Disclaimer: FWMB contributor Alison received a complimentary tutoring session and tour from Explore Horizons. While Explore Horizons sponsored this post, the opinions and words expressed below are solely Alison’s.
The Assignment: Visit Explore Horizons tutoring and enrichment center for an assessment of my child’s individualized learning needs and a trial tutoring session.
The Child: Clara
The Rub: Clara, age 10, doesn’t do anything that she doesn’t want to do, ever. She’s a stubborn and willful little sprite with a mouth to match. Thus, when I happily reported to Clara that she would be the subject of this assignment, she was less than thrilled. In fact, she just *might* have thrown a major tantrum. Unlike my studious elder daughter, Clara is not really into the whole idea of school. She’s smart as a whip, but feels extremely anxious about performing under the pressures of the classroom . . . which is exactly why I jumped at this assignment.
Upon our arrival at Explore Horizons, Clara and I were greeted by Ms. Sophie McDonald. Warm and friendly, Sophie struck up an immediate rapport with the previously reserved Clara as they discussed Clara’s 5th grade experiences. Using questions like — “When it comes to you and your math class, is there anything I should know about?” and “Have you figured out that multiplication and division are friends?” — Sophie was able to uncover quite a bit of information about Clara’s current level of content understanding as well as potential trouble spots. As a parent, I appreciated the child-centered approach. Sophie talked directly to Clara and only asked me later on if I had anything to add to what Clara had already provided.
After the initial assessment, we toured the center. Clean and visually appealing, the center is divided into different zones. The child-to-tutor ratio is never more than 6:1, which provides an effective environment for learners to ask for help while still working independently to overcome challenges.
During tutoring sessions, children work on computers that provide a medium of content that is dynamic and stimulating. Fear not, my fellow moms, tutoring is more than just screen time. As the child is sitting in front of the computer, her tutor is right there with her verbally explaining, prompting, and illustrating. Combined, the instruction meets the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (seeing, hearing, and doing) learning styles.
Explore Horizons philosophy focuses on the A.C.E. model: Ask for help, Concentrate, and give Effort. When learners demonstrate these behaviors during their tutoring sessions, they are rewarded with movement on the ACE Challenge path, a self-tracking progress chart. The Challenge is divided into several smaller challenges. As the learner completes each challenge, she is rewarded with a certificate and an immediate celebration by everyone in the center. This isn’t the only method of praise and reward, though. As the child is working in the session, she also has to opportunity to earn lizard cards through her work. These cards act as currency for prizes from the prize cabinet. Children can save their cards for larger prizes or spend their cards on smaller items . . . love this built-in budgeting lesson!
After Clara’s session, she was invited to retreat to the Recharge Zone. This is the area of the center where kiddos have a chance to reflect and energize through a variety of activities including arts and crafts, board games, interactive social games like question ball (a ball riddled with questions that kids toss to eachother – wherever the child’s finger lands determines the question that the child answers aloud to the group), and other activities. The Recharge Zone provides a social component to the tutoring session for a well-rounded learning experience.
From a professional educator’s point of view, I found Clara’s session extremely interesting and productive. Sophie is a talented educator with a knack for breaking down difficult problems into easy-to-understand parts. She knew when to challenge and when to assist. As a parent, I was happy to see Clara engaged in the content and smiling as she worked.
Explore Horizons has a variety of options to meet different learning needs and for regular sessions, parents drop their children off for tutoring (which is fabulous given the Alliance Town Center location because you can multi-task like a champ, Mom). I encourage you to check it out for a free trial session just like the one that Clara enjoyed. Yes, ENJOYED. (So there, Clara! See? No tantrum necessary.)