5 Key Attributes to Consider When Hiring a Tutor

This post is a follow-up of sorts to our last one!

If your child is having trouble with a particular subject or learning a particular concept in school, it's possible that a different learning approach will make a world of difference. Everyone learns in a different way, and by opting for a tutor, you can increase the chances of finding how your child learns best. If you decide to take the plunge and find a tutor for your child, here are five things you should keep in mind when making your decision. 

  1. Good Rapport: One of the single most overlooked aspects of hiring a great tutor is the rapport between your child and the tutor. An exceptional tutor for one child may be a complete failure for another. The reasons for this can be complicated, but often it stems from a difference in teaching/learning style and personality.
  2. Flexibility: A great tutor can modify his or her teaching style to match learning style of your child. This is easier said than done, and it often takes years of experience before a tutor or instructor can know when and how to switch approaches to achieve maximum success. Ask your prospective tutors how they would make sure your child learns difficult concepts easily and quickly.
  3. Look Beyond the Resume: A common trap that many parents fall into is to simply opt for the tutor with the best resume. A great resume should only be one part of your checklist when selecting the tutor. Look at their social skills, references, and experience in the particular subject. 
  4. Patience: There are some characteristics that a good tutor will always possess. At the top of the list is patience. Usually parents hire tutors to either give their child a boost in a given subject area or because their child is experiencing difficulty in a subject area. The last thing any parent wants is a tutor that expects a child to instantly learn the material. If there is a learning problem, such expectations will only make problems worse.  Finding a patient individual is vital when selecting a tutor.
  5. Listening Skills: A good tutor is also an expert listener; this is especially important for students who are having difficulty learning a particular subject. Oftentimes what is needed is for someone to help a child gain clarity and work through subject matter confusion. Effective tutors are ones that listen carefully and then create an individualized study plan based off of their observations.

Finding a tutor isn't easy. It's important that parents exercise patience during the process. Try not to jump for the first tutor you find, and instead, shop around and look for one that you believe will have a good relationship with your child based on his or her unique personality and learning style. 

What Should You Do if a School Isn’t Servicing Your Child’s Needs?

It's not uncommon for parents to feel as though a school system isn’t servicing the needs of their child. If you feel this way, one most important things you can do is to realize that you are not alone and then work towards fixing the problem!

Dealing with a school’s shortcoming can be a tricky proposition. Most parents are busy, and financial constraints may not allow parents to move a child into a private school. With that in mind, however, there are plenty of steps that parents can take to help their children excel when school systems fail. Many of these tools did not exist twenty years ago, but today, parents have more education augmentation options than ever before.

  1. Take a Proactive Approach: If you feel that a school isn’t helping your child reach his or her potential, then start looking outside of the school for resources. There are many online education options that are free and can provide endless learning opportunities. Even tools, such as YouTube and search engines, can help you bring more tools to your child. Of course, you should reach out in a calm manner to your child’s school as well. While it is key that you be proactive in your child’s education and adequately provide supplemental materials, it is also vital that you work with his or her teachers as well; they may have supplemental resources as well!
  2. Coordinate with Educational Professionals: Since your child’s teachers spend five days a week instructing your child, they will likely have some insight as to how to best help your child.  That being said, it is important to remember that teachers are generally overworked, and their pay does not reflect the tremendous effort the job requires. Being friendly and asking for their help rather than blaming the teacher is the smartest course of action. Even if you believe the teacher is to blame or partially to blame, pointing this out will not help your child or the situation. So, stay cool and focused and work with your child's teacher to get them where they need to be.
  3. Supplement with Tutors: Hiring tutors is an option if you feel as though your child needs direct one-on-one help. Tutoring services can be expensive, but with some research, you may be able to find cost effective options. For example, if you contact a local university’s education department, they may help you find an undergraduate or graduate student who is willing to help tutor your child just for job experience or a reasonable rate of pay.

The bottom line is that you shouldn’t give up. Instead, invest the time and effort into finding a way to help your child; ultimately, you are your child’s greatest source of assistance.

Games for Stimulating the Mind and Imagination

More than likely, you’ve met a child that barely acknowledges your existence due to their smartphone or tablet computer.  In recent years, parents have gravitated towards digital games and tablets, especially the iPad, to provide educational games for their children. However, many developmental experts feel that children are using these devices too much, and it could be interfering with normal development. Young children learn best and thrive when interacting with adults or other children. When children don’t receive this type of healthy stimulation, there are consequences in the form of learning problems. In this post, we'll take a look at some ideas for games to stimulate your child’s mind and imagination.

