Parents turn to summer tutoring to boost kids' skills - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Parents turn to summer tutoring to boost kids' skills

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Posted: Saturday, July 10, 2010 12:00 pm | Updated: 6:02 pm, Tue Jul 20, 2010.

Parents hoping to hone their children's academic skills are bypassing lazy summer days and turning to tutoring programs that often move beyond the beginning of school, program operators say.

Gayathri Pattabhiraman, director of Kumon Math and Reading Center in Queen Creek, said most of her new enrollments happen between May and June.

"That's when the kids hit the summer boredoms. Parents don't know what to do. They're worried kids might lose their skills so they're looking for things to supplement their children's learning," Pattabhiraman said.

The children in her program now are ages 5 through 13, but many of the new students are those entering fourth and fifth grades.

"Kids are being introduced to fractions in fifth grade and they're learning long division," she said. "(Teachers taught) fractions in fourth grade but the kids never really quite got it because it was introduced late in the year."

So to avoid being behind when school starts, parents bring in their children to get help.

"There seems to be subliminal fear of fractions between parents and children alike," she said. "Parents want to do something to keep the concepts fresh in their mind so they don't have to relearn everything when school starts."

Kit Wilson of Mesa started her children, now 7 and 9, at Gilbert's Wilkins Learning Center two years ago. Both continue to attend Wilkins' numerous programs, from summer camps to one-on-one training.

"It's helped them tremendously," Wilson said. "They are extremely helpful. As a parent, you don't quite know certain things education-wise, like where should your child be at. They're supportive in every aspect to help your child reach the goal."

Wilson said she first turned to the program to help the kids avoid the summer learning slide, but it's turned into much more for the family.

"They make the learning part of it such a wonderful experience. My kids don't actually even know they're being taught, that my daughter is learning times tables. It's songs and games. It's not just writing down their facts," Wilson said.

Jennifer Wilkins, co-director and teacher at the Wilkins Learning Center, said they see enrollment throughout the year for the center's preschool and learning programs. But there is a jump in summer and then again when school gets started and parents find out how their children are doing academically.

"Sometimes they come for tutoring because they're struggling in school. Our motto is to get them to climb the mountain of knowledge and to grow in a fun way," Wilkins said.

Some children come for a few months, and others stay for years, she said.

Wilkins offers one-on-one and group tutoring programs, as well as summer enrichment camps.

"I just taught a writing class for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders for two mornings. We were talking about being descriptive and using our voice and personality in writing," she said. The school brought animals into the class to help the students in the lesson. "They were able to listen, look, feel, touch, taste and use those senses while writing."

Students are assessed and lessons are tailored to their strengths and weaknesses, Wilkins said. All core subject areas are covered by the staff, which include members of Wilkins' family, who all previously worked at a charter school.

"A lot of times when (students) come, they don't have a lot of confidence. They're not excited about learning. Something has happened at school or with the parents at home where they're saying, ‘We need help.' To be building that is important to their growth," she said.

The price for tutoring varies, depending on private or group lessons, as well as how many subjects are being taught. At Wilkins, tutoring runs $33 for group tutoring and $41 an hour for private lessons. Kumon's program may run between $100 and $120 a month for twice-weekly meetings.

Some families turn to summer tutoring when a school indicates a child may not advance to the next grade. Others use it as a way to prepare a child for school, said Becky Arguello, director at Gilbert Tutoring Club.

"The end of May, early June, we get a lot of calls (from parents) whose children are just getting out of preschool and they want to stick them in a reading program before kindergarten," she said.

The beginner reading program is popular with parents. The students meet twice a week with a tutor for a minimum of 32 hours of lessons. It's targeted for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade.

"Depending on which grade they're going into we estimate how long it will take that child to achieve the goal," she said.

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