These days, I am talking with many mothers and fathers who are working hard at parenting their school-aged children and I am always amazed with all that they pack into a day, a week, a year– there is so much to do when it comes to supervising and staying current with your school-aged child.
Take Marge*, a stay-at-home mom of soon to be three children. Marge gets up each day at 6am. She walks on her treadmill for 20 minutes, takes her shower, gets ready to go and runs upstairs, usually to find her two children already awake sitting in her living room. She ushers them to the breakfast table, feeds them breakfast, packs their lunch, ensures they are dressed, have teeth brushed and bags packed. They are out the door and off to school by 7:30am.
After drop off, Marge spends some time volunteering in the PTA office before she heads home to handle the paperwork for her family’s health care, do some laundry, go to a doctor appointment, prepare dinner and clean her own room before heading back out to the get the children from school.
After school, Marge travels to soccer practice and ballet class before she heads home to ensure that everyone does homework, which is now 20 minutes per class (so about an hour and a half for her 4th and 5th graders). There were once gripes about doing homework almost daily and Marge realized that she really did not know how to help her kids with anything that they were learning in school. On our call, she tells me, “I have no clue what they are doing [in school] anymore. If they have a question I have to send them to school with it, but their teacher has 30 kids in the room, so I can not always be sure that the questions are getting addressed. My oldest won’t go to school with questions anymore. He is embarrassed and does not want his friends to know he has a question. It is really hard on him to not be 100% with his work. ”
“This is where Judy has come in,” says Marge. “For us, Judy is a saint, a blessing. She comes in 2x a week for an hour and just checks in with both of my children and ensures that they are following their afternoon homework/study routine and that they are are understanding all that they are learning. She set up their routine with them and now they have a great framework for how to do their homework and study. She helps them to learn to learn–if they have questions, she often asks them to look at their notes or in their books. She even helps them to search online for more information about what they are learning. Judy is also a writing teacher and she has also given both kids some more structure to their writing and review of important writing skills.”
It is clear to me and to Marge that Judy has made a big difference in the lives of these children. Judy seems wonderful. Marge is moving to NYC in a month and her children will be attending a new school. She called EEC to get set up with a tutor before they made the move, because as she said, “tutors are a blessing and please, I would love one of yours.”
Marge said it was ok for me to write about her using a different name–I told her that I was just starting on my next blog when we first spoke. I wanted to write about tutors and Marge happened to give me a great lead into my message–that whole child tutors can mean so much to a child and a family. Here are five specific ways that a great tutor, who is also a whole chid teacher or a specialist, can become a blessing to your child or family:
1) They are an authority that your child can understand.
Teachers who tutor can typically come into the home and say to a child, “You must follow the directions carefully and write neatly,” and the child will respond. The parent may have said this same thing 20 times, to no avail, but because the message comes from a teacher–someone who has the authority on homework and school work–the child will likely not question this type of request.
2) They give structure to a sometimes unstructured situation.
There is not a manual for how to structure your time at home with your children. Every family will do this very differently. I have been in and out of so many homes over the course of my career and I can say that no two homes are exactly alike. A good, whole child tutor can find a way to structure your child’s homework time in a way that works for your child and your home.
3) They ensure that questions are answered and review/study happens.
Great tutors are great teachers or specialists. They know how to help a child to learn what they don’t know. This does not mean that they will do the work for them or help them along. These practices give tutoring a bad reputation and are never good for the child. Great tutors construct learning opportunities and help students to develop and practice organized, active study practices. They, when possible, speak to teachers in your child’s classroom to create the home-school connection. Otherwise, they will look through notes and homework assignments to do their best to seam the practices at school to home. Great tutors are teachers-and so they can find ways to instruct and provide your child with meaningful learning experiences. It is not for the test we learn, but for a life full of learning.–Mary Miele
4) They connect and attend to your child for an intense hour or two a week.
What a powerful experience for any child-to sit with a smart, enthusiastic teacher for an hour or two or more a week! To have an adult spend that time with your child–thinking about, discovering, engaging with your child–it is a very powerful experience. Here at EEC we employ a whole child paradigm of tutoring–so all of our tutors work on areas of challenge, while noticing and developing all aspects of a child. Children who have adults who are invested in their overall growth and well-being are certainly going to have more opportunity in their lives.
5) They become your child’s advocate.
Tutors, by their very nature, are working for the good of one child. They can point out areas of concern that may have gone unnoticed in the classroom or areas of strength that need to be nourished. They can look out for the overall well-being of a child and his or her overall role as student. The lessons that a parent can learn from someone who works in this way are bountiful. I recall working with a student years ago who was struggling to get through homework each week. I remember I told her mother that I felt the best thing for her, after a hard long week of work, was to take Fridays off and go have some fun with her parents for the evening. The mother took my advice whenever she could and years later I ran into her on the street. She told me how much those nights out meant to her, although she didn’t realize how helpful they were at the time. Her daughter, her husband and she had a wonderful time on those Fridays together and she shared, years later, that she was thankful to be able to look back at that time and not just remember the hard work it took for her daughter to get through school.
The message is clear–tutors, who are great teachers, and who view the child as a whole–are blessings to our children and families. When we find someone to connect and care and teach our child, a be partner in the education of our child, we should take a moment to realize the blessing that we have found, for we know the gift this person is to our child.
*name has been changed for this blog