What To Expect During Tutoring Sessions
I work with many families as a tutor. Most of my clients sought out a tutor due to a special need or because they want assistance in home educating their child. I know that each child is different and each child will have their own strengths and things they are still working to achieve. I want to stress that parents may feel anxiety, but their child’s behaviors and current achievements may be similar to what everyone else is doing, too.
When Your Child Says “NO!”
Your child will probably say no or refuse to participate at one point or another. They may do this often, or rarely. This may be due to illness, a bad mood, or fear of getting it wrong. Also, some children like to control the activities because they feel less anxiety when in control. Don’t worry. We will work on this. We will establish a routine and your child will feel more comfortable with me helping guide activities which are new.
You may see that I change topics or activities if a child is shutting down. This is one way to change the child’s mood and help encourage participation. If we can learn the same information another way, I may try that. I may also come back to the lesson or activity later in the session or later in the year. I won’t skip a topic forever, but I will work with your child to find fun ways to learn the information. We are a team.
When Your Child Is Distracted
Everybody gets distracted. Whether I tutor at your home or a public place, like a library, there will be distractions. Your child may also lose interest. It is rare for anyone, even adults, to have an attention span for long tasks. I will try to keep tasks short and full of academic information. If your child has difficulty with the length of an activity, I may break it up into parts. We may take a break to sing a song, color, or stretch.
I usually set a timer so we use our time to the fullest. This may mean I set a 2-5 minute timer for the break, too. Don’t worry, though, your child is learning about study skills and how to break large or frustrating tasks down into smaller portions. This helps lessen the chance of refusal to participate and enables the child to make similar choices on their own, in the future.
When Your Child Throws Or Hits
There is very little I haven’t seen. I worked as a classroom teacher, have children of my own, and worked in childcare prior to earning my teaching certificate and master’s degree. I have had kids hit, throw things at, bite, yell, and curse at me from time to time. When your child throws or isn’t gentle when handing me a paper or bottle of glue, don’t worry. I will gently, yet firmly, correct the behavior and you are welcome to do the same.
Sometimes kids push, hit, or throw because they feel anxiety over a new situation or difficult subject.
There is a lot of practice in early childhood education. I constantly must remind children to be kind, gentle, and to use words or show me the item they do not have words to explain, yet. I am not offended by your child’s behavior and, depending on your child’s developmental stage, it may be that throwing is part of learning about emotions, self-control, choices, and motor skills.
When Your Child Has Difficulty With Motor Skills
Fine motor skills refer to movements used to cut with scissors, write with a pencil, and other small muscle motions. Gross motor skills refer to large movements and control of the muscles that allow these movements. Sometimes children have low muscle tone or have a special need which makes them less likely to have control of muscles. When this happens, they may feel pain or frustration when participating in activities such as jumping, climbing, cutting, or writing. Your child may be resistant to these activities to avoid a feeling of failure or potential pain of an activity.
I often break tasks children find challenging into multiple steps with breaks in between. Also, sometimes is becomes necessary to use tablets or computers with keyboards to help students who struggle with writing. If they get stuck on the letter formation part of the task, they will have difficulty with expressing themselves through written word. Another important point is that you can strengthen muscle tone by doing activities that are not writing. I may use tasks which include tweezers and sorting, clay, or similar activities to help with fine motor skills. Sometimes doing something that doesn’t seem academic helps a child feel less anxiety and more interested, though there are still positive outcomes when using the activity.
When Your Child Has Limited Expressive Language Or Is Nonverbal
When I taught in public schools, the common ideal was that even if a child had a special need, the teacher had to find a way to teach and assess understanding. This often meant non-traditional activities, extra lesson planning time, and alternative assessments. One issue that often required a slight deviation from typical lessons and assessments was when a student had limited expressive language, or a limited ability to verbally explain their thoughts.
I encourage parents to work with me so I understand what milestones a child has reached as well as what skills are still being honed. This way, I have a better understanding of what can be done during lessons and assessments to accurately gauge student learning. I am not a big fan of paper and pencil testing, but for those who have limited language, a written test may work best. For younger students, tutor/teacher and parent observation may be best. While these are not the only two options, they give an idea of what can be done to adjust for a student’s needs.
When Your Child Has Limited Receptive Language
Receptive language refers to the ability to understand oral information given in your first language. (English language learners who have a different first language would not be considered low on receptive language for the purposes of diagnosing a special need and may be given different assessments than those for whom English is a first language.) When a student has a low receptive language score, I consider other potential issues such as shyness or refusal to cooperate with the assessor. Sometimes the scores in tests such as these are accurate, sometimes they are not. I often use very basic, one-step instructions for all tasks, whether complicated or not. In addition, repetition is great for all kids, but is imperative for those with low receptive language scores. Predictability and easy to follow processes help.
What Does All This Mean?
There are many other potential issues which may come up during tutoring. Every student is different and deserves attention, patience, and positivity. This may mean that we use activity cards, a specific procedure or order to lessons, or take breaks to get up and move. Don’t worry. The behaviors and choices of your child are most likely something I have seen multiple times.
My job is to work with you and your child.
All I ask is that you work with me, express any concerns or tips you have, and advocate for your child as you already so perfectly do every day. Don’t worry about your child behaving in a way I will dislike. I won’t be offended. I promise. We are a team and it’s all normal.
If you would like information about tutoring, homeschool and unschool evaluations, a consultation to discuss mapping out your homeschool year or curriculum writing services, please contact me here or at 407-712-4368. Let me put my experience to work for you!
Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas