In all our years serving the community, supporting students and families just like you, we have never experienced anything quite like the 2020-2021 school year. We are grateful that so many of you reached out for support – because now, more than ever before, our ability to meet the unique needs of our students is crucial.
The Village Tutors are proud to have stood alongside you! Together we have successfully adapted to hybrid learning, remote learning, and a whole new kind of in-person learning.
We have all persevered.
Thank you for your trust in us as we successfully navigated learning during a global pandemic.
Thank you for the continued opportunity for us to do what we love!
Now, go enjoy the summer!
Founder, The Village Tutors
And all my treasured colleagues...
Summer is upon us, and for new juniors and seniors this means college selection is right around the corner. The summer months are a great time for students to look at colleges, research their options and even start visiting campuses! With so much information available, though, the college selection process can be overwhelming for both students and parents.
How can you best support your student as they navigate deciding which college is right for them? Here are a few of our tips to help you get started…
Does the college match your student academically?
When considering college options, it’s important to look at the programs and curriculums as well as the rigor of the institutions. For example, if your student is really interested in biology – but is considering a school known for its journalism program – it may be worth evaluating if there are other options better aligned to their interests.
Similarly, students should consider the rigor and pace of the colleges they are researching. College is an exciting time to be challenged and pushed personally and academically, but you definitely don’t want your student getting into a situation that is overly demanding or stressful for them. On the other hand, selecting a school that is less rigorous than your student’s potential could prove to be too easy, or potentially boring, as a college experience. Finding the healthy balance is critical to overall success and enjoyment.
Is the college affordable for your family?
While many students take on some type of debt when attending college, there may come a point where too much debt does not make sense. If an excessive loan will negatively impact your student or your family financially down the road, it’s worth considering if that college really is the best choice.
Fortunately, there are many options for students to help offset the cost of school, including grants, scholarships and work-study programs. As a part of your student’s research, encourage them to look into what financial options they qualify for and can reasonably pursue. You can then use this information to understand what colleges realistically make sense for your student and your family.
Will the college help your student achieve their goals?
It may seem obvious in the process, but when considering schools, it’s first and foremost important to ensure that they have the degree program your student is interested in pursuing. Even if your student isn’t sure of the path they’d like to take, exploring various options that colleges offer will help to determine if a school has what your student may be interested in, or if it’s not the right fit.
Having a general idea of interest – and finding colleges that match that interest – is an important factor when determining if a college is right for your student. This also presents a great opportunity to visit campuses and talk with current students to understand why they chose the school. They may have been in a similar situation as your student and can help to shed light by sharing their experience.
Does the “feel” of the college feel right to your student?
At the end of the day, a college is going to be your student’s new home for the next several years. This is incredibly important, and the general “feel” of the school cannot be overlooked. There is a lot that can go into determining “feel” – including geographic location, size of the school, social climate, extracurricular activity options, etc. and your student most likely has other factors that will go into this equation.
As you are researching and visiting schools together, emphasize the importance of “feel” for your student so they don’t get too caught up in the other elements of consideration. Even if a school checks every single box except “feel”, it’s important to remind your student that they need to feel welcome and at home. If they do not feel that, then the school may not be right for them.
Researching and selecting a college is an exciting time for your student and your family. At The Village Tutors, we offer College Consulting to provide expert guidance through this process. Learn more here and reach out to our team for assistance with these important decisions.
By: Ann Wilson, The Village Tutors
Depending on your student’s year in school, it’s either “wait for college decisions” season or “think about college applications” season. Both are super exciting and super stressful!
For this year’s seniors, there have been more delays than usual as schools try to sift through thousands of applicants, many of whom do not have standardized test scores. The lesson learned this year is that a student can never have too many safety schools, and, thankfully, there are actually a few schools still accepting applications. Other kids are starting to consider gap years if they cannot get into their school of choice this time around. Hopefully, everyone gets an acceptance they feel good about, but, gosh, waiting is so tough.
Seniors are also starting to think about scholarship applications, which often require more essays and a resume. Some kids are putting together portfolios, videos of sports highlights, and preparing auditions. Phew!
For juniors, the reality might have hit that they will soon be applying to colleges themselves, and some students may be contemplating whether or not they actually want to pursue a college degree. Some juniors are avoiding having to think about these next steps, but I (we) highly encourage families to start having conversations about college plans.
And what about those standardized tests? Take them! Prepare for them! It doesn’t mean you have to submit them, but for most students, submitting them will help your application. The fact that the SAT dropped the subject tests and the optional essay portion in order ‘to reduce the burden on students’ sends the message that colleges want students to attempt to submit test scores.
