Poor Methods of Teaching Reading

This is post #4 in the series “When Children–and Adults Too–Hate Reading”

Sometimes people “hate reading” because they haven’t been taught well, or because the method used to teach them didn’t fit their personal learning style or needs. But all is not lost. Check out these tips:

  • Don’t expect one method to “do it all.” Different people (children and adults alike) learn in different ways. When it comes to reading, some children seem to just “pick it up” by watching others read, by following along the page as their parentsread to them, by looking at colourful picture books, and other similar “whole language” methods.
  • But for other people, a more step-by-step, following-the-rules method, like phonics, is required.
  • While read-aloud or read-together works well for some, plenty of individual quiet reading time works better for others.
  • Some children can focus on reading for long periods of time, while others need frequent breaks with lots of active motion between reading sessions.
  • Some children will “read anything,” while others need to be “caught up” into reading materials and topics that are of personal interest or usefulness.
  • Some children are developmentally ready to read at as young as 2 or 3 years of age, while others aren’t ready till ages 9 or 10. If your child is one of the latter, don’t just sit around and wait or wring your hands over it:
    • Read to/with your child.
    • Explore the world together.
    • While some children “read to learn,” others find it difficult to read until they have gathered a good foundation of broad basic knowledge.
    • Others need to develop some personal interests that motivate them to learn to read in order to follow their passions. Some examples:
      • For my son, the “Pokemon” games, videos, handbooks and novels were his “gateway” to finally learn to read at ages 10 to 11, but because we’d already spent years reading aloud and exploring the world, once he did start reading, he would read anything. His next major reading interest after Pokemon turned out to be college-level physics books, as he became interested in rocketry at age 12. Then sci-fi and fantasy novels, when he started watching movies and playing video games. And history books after making a model of a medieval village. And so on.
      • I’ve had students who finally learned to read at age 16 or 17 because they desperately wanted to take the “learner’s exam” and get their driver’s licence–if only their families and/or teachers had been able to find a motivation earlier!

The point of all this is that you need to find what works for your child (or yourself!) through experimentation and life-long learning adventure. For most successful readers, a combination of these methods and approaches provides the best outcomes.

You know your child (and yourself!) better than does any teacher. Explore and encourage, and together you will find and use the methods that work best for each individual reader/learner. Take responsibility; don’t depend on others, though of course they can be helpful.

Does your child attend a school and/or day-care that doesn’t seem to encourage reading enough? Here are some tips:

  • Encourage classroom teachers and administrators to bring “real authors” (and illustrators and publishers) into classrooms or to assemblies to share how “real” books and other reading materials are created. If possible, find a way to fundraise to purchase a personally signed (at the event) copy for each child.
  • Spend some time in the classroom or day-care and observe the surroundings. Are lots of reading materials available? If not, maybe you can get people to donate appropriate materials (extras from your own home library; low-cost books from library book sales or thrift stores; hold a community book drive).
  • Observe the classroom or day-care activities and talk to the teacher to get a sense of how much time is dedicated to reading in one way or another. If the teacher is swamped by other requirements that push reading to the sidelines, can you volunteer to help with reading, and/or create a group of volunteers?
  • Find out what methods are being used to teach and encourage reading. Different children require different approaches, and while some children “catch up” very easily, others need a lot more help.
    • Is there an over-emphasis on one form of reading instruction to the detriment/lack of other forms?
    • Is there a good balance between whole reading and phonics?
    • Is there a good variety of reading materials available and used?
    • Is reading used in all subject areas?
    • Does the teacher include reading-focused activities such as library time, personal reading times, read-alouds, etc.?
    • How can you help the teacher rather than just complain?
    • What can you do at home with your child (and possibly other children in the neighbourhood) to “fill in the gaps” of the school’s overwhelming responsibilities?
  • Most teachers are willing to incorporate good ideas, if presented in a positive manner, and especially if help is offered. But if you run into a wall without bookshelves, so to speak, you may want to consider alternative learning situations (a different class or school or day-care, or homeschooling, or involvement in reading groups outside of school) … and remember, YOU the parent are responsible. Therefore…
    • Don’t depend on the school or day-care to teach your child to read. You are the greatest influence on your child. Make reading an everyday family activity. If you aren’t a good reader, get some tutoring, and of course, read more and read often.
    • Community groups often offer free courses for adult non-readers; don’t be embarrassed to ask (your local library is a good source of information) about such courses, and sign up for them.
    • If you feel you aren’t “qualified” to teach your children to read, sign up for programs like “One to One Reading”  and take the training they provide. These training sessions typically only take 2 or 3 hours and are jam-packed with incredibly useful hands-on information. Use the information to help your own children at home–and volunteer to help other children at school.

Do you have tips or anecdotes related to encouraging non-readers to become avid readers? We’d love to have you share them in the comments! Thank you!

