Sylvia Martignani writes: Family Corner 4
Is Tutoring the answer?
Many people ask me if their child needs tutoring. They are concerned when they see grades starting to take a dangerous turn downwards. Parents are often worried that this will become a trend and want to do anything in their power to reverse it.
Truth is, not every child needs tutoring and only certain situations call for serious and immediate action. Also, tutoring can be a hefty investment and its benefits must be weighed carefully before proceeding.
Here are some key questions you need to ask yourself before considering tutoring for your child:
Are the lower grades a result of an external factor?
Sometimes if children move schools or classrooms, new teachers and new classmates can be an overwhelming experience. The teaching style may differ from your child’s learning style which will definitely affect their grades (more on this later). Major milestones at home like a sibling graduation, a grandparents’ passing and / or a recent job change for either parent can also inadvertently affect a child’s performance at school.
Is my child entering a new stage in their life?
Everything from hormonal changes to high-school can have a considerable effect on a child’s academic performance. Studies show that marks naturally decrease in between certain grades. Children moving from Kindergarten to grade 1 are often overwhelmed with the new environment. Teachers tend to not baby them as much and as a result they do a lot of growing up in the first three months. Grade 4 is the same story because students are often treated much differently the minute they turn 9 years old as if suddenly they should be invariably different and grown-up. Grade 7 and 8 is the most notable of course because of the drastic changes that result from pre-puberty. Children at this age are evolving into young adults and often deal with peer pressure and the emergence of a unique identity and sense of self. Grade 9 is also a very difficult year resulting in lowered grades due to the new environment and complicated, carousel of a schedule and variety of teachers. Finally, grade 12 is a challenge because students are now expected to perform for their post-secondary future and they often deal with parental pressures, part-time jobs and the emotional roller-coaster of merely being 17 years old.
Is my child struggling in one subject or across the board?
Some students will struggle with one subject like Math because there are foundational gaps. Subjects like Math and Science are often cumulative. For example, if you children do not grasp the concept of fractions then they will be unable to process the idea of part and whole numbers, decimals, ratios, rates, percentages, measurements, time and many other mathematical concepts that make up Algebra, Geometry and Data Management and Probability. Sometimes, parents start seeing a general decrease in grades throughout the entire report card. In this case, your child needs tutoring because the problem is Language. If children have foundational gaps in either primary French or English (main language of their school) then they will experience challenges in all the grades because language is interweaved into every subject. If your child is having difficulty with reading comprehension or written expression, ensure that you get help right away. Do not wait until the problem gets too severe because the further they fall behind in language skills, the longer it takes to rectify the issues.
Do I know my child’s learning style?
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to assess your child’s learning style. It is an instrumental piece of information that can make all the difference in your child’s academic future. You can take a fun, preliminary quiz at http://www.edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-learning-styles-quiz or you can pay professionals like Oxford Learning Centre (call 416.502.9628 sorry, can’t resist the plug here for my business, ha ha). Understanding your child’s learning style often sheds so much light on why a child is struggling or why they do well in certain situations and under particular circumstances. Educate yourself on the theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner. Teachers in school study this theory among others and majority of educators need to accommodate the visual and auditory learners in their classroom. By the time students reach high-school, they will have teachers who lecture (auditory style) and teachers who will just assign readings or write notes and notes and more notes on the board (visual style). Educating yourself and your child about their learning style will empower them to attain and exercise life-long coping skills that will give them the advantage they need to improve and propel their academic performance.
Is my child involved in too many activities after-school? Is my child not involved in enough activities after school?
It is a fact that students need extra-curricular activities to ensure holistic development. If a child is stimulated with activities that they enjoy after-school then they will definitely achieve higher grades. However, some parents get carried away and enrol their kids in too many activities after-school. Swimming, music lessons, hockey, art, heritage language, martial arts as well as drama. You need to sit with your child and ask them what they love doing the MOST and go from there. Choose one artistic activity and one physical activity where your child is experiencing the most success then stick with that. Better to encourage them to be extremely good at one activity than moderately ok at everything. On the other end of the spectrum, if children are not involved in anything after school, this will affect their self-esteem and they will not perform optimally in school.
Does my child have a notable learning difference?
I will leave the discussion of Learning Disabilities to another article all on its own. However, I will comment on this: anytime a child needs more/less work and learns in a different way than other children, then this is called a learning difference. This term applies to children who are behind at school due to autism, ADD/ADHD, CAP as well genius giftedness alike. Whether your child is extremely slow paced in learning or fast paced, this poses a serious problem to teachers in the classroom that are educating the masses which are often the status quo. My advice- always educate yourself about all the different conditions and learning differences. Early detection is vital in preventing the learning difference from turning into a learning disability. With effective coping methods and timely intervention, children can fall into pace with their peers and exceed academic expectations. Gifted kids become bored which evolves and manifests itself into serious behavioural problems. In either case, your child needs tutoring.
These are just a few points to ponder before you sign up. I will mention this as well because I consider it my obligation to tell you- research, research, research before you take your child to a tutoring centre. Tutors at home are good at helping with homework but they are often limited in providing curriculum or customized programs to improve reasoning and comprehension. Certain learning centres are very regimented, which we call “kill and drill”. Be weary of the centres that only charge $20 or less per hour. You will end up doing most of the work yourself and you will waste your money. Good tutoring is more expensive but then again you will be able to hold them accountable and question their quality because honestly, you get what you pay for. Paying more money upfront to effectively improve academic performance is better than spending money on several ineffective and cheaper options that will take longer and may not achieve the desired results. This is my personal warning to you because I am a parent too.
Finally, if you need my specific advice on whether your child needs tutoring, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.