Suggestions for a Tutoring Session at Home

This is post #9 in the series “How to Be a Great Parent-Tutor.”

Are you worried that you, as a parent, can’t provide a good quality “tutoring session” with your child at home? While there are times when a professional tutor can offer specialised skills, much of the time parents can do a great job tutoring their own children. As you know your children very well, you can most likely use that knowledge and understanding to provide a learning session that fits your child’s personal needs and learning style. But if you would like a simple “plan” to help you get started on home-tutoring, here you go. This layout can also be useful for new homeschool parents who want a clear “plan” to get started. In either case, try it out, and then make adjustments that fit the needs and learning styles of both parent and child(ren). Have fun!

Before the session: Review the child’s progress in previous sessions, and look over guidelines and assignments from the child’s classroom teacher. Think of other fun and practical ways you could teach the same concept (fractions: slicing up pie or bread; quotation marks: reader’s theatre; skip counting: coins).

At the beginning of the session: Although this list looks long, this is just a “setting the stage” part of the lesson, and normally should take no more than 5 minutes or so! Use whichever suggestions fit your circumstances.

  • Turn off the TV and other distractions. Set your phone to take messages. Chat informally for a few moments with your child about their interests and activities.  This helps the student become more comfortable, develops the parent-child relationship, and provides the parent with a better understanding of the student’s interests and needs.
  • Ask a couple review questions to determine if previously learned material is understood. (If necessary, the parent may decide to adjust the lesson plan to fit the circumstances this opening discussion has indicated).
  • If your child is ready to move on to new material, ask a few questions or give the child a short “pre-quiz” of the new material to find out what the student already knows, and what needs to be covered in detail in this lesson.
  • Involve your child in planning the session by asking questions like: What’s next? What do you want to accomplish today? What are your assignments? What can I help you with? Is there anything you want to review, or something you’re not sure about?  What do you think the teacher will introduce next?
  • Discuss scheduling for long-term projects, review deadlines, check off completed homework assignments and consider goals.

The homework/tutoring session:

  • If your child has brought homework, ask him/her what it is about, and how it is to be done (rather than you, the parent, just explaining–find out what the child knows already).
  • Involve the student as much as possible, listening carefully to the student’s responses, explanations, and questions, and observing the student’s efforts.  Observe carefully as the child works through the assignment; have the child explain each step he/she is doing, and watch to see if there is a step the child doesn’t understand (small bits of missing facts/information can cause big problems down the line).
  • Provide positive feedback for successes, and be upbeat and encourage when the student has difficulty.
  • If there are unexpected problems, adjust the lesson plan to work on those gaps/issues.
  • Demonstrate and teach material the student does not yet understand; then give the child pointers and explanations as you observe the child’s efforts to do the new work.  Guide the child through enough examples that he/she reaches the point of being able to do it personally.
  • Use a variety of learning styles/intelligences.  Examples: visual/spatial (learn by seeing), auditory (learn by hearing), kinesthetic/tactile (hands-on), linguistic (learn by communicating through language), logical/mathematical, musical, art, etc.  Also think about the child’s personality type (social, achievement-oriented, creative). Use a variety of different kinds of activities to help the student learn, practice, and retain their learning.
  • When you think the child understands, have them “teach” you (or teach another person, or even a pet or stuffy!). This is a very effective way to review!
  • If your child seems stressed or very tired, take a breathing break, do some stretches, listen to some relaxing music, play a short table game, or have a glass of water and/or a healthy snack like carrot sticks. Take a 5-minute break in each half-hour, and between difficult assignments.
  • As the parent, you should be enthusiastic, but also calm. If you become stressed, your child will also become stressed. If you are overly enthusiastic, your child may feel badly that she isn’t as excited about the subject as you are.
  • Note: A child also should have an adequate transition time between school and home learning sessions.

The end of the lesson:

  • Know your child’s attention span and back off before he begins to fade or becomes too distracted. If an hour or even a half-hour is too long, break up the lesson into smaller parts of perhaps 15 minutes, then gradually lengthen the sessions–perhaps by 5 minutes at a time, until you reach a reasonable lesson length.
  • If the session has been a struggle, finish by reviewing a slightly easier concept.  You want your child to leave feeling he will master this in the end.  Praise him for his effort.  Encourage him to come to you with any questions.  Reference what you’ll do next time.
  • Discuss with the child ways to review the lesson in a “non-homework” style.  For example:
    • If the lesson has been on fractions, you might plan to do some home baking together, emphasising the measurements.
    • Or if the lesson has been on reading, you might together choose some books that would be appropriate for bedtime reads before the next session.
    • If the lesson is on multiplication, think of fun ways to practice the “facts.”
  • If the child is involved in choosing these activities, they will be more motivated and learn faster.
  • Always try to end the session on a positive, encouraging note, so that the student feels they have had a successful experience and looks forward to future learning.
  • If your child still has some homework to complete that he can do independently, allow a bit of a break time after tutoring,  then make sure he has a quiet, focused place to work without distractions. Peek in on him every few minutes to make sure he is focusing, and that he hasn’t been distracted. Alternatively, have your child do independent work first, and then use the tutoring time to work on things he found difficult, or on new learning.

