Think your child might be ready to learn something new? Siân Phillips discovers there’s more to tutoring than simply boosting their maths and English skills
In addition to the more traditional academic subjects, a burgeoning array of creative skills can now be learnt via private lessons, and booking a few taster lessons with a tutor can be a great way for your child to try out a new hobby or area of interest.
It can also enrich their learning beyond the classroom, while letting them have a bit of fun too. So while boosting maths and English may well be the most popular use of a tutor, here are 10 of the more unexpected subjects you can find.
While the term “search engine optimisation” might make many people’s eyes glaze over, it’s actually how internet companies and marketeers make sure that they target the right customers.
Teen bloggers and would-be mini-entrepreneurs can learn all about increasing their rankings and then how to measure them using Google analytics from tutors in the know.
Conversational Japanese or Mandarin
If your child has a curiosity about a language from a faraway country, or even one nearer to home, tutoring is a good way to improve their speaking skills. Learning languages online is becoming increasingly popular.
Margaret Davies used this method to boost her daughter’s linguistic skills ahead of a school exchange to Japan.
“My daughter Scarlett is travelling to the other side of the world and I wanted to make sure that she could make herself understood, so I signed her up for a series of online lessons over the summer holidays,” says Margaret, from south-east London.
“Scarlett has learnt some basics from a native speaker and her confidence has soared. I’m much happier about her trip now – as is she.”
To impress the neighbours, how about letting your child hone his or her bagpipe skirl with the aid of a tutor? Scotland the Brave might take a while to master but they can huff the chanter pipe for practice.
As with most musical instruments, face-to-face sessions are the traditional method of delivery, but online-only lessons are increasingly easy to source.
If you have an animal-loving teen in the house, a few conversations about animal behaviour, conservation and zoology from a tutor could help your young one explore their passion more deeply to decide if they’re a James Herriot or Joy Adamson in the making.
While a performing arts club can be fantastic for building children’s self-confidence through group performances, a drama tutor can help with one-to-one audition practice and techniques to give a child the edge.
Elocution lessons delivered via webcam are also popular if you fancy transforming your little Eliza Doolittle’s enunciation skills.
“It’s a life skill that takes practice just like learning a musical instrument,” says Diane Gifford, a touch-typing teacher based in Peterborough.
“The ideal age to learn (before bad habits set in) is around nine but you can start to learn to touch-type from age seven and there is no upper limit. Children gain great confidence in truly knowing the keyboard, the keyboard layout and how the interface works, in comparison to ‘hunting and pecking’, which holds them back and wastes valuable time. In addition, the programme I use is designed around the literacy principles, so it reinforces schoolwork and helps boost spelling, grammar and vocabulary at the same time.”
If your teen is designing a website or creating an app, learning some graphic design skills and software from a professional will give them the edge in a fast-moving industry. And if that doesn’t float their boat, tutors offer lessons in other arty areas such as calligraphy (to inspire the next Coca-Cola logo, of course), graphic novels and even graffiti.
Sports and physical activities are also available for one-to-one lessons. Kerry Freire from Clapham, south-west London, employed a tutor for her son, Bruno, when he was eight and a football coach noticed he had an unusual running style. “He was running knees out, shoulders rolling rather than pumping backwards and forwards,” says Mrs Freire.
The running tutor helped Bruno to hone a new sprinting technique, which in turn led to a marked improvement in his speed. Bruno now participates in weekly Parkruns (see parkrun.com for details of local timed runs) and is more confident at football and playtimes too. “It was really worth the expense,” Mrs Freire says.
If taking electrical devices apart and trying to put them back together is your child’s thing, it may be time to call in an expert. Some lessons in circuits and components should set them straight and help prevent any mishaps. Qualified electronics tutors can help support children with a penchant for this complex subject, which continues to baffle most of the UK’s parent population.
Finally, proving that it is possible to sign up for lessons in just about anything, tutor Rogério, an assistant PhD student at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, offers online lessons in solving the famous 1980s brainteaser puzzle in an impressive 20 seconds or less. While this specialist tutoring may not help with getting your little one into Oxbridge, it will certainly arm them with a great party trick for years to come.