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Sometimes the world is the best classroom for a child. Yet, nobody wants their kids to fall behind in conventional school while they soak in the sights, sounds and culture of another country. This is why some families enlist the help of a private tutor during a period of travel or transition between two nations' school systems.
Finding a teacher who lives and travels with the family is a weighty decision. But planning for the following considerations can help families simplify the selection process and ensure their children receive an education that sets them up for future success.
The need for a private tutor depends on how long the student will be away, as well as the family's long-term educational goals for the student, says Joanne Weiner, president and executive director of Private Tutoring Services, an educational company based in Boca Raton and Wellington, Fla. "If someone is missing a marking period or semester and the student will be returning back to school, then it may be best to coordinate with the home school," she says. This would mean getting lesson plans from the home school, so the student could keep up with his or her peers independently.
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However, for longer trips or situations where the student is living overseas and then coming back to their home country's school system, a tutor can be beneficial, according to Adam Caller, a senior partner at Tutors International, an Oxford-based educational consulting company specializing in matching tutors with students who are studying in countries abroad.
For example, a child in the U.S. school system who relocates to London for a period of time, and then plans to eventually return to school in America may need help transitioning between these educational systems. The solution is to select a tutor "who has had experience working in both systems and understands the difference between the two of them," Caller says.
In addition to ensuring that the private tutor has experience in the area of study, Caller says parents' most important task is confirming that all the information the tutor discloses is true.
At Caller's company, to apply for a tutor position, individuals are required to have an up-to-date curriculum vitae or resume, three references who can provide letters of recommendation and a background check. "We take absolutely no chances," he says. "If we find the slightest question mark in the tutor's background check, the client will never know that tutor applied for the job."
Beyond credentials, Weiner says the tutor and the student must have a connection in order to reap the benefits of a tutoring arrangement. "It is important that the tutor and student have a personality match," she says. "So, knowing what type of educator a student best responds to is very important." Weiner says this can be done by using what parents already know about their child's learning style, and then seeking out a tutor who caters to that particular need. For example, if a child is a visual learner, then it would be best to find a tutor who regularly uses visual aids such as diagrams or videos in their lesson plans.
Every tutor and every family is different, which makes each tutoring arrangement unique, Caller says. For example, some families wish to have the private tutor live with the family, and some set up living quarters nearby. Some families provide specific tutoring hours, while others are more laid back.
Whatever the family is seeking, it's important to put their "wish list" front and center during the vetting process. For example, Caller recalls one client who wanted the tutor's teaching schedule to be extremely flexible. In their advertisement for a tutor, they stated, "Although the family will try to maintain a routine, there may be an occasion where the surf is particularly good one morning or a volcano is worth a visit, and the decision is made to adjust plans at short notice."
Another area that's important not to overlook is salary and benefits. "Fees are based on individual expectations, so families need to make sure these arrangements are worked out and understood before they commit to a tutor," Weiner says.
In addition to discussing the amount of compensation, both parties should discuss details such as the currency a tutor wishes to be paid in, as well as the frequency of payments. If a tutor prefers to be paid in a foreign currency, the family can employ the services of a trusted online foreign exchange provider, which tend to be more cost effective than using similar services offered by banks.
Once all the details have been hammered out, it's wise to formalize the agreement between both parties. "Having a simple contract or written agreement that outlines the terms so everyone is clear is always a good idea," Weiner says.
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