5 Fun Education Apps to Promote Creativity

When I was a kid, “being creative” involved huge boxes of broken crayons, construction paper, Play-doh, and glitter among other things.  I usually had to clear a big space on the dining room table, don a smock, and spend a lot of time cleaning up afterward.  It was a big production and sometimes deterred me from wanting to do it in the first place. Nowadays, there are hundreds of apps available that allow kids to be creative.  Although they may not provide the same type of satisfaction as getting covered in paint and glue, they do allow for kids to learn, explore, and grow.  They’re also portable and clean, and you’ll never get stuck with all one color that you don’t use very often. Here are 5 fun education apps to promote creativity.


  1. Faces iMake



Designed for kids around age five, this colorful app allows the user to make faces out of everyday objects.  The user is able to choose from a wide range of images of everything from fruit to pots and pans to Russian nesting dolls.


  1. DIY


This free app for kids ages eight and up lets the user share projects that they created with others, get ideas, and earn badges for skills they’ve mastered.  It covers everything from coding to farming.  Some suggested projects may require outside purchases, but there are several that require nothing but imagination.


  1. Algodoo


Algodoo is an app that allows the user to create moving 2-dimensional scenes out of cartoony objects such as gears, shapes, and chains.  You can also add physical elements such as water, light refraction, and gravity.  This app is great for teaching science concepts and encouraging creativity at the same time.  It is designed for students ages 11 and up.



  1. Sketchbook Pro

sketchbook-pro-ui-fullSketchbook Pro is drawing and painting software, and this app brings it right to your phone or tablet.  The user is able to create drawings and paintings, but can also incorporate 3-dimensional shapes in order to teach and show perspective.  This app is designed for students ages 13 and up, and it’s great for those kids who always seem to be doodling or drawing cartoon characters on their notebooks.


  1. Procreate


Procreate is an illustration app with gorgeous visuals.  It is considered to be the best in the industry and has a myriad of high-level next-generation features.  This app would be great for the student who is starting to get serious about art.  The only hitch is that it is exclusively for the iPad.


Balance Summer Learning and Family Vacations

summer_learning stephanies blogFor many families, summer is a whirlwind of road trips, family visits, camps, and constantly changing sports schedules. With all of this activity as well as your child wanting a break from school, it can be very easy to let education fall by the wayside.  However, your child can lose a lot of the progress they’ve made! It can be very difficult to balance summer learning and family vacations.

The best way to keep your child learning over the summer is to incorporate activities that don’t feel like learning.  Below I explain how to incorporate summer learning into four popular summer destinations!

Summer Learning at The Beach

Does your family take beach trips throughout the summer?  If so, your children have a living science classroom at their disposal.  Have your children read articles about hermit crabs, how ecosystems work, why the ocean has tides, or what species are endangered while they are actually at the beach.  Then, ask them to explain what they read.

Many beach towns also have small museums or aquariums that provide activities for children.  Kids really love being able to touch, see, and feel, and they will be able to remember what they experienced a lot more than if they just talked about it in a classroom.

Lastly, you can make a quick and easy beach game using a beach ball and a permanent marker.  You cover the ball with questions, and your child has to answer the question where his or her thumb has landed.  Be creative with topics and levels of difficulty, and feel free to add your own point system for kids who are motivated by competition.

Use Car Trips for Learning

If you have some long trips ahead of you, you may consider downloading some high-interest audiobooks or podcasts to listen to with your kids.  This will allow them to work on their listening comprehension skills as well as access a wide variety of content.  You can alternate between fiction and nonfiction in order to mix it up.  Music is also a great audio tool, especially if your child is taking a foreign language.

If your child doesn’t get carsick, you have a whole new realm of possibilities.  You can use math or word games on a smart phone or tablet, scavenger hunts, word hunts, and memory games keep them occupied and work on academic skills.

Explore the City

We are lucky enough to live in an area that has amazing museums that are also free.  My personal favorite is the Natural History museum, because it provides lots of hands-on experiences for kids as well as stunning visual displays.  If you visit, try going to the section that is most closely aligned with last school year’s curriculum to reinforce you’re your child has learned.  You can also look ahead to the curriculum they will see in the fall so that they will have a visual representation of what they will be learning.  The same thing can be said for any of the other Smithsonian museums (and the zoo).