After the lesson: Repetition, on a regular basis, is important for the short-term learning from the tutoring session to turn into long-term memory.  If possible, the student will actually USE the material he/she has just learned, in some practical ways. Watch for opportunities in daily life in which the child can apply her learning. Also, frequent short doses of repetition are much more effective than one or two long learning periods. Example: If learning spelling/vocabulary, aim to spend about 10 minutes a day for the next week or so to review the list. (And avoid last-minute “cram” sessions). These short review sessions can easily happen at times such as around the dinner table, in the car while travelling, or while waiting for an appointment.

Planning ahead: Jot down a couple notes about the lesson to help you plan for the next one, and anything you want to discuss with the teacher. Note what learning activities were most successful, what was learned, and what needs more work.

I hope this simple plan has been helpful to you. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them in the comments, and/or contact me. Thank you!

  1. Why children need parent-tutors
  2. Important activities parent-tutors can do well
  3. Building a Good Parent-Tutor and Child Relationship
  4. Learning Styles, Intelligences, and Behaviours
  5. Developing Individualised Tutoring–Tips for Parents
  6. Monitoring Your Child’s Progress
  7. Some Basic Learning Goals
  8. Home Tutoring Resources
  9. Suggestions for a Tutoring Session at Home
  10. Specific Suggestions for Primary Grades
  11. Specific Considerations for Intermediate Grades
  12. When to Consider Hiring a Tutor
  13. Costs of Tutors and Alternatives
  14. All Kinds of Learning Activities
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Home Tutoring Resources

This is post #8 in the series “How to Be a Great Parent-Tutor.”

What do you need to make your home a successful learning environment? Probably less than you think! Your focus should always be on helping your children–and your whole family–have a successful learning experience, in the moment and life-long. And that, as it turns out, doesn’t require a huge investment, and you may just discover you already have most or all of the most important resources. Search out less expensive ways of learning, more creative and adventuresome ways of learning, ways of learning that broaden horizons and encourage innate originality and wonder!

Learning spaces: Learning can successfully take place in a myriad of locations–around the kitchen table, in a corner of the public library, or even under a tree, as is common in many parts of the world.

Creativity, questioning, enthusiasm, desire to learn: What is really necessary is eagerness to learn, modeled by the parent, and shared by the child–things like creativity and questioning, which all children are born with, and enthusiasm and personal desire to keep on learning for all of life on the part of both the child and the learning facilitator (parents should see themselves as fellow-learners and partners, rather than traditional teachers).

Basic resources to learn and experiment with: It can be handy to have some basic resources to learn and experiment with (ever hear of kitchen science? or spending time at the local pond? paper and pencils and other simple supplies?). And research access to learning resources (many of which are free, like libraries, and others available very inexpensively–have you recently checked out your local thrift store? or waited to buy school supplies until a day or two after school starts and the school supply sales are suddenly truly sales? Asked the local school what you can borrow? Checked out local organisations that offer free or low-cost literacy programs?

What about technology? Don’t worry about the expense of fancy technology: computers, tablets, smart phones, etc. Purchase a basic computer if you can, or use publicly-available ones at schools or libraries.

Needs, wants, wishes, demands: Determine what you truly NEED, as opposed to what you want or wish for, or what someone else demands you need.

A list of simple items to consider:

  • some loose-leaf paper (plain and lined) and a dollar-store binder, or a couple notebooks (cheap ones)
  • a couple pencils and a sharpener and eraser, possibly a pen or two, and some crayons or pencil crayons or felt pens (bought at school supply sales a couple days after school starts and marked down 75% or more!)
  • reasonable lighting (natural light is lovely; a small desk lamp with focused light is helpful)
  • maybe a simple dictionary and thesaurus (paperback, purchased from a thrift store or a bookstore clearance rack or school supply sale … or use online dictionaries if you have a computer, tablet or smartphone)
  • a relatively quiet and peaceful space to sit for reading and writing, perhaps the kitchen table or a couple cushions in a corner with a clipboard (for when your student isn’t up and about, exploring and learning hands-on).
  • set aside a “learning hour” for the whole family, in which you turn off the TV, video games, cell phones, etc., and everyone, including parents and guests, engage in learning activities.

