Expert tips on finding the right tutor for your child

It can be distressing when your child starts to fall behind at school, but experts say finding a good tutor for the small scholar can quickly get them back on track.

Ian Cunliffe, who runs Vancouver Tutoring Service, compares it to a leaky boat. The holes are the gaps in the student’s knowledge and the incoming waves are the new learning. He says a good tutor can come in, patch up the holes, and get the student afloat again.

“A good tutor’s goal is to work briefly but intensely to get a child back on track, getting them caught up and feeling empowered and then releasing them. You want the student to outgrow the teacher,” Cunliffe says.

For the tutoring to work, all three points on the triangle have to connect.

“You need commitment from the parent, from the tutor, and most importantly, from the child,” he says.

That common spirit is more important than trying to match personalities, he says, because you can bring your child to a tutor, but you can’t make him learn.

“I firmly believe that every child wants to be successful,” he says.

The key is acting quickly, before the boat sinks.

Gabriel Kuperman of Tutor Index (tutorindex.ca), a company that matches children to tutors across Canada, says parents should first study the tutor.

“A great tutor has experience in the subject. You want to know their qualifications — have they gone to university? Do they have their teacher’s degree?” he says.

He also urges parents to “price shop” to make sure they get the most bang for their buck. “You also want to know if they’re willing to travel to your location, or if you have to go to them,” he adds.

In-home tutoring adds convenience, but may also add to the price. Some tutors offer a trial period to make sure it’s going to work, while others have a minimum number of hours parents have to purchase at the start.

If your child has any particular learning issues, you want to make sure the tutor knows about them and is able to work with them.

“You need to make sure it’s a good fit,” Kuperman says. “Everyone is different. Some people are born to teach and some aren’t.”

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