In striving for better grades or holding onto good ones, high expectations – and sometimes the rigors of testing in schools – make learning centers important to parents and kids.
Molly Wright started having “math anxiety” – as her mom, Nancy, calls it – in the middle of her fourth grade year. “The teacher had to move along quickly,” says Nancy, “and Molly just sort of shut down. She didn’t speak up, and then she got really behind,” the Nashville mom admits, and that’s when she sought the help of a learning center for Molly. What Molly’s mom didn’t know was that Molly wasn’t spending enough time on her work in class or at home.
“All education comes down to time on task,” says Paul FitzPatrick, owner of Huntington Learning Center of Cool Springs. “If sufficient time is not spent on work, things will go awry,” he adds. FitzPatrick believes that in the right situation, kids want to learn, and if they’re not doing that, there’s reason.”
There are three main reasons a child may need or want extra help: for enrichment, to hone skills or to bring him up to grade level (remediation).”Each situation is different,” says Lucy Karen Clay, owner of Expressways To Learning (ETL), a learning center with locations in Franklin and Goodletsville.”Certainly the demands upon both teachers and schools play a role in the learning environment and could limit a teacher’s opportunity to provide individual services,” she adds.
If you can sense frustration growing in your child, you may be able to catch a problem before it snowballs into a larger one. Clay says some signs parents may notice are a reluctancy to read, frustration with homework, low self-esteem and changes in behavior.
FitzPatrick says it’s important for parents to hone-in on what’s going on when they suspect a problem with their child’s achievement.
“The most critical aspect most often under-appreciated by parents is that every child is different,” FitzPatrick says. “You really have to pinpoint what the issue is.”
At Huntington, FitzPatrick says they “hone-in” using 15 different evaluation tools in order to “learn what needs to be fixed.” Students who come to Huntington are tested, then taught, then retested before going onto the next thing. Children up to grade 3 work one-on-one with an instructor at Huntington to deliver the center’s cognitive skills training program.
Is There a Problem?
Sometimes a significant skill gap can grow with a student over a period of years rather than weeks, so it is important to diagnose the key issues and address them in conjunction with coursework the student is facing at present in class.
But what if your child is facing learning problems that go beyond what’s happening in the classroom? Identifying your child’s learning style is crucial, says Clay.
“Expressways To Learning (ETL) identifies HOW a child learns,” she says. Using unique computer software,”ETL systems provide ‘brain retraining’ which addresses the root of the problem. Students receive immediate, positive feedback and do not move forward until they master skills presented,” Clay says.
It’s important to identify what’s going on with your child in order to place him in the right learning situation outside of the classroom. For instance, if your child is having difficulty reading or just understanding concepts you think he should be able to understand, a processing issue may be what’s going on.
“The speed of processing information varies from child to child,” says Cindy Loftin, director of Dyslexia Centers of Tennessee, located in Brentwood.”Some children take a longer time to understand and apply a concept or skill than others. This contributes to the concern that parents have with testing,” she adds. At the Dyslexia Centers, teachers spend a great deal of time working with children who have reading blocks.
“Can your child understand and comprehend what is read to them?” Loftin asks.”Do they have difficulty understanding what they read for themselves?” The Dyslexia Centers work with children who have difficulty with auditory and visual processing, all types of dyslexia, and short- and long-term memory difficulty.”We are a language-based program which works with the students to fill in the gaps of their reading, spelling, writing and information processing,” says Loftin.”Through intervention we are able to give the students the skills they lack for success.”
Often, parents won’t even consider getting help for their child until they see a poor report card or low achievement test scores. This may be too late. It’s important to trust your instincts with your child.”Look at the needs of the child,” suggests Loftin.”Ask yourself: ‘What do you hope to accomplish?'”
At LearningRX in Brentwood, Director of Operations Tommy Rocco says cognitive skill training may be in order.
“We offer four different programs that literally train the brain’s long- and short-term memory and more,” Rocco says.”ThinkRX, ReadRX, MathRX and LiftOff are programs based on more than 20 years of research than can help kids with or without disabilities,” he adds. While tutoring may be geared specifically toward helping a child pass a grade or a test, Rocco says, LearningRX’s six-month programs yield results with a guarantee.
“When kids leave here, we see huge improvements in confidence,” Rocco says.
And whatever is going on with your student, FitzPatrick says there probably isn’t a”Band-Aid” fix.
“To find out what’s really going on with a student facing difficulties, you really have to go back to find out what’s going on and fix it,” he says.”Then you can move forward.”
While many parents turn to learning centers when their child is facing some kind of learning gap, others want to be sure their child is getting more from his education. These parents believe that simply being on grade level is not enough to compete in the world, and that a learning center will provide the educational edge their child needs to get ahead.
“Families who seek supplemental work really see the value in education,” says FitzPatrick.
While schools have to move through massive amounts of academic material today to keep up with the rigors of testing as put forth in No Child Left Behind, supplemental learning for kids can”slow down” the learning time and fill in the learning gaps when they occur.
Locating Help That Works for Your Child
Often, a child can just hit a snag in one aspect of an academic subject and lose confidence as was the case with Molly Wright. Her mom signed her up with a math tutor, got her the support she needed, and Molly caught up to her peers. When choosing help for your child, make sure it’s the right match.
“The interview process is vital,” Clay says.”Children need to feel comfortable in their environment in order for optimal receptive learning to take place.”
A good learning center has teachers who are passionate about children and who have the ability to create an affirming learning environment for students. Don’t sign up your child unless you are comfortable communicating with the educators in charge.
“If parents are not â€˜on board’ and confident in their choice of educational services, then the child will pick up on that and in return, may not receive the maximum benefit. Communication needs to be frequent and clear between the instructional team and the parents,” says Clay.
Jessica Scott is a mother and freelance writer.