Tag Archives: extracurricular activities

Should the parent be the tutor?

Story and photos by Dan Friedman

With the school year starting up and the thicket of issues surrounding homework, academic achievement and responsibility sprouting from the lazy days of summer, parents are apt at some time to consider hiring a tutor. It might be a matter of wanting their child to score in the upper echelon of their class to better position themselves for admission to the college of choice, or just to avoid an F in math.

After I had had enough of teaching, I was a private tutor for a few years to a slew of kids whose parents hired me to help with their kids’ deficit in math, writing or study skills, or sometimes all three.

Tutoring can add a couple hundred dollars per week to the family budget, which I was all too happy to accept since I could buy food with the money. Some kids I tutored needed help, not because they couldn’t get the attention they needed in school, but because it was more convenient to rely on the tutor to pick up the slack. They knew I would be there to explain the concepts they had daydreamed through or re-explain the directions they hadn’t read.

In reality, when I was a classroom teacher in elementary and middle school, few students ever came in for extra help with lessons they clearly didn’t understand or assignments they had not a clue about how to complete. One-on-one teaching is very efficient and a lot can be accomplished in 10 minutes after school. But students had extracurricular activities that beckoned, and socializing with friends overpowered any desire to ask a question during lunch.

Parents shouldn’t have to hire long-term tutors for their kids to succeed in school. Teachers will generally make themselves available when one of their students is struggling. Parents need to talk to the teachers and find out when their student can come in for a few minutes of extra help.

Ask your kid’s teacher what they suggest. Often, the teacher will say, “If they would just ask a question in class, they wouldn’t be lost.” Really, this is a huge issue. If kids would just raise their hand and ask the question ricocheting around in their head, it would help immensely. Participating in class can save parents hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

Still, there are times when a kid just needs someone to explain how to divide fractions, or how to write a paragraph one more time in the quiet of their own home, for them to get it.

Marina Koestler Ruben’s book, How to Tutor Your Own Child (Tenspeed Press, 2011) proposes that indeed parents are the ideal tutors for their kids. She provides all sorts of strategies and approaches to make it work. Koestler says in her introduction, “Parent-tutors provide holistic, low-pressure academic support, engagement and enrichment for their children.” Well, yes, they can, but it isn’t that simple is it? In theory, the book is 192 pages of advice on how to be that holistic teacher with tips and methods to organize, explain, re-teach and enrich the lessons kids need to learn.

I guarantee you there will be times when, after a long day and many frustrating attempts to explain how to factor a polynomial, both parent and child will just be butting heads. The parent tutoring effort will be acrimonious and counter-productive.

So, examine your relationship with your child and decide if being the tutor is best. I made plenty of money being the scorned tutor who insisted the student show his or her work on a math problem, and being a pain in the ass about proofreading. But I persevered, the lesson was completed, I got paid and peace in the household was maintained because mean Mr. Friedman left, and the parent could be the good guy.

For the parent who has the energy to be an effective tutor, Koestler’s book is very valuable and useful for the right situation and parent-child dynamic.

Better to get the student to ask questions in class, and get extra help in school before relying on a tutor. Students need to learn how to be more responsible for their education by seeking help. Tutors are perfect for additional teaching and a personalized, fresh approach.


Neely Traditional Academy’s hand-made dolls bring comfort and joy

Comfort dolls created by the lunch-time knitting club.

Two days a week,  Neely Traditional Academy teacher Brenda Koerselman gives up her lunch hour to teach knitting to eight to 12 students.

“This is part of my community outreach,” she says. “We relax as we knit and create many useful items to share with those less fortunate.”

Cindy Jarvis with some of the Ugandan orphans who received comfort dolls.

That outreach went global in April, when Koerselman’s friend Cindy Jarvis went on a trip to Africa in April with Hope 4 Kids International. The knitting club sent 12 dolls with her to be distributed at a Ugandan orphanage.

Each of the comfort dolls was specially crafted, and the knitters put a lot of time and care into personalizing their dolls. As the dolls were distributed, Jarvis took photos of each child who received a doll. When Jarvis returned home, Koerselman printed a copy of the photo for each knitter, showing their comfort doll in the hands of its new owner.

Neely Traditional Academy is located at 321 West Juniper Ave. in Gilbert.

Eating for education and other good causes

The simple act of eating can raise money for education and non-profit extracurricular activities. Here are some of the food-related fundraising opportunities we’ve learned about in recent weeks:

Funraising with Paradise Bakery
Paradise Bakery has four ways your group can raise money:

(1) The Dozen Cookie Card. Your organization purchases a minimum of 50 cards for $20 each and sells them to supporters, who can use them up to 10 times to get dozen free cookies with each dozen they purchase. Club/group gets $10 for each cookie card sold.

(2) Giant Cookie Card. Your organization earns half ($8.45) for each $17 card sold.

(3) Fresh Cookie Day. Purchase a minimum of 200 freshly baked cookies for 50 cents each  and resell them at whatever price you want.

(4) Scrip Cards. Scrip is like a Paradise Bakery gift card and can be used for any food item in any location.  Purchase cards in advance at a 15% discount and resell for the full price. Denominations of $5, $10, $25 and $50. Minimum order: $1,000.

Fry’s Gift Card Program
Your non-profit organization can purchase Fry’s Gift Cards at the regular retail price and then sell them to your group members or acquaintances. Your organization receives a rebate check based on the total amount of gift cards purchased — and reloads. (The cards are rechargeable up to a value of $500.)

Safeway eScrip
Families sign up to support the school of their choice by simply shopping at Safeway with their Safeway Club Card. Safeway is asking schools to allocate 20 percent of the more than $20 million in donations raised each year  to fitness and nutrition activities designed to combat childhood obesity. Safeway also partners with its manufacturers, which donate more than $3 million to schools through an annual “10% Goes Back to Schools” program.

Sunflower Farmers Market Scrip Program
Buy at least $250 worth of gift certificates at a 5 percent discount then resell them for the full amount. You must bring proof of non-profit status (a copy of the group’s 501(c)(3) certificate) to the store manager on duty.

Do you know of other food-related fundraisers? Please comment below or email editorial@raisingarizonakids.com.