While there are many learning games available on tablets, smartphones, and computers, these rarely incorporate a high level of interactivity. Digital games are, by their nature, a solitary affair. Classic games, such as chess and the Chinese favorite Go, are great games for developing strategic thinking and working on problem solving. Playing against another person (in person) also helps children to develop their social skills.

Outside of games, it's also great to help develop your child’s imagination; the most important step you can take is to create situations where it comes into play, and you don’t need fancy or expensive games to make this happen. Often all a parent needs to do is introduce a situation such as, “What would we do if we were on another planet right now?” or “If we created our own car, what would it look like?” Asking children such questions can send their imaginations racing for hours. All you need to do is be supportive, provide pen, paper and some creative input of your own, and you're all set!

Every child is imaginative if given a chance and the right tools. Parents sometimes focus too much on providing the latest and greatest tools and games when they should be focusing on creating positive situations that foster learning. Almost any thing can be turned into a toy with some imagination.

How Much Digital Media is Too Much Digital Media?

The topic of how much digital media is too much digital media is a complicated one. It now almost seems quaint that parents were once worried about children watching too much television, as today the media options have skyrocketed. Today, children are using tablets, computers, smartphones, video game systems and other devices in greater and greater numbers. Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, Facebook - they are all growing exponentially. 

Children often spend a surprising amount of time with these devices. In fact, many health experts are now encouraging parents to limit or even eliminate digital media use entirely for children under the age of three. So, what is a parent to do?

An important fact to remember is that you are not harming your young child by keeping him or her away from digital media. There is no real “left-behind” where digital media is concerned for young children. That being said, digital media devices, such as tablets and smartphones, can be wonderful when used by older children and in a limited fashion for learning purposes. These devices should not be abused as digital babysitters. If you want your child to learn and develop social skills, don’t put all of your eggs in the digital media basket.

Still not sold on the idea of limiting the use of digital media devices with young children? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” [1]

The AAP goes on to state that the average child is spending seven hours a day using a mixture of different digital devices ranging from televisions to computers. They also note, rather importantly, that all kinds of messages are being sent to children during that time including violent content and loads of advertising.

As a limited and focused tool, digital media can be a great learning asset for children. However, multiple hours a day on a digital device is simply too much time for any child. As the AAP indicates, children learn best and thrive when spending time with adults. If you want the best learning outcomes for your children, then skip the digital machines and spend time with them in person.



The Best Ways to Encourage Your Child to Read

Encouraging your child to read more is one of the best steps any parent or caregiver can take. It is common to wonder what is the best way to help children improve their reading skills while simultaneously fostering a love of reading within the child. In this post, we will take a look at a few tips!

Tip One: Lead by Example
One of the best ways to encourage a child to read is for them to see you reading. Reading anything is a step in the right direction. The key is that your children see that you not only love books, but that you love information and actively seek it out. Furthermore, you should discuss the books that you are reading with them and what you like about each one. Children, especially young children, look to their parents for cues on how to navigate the world. If you want your children to love reading, you should show that you feel the same way! 

Tip Two: Reading Material Availability
It is difficult to overstate the importance of having books available for children to read. By having age appropriate books on hand, you are increasing the chances that your children will explore those books or eventually take interest in them.

Tip Three: Opt for Interesting Books
Not all children’s books are created equally. By investing time to research and find books that are visually interesting and engaging, you will increase the chances that your child will read more. If you have friends with young children, ask them what books were “hits.” Another possibility is to research books online. Check out the parent reviews of books your child may find interesting; this can be a fast and easy way to learn a great deal about which books work and which ones don’t.

Tip Four: Build on Existing Interest
All children are unique. Whatever your child is interested in - whether it's rabbits, rutabagas or race-cars - invest the time to find reading material on that topic. This is a very important step as it shows that you are listening to your child and taking his or her interests into consideration. If a book appeals to an existing interest, it is far more likely to be read again and again! 

Tip Five: Set Aside Time to Read Together
Young children love spending time with their parents. If you make reading together a regular activity, you will see results. It is important to be patient and consistent with your reading time. Reading books should be seen as a special and fun time. Studies show that when parents read to young children, it increases their literacy skills.[1]


By combining these five tips, you will achieve results! Remember that children progress at different rates and speeds. You may sometimes feel as though you are not making enough progress, but don't be discouraged - children pay closer attention than we often realize! 


[1] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080512191126.htm