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Tutoring For Your Needs • Passion For Education

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Dec 312011

2011 has come to an end and what an exciting year it was for The Tutoring Solution.  We feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to help so many young students improve their academic abilities.  To end the year we’d like to have you vote on our Top 10 Blog Posts of 2011.   The following blog series are in no particular order.

  1. Get to Know Us – Many of our customers chose to work with us because the passion we have for education.  These articles were written to share some insight into our lives and why we have decided to become tutors.
  2. Innovative Educators – Numerous educators have shared their expertise on The Tutoring Solution blog over the past year.  We have labeled them innovative educators because they work hard to educate and inspire those whom they come into contact with.
  3. Passionate Tutors – We encourage our tutors to take part in the discussion on education by contributing information on the subject of education.
  4. Community Outreach – This year we were asked to give presentations at the Chino Valley GATE Together and for School on Wheels.  At the GATE Together, we taught Elementary and Junior High School students about blogging and how they could develop their own blog.  For School on Wheels we provided tips on how to motivate students who appeared to be unmotivated to volunteer tutors who work with homeless students.
  5. Students of the Month – We had a variety of students who excelled over the year.  Here are some of our favorite students of the month in 2011.
  6. Videos – Our videos may not have the best production quality, but I always get a kick out of watching these videos . . . and some of them have some great information as well.
  7. #Edchat – Educators from all across the world are using Twitter to improve their craft.  These articles have been in response to some of the #Edchat topics that have come up over the past year.
  8. Monthly Newsletter – One thing people associated with The Tutoring Solution comment on the most is our newsletters.  Here are our monthly email newsletters for 2011.
  9. Top Blog Posts of the Month – These are our top 9 blog posts for each month in 2011.
  10. Tutoring Recommendations – We have been recommended by numerous parents, students, teachers, counselors, family and friends.  Read some of those recommendations here.

With every new years comes new opportunities.  New Year’s Resolutions are a great way to get you to think about changing your life and the lives of people you care about in a positive direction.  Lets make 2012 the year we promote and encourage education and growth.

Dec 122011

Preparing to take the SAT or ACT can take a lot of time and more than a little money: aside from the materials that students may need to study for the exam, some parents prefer to enroll their children into preparatory classes or one-on-one tutoring sessions. But for some colleges and universities, entrance exams like the SAT and ACT aren’t required—and it’s a development that could change the way students get ready for college.

Some schools are moving away from college entrance exams in order to take a student’s entire high school experience into account: grades and the complexity of course loads, as well as extracurricular activities are more important to schools. A growing list of competitive colleges and universities is moving away from standardized testing and taking a “holistic” approach to evaluating potential students and to increase diversity on campuses. But what will that mean for students trying to make it into their choice schools?

Starting early
A student’s chances of landing an acceptance letter to the school of her choice doesn’t—and shouldn’t—begin with her SAT or ACT score. Test-optional schools are concentrating on how students perform in their classes, as well as the difficulty of the classes they take. Students who enroll in advanced or college-prep courses in high school tend to be better prepared for more rigorous college coursework. Those classes not only prepare students for the challenges they’ll face in college, but it makes students more attractive to colleges and universities. Signing up for after-school assistance or meeting with a tutor can help students perform well in their tougher classes; you can also study with friends or use online education programs to work in a self-guided environment.

After-school specials
Schools still view students who participate in various extracurricular activities as “well-rounded” and easily adaptable, two attributes that can make you a more attractive potential student. You should choose after-school activities that you enjoy—drama, music, sports—but you should also consider volunteering for charities and nonprofit organizations in your area. Volunteering not only gives you a feeling of ownership in your community, it can also give you the skills you need to participate in college organizations once you get to college.

Back-up plan
There are hundreds of schools who no longer require college entrance exams, but taking the SAT or ACT is still a good idea. Most schools still require it, and taking the test will give you an idea of your strengths and weaknesses in various subjects. Taking one of the tests more than once can help you gauge your progress in the subjects that give you the most trouble; it can also help you improve your score. College entrance exams might not provide a full representation of who you are as a student, but they can still help colleges and universities determine which students will do best academically—so study, seek the help of a tutor if you need it, and do your best.

The trend of test-optional colleges and universities is slowly gaining popularity—and as schools focus on a student’s whole history, college entrance exams may become less important. Still, it’s essential that students planning for college prepare themselves to take a college entrance exam. Even with a busy academic and extracurricular schedule, spending time on your future can be valuable—and that could mean studying for the SAT or ACT.

