6 signs it’s time to hire a tutor for your child

School is only one part of my 5-year-old and 9-year-old’s education. It’s an important part, but it’s not the only part. I believe in raising confident, capable kids who are lifelong learners—in school, at home and out in the world.

I grew up thinking I knew how to “do” education because I knew how to get stickers on my reading logs and A’s on my report cards and my pencil never strayed outside the bubbles on my standardized test sheets. But as a specialist in strengths-based learning and a mom of two young children, here’s the secret I want you to know: Learning extends far beyond the confines of a school’s walls and the assignments that come home in our kids’ backpacks.

As parents, we all want the best for our kids, especially when it comes to education. As the school year unfolds, you might find yourself wondering: “How do I know when to hire a tutor for my child?”

Here are 6 signs that it’s time to consider a tutor for your child

1. Consistent academic struggles

One of the clearest indicators that it’s time to hire a tutor is when your child is consistently struggling academically. Your child might seem disengaged from learning or show diminishing confidence in their abilities. Your child may suddenly be disinterested in a subject that they used to be enthusiastic about, experience a significant and ongoing increase in frustration, resist completing assignments, face school-related anxiety or school refusal, or make comments like “I hate math!” or “Everyone else can read better than I can.”

If you notice these signs, a tutor can help identify the specific areas in which your child needs support and provide targeted assistance, bridging the gap in your child’s understanding and boosting their confidence. A good tutor will be able to assess any foundational gaps your child may have accrued and fill them in while helping your child stay on top of new material coming home from school concurrently; a great tutor will be able to do that while also rekindling your child’s curiosity and joy in learning.

2. Impact on self-esteem

As a parent, it’s heartbreaking to see our kids’ self-esteem suffer. Ongoing academic struggles can impact a child’s self-esteem, and so can a learning environment where they don’t feel authentic belonging or as though their contributions are valued. When your child starts doubting their abilities or feels overwhelmed by the challenges they face in school, that’s a sign that it’s time to bring in outside help. A good tutor will create a safe and supportive environment and connect the material to your child’s interests so that it feels relevant and they feel that their interests and contributions are valued. A great tutor will do that while also taking a strengths-based approach, which means helping your child identify their strengths and then showing them how to use those strengths to grow in other areas.

3. Homework battles and family stress

When we imagined what motherhood would look like, I’m betting not a single one of us pictured being a nightly homework enforcer. By the time my kids have spent all day in school and extracurriculars, and I’ve gotten home from work and completed pressing household obligations (we need to eat dinner, right? And someone has to schedule the pediatrician…), the time I have to connect with my kids each evening is both limited and precious. Sound familiar?

Here’s what’s key: It is way more important that we use that time for emotional connection with our kids than drilling them on flashcards. So if homework is causing stress in your relationship with your child, it’s time to hire a tutor. The dynamic between your child and a tutor will be less fraught, and outsourcing homework to a professional will free you up to play the role that only you can play: providing unconditional love and emotional connection for your child.

4. Self-directed enrichment

What if you have a child who is fascinated by something that isn’t typically covered in their school curriculum? I did.

Let’s say you have a 2nd grader who loves the periodic table, a 6th grader who wants to publish a sci-fi novel, or a 10th grader who wants to study precalculus outside of school so that she can take higher-level math in her junior year. These are all great reasons to bring in a tutor. A good tutor can help with homework from school, but a great tutor can partner with your child to design a scope of study that nurtures your child’s interests.

As parents, bringing in a tutor to support our kids’ self-directed learning means we are empowering our kids as learners, showing them that we value their interests, and fostering lifelong learning skills.

5. Timing

If you think your child is going to need academic support this school year, put it in place early. Don’t wait to see how it’s going first. Yes, tutors can help when your child is in crisis, but we’d rather get support in place before our kids hit that level of urgency. The longer we let our kids go on without understanding what’s being taught in class, the wider of a knowledge or skills gap they develop. The class keeps moving forward with new material that builds on the foundation your child is missing. That’s why you want to put support in place as early as possible.

When we put support in place, there are huge benefits. First, we’re teaching our kids to get help before they have a crisis on their hands, which is a powerful lifelong skill. Second, we’re destigmatizing asking for help. Third, we’re making sure that our kids are going into class feeling confident and capable, which means they have resources to tackle any new challenges that come their way—and there will always be new challenges.

6. Understanding how your child learns best

I don’t want to be dependent on someone else to tell me whether and how my kids are learning. I can’t make good decisions if I don’t have the information I need. Often, communication with teachers and schools is limited to quarterly report cards and biannual parent-teacher conferences.

With a good tutor, you’ll have weekly access to an educator who can keep you informed about your child’s strengths, challenges, progress and needs in real time. That way, if you need to make adjustments—such as bringing in additional tutors, adjusting courses, changing schools, asking for a meeting with your child’s teacher, or hiring other practitioners like an executive functioning coach, occupational therapist, or speech language pathologist— you have the information you need to make the best decisions for your child.

As a mom who wants the best for my kids’ education, I first had to figure out what “best” means. In our family, it means raising kids who feel confident and capable to tackle challenges, are empowered to ask for help when they need it, and know that we support their self-directed learning just as much (if not more!) than their learning at school. And here’s the best part: we’re raising lifelong learners.