Does Your Child Need a Tutor? When to Seek Outside Academic Help

Todd Blechner, Next Level Up Tutoring Founder/Owner

The age old saying, “there is no better time than the present,” applies perfectly to the question of whether you should get your child outside academic help, such as a tutor, academic coach, online tutoring, or have him or her attend a tutoring center. Every child, regardless of their age or how successful they are in school, could benefit from the continuity of meeting with a professional academic coach or tutor dedicated to their scholastic improvement. Since there are innumerable facets to deal with, factors to consider, and dynamics to work through, all of today’s students typically have at least one school-related area that could use improvement.

I want to share one tip right away. If you have a concern about how your child is performing in school, and you are considering getting him or her outside academic help, it is a good idea to move forward with the extra support immediately. Being proactive will pay dividends. The longer you wait, the more bad habits will linger.

In my own experience, I’ve had parents come to me in April or May frustrated with their child’s lack of success in school. When I start to ask questions about their child and learn more about the individual’s academic situation, I typically discover that the concerns began back in October. They invariably feel a sense of guilt that they waited too long and that the chance for a successful school year may have been lost. With this in mind, do not let those critical, early months of the school year slip by without addressing your concerns. The earlier that you acknowledge that your child is struggling, the easier it will be to correct the areas of concern, and the better off your child will be for the remainder of the school year and beyond.

Many parents often wonder exactly what they should look for when assessing whether their children need extra academic support or not. There are the obvious indicators like poor grades, missing assignments, behavior issues, emails from the teacher, and lack of attendance.

Other signs to look for may not be as obvious. Perhaps they used to love going to school, and now they find it a chore or even seem a little anxious every morning. I know students that excelled in elementary school only to struggle when they got to middle school, and middle school students that had incredible success up until they started freshman year of high school. These types of scenarios should not be ignored. Whatever is happening can fester and become a more serious problem. Your child’s love for school is not lost, but just misplaced, and a good academic coach can bring it back.

There are myriad dynamics to consider when assessing a child’s academic needs, especially in today’s society and today’s schools. Authentic teacher’s comments on progress reports can give you insight and the opportunity to catch any issues, but typically they are not immediate enough.

Additionally, many students “fall through the cracks” and hardly receive words of concern or encouragement from their teachers. The warning signs that these children might present are more inconspicuous, such as not using a system to record their homework or messy, unorganized binders and backpacks. Or, perhaps you see them complete a homework assignment, but for some reason they don’t bother to turn it in or submit it through their school’s online portal system.

Here is another important issue to consider that is on the rise. A startling fact, according to Richard Freed from online news site Medium, is that a child in America spends an average of between five to eight hours per day on their devices for entertainment compared to only 16 minutes for schoolwork. Video games and social media have become all consuming for students who have a cell phone or tablet. If your child was doing well in school, but that changed when you allowed them to have their own device, then it is up to you to start setting boundaries or ban them altogether. In my own experience, once a cell phone or tablet is introduced into a child’s life, the student begins to care less about school and priorities start to shift. This is especially true if they spend more time on the device for entertainment versus academics.

The bottom line? Pay attention to how your child is doing in school, and be aware of the obvious signs, as well as any subtle changes taking place. Sometimes issues start small, and left unchecked, could easily grow for years. Don’t ignore what your gut is telling you. You know your child best, and will notice any changes in your child before anyone else will. As parents, we are the first line of defense when it comes to noticing the signs our children exhibit when they are struggling in school. Most students won’t ask for help when they are struggling or request structure to help guide them, but they will definitely benefit from it and appreciate it when they are older.

Todd Blechner has been an educator for more than 20 years and is the founder and owner of Next Level Up Tutoring, a comprehensive academic coaching and tutoring organization. He is the father of three and lives in Holden. Todd is a firm believer in a whole-child, student-centered approach to teaching and tutoring. He believes that every student can be reached regardless of age, gender, background or learning style.