Tutoring could be that "thing" for many parents—the elusive, hard to pin down after-school activity that you just can't seem to get right. Especially as we make our way towards a school year that will pose challenges as kids return to (and become re-accustomed to) in-person learning and traditional homework, it might not get any easier.
So what makes finding a private tutor difficult?
For instance, getting our kids going with certain activities is typically pretty easy.
Enrolling them in school doesn’t take much, as many will default to the school in closest proximity. Some might have to put in a little more effort if going the private school route, from research, to applications, and even the financial commitment, which altogether isn’t “easy” by any means, but the point is, there is a blueprint to follow.
Same with sports and many extracurricular activities—if your students wants to play baseball, it’s hard to miss the many different little league flyers and advertisements plastered around town. Not to mention that kids will probably have at least a couple of friends who will be playing as well, who can serve as resources and recommendations.
But what about something that isn’t a formal requirement like school, and isn’t something most of your student's friends are doing at the moment, like sports? Where do you start looking for something that doesn’t fit the typical mold, specialized extracurricular enrichment programs that go beyond the run of the mill after-school coding clubs or robotics teams?
Now things aren't as easy, and can easily become overwhelming, especially when navigating the multitude of in-person, online, and hybrid options available nowadays.
There’s no “one size fits all” enrichment path for kids, after all. And no one knows better than parents that each student is different and will benefit from programming that suits not just their interests, but their learning styles, personalities, goals, and specific support needs.
Say, for instance your student is passionate about art, specifically comic book art with the potential to be digitized. Daycamp elective art time might be too short, an arts camp not specific enough, and navigating through YouTube tutorials lacking in hands-on instruction and expertise.
Tips for getting a good tutor for your student
Before stressing about the new challenge you're facing, I think it’s helpful for parents to remember that searching for a private tutor doesn’t have to be all that different than the research involved with finding, say, something like a summer camp.
To find a good tutor, you’ll need to ask similar questions and sift through a similar process.
The parallel here is the main goal: finding something fun and engaging that kids will enjoy and benefit from, but that is also an experience parents can feel confident in and comfortable with in terms of the safety and wellbeing of their child.
Here are some tips on where to get a tutor, and -most importantly- how to find the right tutor for your student.
1. Understand the reasons why
This goes for both the parent and the student. You, the parent, need to have a tight grasp on why your student needs a tutor or an enrichment outlet in the first place—do they simply need to firm up their after-school routine and homework time with structure, or do they need to dive deeper into a particular topic? Do you want to get them involved in something new altogether?
As you can see through answering the above, your goal is going to dictate where exactly you should be looking for a tutor.
Perhaps the best bet is through a specialized tutoring agency for targeted academic support. Or, if they could use enrichment, or perhaps organizational help, cast your net first with these criteria.
And then for your child, they also need to be on board; involving them at this stage is really important. Whether it’s through some formal goal-setting, teaming up throughout the entire process, or just by checking in, it’s ideal that they have a voice in finding a tutor!
(Check out this guide to goal-setting for kids for a great starting point on this!)
Of course, an objection from them doesn’t mean they’ll get their way, but perhaps it can lead to further conversation about why you feel a tutor is necessary, and why they might think differently.
2. Start within your network
Once everyone is clear and on the same page regarding the need for a tutor, and what you’re trying to accomplish with the help of one, your next move could be consulting your network, and seeing if any friends or family have experience with a tutor or particular type of tutor.
The best place to look can be close to home! Literally speaking: try looking into community center postings, your child’s school, local parenting groups, and other sources nearby that you find reputable.
Or, at least within your network of family, friends, and connections via LinkedIn or other social media avenues. While just about everything seems to have a Yelp review attached to it these days, a personal recommendation is invaluable in finding the perfect tutoring experience.
While you might have a more difficult time finding someone than you would when finding a little league team, like mentioned above, you never know. Facebook groups and neighborhood networks can also be good resources to tap into.
3. Narrow your search online
Meaning, you hear “tutoring” and you probably think of a 1-on-1 session between a student and tutor at home, school, or learning center. While that’s very much true, tutoring actually takes a number of different shapes and forms.
This is where the wide net cast by the internet comes in handy!
Think about it: a tutor can be a child’s peer, or classmate who can assist in their learning and understanding. And, it could also be a small group, or one tutor to a few kids rather than 1-on-1.
Each of these services will have different criteria, specific industry competitors for side by side comparison, and ideal Google search terms. So, determine the “subgenre” of tutor you’re looking for; this will be the first step in narrowing down your search.
