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Frequently Asked Questions from Parents in Winnipeg

At Partners for Learning, we strive to help parents understand our process and get comfortable with the work we do involving their child. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we received from parents in Winnipeg.

Is It Possible My Child Is Just a "Late Bloomer"?

It is true that children do develop at different rates. However, the greater the difference between your child's achievement levels and the curricular expectations of the grade, the more difficult it will be to narrow this gap. Don't forget, while your child is trying to catch up, the rest of the class is progressing as well. Parents need to address an existing or potential problem sooner than later.

How Can I Know If My Child Needs Academic Help?

Parents know their child better than anyone, and if you are concerned, follow your instincts and have your concerns investigated. Some warning signs for parents to consider include:

  • A parent's gut feeling of concern or anxiety that something may not be quite right.
  • A child's anxiety about attending school.
  • Poor self-esteem and/or behavioral problems.
  • Avoidance of academic-like tasks and activities.
  • More than the expected amount of homework each night.
  • Afraid of taking risks with learning.
  • A belief system that learning in general is hard.
  • A child's belief that he or she is not smart enough.

What Should I Look for in an Effective Instructional Program?

Parents should look for the following characteristics in their child's instructional plan of action in order to maximize their academic progress:

  • A program that reflects Manitoba curriculum expectations.
  • A program that is individualized based on assessment information and delivered by a certified teacher.
  • A program where learning is accelerated through one-on-one instruction wherever possible.
  • A program based on direct, systematic instruction and sufficient guided and independent practice using an appropriate level of materials.
  • A program that uses carefully selected reading materials that are at the child's current instructional reading level as this promotes academic growth and self-confidence as a learner without frustration or anxiety.
  • A program where goals are revised as academic progress occurs.
  • A program that acknowledges catching up takes time and there are no quick fixes for learning.

Why Is Early Detection and Treatment of Learning Problems so Important?

Your child's self-image is closely linked to success in school. Children who are experiencing academic difficulties are usually less willing to take the necessary risks for learning to occur. Instead, they may develop compensating behaviors which mask the real problem. Early detection facilitates early intervention which, in turn, allows your child to become successful and competent and most important, to believe that he or she is a successful learner.

How Long Will It Take to Bring My Child Up to Grade Level?

Children fall behind their peers for different reasons. Some children, for example, may have transferred from a different province or city and are behind at their new school because of an instructional lag. The two institutions may have differing standards for that grade or at that time of the year and so this child needs sufficient time and instructional supports to "catch up" to the rest of the class. Other children have an identified learning difficulty. These children may experience difficulty in committing information to their long term memory or in using their language skills to facilitate their learning. These children need an environment that facilitates learning by addressing both their strengths and weaknesses. And there are also children who find learning in general to be hard. They require more direct teaching and more guided practice in order to make progress at their own rate.

There is no magic answer to this question but one thing is certain and that is that there are no quick fixes to academic problems. Children need to learn at their own pace and should be provided with an appropriate instructional plan of action that is carried out by trained professionals. Children need to be given realistic, achievable goals to strive towards along with the necessary supports and assistance both in and outside of the school system. When children are given an environment in which they are immersed in successes with their learning, they can begin to develop a positive self-image as a successful learner and their academic progress will be enhanced.

How Do I Know If My Child Needs Tutoring?

Parents know their child better than anyone so if you are worried, you need to take the time right now to have the problem checked out by a qualified professional. A parent may not know the details or the extent of the problem, as that's what a professional can do. However, a parent can listen to that "gut feeling" that something doesn't seem to be right. They can listen to their child who may feel that they are not keeping up with the rest of the class.

A parent can acknowledge these warning signs and begin an action plan that can address whether or not there is a problem, develop an instructional plan of action and provide the necessary extra supports as needed, outside but in collaboration with the school system. Listen to your instincts as a parent. Listen to and observe your child and then take any necessary steps.

How Can I Be Sure Tutoring Will Help My Child?

There is no magic solution to helping a child who has learning difficulties make academic progress. There is no magic bullet, no quick fix and parents should beware of anyone who suggests otherwise. A learning difficulty usually doesn't happen overnight and therefore one should not expect a quick resolution to such a problem.

The answer to helping a child with learning difficulties lies in dedicated and consistent hard work and in the instructional plan of action that is created for your child's unique learning styles. An assessment is needed to create a realistic and useful instructional program by identifying your child's achievement levels and necessary skills and strategies to develop. From this point an instructional program can be created that is designed for your child's needs. It should consist of an environment that includes direct, systematic instruction, sufficient opportunities for both guided and independent practice and the use of instructional materials that are at your child's current achievement level, as this will facilitate regular and ongoing experiences for success with learning.

