13+ Things Tutoring Centers Won’t Tell You

People spend $5 billion on tutors per year – about one fifth of the amount spent on school supplies – so here's how to make private tutoring for your child or tutoring centers worth it.

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The goal of tutoring is to get the child out of tutoring.

The goal of tutoring is to get the child out of tutoring. Eddie Guy
If the tutor’s references include students she’s been tutoring for years, that’s not a good sign.

I was once paid $3,500 a week to basically run a kid’s entire life.

I was once paid $3,500 a week to basically run a kid’s entire life.Hemera/Thinkstock
I worked with him on time management, tutored him for standardized tests, and helped him with every single piece of homework.



Please, call me early.

Please, call me early.Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Rather than think it over and let any issues get worse.

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When you meet a prospective tutor for the first time, have your child with you.

When you meet a prospective tutor for the first time, have your child with you.Jupiterimages/Creatas Images/Thinkstock
You want a tutor who engages the child, not someone who talks to only you.


If your child already scored in the 90th percentile on the SAT or got straight A’s with just one B,

If your child already scored in the 90th percentile on the SAT or got straight A’s with just one B,Zoonar/Thinkstock
I’ll take your money, but the kid probably doesn’t need a tutor.

Don’t hire a tutor who teaches at your child’s school.

Don’t hire a tutor who teaches at your child’s school.Joe Raedle/Getty Images
The first thing she’ll do is go to your child’s classroom teacher and say, “Tell me about this kid.” There’s a chance  the teacher will taint the tutor’s  impression. It’s better to start with a clean slate.


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Most kids aren’t spending as much time on their work as they say.

Most kids aren’t spending as much time on their work as they say.Jupiterimages/Thinkstock
A lot of the time, I can tell that the hour they’re working with me is the only hour they’re working on that subject.



Teachers get the kids during the best part of the kids’ day.

Teachers get the kids during the best part of the kids’ day. Jupiterimages/Thinkstock
We get them when they’re fried and exhausted after a full day of classes. Before bringing your kid to tutoring, let him or her have a little time to unwind after school, if you can.


If you want a homework monitor or someone to tutor your child in one subject, I can help.

If you want a homework monitor or someone to tutor your child in one subject, I can help.  iStockphoto/Thinkstock
But if you want to solve a bigger problem or catch your child up to his peers, you should have him evaluated for learning or language problems before you start tutoring.

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I learn new things from my students all the time.

I learn new things from my students all the time. iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Even after hundreds of sessions focusing on Great Expectations,  I can still gain something valuable from a discussion about it. Kids I tutor have pointed out literary connections I hadn’t considered.

At a tutoring center, ask how much individual attention your child will get.

At a tutoring center, ask how much individual attention your child will get.Comstock/Thinkstock
Some centers put kids in groups, hand out a bunch of worksheets, and then charge an exorbitant fee.

Please, give us a little space.

Please, give us a little space.iStockphoto/Thinkstock
If you’re hovering or pretending to do something in the room so you can eavesdrop, it just makes it harder for me to do my job. I know you have good intentions, but one reason tutoring works is that I’m not the parent.

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Good tutors cut back on talking and let students identify their own errors.

Good tutors cut back on talking and let students identify their own errors.Matt Cardy/Getty Images
In the best sessions, the student is talking just as much as the tutor—or  even more.


Tutors for toddlers? It’s a big business.

Tutors for toddlers? It’s a big business. iStockphoto/Thinkstock
But the truth is, most children under age five don’t need a tutor.  

A lot of parents don’t want to hear this,

A lot of parents don’t want to hear this,iStockphoto/Thinkstock
but your child might never be an A student, and that’s OK.

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Ask your tutor to give you some feedback after the session,

Ask your tutor to give you some feedback after the session, Hemera/Thinkstock
especially if you have a young student. What did they do in the session? What should your child be working on during the week?

I’m not a babysitter.

I’m not a babysitter.Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock
If you decide to drop your child off and go to Costco, please pick your child up on time.

It’s pretty easy to inflate the scores on a diagnostic test to make it look like your student is doing better after tutoring with me.

It’s pretty easy to inflate the scores on a diagnostic test to make it look like your student is doing better after tutoring with me.http://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/tutor-tell-you-01-sl.jpg
What’s more important is how your child is doing in school and whether his teacher has seen a difference.

Sources: Tutors Gail Hawkins in Oahu, Hawaii; Janice Christensen in Chicago; Jennifer Little, owner of Parents Teach Kids in San Diego; Peter Hall, an online tutor who has clients across the United States; and Marina Koestler Ruben, author of How to Tutor Your Own Child

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