Does my child need a tutor?

It’s often thought that tutoring is just for students who need extra help. However, today the trend seems to be that more children are being tutored even when they have good grades.

A study conducted in 2007 by the Canadian Council on Learning found that one-third of Canadian parents have hired a tutor for their children. The study concluded, “Tutoring is no longer primarily geared towards low-achieving students requiring remedial instruction, but rather caters to a growing number of average high-achieving students seeking to improve their learning and academic performance.”

Pam Kozak is an instructor at Kumon, a tutoring service that helps children improve their math and reading skills. It was founded in Japan in 1958 and opened its first location in Canada in 1980.

Pam runs a Kumon centre in Guelph, Ont. She has seen a lot of children who attend the centre for extra work, and it’s completely normal. “It’s not about the kids needing help, it’s about giving them the ability to learn and think independently,” says Pam. “It gives them an edge so they can be at the top of the class.”

However, learning centres aren’t the only form of tutoring. Some children need the one-on-one attention, whereas learning centres can sometimes rely on the children’s independence.

Stu Mills, a parent from Wakefield, Que., says his two children, Isaac and Katherine, were tutored because he wanted them to improve their French skills in order to get them into an international baccalaureate school. They were the only children in their classes without Francophone parents so they needed the extra training outside of school in order to get their grades up. He opted for a private tutor.

“It wasn’t very expensive and we only needed someone who knew the language and who was good with kids.”

Stu says he doesn’t think his children would have been as successful without the tutor, especially since they were learning in another language. “Math and science translated directly, but my son continues to have challenges in French so he still needs to have extra help with that.”

There are different ways to find out whether or not your child needs a tutor. Grades can be the most obvious, and by speaking to your child’s teacher you can find out exactly where they’re struggling or could use improvement.

Pam says even if children are achieving good grades, but are always asking “why?” they may want to engage in more learning. “If you have a child who is inquisitive and wants to learn it’s a good idea to have them tutored.”

How much does it cost?

Tutoring centre prices can vary from $90 to $130 per student/per subject/per month. The prices depend on the centre and whether or not your child will be tutored in math and reading.

If you hire a private tutor you will likely negotiate the price. Expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $50 an hour as your child will be getting one-on-one attention. The rate varies depending on the age of your child and the subject he/she is being tutored in.

Where to find a tutor

  • Consult your child’s teacher and principal for suggestions. Your child’s school may have tutoring support available.
  • Many libraries offer free after-school tutoring from volunteers.
  • Findatutor.ca can help you find a tutor in your area. It indicates the education level and area of expertise of the tutor and even shows what they charge per hour.
  • Ask friends and colleagues whose children have attended tutoring centre programs or worked with individual tutors. When their child has had success working with the person, the chances are your child will see results as well!

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, August/September 2011.

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