As the College Consultant at TVT, I encourage students to be ready to start filling out applications and writing essays in June. It is very stressful for kids to try and do a good job on college applications at the same time that they are trying to do well in school. If kids return to school in the fall with all their applications done and essays written, all they have to do in September is request their teacher and counselor recommendations and send their transcripts. At some of our big area high schools, requesting these supplementary materials is a very detailed and stressful process in itself, so the less there is to do in September, the better.
For families that have spring breaks, hopefully you can visit some college campuses. Use time away from school to talk about majors, types of post high school options for kids who might not be college-bound, and the types of schools where kids feel they might fit.
When I work with students on their college applications, we discuss majors and identify what they enjoy and what they are good at. We also discuss types of schools (big, small, medium, rural, urban, etc), but what matters most is “fit” -- a sense that each student will feel at home on the campus, surrounded by their kind of people, that they’re at a place where they can thrive on their own.
Once a list of colleges has been made (to include safety, reach, and ‘right there’ choices) we work on those essays. This is my favorite part of college consulting -- I love creative writing and helping kids find their voice!
Our college consulting services are offered a la carte: some students want help with the whole process, while others only use consulting to write the essays, to fill out the applications, or delve into how they can best use their talents and interests. Whatever your family needs, don’t hesitate to reach out. You can make the path to college more exciting and less stressful by starting the process early!
This past school year has been one of many challenges for students, teachers, and families. From navigating remote learning, practicing distancing in schools, and relying on technology in new ways, it’s been quite the year.
As summer break rapidly approaches, now is the critical time to keep students motivated to finish the year focused and optimistic. How can you best support your student during these last weeks of school? We have some ideas…
Lead with Empathy
Since this has been an unprecedented school year, it’s unsurprising that students may be feeling overwhelmed and tired. While it’s important to continue to maintain due dates and expectations – especially for homework, projects, tests, etc. – remember to lead with a spirit of understanding. For students struggling to meet due dates, or resisting completing homework at home, take the time to talk with them about what’s going on. It could be the stresses of finishing the school year, the ongoing pandemic, or something else entirely. Taking the time to understand where they are – and what they need – is a critical way to boost motivation through the rest of the school year.
Change the Scenery
As the weather continues to warm up, now is a great time to take learning outside! For remote learners, encourage students to complete tasks outdoors – especially those that don’t require WiFi. Something simple like sitting on the back porch or spreading a blanket on the yard to complete work can help re-energize students. Similarly, for students learning in-person at schools, teachers can take advantage of nice days to bring lessons outdoors. This change in scenery can help students better focus on topics, and even complete work more quickly and effectively. A change from the everyday routine can make a big difference and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Now more than ever, celebrating the big and small wins is so important! At home, celebrate when your students complete a difficult task, finish a test, or turn in a large project. Taking the time to recognize and acknowledge their accomplishments is a great way to keep them motivated. Remember that celebrating the small wins is just as important as the big! For in-person learners, teachers can consider a “Wins Wall” or something similar where students can be recognized and share their accomplishments. Celebrating large and small wins is very significant for students, and will help them stay on track for finishing the school year positively.
Provide More Support When Needed
If your student is struggling, remember that there is more support available – outside of parents and teachers. Knowing how to “Take N.O.T.E.” and observe whether additional support is needed is critical to your student’s academic success. Giving them the help and support they need, even if they don’t know to ask for it, is the ultimate tool in keeping them motivated and on track in their academic journey.
Podcasts and audiobook apps like Audible are now a normal part of our contemporary culture. We’ve heard excitement from parents when their student discovers a new podcast that gets them interested in learning something new. And, we’ve also heard disapproval from parents when their student begins to listen to books instead of traditionally reading it.
The truth is: it’s a common misconception that audio learning is a “lazy” or ineffective method of learning. What’s actually true is that audio learning can be a very effective tool – depending on the individual.
There are several different learning styles and it’s common for individuals to excel with one particular style. The four learning styles, often called VARK Modalities, include:
1) Visual (V)
2) Auditory (A)
3) Read/Write (R)
4) Kinesthetic (K)
It’s estimated that nearly 30% of the population are considered “auditory learners”—meaning they learn more efficiently through speaking and listening.
Common characteristics of an auditory learner may include:
As an added bonus, auditory learners benefit from a higher likelihood of information retention compared to individuals with other learning styles.
We encourage every student (and their support network of parents, teachers, and tutors) to get to know their unique learning style and to embrace it with every opportunity possible!
1) A subscription service such as Learning Ally is an outstanding resource for struggling readers.
2) Your local library is a great place to find audiobooks at no cost.