Purchase other items over time as you find great deals or really need certain things: That’s it? Well, certainly the items above are the basics (though there are plenty of students world-wide who would consider many of these items to be luxuries). As your child’s studies proceed, you can purchase or borrow other items as they are truly needed (advertise your needs on Freecycle or on community or homeschool swap and shop groups). Over time, you’ll collect a good variety of resources, and build your home learning space very inexpensively.

Model life-long learning with your children. Have everyone spend some learning time together. Read, draw, do homework, go outside and explore nature, bake (math, chemistry, etc.!), check out the library. Go on free field trips. If you absolutely can’t do it at home, check out the many free or very low-cost community resources.

Joy and adventure vs bling: You don’t need all the fancy posters and other “bling” found in many school classrooms in order to encourage your child: well-chosen words of approval for truly deserving effort, and sharing the joy and adventure of learning for its own sake are the best ways we can prepare children to love learning and make it a life-long adventure.

Creating a focused, distraction-free environment: You do need to provide a quiet, focused, distraction-free environment if possible. What are potential distractions?

  • Technology (phone calls, text messaging, TV/radio, social media, internet, email);
  • Academic (learning disabilities, not knowing what to do, inadequate notes from school, disorganised backpack, cluttered workplace, not understanding directions);
  • Physical well-being (hunger, thirst, fatigue, discomfort, too much comfort);
  • Auditory (street noise, nearby conversations, TV or radio or video games the child can hear, loud music, phone ringing);
  • Social (siblings playing nearby or bothering the child, friends waiting in the house for the child to finish the homework, pets);
  • Emotional (rewards, punishments, competition with siblings or classmates, parents arguing or other unstable home life, bullying or other abuse, anxiety or depression).

Some of these distractions are relatively easy to overcome. You can turn off the TV and cell phone. You can ask friends to come back at a certain time. You can make sure the child has had a healthy snack or a nap if needed. Ear plugs, a cardboard privacy screen (made from a used packing box) around the study area, a desk spotlight, the TV or video games turned off for the whole family during the child’s study time, are all easy things to do. Having a consistent schedule is also important (for example, a learning hour before or after supper each day). And make sure your child is getting enough quality sleep time, at regular times. Children of 5 to 12 years of age usually need 10 to 11 hours of sleep; teens generally need 8.5 to 9.5 hours. Note that school performance is shown to drop by up to two full grade levels when a child is sleep-deprived. If sports, lessons and other activities are cutting into sleep time, choose sleep! Also note that evening exposure to light from computer screens, e-readers, and even TVs can disrupt a child’s (and adult’s) sleep cycle!

But some other distractions are harder to solve, like learning disabilities, family issues, or bullying at school or in the neighbourhood. If you notice that certain distractions are really causing a problem, it may be wise to deal with them first. Having learning disabilities diagnosed, and receiving training on how to deal with them, will result in a much better learning environment. If you force a child to try and learn in a way that doesn’t work for him, you will destroy his love of learning, and cause damage to your relationship with him. It may be better to sort out these kinds of distractions first, and then use the best methods you can to help the individual child. Use professional help when you can, but there is loads of free information on the internet and in books, and many teachers and tutors will be happy to make suggestions and work with you. A little waiting time up front, dealing with issues before getting into academic learning, will be more than made up for in the long run by removing those kinds of distractions. The same goes for family issues: family counseling for even several months, rather than forced tutoring in an unhappy environment, will lead to much better learning in the long-term (get a referral from your family doctor). And so on.

Questions and comments: Have these tips been helpful? Do you have specific questions about any of them? Do you have other tips to share that have worked for your family? Be sure to share your questions and ideas in the comments! Thank you!

  1. Why children need parent-tutors
  2. Important activities parent-tutors can do well
  3. Building a Good Parent-Tutor and Child Relationship
  4. Learning Styles, Intelligences, and Behaviours
  5. Developing Individualised Tutoring–Tips for Parents
  6. Monitoring Your Child’s Progress
  7. Some Basic Learning Goals
  8. Home Tutoring Resources
  9. Suggestions for a Tutoring Session at Home
  10. Specific Suggestions for Primary Grades
  11. Specific Considerations for Intermediate Grades
  12. When to Consider Hiring a Tutor
  13. Costs of Tutors and Alternatives
  14. All Kinds of Learning Activities

 

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Posted in family learning, home learning, homeschooling, homework tips, learning resources, life-long learning, parent-tutoring, studying tips | Leave a comment

Some Basic Learning Goals

This is post #7 in the series “How to Be a Great Parent-Tutor.”

