How Often Does My Child Need Tutoring Sessions?

I speak with parents every day about their children’s tutoring needs and I’d have to say one of the most common questions I hear is, “How often will my child need tutoring sessions?”  As any parent prepares to decide how to best support their child academically outside of the classroom, this is certainly a question that comes to mind.   While each student is different and some will require intensive support, for most students, it makes sense to meet with a tutor or coach twice per week.   “Why twice?” you may ask. “Wouldn’t once be enough?”  For some students in need of only light support, once may be enough.  But for the vast majority of students, meeting with a tutor twice per week is going to lead to quicker, longer-lasting results.  Research continues to show that students do best when they are engaged in tutoring services on a regular and consistent basis.  For most students, twice a week provides this support without feeling overwhelming.

Research on the Effects of Tutoring

A recent article in the New York Times touted the importance of this regular support in helping students achieve long term academic success.  In his article titled ‘Intensive Small-Group Tutoring and Counseling Helps Struggling Students’, which was published in the January 26, 2014 edition of the New York Times, Motoko Rich sites a study conducted by the University of Chicago Urban Education Lab which proved that ninth and tenth graders with weak math skills learned three years’ worth of math in an 8 month period when provided with an intensive tutoring program. Standardized test scores were used to measure these gains as compared to similar students who did not participate in tutoring.

This study is not alone.  There are countless other research-backed theories showing the benefit of tutoring support on academic achievement.  So what is the take away from this as it applies to your child?  And what if your student does not need “intensive support”?  The bottom line is that both consistency and frequency matter when it comes to successful tutoring.  While it may be tempting to scale back or end sessions all together once a student begins to succeed, be wary of old habits resurfacing once the regular support and accountability has stopped.

I often speak with parents looking to resume sessions a month or two after they have ended because the student who was once achieving As has started to slip.  If your son comes home with an A on a math test as a result of his hard work with his tutor, ending sessions altogether may hinder continued success with math.  Tutoring is not a quick fix.  We’ve seen time and again that students do best in the long run with regular sessions, even once they’ve started to achieve their goals.  A tutor can reinforce the concepts presented in the classroom to ensure the student is continuing to stay on top of new material.  Regular sessions conducted once or twice per week for the duration of the school year are sure to provide a student with that added boost needed for continued academic success and confidence.

How to Organize Your Upper Elementary Student

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most organized, how organized is your student? Are you the parent of a child who has struggled with keeping organized since Kindergarten? Does your son’s backpack house a mound of crumpled papers by the third week of September? If this sounds familiar, we have a simple solution binder system that may be the ticket to getting your upper elementary student organized in a way they can maintain for the school year.

As kids move up in grade in elementary school, they are expected to manage an ever-growing paper flow to and from school. Daily math fact worksheets are soon replaced with long-term project instructions, multi-page social studies study guides, an interactive notebooks. Students who are not naturally organized struggle to keep track of these important documents and may soon find them lost in a messy backpack or desk.

The Case It Binder

case it binder
Instituting a Case It binder may be just what your upper elementary student needs to get and stay organized. We love the Case It binder for the following reasons: the large Velcro tab keeps everything enclosed, the build-in accordion file is the perfect place for students to organize papers by subject, and the best part – no hole punching is required! Help your student label each accordion tab for each class he is taking. Then, he can easily slip papers into a designated slot keeping the paper flow to and from school organized and manageable.

Behind the built in accordion files, you will find a built in pencil case. This is a great place to store pencils, pens, highlighters, a marker, and possibly a small calculator. If your student’s school issues an assignment notebook, secure it in the rings of the binder.

The Homework Folder

Behind the assignment notebook, we suggest helping your student set up a homework folder. Studies have shown that students with a homework folder earn higher grades than those without one. A homework folder is simply a three hole punched pocket folder. The left inside pocket is labeled “To Do” and the right inside pocket is labeled “Completed.” When given homework assignments in school, your student will put the paper in the left side of the folder. When it’s time for homework, they will open the folder to find all of the items they need to complete. Once completed, the finished products go on the right side of the folder so they may be easily accessed and turned in when the teacher calls for them the following school day.

