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Three Tutoring Myths

A bi-weekly column on Fredericksburg.Today by Elizabeth Colon, Above Grade Level Fredericksburg and Northern Virginia

A friend of mine recently expressed some concern about tutoring.  She told me that there are “myths” associated with it.  This came as a surprise to me —  I guess I had just thought people either were or were not interested, but that they had the information to make the decision.  I was clearly very WRONG!

I am going to tackle some of these myths below.  Please let me know if there are any myths I have not addressed.
Three Tutoring Myths
Myth #1: The only way my student can be tutored is if I drive him/her to a learning center.
There are three types of tutoring companies.

The broker:  There are companies that work to connect tutors with students.  The tutor is a contractor and not an actual employee of the company.  Some do background checks for you and others require you to pay for the background check.  The broker does not have a standard curriculum or set way of tutoring —  they are simply a connecter.  This means that you or the tutor has to have material for the lesson.

This may also mean that you may spend some money on the needs discovery process, as the tutor works to better understand the gaps in your students learning. You may also have to do some tutor interviewing to ensure the tutor can meet the academic and personality needs of your student. The good news is tutoring is done in your home or at a location that is convenient to you.

The learning center:  I am sure you are familiar with these.  It’s the large facility on the corner in the strip mall by your house.  The learning center can be good and bad for many reasons.

Private time away from home
An assessment (most have one, but it is $$)
Convenient location to your home (mostly)
Reduced rates for group tutoring

The foot traffic can be a distraction
Often you are oversold on hours
Group tutoring is simply a tutor in a room Overseeing the student completing work.  This may not actually yield any one-to-one time

The in-home tutoring company:  While this concept isn’t new, it isn’t as well-known as you would expect.  There are in-home tutoring companies that simply act as a broker but advertise like a center, and then there are in-home tutoring companies that operate like a center but offer tutoring in your home.  The latter has an assessment, curriculum and rates comparable to the tutoring center, and your student gets to be in their safe place — home.

In-home tutoring also takes you out of the car — we know you’ve already spent three hours in there today commuters!  I will say however that there are times when in-home tutoring may not be the perfect setup.  If your home is full of distractions (noisy kids, clanking pans, loud music, television, extreme clutter, etc.) and these distractions cannot be minimized, you may be better off with a learning center.  Sometimes you have to determine which environment would provide a better place to focus.

Kids need to have quiet time to focus in order for tutoring to be effective.  If you have any questions about this, please don’t hesitate to ask the company you are interviewing.  This is a legitimate question, and if the company has your child’s best interest at heart, they should be willing to provide you with an honest answer.  I typically set expectations: “This needs to be a distraction free zone, no TV, Internet, phone, etc.  We also need it to be as quiet as possible.”  If my parents can’t meet this, we talk about it and try to come up with a solution.
Myth #2: Tutoring is just homework help.
I am going to say, it depends!

For some parents, homework help is all your student needs.  They may be doing well in school but their calculus class is way over your head and your student needs a little additional direction to keep the A.  Homework help may be beneficial –-  you don’t necessarily need curriculum, just a tutor who knows the subject matter well.

For other parents, your student is way behind.  You know they don’t have their multiplication facts memorized (you agonized over it i grade) and now they are starting Algebra I.  They’ve maintained a C average in math but you know this year is going to be tough.  In this case, you need the curriculum and you need to do some serious fundamental review.  An assessment of their knowledge will help the tutor determine where they need to spend their time and the curriculum will help fill the gaps.

For my parents who are in between the above two examples, it is better to have the assessment and curriculum than not to.  There have been times when we started a student on “homework help” but needed to supplement with our curriculum.
Myth #3: Tutoring is too expensive.
Tutoring can be expensive but not nearly as expensive as private education.  I have a parent who told me this when she hired us to tutor her student.  They knew that their daughter would be more attractive to a college if she were in the top 10 of 300 vs. the top 10 of 50.

Just like most things in life, you get what you pay for.  Typically tutoring through a broker can be the least expensive but the most risky.  As mentioned above, you have to do a lot of the work- identifying and interviewing the tutors, background checking him/her and providing curriculum.  If you are someone that considers your time in price per hour, you may want to factor this in to the rate you are willing to pay.

Tutoring centers and in-home tutoring companies charge similar rates.  Depending on where you live tutoring can cost anywhere from $45/hour to $90/hour (I am sure there are markets in the country that fall outside these figures.)

If you are considering an in-home tutoring company, we would love the opportunity to assess your student.  Click here for our site and to contact us.
Read Elizabeths’ other Fredericksburg.Today columns.
Columns on Fredericksburg.Today are recurrent features on specific topics or by regular contributors.  Guest writers present their own point-of-view and may not necessarily represent the viewpoint of Fredericksburg.Today.

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