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 a note from the teacher to parents

by Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed.

To Tutor or Not to Tutor?

Summer vacation brings lots of images to mind, from bright days at the beach to long lazy naps in hammocks. However, for more and more students, summertime brings a new image to mind- tutoring.

With the high stakes testing and high standards education has adopted today, our students are under more and more pressure to perform at the highest levels from an early age. In light of this, some parents have chosen to use the once-lazy months of summer as a time for their child to get ahead (or catch up) on the curriculum that’s coming in the fall. But is tutoring right for your child? Here are some ideas to think about before you commit to summer learning:

What is the need that I am addressing for my child?
If your child barely passed math and is petrified to go on to the next grade, you may be considering tutoring. In this case, or when your child has been recommended by their teacher for extra summer help, you may want to consider hiring someone. However, before making arrangements, check out the tutor’s qualifications; if you’re looking for a writing tutor, make sure the person you choose to work with is certified to teach in that area.

Am I afraid that my child will lose what they learned?
If you are hiring a tutor simply to make sure that your child does not lose the learning they gained from the last school year, you may be able to save some cash by doing some refreshers yourself. Set aside a little time each week (not too much or you will more than likely have a constant fight on your hands) to review a few items from the previous year. Have your child teach you something they learned. By working together, you’ll already be way ahead of the game when fall rolls back around. You want to make sure that you don’t overload your child in an effort to keep their performance level high.

How much tutoring can I afford?
Parents have many more tutoring choices than ever before. Private tutors are often available in the summer, as are major tutoring “chains”. Each of these options has benefits and drawbacks, and your expectations will have a lot to do with your final choice. If one-on-one attention with someone who is familiar with the local curriculum is important, a private tutor (often a local teacher who is available to work in the summer months) may be your choice. However, if you’re looking more for a place with convenient hours and night or Saturday appointments, you may choose one of the national storefront merchants who provide tutoring services.

Private tutoring may mean a larger per-hour payout, but there will probably be no minimum number of hours or weeks to agree to. Storefront tutoring may be a lower price per hour, but most require a specific number of hours or weeks when your sign up. Each of these options may carry a hefty price tag, so be sure that you look at the financial responsibilities each type of tutoring brings.

Who will be the tutor?
Whichever option you choose, make sure to make an appointment to meet with the tutor personally before making any agreements. It is important that your child and the tutor are a good match if they plan to work together for several weeks. A teacher may be very good in a classroom, but may not be the right person for a one-on-one with your child. Any tutor should be willing to sit down with you before hand to discuss your expectations and meet your child face-to-face. Be prepared that you may be required to pay a consulting fee for this, but it is worth it to know you really like the person you are working with all summer long.

What other summer activities are going on?
Are you a family that runs straight-out all summer long? Do you have practices, competitions, and vacations scheduled every night from July to September? If so, then you may want to think about adding another commitment to your calendar. Good tutoring means that your child will have to put in some extra work to get a benefit from the lessons being taught; a tutor isn’t a magician who will fix all of your child’s educational issues in an hour a week session. There may be some homework, reading, or other work required in order to complete assignments.

Before arranging tutoring, take a close look at your family schedule to see where not only the tutoring sessions will fit in, but also where the extra work that is required can be done. This may require schedules to be changed in order to let your child get the most benefit from their tutoring experience. Also, be aware that many tutors, private or otherwise, may require payment for a scheduled time, regardless of whether you choose to come or not. In fairness, the tutor has to make themselves available at a specific time for you every week, so if you cancel, they are losing money they could have made with another client. So, before committing to a tutor, be sure your child is available to participate as much as they need to in order to make the most of their time.

What are your expectations?
It would be nice if one summer of tutoring sessions could bring a struggling math student from performing a grade below average to a grade above. However, you must be realistic about your expectations. Most students who are tutored for the summer maintain their performance level or raise above it slightly; most do not make extraordinary leaps in ability after just a few weeks. Make sure that you are aware that tutoring is assistance with, not a cure for, your child’s academic needs. If your child requires more assistance, you may consider keeping an hour or two of tutoring weekly during the school year to provide extra support with classwork and homework from school.

Tutoring can truly be a rewarding experience for both the student and the tutor. In many cases, students can improve their self-esteem and confidence before heading into a new school year. But before you run to a tutor, be sure that you have thought about the needs of your child, the expectations of your family, and the time commitment you are willing to make in this endeavor. By having a realistic expectation of what tutoring is and isn’t you’re more likely to have a valuable experience if you do choose to have your child work with a tutor.

Happy summer!


Jennifer Cummings

Ms. Cummings, author, and editor of the Education and School Section, she has a psychology and an M.Ed. in special education from Framingham State College in Massachusetts. She was an elementary teacher in Massachusetts serving both regular education and special education students. She has taught grades 1,4, and 5.

"I believe that families' involvement in their child's education is one of the key ingredients to creating a successful school experience for children. Keeping parents informed about school-related issues helps parents and teachers work together for the best possible outcomes for their children. Learning together makes learning fun - for everyone!" - Jennifer Cummings. CummingsSchoolEducation and School  by Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed. To Tutor or Not to Tutor? Summer vacation brings lots of images to mind, from bright days at the beach to long lazy naps in hammocks. However, for more and more students, summertime brings a new image to mind- tutoring. With the high stakes testing and high standards...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids