Thoughtful Parenting: Fostering lifelong independent learning |

Thoughtful Parenting: Fostering lifelong independent learning

Jerry Hernandez
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

 “I don’t have homework today. I did it at school!” or “My teacher didn’t assign homework.” Many parents have heard these excuses. Later, some parents are surprised to find their child falling behind or failing altogether. 

After speaking with teachers, parents are told their child understands the subject matter. Leaving parents to ask, “What’s going on?” 

In 2001, the Department of Education set out to find the answer.

A British tutoring program involving 2,372 elementary and junior high students who were tutored by trained parents and peers for an average of 8.6 weeks improved their reading comprehension 4.4 times the normal rate and word recognition 3.3 times the normal rate. The study went on and seemed to point to the underlying problem for many children: motivation.

Great tutoring is helping someone become a lifelong independent learner. The role of the tutor is not to show how to solve a math problem, but to help the student learn how to find the answers and find the solutions on their own. For example, the tutor may ask the question, “What is a fraction?” The student can’t remember the definition. Then, the tutor gives the definition.

What lesson did the tutor just teach? Knowing fundamentals is not important. Also, if you don’t know fundamentals, someone else will tell you. And, that’s exactly how life in the workplace operates, right? Wrong. Life doesn’t work that way, either. 

An effective tutor helps the student find the answer to the question, helping figure out how to get to the correct answer. The tutor might direct the student to their math book to find the definition for example. They guide the student through the process of learning rather than just focusing on getting an answer. 

This focus on the learning process rather than just getting the answer has a meaningful impact on the underlying problem for many learners: motivation. 

When looking for a tutor, you might contact your child’s school, consider peer tutors, look for tutoring agencies and contact nonprofit organizations.

Remember, an effective tutor is positioned to help a child think critically, experience different paths to a solution, manage frustration and, in the end, help the student become a lifelong independent learner. 

Jerry Hernandez is the education coordinator at Integrated Community. He oversees education programs that include, free tutors for both children and adults learning English.

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