Ah, tutoring. Who hasn’t considered it? But despite how simple the idea is – someone to help where the classroom teacher can’t – why do we hesitate so much about whether or not to get a tutor?
It’s my job to find great tutors for the children of parents just like you, and I help people decide if they need a tutor all the time.
Based on my experience, if you’re um-ing and ah-ing over this question, these are the five things you need to think about to help you decide.
Their school level
Of course, the most obvious reason behind why tutors exist is to help with schooling. There are two main reasons why most parents like yourself seek out a tutor. Either:
a) their child is falling behind and needs some extra help, or
b) their child is ahead of the class and needs to be extended
In both situations, having a tutor can help.
A tutor can deliver content slowly, pausing on the topics which your child finds confusing.
Or, a tutor can use their knowledge of a higher year level to provide new and interesting learning for your child who is bored in class.
Although often true, this two-sided approach to tutoring leaves out a whole category of students who sit right in the middle.
If you’re considering hiring a tutor, you might be second-guessing yourself because your child doesn’t fit either of these common reasons. The truth is that education works differently not just with different people, but even for the same person, at different points throughout a year. A student can pick up one topic easily and find the next one tricky.
So really, when it comes to considering your child’s school level, the key question to ask yourself isn’t just about whether they’re behind or ahead, it’s about asking Is there something they need help with?
Whether that’s for a term or all year, with one subject or alternating between several, that’s what will help you figure out if a tutor is required.
Their motivational level
The thing most people don’t realise is that tutors aren’t supposed to just be teachers of academic content, they’re mentors who can guide students through all the unspoken skills of school.
If your child doesn’t need help with any one subject in particular, but struggles with time management, procrastination, attitude towards school or motivation to do their homework, these can also be good reasons to consider a tutor. Rather than hire a tutor to teach subject content, look for one who can help with study skills or strategies to focus attention.
Ever tried to teach your child something and seen them squirming in their chair?
Advice from an external figure – not a parent or a teacher – can often go much further than your own pearls of wisdom (as great as they are!). As neither a parent nor a classroom teacher, a great tutor can build a relationship with your child to help keep them accountable with school, without being too much of an authority figure.
An added plus – many tutors are currently studying the subjects they teach at university. What better way to help your child discover a love of learning than to have them taught by someone who is still currently learning? Especially if they’re studying and passionate about the very subjects they’re teaching!
Their (and your!) amount of spare time
A week during the school term is like a marathon and a sprint at the same time, right? Somehow, the time until the weekend or even the holidays stretches out for forever, even though each day simultaneously speeds past in the mad rush between school, home and extra-curricular activities.
If your weekly roster is full, hiring a tutor might not be a good move. Your child will get the most out of tutoring (and you’ll get the most out of your investment in a tutor) if they can build a strong learning relationship through regular contact.
That being said, there’s no rule which forces you to do a certain amount of tutoring per week. If your or your child’s schedule is an obstacle to hiring a tutor, why not try for 30 minute lessons instead of an hour? Or schedule tutoring on a fortnightly basis to give yourselves more elbow room? These can be great stop-gap measures to get some extra help without adding another major thing to your hectic week.
Older students are more likely to need tutoring, because secondary school runs at a much faster pace. They’re also trying new subjects and figuring out what works for them and what doesn’t, so years 7 through 12 can be a time of educational instability for many.
A lot of parents like to invest in tutoring for primary school years as well. It’s common knowledge now that young brains are more impressionable and learn faster, so it can be a prime time to set good habits and ensure a strong foundation for future learning is being built.
If your child is very young, perhaps just starting or in the lower half of primary school, it might not be time for tutoring just yet. It’s a good idea to let them adjust to school before adding tutoring to the mix.
The Tutoring Environment
Ironically, the tutor that you choose plays a key part in answering the question about whether or not you should hire a tutor in the first place!
The wrong tutor can make tutoring feel like a chore for your child, or can be stressful for you to work with. The right tutor will help school feel easier for them, instil good habits, and ultimately be a mentor rather than just another teacher. So what sorts of factors should you be on the lookout for?
- Older isn’t always better: while it can be tempting to look for an older tutor, maybe even a retired teacher, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee they’ll be the best fit for your child.
You should also consider younger tutors – they remember what it’s like to be a student, and more practically, they’re up to date with the most recent version of the school curriculum.
More often than not, students also feel more comfortable with someone closer to their own age.
- Think EQ, not just IQ: of course, academic results are something to take into consideration when choosing a tutor, especially in older year levels. However, what makes a great tutor isn’t just intelligence, it’s communication skills.
Think about your favourite teachers. Were they favourites because they constantly showed off how much they knew? Or because they were approachable, relatable, interesting, and made their subject easy to understand?
- Individual is key: really, what you need is a tutor who can focus on your child in particular. When choosing a tutor, ask them if they use set lesson plans or if they can adjust to what your child is struggling with.
Also check for tutors with training or prior experience – they’re more likely to be able to spot learning patterns, use different teaching techniques and generally be flexible with how they help your child.
At the end of the day…
Really, finding the right tutor is all about the fit. You need someone who can understand all of the above factors about where your child is coming from – their school level, motivation, co-curricular activities and age – and use this knowledge to create a personalised method of helping your child.
Now that’s great and all, you might be thinking, but how am I supposed to find a tutor like that?!
Of course, there are plenty of freelance tutors, or you can consider going through an education platform like my personal recommendation, KIS Academics! This can simplify the process for you, because you’re choosing from a pool of tutors already pre-approved with minimum academic requirements, a successful interview and completed teaching training, and with government-issued working with children’s checks – always good for peace of mind.
So: tutoring. Is it a good idea for your child? You’ll hopefully have a clearer answer in mind. If you take one thing away from this: it’s all about the fit. If the tutor is the right one for your child, then tutoring is the right idea.
My name is Elena, and my job is to help parents just like you to find the right tutor for their children. Think of me as the ‘tutoring Cupid’! I’ve been doing this for years, and I’d love to share my knowledge with you.
Interested in learning more? You can scroll through the Tutor Marketplace here to start browsing tutors for your child:
Or, you can leave your details and request a call back (from me) to answer any lingering questions you might have.
Looking forward to it!