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The Informed Parent

To Do Or Not To Do: The Question of Tutoring

by Carolyn Warnemuende, M.S.
Published on Jul. 12, 1999
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Many years ago a jump rope rhyme said, "No more pencils. No more books. No more teacher's dirty looks." Girls, since boys didn't jump rope in those days, then jumped the number of school days remaining until the end of the year. No matter how much children like school, most anticipate the close of the academic year and the beginning of summer vacation.

Children express a sense of dismay when they learn that as well as play, summer plans may include summer school or tutoring. Although many schools offer summer school programs, space is frequently limited. When parents want academic assistance for their children, they often look toward tutoring.

The idea seems valid. Tutoring means individual or small group instruction. It means personal attention and interest. Parents discover, however, that finding the right tutor can be tricky. In this article, we will look at three reasons to consider tutoring and who best provides the needed services.

Reasons To Consider Tutoring

Tutoring serves three basic purposes: to remediate poorly learned or unlearned skills; to maintain learned skills; to teach new skills. Some students finish the school year not having integrated the skills of the completed grade. Often summer school is scheduled for these students. It is a time to review and hopefully learn what was not achieved during the academic year. If a child needs remedial assistance and summer school is not available or if parents prefer individual assistance for their child, tutoring is required. Remedial tutoring usually focuses on reading and math. The tutor offers instruction intended to teach unlearned or poorly learned material.

All children lose a few skills during school vacations. Some parents hope to alleviate this situation by providing the opportunity for their child to maintain learned skills during the long summer months. Maintenance tutoring does just that. The tutor determines where the child currently functions and provides activities that support his or her achievement. Enrichment through literature, enhancing writing skills and deepening a student's ability to analyzed material are all part of good maintenance programs.

When pursuing tutoring which addresses the teaching of new skills, parents must seriously consider their reasons. Study skills tutoring which focuses on organization, effective work habits and test taking strategies is invaluable. Students entering advanced programs, such as advanced science classes, may find it useful to learn some of the vocabulary of that class before entering. Students engaged in independent study programs may benefit from tutoring which assists in learning new skills. Tutoring which is sought simply for the purpose of moving the child ahead of his peers is not in his best interest.

Finding The Tutor

Finding the tutor to meet your child's needs can be challenging. Someone whose qualifications are, "I like to work with kids" rarely turns out to be satisfactory. The first step in finding a good match for your child is knowing the reason for seeking tutoring.

When looking for a tutor to assist with remedial work, your pediatrician, school counselor and local college or university are good resources. Classroom teachers often tutor over the summer months. Students working on special education credentials or graduate degrees in education can be effective. An educational therapist knows how to work well with students who are not achieving successfully. It is important to remember that remedial assistance is best provided by someone who has experience in education and who understands how to determine what a child needs.

You have more leeway in choosing a tutor to assist your child in maintaining existing skills. The person needs to listen to him read and review what was read, provide him with appropriate math practice and play math and reading games with him. Mature high school students, college students and senior citizens may be available for such tutoring. Men and women in the field of education are excellent. Often school districts have lists of people who want to tutor.

A trained study skills specialist is your best choice when the goal of tutoring is learning effective study skills. There are specific strategies study skills specialists teach that become invaluable to students throughout their academic years. Resource teachers and educational therapists may teach study skills well. Your pediatrician or school district will be able to guide you toward an effective study skills specialist or tutor.

Mature high school students who have taken advanced classes or college students can serve as tutors when a student wants an introduction to the vocabulary for an upcoming class. The purpose of this tutoring is exposure to unfamiliar language, not the acquisition of concepts.

All children need short breaks from school and academics. If you decide that tutoring will assist your child, provide some time at the beginning or end of summer when he is not engaged in academic activates.

Clarity about the purposes for tutoring and selecting a tutor who is qualified to work with your child to fulfill that purpose gives the best assurance for positive outcomes.




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