By: Haley Garvin, The Village Tutors
When it comes to humanities-based subjects, writing is arguably the most complex process that we expect our students to master. Sometimes we forget that a child’s writing development runs parallel to his/her reading development. To study and practice writing is to also study and practice reading skills. These two cannot be taught or mastered on their own.
So why does this matter?
We’ve all seen student essays that feel incomplete and disjointed. But correcting students’ written work and smoothing out their essays is no easy task. Supporting young writers as they navigate the writing process can feel laborious. Sometimes the more we try to help a child write, the further from the finish line we can become. I’ve heard from many parents that helping their child with essays or written work can be stressful (or in some cases tearful!). But if we take a step back and consider how to combine writing with reading, we may help students grow more confident with their command and understanding of language. With the right instructional approach, writing can be enjoyable and effective. More importantly, a positive experience with writing for young learners can carve out space for students to feel heard. With a few small tweaks, we can support students as they find their own voice on the page.
Most of the time, the gaps in student writing are products of a narrow sense of audience. Simply put, students write for their teachers. They write to complete an assignment, which was set by the teacher. Their audience is way too narrow. It is no wonder then, that oftentimes, student writing reads like it is missing the point. We need to take a step back and introduce young writers to the concept of “reader” - the universal reader.
This means explicitly teaching “writing knowledge.” This term refers to the understanding of genre and discourse. Writing knowledge is the sense a learner gets when they realize that narratives and informational texts have unique and separate structures. But even more important than structure (which curriculum seems to stress) is the understanding of audience. Students need help considering and remembering audience in their own written work. They need to consider their reader.
They need to take care of their reader. Think of how we usually respond when students’ handwriting is illegible. We say, “How will your teacher know what you mean if he/she cannot make out these letters?” Because students learn at such a young age that their writing must make sense to their teacher, they develop a skewed sense of audience. Ideally, we want young writers to learn how to write for a much larger, wider audience. Ideally, a student’s writing will make sense to more than one person.
Helping our learners grow more aware of the connection between reading and writing will support their sense of audience. This awareness will arm students with an effective approach to their language-based assignments in any class.
These tips and tricks are a few ways we (as educators or parents) can help our students develop more sophisticated writing knowledge:
1. Read out-loud! One of the simplest ways to keep the writer’s presence alive and known for young readers is to give a text a voice. Bonus! - extra fluency practice too! Reading should be treated like an active dialogue with the writer. Bring that dialogue to life with a real human voice. Listen to the text. Hear the cadence of its written voice. Reading out-loud is fun and engaging. Plus, students don’t get enough opportunities to do this in school. Read poetry, read stories, read articles, read everything. And take time to appreciate how a text sounds. This will begin to demystify the illusive “writer” who lives behind the text itself.
2. Write letters! Letters have the built-in luxury of a specific and intended “reader” which brings that relationship to the front of students’ minds. When students write letters (maybe to friends, to family, to heroes or celebrities), they are NOT writing directly for their teacher. This is great because it means students are more aware of their audience and how the words on the page are going to be understood (or misunderstood) by a reader. Do your teachers a huge favor and teach your student how to write an effective email! More than ever, students are expected to reach out to their teachers with questions. With remote learning, this means writing an email. But writing emails means writing clearly. Something as simple as a subject line can feel obvious to adults, but students need help unpacking the significance of these tools. Even the most tech-savvy students need help understanding how to make their writing work for them.
3. Practice writing in the third-person. Students feel very comfortable writing in the first person. We speak in the first-person, so writing in the first-person is a natural leap. But writing in the first-person becomes a “crutch” for our students who struggle with argument-based writing (especially the dreaded DBQ). Third-person writing demands greater control and a stronger appreciation for audience. Just switching the point-of-view can immediately push students in the right direction. Try eliminating I, me, my, we, us, etc. and see how students will stretch for new ways to make their point.
4. Replace“teacher as reader” with something more tangible and manageable for students. I use this little trick for all my students, but especially for students who are trying so hard to make their writing “sound smart.” I urge them to write so that a student one year younger could understand their ideas. The “one-year-younger-reader” really works magically! This helps students make adjustments for the sake of clarity. What would they change? Where might they slow down and explain their thinking more? For all subjects, we can use a scale to gage student mastery. Students can choose from these options: 1 = I’m totally lost 2 = I’m starting to get it 3 = I feel I understand most of this 4= I’m able to do this on my own now 5 = I can teach a friend how to do this! We use this to help students realize their own mastery but also to catch gaps in understanding. This tool can be leveraged for writing too. When students write only for their teacher, their writing often makes too many big assumptions. “My teacher will know what I mean here,” leads to unclear language and disjointed writing. If students write for a less educated audience, their writing will have to be extra-clear. Students are often amazed when they realize their work actually sounds smarter when they adjust their audience this way.
