Should I hire a tutor for my child?

Jun 21

I am frequently asked this question by parents whose children are going to sit an exam in the coming future. While I do recognise the need of hiring an English or maths tutor when the child is falling behind the school curriculum, I believe that in many cases there is no need for a tutor. Here is why.

When you as a parent are enough.

I’ve noticed a trend in our school community when parents look to find a tutor to ensure their child gets a higher score with Naplan tests. As I learnt through conversations with them, one of the most common objectives is to satisfy their own expectations of the child’s school progress or meet a certain social image as parents. In this case, tutoring becomes a means of parents’ assurance and manifestation of extra care for their children, however it may have nothing to do with the child and their performance with the test.

It is worth mentioning that many tutoring services cover exactly the same curriculum students study at school. Just imagine, your child has spent a number of hours at school and had lots of opportunities to learn the same stuff their tutor will be talking to them all over again.

If your child performs well at school, simply help them learn the test format and get lots of practice. For instance, if they have no problems reading, it may be worth practicing timed reading, text scanning techniques to locate important information, and getting used to the types of questions normally asked in the test. All of this can be done on their own without tutors help.

The problem is when the child struggles with reading, and this is when you as a parent can have the most impact by helping to organise the home reading routine, borrowing or purchasing books of interest that are likely to captivate your child. And of course setting the example.

You can create emotional connections so your child associates reading with great time by cuddling together on the sofa and asking them to read for you. Have a laugh, ask questions, make inferences, and create funny extensions of the story… This certainly helped heaps in developing love for reading in my own kids. They look forward to gathering together on the sofa with their favourite books every night.

Thus, the best help comes from you as a parent in the first place by understanding the child’s interests and areas of concern, and working around making school studies relevant to their inner motivation, which we’ll talk about next.

Motivation is the core factor for successful learning.

Just like with anything in life, motivation (or lack of it) can provide many answers when it comes kids education. Students who can link the importance of knowledge to real life, or to their dreams and aspirations, are more likely to enjoy studying and overcome learning difficulties. In contrast, when studies do not make sense and their mind is occupied by other activities they could be doing instead of studying, it’s easy to lose the focus and miss on the important knowledge. This is where the snowball effect begins.

Thus, before you start seeking a tutor for your child, be clear what your kid's  motivation is like. You don’t want to end up paying tutors if your child is not going to absorb the knowledge. 

Remember that many tutoring services are focused on the school curriculum which means your child already knows or has an opportunity to learn the same things at school.

So, they need to be willing to take in that knowledge in the first place. When they have clear understanding how studying will benefit them in becoming what they want to be, or answering their burning questions they naturally are curious to learn about, this is when magic happens. This is when your child becomes so driven to pursue education that this learning urge may even extend beyond school.

It is fantastic when kids take ownership of their knowledge and take independent steps to satisfy that learning curiosity. And this is not only about older kids, but primary school kids as well.

Tip: Help your child understand how learning at school will benefit them personally. 

How to build motivation in primary school students.

It is our job as parents to catch any issues of motivation early and help our children get on track of motivated learning through linking academic knowledge to their personal selves. When a child understands how correct spelling will help them run their own bakery or develop video games, they are more likely to make an effort and remember to write right.
Here are a few tips on how to build motivation to study in kids:

1. Be the example.

Share your stories when knowledge helped you achieve your dreams or become what you wanted. Be honest and tell them when you wished you studied more to have a certain advantage in specific circumstances. Show them that learning can be fun and exciting, and how it helps kids become a better version of themselves.  

2. Share inspirational stories of people who pursued education and how it helped them in life.
Tell them stories they can relate to, such as sports, science, overcoming difficulties. There are many of those stories and programs in free public access online and through libraries.

3. Give your child an opportunity to choose any area of interest to learn about.
It does not necessarily need to be related to school subjects. If your child is an aspiring baker, discuss the opportunities how they can learn or maybe participate in cooking classes. If they are keen to become a vet, take a tour to a vet hospital and arrange to meet a doctor on duty so they can see what the job involves and see where their interests take them from there.  

It is very important to feed children emotionally, just like we feed them with food. And if you find your child has an unstoppable interest in becoming an electrician (no matter how you personally may take it), my advice is build on that interest and extend it through professional tutors where your child can grow their knowledge of physics through extensive learning, rather than covering the school curriculum again and again.

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