Looking online is a great start. Mom Groups on social media, via blog communities, and through parenting websites offer a wealth of expertise about the best tutoring services out there.
Of course given today’s circumstances, there are high quality online tutors, who, as you could have guessed, will instruct from wherever in the world to your child, who themselves could be learning from the comfort of their own bedroom.
Last, you can have a general education tutor, or one who specializes in a particular subject, and not just homework help in general, like a photoshop tutor, science instructor, or even a Java tutor or, someone who has the primary goal of boosting your student's standardized test scores. Online reviews provide a useful insight into companies’ services and the quality of tutors.
Find a Tutor Online
Not sure where to start? These highly-reviewed sites and subject sources could be just the springboard for finding the right fit.
Test Prep & SAT Prep Tutors
It’s an essential skill across all academic subjects (and in life, we’d argue), and well worth the investment if your child needs support or an extra challenge! Chegg Writing Tutors and EssayPro are both highly rated for sharpening written skills in a range of genres.
Coding Tutors for Kids
Look no further than right here! iD Tech has perfected the art of online coding tutoring (plus more exciting topics) and brought our 20+ years of experience to the flexible, online format.
Time-Management and Organization
When it comes to time management for kids, it's one area where most young minds could use extra support. After all, if organization is a challenge, so is the rest of their day! Resources like Coachbit and Understood can help get kids on track with their schedules and reduce the stress of the school routine.
Parlez vous Français? Whether as a passion project or to support a class, learning a foreign language works best when interacting with a native speaker. Give Berlitz or PandaTree a try to level up those language skills.
Learning an instrument is a joy, and one that’s much easier to explore with the help of an experienced musician. Plus, regular meetings with a music tutor will encourage kids to practice. School of Rock and Music & Arts offer a range of options for both in-person and virtual learning.
We think learning math skills should be as much fun as learning to code, which is why we put the “M” in our STEM tutoring offers. Find the extra help or enriching, accelerated learning your child needs with online math tutoring—algebra, calculus, geometry, and more.
4. Make a “shortlist”
Once you’ve found a few options that look promising, enter them into a “shortlist.” It can be tempting to call it good when you’ve found something that seems to fit all your criteria on the surface, but we recommend holding off before signing up!
The next part of the process, narrowing down your options to find the perfect - not just the “good enough”- tutor for your student is equally important.
5. Weigh the pros and cons of each option
To go along with the above, though, no matter if you have many options to choose from, or only a few, practice due diligence when it comes to the characteristics of a great tutor.
It’s not just about expertise, and it’s not just about personality and finding someone who will bring out the best in your child. Both of these characteristics and more should be considered when searching for not the best tutor, but the best tutor for your child and situation.
Don’t be shy with questions! Often, tutoring organizations will have a client services team that can clarify the experience and help with whatever is on your mind.
One key point here is to always keep your goals in mind, and how the tutor you select should help you and your child move towards those goals. In most cases, if a child wants to learn more about a subject, a good tutor is one who makes that subject relatable and engaging (and yes, even math can be fun), and understands that every child is different; and that every child learns differently.
6. Verify the reputation
With anything new, it’s helpful to find reassurance, and to be able to verify that the product or service we are investing in is a legitimate option. The same goes for tutoring, and even more so given this person will be dealing directly with your child.
So, go the extra step to check and verify the tutor you’re choosing is one you can feel good and confident about selecting. That involves checking out tutoring testimonials if available, getting a feel for the parent company if there is one, and checking any type of star ratings or reviews from previous families.
If you find an option that’s favorable in all but one or two respects, bring your concerns to the table when signing up your child! The same goes for the qualities that really won you over. Kick off your child’s sessions by sharing what you noticed, the better to ensure you get the exact experience you’re looking for, while proactively sharing any concerns you may have.
7. Don’t forget—this is for your child
I’m putting this last not because it’s least important, but because it’s hugely important, and a key point I want to leave you with as you move on from this post and into your tutor search.
That is, private tutoring is for your child. It’s to help them overcome challenges they are having with their everyday schooling, or to improve their scores on standardized tests, or to learn something new.
Learn more: Is the SAT optional?
So, while it’s the job of the parent to ensure they are linked with a great tutor, “great” to you might be different than what is actually “great” for them. Meaning, your child learns in a specific way, and responds to certain types of personalities; which may differ from the way you personally prefer to learn, or the type of person you'd find engaging.
The best way to feel that out might be through a Discovery Lesson, a shorter trial session, or just by having your child check out what the program has to offer. If all goes well, you’re ready to embark on the tutoring journey!