Toy Whisperer: Tools for learning

My Homework Blues: and I am the parent

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When to Tutor Your Child

Every parent wants to see their child be successful in the school environment. In fact a survey in 2018 by Varkey Foundation and published by The World Economic Forum found that “U.S. parents spend about 6.2 hours a week helping” their child with homework.  Many other fortunate parents don’t even give this matter a second thought as their child navigates the waters of education without any difficulty. It would be wonderful if that were the case for every child. But the fact of the matter is that  this is not true for all families. Some children seem to have difficulty learning. An overcast of disappointment can cloud the relationship between parent and child. It is crucial to consider many variables before deciding to tutor your child.

Clarifying the Issue

It is vital to obtain a clear picture of any issues that could be at the heart of the matter. An interview with your child’s teacher can provide much enlightenment on the subject. This professional will even supply you with some strategies to assist your child. Perhaps there is a classroom website that outlines the details of what is being taught, and in the rush of every-day life, you were unaware of this lifeline. You can inquire to see if the school has any supervised homework sessions after school. Any such strategies might be just what is needed.

Process of Identifying a Leaning Problem

Initially, when a child is having difficulty academically, most schools begin with a check to see if any physical elements could be interfering with the learning process. One of the first checks your school may request is that you take your child to your family doctor for an examination of their ability to see or hear. They may even have staff that complete these checks for you. Any difficulty with these primary physical means of perception can significantly interfere with understanding the concepts that are being presented.

Once it has been determined that your child can hear and see, the next check might be for cognitive processing that could be interfering with the learning. Again, you may need to acquire these services, but many school boards have a process to help uncover any learning difficulties. If a specific problem does surface, there will be many different strategies that can be tried to help alleviate the situation from pairing your child with a learning buddy, to the use of technology to accommodate to any writing issues or to priority seating in the classroom to name just a few standard solutions.

If your child is having difficulty in many areas of the curriculum, there is likely a learning disability. Many successful individuals cope with learning disabilities. You may be surprised to learn that Keira Knightley, Jamie Oliver, Daniel Radcliffe, Whoopi Goldberg, and Steven Spielberg once struggled with learning disabilities. Still, obviously, this has not blocked their ability to excel in their chosen area of endeavor.  These are only a few examples of the many people with learning difficulties who have faced their challenges successfully. Once the nature of the issue for your child has been identified, then children can apply strategies specific to their learning problems. For example, if they have a memory issue, they can learn to write instructions that they can follow or make diagrams to scaffold their work. Children who have been identified are allowed these strategies in testing situations. The strategies are recognized at college and university levels so that a learning problem does not hinder the progress of individuals. Indeed, many successful people continue to use these strategies in their adult life. 

How Can I Help?

But the question still remains, “What can I do to help my child?”  Rest assured that there are many ways to help a child succeed at school. The solution lies with the exact issue, of course, but it usually revolves around interventions for language or mathematics or both.  

5 Key Strategies to Improve Language Skills

1)    Nothing improves comprehension better than hearing the story read by a competent reader and then discussing the heart of the concepts. If your child does not want to read the material with you, you can read it on your own and then engage them in conversation. Watching a popular video or TV show and then discussing the theme, the characters, or the lessons learned is also very valuable.

2)    Use the dinner table as an opportunity to discuss age-appropriate events. 

parents and kid sharing a toast at dinnertime

Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash

3)    Play board games that encourage language skills. Games that center around solving a crime by gathering clues can also be very enjoyable while bolstering language skills. Vocabulary building games such as Scrabble, Boggle, or Crosswords  strengthen an understanding of words.

4)    Having your child write messages, emails, or holding discussions with a friend or relative who is in another part of the world helps your child to organize their thoughts to present their point of view.

5)    Many children, especially boys, prefer to delve into non-fictional subjects. Spending time enjoying material about the favorite topic enhances communication skills.

5 Key Strategies to Improve Mathematical Skills

1)    With young children, it is helpful to review number facts in a playful situation, whether it be as part of a board game or in a competitive video game.

2)    Building toys such as lego can build an understanding of multiplication, percentages, and ration. The very structure of the material demands that they understand numerical relationships.  Many children appreciate sequencing through the building of a vehicle or structure by following the plans in the building kits.

3)    Many websites offer unique opportunities to build basic numerical skills. 

4)    Use mathematical concepts in every-day life situations. Measurement can be used in cooking and in building items

decorating cookies on a cookie tray

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5)    With older children, encourage your son or daughter to develop a team of friends who meet in your home to help each other complete homework or prepare for tests. It is crucial that you be close by during these sessions to show your encouragement of this endeavor and to provide casual supervision. Make sure there are snacks available. Working in a productive team is a skill that will be needed for most employment situations.

Am I Suited for this Role of a Tutor?

The next question you may encounter is if you or a family member is suitable to provide the assistance needed. It will be essential that you take a close look at your family dynamics as well as the age of your child. Young children, in general, are more willing to accept parental assistance. Older children may not be as accepting of a family member for help with academic problems.  People with a short fuse seldom make useful tutors, and some family dynamics only result is disasters. If the process of helping is putting a strain on your relationship with your son or daughter, it is time to move on to a private tutor or an agency that specializes in this area.

Take a Deep Breath

family att he park

Image by moonpie from Pixabay 

The most important piece of advice is to view the situation as just one of life’s pervasive challenges. Learning problems plague many people, but with effort, almost every type can be overcome. Take a deep breath and set an example for your child. Never lose faith in their ability to face issues that life presents them.

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