5. Creative writing! Students absolutely love creative writing. But a blank page is scary. So give students the freedom to write what they want, but provide a few thought-provoking prompts or questions. Creative writing naturally feels intended for a wider audience. This is also a great space to experiment with voice and humor, which helps students appreciate the reader-writer relationship.
Identifying whether or not your student would benefit from working with a tutor is the first step. (We have a blog post for that, too!)
Once you’ve made the decision to get help for your learner, you’ll next need to make a decision about where to get that help. Third-party research overwhelmingly supports tutoring as the best educational option for additional help. Two of the most common and accessible options: learning center or private tutor.
A learning center typically follows a corporate-identified process for evaluation, onboarding, and teaching. Parents who take their students to a learning center can expect to go through an evaluation process. The evaluation is usually formalized and uses a number of multi-disciplinary assessments to identify academic pain points. The evaluation results in receiving a recommended roadmap or learning plan. Typically, the learning plan is then translated into a weekly tutoring schedule that outlines how long the program will take and how much it will cost for your student. Sometimes, depending on the learning center and/or franchise, a contract will be presented to the parent or guardian, and the program will kick-off using a structured, pre-determined learning approach based on your child’s evaluation.
An experienced private tutor will offer a fully customized and personalized experience. Private tutors may be individuals who are equipped to teach out of their home, or perhaps career-tutors who are members of a small, local network of tutors, such as The Village Tutors. Private tutors will typically take a personalized approach to assessing the needs of a student. It may include asking a series of questions or completing a strategic task. A comprehensive, yet flexible plan is developed not using algorithms and data, but instead based on each unique student’s learning style and learning challenges. Ongoing and close communication with the parent or guardian is also a critical component to the success of private tutoring. While private tutors may outline a recommended learning plan, including estimated length of services, there is typically not a contract put in place. Instead, the progress of the student guides the way and determines the learning plan completion date.
Choosing a learning partner for your student that will be effective and tailored to their specific learning style can seem daunting. But rest assured, the right option will become obvious once you take the first step of evaluation.
To learn more about the approach The Village Tutors takes in helping your student reach their academic goals, visit our homepage or contact us directly.
In January 2021, College Board announced that they will no longer offer SAT Subject Tests or SAT with Essay. (Read full details here)
Cancellation of SAT Subject Tests – Effective immediately, these tests are no longer available to students in the United States. Anyone registered for the May or June 2021 administrations will automatically have their registrations canceled and fees returned.
Cancellation of SAT Essay – After June 2021, the Essay portion of the SAT will only be available in states where it’s required as part of SAT School Day administrations. Per the College Board’s announcement, “Students scheduled to take the SAT on a school day should check with their school about whether the Essay will be included.”
“So, what does this mean for MY student?”
Great question! As experts in test prep, we see opportunity for your student in this change. The changes are providing a more flexible, streamlined SAT that meets the ever-changing needs of students and evolving demands of higher education.
“For years leading up to this, pre-pandemic, there has been decreasing interest in the SAT Subject Tests with increasing emphasis on AP tests,” says Matt Wolszon, math and science test prep tutor at The Village Tutors.
With the rise of and widespread availability of AP testing paired with top colleges no longer requiring SAT Subject Test scores for entrance, SAT Subject Tests (once called, “Achievement Tests”) have become less necessary.
It’s reported that in 2017, 1.8 million high school students took the SAT, but only 219,000 took a Subject Test. And in 2018, many colleges that had previously required the SAT Essay dropped the requirement.
Years in the making, we anticipate the shift away from SAT Subject Tests and SAT Essays will result in an even stronger shift towards AP testing. Suzanne Petree, founder of The Village Tutors suggests, “As many colleges have removed the requirement for the SAT essay, this will lessen the demand on our students, and continue to streamline the college admissions process.”
Still have more questions? Reach out to us!
We’re often asked, “how do I know if my child actually needs a tutor?” Usually, if this is a question you’re asking, it’s reasonable to believe your student would benefit from some outside help. But it also begs another question, “does my child just need extra help, or are they struggling with a learning challenge?” It’s a question that deserves to be answered.
As the parent, there are some things you can do at home in order to identify whether your child may have a learning difficulty or delay. Then, if you identify potential learning challenges at home, you can seek the professional opinion of those trained in the diagnosis and support of that specific learning challenge.