Check out all the posts in this series, “When Children–and Adults Too–Hate Reading”:

Model Reading and Read Aloud
Distractions and Health Issues
Negative Influences and Reading as a Chore
Poor Methods of Teaching Reading
Lack of Reading Materials and Negative Attitudes
Dyslexia and Other Learning Differences
Practical Tips to Encourage Reading

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Negative Influences and Reading as a Chore

This is post #3 in the series “When Children–and Adults Too–Hate Reading”

Do you have people in your family–children or adults alike–who “hate reading” because they’ve been told by others that reading is stupid or a waste of time?  Or they think of reading as a chore or punishment rather than an enjoyable activity? This post is for you! Here are some solutions for your “reading haters.” Let’s make reading fun!

Influence of family and peers who dislike reading or think it isn’t a priority:

  • Unfortunately, peer pressure–or even family pressure from other family members who don’t think reading is a priority (often these are people who have reading struggles themselves and this is a way they handle their own issues)–can cause children (and adults) to “hate reading.”
  • Boys are sometimes pressured to do “manly” things, such as sports, mechanics, and so on.
  • Meanwhile, girls are sometimes told that education (including reading) is not necessary because their place is in the home, taking care of the children, cleaning, cooking, etc. We may think that this is a thing of the past, but there are still groups who hold to this philosophy.
  • Discouraging children (and adults!) from reading can also be a control issue, as education (and especially reading) may be seen as leading them to learn about topics and pursue interests that those in control in their lives do not want them involved with.
  • At school, students who are “academically inclined” may be scorned as “nerds” while activities such as sports are often held up by both school and society as more important and more successful. In some schools and other groups, academic success (including reading) is seen almost as being traitorous to the group.
  • What to do? In these situations, it is really important for the family or significant others to model the daily enjoyment and adventure of life-long learning (which very much involves reading, of course) in order to overcome these other pressures. If the pressure is coming from within the family, children can become involved in activities such as Scouts or Guides, or other clubs and lessons in which they will meet children who are more interested in learning, and where reading is an important part of enjoyable and adventurous activities. The same is true for adults–there are many great activities that involve reading!

Being forced to read, as a chore or a disciplinary activity rather than as enjoyment and adventure:

  • Don’t “demand” reading: Sitting a child (or adult) down in a hard-backed chair, shoving a boring “academic” book into their hands, and demanding that they sit still and read for an hour or two while their friends are outside playing, or while their absolute favourite TV program is on–or worse yet, as a punishment for some infraction–has probably led to a great many “haters of reading.” While this approach is probably not as common as it used to be, it still happens. And for adults who grew up with it, reading may be something they simply run from as fast as they can.
  • Instead, present reading as an enjoyable, lifelong adventure. The world of books and other reading materials opens up whole new worlds! Ideas:
    • Take advantage of a person’s passions and interests, and use those as motivators for reading.
    • Integrate bits of reading into other activities that a person enjoys.
    • After watching a TV program on nature or forensics or whatever the topic is, discuss what was viewed, come up with some questions, and do some reading research on the topic.
    • Instead of buying ready-made furniture, make your own from scratch or at least visit IKEA-type locations, and then use books or instruction sheets to construct the furniture.
    • Use cookbooks to bake cool birthday cakes or special meals from scratch rather than picking up pizza or sticking pre-made frozen dinners in the oven.
    • Get gardening books, construct some simple garden beds, and raise your own veggies, fruit and flowers.
  • The world is full of so many adventures, and reading can be–should be–a part of all of them.

Do you have tips or anecdotes related to encouraging non-readers to become avid readers? We’d love to have you share them in the comments! Thank you!

Check out all the posts in this series, “When Children–and Adults Too–Hate Reading”:

Model Reading and Read Aloud
Distractions and Health Issues
Negative Influences and Reading as a Chore
Poor Methods of Teaching Reading
Lack of Reading Materials and Negative Attitudes
Dyslexia and Other Learning Differences
Practical Tips to Encourage Reading

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Distractions and Health Issues

This is post #2 in the series “When Children–and Adults Too–Hate Reading”

Do you have an “I hate reading” child (or adult) in your family? Sometimes it isn’t the reading that’s the problem–instead, it might well be too many distractions in life, or it could be health issues. In this post, we’ll discuss how to solve these issues. Happy reading!

