Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Angela's advice - Should my child have a tutor?

With a myriad of options out there when it comes to tutoring services, we're delighted to offer some advice from our own Angela Rudderham on deciding when your child might need the support of a tutor - and what you should be looking for.

The Bridgeway Team

By Angela E. Rudderham
Director, Turning Tides Community Outreach

Every parent wants their child to succeed in school and have a future full of opportunities and possibilities.  We send them to school each day with all their supplies and a balanced lunch and trust our educators will work to develop our child’s true potential and foster in them a desire to learn. 

Unfortunately, the reality is that not every child’s true potential is unlocked from simply attending school.  In fact, 15-year-olds in Nova Scotia scored statistically lower in academics than the Canadian average, according to Statistics Canada.   Math and literacy scores in Nova Scotia are among the lowest in the country, and the Nova Scotia dropout rate in 2010 was 8.6%.  Only 28% of students from Nova Scotia will go on to university and 8% will go on to a college or trade education. Our children need other supports to ensure their success.  The question is, when are additional supports necessary, and what form should they take?

Tutoring is an excellent way to build academic confidence, improve grades and learn new skills.

You may want your child tutored if:

Your child still needs help mastering basic skills.  Teachers will move forward whether your child has mastered the skill or not. If basic skills are not mastered, then the student will struggle when relying on them to solve more complex problems. These skills need to be re- taught until mastered.

Your child struggles with organization, working independently, or lacks study skills. Often the brightest students who learn quickly may lack organizational skills or become overwhelmed when faced with a testing situation. Anyone can benefit from learning how to organize notes, break down large assignments, meet due dates or discover how they best take in information.

Your child has a learning disability.  This will interfere with the learning process in areas such as the intake, storage, processing, retrieval and/or output of information. A tutoring service that has extensive experience and training in helping students with learning disabilities should be able to show the student how they learn best and provide strategies for independent success.

Your child is struggling with big life changes.  A move, divorce, new school, family issues can all contribute to your child being distracted from their school work. Working closely with a tutor will ensure a smoother transition.

Your child struggles with behavioral, social or emotional needs.  Often these needs can contribute to missed instruction time. A tutor with experience working with students who have had similar needs will often have a large tool box of strategies to draw from to keep your child engaged and on track.

Your child has missed a lot of school due to medical or other reasons. A tutor can go back and teach what was missed and help the student gain back the confidence that they may have lost. They can also work around the student’s schedule.

You want to give your child the competitive edge to get ahead.  There is always room for improvement. Striving to do our personal best is an excellent habit to develop at any age.

Your child needs homework support.  Parents, homework and the student can sometimes be an unpleasant combination to say the least. In most homes, both parents are working or have other major responsibilities and there just isn’t time to give your child the homework support they need without it taking on a rushed or negative tone. Let someone else be the “bad “guy and save your parent/ child time for the important stuff like hugs and kisses.

The right tutoring service will be able to match your child’s needs with the right service. They should understand the importance of rapport building between the student and the tutor. The tutor should be willing to work with your child’s teacher, provide regular updates and reports, and improvements should be noticed after a few months. Be wary of services that will not let you observe or listen in on sessions at least once or have no way to measure the acquisition of new skills. There is little doubt that anyone can benefit from tutoring.  Do your homework and shop around.  Ask questions and compare services and prices until you find the right fit.


Angela Rudderham is the Director of Turning Tides Community Outreach, a community-based organization providing social, behavioural and organizational support to individuals across Nova Scotia.  For more information on tutoring, social skills, parenting and professional development programs offered by Turning Tides, please visit www.turningtides.ca or call 902-404-TIDE (8433).

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