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Checklist: Does your child need a tutor?

Laura Willard is a law school grad who has successfully avoided using her education for eight years and counting. She's a wife and an adoptive mom to two kids. Motherhood is the best job she never knew she wanted so much until she had it...

To tutor or not to tutor

Kim Duckworth, academic coach and owner of SEC Tutoring in Scottsdale, Arizona, suggests keeping the following points in mind when deciding whether your child would benefit from the help of a tutor.

Frustrated girl with homework

Questions to ask

1. Is homework taking a long time to complete?

In an elementary school setting, it generally shouldn't take a child more than an hour to complete her homework. All children learn at different speeds, but if your child is taking well over an hour to complete his daily homework assignments, he may be struggling with core concepts.

2. Is your child struggling repeatedly with the same subject?

For example, if he is having problems with math, he may have missed a core concept at some point. Not learning something in a subject that builds on prior knowledge can leave a "hole" that continues to grow as time progresses and new concepts are introduced.

3. Does your child repeatedly score low when tested in a certain subject?

While expecting perfect test performance all the time is unrealistic, continually earning low scores in one area could indicate a need for additional help.

4. Does your child struggle at the beginning of the year?

This could be a red flag, as the first few weeks of each school year are usually review weeks. If your student is already falling behind on repeat information, she might have a really hard time as the school year progresses.

5. Are you noticing physical discomforts at certain times?

If your child is complaining of a stomachache when it's time to do reading homework but not during any other subject's work, it may be because she needs a little extra help in that area.

End homework horror >>

A tutor doesn't have to be expensive. Many high school and college students are available to tutor children in elementary or middle school. The career planning office at your local high school or college should be able to put you in touch with available tutors.

Why a tutor?

In many instances, you will be just the tutor your child needs. In others, however, it is a good idea to seek the help of an outside professional. Duckworth says that children often become more receptive to help from an outside person than from you, especially with regard to something that causes him frustration. It's a lot easier to be irritable with Mom than with a different person in an authority position. Also, you may have been taught certain concepts way back when (let's not discuss how long ago!) in a different way than your child's teacher is instructing today. Tutors are generally current with teaching methods.

Selecting and Preparing

Find a tutor that can do more than just help with homework -- someone who can teach concepts so that your child can become independent with the knowledge he gains.

Have your child complete homework before meeting with the tutor so that the tutor can see where he is struggling right away instead of wasting time discovering problem areas.

Finally, don't worry if your child needs a tutor. Duckworth reminds parents that it is so much better to have a student with aptitude issues than attitude issues. The former are much easier to "cure" than the latter. A little extra help can go a long way.

More tips on how to find a tutor >>

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