Distractions: TV, video games, too many sports and lessons, etc.:

  • Set a limit on electronics. Yes, you can. You must! Decide how many–or rather, how few–minutes (notice I didn’t say hours) your children (and yourself!) will be allowed to spend daily on television, movies, video games, internet surfing, social media (kill that monster!), etc. Suddenly, your days will seem to have way more hours in them … and you can fill that extra time with reading.
  • Too much time on electronics has negative effects on brain development, social development, eye strain, stress levels, etc. etc. etc. For adults, too. Break the addiction!
  • (People argue they are “reading” online, and to some degree that’s true. But it’s a different kind of reading than reading for enjoyment–or even for intentional learning. We need variety.) ‘Nuff said!
  • Set limits on other activities, too! While sports, lessons, clubs, and so on can be wonderful experiences, children (and adults, too) need leisure time to relax and play. And reading can be a great leisure time activity, right? Too many activities can lead to exhaustion, lack of focus, stress … speaking of which …

Eating habits, sleep habits, tiredness, stress, and other health issues:

  • While reading for many is a “relaxing” activity, for others (and especially children–or adults) who are just learning to read, it can really be an intensive, focused activity that requires a lot of energy. When these readers are experiencing other stresses at the same time, it can turn reading into a lifelong “hate to do” activity. While we can’t remove all stress from our lives, there are some solutions that we can definitely work on:
  • Provide a regulated sleep pattern–a regular bedtime, a regular number of hours of sleep, a comfortable bed in a quiet and dark space.
  • Avoid “screen time” within two hours before bedtime, as the light from TV, computers, tablets, and other electronics causes difficulty in getting to sleep. Instead provide relaxing activities (a warm bath, a comforting glass of milk, building legos, listening to relaxing music, or other relaxing and enjoyable activities depending on the child’s interests), and of course, bedtime read-aloud to the child (or for adults, read-aloud from another adult, or listening to novels on tape or interesting but not high-stress radio programs). Ideally, homework should not be done within an hour of bedtime, as it, too, can be stressful–unless it’s a project the child is really interested in.
  • Eat healthy food. Children use a lot of energy (including for learning reading) and healthy, regular meals are an important part of that. Have 3 healthy meals a day, with healthy snacks mid-morning and mid-afternoon (carrot sticks, fruit, etc.). If possible, eat meals together as a family around the dining table–a great time to discuss what you’ve been reading, by the way; and some people even have their read-aloud right there after the meal is finished 🙂
  • Snacks and packed lunches: Do not have snacks within an hour to two hours before bedtime; if the child says he or she is hungry, often a glass of water or a glass of milk (more filling) will do the trick. Carrot or celery sticks are okay if the child is really hungry. Avoid salty and sugary snacks after supper (or anytime for that matter). If at all possible, limit pop and other sugary drinks (including fruit juices) to special occasions like birthdays; do not provide them on a regular basis. Also, if at all possible, provide healthy recess and lunch for school (or home, if homeschooling). Homemade foods are always better than prepackaged, instant foods–and a thermos of hot food from yesterday’s supper is a great way to use up leftovers. Your child’s health and energy levels will be much better, and their energy and focus for reading will also improve.
  • Analyze sources of life stress that may be impacting learning (including learning to read). Is your child involved in too many structured activities (sports, music lessons, children’s clubs, etc.), and lacks time for play and for — yes, children need this!!! — personal quiet time. In the mad rush to make sure a child has all the activities that are “recommended” (usually by those who sell these activities), children often end up tired and stressed. Let reading become an option for play and quiet time, instead of a formal activity squeezed between a bunch of other formal activities.
  • Family/home stresses: If there are a lot of family stresses in the home (illness, relationship problems, multiple low-income jobs, etc.), see if you can find someone (a grandparent, aunt or uncle, responsible teen, or someone else the child enjoys and looks up to), and arrange a regular quiet time with that person in a location where the stresses are out of sight. Reading enjoyably together can be part of that time, as well as other quiet activities such as table games or learning a skill such as knitting, basic carpentry, or whatever the two enjoy doing together. Relating reading to this peaceful time is a great way to take away some of the “stress” of reading.

Eyesight problems:

  • Some children (and adults) have undiagnosed eyesight issues. Eye exams are often free or low-cost for children or see if you can get a referral from your family doctor. Even if you have to pay for it, it’s a really important investment.
  • And you don’t need to buy the fanciest, most fashionable, expensive glasses! It may turn out that a person’s reading issues are actually eyesight issues. Get them checked and dealt with!

Do you have tips or anecdotes related to encouraging non-readers to become avid readers? We’d love to have you share them in the comments! Thank you!

Check out all the posts in this series, “When Children–and Adults Too–Hate Reading”:

Model Reading and Read Aloud
Distractions and Health Issues
Negative Influences and Reading as a Chore
Poor Methods of Teaching Reading
Lack of Reading Materials and Negative Attitudes
Dyslexia and Other Learning Differences
Practical Tips to Encourage Reading

 

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Model Reading and Read Aloud

This is post #1 in the series “When Children–and Adults Too–Hate Reading”

Sadly, some children “hate reading” … as do many adults, unfortunately. Here’s hoping some of these tips will awaken a love of reading … after all, non-readers miss out on so many wonderful experiences, right? In this series, I’ll list some of the main reasons why people “hate to read” and then give some solutions/tips for each issue. Choose those that are relevant to the “reading hater” in your life, young or old, and help them leap with enthusiasm into the wonderful adventure reading can be!

