I wanted to write about things we should keep in mind when finding a tutor for your children. If you’re looking for one, I hope some of these points will help guide you in the right direction. Before spending thousands on a private tutor, make sure that they are qualified and not only good with your child’s age group but also in what type of tutoring is needed and most importantly, if they understand how kids learn best. To me, this is important because if they don’t know anything or can’t get my kid interested, there’s no point in paying for tutoring services.
1) Ask questions before paying for tutoring packages
I think it’s important to ask as many questions as you can up front before making any commitment. This includes any additional fees (phone calls included), whether they need extra materials, whether they will be traveling with their children during the school day etc. Before you agree to pay the full amount upfront you want to be sure they really do know what they’re doing and are willing to commit to teaching your children the way they want to learn. It’s really easy to fall into the trap where after you spend the money, the teacher doesn’t follow through on their commitments and then you’ve got nothing or a lot more than you bargained for. So please take your time when you’re contacting potential teachers and asking lots of questions so that when you finally sign a contract, you feel comfortable the person who agreed to work with you actually knows everything they are going to be doing!
2) Check reviews
When you first contact a tutor or look on the Internet at tutor websites, check out their ratings online as you may come across someone whose reviews aren’t great. You don’t have to believe everything you read, but taking the time to confirm what people say they are able to accomplish through tutoring will save you from wasting hours upon hours to find a teacher with less than great reviews.
3) Look over qualifications of potential tutors
Be clear on what type of qualifications they require of their students. Are they all about reading and writing? Are they good with math? Do they specialize in different types of subjects? When hiring a tutor, always ask them any questions you can think of. Most have websites or portfolios to show their past work which gives you an idea if they have been working with children in their current age range too. Also, if they haven’t done much tutoring, you may want to consider taking some classes to ensure they teach effectively with children.
4) Decide on what kind of tutoring they will offer
Are they just going to help with homework and tests for a certain subject? Or will they go beyond that by helping with other assignments too? Will you have a list of topics that this tutor will cover or will they simply give an outline of topics/assignments? For example, I recently started having a conversation with a prospective tutor about how he was going to start teaching my son music theory. We had talked about the types of music lessons he would be providing and the fact that I knew my son didn’t enjoy practicing scales for hours at a time.
I was concerned about having him become bored so to avoid this I wanted to limit the practice sessions to times they could watch TV while he practiced since I knew my son would prefer a fun music learning experience rather than sitting still for a long period of time. If a teacher offers a limited curriculum, they probably get paid less – especially if they have lots of different options to choose from. I found a tutor who gave me a list of options and prices according to each type of lesson. He wasn’t a cheap teacher either; I paid $150 per hour for a 1-on-1 situation. However, I was happy with how detailed his plans were and felt like it was well worth the cost.
5) Check out any previous work
I always try to visit or meet with potential instructors at least once before committing to a tutoring session. If you get a chance to see their teaching methods and style, you’ll be better prepared for your children when it comes time for the next school year. Be sure to have a talk too about tutoring packages so that you can get a sense for the scope of their tutoring work and whether that fits well with your goals.
For instance, I asked a prospective tutor about the price quoted to me before seeing her portfolio and she told me that it included 3 hours every week at a fee of approximately $650 per month. What struck me immediately was that most parents would be okay with spending 2 hours a week for $480 a month, but would think twice about spending that much on a tutor when it came down to 3 hours a week. In short, make sure you get a feel for the price per hour or per package before you commit to something.
6) Make sure the teacher has some knowledge about your child’s needs
If your child is struggling to grasp the concepts presented in mathematics or science, does your friend or spouse’s mom have the same struggles – or worse – when it comes to understanding those topics? Maybe your mother has struggled with the same concepts for years and knows that it’s something that can be easily learned. Does your child struggle with being able to put his ideas together? Your neighbor’s child gets excited when they see a number chart but your kid isn’t?
Does your child struggle with keeping his attention on his work during longer class periods? Is he struggling with language skills – especially spelling and grammar? Does he have problems getting motivated to practice even though he loves the activity? All of these questions and more will have an impact on learning how to succeed in high school and life after high school. Be sure to look at how much understanding your child needs to move forward and the amount of time it takes to reach that level.
7) Talk about goals and expectations
While it’s important to get to know your child’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s also important to discuss what goals you might have for your child. Are there specific areas where he wants to improve? Is there a challenge he wants to overcome or a new skill or topic he wishes to master? Once you share these objectives with your tutor, you can work on ways to make them happen. Maybe there are books that your child needs to read to get a leg-up in the area. I have students who I’m currently tutoring that tell me how grateful they are that I have helped them overcome fears.
