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Does My Child Need a Tutor?

Tutoring help in Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware

How do you know when your child needs a tutor?

Sometimes, signs that kids are struggling at school are subtle. Good grades aren’t always a measure that everything is A-OK, as homework completion and class participation can elevate low subject mastery marks. “We’ve seen kids with very poor understanding still come up with a B on the report card,” says Kathie D'Orazio, co-director at Mathnasium in Sewell, NJ.

If your child resists doing homework, has trouble completing homework independently or can’t explain what she did at school that day, she may be in need of extracurricular academic help. The first place to turn to confirm your gut feeling is your child’s classroom teacher. “Sometimes the teacher will say everything is fine,” says Rich Bernstein, regional director at the Huntington Learning Center in Cherry Hill, NJ, “but you as a parent know your child best.”

Click here for an in-depth directory to some of the best tutoring resources in Delaware, Pennsylvania and South Jersey.

When speaking to the teacher, ask if she or the school offers tutoring services, perhaps even for free. If the answer is no or underwhelms you, your next step is to check into private tutoring. 

Tutor credentials

According to Richard Lombardo, executive director of Above Grade Level, an in-home tutoring service based in Delaware County, PA, parents should select a tutor based on two crucial criteria:

  1. Educational experience and mastery in the subject in question
  2. A personality mesh with your child’s learning style

“Overall credentials are much more important than a [teacher] certification,” says D'Orazio, though formal training may be important in some situations.

For instance, you may want a certified early literacy specialist to help your elementary schooler shore up his reading fundamentals. Meanwhile, a high school student delving into calculus or French may do better with a local college student who’s earning a degree in that particular subject.

Length of tutoring time

Most tutors recommend meeting with students at least two to three times per week. But how long should tutoring continue? Mathnasium co-director Bob D'Orazio believes that, as with a gym membership, the results will be better if you commit to tutoring long-term rather than going for one month and calling it quits.

“Tutoring can go on indefinitely if you’re not tackling the right problem,” says Bernstein. Most tutoring services will assess the student to find out exactly what needs to be addressed.

Because every student is individual, the length of tutoring time depends on each child’s distinct educational needs, says Deborah DeGrosky, assistant director of instruction at Reading ASSIST Institute in Wilmington, DE. “Some kids just need a little boost and they take off,” she says. Most tutoring centers recommend an initial term of 10 to 12 weeks, but pricing models can be based on terms as long as a year.

Tutoring costs 

At most learning centers, the fee paid depends on how long the child is enrolled. Generally, one-on-one tutoring costs less than $50 per hour, but it can reach $70 per hour for a more specialized subject past the basic parameters of reading and math.

Payment plans and financing options are often available. “Our goal is to make it affordable for parents, so they can get the student the help he needs,” says Bernstein.

When to start tutoring

Darlene from Turnersville, NJ, has a 16-year-old son who sought tutoring help from Mathnasium because he was getting Cs in his honors math class. In a matter of months, that C turned into an A.

“It was like a light bulb went on when he went there,” Darlene says. Since that time, she reports that her son’s grades have improved not only in math but also in his other subjects.

Most experts urge parents to follow Darlene’s son’s lead and not wait for a small issue at school to become a big problem. “The earlier we get kids,” says DeGrosky, “the faster we can get them back
on track.”

Suzanne Koup-Larsen is a contributing writer to MetroKids.

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