May 14, 2013

How to talk to your child about summer tutoring

This is the time of year when many teachers may request a special parent conference or send a special email, the upshot of which is sometimes that a student will need extra help (over the summer and beyond) in order to meet the expectations of the next school year. First of all, don’t panic! Your child’s teacher has spent an entire year working with your child and has a very clear idea of what is going to be asked of her in the year to come. The teacher has seen many students helped by tutoring and if the recommendation has been made, trust that it has been made thoughtfully and with no other agenda than wanting to make sure that your child has the best chance at success in the classroom and beyond. But even though you may be in full agreement with the recommendation for additional help, “selling” this to your child may present a challenge, so here are some helpful tips to facilitate this conversation (or multiple conversations) with your child and help guarantee that s/he will approach tutoring with a positive and productive attitude. Let’s look at some potential statements your child may make in response to being told she needs a tutor and how you can best respond.

If I need a tutor, I must be dumb. 

Students need tutoring for a variety of reasons, and your child probably already has a pretty good idea of where his strengths lie and what areas still need work. Often a student will need help in just one academic area (math, reading or writing are the most frequent subject-specific areas of tutoring), but even more students just need some assistance in getting organized, improving their strategies for approaching their work, and elevating their confidence. At Engaging Minds, while we support specific subject matter as needed, most of our sessions are focused more on the process of learning as referenced above. Telling your child that even the brightest and most motivated students sometimes need a little extra help getting started or figuring out how to organize their (often excellent) ideas and work can go a long way towards reassuring him that he is not, in fact, dumb. Actually, he is smart for recognizing and acknowledging when he needs help. The work he’ll be doing this summer will help make him a more effective and efficient learner going forward.


But it’s SUMMER! I don’t want to have to do WORK! 

Of course, this mindset is easy to understand and to be sympathetic to; after all, your child has worked hard all school year and is probably anticipating three months off from any kind of academic work (though avoiding the dreaded “summer slide” is vitally important, and we will be doing an upcoming blog on just that topic). Letting your child know that you appreciate all the hard work she has put in is a good first response. Then explain to her that the time spent in tutoring over the summer (and even into the school year) is an investment that, in the long run, is going to make school easier, more productive and ultimately more satisfying for her. Yes, it might not be her first choice of how to spend her “days off” (or afternoons off during the year), but by making this commitment and applying herself wholeheartedly now, she is helping herself to be a more successful learner, in both the present and the future. Though she might not be able to see that right away, she will recognize the difference once she is back in the classroom (and fall is not as far off as she may think it is)…

I don’t have time to go to tutoring: I have basketball / theater / sleep-away camp! 

Reassure your child that her every waking moment of the summer is not going to be spent locked in a classroom doing worksheets. (A quick aside: at Engaging Minds, your child will never use worksheets!) She will still have time to do her activities, but getting additional assistance is a priority as well and with some flexibility and work on scheduling, it is possible to balance all of her interests with this new commitment (and this goes for school year tutoring as well). Often summer tutoring hours are more varied than during the school year (since teachers and tutors don’t have their usual daytime responsibilities), and tutors take into consideration the fact that this is traditionally “time off” and adjust the tone and content of their sessions to make it fun and help keep their students motivated,smiling and engaged!

Summer really is the ideal time to begin tutoring, especially if it is going to be continued into the school year. While your child may have other activities, he won’t have the immutable commitment to the hours spent in the classroom that takes up his day from September to June. At Engaging Minds, while we work primarily with our students’ own school work during the academic year, our focus on improving organization, strengthening skills and methods of approaching work, and working towards more independence can easily be translated to more personalized and, perhaps, more compelling material during the summer. Finally, when your child enters that new classroom in September, he has the opportunity to do so with a new found sense of confidence and determination based on the hard work and sacrifice he has made during his summer months. Nothing succeeds like success, and beginning the school year coming off of a high note of a summer helps assure your child that he is going in well armed to do just that – succeed.

For more information about summer offerings at Engaging Minds, please click here for grades K-2 and here for grades 2-12.