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How to choose the right kind of tutoring for your child

How to choose the right kind of tutoring for your child

Children continue to outwit even the most advanced efforts at automating their education. They persist in being unique, dazzling, surprising, curious humans and while this is delightful in life, it makes choosing how to support their learning a bit of a challenge.

There are a lot of options out there. Siri, Alexa and Cortana have found dozens of tutoring options, some of which are fairly close to you. Group tutoring, individual tutoring, home tutoring, school tutoring, online tutoring, extra-curricular tutoring and any combination, permutation or variation of these options. So how on earth do you choose?

1. Start by talking to your child

Involving your child as early as possible means that they feel in control of the situation and know that they’re not being punished for being bad at something. This doesn’t mean you have to ask if they think tutoring is a good idea, but it does mean allowing them to weigh in on certain binary choices such as group or individual, online or offline, the same as a friend’s tutoring group or different, before, after or during school.

2. Clarify your goals

If you’re looking at tutoring seriously then odds are you already have some goals in mind for your child, and that either you, your child or their teachers have articulated these goals. Tutoring can help with any aspect of a child’s education so consider the below list, add any goals you have and prioritise these outcomes:

  • academic support in a specific area (identified by your child’s teacher/s)
  • academic support in general (identified by your child’s teacher/s)
  • academic support in a specific area (identified by you or your child)
  • academic support in general (identified by you or your child)
  • make friends doing something your academically motivated child enjoys
  • challenge your child academically
  • explore an interest beyond their age group or the curriculum
  • join siblings or friends in tutoring

While there’s no secret formula to making this choice, there are some helpful indicators. If your child’s teacher has identified an issue, it’s likely that starting with individual tuition will be more helpful. Why? Teachers are dedicated professionals who are highly skilled at managing group learning. If they’re recommending educational support beyond their classroom then it probably means your child could use some one-on-one time that their teachers just don’t have time to give (even though most would in a heartbeat if they had that much spare time).

If you or your child has identified an issue, or if they want to explore an interest beyond the classroom or extend themselves then approach group or individual tuition as a practice round. Try them both out and assess the results – both academic and emotional. The more specific an academic issue or interest, however, the more likely it is that individual tuition will be more appropriate to meet your child’s goals.

3. Edit your list

If you’ve still got more than 10 specific and realistic options on the table, whittle your list down to 5 things to try. At this stage you can trust your instincts. Choosing tuition is not like a dating app or house hunting – you’re not going to inadvertently miss “The One” and there is no perfect answer. Also, unlike the Bachelor/ette, you can add options back to the list at any time after you fail to give them a metaphorical rose.

Once you’re down to 5 options, articulate why you like each option in 5 words or less. Option A may have the best reputation for literacy but Option B might be right next door to a sibling’s Karate school or your favourite cafe. Option C might be the most affordable and Option D might have your sister’s recommendation. There’s no right answer, and no shame in choosing convenience as well as educational value.

4. Consider logistics

Of the top 5, consider the logistics of trialling each one. Can you really get Child Z to sport, Child Y to music and Child X to tutoring at the right times, with the right gear, with the worst possible traffic and without pharmaceutical help? Doing this mental exercise will almost always knock out at least 2 options.

5. Evaluate the relationship

All education revolves around relationships – not just that between educator and student, but between your family and the institution or company. If you find their website friendly, welcoming and intuitive, love their brand colours and testimonials and can see that the tutors are people you’d like to have in your home (virtually, physically or emotionally) then they’re worth your time. If you have a few reservations, then it can’t hurt to ask questions, see how they respond and evaluate how their response makes you feel. If you find the right tutoring option for your child, this could be a long term relationship so make sure you trust your instincts as well as your research.

6. Try, try again

If you still have options to weigh up, you’re allowed some practice rounds. Whether you’re trialling different styles of tutoring, different companies or different tutors within a company, your child’s education comes first. Having clarified your goals back in step 2, you already have some measures of success (or at least progress), and if you involve your child in the conversation about how the tutoring experience is making them feel, you’ll soon get an idea of the right option for your child and family. Check in at least every fortnight with your child and their tutor and remember that you can always change your mind.

Remember, what matters is that you’re engaging with your child’s education, you’re helping them to meet their goals and that there is no perfect choice. What worked for their older siblings or cousins, friends, peers or heroes may not work for your child. And something that worked in the past for your child may no longer work for them – that’s the thing about children – they just keep being unique, dazzling, surprising and curious humans, in different ways every day.

Casey Standen
Casey Standen is an education specialist with experience in a range of teaching contexts - from early childhood care, through to primary school education support and HSC teaching, she has lead the development of educational innovation companies including an online school and an edutainment company. Her interest lies in empowering students to get the most out of their learning experience, and in helping everybody to find the joy in education. Having studied her Masters of International Education with the University of Melbourne and the University of Helsinki, Casey brings a global perspective to Australian education.

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