What is the difference between supplies needed for a tutoring office – or even a classroom – and a home study area? Not a great deal, as it turns out! The main needs are very similar, and in each case, the focus should be on helping students have a successful learning experience.
Where should tutoring or home learning take place? Learning can successfully take place in a myriad of locations. No, expensive classrooms loaded with the latest in modern technology, all kinds of fancy scientific lab resources, electronic white boards, educators with multiple degrees behind their names, and so forth, are not necessary, despite the insistence of the Ministry of Education, or the Teachers’ Union, or most likely of all, the multitude of manufacturers whose business success is predicated on selling as many of these items as possible.
Learning can very successfully take place around the kitchen table, in a corner of the public library, in a one-room school-house, or even under a tree, as is common in many parts of the world.
What is really necessary for successful home learning or successful tutoring (or even classroom learning)? Let’s see… a computer, of course, with internet connection, and a printer, and lots of expensive learning software. And a big desk for the teacher/ tutor/ parent, with lots of shelves, and a proper filing cabinet. And individual desks for each student. Oh, and of course pens and paper for occasional handwritten work… Or not? NOT!
What is really necessary is eagerness to learn on the part of the student – things like creativity and questions, which all children are born with – and enthusiasm and personal desire to keep on learning for all of life on the part of the learning facilitator, whether that be an “official” teacher or tutor, or parent, peer, sibling, friend, grandparent, mentor – in other words, a fellow-learner of any age.
Naturally, it can be handy to have some basic resources to record things learned, or to experiment with (ever hear of kitchen science? or spending time at the local pond?). And to have 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 till a day or two after school starts and the sales are suddenly truly sales?).
But all that fancy technology really isn’t necessary, at least not until the student is deeply involved in an advanced subject area in which the technology becomes necessary or in cases where technology is extremely helpful such as with certain learning differences – at which point it can often be accessed for free, or rented very inexpensively through schools, offices, libraries, etc. So many parents believe that they really can’t help their
children educationally now-a-days because they don’t have the technical skills or doo-dads that education supposedly “requires.” Or they are led to believe that a “real tutor” must have a fancy commercial office that looks a lot like a “real classroom.”
Don’t worry. The human brain hasn’t changed all that much in the past decade or two, though perhaps our expectations have. Yes, there are studies that show that children raised with technology have decreased attention spans – but what better reason to introduce young scholars to alternative ways of learning? (Less expensive ways of learning, more creative and adventuresome ways of learning, ways of learning that broaden their horizons and encourage their innate originality and wonder!). What you need is what you truly NEED (as opposed to want, or wish for, or what someone else says you need) at the moment, for the learner in question.
But if you really want a list (and remember, ask yourself if you really NEED these things), you might consider some loose-leaf paper and a binder, or a couple notebooks (cheap ones), a couple pencils and a sharpener and eraser, possibly a pen or two,
reasonable lighting (natural light is lovely; a small desk lamp with focused light is helpful), and maybe a simple dictionary. A space to sit (for when your student isn’t up and about, exploring and learning hands-on) that is reasonably suitable for reading and writing. That’s it? Well, certainly those are the basics (though there are plenty of students world-wide who would consider many of these items to be luxuries). As your student’s studies proceed, you can of course purchase other items as they are truly needed . . . or borrow them, or advertise your needs on Freecycle, or whatever!
Beyond those “items,” it would be nice to have a reasonably quiet space to work in. Having raised up to 6 children at a time in a small 3 bedroom house, I’m quite aware that can be a challenge. But you can find a way. Have a daily time, for example, dedicated to learning. And include the adults: be lifelong learning models for your children! Turn off the electronic noise-makers (including phones), and 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 community resources. Many organizations offer free “homework help” spaces, for example.
And sometimes you do need a helper – someone who can help your child with a topic you don’t know enough about – or who can help you learn it, and you can turn around and pass on what you have learned – which is the best way to make sure you get that new knowledge into long term memory, anyway. If you are thinking of getting a tutor for your child, perhaps what you really need to do is hire a tutor for yourself – or for the two of you together. If a tutor is out of the question financially, what about a friend or relative? Or get together with several other parents you know, find out each one’s skills, and then have a neighborhood “homework night” each week, in which you all help each other’s children – and each other. Or hire a tutor to teach a group of parents together the basics of whatever subject(s) your children need help with – or even a tutor to teach a classroom of parents and children together! Group rates are generally very reasonable.
Are you surprised? This isn’t the list you were expecting? Well, it wasn’t my “plan” for this post either – but it has certainly been my experience. I have, it is true, taught in
school classrooms with lots of technology and resources. I have also home schooled my own children with very few “resources” – but we made such constant use of the library (which had to order materials in every week to our remote location), that they actually ended up having to hire extra librarian time, rather than decreasing it as they had planned. I do have a tutoring office now (in my home), and it does have quite a selection of resources – which is not altogether surprising as I raised 5 children of my own, home schooling them part of the time, taught school for years, and have tutored as well. All along the way I have collected resources, as I have needed them, most of which I
obtained for free or very inexpensively – or made myself, from scratch. You can build your home learning space the same way.
You may have been told that for children to learn successfully, it is necessary to have an “affirmative learning environment,” with not only all the latest technology, but lots of posters, “I believe in me” affirmation signs, colorful bulletin board displays, a big collection of thick reference books, all the latest learning games, and of course lots of student incentives like progress charts and bright shiny stickers and awards for
every possible positive achievement. I beg to differ – well chosen words of approval for truly deserving effort, and sharing the joy of learning for its own sake are the best ways we can prepare children to love learning and make it a life-long adventure.
Since I do tutoring as a business, I of course have many more supplies than you would at home. Let’s see, I have a couple bookshelves (with books and magazines and such, of course), and binders and paper and pens and pencils and basic art supplies, and a whiteboard, and a table next to a window, with a lamp, and a small desk for my laptop and printer, and a couple chairs. There is a wall calendar to keep things organized, and safety items like smoke detectors and a first-aid kit and insurance, and a collection of learning games (some home-made, and the rest thanks to the local thrift stores). Fancy? Actually, not that much different than your home, I suspect.
Most of all, I have a love of learning, and am constantly on a learning adventure myself – and I delight to take as many others, adults and children both, on that adventure with me. And that is what is most necessary.
(Oh yes – and if you’re looking for a tutor for the students in your family – or for yourself, or your parents’ group – I’d love to help you out. If you live in the Penticton area, we can of course meet face to face. But I’d also be happy to chat with you via email or Skype. Check out my tutoring information page. And if I cannot meet your tutoring requirements, I will happily refer you to other tutors in our area who may be able to help you.)