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Types of Tutoring: What's Best For Your Child?

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Updated on Aug 6, 2013

Maybe your child's teacher notices him struggling in a certain subject area, or perhaps you want to prep him for high school or college entrance exams. Whatever the reason, parents often turn to tutoring services to give their children the help they need outside of the classroom. From in-home to online sessions, various types of tutoring are available, whether your child needs an extra boost in English or wants to get ahead in geometry.  Depending on the service, a tutor can be costly or absolutely free. Matching an individual with your child is an important process, since each student has a distinct learning style. So where to start when it comes to finding the right tutor for your child?

Before you search for someone to help your child, you should figure out specifically what you expect this person to help your child accomplish, and what your child's strengths and challenges are, suggests Linda Broatch, a writer at the research nonprofit WestEd. Your child may work best immediately after school, for instance, so if you hire an evening tutor, your child may have already “shut down” for the night. Or, perhaps your home environment is distracting due to siblings – or simply too familiar – and she may concentrate better at the library, which likely offers free drop-in tutoring, such as the services of Project READ in Northern California or the Homework Assistance Program at the Boston Public Library.

Research your choices before you commit to a tutoring service.  The primary options to consider are the frequency, length, and type of session. Is your child mentally prepared for daily one-hour meetings after school, or would a single four-session each weekend be more effective? Generally, tutoring programs work with your child for a semester, with hour-long sessions two or three times a week. “Less than twice a week is often a waste of time because it's not enough assistance," writes Edward Gordon, an education consultant and author of Tutor Quest.

Each student, however, works differently, so test the waters and alter your child’s schedule if necessary. Also determine: Would she prefer the same tutor each session, face to face, or would she work better online with a different person each time? Should you choose a private tutor, or would your child be more open and productive alongside a few classmates?

To jump start your search, here’s a sampling of tutoring programs, and a summary of what type of student benefits from each:

Private in-home sessions

Working individually with a tutor may be fitting for a timid, less vocal student, or one who is easily distracted around other children.  If you are hesitant to find an independent tutor on your own via Craigslist or a community bulletin board at your local coffee shop – but don’t need the structure of a large tutoring organization like Sylvan Learning or Kaplan – try tutoring services such as Buddy System, WyzAnt, or Tutor Circle, which allow you to handpick a tutor whose personality and approach match your child’s learning style. (When you meet or contact a tutor for the first time, don’t be afraid to ask what his or her non-academic interests are, too – it’s beneficial if you match your child with someone with like-minded hobbies, such as sports, animals, or music.)

At WyzAnt, for instance, you peruse profiles of tutors in specific subjects, from business to language, and at Tutor Circle, parents communicate freely with tutors to negotiate price, location, and even the size of the tutor group.

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