Published: October 14, 2019
Once the busyness of first classes and orientation has died down, the beginning of a new school year is a good time for reflection. As students become acclimatized to their new classrooms, new teachers, and new peers, it is possible to get a sense for the challenges and opportunities the upcoming academic year holds. This is especially true for parents who are concerned about making sure that their kids have the support they need to excel in all of their subjects.
For years, we have helped parents find science, chemistry, and math tutors in Toronto and given cohort after cohort of students the tools they need to go on to academic success in college and university, or provided them with a strong foundation for a career working in the trades or other sectors of the economy. We understand just how crucial the role parents play in their children’s education is, which is why we work hard to provide them with the support they need to give their kids the best possible learning environment.
In this article, we’ll talk about some of the ways you can help you set your children for success in the coming year, while providing some practical tips for how you can overcome common learning challenges primary and secondary students face.
1. Explore Extra-Curricular Education Opportunities
Increasingly, schools in Toronto are being asked to do more, and with fewer resources. But many dedicated teachers are still finding ways to offer after-school study clubs and other educational resources that can help kids get extra help with the subjects they are struggling with.
The beginning of the year is a good time to look at the extra-curricular educational activities your school offers, to see whether or not there are clubs that could give your child an opportunity to get in some extra study time with their peers. Not only can this provide an excellent opportunity to further practice subjects like music, literature, math, and science, it is also a great way for kids to bond with their peers over shared activities.
Naturally, you shouldn’t just consider extra-curriculars that have an explicit educational component. Sports, volunteering, and community groups can also provide fantastic opportunities for kids to develop their confidence, explore their interests, and form the close relationships that are such an integral part of making school nurturing and enjoyable.
Not all kids will be excited by the prospect of an after school club, of course, and it is important to not force your child into doing something they really want to do. One way to get around this is to require your kids to join at least one or two extra-curricular clubs, but to give them the freedom to pursue their own interests — even when those interests do not align with your own.
After all, you may not see a lot of value in an after-school computer club, but it could be the springboard that gets your child to get interested in tech design or programming.
2. Hire a Tutor for Challenging Subjects
Every child has subjects they find more difficult than others, and all students will, at some point or another in their academic career, come up against learning challenges they will need special help with. With class sizes growing in schools across Ontario, however, it can be difficult for kids to get the kind of one-on-one support they need to overcome these education hurdles.
The problem is especially acute in Toronto, where the nature of funding formulas is such that access to extra help is spread unevenly around schools across the city. Unfortunately, this means that parents need to take a more active role in ensuring that their children have the supports they need to master the subjects they find most challenging.
When deciding what kind of extra help students need, it is important for parents to be realistic about their children’s time — after all, study after study has shown that too much homework is ineffective, and detracts from the time kids should spend playing, exploring, and developing their sense of creativity. Simply piling on more homework is not necessarily going to help them push through difficult material.
What is far more effective is using things like tutoring to strategically target areas of struggle and help students overcome their personal challenges using a collegial, personalized approach. Our team of professional tutors in Toronto has found that the one-on-one approach provided by tutoring can be highly effective when it comes to helping students focus on the subjects they find difficult so they can keep pace with the curriculum and not fall behind their classmates.
In order for this to work, however, you need to find tutors who have specialized knowledge of their subjects, and a background the pedagogical background that will enable them to bring scientifically proven educational methods to bear on overcoming problems like math anxiety, literacy issues, or struggles with subjects like science, chemistry, and biology.
3. Keep an Academic Journal
One of the biggest challenges kids face during the school year is simply keeping track of everything they have learned when there is so much going on. This can make it hard to remember everything they have learned, which in turn causes problems when test time comes around.
Keeping an academic journal where you record everything you have learned over the course of the day is a great way to create a quick study aid that will help students — and their parents! — remember what has been covered over the academic year. You can also use this journal to record specific notes about what your child found easy and what they found difficult, so you know what areas require a little extra work and what areas came easily.
Academic journaling doesn’t need to be a time-consuming activity. You can simply keep a paper journal (or electronic spreadsheet, depending on how you see fit to integrate tech into your child’s day-to-day life) by their bed, and close out the day by helping them record in simply language and short bullet points what they covered in each of their classes that day.
In the case of older students, you can simply ask them to keep this record in whatever way they see fit, and check in every week or so to see what they are covering. This will help them develop independent habits that will serve them well once they leave home, while also giving you a chance to make sure they are keeping up with their studies.
4. Start Preparing for University Admissions Early
For parents with children in the higher secondary school grades, academic success tends to be geared toward preparing young adults for university and college admissions. The late teenage years are a crucial period for growth, and kids who achieve high marks are well positioned to get into prestigious universities like McGill, Queen’s, and the University of Toronto.
But if you want your teen to put together a winning application, you need to start planning early. Whether your child is entering Grade 12 or just starting Grade 11, you can give them a huge boost by starting the year off with a planning session for how they can best position themselves to take the next step in their academic careers.
This shouldn’t just be about academic qualifications — many universities look for well rounded applicants who have shown a commitment to excellence in community service and extra-curricular activities like sports and science clubs — but without a strong academic track record, it is difficult to cross the necessary threshold to be considered.
For that reason, it can be useful to bring on a tutor with experience in university preparation to help your child achieve the best possible grades in key academic subjects like English, History, Math, and Life Sciences (you can click here to find out more about the role tutoring plays in university preparation).
Given how important academic success is to future employment and a fulfilling life, it’s natural for parents to be anxious about making sure their kids get the best possible start to the new school year. But being anxious about whether this semester’s poor math grade will impact their university application two years down the road is a recipe for a lot of sleepless nights, so try to focus your energy instead on making sure your child has the resources and supports they need.
Why not sit down with your child this weekend to formulate a family plan for how they will achieve their academic goals this semester, then explore some concrete steps that will make it possible to achieve these goals.
Remember, extra-curricular education opportunities, tutoring, keeping an academic journal, and post-secondary admissions prep are all things you can start doing today if you want to make this year an academic success. And if you want to find high quality specialized tutors who offer lessons in homes across the Greater Toronto Area and beyond, get in touch with Prep Academy Tutors to find out how we can help.