The rest of the binder may be stocked with loose leaf paper and any regularly referenced documents – such as instructions for writing a five paragraph essay. We suggest these regularly referenced pages be kept in page protectors.

And there you have it. A simple solution binder to help your 5th or 6th grader get – and stay – organized!

Getting High School Students Organized

If you’re the parent of a high school student, you probably know about block scheduling. For freshmen, block scheduling is likely a new concept.  Most high schools in the DC metro area operate on a block scheduling system.  Basically, this means most classes meet every other day for a longer period.  For example, a student may have English, math, and history on one day and science, Spanish, and gym on another.  There is likely one class – perhaps art in this situation –that meets every day for the standard 45 minute period.  For a student who struggles with organization, this can be a logistical nightmare.  On top of having a hard time organizing materials, we are now asking kids to remember materials for specific classes on specific days.  So how can you help get high school students organized?  Read on to learn about a simple system that just may do the trick…

Let’s say you have a freshman at Madison High School in Vienna.  He will have certain classes on Black Days, certain Classes on Red days, and one class that meets every day.  Some students may be tempted to get 7 binders – one for each class.  This is sure to be overwhelming to even the most organized student.  Aside from needing to remember which binders you would need each day, the sheer volume of materials being hauled to and from school is inefficient.  A better and far simpler system would be to create 3 simple binders.  A one inch black binder, a one in red binder, and a half in white binder are all that is needed to set up an organized and color coded binder system.

In the black binder, have your student insert pocket dividers labeled for each class they have on Black Days.  Do the same for Red Day classes in the red binder.  The smaller white binder can be used for the one class that meets every day.  Pocket dividers are great because the student can slip hand outs and note sheets in the pockets without having to worry about hole punching.

Now, I’m sure you can imagine that these pocket dividers are not meant to hold a year’s worth of papers.  And, for a student who with organization, having them stuff papers in a folder is sure to lead to other organizational problems over time.  We suggest keeping a hanging file folder system, like a Pendaflex No Desk Organizer at home.  At least once a month, have your student purge papers from their pocket dividers and store the important stuff in the file system kept at home.  This way, the student can easily access chapter tests and review packets from October when they are studying for the final exam come June.

So there you have it.  A pretty basic system for helping even the most disorganized high school student get a grasp on the paper flow to and from school.

Does My Child Need a Tutor?

Have you ever hired a tutor for your child? Chances are you’ve at least thought about arranging for supplemental support – either one on one or in small group form – outside the classroom. From tutorremedial support and catch up, to enrichment and getting ahead, working with a tutor is becoming the norm. Parents want to do what they can to ensure their children have a quality education and support outside the classroom is often the just the thing to bolster success.

If you’re the parent of a school aged child, you can probably think back to a time when you tried to help your student study for a test or plan out a long term assignment. Perhaps your seventh grader has come home completely stumped but a new pre-Algebra concept introduced that day in school. As a caring parent wanting to keep your child feeling good about his math ability, you offered to sit down with your son after dinner and work through that night’s assigned problems. Ten minutes into reviewing the homework assignment the tension was thick. You were frustrated by your son’s apparent lack of focus and your son felt you were confusing him more and he assured you he could complete the work himself. Sound familiar? When a parent tries to offer support to a struggling student it often leads to frustration – maybe even a meltdown. Power struggles and emotions are sure to take over and can quickly become the dominant focus. Hiring a tutor can be just the ticket for success. After all, your student does not have an emotional attachment to the tutor. This will allow you to go back to being a parent rather than the homework police. Tensions will dissolve and the parent/child relationship will be strengthened. Tutors can help ease family stress around academics.

So, when you’ve tried to work with your child, helping them with a math assignment or planning out steps for a science project only to leave the experience completely drained and defeated, it may be time to look into tutoring.

