Why Is My Child Still Struggling After All the Tutors? --- The Difference Between Tutoring and Remediation

We’ve talked with countless parents who have spent multiple years and thousands of dollars on reading tutors —- and their child still is struggling to read and write proficiently. Why is this? And how can we keep it from happening?

First, we need to differentiate between tutoring and remediation. Tutoring is the help someone with content knowledge gives a child struggling to grasp that content. A tutor can be anybody who has a solid understanding of the content a student needs — a parent, a grandparent, an older student, a teacher of that subject area. One way to think about it is helping a student access WHAT they are attempting to learn.

However, for many children, just accessing WHAT they need to learn is not enough. They have gaps in knowing HOW TO learn something specific and they need a specialist to guide them through systematic and explicit instruction on the HOW TO and the WHY. This is called remediation and is a much more complicated process that almost always requires more time, higher frequency, and greater consistency.

Recently, I was talking with a family who had surrounded their struggling reader with accommodations in all their classes, a one-on-one aide, and multiple after-school tutors. However, their child was continuing to fall further and further behind and grow more and more frustrated. The family was perplexed as to why all of the support was not helping their child succeed. And they are not alone! Hundreds of families walk this exact road and never seem to get off of it.

The catch was that there was no space for true reading remediation to be happening. There was lots of support in place but it was missing the student because ultimately, he was still being asked to constantly do something he didn’t know HOW TO do—-read! And that’s a miserable feeling. Someone needs to show him HOW TO read, building from the ground up, laying a solid foundation by finding the gaps and filling them in with research-based intervention.

  1. Remediation should follow a strategic plan that can easily and spontaneously be reported on and checked in on.

  2. Remediation should follow a research-based scope and sequence that has years of work put into it, not something left up to a single educator. That’s way too much pressure!

  3. Remediation should be systematic and explicit in it’s instruction, never leaving the child guessing or having to figure things out on their own.

  4. And remediation should be a meticulous process that requires patience, commitment, trust and dedication. It is never a quick fix or easy to implement. Though we wish it could be magical, it’s not. It still has it’s ups and downs and is hard, hard work. However, we are doing kids a disservice by denying them this important layer of support if we keep shoving them in front of tutor after tutor with no clear plan for how we are going to teach them HOW TO learn what they desperately need to learn.

If your child is struggling to learn how to read or write proficiently, dig deep into what sort of support they need. If you aren’t sure how to do that on your own, reach out to people who do. Seek out literacy specialists for consultations and counsel. Redwood offers a consultation for $150 that gives a lot of information about specific gaps in a child’s fundamental literacy index and refers out to other specialists if we can’t offer the right type of support. Reach out to Everyone Reading Illinois or your local reading specialist organization. Join a Parent Advocacy Group or if your area doesn’t have one, help start one. Scour articles on Yale’s Center for Dyslexia and Creativity to get a sense of what dyslexia is and if it may be a part of your child’s struggle. Read “Overcoming Dyslexia” or “The Proust and Squid” to get more information about the science of reading. Don’t settle for a string of tutors without really knowing how exactly the remediation is happening. If you do the hard work first, you will save yourself and your child so much energy, emotion, and time.

If we can help you at all in this journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at Redwood. We would love to chat about the importance of remediation—-it’s seriously one of our favorite topics, if you can’t tell:)