Some basic learning goals:

When you are deciding if you’ll tutor your own child, or hire a tutor, one of the best things you can do is make a list of goals, keeping in mind the particular needs of the learner(s), and your own beliefs about learning. Here are some possible goals to consider (your goals should reflect your own situation):

  • Basic literacy skills: bring basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills up to at least minimum average grade level (or a level suited to the individual child)
  • Develop a love of learning, enthusiasm, and good work ethic.
  • Real-life activities: Help the children see how “school learning” is useful in real life by doing as much home teaching as possible in the context of real life situations; “Whenever possible, literacy activities should be real-life activities.”
  • Develop research and study skills to the point that each child can become a self-motivated, self-directed, independent life-long learner.
  • Understand that learning lists of “facts” have little value if those facts are not clearly related to important ideas.
  • Develop parental awareness of community and educational personnel and resources available, and how to access and profitably use those resources (For older children, make this a goal for them to develop for themselves). Look widely – mentors, clubs, non-school courses, jobs, etc., in the community and even beyond.
  • Understand that all of life involves active, on-going learning that involves our whole lives in an integrated way.
  • “Give your child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education than if you laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information.” – Charlotte Mason
  • Help the children learn to pursue their interests until they become passions which will call forth their creativity and ingenuity. “Advance from taking a subject to being taken up in it.” – Northrup Frye
  • Understand that anything worth doing is worth doing well, to the best of one’s abilities, and to honour the Creator. “Aim for quickness of apprehension and expectation – expect good work.” – Charlotte Mason
  • Help the children develop positive character qualities (list those you want each child to develop).
  • Help the children develop a wide base of information about the world they live in, as must as possible in real-life learning situations (immersion in nature, involvement in work and service in the home and in the community, interaction with people of all ages, races, occupations, etc.).
  • Aim that your children will not only “remember” what they have learned, but will “understand” – development of higher level, critical thinking abilities.
  • Help your children develop powers of attention, discrimination, patient pursuit, and classification – the skills of a naturalist – through the use of hands-on, outdoors observation and study.  “Allow quiet growing time, out-of-doors, with space to wonder and grow.” – C. Mason
  • Help children come to love good writing through exposure to classic literature.  “Use real books, written with literary power, rather than textbooks.” – C. Mason
  • Help your child develop an appreciation for the wonder and beauty of creativity through exposure to the arts (from real artists, drama, band, etc.).
  • Develop strong and healthy bodies, so that health and fitness will become a life-long habit.
  • Avoid unhealthy competition over letter grades, marks, etc.
  • Remember: “Tell me and I may forget; Show me and I will remember; Let me do and I will understand.”
  • Find home-learning tasks for the children that provide practice of “educational skills” while at the same time sustaining their personal interest.
  • Be patient; find something each child is really interested in, then help them explore their interest from every angle possible.  “. . . immersion is required in a discipline before you produce anything of great novelty.” — R.W. Weisberg
  • “The gift that is in your power to give them is an awareness that whatever they need to know can be learned, and a sense that life only becomes more enjoyable as we learn more and more about the world around us.”
  • Keep in mind: “Because of their very broadly-based nature, schools are largely products of compromise.” – Wendy Priesnitz.  So it is up to ourselves as parents to understand our children and their characters, personalities, learning styles, learning differences, etc., and to come up with specific learning goals and methods that can be used outside of school (and suggested to their school learning team, if applicable) to best help them as individual learners and persons.
  • Remember: “And so it must always be the first and central task of any teacher [or parent!] to help the student become independent of him [and of “educational systems”], to learn to be his own teacher.”  — John Holt
  1. Why children need parent-tutors
  2. Important activities parent-tutors can do well
  3. Building a Good Parent-Tutor and Child Relationship
  4. Learning Styles, Intelligences, and Behaviours
  5. Developing Individualised Tutoring–Tips for Parents
  6. Monitoring Your Child’s Progress
  7. Some Basic Learning Goals
  8. Home Tutoring Resources
  9. Suggestions for a Tutoring Session at Home
  10. Specific Suggestions for Primary Grades
  11. Specific Considerations for Intermediate Grades
  12. When to Consider Hiring a Tutor
  13. Costs of Tutors and Alternatives
  14. All Kinds of Learning Activities

Questions and Responses: Which of these learning goals would work well with your children and your family? Do you have other goals that you use to encourage life-long learning and educational skills in your family? Please share your thoughts in the comments. Thank you!

