How to choose the right tutor for your child

It’s a familiar scenario for parents: your child is struggling with a school subject, or you decide they need additional enrichment. Given your own busy schedule, you find that an outside tutor is your best option.

Once the decision to hire a tutor is made, you have to actually find one. If you’ve never gone through the process before, it can quickly become both overwhelming and confusing. There are so many considerations: What qualifications should you look for? What makes a good tutor? Will my child and the tutor get along? What if I make the wrong choice?

While it can seem like a huge burden at the onset, there are specific factors you can look for to make this process easy and the transition into tutoring smooth.

Evaluate the experience of potential tutors

Your tutor doesn’t have to be a former teacher, but he or she does need a good amount of experience working with students of different ages and learning styles. This could come in a variety of forms: tutoring experience, teaching experience, or volunteer experience.

When you first meet with your tutor, make sure they can tell you how they have effectively worked with students with different learning styles. For example, if your child learns kinesthetically (by doing), sitting at a table and drilling flash cards will not be an effective teaching method. Similarly, if your child learns best by listening, walking around and writing will not be effective. Make sure your tutor is a good match for your child’s unique learning style.

It’s also important to make sure the tutor can not just convey facts but also help your child build their critical thinking skills and higher order thinking. This can include creative projects that synthesize learned information, answering higher level thinking skills that ask for evaluation and evidence, or by offering an opinion backed up with facts. Not only do these methods make material more interesting for students, they increase valuable critical thinking skills that will be vital to their future in schooling.

Look for a breadth of knowledge

Not only should a qualified tutor have tutoring experience, but they should also have a wide range of experience, both with age range and with subject matter.

It’s important to find a tutor that can teach more than one grade, preferably a range of at least 3 grades. This vertical perspective can help the tutor understand where your child may be experiencing learning gaps while also having an understanding of where the curriculum (and the tutoring program) will go in the future.

Even if your child is struggling in just one subject, it’s helpful to find a tutor proficient in teaching in more than one area (in particular, both reading and math). An integrated approach to tutoring that incorporates multiple subjects simultaneously will help your child approach critical thinking from an interdisciplinary view.

Additionally, any technique a tutor uses should be research-based and backed by data that shows its effectiveness. Don’t be afraid to ask your tutor about the research behind their methods! Continue reading “How to choose the right tutor for your child”

How do you respond when your child asks: “Am I Stupid?”

Many parents and teachers dread their child asking this question, and it can be an intimidating one to answer. If disregarded, it can allow the child to internalize a negative self-belief. If approached with care and consideration, it can become a powerful, teachable moment and lead to valuable dialogue. As a result, the child can learn how to not only think of themselves in a more positive light, but also how to think critically about how they learn.

Here are a few talking points to facilitate this tough conversation:

Reflect on the power of perseverance

Author, professor, and researcher Carol Dweck often speaks of the “growth mindset.” In short, this refers to intelligence that expands (or grows) over time. Rather than looking at someone’s inherent ability to solve a problem, the growth mindset focuses on the effort put in.

When a child asks if they are stupid, remind them that no one is stupid, and everyone has room to grow if they take the time and put in the effort. It’s important to emphasize here that while your child might not know something, that doesn’t put it outside of their realm of possibility. It just means they don’t know it YET. This can teach them the power of persevering to learn a new skill.

Encourage your child to abandon the phrase “I can’t do this,” instead asking for help or finding areas to improve. Ask open-ended questions that allow them to explore the challenge in a new way, thinking about it critically.

Model how to manage frustration

Growth takes time and effort. As adults, we know this, but when a child is struggling to learn a new skill it can quickly become upsetting. Showing your child how to acknowledge and manage this frustration is key to facilitating growth and helping them feel capable.

Some helpful strategies include deep breathing, physical breaks, and brief distractions. Something as simple as going for a walk or singing a silly song can provide the mental break needed to lower frustration levels and work through challenging situations.

Modeling this for your child is also helpful. When you find yourself in frustrating situations, take the time to emulate these strategies. Then you can use yourself as an example when your child calls their intelligence into question, acknowledging that even you become frustrated and must take certain steps to alleviate the negative feelings.

Teach your child that “smart” looks different in different people

Every person learns differently, and taking the time to explain this to your child can help them grapple with their own doubts around their intelligence.

Emphasize with your child that everyone has that which comes naturally to them and that which they struggle with. Taking the problem and approaching it in a new way can open up new possibilities for understanding.

Additionally, “smart” doesn’t just mean getting perfect grades on math tests; it could mean being a skilled puzzle-solver, having a knack for building, or always being able to make your friends laugh. There are many paths to success and many ways to absorb and act upon new information.

Take the time to uncover your child’s learning style by taking our quiz. This will help you figure out how your child learns most naturally and will allow you to adjust course when needed.

Remind them that everyone is a learner

Along the same lines as multiple learning styles, the idea that everyone is a learner is something to share with your child as well. Children need to see that the adults in their lives make mistakes too, and this helps them understand that everyone is learning.

