How tutoring and other programs help kids excel in the classroom
When a child is struggling in school, the whole family can suffer. Tutoring – in whatever form the child needs – just might be the answer.
Gail Everett is program director for the nonprofit STRIDES Tutoring and a special needs educator with decades of experience. She said there are many options available for tutoring and parents need to find one that fits the needs of their child and their family. She said some after-school programs after homework help.
“That’s exactly what some kids need,” she said. “Homework help also helps the child who is disorganized, unmotivated. It creates a structure.”
But some children need more.
“Research has shown that tutoring needs to be two days per week, at least one hour each time,” Everett said. “It can be more.”
STRIDES works with students who have disabilities and/or who are actually deficient in an area. Parents pay based on a sliding scale, with 60 – 70 percent of STRIDES’ students at or near the poverty line.
“We work with ages 7 to 20,” she said. “We sometimes have college students. We work two days a week or more.”
Everett said some types of tutoring programs are focused on enrichment, while others focus on a brain-based program. Some families find that hiring a high school or college student to help their child with a particular subject can make a difference. Some schools even offer help before or after school or through a program that pulls the child out of class during the school day. It all depends on the child’s needs.
“Any good tutor should evaluate the student when they first meet them,” she said. “The child that should not go to homework help is the one who is working two or three grades below.”
Everett said tutoring is different from mentoring.
“Find somebody that loves to work with your kid, but who will be structured enough to work through the material and not just be a good friend,” she said.
Zack Rish, center director for The Tutoring Center in Greer, said his program offers a free diagnostic assessment that is critical in understanding what the child needs.
“There are so many different individuals with different needs,” he said. “We have a structured program. We customize a program for the student’s needs.”
Rish said that although tutoring is meant to help a student improve, it can really make a difference for the whole family.
“Obviously, it helps the student because it opens doors for them,” he said. “It helps their self-esteem.”
But the struggling a student faces naturally has an impact on life at home and it can cause problems for life if not addressed.
“Without intervening, sometimes that can turn into a lifetime of stress around academics,” he said. “It can dominate the happiness level of the whole family for a while. We serve the family.”
Rish said his program is meant to cure academic issues, even in some students who make straight As. He said working one-on-one with a student in an individualized program can allow a tutor to discover the root cause of the issue and focus on correcting it.
“We want to be the permanent solution,” he said. “We want to empower the student to succeed on their own.”
Rish said issues causing problems in school really can be anything, including test anxiety, social issues, reading comprehension or learning disabilities.
Everett said parents can look for signs that their child might need extra help. Younger children might be stressed about school or they might cry when asked to read. Older children might be discouraged about school.
“A lot of times, I hear parents use the word ‘lazy,’” Everett said. “It’s like sending them to work with an empty toolbox or not enough tools. Some of them can keep up with that, but it’s very stressful.”
In very young children, Everett said it can be difficult to tell if there is really a problem.
“Are they really behind or do they just need more time to mature?” she said.
But if parents suspect a problem, they should not delay in seeking help.
“Tutoring generally is sometimes looked at as one of those things you only need if you think your child is going to fail,” Rish said. “Grades don’t necessarily tell the whole story.”