June 20, 2013

Does My Child Need a Tutor?

It may seem counterintuitive to be reading a blog examining the value of tutoring on a website for a tutoring center. However, if we are to truly serve our students in the best way possible, it is absolutely necessary that we recognize the fact that not only is private tutoring not the right answer for every student but also that Engaging Minds may not be the correct solution for every student who does, in fact, need tutoring. By looking more closely at which areas your child may need additional help and why he might or might not be a good fit for Engaging Minds, we are actually better serving our mission to “provide students with learning skills and strategies to become motivated, independent, and confident learners.” Keep in mind also that, as we mentioned in an earlier blog, the end of the school year is often when teachers recommend tutoring for their students for whom it is appropriate. If his/her teacher feels your child needs additional help, then beginning it sooner than later is preferable, before the pressures and full schedules of the school year set in.

In a February 2013 article in Parents Magazine, author Robin Jones identifies three types of students who may need additional help outside of the classroom:


The Suddenly Struggling Student – Students who previously had been able to keep up with their peers academically are suddenly daunted by increased expectations and burgeoning schoolwork. This may happen in a new grade or school level (the move from elementary to middle school is a time where this is particularly prevalent) or just as the year goes on and students’ work starts to pile up. The important thing to do is to help your child address these issues as soon as they are identified so that the problems don’t seem insurmountable and your child can regain her confidence and sense of accomplishment in the classroom.

The Honor-Roll Student – According to Jones and Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek of Temple University, these high achieving students may not actually need a private tutor. Hirsh-Pasek states, “Your plan could backfire. Your child may feel pressured by your expectations or the extra work and start to feel anxious.” While a short-term tutoring arrangement (private or group-based) may work for preparing for a high-stakes standardized test such as the ISEE or SAT, in the long run academically strong students may benefit more from less structured enrichment experiences or classes rather than traditional one-on-one tutoring.

The Reluctant Reader– When your child is struggling in a specific area of school such as reading (or math, for that matter), a private tutor who specializes in and has training in that specific subject may be just the ticket to addressing his problems. But it is important to first examine if similar problems are cropping up in other subject areas and also to make sure that there isn’t an underlying learning issue that has yet to be identified and addressed. Speak to your child’s teacher to get a fuller picture of your child’s learning profile and ask for his/her input as to whether or not your child needs a subject-specific tutor or help in a broader fashion.

At Engaging Minds, we have a very specific focus on helping our students improve their Executive Function skills. While these skills are utilized in all areas of academic learning and in many areas of everyday life, not every child is going to benefit from our methodology and approach. We are not a test prep center nor do we focus on subject-based tutoring like math tutors or reading tutors do. Rather, our tutors help students improve their organization and hone their problem-solving skills in a way that extends beyond a single test or area of classroom learning. And while we do utilize students’ own homework as much as is feasible so as to provide relevant and real-world applications for the methods in which we are coaching our students, we are also not a homework help center.


Before you sign your child up for private tutoring, be it test prep, or with a math tutor or reading tutor, or even working with an Engaging Minds tutor, speak to your child’s teachers. Find out what it is he most needs help with and what sort of approach and focus they feel will be in his best interest and have the greatest likelihood of success. For example, does your child need help with the computation of math? If so, a math tutor is likely the best way to go. If, on the other hand, your child needs help figuring out how to approach the math problems, or determining what the question is asking him to do, or preparing for an exam, then your child likely needs someone to help with executive function skills. After you and your child have found a tutor, make sure your child’s teachers are aware that he is getting some tutoring support and urge them to be in contact the tutor (and vice versa) to guarantee that all participants in your child’s education are on the same page and working towards the same goal of helping your child become a more confident and accomplished learner. Finally, as noted earlier, consider starting tutoring earlier in the summer rather than waiting until right before school starts so as to keep skills sharp and help your child feel prepared and confident once September rolls around.