Another favorite of mine is The Spy Museum, which provides a great opportunity to use critical thinking skills.  Visitors are given a mission to carry out while they are there and have to use problem-solving skills to complete it.  This museum has an admission fee, but kids absolutely love it (even big kids).

Many of the embassies hold cultural events and provide programming for children.  These opportunities are great for cultural awareness, building tolerance, developing a strong knowledge of geography, and learning about the arts.

Another thing to look out for is events on the National Mall.  You never know what you might find there, and you can always visit the monuments to learn about history and government.

What To Do at Home

Rainy days provide a great opportunity to play educational games!  This can be on a leapfrog, tablet, or smart phone, but I personally think that board games are a better way to engage the whole family.  You can find games for virtually any theme and any age.  If you are looking, Lakeshore Learning as a lot of great options.

Tutoring sessions can also be a lot of fun with the right person.  Our best tutors bring games, multisensory activities, and a lot of enthusiasm into their lessons.  Don’t be afraid to ask your child’s tutor for any suggestions to extend learning beyond the session!

Keeping learning going over the summer doesn’t have to be a lot of work for you or your child.

Strategies for Dysgraphic Students

For a child with dysgraphia, writing can be a challenging, frustrating, and discouraging experience. This can create poor performance in writing but also in every other content area that requires writing. The child is so focused on forming letters, words, and sentences that they often have trouble holding information in their memory and being able to express their thoughts. This can be a roadblock both to completing assignments and to learning the material to begin with.

In this blog, I will go over some commonly used strategies recommended by the National Center for Learning Disabilities that dysgraphic students can use in school to help access the content and build confidence in writing. As always, you will want to discuss these strategies with your child’s teacher, tutor, or psychologist, but hopefully this will give you some ideas to work with!

For Young Children

  • Incorporate multisensory techniques such as using paper with raised lines and bright colors. Your child can also practice writing using big arm motions, drawing in colored sand, or teaching your child tricks for remembering specific letters (“this letter looks like…”)
  • Provide a lot of praise and encouragement when your child succeeds at a writing task and when they are holding the pen or pencil properly. This will help them associate writing with positive feelings rather than frustration.
  • Expose your child to typing and word processing early on. There are many great apps and games available to teach children how to type. Although your child definitely needs to work on developing writing skills, this will provide them with a valuable skill for when they start having to write essays and other longer assignments.

girl with dysgraphiaFor Elementary School Students

  • Teach your child to break directions down into smaller chunks. Completing assignments step-by-step will help them stay focused and express their thoughts clearly.
  • Writing assignments in school can become stressful for children with dysgraphia. To help avoid a negative association, encourage your child to write creatively at home. You can have them tell a story, keep a journal, and even help write down the grocery list. Once they have done this, be sure to praise them! You can also encourage writing by purchasing a journal or notebook with characters that they like, or allowing them to pick out a colorful pen of their choosing.
  • If the teacher allows it, provide your child with graph paper for math. This will allow them to keep everything organized so that they can focus on learning concepts and showing their work.

For Students in Middle School, High School, and College

  • Have a tutor work with your child to help with planning for assignments and providing regular feedback on writing. Although you may be qualified to help with writing assignments, students this age tend to respond better to instruction from non-family members.
  • Consider purchasing an iPad or Laptop for your child. They will be able to use word processing as well as voice-to-text programs such as Dragon to help organize their ideas and complete extended writing tasks. They will also be able to record lectures and even use programs like Inspiration to visually organize ideas for learning.

What is Dysgraphia?

Many children have difficulty with handwriting when they first begin to learn. They may have trouble holding the pencil, forming letters correctly, and even remembering what they want to say. This can be a normal part of learning how to write. So how do you know if your child might have dysgraphia?

student writingDysgraphia is a learning disability where the student has brain-based difficulty with writing. This can be for both handwriting and for getting their thoughts out on paper. It can lead to long term problems with spelling, legibility of handwriting, and organizing written information on a page. Just thinking about all of the math classes that require students to complete proofs or English classes with multiple essays per week that happen later on in a student’s academic life, you can imagine how this might become a problem! For these reasons as well as avoiding frustration and discouragement, it’s important to catch the signs early so that your child can get help.

