If you do not know when to hire a tutor, you can create more harm than good to your child’s learning.
Parents often either hire a tutor when their children request for one, or when they notice a dip in their child’s school performance.
If you are reading this article, you are probably at one of these junctures. From here, how do you make a good decision whether to proceed with looking for a tutor?
1. HIRING A TUTOR WHEN THERE IS A DROP IN PERFORMANCE
First, you need to determine if the decline in your children’s performance has been ongoing for some time — it could be just for one test. If the decline in performance is for a small, routine test then you should not be too anxious to hire a tutor.
However, if it applies for a milestone examination, you might want to consider the possibility that your child has not coped well for the content that has been taught in the past semester. Hiring a tutor at an early stage is crucial here, as the upcoming syllabus is likely to build upon this foundation. It would be a good idea to provide guidance to help your child cope.
The most common junctions where students face difficulties are:
Secondary 3 — especially with the sudden addition of subjects such as Additional Mathematics; the various sciences also have steeper learning curves
JC 1 — where students feel demoralised because their results look totally different from what they experienced in secondary school, largely due to the huge jump in rigour required for the ‘A’ levels
However, it is imperative to note that hiring a tutor nearing the critical examinations (e.g. 2-3 months before ‘A’/’O’ levels) might backfire as the tutor doesn’t have sufficient time to understand your child’s weakness and strengths. If the tutor piles on worksheets which do not address the gaps in understanding of your child, it might cause additional stress while not offering much improved performance. A tutor needs to know your child well, and this can usually take up to one month. The tutor can then tailor the lessons and work assigned to your child.
Subsequently, it will also take time for the tailored material to be absorbed by your child. All in all, it would be prudent to give the tutors about a six-month runway before the milestone examinations . For example, if help is required for the ‘O’ levels in November, hire your tutor in April.
Having that said, there are always benefits to be reaped by starting early. It is totally fine to hire a tutor in June of Secondary 3 if your child needs guidance — sometimes all it takes is a little guidance in their studying methods or content areas to ensure that they feel happy learning in school, and there will be fewer last minute panic attacks.
2. HIRING A TUTOR AT YOUR CHILD’S REQUEST
If you are at this juncture, there are two somewhat closely-related points to note:
Your child’s ability to recognise specific needs for help
Firstly, you must be discerning if your child is relatively young — e.g. in Primary School. It is absolutely common in Singapore for parents to give in to such requests because there is a common syndrome of “Cindy has a home tutor, so I want one too”. Parents love their children, and between spending more on education versus the latest console game, most parents will not hesitate to help their child hire a tutor. However, this may create an “I cannot do without tuition” mindset when they grow up. This could be problematic when they reach the Junior College level because their time available for tuition shrinks and the level of difficulty jumps.
Secondly, if your child is older, then there is a need to recognise the specific help required — it will be highly ineffective if the tutor becomes just a babysitter to supervise your child. Granted, there will certainly be some improvement because this “forces” your child to do work, but in the long run, this lack of self-discipline will be detrimental to their character development. Sometimes, you will need to proactively identify your child’s weakness — instead of just taking their claims at face value.
A successful example would be one in which the child can identify that he/she has certain weak areas in Additional Mathematics because he/she is constantly stuck at Trigonometry and Logarithm problems during practices. It is not due to a lack of practice but the practice is ineffective because there are mental blocks that keep him/her from getting the “aha!” moment. Therefore, a tutor will be highly effective to clear these blockages and improve his/her grades!
When should you hire a tutor for your child?
Parental influence on children in the first 12 years of their lives have a permanent effect. Unfortunately, children come with no user manual. Each child is different from the other. Discuss how to handle emotional and educational needs of your child here.