Today’s kids are notoriously over scheduled. They have sports and music lessons and clubs and playdates to manage on top of homework, studying, essays, and group projects. It can all feel like too much, especially when you have a child who needs extra help to stay on track in school.
How do you help your child find time to be a kid, especially when they need after-school tutoring?
At TutorUp, we connect you with certified, experienced teachers who know how to customize lesson plans based on your child’s interests and learning style. Personalized learning makes tutoring sessions more effective and fun, and it can be one small step in finding the right school-life balance.
Here are 5 tips for making sure your tutored child has enough time for homework and hobbies without feeling overwhelmed:
1. Carve out time for homework, play, dinner, and sleep
For children who need tutoring, staying on top of homework can be a big challenge. That’s why it’s so important for parents to establish what after-school “homework time” looks like.
Do you check in with your kids about homework when you get home after work? If you’re already at home, do you make sure they spend quality time on school work, free of other distractions?
Establish expectations about finishing homework and meeting study goals early, and watch for warning signs that your children are having trouble balancing their activities.
Do they seem overtired and stressed? They might be trying to tackle too much and not getting enough rest. Are they quiet and withdrawn? They might be down after spending too much time slogging away on schoolwork and not enough time with friends.
After all, your children spend eight or more hours each day trying to focus in school. It’s ok for them to take a break, play outside, hang out with friends, watch TV, or pursue other hobbies after school, too.
Perhaps most importantly, children need structured times for sleep and family dinner. Without enough sleep, kids have difficulty solving problems and focusing, while a regular dinner time gives children an opportunity to forge stronger bonds with their family.
By creating a stable structure around their most important needs, you’ll help your kids find the room in their days for everything from school work to play.
2. Embrace your child’s interests
Whether your kid is obsessed with princesses or can’t stop studying bugs with a magnifying glass, it’s important to encourage and embrace your child’s interests.
Seek out the activities they seem most drawn to, so they have both creative and social outlets that help them thrive.
As a parent, it’s also important to help your child prioritize. If they want to take saxophone lessons, join marching band, play soccer, and attend the French Club after school, will their grades suffer?
According to Oren Amitay, a Toronto-based psychologist, too many after-school activities could make for a more anxious kid – especially if the schedule’s starting to overwhelm you, too.
“Being busy isn’t necessarily bad, but kids pick up on the atmosphere around them,” Amitay told Global News. “It’s the tension, the frustration, the panic in trying to arrange all these things.”
Are you worried that your child is taking on too many after-school clubs and activities? Help them identify one or two activities that are most meaningful to them and encourage them to stick with it.
That doesn’t mean their interest will last forever, though, says Hilary Levey Friedman, a sociologist at Harvard University.
“Childhood is the time to try out many different things, so not all music, art, and sports classes will stick for the long run,” Friedman told NBC’s Today. “But kids should try to get a complete experience with a class or team before moving on to something else.”
If you think your child has given the activity a shot and simply needs to pare back, give them permission to take a break from after-school clubs, sports, and other activities that have lost their luster.
They’ll feel more excited about being able to focus on one or two hobbies that mean the most, and you won’t have to worry that they are spread too thin.
3. Schedule regular, short tutoring sessions
When young children need after-school tutoring, it adds even more instructional time to an already long day.
Not only are kids and teens often getting more homework than they can handle, but some after-school tutoring programs can wind up adding more to the workload.
How much is too much? According to a poll from Statistic Brain, teens are often spending more than three hours on homework every night.
That’s way more than the recommended 10 minutes per night per grade level, says Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, an education columnist for U.S. News & World Report.
“Regardless, research has shown that doing more than two hours of homework per night does not benefit high school students,” Lohmann writes. “Having lots of homework to do every day makes it difficult for teens to have any downtime, let alone family time.”
Work with your tutor to establish regular, short sessions that maximize one-on-one instructional time – but that won’t make it impossible for your kid to be a kid.
Perhaps it’s appropriate for your tutor to offer homework support that can help your child lessen the load from their teacher. Other sessions might be devoted to tackling fundamental concepts that can help your student be more successful in the classroom – and cut back on homework time after school.
Be in communication with your tutor about the best ways to juggle homework with additional instructional needs. By using TutorUp’s tutoring reports, you and your tutor can also communicate directly with your child’s teacher about their workload and progress.
4. Encourage your tutor to incorporate your child’s interests
Your child’s hobbies are an important way for them to socialize after school, but their interests can be insightful for a tutor to know about, too.
One of the biggest perks of one-on-one instruction is the chance for children to experience personalized learning. Expert tutors incorporate your child’s interests into their lesson plans, making tutoring sessions more enjoyable and effective.
From art and science projects that help your child understand fundamental concepts, to self-directed learning, the work your child does with a tutor can be informed by their natural interests and curiosity.
By working with your tutor to personalize tutoring sessions, you’ll help your child develop a genuine rapport with their tutor. A positive rapport helps tutors make progress with students more quickly, especially when there’s difficult material to cover.
Instead of balking at the latest round of calculus or physics homework, your child will be able to fall back on a positive, nurturing relationship rooted in their strengths and interests.
Done well, tutoring can deepen your child’s ability to learn by drawing on their hobbies. It might still be homework, but at least it’s fun!
5. Show your kids you value their accomplishments at all levels
We’re socialized early in life to associate our value as people with the work that we do. That’s why studies show that kids who receive “bad grades” also struggle with self-confidence and self-esteem.
Too often, we don’t encourage students who achieve lower grades because we don’t view those grades as an accomplishment. Instead we attempt to “remediate” them, and one-on-one tutoring can unfortunately feel like this approach when a student is struggling.
The remedial mindset can begin a bad cycle that winds up killing a child’s natural curiosity or interest in subject material. A genuine love of learning, on the other hand, might actually produce a healthier, more positive attitude toward school – no matter what grades your student earns.
It’s the job of both parents and educators to nurture a child’s curiosity and interests, says Maurice J. Elias, Director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab. This produces not only more competent learners, but learners who are motivated to challenge themselves in the future.
“Competence is propelled by curiosity and interest,” Elias writes at Edutopia. “As children come to feel effective in accomplishing something, they are more likely to try to replicate that feeling by trying to accomplish more challenging tasks.”
Encouraging curiosity and interest can be a healthy way out of the “bad grades” and “low self-esteem” rut. Work with your tutor to positively reinforce your child’s accomplishments in every session. Together, you can instill a lifelong love of learning that will benefit your child for years to come.