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Elementary school tutoring - find help for your K-4th-grader

You probably know that early education sets the stage for lifetime achievement, and as the parent, you don't want your child left in the dust, especially today when school is more competitive than ever. For better or worse, you are living in an age where children are expected to achieve more, earlier. Time magazine reports that this trend has fueled a global tutoring phenomenon, among even the youngest children. Fortunately, this is one trend that can pay off.

According to a U.S. Department of Education (DoE) study, elementary-age students who receive regular reading help improved their skills significantly. Similar studies support the idea that when used appropriately, tutoring can improve academic performance. The key is to know what is expected of your child, and how to find the right tutor for the job.

Grade-by-grade: A cheat sheet to your child's curriculum

Your child isn't the only one who needs to tackle his or her homework: parents have to know what is expected of their children so that they can monitor progress and support those goals at home. This grade-by-grade curriculum guide includes guidelines published by the DoE and state-based departments. While the National Association of Independent Schools reports that reading and math tutors take the cake for overall popularity, elementary school tutors can help with any subject.


Kindergarten is as much about social and emotional development as it is about mastering the ABCs. Kindergarten tutors may focus on these key areas:

  • Social development. Children will learn to express ideas through language, work with others and take cues from their environment.
  • Math. Kindergarten math tutors should enhance basic problem-solving skills and concepts, like the idea that numbers represent quantities. Basic addition and subtraction are introduced.
  • Language. Kindergarten tutors can help children expand letter recognition, phonetic awareness and vocabulary. Basic reading and writing skills, like writing a simple grocery list on unlined paper, are introduced.
  • Science. Kindergarten science teaches children to be aware of and respect their natural environments, conducting simple investigations through free exploration.
  • Art. Kindergartners should learn art can be a means of natural expression while fine-tuning color and shape recognition and fine motor skills.

1st grade

The real nitty-gritty begins in first grade when the overall focus of your child's education is more academic.

  • Math. Math help for 1st graders emphasizes: skip counting, addition and subtraction of small numbers; fractions; units of money, time and measurement; basic graphing; simple probabilities; and shapes and patterns.
  • Language. Tutors should provide early reading help, including: story-telling, mastery of consonants and vowels, phonetics, special sounds (like ch and sh), and contractions.
  • Science and social studies. Science curriculum in 1st grade usually includes: identifying living vs. nonliving things, basic geography and map reading, topography and the names of key scientific and historical figures.

2nd grade

By the end of 2nd grade, students usually master the following skills:

  • Math. Math help for 2nd graders emphasizes: introductory multiplication, division and algebra; mental math; counting up to 1,000; addition and subtraction within 20; and fractions.
  • Language. Students learn to: read simple texts silently and out loud, identify themes and characters, compare and contrast texts, and differentiate between fiction and non-fiction.
  • History and social studies. Typical history and social study skills: mapping and geography, important people in history, the family structure, cultural awareness, and government bodies and institutions.
  • Science. Key science skills include: the phases of matter; weight and measurement; weather; and the ability to order ideas and events through observation.

3rd grade

By 3rd grade, reading and math help for kids is especially common. Tutors should focus on meeting the following goals:

  • Math. Math for 3rd graders emphasizes: advanced addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; decimals and fractions; word problems; probability and predictions; and geometric measurement, such as area or volume.
  • Language. Reading and writing skills emphasize: phonetics, spelling, reading comprehension, writing structure and grammar. Students should be able to distinguish points of view and recount complicated stories.
  • History and social studies. Typical 3rd grade history and social studies skills include: local geography; Native American history and culture; American symbols, citizens and governments; and basic economics.
  • Science. Science in 3rd grade should enhance your child's ability to conduct research and present findings verbally and through writing. They will also learn about the properties of light and various types of organisms.

4th grade

By 4th grade, your child will have begun to build the skills that will carry them through middle school.

  • Math. Math help in 4th grade should emphasize: multi-digit arithmetic; advanced division and multiplication (including quotients and remainders); the addition and subtraction of fractions; and geometric concepts like symmetry and angle calculations.
  • Language. By 4th grade, your child will write longer and more detailed pieces using headings and illustrations, expand his or her vocabulary, and build on basic capitalization, punctuation and other grammatical skills.
  • History and social studies. History and social studies in 4th grade focus on: physical and human geographic features; early American people and settlements; European exploration and the U.S. colonies; agricultural and industrial movements; and modern technologies and immigration trends.
  • Science. Fourth grade science will probably teach your child to: create and test hypotheses; understand electricity and magnetism; differentiate between different types of minerals; and understand the rock cycle.

    Knowing what is expected of your child can help you identify his or her academic needs, but only the right tutor can help them meet them.

    Find the best tutor for the job

    Knowing what children should learn is a great way to measure performance, but if you want to take a more proactive role in your child's education, seeking out tutoring help is a good step. Elementary tutors can help all children, especially struggling or gifted students. Whatever your situation, finding the right tutor can be a challenge.

    Before you can choose a tutor, you have to understand how your child learns. Some children fare best with self-guided, online tutoring programs while others need regimented, face-to-face instruction. You should also consider whether your child is a visual, auditory or hands-on learner.

    How to find a tutor for your child

    When it comes to your child's education, pickiness is a virtue. Interview a few tutors to ensure the one you choose has the chops to push your child in a positive way. Here are just some of your options:

    • Visit online tutor finders. You are already online, why not begin your search right now? Our TutorFinder and similar services can match you with tutors near you.
    • Contact your child's school. The No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to provide need-based tutoring services. While the verdict is murky as to whether these programs are successful overall, they are budget-friendly.
    • Head to your local library. A number of public libraries provide kids homework help--especially reading and writing tutoring--free. Volunteers' credentials vary, so do your research.
    • Research local and Web-based tutoring centers. While they can be pricey, most tutoring centers require elementary school tutors to be certified and meet certain best practices.
    • Meet with your child's teacher. Few know your child's academic strengths and weaknesses like his or her teacher. Some teachers even offer their own tutoring services on the side.

    Demand the best

    However you find a tutor, that person must be able to deliver. The National Tutoring Association suggests finding tutors with the following credentials:

    • Certifications or state teaching licenses
    • Letters of recommendation
    • Liability insurance
    • Supervised sessions in your home or in public
    • A curriculum plan and demonstration

    Remember, your child deserves the best start in life. Success in school isn't just critical for lifetime academic achievement, it also builds self-esteem. The right tutor will nurture your child's abilities and help him or her overcome challenges without needless stress. Search for a tutor by subject, location or grade-level with our TutorFinder or try any of the above-mentioned resources today to get started.

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