Open letter to parents – The damaging craze sweeping our primary schools

Dear Parents,

I am concerned. Actually, I am very concerned. There is a craze that has filtrated into most primary schools that is having a negative affect on your children. It’s survival relies on your vulnerabilities and insecurities. It has even made its way into the life of children at preschool and daycare.

What am I worried about? TUTORING!! I realise this is going to open a can of worms as many of you will swear by this service for helping your child. There are many aspects of tutoring that I strongly oppose. I hope to outline some of these in this letter and give you a clearer understanding of how children learn. I am finding more and more of you are turning to tutoring in order to “help” your child and what is more shocking is that many of you feel it is necessary to send your preschooler to educational companies to “prepare” them for school. I am annoyed with societal pressures and companies that are causing stress among you all in order to persuade you to signing your child up for these tutoring courses. I am really quite furious that you are pushed into thinking that your child is not ready for school? How ridiculous that you are being preyed upon and feeling that you must spend money to ensure your child is being given the best opportunities to learn. These are the 5 things I do know and I encourage you to read them carefully and form your own opinion.

Children and rote learning


Children do not learn through rote learning. Now I hear you saying “Thats how I learnt” but was it really learning? You did not learn concepts but you learnt processes on how to solve problems. You did not know why you did certain things but you just did them anyway as that is how you were taught. A prime example is the “borrow and payback” method most of you learnt when solving subtraction problems or the wording of “9 doesn’t go into 7” when solving long division problems. The problem with most tutoring companies is that children are taught processes and not an understanding of concepts. They are taught quick methods that get the right answer but they can not understand how they solved it, therefore not having a deep understanding of the concept.

Children learn in context


This follows on from my first point. Children need to learn concepts in a meaningful context. There is so much research out there supporting the idea that children learn so much more from the conversations they have with others than while doing drill and practice type activities. These drill and practice type activities are focused on in tutoring programs. For younger children it may be learning sight words and times tables. Where is the link for these children to the everyday world. If the relationship between the concept and your child’s world is the most important aspect to a deep understanding why is it not even considered in these tutoring companies? Why are sight words being learnt with flash cards instead of within a text? The answer is simple. Tutoring companies are looking for quick fixes and a surface level understanding to “help” your child. As a result your child will need “tutoring” for a VERY long time as they will never get a deep understanding and therefore can not apply their knowledge to a variety of problems.

Learning needs to be individualised


The learning must be centred on your child’s learning style and interests and this is something that the “one size fits all” model of tutoring is unable to do. Most tutoring companies try to “tutor” more than one student at a time with the same activity. No consideration is taken about a students prior knowledge, what they need to help them build a strong foundation or simple how they learn. Many children do have learning difficulties and unfortunately no matter how many tutoring sessions you pay for, your child will not improve if the learning style is not being taken into consideration.

Worksheets = Ridiculous


I had to write the word ridiculous on this one as many of my close colleagues hear me say this word a trillion times a day. What I believe is the most ridiculous idea is getting many students to complete the same task that does not allow for difficult thinking. What is the purpose of educating a child? It is to guide them from a place of confusion to understanding by not telling them but providing the tools to help them get there on their own. Filling in a worksheet is basically busy work. I hate them and they have no place in the classroom or home. Tutoring companies love a worksheet. Remember their idea of learning is to practice and practice until it becomes perfect. I challenge this notion as I believe that practice and practice makes permanent. Teaching children how to complete 100 of the same problems with different numbers or words does not help the child become perfect but it does permanently alter the use of strategies as they believe that only the one that has been shown is the correct one. We all know that there are many ways to solve a problem and it is important for each child to come to the realisation that some strategies are more efficient than others on their own.

Tutoring preschool children


Please, I beg you all to save your money and let your kids be kids. Children learn through their social interactions, games, conversations and at a time of need basis. I want to share an example with you to drive this point home. As an adult, you are probably sent to many work seminars, professional learning courses or training sessions. How many of you actually come away saying that all the information was relevant and that you can put it all to use right now. Probably not many of you. We all learn at a time of need basis. We will learn the information when we need it. It makes sense doesn’t it? Therefore a child will learn letters, numbers and the periodic table when they need to. Before going to school, there is no need for them to write a letter or read a sign. In saying that, some children are naturally interested it reading and writing but their questions should guide their learning. Too many adults assume they know what children need to learn but if they are not ready to learn or do not need to learn it for that particular time in their life how would they gain a deep understanding of that concept. All that a Kindergarten teacher wants from children when they first start school, is that they have good social skills, are keen to learn and have independence. The rest will come through meaningful learning experiences.

What do you do if your child is struggling in a particular area? The best place to start is to ask your child’s class teacher. They may suggest some activities to do that is specific to your child’s need. All parent’s have the ability to help their child and if they feel a little uncomfortable or out of their depth, there are many teachers that offer private lessons to help give you ideas on how to help your child. Unfortunately you can not just pay money and assume that your child will be “fixed”. It does take hard work and does take a long time.

I never want you to feel pressured to get tutoring for your child. Research, ask for help and consult a professional to help your child overcome a gap in their learning. Put your wallet back in your pocket and do not start sending your child to tutoring.

Kind Regards

Kelly Pisani