Some kids are not afraid of math, while others struggle with it for years before overcoming fear and getting back to it again. I would never have known if I hadn’t gotten talking to my student about her feelings about math! I also have a student who tells me that she’s struggled with reading ever since she was young. She hasn’t been to public school and didn’t attend a private school until she finished elementary and middle school. As a result, she says that she doesn’t have the confidence she needs to tackle reading anymore. I decided to ask her why she thought she wouldn’t be able to read since she seemed so bright and articulate and she said that she didn’t have anyone around to encourage her to continue reading.
What a shocker! I then suggested some techniques for reading and she loved them. It was as simple as that. Sometimes kids give off signals that they won’t be successful no matter what you do. I know you’ll recognize your own child when they come home telling you that school was “really hard today,” or explaining a struggle with a test or project. Take note of those signs so you are not surprised later when something similar happens in their schooling.
8) Get a feeling for the teacher’s personality
Do you get a feeling about what kind of person you’re dealing with before meeting them? If you can, arrange to sit down with them for a phone call or video chat interview beforehand to get a better picture of their approach to teaching and what you will be sharing with your child. I love to use Skype to chat with my students because it allows us to really connect and it gets rid of those awkward silences between adults. We also know that sometimes technology fails so we’ll set aside a time for our Skype conversation to make sure you’re both able to connect and that nothing strange or difficult happens.
9) Find out how often they work with children of your child’s age
There’s a difference between an adult tutor and a child tutor. The child tutor should already be used to working with students like your child and should have a solid handle on what works best with them. They’re also good at communicating and have an ability to empathize with a child’s learning difficulties while still maintaining a positive attitude towards learning. That’s a big key to their success in teaching. Adult tutors tend to be seasoned professionals who have been teaching for a while and are very familiar with the different approaches to teaching and ways to motivate. They have a greater depth of knowledge about the areas they focus on – such as math, history or English – which makes them effective communicators.
10) Keep in mind that some adult tutors may need a little more time than others to become comfortable in front of your kids
Some people simply prefer to talk to parents rather than young children! This seems strange but I’ve met a few tutors like this and it does happen. If you’ve found yourself having to explain yourself to a private tutor or struggling with getting things across to them during a session, ask to see what level the tutor has previously worked with. If they say they haven’t taught children younger than yours, then you probably don’t want them to spend too much time helping you out. There might be other teachers out there who specialize in working with children that don’t have a lot of experience working directly with families. It all depends on what kind of tutor you’re looking for.
11) Understand where they draw the boundaries for their time
If you’re not already using a tutor outside of the school hours (for instance if they’re doing homework with your child after dinner), do try asking this question. Be specific and talk about how long they’ve been teaching for, whether this is your first child they’re working with or not and how many hours per week they usually spend interacting with pupils. Don’t forget to ask about any other responsibilities they have beyond tutoring (such as preparing homework). You wouldn’t want your child doing their child care duties when they’re studying!
12) Ask if they’re willing to travel outside of the home city to come tutor
Depending on your area and where your child lives, you might find that a local tutor would be better suited to provide your child with help with the material you’d like them to teach. It could just mean that traveling isn’t feasible at this point in time or that your child doesn’t live near enough to a good-quality tutor. It may also just be the case that the area surrounding your house isn’t well-served by tutors at all. If you’re going to hire a tutor in Toronto, you might consider calling around to schools in nearby neighbourhoods to see if anyone could recommend someone. I’ve worked with many tutors who only work locally since I live in Vancouver.
13) Decide if you want to pick up the tab or if they’ll take advantage and charge you extra for travelling expenses
Sometimes I’m surprised by just how much money certain tutors charge for travelling to and from my homes and I wish I had thought to include it above. Don’t hand over your bank card in the first session without knowing exactly how much tuition costs and when you’ll need to pay back any extra.
14) Know how much you’ll be paying your tutor for each lesson
It shouldn’t be assumed that the same price applies for every lesson, and in fact even within one week the price will vary widely depending on what topics and concepts you cover. For example, if you and your child are currently studying Chinese History together but he hasn’t learned much about the People’s Republic of China yet then you likely won’t expect him to learn anything new with just one 20-minute lesson.