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, here are some of the potential signs of dysgraphia by age group:

Before Kindergarten

  • The child is uncomfortable holding a pencil
  • The child has great difficulty forming letters or writing within lines and margins
  • The child grows tired quickly while writing

         In Elementary School

  • The student has messy or illegible handwriting and mixes cursive and print
  • The student says words aloud or is unable able to remember their thoughts while they are in the process of writing
  • The student skips words or doesn’t finish sentences

girl writingTeenagers and Adults

  • The student can clearly state complex ideas but can’t express them in writing
  • The student has trouble keeping track of what he or she already wrote down
  • The student mixes word order and grammar

If this sounds like your child, you may consider first contacting a neuropsychologist or other professional to have testing done. Having a diagnosis can both enable your child to get accommodations and modifications in school, and also allow for a tutor or teacher to determine the best strategies to use with your child.

Whether your child has a diagnosis or not, he or she can still benefit from working with a great writing tutor to improve handwriting, the ability to transfer thoughts to paper, and develop confidence in their writing skills.

5 Common Accommodations and Modifications for Dyslexic Students

As a parent of a dyslexic student, you have likely considered looking into modifications and accommodations in the classroom for your child. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with what is available so that when it comes time for an IEP meeting, it’s a good idea to have a sense of what’s out there!

In this blog post, I will explain five common types of accommodations and how I think they might be useful for your dyslexic child. These accommodations are pretty standard across counties and are all offered in Fairfax County. This article is designed to give you an idea of what might be appropriate, but you must of course work with your child’s teachers, psychologists, tutors, and any other professionals who work with your child to determine what will be best for your child as an individual. There are many other types of modifications and accommodations available to students, and every student is different!

1.)    Extended Time

http://images.hayneedle.com/mgen/master:HMI231.jpgWhat it is:

Extended time can be on a small scale or on a large scale. One way to use this accommodation on a smaller scale is to give students longer periods on timed tests and allow them to finish after school, or to finish classwork as homework. On a larger scale, extended time can mean an additional two weeks to complete assignments for the quarter, or extended due dates on projects and papers.

What it does for dyslexic students:

Students with dyslexia have difficulty with decoding words and reading comprehension, which are obviously two skills that are necessary for most assignments in school. Although they may have received tutoring services such as Wilson Reading and have gotten to the point where they can access the text, severe dyslexics may always be slower readers and writers. Extended time gives dyslexics the opportunity to demonstrate what they know and what they can do rather than how strong of readers they are.

2.)    Pre-Written Notes or Lesson Outlines

What it is:

For this accommodation, students are given either a copy of the PowerPoint that the teacher is using, a written summary of the lecture, or an outline of the important information to be covered in the lesson.

What it does for dyslexic students:

This allows students to focus on the content that they are learning, rather than the process of recording the information. Dyslexics tend to have difficulty with spelling and writing down words accurately (and may also have dysgraphia), which can distract them from what the lesson is actually about. Having this information beforehand allows them to preview what they will be learning, anticipate transitions, and look for the most important information so that they aren’t bogged down with writing less important information.

3.)    Reduced Words Per Page/Large Print

What it is:

For this accommodation, dyslexic students are given the same material as the rest of the class, but have it printed either in a larger font or with more space in between words or lines.

What it does for dyslexic students:

Students who have visually-based dyslexia have difficulty isolating and interpreting letters as well as processing visual information. Having this accommodation reduces the amount of visual clutter on the page and allows students to be less distracted by the words around the word that they are currently reading, thereby allowing them to read more accurately and fluently the first time they encounter the text.


4.)    Audio Recordings/Hearing Instructions Orally

What it is:

Some students may elect to record their entire lectures in class so that they can play them back again once they get home rather than reread their notes. Others may use audiobooks or recordings from the teacher to do their homework and study. Students who don’t need all of the information recorded may just need the directions given orally so that they can focus on correctly completing their assignments.