Nov 032011

The ultimate goal of any tutor is to facilitate better education outcomes. The best way to improve outcomes often depends on the individual student and how they respond to different methods and approaches. Student attitudes and personalities make a difference too. What may work extremely well with an extroverted student may not be the best approach with an introvert. Individual student differences matter. That’s where a tutor can make all the difference in the world. A teacher just can’t tailor education to each individual student, even though most teachers try as hard as they can. Ultimately, it’s just not possible. Students who receive tutoring shouldn’t be stigmatized because they “need” tutoring. Every student can benefit from tailored tutoring. And even though students need a tailored approach, tutors can benefit from strategies which have been shown to benefit students across the board.

Online Learning Strategies
Computers and Internet access have become nearly ubiquitous in our culture. This provides a unique opportunity to tap into inherent advantages of tutoring. Even though online learning has been extremely popular for post-secondary education, the U.S. Department of Education recently released an exhaustive study which outlines how integrating an online education element improves education outcomes in primary and secondary education. We’ve suspected for a long time that at least some of the efficacy of tutoring lies partly in the collaborative process. Now we have definitive proof that our suspicions were correct all along.

Blending Is Better
An interesting result included in the official findings is that, all things being equal, online learning actually edges out traditional classroom learning: “Students in online conditions performed modestly better, on average, than those learning the same material through traditional face-to face instruction.” That’s important to understand. The U.S. Department of Education didn’t say that online conditions in learning merely provided an acceptable alternative to traditional classroom learning. They actually found it slightly better. But the report goes on to say that the best learning outcomes were produced by a blend of online learning and face-to-face interaction.

Collaboration Matters
Collaboration accelerates learning. But collaboration combined with online learning seems to be the most effective way for students to digest information quickly and retain it for the long term. Incorporating online learning in traditional classrooms for a portion of each class period should be a formula for better education outcomes in the future. Teachers who use Moodle in the classroom report great success and it may be that the online interactive part fuels some of that success. But these findings also seem applicable for tutoring applications as well. Tutors who can integrate some online learning conditions into their traditional tutoring routines may find it helpful for boosting student success rates across the board.

Finding the Right Mix
Tutors have a unique opportunity to integrate these finding into a tailored approach for individual students. The U.S. Department of Education study shows the effectiveness of blending online learning environments with traditional instruction for large groups of students. Tutors are in a position to take this information and apply it on an individual level for optimum education outcomes. It may be that introverted students benefit with slightly more online education emphasis and extroverted students with a bit less. The ratio of personal interaction to online learning for best outcomes may vary by student. But the best part is that tutors have one more tool for tailoring to the unique needs of individual students for the best education outcomes possible.

Sep 282011

Mistaking Disengagement for Deficit

Keeping students motivated in today’s education environment can be difficult. And it’s not because kids are inherently lacking in either ambition or intelligence either. Children actually like learning. The problem is that we’ve created learning environment’s that often aren’t really conducive to learning. We’ve created the perfect conditions for boredom and inattention to occur and then act surprised when students are inattentive and bored. When grades begin to suffer, often the first assumption is that a child has some sort of intellectual deficit or learning disorder.

Don’t get me wrong. Learning disorders are real and should be addressed appropriately. But when ever-growing percentages of students are diagnosed as learning disabled, it should raise some serious questions about why. If learning requires engagement, we’ve created a perfect laboratory for fostering learning disabilities. All too frequently, students who are assumed to have problems processing information are actually bored to tears because they’re not being intellectually challenged enough to engage their interest.

Encouraging Creativity and Curiosity

Education should not be relegated only to the classroom. Learning should be encouraged in every facet of a child’s life. We’ve fallen into a kind of trap—especially in the United States—of treating public education as a sort of glorified baby-sitting service. It’s understandable in a way. In a developed society like ours, we’ve dumped the responsibility of education on public schools. That’s fine as long as schools aren’t the only place that education is happening.

This may seem an odd concept, but children in developing countries are learning in every area of their lives, not just five days a week from 8:00 in the morning until 3:15 in the afternoon. As Sugata Mitra succinctly says, “if children have interest, then education happens.” Keeping kids interested in the world around them ensures that education happens, whether they’re in a classroom or not. Education need not be considered a dull liturgy of memorization and dry academic discourse which is as intellectually stimulating as watching paint dry.

Incorporating Education into Everyday Life

Encouraging learning can be as easy as simple substitution. You don’t need to resort to draconian measures like taking away TV time or anything drastic. But what are your kids watching? There are incredibly well done TV shows that are entertaining and interesting while imparting huge amounts of knowledge. If your child begins to watch the Discovery channel and exciting PBS documentaries, they can pick up vast amounts of information which keep them engaged. Education should be interesting and fun. Give children the right environment and activities and learning can be enhanced dramatically.

