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by Renée Smith, j&R Tutoring Academy

Hopefully, you have been able to pick up a few pointers to determine if your child needs additional or alternate instruction. In this posting I will add a few general ideas that hopefully will help you make a sound decision.

The elementary grades have changed quite a bit over the past twenty years. Kindergarten is essentially what first grade used to be. Children who have not attended a pre-school and/or do not have parents engaged in early learning are very likely going to struggle. Additionally the shift from third to fourth grade is quite dramatic.

One phrase often repeated regarding elementary school is, “Children learn to read until the third grade, then they read to learn.” A child who has not mastered reading by the end of the third grade is going to be very challenged going forward.

I suspect most everyone has overheard a conversation of a family whose native language is not English. The parents may speak to their children in a native tongue, but the children respond quickly and easily in English. These children have learned two languages as a part of their natural development.

There is a lot of truth to the old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Although it is not impossible, it is far more difficult. So much like the small child who easily learns two languages, the younger the brain, the more likely retraining will be successful. A young child’s brain is a very malleable organ.

As parents we don’t want to hear that our child is “behind” or “not keeping up.” We all want our children to do well, to not have to struggle. But we do them a greater disservice if we ignore problems.

Children develop at very different rates. A child may be ahead in math but behind in reading or vice-versa. However, if after one or two years of formal education, your child’s teacher is expressing concern, the time has come to act.

More homework or additional worksheets will not resolve a true learning problem. Waiting another year or two “to see if your child can catch up” will likely result in disappointment. All learning builds upon what was learned previously. The teacher and the class cannot wait until those who have fallen behind can “catch up.”

The website greatschools.org has a treasure trove of great information that lists and then goes into greater detail about what a child should be able to do at each grade level. Remember that these lists are general and your child may not meet all of the listed criteria. However, if there are several items on the list that are lacking in your child, action needs to be taken.

I belong to several LinkedIn tutoring discussion groups. Recently one discussion has focused on the term “tutor.” Some believe it has a negative connotation; others believe that it correctly states the task. However a lady in Great Britain noted that in her country, having a tutor was a privilege, and she was confused by the entire discussion!

If your child needs additional instruction to help achieve grade level norms, then give the privilege of allowing a tutor to help!