What it does for dyslexic students:

This technique is especially helpful for helping students learn challenging content. In addition to needing this so that they aren’t spending too much time trying to access the text, many dyslexics are excellent auditory learners. Having recordings enables students to focus solely on comprehending what they are learning without the frustration and distraction of trying to read a text that is above their level.

5.)   Graphic Organizers

What it is:

A graphic organizer is a tool that is used to organize information in a visual, logical manner. It can include charts, tables, diagrams, images, concept maps or webs, and even “foldables.” Most graphic organizers have some pre-completed information but also include areas for the student to fill in and write.

What it does for dyslexic students:

Graphic organizers are already used in most classes as they are an excellent teaching tool, but a dyslexic student may benefit from using them more frequently. They can be used to map out a structure for a student to write a paper, to lay out what information the student should be seeking in a text, or even to color-code types of information. Their highly visual nature is an especially helpful learning tool for students who have difficulty holding words in their mind.

5 Ways to Help Your Dyslexic Student at Home

Trying to complete school work can be a very frustrating and discouraging experience for a student who struggles with dyslexia. Even just trying to read directions and figure out what to do on an assignment can be a huge barrier, never mind having to read complex texts and complete writing tasks. School can quickly start to feel like an obstacle course and can feel very isolating to a child

http://0.tqn.com/d/add/1/0/j/B/-/-/read888.JPGAlthough you aren’t at school with your child while they are struggling through textbook reading or feeling flustered by how quickly they are expected to complete assignments, there are certainly many things that you can be doing at home to support your child in the classroom.

Your child will likely need to work with a reading specialist or tutor on a long term basis in order to strengthen and develop reading skills, but here are some strategies that will help school seem more manageable while they are receiving those services:

1. Focusing on Organization

Students with dyslexia tend to need longer amounts of time on assignments, and also may have difficulty quickly switching tasks. Teaching your child to value organization is a great way to counter this issue! Having a neatly organized binder will allow your child to find assignments and class notes without wasting any of that precious time or becoming frustrated when they are already doing something that is difficult for them. Developing lifelong organizational habits will help any student in the long run, but your child may need it more than his or her peers.

2. Creating a Productive Environment

For any child, eliminating distractions is an important part of creating an environment that is conducive to completing homework. For a dyslexic child, it is absolutely crucial, especially if the dyslexia is coupled with ADHD or a sensory processing disorder.

When your child is doing homework, make sure that they are in an area that is free of clutter and distractions. Sounds, movement, other people, and technology can all take your child’s attention away from their work. If you need to, it might be a good idea to take your child to the library or create a designated area in the house for homework.

3. Reading Directions

For children, getting started on assignments can be the hardest part of completing them. This is especially true if they feel like they don’t understand what is expected of them or how to go about something. You can help your child get started on homework and reduce their frustration levels by verifying that they have fully understood the directions.

If your child has a high level of anxiety about homework, you may consider asking their teacher if it is okay for you to actually read the directions aloud and have him or her focus more on completing the assignment. If it is important that your child practice reading the directions independently, you can have your child read them aloud to you and then verify the accuracy. If the directions were read inaccurately, have your child reread them one sentence at a time and then check for understanding so that they are broken down into steps.

4. Providing Breaks

For a dyslexic child, reading is a lot of work. Reading for extended time can cause mental exhaustion, which essentially means that no more learning will occur in that sitting and the rest of their work will be done at a slower pace. Mental exhaustion also increases the chance for errors and misinterpretations, which can be very counterproductive for your child’s grades.

In order to prevent this exhaustion as well as taper any frustration that is building, have your child take breaks in between assignments. The break doesn’t have to be long; it can merely consist of getting up to get a quick snack, taking a moment to play with the dog, or relaxing for a few minutes with eyes closed. Getting into this practice will help your child increase stamina and avoid meltdowns.

5. Using Color

For a child who may take a long time to locate headings, key words, and any other important information, color coding can be a great tool.   Not only will this technique help your child with visual memory, it will also provide quick access to the information that he or she is looking for.

You can also use color at home by highlighting sections of text that are the most important, using colorful binder tabs, post-its, and colored sheet protectors. Some dyslexic students do better with reading when they use translucent reading color strips to highlight the line that they are currently reading.

