As we all prepare for summer, I’d like to reflect on some things I’ve learned from my first full year (I started in summer) of tutoring.
It seems these days as if everyone is so busy running from one activity to the next that sometimes we forget the value of down time. Children, particularly small ones but older ones too, need down time. Childhood is short. It doesn’t need to be cram-packed.
Over the years I have noticed that the children I’ve known who grow up to be the most well-rounded, hard-working, and yes happiest adults are those who had the least in childhood. They’re the ones who went to work while still in high school; who rode the school bus to school and didn’t have cars until they earned them; who learned how to play with toys they made themselves or with an inexpensive one, like a ball, when they were little. Who didn’t have televisions or game systems in their rooms. Who didn’t own cell phones as teenagers. Who had to, of necessity, take responsibilities in their households.
As I’ve started this new endeavor I’ve encountered families from all walks of life. The children who respond best to tutoring seem to be those whose parents have high expectations, even when they are small, and who limit activities for their children and allow them to make their own fun.
So, a few tips to better prepare your child over the summer for the next school year.
- If you are choosing tutoring, take the time to explain to your child why. Be honest. If your child has an exceptionality, talk with him about it. If he has an IEP and is receiving services, discuss with him that this is necessary now because we all have strengths and weaknesses, and some weaknesses can be met with special needs services such as speech, occupational therapy, and specially trained teachers. Don’t try to shield him from these concepts. Discuss these things with your child and talk about tutoring as a way to make the coming school year easier.
- Find out what your child wants from tutoring, but explain that although she may have a choice of activities, the tutor is the boss. Tutoring is learning time, and the tutor is the expert in education.
- Remember that your tutor is not there to correct your child’s behavior; that’s your job. The tutor is working with your child in academics.
- Try to limit your child’s activities over the summer. Encourage a little sleeping in, some laying around in pajamas, reading books, drawing, building things, and leaving the technology off.
- If your child has trouble with attention span on tasks, think about working, over the summer, on extending attention by getting your child more engaged in singular tasks. Try to stay away from immediately rewarding activities like video and computer games, television, and, particularly technology in the car or in restaurants. Make him work a little for enjoyment. Do puzzles, and games which require a bit of attention and sustained effort. When you eat out, talk with your child or draw on the back of a placemat. Keep your cell phone out of sight and model engagement with and attention to your surroundings. Converse, and practice appropriate conversational skills like volume control, turn taking, and staying on topic.
- Although everybody likes to take a trip now and then, don’t deluge your child with the beach, the springs, theme parks, vacations. In other words, don’t spoil her! If you want your child to be able to pay attention and complete tasks at school, don’t go from thing to thing at home! Children benefit from being told “no” and having limits and expectations. This helps them to develop the necessary skills of patience and problem-solving, and teaches them that they are not the center of the Universe.
- Read to your child. Even if you are working with your tutor on reading skills, take the upper hand and (even if they want to be the reader) have them practice just listening to stories. Don’t quiz for comprehension. Relax and enjoy reading with your child.
- If you want your children to develop into good students, let them see you studying! Subscribe to a newspaper, and read it in front of your child. Let them see you curled up with a good book. Work challenging puzzles, like crossword puzzles. Beware of pushing, and let them see these activities as part of the natural slow-down of summer. You’re their role model; if you are constantly jumping from thing to thing, always on your cell or I-pad, you can expect a child who can’t sit still or keep themselves occupied while their teacher’s attention is elsewhere.
- Be cautious of offering bribes or rewards for tutoring. If you have to reward the child every time for doing their job, which is the work presented at tutoring, this can lead to very short attention to task during the school year. Your tutor can help you with this, and she may use a small reward system, herself. Learning needs to be intrinsically rewarding or it can quickly become prompt and reward dependent, and miserable.
- Give your children jobs around the house which are age appropriate. Never use response cost systems, which lead to a lack of trust. Have the expectation that they will do their task not for reward but because they are a member of a team, the family, and everybody on the team contributes.