Who says no one makes house calls these days? Tutor Doctor professionals deliver in-home assistance to students for supplemental education in West St. Louis County. At this point into the new school year, many students are beginning to realize what their biggest academic challenges will be.
Tutor Doctor's core work revolves around individual tutoring for math, science, language arts, SAT/ACT performance and summer learning.
Elizabeth Freeman bought into the Tutor Doctor franchise during the fall of 2009. From her home-based business, she services Wildwood, Eureka, Chesterfield, Fenton and Valley Park families. Tutor Doctor is an international company started in Canada. She said there now are Tutor Doctor professionals in England, Ireland, Scotland and even Trinidad.
"Reading is the basis for everything," said Freeman.
"Our tutors go back and pick up the pieces, often working on fundamentals, so they can build a block system to apply toward current studies."
Freeman was drawn to this line of work, given her bachelor's degree in business and marketing, and master's degree in social work. She said she was ready for a career change after 20 years in social work.
She said she knows firsthand what it's like to be a parent who wants the best outcome for your son or daughter. Her own son was in a St. Charles County school until third grade. "It was a total waste of a grade; he couldn't read. He was verbally reading, but didn't have the ability to sound out words. He couldn't remember a word, but would figure them out from context," she said.
"My son was fooling everybody, and I had to fight to get him tested. He was only one point above the designation for where they have the No Child Left Behind standards."
Freeman said she enrolled her son into Sylvan Learning Center about seven years ago, but that did not provide him with one-on-one help. "That's a prescribed program and it improved him by two grade points, but school was still a struggle for him."
So, Freeman moved her family into the Rockwood School District to try something new, and asked that her son be retested. She said she saw he had improved once in a Rockwood elementary school, but was far below where he should have been. She eventually began to see overall academic improvement once certain challenges were addressed.
"He did great, and eventually was even tested for the (Center for Creative Learning) CCL gifted program. Like other students, he was an incredibly bright kid, had a little problem with anxiety. It's important to remember that different people learn differently. Even Albert Einstein didn't read until later in third grade," Freeman said.
Now a high schooler, her son and she realize how to apply the one-on-one assistance that helps pinpoint areas for improvement.
Freeman said she really is inspired by helping students now. "If you don't have a passion, there's nothing keeping you going."
How Tutor Doctor Works
Freeman said she employs tutors after conducting thorough background checks, including a coast-to-coast federal check. "I don't want to put anyone in anyone's home who I wouldn't have in my own home."
She also cross-checks sex offender and terrorist lists. She sometimes moves into fingerprinting for supplemental state law.
Her biggest challenge is keeping up with all technology and tools available, she said. Parents deal with her for initial setup and invoices; all her tutors have to do is focus on teaching and helping the students.
"I'm also looking for whether tutors care about kids, and deciding whether they are in this for the short- or long-term," she said.
Freeman does an initial assessment of each student herself, followed by reports so parents can see how the assistance is progressing.
"Someone purely from education may not be as good as someone with my background about seeing the whole student's situation; they could be overlooking other cues," she said.
"I'm actually doing more social work, and helping more people than before."
Editor's Note: Return to Eureka-Wildwood Patch on Wednesday for part 2 of this topic, during which the next article specifically outlines the experiences of two local families with Tutor Doctor.