Your house is a whirlwind after school: Your kids need to have a snack, complete homework, keep up with piano lessons, and rush off to soccer practice – you name it. So how do you fit tutoring into a busy household without distracting your struggling student, or making them feel left out of all the fun?
Even when tutoring is necessary, learning sessions can be a tall order for kids who are already over-programmed and overtired. At TutorUp, we connect you with certified, experienced educators. They know a thing or two about how to facilitate a good learning environment, even in the home.
Here are 5 tips for how you can help your tutor make sessions more effective – even if your household is as busy as ever:
1. Designate a Spot for Tutoring
One of the biggest benefits of at-home tutoring is giving your student a chance to interact one-on-one with a certified educator. According to Parents.com, even young children who need more practice developing basic skills, like problem-solving, vocabulary, and working with numbers, can benefit from working with a tutor.
Of course, hiring a tutor isn’t always about helping your child get ahead. Tutoring also provides students with the extra help they need to complete school work, address a learning disorder, or master content they struggle with. Depending on your child’s learning style, your tutor might use visual aids, audio clips, or art projects. They’ll need enough room – and enough supplies – to teach effectively.
During the hiring process, talk with your tutor about their plans for your child’s tutoring sessions. What kind of space do they need? Together, pick a quiet area in your home that you can dedicate solely to tutoring sessions. This could be the kitchen table, a study desk, or an out-of-the-way corner – wherever there’s enough room with limited distractions.
When your child and their tutor have a place that’s all their own to sit down and get to work, it provides the structure and stability for good learning. This routine carries over to every session and makes it easier for your tutor to develop a rapport with your student, so they can accomplish even more together.
Have other children? Make sure they understand that the tutor and your student need time and space to work on their own. Establish this boundary early, so your kids all understand that tutoring time is important work time.
2. Institute Quiet Hours
Tutoring time can also be good “quiet time” for the rest of your household.
Encourage your other kids to take up quiet activities, like reading, homework, or imaginative play. Turn off devices like TV, phones, or loud games and take a break from constant noise and simulation.
Even if your young ones don’t have phones, time away from screens is increasingly important. According to NBC News, “mobile media time” for children ages 0 to 8 has tripled over the last four years, while plugged-in tweens spend an average of 4.5 hours glued to their devices.
All this screen time takes a toll, suggest the findings of a 2017 study conducted at the CHEO Research Institute in Canada. The study was designed to test whether children who limited screen time and received between 9 and 11 hours of sleep each night were better able to think and reason.
As it turns out, the kids who spent the least amount of time in front of screens and got the most sleep performed better throughout the study.
“One leading hypothesis is that a lot of time on screens is spent multitasking, using multiple apps or devices at once,” explained Jeremy Walsh, a postdoctoral fellow at the Research Institute, to U.S. News & World Report. “This can interfere with a child’s ability to focus and sustain interest on a task. It can be impairing the building blocks for good cognition.”
Not only will your student benefit from minimizing screen time during their tutoring sessions, but the rest of your household could likely use an opportunity for some downtime, too.
3. Send Kids Outside
If true “quiet time” is a no-go at your house, try sending your other children outside or to a different part of the house to play. Most kids don’t get enough exercise or imaginative downtime as it is, and this will help them burn off energy and encourage creativity while keeping indoors relatively quiet for tutoring.
Plus, outdoor time has multiple health and wellness benefits for your kids, even if they don’t stray far from home while you supervise tutoring.
According to Collin O’Mara, head of the American Wildlife Foundation, encouraging young children to spend more time outside can improve school performance, help kids make new friends, encourage creativity, and promote good sleep.
“I love watching my older daughter’s smile grow as her senses awake to the sight of birds and butterflies, the smell of flowers and trees and the sounds of water rushing or leaves rustling,” O’Mara writes at The Washington Post. “Importantly, she gets a vital break from her intense indoor, too often digitized and highly regimented lifestyle.”
Whether they go as far as the backyard or take a supervised trip to the park with your partner, your kids will get a guaranteed kick out of more outdoor time. The quiet household will give your tutored child even more of an opportunity to concentrate during their tutoring sessions, connect with their tutor, and master the content, too.
4. Coordinate Breaks and Boundaries With Your Tutor
Most young children can only study for 20 to 30 minutes at a time before they need to move on to another activity or take a break. Teens and tweens can likely study for longer periods of time, from 30 to 40 minutes, before they need to get up and stretch or rest their eyes.
Touch base with your tutor about what breaks will look like during tutoring sessions. What parts of the house – and things like snacks, toys, and games – are off-limits during tutoring? Is your child allowed to look at their phone as a reward? Read independently for 15 minutes? Color a picture?
Remember: You’re paying a certified educator for their expertise in subject matter, as well as their knowledge about what makes a successful learning environment. Work collaboratively with your tutor to establish boundaries and rewards that feel appropriate for your student’s needs, your comfort level as a parent, and the tutor’s needs as an educator.
For most tutors – and students – it’s also best if parents make themselves scarce during tutoring sessions. If you hang around during a session, it could make it more difficult for your student to focus – even if they’re on break. Establish with your tutor ahead of time where you’ll be hanging out or working during the session. Encourage your student to follow the rules and have a good time – then make your exit!
5. Emphasize Family Time
Even though tutoring can be fun and engaging, it’s still extra work for your young student. That can make kids feel left out, especially when their brothers and sisters get to spend the time playing, attending after-school clubs, or hanging out with friends.
In order to make your tutored child feel included, make sure to emphasize family time after the tutoring session is over. Whether you all sit down to dinner together, watch a movie, or take a walk around the block before it gets dark, family time helps your student transition from a long workday back into being a kid.
According to a recent study from the Journal of Marriage and Family, the amount of time spent together matters less to a child’s development than the quality of the time. That’s good news for parents struggling to juggle after-school activities and tutoring sessions to boot.
Every family member has individual responsibilities, interests, hobbies, and activities they do on their own. Helping your child see that tutoring is just one of the things they do makes it less isolating and more independent and confidence-building. Making sure that it’s balanced with quality family time benefits everyone.