Any way that you can incorporate multisensory learning will help your dyslexic child, so be creative!

Before using these or any new strategies with your child, it’s always a good idea to consult with his or her teacher, tutor, or reading specialist to make sure that you are supporting what is being done in the classroom.

Remember that the most important thing that you can do help your child in school is to encourage them and celebrate their successes! I hope these strategies help!

Wilson Reading Tutors: What Makes Them Effective?

If you read my blog from last week, or have researched programs used to treat dyslexia, you may be considering Wilson Reading as a solution for your child’s needs.  Wilson Reading is a challenging program, and it is very important to have your child work with a person who is not only well-trained, but dynamic, intuitive, and able to pick up on your child’s feelings and needs.

iStock_000012428708Large blur 50Once you have selected a Wilson Tutor, it is likely that your child will be working with that person for a very long time.  The program is designed for a two-year period and can be longer for students with varying needs, and it requires meetings 2-3 times per week.  Knowing this, you can certainly see why it is so important to have your child carefully matched with the right person!

Although every child responds best to different tutor personalities, there are some core traits that every great Wilson Tutor has.  We look for these traits when we decide to hire Wilson Tutors and also when determining which tutors to train in the program so that we can best serve our students.

Experience Working with Struggling Readers

Although the theory behind the Orton-Gillingham Approach and Wilson Reading Program can be taught, that is only half of the battle in working with a student who is challenged by decoding and reading fluency.  There are certainly individuals who have a natural talent for working with young students and understanding their frustrations, cues, and limits, but for most, this ability comes with experience.

The best Wilson tutors are individuals who have worked with struggling readers in the past and truly understand the many layers of obstacles that these students are facing.  This is not just about the mechanical and cognitive aspects of reading, but also understanding the emotional, social, and academic challenges that these students face on a daily basis.

An experienced tutor will be able to work with the whole student as opposed to just focusing on teaching what letters make what sounds.  He or she will have the ability to identify when a student is becoming frustrated and what internal thoughts that student might be having.  The experienced tutor will also recognize when a student is trying to divert the session in order to avoid working on something. Wilson tutors serve not just as teachers, but also as mentors, coaches, and sources of inspiration.

Organizational and Time Management Skills

The Wilson Tutoring Program has a highly involved curriculum that requires both tutors and students to keep track of several moving parts.  It’s important for tutors to be able to keep track of what each of their students has mastered as well as when they may need additional materials to help a student who needs more practice than others.  The tutor also needs to take daily notes on student progress and keep track of several different versions of materials that are individualized for each of their students.

The tutor also needs to be able to teach these organizational skills to their students since the students will be keeping track of what sounds and words they have mastered and many different worksheets and notebooks.

Lastly, the tutor must have strong time management skills because pacing in Wilson lessons is one of the most important components.  The pace shifts quickly from activity to activity, and keeping a pace that matches the needs of the student is key to maintaining long term engagement.  It is crucial for tutors to complete every section in the Wilson Lesson Plan during their session in order for the student to work on every aspect of decoding, encoding, and fluency.

Wilson reading systemBuilding Phonemic Awareness

One of the most common reasons dyslexic students have difficulty with decoding and spelling is their lack of phonemic awareness, or ability to accurately hear individual sounds within words and sentences.

For some of us, this ability comes very easily.  People with good phonemic awareness might be great at learning to pronounce new words or learn new languages, and may have a good musical ear as well.  For others, discriminating sounds is very abstract and difficult and must be taught directly.

Tutors who are best for working with decoding and encoding are individuals with a strong sense of phonemic awareness.  They must be able to not only break down the words themselves, but to quickly and accurately identify when their student is or isn’t pronouncing something correctly.  This is especially important in the quick drills section of the Wilson Lesson Plan, which is used to build automaticity.  In this case, stopping the student after every sound would defeat the purpose of the exercise.

Understanding of the English Language

If you have ever read to a child who is just learning to read, you may have heard a question like, “why does the word ‘knife’ have a ‘k’ in it?”, or “Why don’t ‘rough,’ and ‘through’ rhyme even though they end with the same letters?” or, “Why do ‘c’ and ‘k’ sometimes make the same sound?”