Lack of seeing parents and other significant adults enjoy reading:

  • How often do the children in your family see you reading–for a variety of purposes? We all know that “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work in most areas of life–and it doesn’t work when it comes to encouraging reading, either. Let your children see you enjoy reading. Next time you’re tempted to turn on the TV, or check Facebook, or text your friends, or play a video game … instead, pick up a book or magazine. Or read novels. Use “how-to mechanics” books the next time your car needs a tune-up (and invite your children to help). Use “real cookbooks” and cook from scratch (and invite your children to join you). If they see you reading, and ask questions or want you to read aloud … do so!
  • Let them see you write, too. Reading and writing go together. Send greeting cards (take your children along to the store to read the cards and help pick out appropriate messages). Write Christmas family letters together. Write “real letters” to friends and families.
  • Go to the library (and take your kids–and adult non-readers–along). Make it a great habitual family activity. Libraries really do have “something for everyone.” Even if non-readers start in the video section or the picture book section, all those books and magazines are bound to start attracting their interest! Take your kids to children’s “reading hours” and have them sign up for summer reading programs. Oh! and don’t just drop them off and pick them up later. Stay and be part of the activity, or at least get a book or magazine and sit nearby where they can see that you enjoy reading, too.
  • When you go to the mall, always stop in the bookstore, even if just to browse. If you can’t afford to buy, then take a trip to the library to borrow books you spotted in the bookstore. When you go to the grocery store or department store or even the hardware store, browse the magazine racks–and buy one or two occasionally. Let your children see you read from the magazine piles in the doctor’s or dentist’s office. Go to both new and used bookstores, and especially support the independent bookstores in your community. When you go to the thrift store, spend lots of time in the book section (and buy lots–great deals!). Choose reading materials together as a family, and then read together, discuss what you’re reading, and do some projects together based on what you’re reading.
  • Have reading materials in every room of your home: What else are bedside tables for, after all? Cookbooks in the kitchen. How-to books in the rec room and workshop. Lots of bookshelves in the living room and den and even in hallways and on window sills. Out on the deck in the summertime. And of course, bathroom (aka “reading room”) reading materials. Even reading haters can’t seem to resist “John” books and magazines (google “Uncle John’s bathroom readers”!). And make use of your neighbourhood’s Little Free Library–even set one up in your yard.
  • Bring home a variety of magazines from the library (or browse them while you’re there with your children) and then subscribe to at least 2 or 3 … let those non-readers choose ones that grab their interest. It might not be exactly to your own “taste” or what you’d prefer they read, but there’s an amazing effect of “personal choice” and “ownership.”
  • And of course, Christmas (and other holidays) and birthdays (and Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Anniversaries, etc.) are a perfect excuse for gifts of reading materials (whether books, magazines, subscriptions, or a gift card to the local bookstore).
  • Get involved in activities that require reading to some extent. Live theatre groups, research on topics of personal/mutual interest (if your non-reader is interested in a topic that you really aren’t, then get interested!), reading clubs, writers’ groups, church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other spiritual gatherings (reading is involved in the singing, liturgy, scriptures, etc., as a group activity), courses (even hands-on courses almost always require some reading), sports (ask coaches to suggest good titles to the children, and to include “blackboard sessions” in their coaching), and so much more.
  • If you know any local authors, attend their book launches as a family, and if the book is of interest to your non-reader, purchase a copy and have it personally signed and encourage author and child to interact!
  • Also involve reading activities in play dates (group read-aloud, trips to the library together, etc.), family vacation trips with an hour or two of “rest time” mid-day, or as an option for “nap time” if your child needs some mid-day relaxation. Science proves that for adults and children alike, a half hour (or for some people, up to an hour) of rest in the middle of the day provides lots of energy and improved brain function for the rest of the day, and leads to a good night’s sleep. While some people can easily fall asleep for that time period, others require something to “slow down” and light, enjoyable reading can do the trick. This is especially good during long weekends and more extended holiday times when we really are supposed to be rejuvenating. Make it a family/group activity!

