Sorry, I don’t tutor kindergartners – Here’s why

When I used to do test prep tutoring for high school students through some of the big tutoring companies, I pretty much only talked to parents who were looking for that specific product. I’ve been tutoring privately for two and a half years and now that I talk to a wider cross-section of parents, I am surprised by how often parents are looking for tutoring for their kindergartners! Sometimes, they feel their four- and five-year-olds have fallen behind kids their age and want them tutored in basic academic skills like letter names, shapes, and counting. Other times, they want their preschooler to “get ahead” so they can do well in kindergarten.

I’m sympathetic to these requests because I know starting school can be incredibly stressful for parents. I have a four-year-old myself and I find myself wondering all the time if he’ll do well when he starts school or if we have some hard work ahead of us.

As a reading and writing tutor, I don’t take on students that young. Especially working online, I don’t think I can meet the needs of the youngest learners. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I don’t think “tutoring,” in the traditional definition, is appropriate for students before around first grade.

I think that four- and five-year-old preschoolers and kindergartners, frankly, have way more important things to do than to sit with a tutor. I would rather see them on their feet, playing, creating, following directions, problem-solving, and learning about the world around them. Children this age have a short attention span for things that aren’t their own ideas and that’s not a problem! That’s the way they are supposed to learn.

That’s not to say they don’t have a lot to learn before they start school. There is a huge range of starting points for kids entering kindergarten. But kindergarten teachers expect that wide range to enter their classrooms at the end of every summer.

In any public school classroom in the U.S., kids are likely to have birthdays at least a year apart. That’s just the nature of the public school system, due to enrollment cutoffs. Teachers expect that and use a variety of techniques to meet kids where they are and bring them through the year. By high school, you wouldn’t be able to guess the age of many of the students.

In kindergarten, though, the differences can be dramatic. But in my experience as a public school teacher, some gaps are much more concerning than others. I would much rather see a student come in to the classroom who can converse with peers and adults, manage her behavior, navigate the classroom space, and solve problems. If she doesn’t know all the letters in the alphabet when she starts school, I can work with that!

Parents are constantly getting the message that they need to get their kids “ready” for kindergarten. There are workbooks and intensive preschool programs. There are family members pressuring parents to do more, comparing these preschoolers to other people’s children who were reading earlier or doing remarkable things before kindergarten! And because parents want the best for their children, they’re not sure where to turn.

Stay tuned for the next few weeks where I will be sharing some ideas for how to know whether your child is ready for kindergarten success and what kind of activities and lessons you can teach to help them be ready or when school starts this fall!

As a special education teacher, I have worked with students coming in for kindergarten screening for years. I will share some of the things that make us wonder or worry about an incoming student as well as some of the best ideas I’ve learned for promoting of the things that really matter for your child going into kindergarten.

Sorry, I don't tutor kindergartners - Here's Why

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
Kindergartners need lots of play and real-life experiences, not a tutor.

Coming soon: 4 Big Things to Teach Your Child Before Kindergarten. Join the mailing list for updates about the book and tips and tools to get your child ready for school!

10 thoughts on “Sorry, I don’t tutor kindergartners – Here’s why”

  1. Can’t wait to see your next blog about Kindergarten readiness! I get asked about this topic often and your book will be a great resource to parents.

  2. I think this is great! We focus so much on the wrong things sometimes. Let kids be kids and learn social skills before memorizing textbooks. Curious to see your tips to promote that!

  3. This article is incredibly insightful and well written. I’m looking forward to reading the book when it comes out!

  4. As a tutor and Special Educator myself, I would have to say Kindergarten is a bit young to begin tutoring. However, if parents do feel that there is a problem reach out to the classroom teacher and see if they can help. Great article! Looking forward to seeing what’s next.

  5. With my oldest wrapping up his kindergarten year soon, I can say with conviction that this post is SO accurate! His classmates (a number are our neighbors) came from an astounding range of “preschool” backgrounds… and they are all doing great! More important than how fast Gabe reads, or add/subtract without fingers, or explain how a seed turns into a plant — he has learned how to make friends; learn from mistakes without pouting or giving up; talk about his ideas and emotions; listen well while others talk; and brain-storm his way through problems… CANNOT WAIT to read more posts!!

  6. This is so important! Children learn through play. What we’re seeing at the kindergarten level are more and more kids who feel pressure to enter kindergarten with the ability to read. Forcing a little mind to take on cognitive tasks that it is not ready for threatens emotional well-being. Fostering a love of learning through experiential play encourages communication, gross motor coordination, and the most importantly – imagination! I totally subscribe to Finland’s philosophy on education. Can’t wait to read this book, Beth!

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