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Monitoring Your Child’s Progress

This is post #6 in the series “How to Be a Great Parent-Tutor.”

Parents may be scared off tutoring their child because they think they’ll have to test and report the child’s progress. Don’t worry. Even if you are a home-school parent, you should not be expected to create the kinds of records and reports a school teacher is required to do. What should you do, then?

  • You can jot down simple point form notes in a notebook after each tutoring session (which is handy to refer to before the next lesson, and also handy to take along to the next parent-teacher conference).
  • If you like, you can take snapshots of the projects your child creates, or you can save examples of your child’s work in a folder or scrapbook (or have your child take the snapshots and create the scrapbook/portfolio; many children enjoy this).
  • You can use these simple records as you and your child look through them together, talk about the child’s learning problems and successes (always ask the child’s opinion), and together set new goals. Don’t worry about percentages, letter grades, and formal reports!
  • Some Distributed Learning (DL) school-at-home programs (run by public or private schools) have stricter requirements about how much they expect you to “report.” If you want to (or have to, due to provincial or state laws) use one of these programs, try to find one that fits with your home learning philosophy, and allows you to spend more time learning together with your children and less time “reporting.”

How can I tell if my child is learning well enough? If you’re not sure your child has mastered a concept, you can invent some simple evaluations–preferably practical, hands-on, enjoyable activities that the child does not see as “tests” but that will show the child’s understanding and progress and provide you with ideas for future planning.  These activities might include reading aloud, discussions on a topic, artwork, creation of a video, role play, use of a computer or table game, practical use of the concept in real-life activities, and so on.  As a parent tutor, you do not need to give traditional quizzes, assign short essay questions (unless it is time to learn that skill), or have the child take tests similar to the tests faced in the classroom.  After you’re finished these simple evaluations, just go over them with the student, praise the student for successful responses, and help with continuing problem areas.

  1. Why children need parent-tutors
  2. Important activities parent-tutors can do well
  3. Building a Good Parent-Tutor and Child Relationship
  4. Learning Styles, Intelligences, and Behaviours
  5. Developing Individualised Tutoring–Tips for Parents
  6. Monitoring Your Child’s Progress
  7. Some Basic Learning Goals
  8. Home Tutoring Resources
  9. Suggestions for a Tutoring Session at Home
  10. Specific Suggestions for Primary Grades
  11. Specific Considerations for Intermediate Grades
  12. When to Consider Hiring a Tutor
  13. Costs of Tutors and Alternatives
  14. All Kinds of Learning Activities

Questions and Responses: Which of these reporting and evaluation methods would work well with your child/children? Do you have other tips on how to keep track of your family’s learning? Please share your thoughts in the comments. Thank you!

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Developing Individualized Tutoring–Tips for Parents

This is post #5 in the series “How to Be a Great Parent-Tutor.”

Individualised learning, tailored to the needs of a particular child, with one-to-one attention from the parent, is one of the real advantages of parent-tutoring.  Here are some examples of how you can individualise your child’s learning:

