Students learning online tutoring, at-home structure during COVID-19 shutdown

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It’s official: Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that Florida schools will be shut down for the rest of the academic year. And while keeping students safe is priority, keeping students structured at home is another struggle. That’s where businesses like the Tutoring Club and Kumon of Ponte Vedra can help.

“Kumon has always been a home-based learning program, with students doing work five days at home, and two days in class,” said director Shelley Dunne. “Instead of in-class sessions, I am offering one-on-one sessions via video chat and phone calls.”

Director of the Tutoring Club, Kimberly Mullins, said her team developed an online platform within 2 weeks, all with a digitized curriculum and a fully trained staff.

“Everything is the same,” Mullins said. “Same experience with the same tutors, curriculum and management. It’s just on the computer. Our tutors are amazing because kids relate to them. They’re excited, enthusiastic and that it’s a different relationship than with a teacher.”

According to Mullins, teachers use pedagogy-based learning practices, an approach for teaching specifically children or a classroom, while the Tutoring Club practices andragogy-based learning, or practices that help teach specifically to adults or someone of similar age.

“The difference between teaching and tutoring is that tutoring is teaching a subject that has already been taught,” she explained. “We help re-organize the material to what suits the students, and we certainly are not teaching 26 students at a time. We also got certified with the National Tutoring Association.”

No matter what strategies are used in education, both Mullins and Dunne stress the need for structure, discipline and repetition in the household for students to grasp a subject successfully.

“Parents are looking for the structure that our program offers, with daily 20- to 30-minute assignments,” Dunne said about Kumon’s programs. “The Kumon Method emphasizes both accuracy and time. I create an at-home study plan, monitor scores and progress and ensure each student is mastering concepts before advancing. Students are not involved with extracurricular activities and are mostly home the entire day. I anticipate seeing many of our students advancing faster, as they have more time to devote to their Kumon studies.”

But structure is sometimes easier said than done, especially for students who have trouble concentrating for a period of time.

“It’s hard because parents are working, but they need to make sure kids are getting work done, too. They need to set up a plan, teach study skills and how to set up a planner and check their work,” Mullins recommended, adding that summertime already digresses 15-20% of what’s learned in a school year. Imagine going through two summers in a row.

“It could erase half a year of school nationwide,” she said. “Maybe a full year for students with mental disabilities. It’s going to affect everyone, but no one is going to rewrite standardized tests for these kids.”

Standardized exams will still be in full effect for the academic school year.

So, starting next month, the Tutoring Club will offer free assessments to see where each student is at academically.

“For example, if you’re missing the last quarter of geometry, it might not be on the AP exam this year, but you still have to know it for the class you’re taking next year. That’s how it’s set-up for students,” Mullins said. “It’s going to affect everyone, which will be interesting going forward.”

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