Lack of being read to:

  • Children who experience being read to from a young age usually look forward eagerly to learning to read. The good old-fashioned “bedtime story” time never goes out of style. And it’s not too late to start if the non-reader is older. Consider:
  • Family read-aloud times as a scheduled daily or weekly activity, allowing the non-readers to “just listen” until they want to start reading. Then listen to them with respect and encouragement.
  • Neighbourhood reading times. When my husband was going to college, there were a number of single students in dorms who were missing their families and were tired of the institutional food. They’d come to our house once a week for a “home-cooked meal” and then we’d all sit around together and read aloud–our six children under 8 years old, those college-age young people, and even some older folks who heard about it and started coming by. We read the entire Narnia series over one winter! It was good for our children who all became avid readers, it was good for the college students who at that point were feeling swamped by heavy-duty academic reading and now rediscovered the joys of fiction, and it was good for all of us as an “extended family” to spend such wonderful times together.
  • Set “quiet times” when everyone in the family (or other group) is required to sit quietly … without electronics. Provide a broad selection of interesting reading materials–including things like magazines, newspapers, graphic novels, comic books, non-fiction. Make personal reading a family/group activity. Non-readers will probably start with picture-based materials, but if they are interested in the topics, they’ll be drawn into reading, too.

Do you have tips or anecdotes related to encouraging non-readers to become avid readers? We’d love to have you share them in the comments! Thank you!

Check out all the posts in this series, “When Children–and Adults Too–Hate Reading”:

Model Reading and Read Aloud
Distractions and Health Issues
Negative Influences and Reading as a Chore
Poor Methods of Teaching Reading
Lack of Reading Materials and Negative Attitudes
Dyslexia and Other Learning Differences
Practical Tips to Encourage Reading

 

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All Kinds of Learning Activities

This is post #14 (the last one!) in the series “How to Be a Great Parent-Tutor.”

Do you wonder what kinds of creative learning activities you can do with your children? Here’s a list of all kinds of possibilities: general activities, math activities, reading activities and writing activities. Why not print them out, and keep them handy. Let your children help choose!

General activities: Brainstorm… mind map… drill… play games… debate… demonstrate… go on field trips… watch (or create) films/videos… listen to a guest speaker/expert… do worksheets/seatwork… discuss… ask each other questions and listen to each other’s answers, or find answers…. figure out new solutions to your problems… practice, practice, practice… role play… do special projects on topics you are interested in… compare and contrast… classify… compare the same topic in different subject areas… share personal experiences and knowledge… give directions… teach each other… collect data… reflect on your feelings… evaluate… share personal opinions… use computer-based activities… tape-record a presentation… use pictures and diagrams to show relationships between people/things… dramatise stories… listen to books-on-tape… list questions you’d like to research… quiz yourself… do research from magazines, books, reference books, internet, video, exploration, etc.… learn to take notes… make and use flash cards… use music and rhyme… think out loud… associate: link a series of ideas… make drawings to help remember ideas… create crafts… create a test… and take the test yourself, or test your family… keep a journal… do artwork… keep your eyes open to the world around you and ask yourself questions about it… interview… take part in community events, activities, and experiences… make a scrapbook… write down conversations or discussions you hear or take part in… observe people, things, events… do word-processing on a computer, or try using a typewriter if you have one… make checklists… list what you already know before starting to research a topic… keep a response log… work with other people: in pairs, in small groups, with older or younger people, with parents, with a teacher/tutor, with a mentor/expert… job-shadow someone… keep a learning log… make posters, bookmarks, mobiles, etc.… make outlines, webs, chains of events, scales, cycles…. compare coverage of an event by different sources: eye-witnesses, radio, TV, internet, written, etc.… attend the opening event of an art show or book reading, and meet the artist/writer… make a chart… play table games that test your knowledge of a subject… make up your own games… summarize… make a list of all the ways you use one subject in other subjects (eg. math in PE, writing, Science, etc.)… make up sentences or acronyms to remember a list… study with a buddy… take part in a debate… teach someone else something you have just learned… practice and give a speech…

Math activities: Use manipulatives… solve real-life math problems… find all the uses of math in a magazine… make a list of real-life uses of different kinds of math… learn to use an abacus… make your own dictionary of math words, with definitions, symbols, and examples… use pictures and symbols instead of numbers to solve math problems… learn to spell numbers… solve a math problem out loud by explaining it to someone instead of writing the solution… do math flashcards for two minutes every day, and graph how many you get right each time… make up your own math problems, write them down, and solve them… list math fact families… use counting blocks to explain a math problem to someone… play table games that use math… learn to use a simple calculator, then scientific calculators, and then graphing calculators… make up math games with coins, dominoes, cards, dice, and other objects… do real life math: shopping (compare prices), banking, building something, etc… use charts, tables or graphs to figure out math problems you come across in daily life… practice and memorise basic math facts with Mad Minutes, flash cards, computer games, Math-It, etc.… practice skip-counting backwards and forwards… teach math to someone else in your family… rewrite math problems in your own words before solving… ask an older sibling or adult (grandparent, friend, etc.) to help you with your math… play “grocery store” with food boxes and monopoly money… take part in a times-tables (or other math facts) bee…