  • Some children learn better in a quiet, one-on-one or small group situation. Use this understanding to provide your child with an optimal learning environment in your home.
  • Others have learning styles that are less frequently available in the classroom situation.  At home, a very active child can practice saying times tables while jumping on the trampoline; a musical child can sing her times tables; an artistic child can draw pictures to help her remember them. A classroom teacher, on the other hand, can’t easily have each child “doing her own thing” at the same time.
  • Some children have medical or emotional issues, or are facing other difficult situations.  You can take time out from the tutoring time to have personal talks, or take a break, or have a snack, or stretch, or whatever will help the child at that moment.
  • A parent-tutor can ensure that mastery occurs at each step of learning a subject. But in a busy classroom with many students, a teacher may not realize that a particular student has missed an important basic concept along the way.
  • A parent-tutor can take part with the child’s learning team, preparing a individualized learning plan (IEP), based on input from the child, the teacher, parents, and any assessments done by specialists.  You can study and follow this plan, and you can also refer to the learning outcomes in the educational system the child is enrolled in.  You are a valuable member of the team as you know so well the special life needs and situations of your child.
  • Helping one-to-one, a parent-tutor can take the time to fine-tune learning goals, and can adjust lesson plans as the exact needs of the individual student become apparent. It is quite amazing how one simple concept that has been missed earlier in a child’s learning can have a huge cascading effect on future learning.
  • Thus, several sessions can be taken to focus on, and achieve mastery of, a particular concept that is difficult for the student; and yet another concept that is well understood can be very quickly reviewed and the student can move on instead of having to wait for the rest of the class to “get it.”
  • A parent tutor can take the time to insert lessons on study skills and techniques exactly when they are needed by the student, and in conjunction with the topic at hand.
  • And a parent has much more opportunity to do practical, real-life learning activities with the child than a teacher in a classroom does.
  • If you aren’t sure what exactly the child knows, start with “easy level” questions, and work through to more difficult ones. Carefully observe to discover where there may be gaps in learning. If doing a homework assignment from school, have the child explain each step to you; often you will notice where a problem exists along the way. Stop and work out that problem before continuing.
  • Listen to your child‘s responses, watch the child’s body language, listen for stress in the child’s voice, and so on. Pay close attention and you can often pick up on exactly at what point the child is having difficulty.
  • Engage the child in discussions that require more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer. If the child gets too stressed, take a break, or try a different approach.
  • Use “hands-on” and “real-life” activities to help the child understand the purpose of a new concept. Learning is not just a bunch of facts to memorize; it involves many underlying skills, and participation in practical activities is a great way to bring the learning together.
  • Avoid yelling at the child, or punishing: the goal is to develop a love of learning, and a good parent-child relationship. If you, the parent tutor, are getting stressed, this is also a good time to take a break.
  • Start sessions at a level at which the child is comfortable and successful. Then work up through more difficult levels, helping the child build self-confidence and motivation.
  • If you as the parent are not sure how to do something, admit it, and find a way to learn how to do itself so you can help the child. The child will see your love of learning. Sometimes, the child can teach you something you’ve forgotten or haven’t learned–children love this! Encourage your child to share their knowledge and skills with you and others.
  • Good tutoring sessions involve the child as much as possible in planning and the learning and application.  True education is learning – and learning is behavior, that is, ACTION, on the part of the learner.  The more the student is involved in the learning activity, with the parent/tutor there as more of a guide or facilitator or mentor (rather than a teacher/lecturer), the more likely the student’s motivation and interest in the subject will increase, and the more he/she will learn, and be able to apply that learning.
  • Use creative and imaginative methods, motivating and involving the student.  Encourage the student to use his or her own personal interests and passions, creativity, imagination, reasoning, and other intellectual powers, to become a life-long self-learner, and teacher of others.  This is always the ultimate goal of true education.
  • The tutoring sessions should almost always involve a variety of learning activities.  A lesson on arithmetic, for example, will not just include the parent/tutor “teaching” a concept from a textbook, and the child practicing it on a worksheet.  In addition, the child might use “hands-on” learning tools, like counting real objects, using numbers on a ruler to add or subtract, finger-count, or create a lego item using geometry.  The lesson might also include a card game or a game like snakes-and-ladders that involves using numbers; and finish up with real activities in the child’s life that involve arithmetic (shopping, baking, and so on).
  • If the child is becoming fidgety or stressed out, the parent/tutor may call a time-out, in which the student can get a drink, take a short walk, play an active game, chat about any topic of the student’s choice, or simply sit back and relax.  Five minutes of “brain break” and “body activity” will ensure that the child will learn twice as much in the next portion of learning time!
  • Other aspects of individualized tutoring sessions include giving supportive and constructive feedback, encouraging a deeper understanding of the subject, correcting misunderstandings from previous learning, practice of weaker skills, and lighter moments of laughter and fun.
  • At the end of a session, ask children what they learned in this lesson, if and why they think it is important to them, any questions they still have or things they still don’t understand, and anything they’d like to focus on in upcoming sessions. Make children feel that this is “their” personal learning. Give the child as much “ownership” of the learning as possible.
  1. Why children need parent-tutors
  2. Important activities parent-tutors can do well
  3. Building a Good Parent-Tutor and Child Relationship
  4. Learning Styles, Intelligences, and Behaviours
  5. Developing Individualised Tutoring–Tips for Parents
  6. Monitoring Your Child’s Progress
  7. Some Basic Learning Goals
  8. Home Tutoring Resources
  9. Suggestions for a Tutoring Session at Home
  10. Specific Suggestions for Primary Grades
  11. Specific Considerations for Intermediate Grades
  12. When to Consider Hiring a Tutor
  13. Costs of Tutors and Alternatives
  14. All Kinds of Learning Activities

Questions and Responses: Which of these tips would work well with your child/children? Do you have other tips on how to “individualise” tutor time with children? Please share your thoughts in the comments. Thank you!