English is a language that evolved mainly from French and German and also has been influenced by many other languages throughout the years.  To this day, English continues to borrow new words from other languages.  English is an irregular language, but it also has some patterns that can be learned.

A good Wilson tutor will help a student recognize some of these patterns instead of just saying “because that’s the way it is.”  Having a strong understanding of the English language as well as some background knowledge on how it became the way it is can really help, especially in the more advanced levels of Wilson tutoring.

Making the Wilson Tutor Match

If you decide to have your child work with a Wilson tutor, we would be happy to work with you to determine who the best match will be.  Our tutors will certainly have the background required, but we also want to make sure that we get a good fit in terms of interests and personality.  This tutor will have a strong presence in your child’s life, and so it is important to get the right fit!

What is Wilson Reading?

If your child or anyone you know has been diagnosed with any form of dyslexia, then you may have heard of the Wilson Reading Program.  Wilson reading is our most requested tutoring for students with dyslexia or difficulty with decoding and fluency, and we have many clients referred to us with the recommendation that they look into Wilson Reading for their child.

However, many parents who call have only a vague idea of what Wilson Reading is.  Not knowing anything about the program can make it difficult to determine if it will be the best fit for your child.  The more I learn about Wilson Reading, the more I realize how complex and detailed it is, which is what makes it so effective for students who need it.

For other students, the Wilson program might be a more intensive intervention than what is necessary, and there may be a better option for them.  In these cases, we have many tutors who have been trained in several reading programs and who can provide a more customized curriculum that will appropriately meet your child’s needs.

I’ve provided an overview of the Wilson Reading Program for you to read so that you can get an idea of whether or not it would be the best option for your child.  I hope that this provides some clarity!

The Orton-Gillingham Approach

Wilson Reading is a program that falls under the “Orton-Gillingham Umbrella.”  The Orton-Gillingham Approach was first created in the 1930’s to treat dyslexia in adults.  It was originally created by a neuropsychiatrist (Orton) and a psychologist and educator (Gillingham) based off research that they had done over the years.

The theory behind the Orton-Gillingham approach is that dyslexia needs to be treated through study of the English language.  The lessons are multi-sensory, structured, sequential, and cumulative.  However, they also require flexibility for each individual learner.  That is to say, each student will take a different amount of time to complete various levels and may need more repetition than others.  In this approach, it is more important to fully master each level than to move quickly.

Wilson Reading is one program that was created using the Orton-Gillingham approach as a foundation.  There are many programs that fall under the Orton-Gillingham umbrella, but Wilson is one of the most popular and well-respected versions.  Its popularity can be attributed to the constant change of pace, the well-develop materials, and the ability of the instructor to vary the pace depending on the student’s needs.

Every Wilson Reading System lesson has 10 different steps.  The first six steps are for developing decoding skills (reading), steps 7 and 8 are for encoding (spelling), and steps 9 and 10 are for fluency.

1. Sound drills using color-coded cards;

2. Reviewing decoding concepts using cards;

3. Whole-word reading using flashcards;

4. Reading word lists and charting accuracy;

5. Reading sentences in controlled text;

6. Quick Sound Drill in reverse using magnet boards or color-coded cards;

7. Teaching and reviewing concepts for spelling;

8. Dictation work;

9. Reading passages from controlled text;

10. Listening comprehension activities.

Who Needs Wilson Reading?

For students who are having great difficulty decoding words, are behind their peers, or are making little progress on developing their decoding skills because of their frustration level, Wilson can be a great option. Wilson tutors typically meet with their students 2-3 times per week, and the program can last for two years.  It is very comprehensive and thorough, and ensures that students have mastered every aspect of decoding by its end point.  It requires a lot of commitment on the family’s part due to the fact that its success relies on consistent sessions.

However, there are many cases when Wilson would be effective for a child, but it isn’t the best fit.  Although your child may need some support in developing better decoding and fluency skills, Wilson may not be the best fit.    It may be that your child needs work with phonics and decoding, but that they would benefit from meeting with a tutor once per week and also working on reading comprehension, or just focusing on a specific aspect of decoding.