Reading activities: Make vocabulary lists… use a dictionary….. highlight key points… list main points in order… create questions and answers about what you’ve read… write major points in your own words… use SQ3R: survey, question, read, recite, review… create your own study guide… retell the story… read extra books and articles on the topic… predict, read, verify… do reader’s theatre… use a wide variety of reading materials: advertisements… magazine articles… biographies… maps… brochures… narrative texts… directions… newspapers… directories… novels… editorials… periodicals… expository text… descriptive text… poetry… instructions… board games… short plays… stories… task cards… charts… graphs… computer games… stories on computer… internet material… listen to read-aloud… read-aloud to others… read-aloud onto a tape or video… echo-read… read in unison… take turns reading… read with a buddy, friend, grandparent, etc.… read different kinds of books on the same topic: fiction… primary source… picture book… secondary source… textbook… biography… non-fiction… historical fiction… etc.… list the elements of a story: setting, characters, problem, solution, ending discuss the pictures in a book… make up a new beginning, or ending, or middle to the story… predict the story before reading by telling the story in your own words, based on the pictures… make up a new story after reading the book, based on the pictures in the book… read publicly after practising, using your voice to make the story interesting… listen to a good storyteller… participate in story-telling activities… keep a reading record… work with someone to create an oral story together… read a story silently, then aloud… after reading a story, re-invent it by changing characters, setting, time, words, etc.… read the same story or article in 3 ways: literal (on the page), inferential (between the lines), for comprehension (in your head; thinking about it) compare the information you have read with your own knowledge and experience… form a book club with friends… ask questions, then look for answers as you read… read a play and act it out with your family and friends…

Writing activities: Play table games that use writing or spelling… edit and proofread… take dictation… copy good writing… create inventories… make your own book… create riddles… use photos, postcards, writing, etc to describe a personal experience in a scrapbook… imagine and write down an experience based on pictures, something you’ve read, etc.… create words from word families… graph your spelling scores… write about what you read… dictate stories and events… create a crossword of spelling words or subject words… use your spelling list to make up a crazy story… write instructions (how-to’s)… use good writing as a pattern to create your own writing… create a greeting card… choose a category and write as many words as you can think of… create a spelling game… choose a topic and write about it in a variety of ways: lists, prose, poetry, drama… write an advertisement. rewrite in your own words a story you have read… write answers you find to questions you’ve asked… write sentences with alliteration… write a story and illustrate it, or illustrate a story you have read… share your writing with a friend, and edit each other’s work… imitate the style of an author you admire.. write 3 pieces on one topic, using different genres, such as research report, short story, chart… write about all subject areas… practice spelling days, months, subject names, etc.… choose a word and write as many synonyms and antonyms as possible; use a thesaurus for more ideas… choose a word; using only the letters in the word, write as many other words as you can… practice spelling the 100 high-frequency words… find out the etymology of words, using a dictionary… write sentences using Alphabets cereal, magnetic letters, words/letters cut from magazines, etc… write on a chalkboard, whiteboard, or even use chalk to write on a sidewalk (get permission!)… make your own spelling book with interesting words, definitions, and a picture/symbol for each word… take part in a spelling bee… practice handwriting by copying from a sample of a script.

What other writing activities do you and your children enjoy doing? Please feel free to add them in the comments. Thank you.

Here are links to the other posts in this series:

  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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Costs of Tutors and Alternatives

This is post #13 in the series “How to Be a Great Parent-Tutor.”

When children (or adults) needs tutoring, cost can be a big factor in whether or not they are able to access the needed help. In this series we’ve talked a lot about how parents can themselves often provide the tutoring their child needs–but we’ve also recognised that there are times when more help is needed. Does that help always need to be expensive? Are there alternatives? Let’s find out!

Why are qualified tutors so often expensive?

  • Expertise:  A qualified tutor can likely provide as much or more help in a couple sessions, as a less qualified tutor might provide in several sessions.  The tutor will know of special ways to help out with special needs of an individual student.
  • Planning, follow-up, and more:  Beyond the tutoring session time, a qualified tutor also plans for the special, individualised needs of the particular student, does extra research, finds or creates individualised tutoring materials, and works with other members of the student’s learning team.  The tutor spends time reflecting on the session, plans for future lessons, and reports to the parent (and the school, if requested) on the child’s progress.  You may, in fact, be paying for up to 2 or 3 hours of the tutor’s time with your one-hour fee!
  • On-on-one learning: In an average classroom, with so many students, duties, and interruptions, there may be only a few minutes of really fruitful learning time, shared by the students together. A tutor, on the other hand, works intensively, focused one-on-one with a student and his or her particular needs.  In an hour of tutoring, a child may learn as much or more than in a full day or even a week or so at school.
  • Tutoring for homeschoolers: In the home-school situation, an hour with a tutor once or twice a week could make a tremendous difference to a child who needs extra help, not to mention that the parent can use that time to focus on one or more of the other children in the family – and/or the parent might decide to get some personal tutoring in order to more effectively teach the children.
  • Analysing and dealing with learning gaps: Qualified tutors are able to analyse and then help a student fill in learning gaps, or help the child understand a concept with which they have been having difficulty. By waiting, the problem could soon “snowball,” and the problem become much more complex, take longer to solve – and cost much more than if a qualified tutor had been engaged to help the student with the difficulty while it was still reasonably simple to solve.
  • Resources, location, and other overhead costs: Tutors usually provide more than just time with the student. They often have gathered many resources (and will gather more specific resources for a particular student’s needs) as well as providing a suitable learning environment–or will travel to the student’s home, which includes time and travel costs.

