Summer Tutoring – Good Idea or Bad?
By Elaine Ernst Schneider
School is nearing an end for this year. Perhaps your child hasn’t attained the goals you and his teacher set for him. There may even be talk of repeating the grade next year. Of most concern are the skills that are behind grade level. You’ve got to make the decision – summer tutoring or not. Consider a few thoughts that might help you make up your mind.
Remember that the child who is in need of summer tutoring because of his or her lack of success in the classroom is probably also the child who has struggled all year. While tutoring may indeed provide the time for direct one-on-one address of deficient educational areas, you don’t want the child to believe he or she is being “punished” for making “bad” grades. If you decide to arrange for tutoring, make sure that you also set aside “fun” times. Take a calendar and mark days for specific events or trips. It can be inexpensive outings like a trip to the ice cream store or the museum, a visit to a farm, swimming in the lake, or a birthday celebration at Gramma’s house. Spread these out over the summer so that your child can look at the calendar and have those outings to look forward to. If your child plays sports, arrange tutoring time around the sports. Physical activity is an excellent outlet, especially if the child excels on the field or the court. This can rebuild self-esteem that may have been battered by bad grades in school. Never take an activity away that the child excels in. Very often when a parent does this, the child gives up on everything.
Choose your tutor carefully. Look for a certified teacher. Find a happy and fun teacher. Ask to have an appointment with the tutor before the actual tutoring sessions begin. Voice your concerns for your child and ask the teacher how he or she plans to address them. Try to plan outings that will add an element of fun. For instance, ask the tutor if you may take her and your child to breakfast. This will allow your child the opportunity to meet this unfamiliar person while you are still there for support. Then after breakfast, swing by the book store and guide the child in selecting his or her own books for tutoring. Make it an enjoyable time. You want books to be a pleasant addition for the summer, not something to dread.
Keep the tutoring consistent. Of course, you will take a vacation and there will be some missed lessons, but don’t cancel tutoring at the drop of a hat. The tendency will be to try and “make up” for those missed lessons by pushing harder the next session. That puts too much pressure on the child. You want slow and consistent progress. That is what makes summer tutoring successful – school is out, there is no homework, and hopefully some of the pressure has been lifted. Use this to create a less stressful environment where the child and the tutor work on core areas of learning that are deficient like basic reading or math skills.
If you can’t find the “right” tutor, if your tutor won’t work with you to help make it fun for your child, or if your child just absolutely rebels at the thought, consider letting tutoring slide for this year. There might be teachers who would disagree with me, but as a teacher who tutors, I’ve seen children completely close down when they didn’t want to be there. By forcing the issue, the child just builds up more negative feelings toward learning.
And most important, always keep your child’s best interest in mind. Maybe you made straight A’s in school, but your son or daughter may struggle to make C’s. Accept your child’s best. The goal of tutoring – or any teaching experience, for that matter – is to help children be all that they can be. This does not necessarily mean living up to mom or dad’s expectations or legacy. And always show your enthusiasm for your child’s progress. Children want to see your pride in them when they look in your eyes. And a smile along with that never hurts.