Tutoring Your Own Children

There is this view that mother has little patience to tutor own children and thus those who can and do so successfully, must be truly extraordinary and really walk-on-water mom. I am definitely not a walk-on-water mom, I tutor my daughter simply because I have to, as I struggle to find someone initially who can do successfully, especially in early year of my daughter education period. My late father also tutor me endlessly so I simply follow in my father footstep. I am sharing my experience to tutor your daughter, hopefully this will be helpful for those in the same situation.

Most important is the principle and the objective

I started with thinking tutoring is, if not for getting good score at least understanding the subject. I then realize at some point (that points are when exam coming up and I am traveling for business), the objective should be ‘learning how to learn’ for my daughter because I will not be able to forever tutor her. One, because I may not understand the subject (chemistry for example escape me completely), two, I will not be there forever to tutor her (there are business travel among others) and lastly, it is somehow more effective when she learns herself successfully and stay longer with her. With this objective, I structure the tutorial session to meet the objective. As it is about learning how to learn, I focus on how she can learn herself in the future and when she fails, what are the learning insight. We talk not only about the subject, exam material but most importantly how she can study herself next time. I walk her through and we have dialogue not only on math/history/BI but also how to learn effectively, fine tuning for different subject. You may have different principle and objective but most importantly before you start tutoring, reflect on what are those principles and objectives that is relevant for your children education.

Recognize your own children learning style, interest and ‘hot button’

Before we embark on preparation, understanding how your children learn is critical so you can plan tutorial effectively. Things to consider, what is the focus span of your children (15 min ? 30 min ? 10 min ?), can you identify signals then they are about out of focus and what are the distraction that one want to avoid to shorten the focus. What is the most effective way for your children to learn, do they study more effectively when they read, take notes or listen to audio. Typically it is a combo of one and another for example, read and take notes or listen and take notes. Be more detail in your understanding, is it take notes that is important or actually vocalizing the notes, is it reading words or pictures, it is listening to songs or discussion. Study especially when the material is exhaustive, it is tiring. Your children need motivation and reward even during study time, understand what can motivate them and also which rewards work. Do they get motivated by scores (that may lead to reward ?) or they like being knowledgeable amongst their friends or they simply like the subject (or the teacher ?). When things are hard, rather than getting angry, remind them of the motivation or even reward them with break when it is difficult but they persist.

Preparation is paramount

I never start tutoring without understanding the subject myself and thinking through the timeline required. If this is toward exam, I will start 4-8 weeks to prepare even before indication of material is given because I want to start with the fundamentals. I will plan the timing of each session, the length of tutorial and subject we cover. I prepare contingency plan if it takes longer based on degree of difficulty and as well whether this is something that she will find it boring / hard / unpalatable or something fun / easy / exciting. I typically prepare quizzes for her to do upfront, based on her learning style (she likes stories and music), I will prepare on the materials (for example if this is Mandarin and focusing on Chinese character, I will prepare stories on the origin of the character and spice it up to make it interesting) and usually I prepare ahead why this particular subject important for her so she understand what is at stake. I also prepare reward and plan the tutorial for break. I realize that am not fully equip as teacher so I spend sometime reading through pedagogy (science for education) and as well some textbook for specific subjects for example how to teach how to read, teaching math and few others.

We are stuck !

It is impossible that tutorial do not encounter moments when we get stuck. My principle is that teacher / tutor hold responsibility to make the lesson interesting, effectively understood comprehensively and what it means for the children in the future. Therefore it is important to not get angry when your children (and mine) don’t understand what we are talking about. Parents hold the ultimate responsibility for their children education on and off school. Therefore, take a break (including for you, by the way, sit through one episode of your Korean Drama) when we get stuck. Once you have finished your agreed upon break, have conversation what lead to the point of stuck, be honest whether you are qualified to teach the subject and if not, get help yourself so you can teach a bit more. Change the approach if need be, maybe the child feel exhausted, fatigue or bored. I have experienced with my daughter where it takes 3-4 different approaches before we are successfully conquering the subject. I always make sure that even since very young, I started tutoring with up front agreement on break, objective and approach so when we are stuck, I can discuss the changes with her so she also understands that it is ok to get stuck, she just need to think her way around to get unstuck.

It needs to be fun for your children and and You, be happy ! 

You yourself need to be motivated why you want and need to tutor your children. Imagine the success everything you experience hardship. My motivation is to create meaningful moments where she can see I struggle, we study / learn together, build resilience and taste success together. I want to create space to share important values that I want to leave as legacy in the way she can relate, understand and later on hopefully own and practice. Therefore study needs to be purposeful together, not just for your children. Additionally, being purposeful should help you being happy to be doing tutoring, rather than see it as obligation that you need to get through quickly (and get angry when you get stuck). Make the sessions fun, do a short break and prepare on things you can do together during these breaks. If your children is on the younger side, prepare fun activities such as singing, story telling and moving as well as drawing to help make the study less boring, more fun and engaging.

It is really for me an arduous journey with my daughter. I did not always able to hold my emotion and there are moments that are pretty traumatic for her. But I learn to be better tutor every time, she saw and heard me when I struggle to teach and in the process role model resilience. The joy when we both see good scores, understand the subject and seeing her now understanding on learning how to learn, her way, really beyond words to me. There are moments we now look back together – even in the most difficult time, I cherish them all and oh so glad that I do not skip them. I also get extra benefit in which at work I learn how to be better mentor, coach and leader. The planning, the observation, the things we do to get us unstuck, they are all invaluable for my work.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that I still get her tutor and I do not do it on my own, there is her dad, her tutor and some extra lessons. It takes a village and do not ever feel lacking when it takes that many people to help raise your children. You are giving the best of the world you can afford for your children, that is what it is all about.

Enjoy !

#parenting #tutoringadvise #tutormommy #school

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