If you really cannot afford a qualified tutor, what are some possible options? First I will list some options you can discuss with a tutor, and then I will list other possible options to obtain free or low-cost help.

  • Payment options with a tutor: While not every tutor will offer options, it doesn’t hurt to ask–and to shop around to find a tutor who is able to work with your needs.
    • Pay after each lesson or group of lessons, rather than paying for several lessons in advance.
    • Arrange to be able to pay on your paydays.
    • Ask if the tutor is willing to provide small group lessons with a reduced per-student rate (for example, a tutor might charge $30 per hour for one student, $40 per hour for two students [$20/hr each], and so on).
    • Costs may be negotiable depending upon the amount of work the tutor is expected to provide. If a student is only getting homework help and brings her textbook and notebook, the cost could be less than when the tutor has to plan the lesson, provide the materials and send a report to the school.
    • Barter skills/services or products (for example, I’ve been known to barter tutoring for hairdressing services and barter for meat from a cattle farmer).
    • Reduced session rates for longer-term contracts (eg. The normal rate might be $40 per session, but if the parents agree to tutoring for a minimum of 6 months, the rate might be decreased to $30 per session).
    • Scholarships/bursaries provided by the tutor. Tutors are sympathetic to families in times of unusual financial need and may consider a decreased rate or even some free sessions for a period of time.
    • Government funding may be available for students with certain special needs. Also, some independent schools will provide some assisted funding for students with special needs.
    • Arrange for individual lessons on specific topics when required, rather than a long-term contract. Realise, though, that a tutor often has a guaranteed schedule for long-term students, and you may need to fit into the time-slots the tutor still has available.
  • Other options:
    • Ask for a referral to another lower-cost tutor.
    • Hire a more advanced student, or see if your babysitter has the needed skills and would be willing to tutor for a small extra fee.
    • Check around to see if grandparents or other family or friends would be willing to help.
    • See if the school offers before or after school, or lunch time, free tutoring by teachers or peer-tutors.
    • Check out homework assistance programs offered by community organisations (community centres, churches, homeschool support groups)
    • Check out computer-based learning programs (often free online, or borrow from school or public libraries–but always check out reviews of the computer programs before choosing).
    • Consider getting together with several other parents you know, find out each one’s skills, and then have a neighbourhood “homework night” each week, in which you all help each other’s children – and each other.
    • Do the child’s needs require a highly qualified tutor or could a high school student or even a peer who is doing well, help at a lower cost or for free?
    • Could you take a couple tutoring sessions (or an online course) yourself to upgrade/review, and then tutor your child yourself over an extended time period?
    • Could you use free or low-cost online courses with your child?
    • Talk to the school: Have you had a serious talk with your child’s teacher and other staff?  Try to work with the school to develop long-term plans and solutions, including resources the school and/or related agencies can provide, and find out how you can best help (Analyse what you can do and offer to do it. Be a proactive and involved member of your child’s learning team). If your child has diagnosed special needs, be sure to attend IEP meetings, and ask for clear explanations of anything you do not understand about the diagnosis reports. Ask for suggestions on how to help your child at home.
    • Homeschooling? Need guidance? Some jurisdictions or homeschool formats require parents to provide reports, portfolios and other proof of a child’s learning. A tutor can help homeschool parents ensure they understand homeschool options, fulfil requirements, or choose suitable curriculum, resources, and teaching approaches. Such assistance can actually save time and costs in the long run, including tutoring costs.
    • Other resources: A tutor can often suggest other outside help parents may need for a particular child, or useful learning opportunities in the community or online (for parents, or the child, or both) which the parents may not be aware of.

I hope this information has been helpful. If you have any thoughts or ideas related to tutoring costs, please share them in the comments, or you can contact me personally. 

Here are the other topics in the “How to Be a Great Parent-Tutor” series:

  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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When to Consider Hiring a Tutor

This is post #12 in the series “How to Be a Great Parent-Tutor.”

