Extra credit

How do you know if your child needs a tutor? Sheryl Bennett-Wilson asks the experts

Often, it’s a phone call from a concerned teacher. Or a report card that indicates your child is struggling in a subject. As Caroline Sohn, director of Eye Level Learning Centre points out, sometimes it’s better to be pro-active.

“If you do get that phone call from your child’s teacher, or notice marks slipping on a report card, it’s likely that your child has been struggling for a while,” she says. Sohn also says that a lack of confidence in your child, or negativity towards school can be clues to learning difficulties. “We get two types of students,” says Sohn, “ones that want tutoring to get ahead or better their marks and ones that are falling behind and need help.” She says she’s spoken with many parents who have tried tutoring their child themselves. “Parent tutoring is usually an exercise in frustration,” says Sohn, “and it’s not conducive to a positive learning experience. A tutor is more objective and can provide a good overview of areas that your child is struggling in.” Sohn says it’s never too early to start helping your child learn with a tutor. “If your child doesn’t know their alphabet names and sounds or is not starting to read by the end of SK, it’s an indication that they’d benefit from tutoring help,” says Sohn. “And if that’s the case, get help so your child stays ahead of the curve, and not behind it.”

For Lynda Bell, director/education consultant at Tutor Doctor, a tutor should be a mentor. “At Tutor Doctor, we really work to pair your child with the ideal tutor for them,” says Bell. “We look at what is going on with your child’s learning, what motivates them and also what extracurricular activities they have to make a good match.” Bell says that a tutor not only knows the subject but also works hard to try to understand the student’s learning style and what motivates them to learn. “Part of the learning process is making mistakes,” says Bell, “those mistakes establish synapses in the brain and help your child’s brain grow.” Building blocks are an essential part of the Tutor Doctor process. “Sometimes a child is missing some of the building blocks needed for a subject,” says Bell. “We’ll look at how they did in other grades and if they did alright and are just having a few issues with a new area of, say, math, we’ll deal with it. But if it’s been happening through other grades, we’ll review the building blocks and fill in the areas that are lacking and then move forward.” Bell says a good tutor will help to keep your child motivated and love learning for life.

Jennifer Cowan is the owner and a learning support teacher at Astolot Educational Centre. She has been in the teaching business for over 30 years. “Sometimes,” says Cowan, “it’s as basic as learning how to learn. Teachers have many students in their class and often one-on-one with a student is difficult. A tutor can do that. And we will reach out to your child’s teacher to pinpoint the issues and find out how we can work together to help them.” Astolot offers a homework club. Cowan says that the homework club keeps a school environment – minus the distractions from home. The centre also specializes in children with dyslexia. “It’s really satisfying as a teacher and for our tutors to see students become more confident,” says Cowan. “And when they leave, well, we know we’ve done a good job to get them on solid ground.”

Sohn, Bell and Cowan would all agree that parenting is hard enough. Hiring a tutor to help your child excel is something that all of them can provide.