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Posted in family learning, home learning, homeschooling, homework tips, learning styles, learning tips, life-long learning, parent-tutoring, passions and interests | Leave a comment

Learning Styles Intelligences Behaviours

This is post #4 in the series “How to Be a Great Parent-Tutor.”

Learning styles and/or intelligences are ways we take in, process, and organise information.  Each of us does these things in very individual ways.  Some learn more easily by looking (visual: reading, looking at charts or pictures), some by listening and speaking (auditory), and some in hands-on ways (tactual/kinesthetic).  Some learn better in a group, while others learn better alone.  Some learn especially well in very particular ways, such as through music or art.

Learning behaviours are our habits and actions in relation to learning.  Some people have developed good self-motivation, while others are very dependent on having someone tell them what to do next.  Some are very self-organized and can plan well, while others have not developed these skills.

Here are some tips on how to apply learning styles, intelligences, and behaviours:

  • As you observe your child’s learning styles and behaviours, you can tutor with learning methods that best match the child’s strongest learning styles.  At the same time, you will also want to use a variety of methods, so your child can learn successfully in a variety of situations. The more ways a student learns a particular lesson and puts it into practice, the more likely the student will retain the information and be able to apply it in practical ways.
  • As a parent, you are already modelling through your own life such behaviours as how to plan and monitor your own learning and other daily activities, use of time and materials, and sticking with your learning and activities until your goals are reached. So you are already your child’s tutor. Now you will want to think about even more ways you can mentor that will help your child.
  • As your child’s tutor, don’t forget to seek to understand his perspective.  Use examples related to the child’s own life and experiences, so the topic is easier to understand.  And encourage your child to be involved in his own goal-setting and learning.
  • Don’t forget to encourage your child to back-teach: that is, to put to use the learning styles and learning behaviours she has been developing, by teaching them to others–to yourself, a younger sibling, a fellow student, friends and relatives.  Also, provide real-life situations in which the child can practice these learning behaviours.
  • Practical examples of how to apply these tips will be presented in an upcoming post.

Comments and responses: Have these tips been helpful? Do you have any specific questions? What tips can you add? Please share with us in the comments! Thank you.

Other posts in this series, “How to Be a Great Parent-Tutor”:

  1. Why children need parent-tutors
  2. Important activities parent-tutors can do well
  3. Building a Good Parent-Tutor and Child Relationship
  4. Learning Styles, Intelligences, and Behaviours
  5. Developing Individualised Tutoring–Tips for Parents
  6. Monitoring Your Child’s Progress
  7. Some Basic Learning Goals
  8. Home Tutoring Resources
  9. Suggestions for a Tutoring Session at Home
  10. Specific Suggestions for Primary Grades
  11. Specific Considerations for Intermediate Grades
  12. When to Consider Hiring a Tutor
  13. Costs of Tutors and Alternatives
  14. All Kinds of Learning Activities
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Posted in family learning, home learning, learning styles, learning tips, parent-tutoring | Leave a comment

Building a Good Parent-Tutor and Child Relationship

This is post #3 in the series “How to Be a Great Parent-Tutor.”

Parents are often concerned that tutoring their own children could cause tension or stress in their relationship. It is also a concern for those considering home-schooling. Here are some tips for building a good parent-tutor and child relationship:

  • Talk about your own learning and life experiences: Share some interesting facts about your own life, and your own learning experiences–including difficulties you have had. Ask the children about their learning experiences, likes and dislikes, and interesting stories and incidents. Rather than “wasting learning time,” you will build trust and rapport.
  • Watch your child’s body language. While students may not want to “tell” you how they are feeling, or what learning problem they are facing, careful attention to facial expression, posture, fidgeting, and so on can give important clues.
  • Really listen to yours child’s responses, and you will discover his or her true learning needs, and the level at which to start. Adjust the work and learning styles/methods as you learn more about your child’s abilities and nature.
  • Watch for knowledge and skill gaps: Pay attention to how your child tries to work out an answer, and watch for “gaps” in knowledge and skills. Often an apparently “big” problem is simply solved by finding a small gap that the student missed at some early stage of learning. Fill in that small piece and the problem may almost magically disappear!
  • Be aware of your child’s ability to concentrate. If your child is losing interest or reacting negatively, change what you are doing. Take a brain break, stretch, have a snack, chat about the child’s interests, or switch from one way of learning the material (say, working on a worksheet or writing) to another (like using a table game or a physical exercise or artwork). As you try different things out, see which kinds of learning styles work best. You may need to start with short sessions of 10 to 15 minutes and work up to 1/2 hour to an hour, depending on your child’s age and concentration.
  • Have your child “talk through” a math problem, or explain what they are writing.
  • Don’t keep going over information till your child is bored: If your children already have information down pat, a little review is fine, but don’t keep going over it and over it until they get bored. If you think they still need some practice, come up with a variety of ways to review, instead of doing the same thing the same way.
  • What if your child doesn’t want to be tutored? Try to find out why your child doesn’t want to be tutored. Tutoring by a parent may be a new and intimidating experience for children, or fellow students or friends might be teasing them about it. Help your children understand the purpose and value of the tutoring. Make your explanations understandable; use stories and illustrations from your own life or from the lives of people they know and/or admire. Share times when you’ve needed extra help yourself, and how it helped you. Show how learning is an on-going experience – an adventure, even – and tutoring is a useful tool along a trail that is part of their whole life.
  • Be creative and imaginative as you work with your child. Always be looking for and/or inventing new and interesting ways of learning. Discover what motivates the individual child – what she is especially interested in. When she explains something to you, be interested and thank her. Learning together is the best way to learn.
  • If your child seems unwilling to participate sometimes, try to find out why. Ask him how he feels about it, and listen respectfully to his answers. Ask him what he would do if he was the tutor and you were the student. Pay attention to his answers – you might find out something important that you can use to improve his learning experience. Also, observe your child: does he seem to be: Anxious or nervous? Why?–   Intimidated (by you? by the learning environment? by pressure to achieve? or?) — Discouraged about her ability? — Blaming herself (or someone else? who? why?) — Overwhelmed? In what way? — Preoccupied by issues outside the learning experience? — Concerned about an upcoming exam or other classroom situation?
  • What level should you start at? If the work you are doing with your child is too hard, do not be afraid to go back to a simpler level. Identify what is “missing” and solve that. Once “gaps” are filled, the child’s progress will likely take a big leap forward.
  • Be positive in your interactions with your child, but at the same time give direction for improvement. Give supportive feedback, encourage deeper focus, give constructive correction to misunderstandings, praise strong skills and effort while also encouraging practice of neglected skills. And link praise to specific achievements. But do not provide “empty praise” or praise a student for behaviour that is clearly lazy or comes from habitual negative attitudes.
  • Get feedback from your child, as well as from your own observations. Ask questions such as: Do you have any questions about the work we’ve been doing? Is there something I did not explain clearly? What is the most important thing you learned? What did you like? Do you feel some of what we studied is unimportant? Why? Is there something else you’d like to explore and learn more about?

What if nothing you try seems to work? If you realise that, despite everything you have tried, the learning relationship between yourself and your child is not working out, you may need to find a different solution. Here are some possibilities:

  • Brain Break: Perhaps your child needs a period of “brain break.” Encourage the child to keep on learning through a personal interest/passion that they can focus on for a while, then try coming back to what you were working on. Maybe you can even work the concept into the child’s interest. For example, if the child is upset about learning fractions, but loves to bake, do some baking together for a while, and have the child double or triple the recipe!
  • Other issues that may be interfering: It may be that your child has a medical issue or personal issue that needs to be solved before carrying on with “academic” issues. Set the academics aside while you solve other issues.
  • A different tutor: Or your child may need a different tutor until your relationship improves. Important as parent-tutoring is, you do not want it to destroy the rest of your relationship with your child.
  • Get insight and help from others. Discuss your child’s needs with her teacher, coaches, and other important adults in her life who may be able to provide insight.

Comments and responses: Have these tips been helpful? Do you have any specific questions? How about tips you can add? Please share with us in the comments! Thank you.

Other posts in this series, “How to Be a Great Parent-Tutor”:

  1. Why children need parent-tutors
  2. Important activities parent-tutors can do well
  3. Building a Good Parent-Tutor and Child Relationship
  4. Learning Styles, Intelligences, and Behaviours
  5. Developing Individualised Tutoring–Tips for Parents
  6. Monitoring Your Child’s Progress
  7. Some Basic Learning Goals
  8. Home Tutoring Resources
  9. Suggestions for a Tutoring Session at Home
  10. Specific Suggestions for Primary Grades
  11. Specific Considerations for Intermediate Grades
  12. When to Consider Hiring a Tutor
  13. Costs of Tutors and Alternatives
  14. All Kinds of Learning Activities
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Posted in family learning, homeschooling, homework tips, learning styles, learning tips, parent-child relationships, parent-tutoring | Leave a comment