When should you consider hiring a tutor? While parents can usually be wonderful tutors (and/or homeschool teachers) for their children, sometimes a professional tutor may be able to provide extra help. This post will guide you in considering whether or not you may need to hire a tutor for your child.

Consider the purpose for tutoring: Specific subject? Exam prep? Adjusting to a new situation? Retaining learning during vacation periods? Help with a difficult concept? Study skills? Organizational skills? Background knowledge? More challenge? Motivation? Interests beyond/outside the school curriculum? Other?

Consider your child’s problems and symptoms: Confused with homework assignments? Classroom work not being completed at school? Comes home unhappy every day? Anxious, withdrawn? Fear of failure? Other?

What are your goals and your child’s goals? Excel in a subject? Learn enough to pass? Improve grades enough to take a desired advanced course or attend a post-secondary program? Be able to pass an upcoming exam? Do your goals take into account the needs and abilities of your child? Are the goals reasonable and achievable? Does the child need some help with “basics” first? Are there learning methods that would be most suitable for your child to reach the goals? Do you feel the child is being presented by unreasonable expectations and/or pressures by teachers, friends, or others–or even the child him/herself? (If so, what can be done about it?) Does the child understand and accept the goals?

Learning problems–or something else going on? Social issues? Family issues? Personality conflicts? Health issues? Special needs? Physical issues? Mental health issues? Does your child have issues that need to be addressed by a medical or other professional? Other?

Best learning atmosphere for your child: One-on-one or in a group? Lively or quiet? Structured teaching or freer facilitation of learning? Other?

Learning approaches and styles: A tutor can help a parent with information on various methods suited to an individual child.

What other resources are available? Can the school offer other resources? Community resources? A family member such as a grandparent, or a friend who the child admires? A professional tutor? Online learning courses and games? A parent’s own skills and interests? Other?

Parent skills: Do you as the parent feel you lack skills in a subject area? Can you learn the skill yourself (eg. online or from the child’s teacher or from a tutor) and then help your child, or is a tutor required for the child?

Do you wonder if you as a parent are qualified? Check off the skills and talents you have–you’ll be surprised how qualified you really are! Adaptability, Assessment, Confidentiality, Commitment, Creativity, Empathy, Enthusiasm, Emergency Preparedness, Fairness, Flexibility, Friendliness, Honesty, Humour, Knowledge, Learning Centered, Legalities, Organization, Patience, Professionalism, Respectfulness, Sensitivity, Social Awareness, Written Contracts. (Learn more: A to Z Checklist of Tutor Characteristics). And think of and list other traits you’d like to see in a tutor–and then check off how many of them you already have or could quite easily learn and develop … and list the qualifications a professional tutor might have that you feel you don’t have.

Unexpected situations: Parental illness; job change; etc.; could a tutor step in until the parent can resume helping the child?

Time and scheduling: How much time do you have available as a parent tutor? Would it help to hire a tutor, and how does that fit your schedule? Does the child need extra help on a daily or weekly basis? Or just before exams? Or just for a particular project? Or? How much time each day is reasonable for your child’s age and abilities (frequent, short learning sessions are better than occasional long sessions)? Is the child being overloaded with sports, out-of-school lessons, travel time, etc.? What are priorities and what can be set aside? Does the child need more free play time or more rest? Is the teacher giving too much homework; talk it over and let the teacher know how much is suitable and what kind works best.

Know your child: A parent knows a child’s interests, learning styles, disappointments, motivations: Use that knowledge to make problem subject matter far more fun, interesting, and easier to learn. “Real life learning” and “personal passions” are far better “homework/tutoring” methods than worksheets! But sometimes children will work better with a tutor. If you decide that is the case, be sure to share with the tutor what you know about your child.

Motivation: What really makes your child interested in learning, and provides confidence and upbeat attitudes? Would encouraging personal interests lead to overall motivation to learn? Is your child under too much pressure? Would a tutor help?

Parent-child relationship issues: If a parent feels frustrated in their learning relationship with the child, a tutor could help the parent assess the situation, and offer suggestions, as well as take over temporarily till relational issues improve.

Have you decided hiring a tutor would be a good idea? Here are some things to think about as you look for a good tutor: Cost? Preferred days of week and times of day? Location (tutor’s office, library, your home)? One-on-one or small group sessions? Are you hiring a tutor because your child really needs one, or are you under pressure from other people? You will find detailed information on how to find and work with the best tutor for your child’s needs by reading other posts on this website. A full list of the posts can be found on the Tutoring Topics page.

And of course, if you’d be interested in checking out my tutoring services, I’d be delighted to speak with you. You can find out more about me on my Pen and Paper Mama Services page. And check out the photos at the top of this post: my tutoring office here in Penticton BC 🙂  You can contact me by email or phone me at 250-490-0336.

Here are the other topics in the “How to Be a Great Parent-Tutor” series:

  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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