Local tutoring services offer enrichment, supplemental and assessment instruction
Summer may have just begun for most, but it’s never too early to add new tools to your arsenal so your child can succeed in learning.
Whether you’re a public/private schooling family, a homeschooling family, or hybrid of the two, there are local resources available for your student who may need supplemental or enrichment instruction outside the classroom.
Nancy Chappell, an instructor with Kumon Math and Reading of Springfield, says that beginning enrichment opportunities young can yield benefits for years to come.
“A strong foundation early on will allow a child to proceed with confidence when facing new academic and other challenges,” Chappell says.
Academic enrichment can be beneficial at any age and grade level, and local professionals agree that it’s better to be on the offense rather than the defense.
Kevin Baker with Club Z! In-home tutoring of Springfield, Mo., says that being “proactive is always better than reactive – and typically much cheaper!”
But that doesn’t mean every academic hurdle should result in a tutor, says Kristen Fisher, center director of Sylvan Learning in Springfield.
“Parents don’t want to ‘jump the gun’ and immediately assume a child needs a tutor the moment the student has difficulty with a skill within a subject,” she says.
“However, waiting until the child’s test scores come back to confirm he/she is a grade level behind isn’t when they should contact a tutor, either.”
Fisher recommends an annual education exam to ensure children are on track educationally. Then, parents can decide if enrichment or supplemental instruction should be the next course of action.
Waiting until “crisis mode”, Baker says, often means wider gaps from where the student actually is to where the student should be. Consequently, more time, effort and money are then needed to help the student reach his/her goals.
Waiting until crisis mode can also inspire feelings of isolation in the student.
“Students who don’t ask for help will continue to be in the dark about the subject matter they are struggling with, thus creating a deep well of unknown, confusing subject matter that builds on itself. That well is very, very difficult to climb out of,” Fisher says.
Or, worse, the student could see tutoring as a punishment for falling behind.
Fisher recommends rewarding tutoring sessions so students can see it as a positive event rather than a negative.
“Reward them for attending without becoming angry each time it is a tutoring day. The rewards don’t have to be anything fancy. They can simply be an extra 30 minutes before bed or a trip to the local bakery/ice cream shop for a cupcake/ice cream cone. Or even: The parents do their chores.
“Let the student set the reward–within reason–as this places the ownership of the responsibility to earn said award on the student,” she says.
This anxiety from scholarly struggles can also lead to feelings of embarrassment, in both parents and students, though local tutors and center directors are quick to assure that while many do feel this way, they should turn the situation into a positive one.
Fisher warns that “children are very adapt at reading body language,” so if a parent is embarrassed or anxious, the student will know and could adopt the same apprehension.
While the subject can be a “touchy” one, she says, she recommends parents be proactive as possible and “encourage, reward and praise daily.”
All professionals agree that students should see the special, undivided attention as an opportunity.
“A student should be excited, not embarrassed, to know that they have a personal coach helping them with a skill!” Baker says. “Why do professional athletes need personal coaches? To get better! We all need assistance occasionally to get better or to hone a skill.”
While the majority of the business comes from students seeking supplemental instruction, each tutoring service also provides enrichment opportunities for traditional and homeschooling students.
Once a child is caught up to his/her grade level or wants to build on current academic successes, Chappell says, “There is no substitute for practice in developing mastery of those skills.”
“We have straight A students that come to us to just get better and to deepen their learning,” Baker says.
Fisher says some of Sylvan’s students come in just for study skills help in a quiet environment with an on-task partner.
Homeschooling families, Fisher says, often use Sylvan for assessment purposes since standardized testing isn’t offered at home as it is with public schools, though some also enroll in SAT/ACT preparation programs.
Looking for a tutor?
Whether you’re looking for supplemental or enrichment instruction, it’s important to find the right tutoring center or service for your family. Here’s some advice from our local professionals:
From Kristen Fisher, center director at Sylvan Learning Center:
Give the student the opportunity to meet the tutor. Make the process about the student. When I meet with my families to discuss the assessment results, I highly recommend to my parents that they bring their student–no matter the age–with them for the conference. This process should be about the student. I want to hear the concerns of the parent, but more importantly, I want to hear the needs of the student. The more they are involved in the decision to obtain a tutor, the more they are likely to be engaged and motivated. Listen to your child. All children need to learn to make decisions for themselves. Giving them the opportunity to recognize what educational needs they have, will benefit you as a parent emotionally and financially.
Sylvan Learning Center
1830 E. Independence Ave., Springfield, 882-0740
From Kevin Baker, owner of Club Z! In-home tutoring of Springfield, Mo.:
Always ask for references, or at least look for reviews on the company website. Are they reputable? Always ask if background checks have been completed, and when? Ask if they (the tutors) are willing to communicate with the school on your behalf, and do they have the legal documents to sign to allow this communication? Is the business a member of any local community outlets that help hold them accountable, such as BBB, Chamber of Commerce, etc.? What will tutoring look like? What tools will they use? The most important question a parent can ask (short of the background check): Can I communicate directly with the tutor following our session so we can discuss progress?
Club Z! In-home tutoring
903 Denali Dr., Nixa, 714-4880
From Nancy Chappell, instructor at Kumon Math and Reading:
Your student can succeed. However, there is no short cut around long-term practice to build skills. The earlier and longer that practice takes place, the better off a student will be as he or she moves through their academic life. Parents should think about what their goals are for their children in the long run and how making academics a priority on a daily basis fits in with those goals and their current schedule. Parents should also be prepared to share any relevant information on specific issues the child might be having in school.
Kumon of Springfield
4127 S. Kansas Expy. #112, Springfield, 881-3800