My Smart Student Isn’t Trying

Remember when your son first started school? He was thrilled about his new class, his teacher, his school supplies, even the idea of assignments. It made him feel grown up and like his older brother. He was so eager to learn! Fast forward a few years; how did this precocious child become so lethargic about school? A gifted child with natural intelligence, fully capable of taking honors classes- and doing well in them –is now struggling to maintain a C average.

If this sounds like your student, you are not alone. I speak with parents everyday who are in similar situations. They have bright students with the ability to do well, but the child lacks motivation towards academics and it is reflected in the grades. These parents have tried everything from rewards and consequences, to meeting with teachers, to therapy and counseling. Perhaps mom or dad has devoted hours upon hours to helping with projects and study guides, which only leads to tension, frustration, and meltdowns. These parents are at their wits’ end and just want to help their kids.

Motivation towards school (or the apparent lack thereof) is often a complex issue. Perhaps it stems from such an immense sense of feeling overwhelmed and underprepared that is it easier to just all together give up. Many students are embarrassed to ask the teacher for extra help or, more often than not, they don’t even know what to even ask for. They understand the material being presented in class and are frustrated to receive poor grades on tests and quizzes time and again. These kids are in need of organized and structured support to help them develop a plan of attack for academics. They need help setting up organizational systems and finding the right calendar device. An academic coach can provide this support and help the student reach their full potential.

Learning Styles: Why They Matter

Have you ever been trying to remember something and found yourself pacing around the room?  Do you click your pen while trying to find the right words to close an email?  Do you tap your foot while watching an instructional video online?  If you relate to any of these items, you might be a kinesthetic learner.   This “fidgeting” is allowing you to better focus on the task at hand and retain the information you are trying to remember.  And while you may not have paid much attention to why you’re circling the table for the fifth time, that movement is helping you remember and retain the information you are learning.

For kinesthetic learners, walking around while reciting notes or using flashcards is a great way to help retain information.  Kinesthetic learners do best with frequent breaks and tend to focus better when they have something to fidget with.  Using a Tangle Jr. or stress ball can be a great way to help sustain focus and keep attention on the task at hand.

What Is Your Learning Style?

Are you someone who needs to “hear” new information in order to grasp it?  Do you prefer listening to audio tapes rather than reading new information?   If you find it best to listen to new information, you may be an auditory learner.  Auditory learners learn best by learning styleshearing.  They learn well in groups where they can talk about new information and hear it as well.  Auditory learners may want to record tapes to play back so they can hear the material they are studying.   Visual learners learn best by seeing.  Most visual learners prefer to study alone and do best in a quiet place.  Rewriting notes is a great tool for visual learners.  Using color to highlight main ideas, making smartcards, and previewing text by scanning the pictures and headings are great strategies for visual learners.

Why Are Learning Styles Important?

So what does it all mean and why is it important?  Most people have a preferred way to learn.  Some learn by listening, some have to observe every step, and others have to do it to learn it.  By finding out how you learn best you can better understand which tips and strategies will allow you to study more efficiently and effectively.  So how do you learn best?   How do your children learn best?  Have you noticed your child constantly fidgets or doodles while practicing spelling words?  Let him play with a stress ball when you’re working together and see if it helps.  Next time you’re trying to retain new information, try out some of these strategies and see if they help you better retain the information at hand.

Is Your Child Resistant to Tutoring?

Ahh summertime!  The school year has finally come to an end and we have a few months of lazy poolside days ahead of us.  I bet this time of year is a favorite for most kids.  For now, gone are the days of book reports and chapter tests.