Strategic Tutoring

If students encounter specific challenges with respect to concepts or particular subjects, targeted tutoring can be extremely helpful. I had serious issues with long division in elementary school. I was brilliant in nearly every other subject, but long division was indecipherable to me. I just didn’t get it. There was nothing intuitive about it for me. No amount of hard work on my part would have made it understandable. And a frustrated father glaring over my shoulder trying to force the knowledge into my brain as if raising his voice would somehow do the trick just made it worse.

But finally they gave up and did what they probably should have done in the first place—they found me a good tutor. And that made all the difference in the world. She made it interesting, and more importantly, she made it fun. We need to get back in the business of making education interesting and engaging again. If we can do that, we’ll rediscover the fact that students actually love to learn.

Jesse Langley lives near Chicago. He divides his time among work, writing and family life. He writes on behalf of Colorado Technical University and has a keen interest in blogging and social media. He also writes for www.professionalintern.com.

Sep 122011

Today’s children are being raised with the mindset that if they don’t know the answer, they can simply Google it. While in many cases that’s true, Google searching is not a learning tool. They’re not gaining more insight or understanding the material, they’re simply getting answers. Search does have its place in student’s lives, but it shouldn’t and can’t replace traditional tutoring. That isn’t to say, however, that technology can’t help students learn and tutors do their jobs.

Perhaps the most exciting new tool for tutors is the Hangout feature of Google Plus. Obviously, the ideal scenario is sitting with the student so you can see more easily what they’re doing. But often, life invades and you’ll need to be somewhere else during a regularly scheduled tutoring session, or a student may have a big test on a day you’re not scheduled to tutor them and you can’t make a drive to see him or her.

But when work can be done on a word processor or a spreadsheet, combining Google Docs and a Hangout session allows you to be completely in touch with your student.

Google Docs allows you to see real-time updates your pupil makes to a document. If you’re tutoring them in math, you can watch on your screen as they input formulas and insert graphs. For writing assignments, you can watch their process happen on the screen in front of you. Talk them through difficult questions and see them and their work as they begin to understand and write about it. Though the cost of being on the phone an hour may not seem like much, a Hangout session will also save you serious money throughout the course of a year, especially if one of your pupils is long-distance.

The fact is, however, that you can’t always be with your pupil while he or she studies. Sometimes you’ll have other students with needs or you’ll simply need a day off. Helping them build a toolbox of resources will help them make the transition between times you’re there and times you’re not. After all, one of the goals of tutoring is to help the student learn about and grow their own learning process.

Another way to help your pupil help themselves is by teaching them how to use Google to learn instead of just to fill in blanks on their homework. One of Google’s advanced search features allows you to limit your search to scholarly journals that are great for high school students in more advanced classes. They basically have access to what a college library’s database would have, which makes it perfect for admissions essays and AP classes.

For younger students, filters can be added to send back only basic or intermediate reading levels. File types can also be changed. Returning only PDF documents will be more likely to produce results with graphs and charts than simple web results.

Another tool students can use is their local library. It’s not quite as technology-based, but today’s librarians can assist students with performing online searches and help them with simple online tasks they may not know how to do yet.

Though tutoring’s goals have remained unchanged, the process is adjusting a bit to keep up with technology. Making sure your pupils are on the cutting edge while delivering excellent service and results will make you the different between a gold star and a failing grade.


*Jesse Langley is a freelance writer living in the Midwest. He divides his time between work and family, and writes on behalf of Colorado Technical University.

Aug 302011

Take an instance when you are doing something on your laptop. You receive a phone call. You attend to the phone call. Around this time you receive a Facebook message, and look it up on your mobile phone. You do all this while still working on the laptop.

Were you distracted? Do you think that the same thing applies to your child as well? Are you sure that your child is getting distracted while studying?

Parents want their children to get rid of these distractions when studying. But a recent report has revealed another fact. More than half of school going children never fully immersed themselves in study over a prolonged period of time.

Some students seemed to cope with this. But others didn’t succeed. So, if you as a parent are wondering why your child is not doing well at school, you would need to look at the distractions. Is your child getting distracted while studying? What are the distractions? But do people really fail on efficiency in one activity when doing other simultaneous things?


UCLA Research

UCLA conducted research on the effects of multitasking on human beings. Using magnetic resonance imaging, brain activity was charted. The finding revealed that the brain learned even when it was being asked to multitask. Different people had different ways of learning.

Women excelled at effective multitasking while men liked to do one thing at a time. Another startling revelation of the research was that while we think we are doing many things at a time, we actually aren’t. The multitasking is actually shifting focus and attention from one task to another.

