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Maximize the Tutoring Experience

Find the right kind of academic help for your child.



Sonali Pandit and one of her students at Kumon Math and Reading Center

You’ve decided that your child would benefit from tutoring, a bid to start the school year on the best academic foot possible. So what’s your next step? Select the type of tutor that will help your child most — center-based, online or private. 

Explore each approach to pick the option that best suits your child’s learning style and subject needs. Ideally, your pick will foster a love of learning while it develops confidence and competence.

Center-based learning

Tutoring centers — brick-and-mortar locations where kids meet with tutors at a regularly scheduled time — provide a comprehensive curriculum designed to address gaps in learning and build solid foundations as preparation for more complex study. Each program has its own philosophy, curriculum and pedagogy, with corresponding worksheets and books that allow well-qualified tutors to assess, teach and challenge students. Centers charge monthly tuition fees that typically range between $70 and $125.

The best centers, says Sonali Pandit, owner of the Kumon Math and Reading Centers in Bear and Hockessin, DE, “make students stand on their own feet and teach them how to think, with a curriculum that helps them become independent learners.” Unless students learn to cogitate and work through problems on their own, she explains, tutors can become a crutch. 

Pandit believes that most parents who come to her expect tutoring to help their children surpass class expectations. Most clients, she says, “actually start below grade level, work up to the grade — and then go beyond it.”

It’s not an easy feat, but she says that you have to inspire kids to achieve lofty goals. She does this by making learning fun, providing positive feedback and accelerated incentive rewards (think microscopes, sports equipment, even charitable donations in kids’ names).

Online classroom

For families whose after-school schedule is already full, the set-time structure of a center can pose a challenge. “The glory of online tutoring is that it’s available across curricula when students want it, 24 hours a day,” says Rob Franek, senior vice president/publisher of The Princeton Review. All tutors at the Review’s Tutor.com, are vetted, trained and an expert in their field of study. Fees start at $39.99 for one hour per month; a trial 30-minute session is $9.99.

All that’s needed to access one-on-one Web help is an Internet-enabled computer, tablet or smartphone. From there, Franek explains, “Students select a tutor by subject and connect in an online classroom, where they text-chat back and forth and work out problems using drawing, graphing and equation tools in an interactive whiteboard.” Sessions are saved and available to review or print.

Franek has seen online tutoring benefit students of many types — those who are completely lost as well as those who check in periodically for a pre-exam brushup, shy kids who like the anonymity online assistance provides and gifted kids looking for more challenging material. 

Private tutoring

A private tutor who’ll come to your house or meet your child at, say, the public library can be a less expensive, more convenient option. (The cost in and around Philadelphia ranges from $10 to $50 per hour, according to Care.com.) The best private tutors are often teachers, former teachers or grad students with subject expertise. When selecting a private tutor, it’s important to consider how much tutoring experience she has. Turn to friends, trusted teachers and parents of your kids’ classmates for referrals. 

A good tutor is one with whom students enjoy working and feel comfortable enough to ask questions, says Huntingdon Valley, PA-based math tutor Joyce Klugherz, MS, who has been tutoring 6th to 12th graders for 38 years. 

Don’t be alarmed if a tutor doesn’t administer an initial assessment, says Klugherz. Classwork can be a true gauge of a student’s grasp of a subject. “Homework can actually act as a practice test and give me a really good idea of what they know and don’t know,” she says.  

Parental involvement 

No matter which type of tutor you choose, to fully maximize the experience, it’s integral for parents to become invested in the learning process — not necessarily teaching kids the material, just being there to keep them on track.

To wit, Franek advises parents to sit down with their kids to map out homework and study priorities and timeframes.

Experts say you’ll know that tutoring is working based on your child’s demeanor. “I hear it all the time, ‘Is that all it is; that’s easy,’ ” says Klugherz. “Because schoolwork is a puzzle, and as soon as you solve it, it’s not a puzzle anymore.” 

Lynda Dell is a freelance writer and experienced PA-certified early childhood educator.

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