Resistant to Tutoring

I received a call the other day from a parent in Herndon, Virginia.  The mother of a rising fourth grade boy, this mom was calling to resistant to tutoringinquire about summer tutoring options.  Her son muddled through math in third grade, and while he managed to receive passing marks, his foundation of basic facts was weak.  On the advice of his teacher (and her own intuition) mom was calling around to learn more about summer tutoring programs to find the best match for her son’s needs.  Like most boys at this age, this student was very resistant to working with a tutor – especially in the summer!  As mom and I began our conversation, she mentioned this to me, seeking advice on how to best get him warmed up to the idea.  She was excited to learn we could select an experienced tutor to come to her home work with her son but was concerned about his buy in.  Mom didn’t want to move forward with tutoring only to have her son throw a tantrum the moment the tutor arrived to the home.

After discussing educational history and strengths and weaknesses in the classroom, we moved on to interests and activities outside of the classroom.  An active child who loves sports, mom felt her son would best respond to an upbeat and engaging tutor who would make sessions interactive and hands on.  To keep him engaged, especially during the summer months, he would need a tutor who could create games and activities to reinforce math concepts.  Interactive, hands on, multi-sensory – all important and all necessary to get this boy excited for summer learning.

Using Hands-on Activities in Tutoring

As I was following up with the tutor we selected for this boy, the tutor shared with me she was prepared for her first session with games, activities, manipulatives and a prize chart!  At the beginning of each session, she would outline objects on a whiteboard.  This allowed her students to see what was on the agenda and what they would be covering each day.  She used the bottom right portion of the white board to outline goals and daily objectives, which allowed her students to keep focused and relate efforts to meeting goals.  And finally, there was the coveted prize box – a novelty item she used in her classroom during the school year and kept stocked with trinkets for students who followed the daily outline and objectives.

Do you feel your son or daughter would benefit from summer tutoring but he or she is resistant to the idea?  Whether to review last year’s concepts, preview what is to come this fall, or a bit of both, summer tutoring should be fun and engaging.  Working with a tutor who is trained and able to strategize to get buy in this summer will give your child a leg up, allowing him or her to enter the classroom with confidence in September.

How to Nurture Creativity in Young Kids

I spoke with a mom from Chevy Chase earlier this week who was inquiring about summer tutoring options for her son.  A rising third grader, her son loved school and was excited about the prospect of working with a tutor over the summer.  A curious child who loved math and science, he was also and avid reader and writer and was always eager to learn!  Worried that a lazy summer spent out of the classroom would diminish this spark, mom called to discuss enrichment options.

Math and Science Enrichment Tutoring in Maryland

While he loved school and adored his teachers, this boy, like many eight year olds, was a ball of energy and surely would not want to spend summer days inside working on math fact drills.  His summer would be filled with sports and science camps and he would be spending his mornings at the pool with his swim team.  Mom told me how much he was looking forward to working with a tutor this summer and that he really wanted to expand his math and science knowledge.  He respected his teachers and thrived with one on one support.  Aside from needing a tutor experienced in working with energetic children, this boy required a tutor with a creative approach – someone who could think outside the box and prepare fun, engaging, activities to keep him focused and learning all summer long.

A naturally creative child, this boy love crafts, science experiments, and learning new concepts in hands on and interactive ways.  We selected a terrific tutor to work with him this summer; a fourth grade teacher who plans to challenge this student with enrichment support and fun, interactive, educational games and activities this summer.  From Reston, Virginia, to Bethesda, Maryland, and everywhere in between, we have talented teachers available seven days per week to challenge even the most curious of learners and keep the academic spark burning strong this summer!

Making Summer Learning Fun

Bottom line?  Summer is all about making learning fun.  Looking for ideas you can do at home to keep your kids interested and engaged this summer?  Take a trip to your local craft store and stock up on a hodgepodge of inexpensive materials.  Set aside time each week for arts and crafts and allow your kids to build/create/design whatever!  Kids will love the creative outlet and these homemade treasures can serve as reminders of a wonderful summer!

Selecting the Best Tutor in Northern Virginia

One of my favorite parts of my job is speaking with parents on the phone every day. These calls allow me to get to know each of the families we work with. From learning students’ educational history to favorite teaching styles, and even personal interests and hobbies, I use this information to make great tutor matches.