Some examples of multi-tasking the brain

Talking on the mobile while driving

This is something you see quite frequently. Although doing this is finable, people still do it all the time. Many accidents have taken place due to people losing attention while talking on mobile phones and driving. Why does this happen? It happens because the brain does not process two-events at one single time. It only shifts the attention. In case of accidents, drivers may not have had enough time to focus their brains on driving.


Many kids listen to music while studying. Research has indicated that music is a distraction-filler. In other words, to avoid hearing random noises and getting disturbed, kids choose a musical sound. In time, their brains get accustomed to it.


Parents can participate in the homework completion process as far as possible. Another effective way would be to ask your child to stand up, walk around, do certain simple chores and even answer your questions.

Parents need to understand that multitasking is only for tasks that need less brain-work. Even if the need for multitasking arises, choosing one brain-working task and choosing one mindless task works well.


About the author: Amanda Kidd is a blogger whose keen interest in the medical and technological field always keeps her on a lookout for latest news and happenings. Being a family girl, she also loves blogging on parenting site as well with topics generally focusing on family and children.

Jul 152011

A Guest Post by Olivia Lindquist Bowen

Our Favorite College Application Essay Inspiration Sources

1. Every Last One (chapter 1), by Anna Quindlen
What to look for: How to use simple, concrete details to quickly build a world the reader can envision. By the end of the first paragraph, we have experienced the narrator’s morning, what makes it rich and what she longs for. The specificity caters to our senses, and the tangible objects lay a foundation for abstract revelations.

2. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (Introduction), by Oliver Sacks
What to look for: A meaningful explanation of the importance of narrative—and where to look for it. Also note Sacks’s use of vocabulary. Not because he uses “big words” (though he does), but because each word he chooses is the best word to do that work. He doesn’t search the thesaurus for impressive-sounding language; he writes.

3. A Moveable Feast (chapter 1), by Ernest Hemingway
What to look for: The story inside the story. (When do we meet his wife? When do we meet the girl at the café? How much can we learn from this simple placement?) “Insider” language. (Hemingway uses simple language, but also the language of Parisian café culture; we believe he’s a part of that group.) Expert use of similes. (How much information we gather just by reading that the girl has “a face as fresh as a newly minted coin if they minted coins in smooth flesh with rain-freshened skin, and her hair was black as a crow’s wing and cut diagonally across her cheek.”) If you want to use similes and metaphors in your writing, make sure they do as much work as Hemingway’s.

4. Mrs. Sen’s, by Jhumpa Lahiri (from Interpreter of Maladies)
What to look for: How to reveal characters through objects. Entire communities are brought to life through the use of specific objects, such as the title character’s beloved curved knife. Lahiri is also a master of using all the senses to draw the reader into the scene. We can taste and smell the food Mrs. Sen prepares, appreciate the pop of color in her vermilion-striped scalp, and feel the cardboard-thin slippers under our feet.

5. On Becoming a Writer, by Russell Baker
What to look for: An encouraging story about how a boy who thought grammar was boring and classics were impenetrable found his start as a writer. Note Baker’s expert use of the word “prim” to describe his English teacher, Mr. Fleagle, and try to understand why Baker’s spaghetti essay is “don’t you see—it’s of the very essence of the essay, don’t you see.”

6. On Self Respect, by Joan Didion (from Slouching Towards Bethlehem)
What to look for: A primer on how to take an abstract concept and personalize it, bring it to life, and place it in its historical context. Didion weaves together stories about crying with a paper bag over head, Napoleon’s experience at Waterloo, and what it was like to be a twelve-year-old pioneer in 1846—all while keeping her essay rich with integrity and individuality.

7. On Writing Well (memoir chapter), by William Zinsser
What to look for: Techniques that are useful for writing memoirs, which just happen to be many of the same techniques that are useful for writing college application essays. Zinsser also quotes at length some particularly noteworthy memoir excerpts; these would be a great place to go for further reading.

8. Problems, by John Updike (from The Early Stories 1953 – 1975)
What to look for: An alternative to the standard story format. Most people can tell a story in the boring five-paragraph essay format. Updike tells the story of a marriage using the structure of a math problem, and it is a wonderful reflection of its content. College application essays can take just about any form you want: play with it.
Applying to college will certainly have its stressful moments, but it should also have many points of excitement, joy, and clarity. I hope these writers help you experience an abundance of the latter and very little of the former.