Your children’s teachers and doctors as well as our staff can help you determine if Wilson is going to be the best option.

How Can I Get a Wilson Tutor?

In order for someone to be an effective Wilson tutor, it’s important that they complete an intensive training and also regularly use the program.  The lessons are fast-paced and have a lot of steps, and the decoding and encoding techniques require the ability to quickly and accurate break language down into individual sounds.

For this reason, Wilson tutors can be hard to come by.  However, we do have a core group of great Wilson tutors on staff.  If you think you may be interested, it is good to call as far ahead of when want to get started as possible, and also to provide a lot of flexibility in your schedule.

How Long Will My Child Need a Tutor or Educational Coach?

Many parents give us a call when their child just got a low grade on a test or quiz, or is getting very stressed out about a class they have had all year.  They are calling in reaction to a problem that needs to be solved, which is perfectly natural considering how many different things are constantly going on in family life.  There are so many different competing priorities, which means that some things won’t get attention until they become a real issue.

When parents call for this reason, they will also frequently ask the question, “How long will my child need a tutor?”  They are hoping to be able to check tutoring off their list as “problem solved,” and move on to the next priority as soon as possible.  Again, this is a perfectly natural thought process for someone who is juggling a lot of needs and is hoping to get some peace of mind in one area of their family life.

However, answering the question of how long a student needs a tutor or Ed Coach is not always something that we are able to do before the sessions start, at least not with a precise amount of time.  Here are three factors to consider when deciding how long you might want to have tutoring for your child:

1.)    Every Student is an Individual

Every child is different, and tutoring can also churn up some underlying issues that didn’t present themselves beforehand.  Some students just needed a little bit of clarification and review, whereas others need a lot of repetition to truly learn something.  Additionally, many students who are naturally bright may quickly show understanding for new concepts, but they may not have learned the material deeply enough to remember it beyond taking their next test.

2.)    Getting the Most Value Out of Tutoring and Ed Coaching

You may notice that after a month or so of working with a tutor, your child is really showing a lot of progress.  Although this is a great sign, it’s important not to jump too quickly to the conclusion that they no longer need a tutor’s support in place.  Many challenging concepts in core classes need a lot of reinforcement before they are truly mastered, and content will only become more challenging as the year progresses.

Also, Tutoring and Ed Coaching sessions are investments.  Although they can certainly remedy an immediate problem, the amount of time and money spent can have a much greater payoff if sessions are consistent and targeted towards mastery and a strong academic foundation.

3.)    Building Life-long Habits

It is very easy to get into the mindset of “getting through” a class, or even school itself.  Having an Educational Coach or tutor can help your child make it through a tough class with a heavy workload.  However, it is unlikely that will be the last tough class or challenging situation that they will encounter.

Like the old, “teach a man to fish…” adage says, it is far more beneficial for a coach or tutor to teach their student to learn how to learn and manage work independently versus serving as someone who is just there to walk them through their work.

As most of us have experienced, it takes a lot of repetition and dedication to truly build habits that will last.  Without reinforcement, it can be very easy to fall back into old patterns.

How Do You Know When to Get a Tutor?

Here are 5 signs that can help you decide:

There are many great schools in this area that really differentiate instruction based on individual student needs.   However, sometimes the school can’t provide everything that will give your child the best chance for success.  Here are five signs that your child could benefit from a tutor or Educational Coach.

1. Your Child is Not Doing Homework

Although there are certainly students who just aren’t putting the effort in to complete their homework or think that homework is not important, there are also many times when students get overwhelmed by their homework and shut down.  This is especially common in technical subjects such as math and science, or subjects that require a lot of repetition to fully learn concepts, such as foreign language.

I remember struggling in my Pre-Calculus class in high school at the beginning of the year.  Although I understood everything the teacher said in class, I often couldn’t verbalize or apply what I had learned outside of class.  In the first few weeks of the class, I had an experience where I sat down to do homework on my own and couldn’t get past the third problem.  I tried looking in my notes from class and re-reading the section in the textbook, but there just seemed to be a disconnect between what I had in front of me and what I was being asked to do.  As a result, I got very frustrated and started to question my ability to learn Pre-calculus.   As I continued to have this experience, I eventually lost motivation to even try.   I ended up completing all of my in-class assignments, but not really doing the homework.  My grade suffered as a result, and I also ended up taking a lower level math class in college because I had lost confidence in my abilities.