Model a growth mindset for your child: instead of saying “I’m bad at this,” say, “Wow! This is something I could really use more practice with.” Showing your own vulnerabilities can be difficult, but it helps your children to relate to the idea that everyone struggles with something and everyone can improve.

Many children wonder if they are stupid from time to time, but if your child chooses to ask you this loaded question, remind them of the power of perseverance! Tell them that everyone is a learner and that people are all strong and weak in different ways. These messages along with some strategies for managing frustration will result in meaningful conversations that can change children’s’ mindsets for years to come.

Free Online Video Training

In February 2017, I will be releasing a 3-part video training focusing on how parents can build critical thinking skills in children preschool through second grade.

The training will start with explaining the “what” and “why” of critical thinking including it’s potential for academic motivation in preschoolers, struggling students and gifted learners.

Then we’ll review assumptions that prevent parents from fostering (and children from gaining) “good thinking” experiences, and the impacts of these pitfalls on a child’s ability to build proficient reading skills and math number sense.

The last video will give you some quick & easy tips to implement into your already (time-strapped) busy schedule. If you are interested in this training, just click here to you’ll be signed up to be notified when the videos are ready.

 

Offscreen vs. Onscreen Learning

 

HOW TO BALANCE TECHNOLOGY & PLAY

Create a structure around both off and onscreen learning

The key factor isn’t the means through which your child is learning: it’s the structure around it. For example, giving your child free reign to do whatever he or she pleases on an iPad may be somewhat less effective than scheduling a block of time for them to engage in highly-acclaimed learning apps.

This holds true for offscreen play as well. You don’t need to dictate every activity your child engages in, but it’s good to be cognizant of how they spend the blocks of time where no screen is involved.

Remain a part of the process

Whether you’re helping your child build something from blocks or asking questions about the learning app they’re playing with, your participation matters.

While it can be tempting to let your child “figure it out on their own”, it’s important to remain invested in the process. Ask questions, show your interest, and let your child know that you want to be involved, regardless of what the activity may be. Continue reading “Offscreen vs. Onscreen Learning”

Smart Homework Tips.

Is your child failing their homework?

Three smart ways to help your child succeed on their homework.

Few students return from school at the end of the day full of excitement and eagerness about their homework. In my experience, even the most gifted students (sometimes especially gifted students) approach their homework assignments with a certain amount of anxiety, irritation, or distaste. After all, they just spent the whole day at school, why should they need to work more?

Motivating and helping your child succeed can be a daunting task, and no small number of fights have begun at the homework table. Rather than preparing for battle, I recommend taking the stress away from homework. As a parent, you fill the role of monitor and motivator. To do this successfully means implementing a few simple practices.

Blur the lines between learning and playing

So often young learners are restricted from “play time” until they successfully complete their homework. Essentially, they are told they are not allowed to have fun until they finish learning. It’s no wonder so many students are resistant!

Instead of holding fun over your child’s head as a motivator, reinforce the idea that learning is fun. Not only that, but it’s a part of everyday experiences. While homework may be a more formal version of learning, each game they play, every curiosity they satisfy, also teaches them.

Remind your child of this by integrating fun, learning activities into their routine and allowing homework to be a part of that.

Ask open-ended questions

It can be tempting to take on your child’s homework as your own burden, but it’s important to resist the urge. Instead of hovering over them, act as a facilitator. If they begin to struggle, ask open-ended questions that prompt them to think for themselves, instead of fishing for answers.

Questions such as, “How can you think about this in a different way?” or “What part of this problem is hard for you?” will teach your child to verbalize their difficulties while also approaching them from new angles. As an added bonus, when you monitor your child in this way you become less of a disciplinarian and more of a motivator. They can look to you for advice, but ultimately they are responsible for their own learning.

Incorporate breaks

Asking your child to do all of their homework at once may be hurting more than helping, especially if they’re bogged down by a huge amount. Instead, block off specific times for completing homework and encourage your child to take breaks frequently. Most young children have short attention spans, and when they become frustrated their ability to problem solve is greatly reduced.

Give your child 15 – 30 minutes to work on their homework in earnest, then break it up with an activity that requires some amount of movement or shift in thinking. Once they’ve had 10 – 20 minutes away from their assignment, encourage them to return to it. This will allow them to approach it with a fresh mind.

As your child gets older they may be able to work uninterrupted for longer periods of time. Be mindful of them as they work, and if they seem to be overly stressed or anxious, remind them to step back.

Are you creating a positive atmosphere around homework?

When you implement these tricks you allow your child to approach their homework with a more positive mindset. It becomes less of a battleground and more of a playground. While your child may never view homework as their favorite activity, they will slowly come to think of it as a part of their day-to-day routine.

Tips in Teaching How to Nurture Critical Thinking Skills at Home

 Critical thinking is now a catchphrase in learning. It applies even to preschoolers. Before, education was limited to conveying information. However, there has been a move recently toward mentoring critical thinking. This is the ability that promotes thinking further than learning and remembering. Critical thinking is more of reason and analysis. In other words, it is more of learning how to think.

Continue reading “Tips in Teaching How to Nurture Critical Thinking Skills at Home”