You may know that I am a teacher. I am not a parent but I obviously know and meet many parents in my profession. Beyond the working day, I meet parents and parents to be, in the same way most of you probably do. So what’s all this got to do with tuition?
Well, I went to the park a couple of days ago and as I sat on the swing, soaking up the sun, I got talking to a father about his daughter who was 3 years old. She has been attending a Montessori nursery and she will be attending a state school in September.
He and his wife are concerned. They feel that she has been stimulated at the nursery and by her mum but this may change once she starts school. In order to make sure she remains stimulated, they’re looking into having her tutored.
Now I can imagine some of you nodding and some of you thinking ‘but she’s only three years old!’ Either way, regardless of our personal opinion, will it be good for the child?
Most teachers I know will say that the child will do enough at school. Thus they should be allowed to enjoy their evenings reading, socialising, doing practical things, going for walks, learning about the world around them and playing games, for example. Now that’s quite a lot to do without adding tuition to the list. These things that I’ve mentioned are not flimsy things. They are really important. Children learn a lot through these things and many of us know that it’s difficult to get by on academic skills alone.
Some children are worked so hard in tuition that they switch off at school. Just like adults who come home from work and can’t face doing more work; children also need a release, a time to play. If this is not given to them, they might find it very difficult to fulfil expectations at school.
So when is tuition OK?
If your child is having difficulties with something that’s fundamental to their learning, then ask his/her class teacher if tuition would help. There may be a better way. A less costly way. A more interactive way and a way that will be less intimidating for the child.
If tuition is a good idea, make sure you know when to stop. It won’t support your child if you keep finding new things to have them tutored for.
Strengths and weaknesses
We spend a lot of time fixing things, rather than, supporting our strengths and skills. If your child is, for example, really strong in maths (also known as numeracy) but not in english (also known as literacy) then why not support their learning in maths? This doesn’t have to be through tuition. It could be through playing games, looking things up on the internet, joining a club of some sort and so on.
Who should the tutor be?
Now here’s where your choice can make all the difference.
Anyone who’s 25 or over may not know but schooling, the content and methods used are different to when we were at school. Some things that I learned later in secondary school are taught much earlier. Other things are taught in a very different way.
Teachers who have qualified recently will have been trained with tools, such as, the National Curriculum, the National Literacy Strategy and the National Numeracy Strategy. They will have been taught that we no longer teach children to add a zero when multiplying by ten because the child learns the trick but they won’t necessarily understand how it works. Also research has led decisions making about when we should teach certain topics and in which order they should be taught. Thus things are quite different to how they used to be.
Teachers who qualified before these strategies were introduced will have had INSET on them, so they will be up to date with this information too.
Tutors are not in either of these groups. Thus when your child is learning, especially early on in his/her life, it’s imperative that they are taught in a way that will support their learning at school, rather than, hinder it. If the tutor is unaware of current methods and those that have been discarded, it could confuse your child and affect their confidence. If the current strategy supports teaching multiplication before division but the child learns division first they may not be able follow what they are taught in school.
Hopefully, schools and staff will encourage your child learning in lots of different ways, whilst being exposed to different methods so that they can choose and use what works for them. However, this is usually beneficial with older children. They can choose a method that works for them once they understand the theory and how to apply their knowledge.
None of this is supposed to be prescriptive. However, if you are going to spend money tutoring your child, I’m assuming that your goal would be to support them. In this case, it would help to find a tutor who is familiar with these strategies so that they can assist your child better.