The Lowdown on the Tutoring Craze

Tutoring is big business these days -- and it can sometimes seem like every kid has one. So do you need to get your student a private tutor?
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Private tutoring has become a big trend -- or, as an English tutor might push your child to say, "enormous." It's a $5 billion-per-year business and is becoming more popular at ever-younger ages. Many large tutoring companies now offer Pre-K programs. "Some parents want to give their kids an early edge," says Neil Parsont, founder of Owl Tutors in Boca Raton, Florida.

Roderic Sadisi's 4-year-old son, Joshua, gets an hour's worth of tutoring five days a week to develop his reading skills and basic memory training. "The earlier a kid starts learning, the better chance he has of getting into the best school," said Sadisi, a San Francisco dad.

Certainly, that's not typical for most families. There is little evidence that pumped-up Pre-K learning is a pipeline to a primo college. However, a study of almost 36,000 children published in Developmental Psychology found that kids who entered kindergarten with solid elementary reading and math skills are the most likely to excel in school later on.

At this age, tutoring is about building skills and confidence rather than addressing deficiencies. It might involve teaching basic skills such as problem solving, numbers, new words, and science. "Children with even a small foundational knowledge experience a significant academic advantage relative to their classmates," Parsont says. Tutoring sessions also provide a set time to sit and focus -- valuable practice in an era when technology pulls kids' attention in all directions.

If your kid is on par with his peers (your preschool teacher can help you assess this), there's no need to hire a tutor.

Some kids find it difficult to stay on top of homework after a long school day. Here are 3 things parents can do to make the process less stressful.

Originally published in the September 2015 issue of Parents magazine.

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