The plan of action should always incorporate the Manitoba curriculum expectations. A healthy self-esteem as a learner is encouraged when a child is immersed in successful academic experiences on a daily basis. These successes will then turn the current tapes in your child's head from "this is hard, I'm dumb" to new tapes including "I'm smart, reading is easy, I know how to solve this math problem".

The Teacher Says My Child Will Catch up but I'm Not Sure. How Can I Be Sure?

Children who are academically behind their peers need instructional supports and guided practice in order to catch up. Remember, while your child is working on narrowing the gap between his current achievement level and that of the grade, the rest of the class is also actively learning and progressing. Children who are behind need extra supports that are carefully designed to maximize academic growth and progress by developing the necessary skills and strategies for reading, writing, math or thinking abilities required in all subject areas.

If your child is struggling academically and you are concerned, get help now. Learning is complex and so are learning difficulties. The best way to facilitate your child's academic progress is through a well-designed instructional program offered by trained professionals who are ready and willing to collaborate in their efforts to help your child.

Why Does My Child Refuse to Work at Home?

You, as a parent, are your child's first teacher. From infancy you have read to, played games with and generally made learning fun for him. When difficulties at school become apparent, learning at home is less fun. Your child likely knows when he is making mistakes and he can read in your face the concern or frustration in trying to teach him something that you are not trained to teach and that he is having difficulty learning. This may result in an impasse that neither of you can cross. Tutoring by a trained professional can provide a neutral party who will teach your child what he needs to know with kindness and understanding. He won't feel so bad about making so many mistakes in front of you and you can once again be the parent who can be amazed and proud of his successes.

My Child Hates Reading, What Can I Do?

There are several ways you can change how your child feels about reading. However, there is no quick and simple solution, especially if your child dislikes reading because it is hard for him to do successfully and with ease. Turning such a child into one who loves reading means that he experiences successes with the reading process to the extent that he will want to pick up and read a book during his leisure time because he has become "hooked" on reading. This takes time and consistent work. Parents can encourage this change by considering the following suggestions:

  • Set an example by letting your child see you reading regularly and frequently.
  • Read to your child, leaving time for discussion and comments or even role playing.
  • Make sure that the books your child reads to you are easy. Reading harder books, possibly in an attempt to encourage his progress, lets him practice his mistakes and reinforce his current belief system that reading is hard, that it doesn't easily make sense and is not fun. Progress can be accelerated by having him read to you at his current independent level where he can experience repeated successes with the reading process.
  • Arrange to have DEAR time in your house, possibly 3-4 times a week, where everyone Drops Everything and Reads as a family. Reading can and should be a pleasure rather than a chore and you can accomplish this by making it part of your regular routines and by showing your child that reading is a valuable and important part of everyday life.

Why Is Reading at Home So Important?

Children begin to learn as soon as they are born. By reading to them regularly from birth, you are accomplishing several important things:

  • Your child will develop book knowledge; where a book begins and ends, that we read from left to right, top to bottom, that what we say can be written down and can be read and understood by others.
  • Finger tracking as you read and discussing words enhances the speech to print associations for young children. This is an important pre-requisite for the reading process at school.
  • Reading to children familiarizes them with story language which will help them to develop a better understanding how authors organize their thoughts and ideas in print for a meaningful reading experience.
  • Reading to children and discussing the story improves their vocabulary or word meaning skills and this has a direct and positive impact on the reading process.
  • Regular home reading encourages a lifelong habit of reading and the more a child reads the more likely he will be able to succeed and to enjoy learning.

Why Does My Child Need to Come to Tutoring on a Regular Basis?

The amount of progress made in any learning situation is determined by the time spent both modeling and demonstrating a strategy, procedure or thought process as well as practicing the skills and strategies needed for success in that area. A child remembers better when the length of time between sessions is consistent and occurs regularly. For example, if your child attends tutoring once a week and misses two sessions in a month, your child would likely forget what he was in the process of learning. As a result, time would need to be spent re-teaching the procedure or strategy and again, practicing it so that mastery learning can take place. For optimal progress in your child's academic progress, tutoring needs to occur regularly with missed sessions made up. Remember, while your child is trying to narrow the gap between his current achievement level and that expected for the grade, the rest of the class is actively learning and progressing as well.

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