One on one in home tutoring has many benefits, but one of the biggest is the personalization. I work with families and tutors to customize programs for each specific student. The skill set and background of the tutor are the obvious standouts; reading students struggling to decode, for example, are going to require an experienced teacher to target fluency. But there is so much more to making a great placement. Who was your son’s favorite teacher? What makes that person stand out? Would he prefer to work with a bubbly and upbeat tutor or will he respond better to a calmer and more laid back approach?

Math Tutoring in Fairfax

I was speaking with a mom from Fairfax, Virginia last week about her rising third grade daughter. This student muddled through math this school year and proclaimed to mom on numerous occasions that math was her least favorite subject. Alarmed not only by this proclamation but by the fact that her daughter’s weak foundation in math would be a problem for years to come, mom called desperate to talk about summer options and math tutoring. During the intake call I learned that her daughter required organized and structured support. She is a hands-on and visual learner and often needs complex concepts broken down and re-conceptualized. An avid reader and writer, she thrived in language arts. She needed a patient, creative tutor to review third grade math concepts and preview the math she would see in the fall as a fourth grader. A gifted athlete, this girl would need to schedule tutoring sessions around sports camps and practices.

The Perfect Math Tutor

I had a tutor in mind for student and was back in touch with mom the next day to update her on our selection. A special education tutoring, tutor, math tutorteacher, the tutor we selected was experienced with reinforcing elementary math concepts. A bubbly and upbeat teacher, this tutor was prepared to incorporate hands on activities to make summer learning a full contact sport!

From Washington, DC, to Bethesda, Maryland, to Oakton, Virginia, this girl is not unlike many of the students we work with. Give me a call today and let’s talk about your student. How can I help secure customized tutoring support for him or her? 703-934-8282.

Hot Summer Reads for Students

Summer vacation is often associated with leisurely days of kicking back and relaxing with a good book.  Without the hustle and bustle of the school year, the summer months provide time to tackle that list of books you’ve been dying to read.  For many of us, this sounds like near perfection, but for many of our kids, summer and reading don’t naturally go together.   Some students aren’t naturally drawn to books and would rather spend summer days pool side or playing with friends.

Aside from the summer reading packet (for which many kids devote the third week of August to starting and finishing) there are a lot of kids out there who, if left to their own devices, wouldn’t pick up a book all summer long.  These kids spend the school year reading books assigned in class that aren’t always of interest.  They begin to associate reading as a chore and shy away from the activity come June.  So what can parents do to turn this around and help students engage with reading this summer?

Summer reads for all ages

Summer is a great time to pick up a book for pleasure on a topic of interest.  So what are some engaging options out there for kids?  Liar & Spy is the third book by Newberry Medal Winner Rebecca Stead.  A New York Times Bestseller, Winner of the Indies Choice summer readingBook of the Year Award, and an ALA-YALSA Top Ten Best Book for young adults, this goofy and fun mystery is targeted for students in grades 4-8.  John Green’s Looking for Alaska is a coming of age tale with a shocking twist sure to captivate the reader.   A winner of the Printz Award, this novel is sure to appeal to teenagers.  For little ones, try The Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten by Maureen Fergus.   A humorous tale geared towards students having just completed, or about to begin, their first year of school, is certain to have kids laughing out loud.

Interested in exploring other titles to engage your student? 
Check out The American Library Association’s website,  A quick search of best books for young adults will provide you with a list of titles to entice even the most reluctant reader this summer.  What topics interest your child most?  Summer is a great time to explore interests and engaging books on related topics.

Take a trip to the local library and have each child choose a book.  Have each family member select a pleasure book to read during your week at the beach and make reading a family activity associated with a fun and relaxing vacation.  Explore audio books and e-readers.  I was speaking with a dad in Reston, Virginia the other day and he mentioned his son loves reading on the Kindle.  Kids are often much more inclined to read an e-book than a traditional paperback.   Make reading a fun, family activity this summer – It may be just what your student needs to help spark a lifelong love of reading!