely be relieved for the extra help.

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Lara Neves
Lara Neves

Lara is mom to three daughters—two teens and a tween. She loves to share her parenting and homemaking triumphs and failures here at Overstuffed! She was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2015 and has been fighting it ever since. When she isn't working on her mother of the year award, you can find her reading, singing, or taking photos.

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