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Five Signs It's Time to Start Looking for a Tutor

When the school year starts, there are a lot of details for parents to keep track of, so it's understandable that most people only start looking for a tutor once disaster has already struck, in the form of an unacceptably disappointing grade or school report, or a big exam coming up next week - or worse, tomorrow.

Parents will often say, "We wish we'd found you sooner!" when they find a tutor. But what these parents are really saying is, "We wish we'd looked for a tutor sooner".

In the spirit of "a stitch in time saves nine", and to help this school year not just start off running smoothly, but stay that way, here are five questions to help you determine whether it's time to start looking for extra help in the form of tuition. The first two are questions to ask yourself right now, before school even starts:

1. Were there any subjects my child had real trouble with last year?
Your child's last school report may be a distant memory, but it's a great place to start. Look out for feedback on the report that seemed unusually low and classes where your child's performance got worse over the course of the year. Pay extra attention to subjects where the student is expected to use and build upon what she has learned the previous year(s), like maths and reading. In subjects where success depends on cumulative knowledge, getting a handle on last year's obstacles could make the difference between a bewildering and frustrating autumn and a painless, enjoyable one.

2. Does my child have the type of personality that will be better nurtured by a one-on-one situation than in a classroom?
Call me crazy, but as a student I used to love getting called up to the blackboard to work on a problem in front of the class. Whether kids see their classmates as their competitors, collaborators, or their audience, some do well in groups, others don't. If your child is the latter type, the one-on-one attention of a tutor could help give her extra confidence and cement what she already knows. A good tutor will be able to develop extracurricular activities that sustain his interest and expand on what he is learning in the classroom and a great one could ignite a lifelong passion for this subject in your child.

The next question is most helpful during the first quarter of the school year:

3. Is my child struggling with her teacher's review of last year's material?
Similar to question one, the first couple of weeks of school are some of the most important to pay close attention to. Most teachers will review last year's material or summer assignments to help kids get their heads back in the game before introducing new material. If these beginning weeks are particularly rough for you child, and you notice it promptly, you can assess whether private tuition would be a good idea.

The final two questions can be useful throughout the school year (but the earlier the better):

4. Is there a personality conflict between my child and his teacher?
Conflict happens - and sometimes it happens between two otherwise friendly, affable, reasonable people. Creating situations where your child can work on the subject with someone who is not her teacher (i.e. a tutor) will give her someone to turn to with questions, help her feel more empowered to do well despite the class atmosphere, and, as a last resort, help her hang in there until next summer starts.

5. Does my child need help with homework assignments that I myself don't understand?
This is perhaps the most obvious question: When your child asks for help you can't provide yourself, working with a tutor can be much more direct and supportive than using Wikipedia or sorting through the plethora of other digital resources available. Look for a tutor who is familiar with the particular textbook your child is using and the work she is doing in class, not just someone with general knowledge in the subject.

This list isn't exhaustive - it is, however, a good list for parents to keep in mind as the school year starts, so that you can use the tool of private tutoring to help your child have the best academic experience possible.

Guest Writer

Our guest writer is Lily Jane Hart. Lily was the recipient of a Fulbright fellowship in teaching English and has been tutoring in subjects including Latin, English, Spanish, and German for more than a decade. She has been tutoring Latin remotely via Skype for the past four years. You can visit her website by clicking here: Latin Tutor.