How to Choose a Tutoring Center for Your Child

by BrendaReeves

Your child struggles in school and you want to get her help at a tutoring center. Do your research before spending your hard-earned money.

I'm a former classroom teacher and resource specialist. A resource specialist teaches learning disabled students (LD) in small groups or one-on-one. I also tutor students of all ages in all subjects. I once worked for a well-known tutoring center in California. All of this experience qualifies me to guide you in choosing the right tutoring center for your child.

The Best Tutoring Center

What to look for

I can't tell you what the best tutoring centers are for your child, but I can help you choose. If I revealed the name of the one I worked for, you'd probably recognize it. The company is everywhere. I'm going to show you some red flags to heed when shopping.

This learning center did not allow parents to observe their child being tutored--red flag. They hired credentialed teachers which is to their credit. Here's what went on behind closed doors:

  • One teacher and four students sat at a horseshoe table
  • The teacher handed the child a workbook to work out of
  • Each table was a center and each session lasted for 20 minutes
  • At the end of 20 minutes, a bell rang
  • The students got up to change centers
  • First they went to the toy box and chose a toy for doing their work
  • Children had toy box privileges even if they sat at the table refusing to do their work


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What's Wrong with this picture

Read Between the Lines

If a learning center tells you that you can't observe your child during tutoring, turn around and run out the door. Ask yourself, what is it they're hiding. This is what they are hiding:

  • Teachers are not working one-on-one with your child in spite of all the money you're putting out.
  • They are giving your child a workbook so they can work independently. Sure, the teachers are sitting there; doing nothing.
  • Your child might be doing nothing also until she can collect her toy from the toy chest.

Here's what is wrong with this picture: If the child is struggling with academics, plugging him into a workbook is not going to do anything. That's what they're doing at school: Teaching from a generic curriculum designed for all students at a specific grade level. It obviously hasn't worked.

I sat with a child who refused to do any work for 20 minutes. I wouldn't let him get a toy out of the toy box. He ran into the directors office and told her. I got fired.

Why would a learning center reward a child for doing nothing? They want to keep your child happy so they can keep on collecting your money.


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Reading Tutor Programs

What a Program Can't Do

I've successfully taught many struggling readers. One of my colleagues tells everyone that Brenda could teach a rock to read. I wouldn't go that far, but I can do what a reading program and computer can't do. I can diagnose exactly why a child is having difficulty reading. This is something a reading assessment can't do. A reading assessment can tell us that a child has trouble with phonics and comprehension, but it can't tell us why the child has trouble. It took me a few years of teaching learning disabled students to figure this out.

I'm sure there are learning centers with good reputations. I have heard good things about Kumon. I had a tutoring student in their math program. If you don't see improvement in your child after sending him to a learning center. Look for a qualified tutor. Hire a credentialed teacher. You'll pay more, but the money you spend will be well worth it.

Updated: 06/27/2013, BrendaReeves
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BrendaReeves on 06/29/2013

Sheila, There are many variables concerning why a child can't read. I didn't mean to suggest that parents are to blame, and I was thinking more of the non-learning disabled student. Learning disabilities are another issue and require a different approach. The article was meant to inform the parents of what to look out for when choosing a learning center if that's the route they want to go. I've seen so many parents put out a lot of money with no results.

sheilamarie on 06/29/2013

It's true that children learn to read faster and better when they come from literacy-rich homes with parents that read to them and read themselves. I have written several articles here and at Squidoo and elsewhere about this very issue.

However, this early facility with reading is not always the case for every child. Some children have had too many ear infections while babies and they missed the early absorption of sounds at the appropriate times. Other kids are just "hard-wired" differently. They may be intelligent, but their brains don't process exactly the same way and so they need a little different approach from what works for most kids. Some kids absorb language as a whole; other kids need a more phonics-based emphasis.

It's important not to lay all the blame on the parents, because I have known parents who have tried to do all the right things and their kids still struggled in school. As parents we can do what we can to give our kids the best possible chance, but then needing the support of the professionals who were trained to teach should not be a cause for shame, as if the parents of the kids needing help are bad parents.

Of course, it's important for parents to be encouraged to provide the best environment for their little ones that they can. Some parents may need a little support in this as well. However, parents shouldn't need to feel they have to do it all and that if their kids don't learn quickly it's the parents' fault. This is a team effort -- educating the next generation. Even those who homeschool will recognize that they need the support of each other and the community at large.

BrendaReeves on 06/28/2013

Yes, that would infuriate me as a parent. Thanks for the comment.

BrendaReeves on 06/27/2013

I'm writing an article on education in America. The premise is that teachers aren't the problem. It's the parents as well as social class.

katiem2 on 06/27/2013

Exactly, Mine were as well. I supplemented my kids education. However in elementary school they could not provide my kids with adequate reading material even in the gifted programs I had to provide and sign off on content as it was above and beyond the content deemed appropriate their age level... teachers had to protect themselves and I understand why. When my youngest needed something to read in first grade her teacher had me sign consent for her to read Harry Potter, I did, she read the entire series in 2 weeks and tested 100 percent on each AR test. The poor teacher simply couldn't provide enough reading material for her, it was up to me as well it should be.

Many parents don't realize their own potential to teach their children early on adding far more stress than necessary to the teachers. I feel perhaps it may be a lack of confidence in parents. My kids are so smart now I leave it to them to teach me and have no shame what so ever. I openly admit, "You have far exceeded my knowledge, teach me" and they do. Well in some areas any way ;) *wink*

BrendaReeves on 06/27/2013

My kids were at a high school reading level in elementary school. Kids who come from an enriched home where education is important do well in school. Kids who don't tend to struggle.

katiem2 on 06/27/2013

Yes this is true and plus should kids learn to read in elementary school? I have no room to talk on the matter both my kids where reading on a third grade level before they went to kindergarten.

BrendaReeves on 06/27/2013

Thank you and you are so right, jp.

jptanabe on 06/27/2013

Good points - the whole point of tutoring is to get a personal touch to help a child that the system is failing. What's the point of just plugging them into another impersonal system?

BrendaReeves on 06/26/2013

You said it, Sheilamarie. Thanks for the comment.

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