On the other hand, if he’s recently made good advances in his Mandarin lessons than there’s a good chance that it would be worth talking to your child about the People’s Republic of China a little bit more in order to keep things fresh and fun. So you’ll need to ask specific questions about the topic and concept you’d like to explore – not only how much the tutor charges per hour but whether you’ll pay for individual lessons or whether these will always be part of a package deal. In general, I recommend charging per lesson.
15) Have a clear understanding of your child’s needs and expectations
If you have a specific way you want your child to learn something, for example:
– Are they interested in a particular subject more than another?
– Do you want your child to be able to apply an abstract skill like critical thinking or logic?
– Do you want your child to master a particular skill or acquire a special talent?
– Do you want your child to build stronger self-confidence?
You need to communicate directly with your child about the goals you hope they achieve through their tutoring sessions. You could use phrases like “I want you to…” or “What do you think it’s like to…?” to encourage your child to tell you what she really enjoys and what makes her feel happy.
16) Know how they prepare and what materials they work with for each lesson
How do they prep? If they’re reading articles online, do they read them aloud to your child or sit next to them while sifting through pages and pages online? Does the tutor bring books or printouts along with them for the lesson? Sometimes they’ll read something to your child in advance or provide you with a brief outline of their plan. What kinds of materials do they use? Some tutors favour digital apps, software programs or websites, others prefer traditional paper materials like textbooks or reference manuals. It’s really important to understand how your child learns since that’s likely to impact how you choose what kind of materials to give your child and how they engage with the material.
17) Find out if they offer any type of follow-up services
Even if your child excels in their studies, sometimes they don’t retain it for years. I’ve spoken to many people who had great results with their children’s education but in high school or university they were unable to recall anything they learnt in elementary school. These cases are relatively common and many of the problems stem from the lack of repetition and engagement of different subjects during early childhood. If you’re worried about this happening with your child, it might be worthwhile asking if your tutors provide the opportunity to review past lessons or if they’ll go back further and look at previous years’ grades and test scores. Or if they can help you track progress over time.
18) Be prepared to meet them in public
Whether it’s at a café, a park or a quiet library, be willing to sit across from each other for a while. Try to speak privately in natural tones and let them practice their English before getting into formal settings. In the end, you two are probably friends.
19) Know how you want/need them to teach
The ideal situation is to have a parent guide a tutor since that means your child can learn at their own pace and the tutors are going to be aware of your child’s strengths and weaknesses. However that doesn’t always work out since parents will inevitably differ in how they’d like their child to be taught. Is it better for them to be left alone with their iPad or for them to practice on basic activities like sorting cards and counting? How much time should they spend practicing things versus actively playing or being creative?
Parents like to think of themselves as experts on everything but when it comes to education and children, I doubt there ever came a day when you woke up feeling fully qualified to deal with all of the unique challenges faced by any child you’d like to teach. If you have a clear vision for your child’s development and how you want them to grow, then you should be able to convey what that looks and feels like – to them and your tutor. That said, it’s not impossible to start tutoring with a clear approach and build as you go. Once you’ve decided how you want to conduct your lessons and what you want from them, you’ll want to speak up. Afterall, most tutors aren’t paid to listen to others.
20) Don’t expect miracles overnight
At first, you might see some small improvements in one specific area because they’re working hard to master concepts. This can change quickly though – so even if your child starts off really well in mathematics, it could all come crashing down once they move to more challenging areas. You’re going to have a lot to do to bring back those numbers and keep them above average, so don’t get too attached to their initial marks at least until they achieve those goals. At times, I’ve seen students who started lessons at grade level C (Canadian Grade 4) improve within months to an F (American PreK).
Their ability suddenly improved after they made a choice to take their education seriously. It takes commitment and patience to achieve good grade levels because in many cases, it’s just not enough to show up and repeat a lesson for an hour or to stay late studying.
21) The tutoring experience isn’t always the same for everyone.
Some tutors may have more of a one-on-one vibe where they’re only focused on you and your child. Others may be very organized and have materials ready to go right away. Some kids will need extra stimulation to engage in study and while having someone available for regular check-ins and calls will be useful, you won’t know which scenario your child will prefer. They’re all valid approaches and if you feel comfortable with either you shouldn’t worry too much about it. That being said, there will be certain expectations when you hire a tutor. Make sure you know what you want out of the lesson and what type of student your child is.
I hope my guide has been helpful and will help you in finding the best private tutors in Canada! If you have questions or are looking for a private tutoring company in Canada with qualified tutors we can help!