Olivia Lindquist Bowen

Olivia Lindquist Bowen is the Founder and Director of Education for the Royston Writing Institute. She founded RWI to help students find and express their most compelling stories in their college application essays. RWI mentors focus on the mechanics of strong writing in order to help students thrive once they arrive at university. You can follow Olivia on Twitter, ask questions on Formspring, and become a fan on Facebook. Visit her website, http://roystonwriting.com/

Jul 142011

A Guest Post by Olivia Lindquist Bowen

On August 1, www.CommonApp.org will release its latest round of materials for students applying to the Class of 2016. While there are many ways to prepare for the writing of college application essays, one often overlooked—but particularly enjoyable—project is to actively read wonderful writing.

First, let’s talk about what “active reading” means. Have you ever gotten to the end of a page or article and realized you had no idea what it said? That’s not active reading. When we read actively, we look up words we don’t know and we try to analyze the decisions the writer made. If something worked well, we try to figure out why; if something flopped, we try to understand why the writer chose to do it that way, and why it didn’t work. When we read actively, we scrawl notes and questions throughout the margins, and underline passages that struck us for one reason or another.

At the Royston Writing Institute, whenever we begin to work with a student on her college application essays, we start not with writing or brainstorming, but with reading and discussing great works. In this way, we can identify specific strategies and forms that can serve as touch points moving forward.

So what should you read as you prepare to write your college application essays? The short answer is: anything written by a masterful writer. (When in doubt, Pulitzer Prize winners are a great place to start.) But if you’d like a little more guidance, here are eight of our favorite resources.

Stay Tuned for Part #2!

Olivia Lindquist Bowen

Olivia Lindquist Bowen is the Founder and Director of Education for the Royston Writing Institute. She founded RWI to help students find and express their most compelling stories in their college application essays. RWI mentors focus on the mechanics of strong writing in order to help students thrive once they arrive at university. You can follow Olivia on Twitter, ask questions on Formspring, and become a fan on Facebook.  Visit her website at http://roystonwriting.com/


Jul 102011

Thanks to my connections with fellow educators through #edchat on Twitter and my interviews with Innovative Educators on my website providing educational tips to parents, teachers, students and tutors I have been invited to begin using Google+ and Google Circles which is on an invite only basis.

As soon as I got the invite, I was on the computer for hours into the wee hours of the morning, experimenting and setting up my contacts.  So far, I have been extremely impressed.  I love the way that Google Circles allows you to organize your contacts in a variety of ways.  It incorporates the features of Facebook and Twitter and allows you to contact only the groups with which you wish to contact.  For me, this in and of itself will be invaluable.

I am an extremely active person and associate with my contacts in a variety of different ways.  Google Circles allows me to focus my message to a particular group of contacts or to my contacts as a whole.

Another feature which I think will be highly valuable in the future is to +1 a website.  When you are connected to a contact and they like a website they can +1 it.  When you use Google to run searches you can find out which of your friends liked a particular website.  This will help to give each individual an idea of what their friends consider valuable.

You can also start a Hangout which is a webchat with your contacts.  I have yet to use the feature, but it does sound interesting.  This is ideal for me as I am an educator and frequently converse with students through Skype and give presentations promoting education for a variety of different causes.  If for some reason I can not attend an event personally, this could be an amazing tool to deliver information to those who are connected with me.

I am excited to see how Google+ and Google Circles fits into the Social Media landscape.  Google+ and Google Circles has an enormous amount of potential and when the testing phase is over, be sure to add me as a contact!  The possibilities are endless.

Thank you Erin Klein from www.Kleinspiration.com for getting me involved in the beginning phase of Google+ and Google Circles.  Follow her on Twitter – @mimadisonklein

Jul 072011

I was 21 and a senior at Michigan State when I first had the idea. Six courses, 24 exams and about 100 assignments loomed in the semester ahead. For a kid that had ADD and dyslexia, it was overwhelming…scary, to say the least.

Was I the only one who had this problem? “There’s gotta be a better way to manage my class schedule?” I thought. At the same time, I received a text message and it hit me like a ton of bricks…”what if I could receive reminders when class assignments are due?”

My brother David and I proceeded to build remind101, a website that sends students text message and email reminders to study for assignments. It has taken many forms and shapes over the past year and we’re pretty excited about it:

  • 15,000 reminders sent
  • 2,000 students
  • 350+ teachers

remind101 saved 52% of our it’s users from missing assignments

We closed the doors for a few weeks to re-build highly requested features. The new remind will allow teachers to communicate with students and parents on the mediums they want.

If you’re a teacher, student or parent you can signup here for a re-launch invite.

Feel free to email me at brett@remind101.com if you’re interested in piloting remind101 at your school early!

-Brett Kopf

Cofounder remind101