The experience of getting “stuck” can be a huge setback for motivation.  Without any guidance, kids may start to think that they are incapable of completing the assignments and develop anxiety and a lack of self-confidence in that area.  This only leads to more negative thinking, which in turn can lead to a fixed mindset in that subject area, when it may have been that they just needed one simple concept re-explained to succeed.

A good tutor will give guided questions so that the student is doing their own thinking to arrive at conclusions.  The tutor will be able to not only teach the content, but also teach strategies for approaching problems that the student finds challenging in the future.

2. Your Child is Spending Too Much Time Doing Homework or Studying

http://www.gemmlearning.com/images/inner/teenager-frustrated-at-desk.jpgOne of the common phone calls that I get from parents is that their child spends so many hours doing homework that they have no time for socializing, spending time with the family, or doing any other activities that they might enjoy.  Although it is certainly a testament to that child’s work ethic, the hours and hours spent on assignments may not be necessary for the same level of academic success.

For a child who is spending excessive hours on homework, it can be a combination of issues causing them to do so.  They may understand a lot of the concepts, but have to constantly check their notes or textbook to look up information that they forgot about or didn’t fully understand in class.   Although it’s great that this student is trying to be independent and use their resources, it may mean that they could benefit from having information explained to them in a one-on-one setting by a tutor, where they can comfortably ask questions and have things explained in a way that fits their learning style.

Additionally, many students haven’t learned strategies to help them become more efficient.  They may be spending hours reading everything in their textbook instead of looking for key information, or starting and restarting an assignment over and over again because they hadn’t laid out a structure beforehand.  These students can benefit from Educational Coaches, who teach students how to strategically complete their work.

3. Your Child Studies, but Still Does Poorly on Tests

http://www.distance-education.org/pics/userpics/2257549328_befc29fb5f.jpgWhen I was a teacher, many of my students told me that they didn’t study, because they didn’t think that it helped.   After some investigation, I found that the real issue was that they didn’t know how to study.  So many students “study” by re-reading text or highlighting documents that they have received in class.  These methods have actually been determined to be the most ineffective ways that a student can study, which explains why my students didn’t think it was a valuable use of their time.

In order to study effectively, students need to break information into small chunks that they can go back over in short, frequent bursts over a period of time.  I’ve also heard that you “haven’t studied unless you’ve made something.”  Examples might be students creating practice tests or study guides on their own.  The actual act of creating these items is part of studying.

In this scenario, an Educational Coach could teach the students research-based study methods that will both be more efficient and help them see the value in studying.  Meeting with a subject area tutor would also help, because it would reinforce the information that they learned in school and allow them to engage directly with the material.  Having a subject area tutor would also prevent the student from studying misinformation, and would also help them determine what information is the most important to study.

4. You Are Trying to Help Them Understand, and They Keep Getting Defensive

The majority of parents who call tell me that they have tried to help their child on their own, and it’s just not working.   Some children get upset more easily when their parents help them because they feel like they are letting them down or disappointing them if they don’t get something right away.  Other kids are resistant to their parent’s help because of other factors in the relationship. For example, most teenagers go through a phase when they are trying to become more independent and therefore don’t always want to listen to their parents.  Regardless of the reason, this type of interaction can waste time and cause a lot of household stress.

Even if you are a parent who has taught before or has really strong content knowledge, trying to work with your child on their homework may not be the best option.  Bringing a tutor into the equation really simplifies the relationship and provides for a designated time to get things done.  Kids are also less willing to show up without having their work done, because they are more likely to be embarrassed in front of someone that they only know as their tutor.

5. Your Child is Bored at School

Tutoring is not just a tool for students who are struggling.  It can be used as enrichment for students who are ahead of their classmates and find school to be boring, or for students who have a strong interest in a certain content area.  Having this type of academic stimulation and keeping things challenging for your child will help to foster a lifelong love for learning instead of keeping the focus on grades.