Monday, January 30, 2012

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How to Choose the Best Tutor to Supplement Your Homeschool Curriculum (Guest Blog)

How to Choose the Best Tutor to Supplement Your Homeschool Curriculum  

By David Greenberg, Parliament Tutors

You're a homeschool mom that's teaching three children. It's Friday afternoon and the weekend seems so close. You have just gone over the same algebra problem six times and you think your daughter finally gets it. You have a smile on your face and then she turns to you and says, "Mom, I just don't understand."  

Some students really need that extra attention to grasp a concept.  Sometimes a new and fresh perspective is the best approach.  So... you turn to your favorite search engine, and within seconds you're drowning in listings from tutoring agencies and independent tutors, all vying for your attention.  How do you navigate through the thicket?

Any good tutor would tell you that to tackle a big task, break it into smaller steps.  So let's take this task step by step.  First, let's get to know who we're dealing with, from top to bottom.

On top of the pyramid are the large companies with popular publications to their name and offices around the country.  They offer group classes and private lessons, and their teachers are carefully trained and given scripts to follow when they teach.  Their most affordable services aren't the most desirable, and their most desirable services aren't the most affordable.

Also near the top are other national companies with slightly less name recognition, but which offer similar services.  Be careful: some of these companies tend to strongly encourage students to sign up for many, many hours of instruction in their learning centers--more hours than they need, some reviewers say--and these hours can get pricey for the parents.  But if the time and money are available, the students will almost certainly benefit.  These companies seem to be expert at marketing, but it can be difficult to predict whether they'll be best for you.

Next come smaller companies which cater to more specialized markets, usually defined by either a particular subject or a smaller geographical area.  They can be harder to find, but it's worth the effort to search for them, because if they happen to cater to your needs, chances are they are well prepared to help you--they might know better the peculiarities of your school district's math program, for example, or they might already have a relationship with your school's counselors.

On the ground level are the individual tutors who work hard to do it all, both tutoring and publicizing.  They usually offer the best prices for individual tutoring, and many of them are wonderful, but some of them are not the kind of people you want to have in your homes, and it can be daunting to try to find out, on your own, which tutors provide reputable teaching services and which ones need a tutor themselves.

Now that we know who we're dealing with, think about what's important to you.  Are you looking for a tutor who can teach a certain amount of material in a certain amount of time?  Are you looking for a tutor with certain credentials, or a certain minimum amount of experience, or perhaps a certain type of personality?  Think about your ideal tutoring experience, and jot down some notes about the elements you envision.  Assemble a list of questions, in order of importance to you, to ask prospective tutors.  Some examples:

1. Is your schedule flexible?
2. Can you meet me in a location of my choosing?
3. Can you provide materials such as practice drills for the subject you'll be teaching?
4. What's your teaching pace?  Are your lessons usually energetic and stimulating, or do you focus on being reassuring and patient?
5. Do you have experience teaching people who have my learning style?
6. How much do you charge?  Can I afford your services, or if not, will you give me a discount?

Remember: even if you’re working through a tutoring service, it’s important to speak directly to your tutor to discuss the items most important to you before scheduling a lesson.

Good luck and happy studying!



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