We asked the experts at Tutors on Wheels for advice on how to help kids get the most out of their tutoring sessions, including how to motivate your child to do additional work at home.
Q: Will my child benefit from having a student tutor that's the same age as him?
Yes, but it would benefit those children who are already doing well and just need a little bit of a push. What the same-age tutors would end up doing is being mentors for students—they can give them guidance.
But most of the children we see have academic delays that either stem from some kind of disability or have been going on for quite a few years. This is similar to when a disease has spread and you need to go to a specialist. In this case, the specialists are certified teachers who are experts in their fields and have many years of experience behind them.
Q: What are some ways that parents can help their child's tutors?
I always tell parents that you are spending the money to get tutoring, but that is not all—we need your cooperation. Without your help, we will not be able to do it, especially when it comes to SAT prep. It’s a very extensive program. If you’re buying a package of 10 to 15 hours, I want the child to go home and practice for another 30 hours, so you don’t have to continue [spending money on tutoring time]. We also need your cooperation in keeping up sessions. We do a lot of pushing here, and it’s not easy if only one person is pushing it, like a teacher. If the students are not even showing up, it’s not going to work out.
Q: Are there specific tips you give parents on how to encourage a student to do work at home? What are some ways parents can enforce that?
We don’t really give them assignments because kids have a lot of homework. We actually help them with the homework they bring from school, or if they have a test we prepare them. We give parents tips on what we did that day and what they can do at home if they want to finish the homework or do well on a test. The only time we give assignments is when a parent instructs us to do so. A lot of parents don’t, though, because the kids have so much homework.
Q: What are some tips to help kids get the most out of their tutoring?
I tell the parents that instead of buying [their child] other things they should invest in tutoring and it always comes back. I just spoke to an older student that had gotten tutored, and she said she became a nurse because she did a math course with us. I remember this student used to get very frustrated and she would say, ‘I’ll never make it.’ I would tell her, ‘You’re doing fine, don’t give up.’ Encouragement is what we do. Our teachers are trained to encourage the students a lot.
Most of the students we have are students with disabilities such as ADD or ADHD, or autism or Aspergers. No matter what students have, we teach them how to be independent and motivate them. These kids, when they come on board they don’t even want to be here, but once they begin to see that it works and they feel better that they are learning, their mind opens up. They feel so excited about it that they will continue the tutoring.
I would advise all parents that education is the most important investment. Any time they feel that there is a little academic weakness, they should take action right away. There is no shame in tutoring—it can only benefit you and not take anything away from you. We can make a difference when a weakness has just begun, but if they come to us already two or three years later when the student is not performing well, it becomes very frustrating for the student and it takes us a longer time to fix the issue. We encourage parents to pay more attention and get more involved in their child's education.
Jasleen Sabharwal is director of Tutors on Wheels, a learning center located at 68-60 Austin St. in Forest Hills, Queens, that offers on-site tutoring, online tutoring, and test prep for all ages.