Sounds simple enough. But as parents, we know how hard it can be to analyze something we may not know much about. And trying to figure out what’s going on when your child is struggling can feel overwhelming. Sure, we have our parental “gut instincts” – and while those are incredibly valuable…there’s something else that may help: Take N.O.T.E.
Take N.O.T.E. is an effective “at-home” approach that can help identify potential learning challenges for your student.
Step 1: NOTICE
Perhaps it goes without saying, but first and foremost you must identify a specific action or behavior that is out of the ordinary. You may not understand what’s going on with your child, but noticing it and acknowledging that it’s out of the ordinary is the first step.
Step 2: OBSERVE
Identify and keep track of patterns in your child’s action/behavior you identified in step 1. An easy, always-available place to do this could even be your (iCal) phone calendar. It often helps to keep a physical log (literally, take notes – no pun intended) to be able to go back and begin to see patterns, if any, in your child’s behavior.
Step 3: TALK
This includes not only talking to your child about what you’re observing, but also talking with those who know your child well, like teachers and other caregivers.
Step 4: ENGAGE
This is the final step – and it includes connecting with experts like your child’s doctor and school specialists who can help you solidify an understanding of whether your child has a learning or thinking difference.
Here is an interactive online guide from the creators of the Take N.O.T.E. method, complete with helpful, easy-to-understand videos for each “step”, discussion guides when it comes to “engage” or “talk”, and even downloadable observation tool templates.
Need more help? Our team of tutors have had incredible success with our highly-personalized approach. Browse our website to learn more about our approach and the programs we use to help students who struggle.
By: Pam Keseric, The Village Tutors
“Team Natalie.” “Team Lucas.” Those names are part of a reflection of my tenure at TVT. I believe that the “Team” concept is the best way to help your child succeed.
And this Team is composed of parent, child, school teachers, resource teachers, and tutor. One way to help your child succeed is to gather a team behind him/her and all work for the same goal: to make your child gain in the academic skills and feel success in school and in himself.
One key component of this Team is communication. In the past, when I have received parental permission to communicate with the school, it has led to tailoring lessons to support the child. From a teacher’s email, I may learn that the student needs help with blends. Our one-hour tutoring lesson will then incorporate that skill. Through both teacher and parent emails, the sharing of student behavior in school and at home helps me since our one-on-one lessons have no peer interactions to play a factor.
Besides emails, attending IEP and 504 meetings with the school is another communication mode. Nowadays, Zoom IEP meetings. But in the past, in person/at school meetings. Even though I may not say a word, I am jotting down notes from the teacher reports that help me understand the child. This knowledge has been so helpful in knowing how to adjust the level of work and to understand school assignments.
When we were in person, my connection to parents was often before and after the lessons during pick up and drop off. I’d fill my parents in on what transpired during the lesson. At the end of each week, there were also emails/texts for all parents so that they knew what was happening in that hour long lesson. Perhaps skills that could be reinforced at home. And, I always enjoyed the quick (sometimes humorous) responses from the parents. It kept the Team connected. I’d share the academic side; parents shared the family side. And this communication is vital today.
I have tried to keep the pandemic out of this article, but it has snuck in a few times. It is too big for us to ignore. This remote learning has made the Team concept stronger in many cases. I am totally remote with my students, and I can’t begin to tell all how my parents have stepped up to the Team concept. Some of my students do all their work from the screen. Many students would like to read from paper since they are burned out by the screens from their remote school classes. For this group, I send out attachments every week, and the parent member of the Team prints these pages. There are even parents who sit next to their “little ones” during our lessons and help them with some of the work. We all agree that remote learning is not the best way to teach, but for now, I know that the parent Team member is beyond invaluable for my lessons.
With this pandemic, we all wonder about the stress that the children are under. We know and understand the senior losses: graduation, prom, college preparation work. But even the “little ones” are experiencing stress. Research has stated that there are three kinds of stress: positive stress, tolerable stress, and toxic stress. Positive stress is when your child is mildly out of his comfort zone. It may be reading a challenging book and feeling frustration at not being able to read all the words. Tolerable stress is when there is bad stuff happening. This is a pandemic world we are living in now. Bad stuff is happening. BUT if there is a supportive parent to help the child through this time, he can conquer that stress. Toxic stress is long lasting and without a support system. As a Team, we are all there to help each member of the Team to be strong. We are the support system for each other. And the Team member who benefits the most? Your child.
Stress is experienced in many ways: whether the student is having a bad day and needs to leave the lesson to get a hug from mom or the mom is understanding when we don’t quite finish the planned lesson. We need to remember that we are all in this Team together. And we are successful when we can support each other in all ways. And “Team [insert your child’s name here]” is the winner-academically, emotionally, intellectually.