Should I Get My Child a Tutor?

Should I Get My Child a Tutor?

For most parents, when a teacher calls to say your child is struggling academically at school the automatic response is to hire a tutor.  Well-intentioned parents typically believe that with a little more practice and direct instruction the academic issue will be resolved.  Although this course of action is well-intended, it is also uninformed.  Is throwing your child into tutoring, so they can do more of what they are struggling with, always the best course of action?

It could be.  But it could also just be a quick, band-aid solution that masks the underlying issues that need to be addressed for a bit longer.

So before doing an online search or asking around for the names of tutors, here are some things to consider.


Why is your child struggling academically?

The reasons for academic struggles are vast and varied; lack of motivation, lack of understanding, poor student-teacher relationship, executive functioning deficits, fixed mindset, and low self-esteem, to name a few.

And for each of these potential causes listed above, the ‘fix’ would look different.  Tutoring alone will not solve most of these underlying issues that are presenting as academic struggle.

Moreover, I have yet to meet a child that is struggling with a subject at school that wants to spend even more time doing it!


So, what can you do instead?

Instead of making the leap right to tutoring, I would suggest having a fulsome conversation with your child’s teachers.  Not just your child’s teacher for the subject at hand, but all teachers.  Find out what each teacher considers your child’s strengths and needs.  How does your child ‘show up’ in their class; are they eager to learn, shy, distracted, too social, regularly absent etc.  By talking to more than one teacher you will begin to see patterns.  What do these patterns tell you about your child and their learning?

In addition, consider your child’s non-academic skills; time management, organization, attention & focus, emotional control, need for movement, task completion, and so forth.  These skills are the underlying determining factor for academic performance.  How are these non-academic skills affecting your child’s learning at school?

I also always recommend speaking to any other professionals currently involved with your child to understand their opinions and experiences working with your child.  Perhaps your child is involved with a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, social worker etc.  Other professionals can also provide valuable information.

And, of course, you should always consult with your child’s medical doctor to rule out any underlying medical causes as well as have your child’s hearing and vision checked.


What to do with this information?

Once you’ve spoken to everyone, compile your notes into one document.  Again, look for any patterns.  At this point, after getting a great deal of feedback from multiple people who know your child well, you should have a pretty good idea of one or more root causes to your child’s learning struggles.

This is the point where you are more informed and in a better position to decide if tutoring is the right course of action for your child.


If the answer is yes.

If your decision is yes that your child simply needs more direct instruction or practice with these skills, then start collecting those referrals and give it a shot!  There are many fabulous, knowledgeable tutors out there with the experience and expertise to support your child’s academic progress.  If you’ve chosen well your child will be a willing participant and you should begin to see some nice progress after a couple of weeks.


If the answer is no.

If your decision is no that you do not feel hiring a tutor is the right course of action and depending on the results of the information you’ve gathered, here are some other avenues to consider.


1. Make learning a fun, family priority.

Find natural, organic ways to engage you child in learning – specifically aligned to their area of need.  For example, if your child is struggling in math, you could find opportunities to practice at home as a family.

  • Count money before going to the store.
  • Keep track of the total cost of all items as you put them in your cart at the store.
  • Ask your child what time it is.
  • Estimate how long an activity will take you to do.
  • Have your child measure ingredients while baking.
  • Play number games in the car while driving.

Similarly, help them make the connection between what they are learning at school and how it is important to their everyday life.

You can also model the ways in which you engage in learning as an adult.  Allow your child to see your learning in action and notice how you navigate the learning process.  For example, if you are learning to do your own taxes, taking a cooking course, attending a webinar etc.  Show your child real life examples of how you are still a learner even as an adult.  It important that your child views learning as a life-long process or skill and not just something they HAVE to do because they are in school. 

Perhaps even find a way to help them learn about something of personal interest that is not school related to foster the simple joy of learning.


2. Consider community resources that are available.

Most communities have a multitude of services available for school-aged children.   Typically there will be both free options and paid options.

In my opinion, all children would benefit from having a psychological assessment during childhood.  So much valuable information is gleaned from these reports that affect both your child’s everyday life experiences, as well as their academic, social, and emotional success at school.

This powerful information is imperative for all parents.  It helps parents understand how their child’s brain is wired, how they experience things, why they react the way they do and so much more.  Furthermore, recommendations are made regarding how best to support your child’s growth and development.  With this valuable information you will know exactly what your child needs and understand the strategies that will be most effective in supporting your child both at home and at school.

Sharing the results of this assessment with your child’s school will allow the school team to formalize supports for your child and ensure their academic success.

Other professionals to consider would be speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, behaviour therapists, social workers, physical therapists, or psychologists.  These professionals are often involved with school-aged children and can be a great resource for parents.


3. Foster a strong home-school partnership.

The children who make the most progress in school are those with actively involved parents.  There are many ways to support your child’s academic success at school.

  • Show up to all opportunities open to parents - meet the teacher night, school concerts, field trips etc.  By doing so you are communicating to your child that school is a priority.


  • Communicate regularly with your child’s teachers - do not wait for there to be a concern and for the teacher to contact you.  Initiate regular communication, check in, ask questions.  When teachers know that there is an actively involved parent, they feel supported in your child’s education and will welcome the opportunity to work as a team with you.


  • Take opportunities to extend your child’s school learning at home – if they are learning about procedural text find opportunities to use these skills naturally by following a recipe or reading the directions for a new board game.  If learning about fractions find opportunities to make things into equal parts such as a pizza or into equal groups such as dividing up candies.


  • Have your child complete homework in the kitchen or family room so that you are readily available if they need support, and so that you can communicate any homework struggles to your child’s teacher.


Being the parent of a school-aged child is tough!  Building a team of people that can support your child’s growth, development, and learning makes it much easier.  It is not our job as parents to have all the answers, but it is imperative to know where to turn for support when needed.

Navigating the endless options of services and resources available can be intimidating.  Knowing which is right for your child can feel impossible.  However, by being actively involved at every stage and phase and by building a team of supports you are doing what is necessary to ensure your child’s success!



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