Stop the Failure Chain:

Tutoring can Pay Big Dividends in Your Child’s Academic Career and Self-esteem

“Okay, let’s go over it one more time. The bottom numbers have to match before you can add the fractions… please sit up, honey…put my cell phone down…please pay attention…Remember I said you have to multiply! NO, you can’t have a cookie until we finish this last sheet! PAY ATTENTION!”

Sound familiar? Helping your child with difficult schoolwork or helping her catch up if she has fallen behind can frazzle even the most patient parent. If you find yourself dreading your child’s homework day after day, it may be time to reach outhnty for help.

“Parents can get so frustrated and feel as though their child is not trying,” says Emily Quinn, a middle school teacher and tutor with Benchmark In-Home Tutoring in Tulsa.

Quinn also notes that parents can get too confrontational when trying to help a child overcome school difficulties, creating even more resistance to the subject. “Sometimes you just need third party intervention,” says Lisa Cole, Ed.D., president and founder of Benchmark. “It can really take pressure off the parents.”

According to Bryan Osborne, executive director of Huntington Learning Center, an individual testing and tutoring service, it is important to stop the “failure chain” as soon as possible.

“One failure can lead to another failure and another failure,” Osborne says. “Kids don’t want to fail,” Osborne adds. “A’s feel good. We all need to feel good about what we do. If kids fail to get the appropriate affirmation in their academic careers, they’ll turn to other ways, whether it’s becoming the class clown, tuning out or turning to drugs and alcohol.” Osborne says that there’s a line where kids give up on themselves. “After that it’s harder to bring them back. Kids need tutoring before they shut down. They need to see that they can be successful.”

When to Reach out For Help

Osborne encourages parents to pay attention to homework grades versus test grades. “Test grades should be on par with homework grades,” Osborne says. “Kids can get help with homework from parents, teachers and other kids. But tests don’t allow for that extra help.”

He also encourages parents to pay attention to children’s motivational level. “Do they appear to not care as much about their grades as they used to?” he asks. “It’s important for parents to find out why a child’s motivation might be waning.”

According to Cole, the time to get help is “the first time they get a progress report you are not happy with. It’s very important to keep them caught up.” She says that kids are frequently uncomfortable asking questions in class if they don’t understand, and that then they can begin to drop further and further behind.

Choosing a Tutoring Style

Whether you decide to go with peer tutoring, private tutoring or a learning center is a personal decision based on a child’s individual needs. Peer tutoring can often be beneficial for children who have missed school due to illness or other reasons and just need help getting caught up. To find out if peer tutoring is an option for your child, speak with your child’s teacher or counselor.

Private in-home tutoring can be useful for the child who needs one-on-one help with a particular subject. “We tutor from a child’s school curriculum,” Colesays. “We utilize the child’s textbooks, worksheets, homework and project assignments. With parent’s permission we will also contact their teachers to be sure they are on track and we are updated with what is happening in the classroom.”

If your child is having difficulty in more than one subject, or if you think your child has missed grasping core concepts in reading or math, you may want to investigate a learning center. “We give children a full academic evaluation and create a tailor-made program for each child,” Osborne says. Through testing, Osborne is able to see where the gaps are in a child’s knowledge.

“We go back and look and see if all the skills are in place for a solid foundation,” Osborne says. “Then we try to fill in the difference between what they know and what they need to know.”

At a learning center such as Huntington, the child isn’t tutored on her particular school subjects, but on “core skills” that are essential ingredients for success in all subjects such as reading, mathematics, study skills, phonics, writing and related areas.

What to Expect

A good tutor, whether it is another student or a professional, should be able to establish a positive rapport with your child, making him feel comfortable and respected. The tutor should also help a child grasp material without doing the work for him and be able to motivate the child.

“You have to make it fun,” Quinn says. “Usually I give kids a few minutes to tell me their stories and then we get to work. I always bring learning games for the end of the session so they have something to look forward to.”

Quinn, who has worked as a private tutor with Benchmark for almost four years, still smiles when she thinks of the success gained by a 17-year-old girl in foster care. “She was a challenge,” Quinn says. “She had been kicked out of school for fighting and had given up on herself. She was reading at about a 4th or 5th grade level and hadn’t been able to pass her 8th grade reading test in order to get her driver’s license. She had a long way to go.”

Slowly, Quinn was able to help her improve her reading and help her believe in herself. “When she passed her 8th grade reading test she was so excited she called me!” Quinn says. “She ended up getting her license, getting a job and getting back in school, as she was no longer angry for the wrong reasons.”

Osborne remembers working with a 5th grader who was failing. Her teacher was referring her for an IEP (Individualized Education Plan—a document that delineates special education services for special-needs students). “Her father didn’t agree that she needed an IEP,” Osborne recalls. “After she completed our program, her grades were all A’s and B’s and she did not have to go on an IEP. About four years later I saw this girl again,” Osborne adds. “She ran up to me and gave me a hug. She had this huge smile and told me all about her grades and how well she was doing. That was confirmation as to why we do what we do.”

Tutoring is absolutely worth the money you will spend,” Quinn says. “There are so many kinds of tutoring. There is something that will work for every child.”

“If we can help a child to a better future,” Osborne says, “we have a chance to influence generations to come.”

For more information about In-Home Tutoring, visit (Bright Educational Services acquired Benchmark Tutoring after this article’s publication.)

For more information about Huntington Learning Center, visit

Categories: Education