What if you have concerns about the tutoring?

This is post #8 in the series: How to choose the right tutor

On occasion, a parent might have concerns about the tutoring their child is receiving.  Perhaps the child complains that the sessions are boring, or the tutor is “mean,” or that the work is too hard. Perhaps you are not seeing the progress you hoped for, as quickly as you expected.  Perhaps the tutor has expressed concern about your child’s behavior or attitudes.  Perhaps you feel that too much “homework” is being assigned.  There are many possible concerns that could come up, just as there are many possible problems at school or at home.

If situations like this come up, what should you do?  Should you just remove your child from the tutoring, and look for a different tutor or a different learning solution?  Should you just wait and hope things get better?  Or are there more helpful ways of dealing with the situation? 

While it is true that on occasion you will need to end the student-tutor relationship, often the problem turns out to be a simple misunderstanding, or to be something that a change in learning style approach or time of day for the tutoring can easily remedy.  The solution may lie with the tutor, with your child, or with yourself!  This post provides you with some different approaches and solutions you can try. 

Stop problems before they start:

  • You are the person who knows your child better than anyone else. If you sense an internal warning signal, do not hire the tutor. You and your child must both be comfortable in the tutorial relationship. If possible, interview more than one tutor to find the best tutor for your child’s needs.
  • When the tutoring sessions begin, you have the right to sit in on at least a demonstration lesson, and possibly on the first 2 or 3 regular lessons, in order to assess the tutor’s standards and teaching style, and how the tutor and your child relate to each other.  But as soon as you feel reasonably comfortable, resist sitting in on the lessons, as children usually concentrate better when parent’s are not “hovering” during the lesson.
  • If your child has a history of reacting negatively to certain kinds of teaching styles, or has special needs, or has been through a situation (for example, extended illness) that has caused him/her to miss out on the basics of a subject, or is going through personal trauma (perhaps the loss of a family member), it is wise to share this information with the tutor, as such external situations can negatively impact learning during tutoring.  If the tutor knows about these things, he/she can adjust the lessons and learning environment to take them into account.

Work with the tutor to find solutions:

  • If your child begins to have problems after a period of tutoring, your tutor should be happy to meet with you, and you may want to sit in on a lesson or two to help find ways to resolve the problem. There are times, of course, when ending the tutoring relationship is the best solution, but always try to figure out the true sources of problems, and consider what solutions would be best.
  • If, after a few lessons, you feel the tutor-student relationship is not working, speak with the tutor. Try to find solutions to the problem.  Perhaps the tutor can use different teaching approaches or materials, for example.  But do not be afraid to find a new tutor if  things cannot be worked out. 
  • Have regular check ups with the tutor. Request short weekly updates, if you wish, and be sure to spent a bit more time about once a month going over your child’s progress with both child and tutor.  Also check with your child’s school teacher to see if the tutoring is having a positive effect on school work.
  • It might also be wise to ask the teacher and tutor to meet together and find ways to coordinate their work with your child.
  • If you have issues to discuss with the tutor before the next session, it is best or phone or email ahead of time, or at least arrive a little early so as not to cut into the tutoring time.  Most tutors will tell you when they can accept phone calls and/or answer emails, and whether they prefer to discuss your child’s progress before or after the session.  As tutors often have other students with sessions before and after your child’s time slot, you may need to make an appointment for a discussion of more than a couple minutes.

Work with your child to find solutions:

  • The problem might be something as simple as the day and time of the tutoring session.  Many children need at least an hour or two break after school before going into a tutoring session. Time to play and/or rest could make a big difference.  Other children do better right after school, and are too tired after dinner time. Also, if you are doing something with the rest of your family during the tutoring session time, your child may feel left out, and resent missing out on family activities. This can be particularly true of tutoring during school holiday seasons.
  • Also, especially for younger children, one hour sessions might be just too long.  Consider a couple 1/2 hour sessions per week rather than one hour-long session.
  • If the child is really far behind, it might be necessary, in order to catch up quickly, to have at least 2 one hour sessions, or 4 half-hour sessions per week, for a period of time.  But over-doing session time can also be a problem.  Be willing to experiment to see what works (and find a tutor who is also willing to experiment).
  • It is possible that your child does not initially feel comfortable away from the family.  It might be better to have the child tutored in a quiet space in your own home (or another location where the child is comfortable), than to drop your child off at a place he or she is not familiar with, at least until the child and tutor develop a more trusting relationship.
  • Some children already feel negatively about learning because of school problems, and see tutoring as an extension of school.  They are not prepared to enjoy tutoring, and will do all they can to get out of it.  They may complain about the lessons, about the tutor, or about any other number of “problems” – which may not actually exist at all.  While it is important to talk things over with the tutor, it is also important to talk things over with your child – and probably with both of them together.

Ways that you as a parent can help:

  • Tutoring is more effective if the parents set a weekly schedule that provides your child with opportunity to follow-up on the learning they’ve gained in each session, and to prepare for the next session.  Tutoring, like school, is much more effective if the parents discuss the learning with their child, and spend a little time reviewing the learning several times a week.  If you can spend just 5 to 10 minutes a day, about 5 times a week, reviewing the learning, it will be much more successful – and you will also be able to quickly determine if there truly are problems with the tutoring. 
  • You don’t have to be formal about it; you can ask a few questions, go over a worksheet with your child, or play a related table game or online game (or even make up a game yourself).  Short term memory develops into long term memory by frequent repetition and practice!
  • If you feel you cannot give this kind of time, or that the subject is beyond your own knowledge, you might want to consider increasing the tutoring to at least a couple times a week – or, for a younger child, divide one hour tutoring sessions into two half-hour sessions 3 or 4 days apart.
  • Alternatively, an older sibling or grandparent or other family member might be able to help out with between-session practice.  You might even be able to hire a trusted teenage neighbour for a small price to help your child do review.

Discussion:  What other concerns have you had (or are having) with tutoring?  What other solutions can you suggest, in addition to the ones above?  Please share your concerns and ideas with us in the comments section.  Thank you!

 Penticton tutor:  If you live in the Penticton area, and are looking for a tutor, be sure to check out my Penticton tutor information page!


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