Anyone ever use Sylvan for kids?

reno_fanApril 25, 2007

My oldest child (14) is really struggling with math. (As did I.) We've noticed the negative effects it's having on him. He's very results-oriented, and when he's doing poorly in one area, he loses steam in other areas. The dent in his self esteem is getting bigger, and we're noticing a definite downward spiral. We need to "nip it in the bud" immediately and help him regain some of his confidence.

We want to enroll him in Sylvan or something similar, but I'd like to hear from other parents about the effectiveness. All I know is that it's supposed to be expensive, but I haven't really met anyone who's done it. I really feel he needs a structured program to get him back on track.

Anyone have any insights?

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I can't speak for Sylvan, but I know a few parents around us use teachers from the district to tutor over the summer and even during the year. The parents like using teachers b/c the teachers are well aware of what the kids in our district are expected to know and not know. The teachers know the program. In additon, the parents always feel that they have an advocate for their child within the district. Usually this has to do with leveling, not a specific grade in a specific class. Additionally, tutors can come to the house and be much more flexible.

Just something to consider. I'm sure your son will do very well whatever path you choose. Math is not only cummulitive, it's also developmental. Some kids brains aren't ready to handle alegebra and what not. If there is a hole in their knowledge, it just snowballs over the years. A good tutor or program should be able to find the holes and help. Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 12:05PM
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We never used sylvan, but did check it out once and found the times offered to be very inconvenient--although with a 14 year old later times probably won't bother you as much. Getting teachers to tutor is good advice. Also, if there is a college or university in your town, you may want to post a notice in the Math dept. asking if any math majors want a job tutoring your son.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 2:30PM
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I never looked into Sylvan, but when I was looking for a tutor for my older son, I asked everyone I knew if they could recommend a tutor. I think I got about 25 names, and after calling many of them and checking their references, I found someone I thought would be a good fit with my son. She's a former teacher who has taught many kids with many kids of issues, and she's been just great. My son got accepted to the college of his choice this year, and I don't think he could have done it without her. I think Carolyn's suggestion of a college/university student is great. We live in Chapel Hill, and we know many kids who have been successfully tutored by UNC or Duke students.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 5:31PM
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A friend who once worked for one of the large tutoring companies (but probably not Sylvan) always felt guilty about all the money parents were paying because she had NO background in teaching or education. Be sure to check out the credentials of the individuals assigned to tutor your son.

When my daughter doesn't understand her math homework, she frequently calls a friend or three for help. This may be a gender thing, like asking for directions. She also searches the 'net for alternative explanations because she is often unable to follow her teacher's.

I recently read an article that described how fencing strengthens math, or at least geometry, skills as a result of the shapes one makes with the sword and the strategic thinking involved. Maybe a fun way to beef up that part of the brain?

I agree that math is developmental, especially once you hit algebra and beyond. Not all kids' brains are ready for that type of abstract thinking at the same time, just as they might or might not be ready for the conceptual, abstract thinking required in social studies at the same grade level.

Compliment your son on his struggles. One learns a lot more by struggling than if everything comes effortlessly. He could grow up to be a stellar, compassionate math teacher!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 5:52PM
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I was a Sylvan instructor during grad school. The general format was that children were individually assessed for a variety of competencies, and then given a program designed to address the results of the assessment. Instructors worked with a group of 5-6 in any given session, but only with one at a time (work with child "a" while the others were working on their exercises, then rotate around the group). The program was very methodical and specific - designed to target specific problem areas and build on them. Regular assessments provided direction regarding how each student needed to progress. One thing I appreciated was that an important characteristic that was required in tutors (at least at this center) was an encouraging attitude. Kids were motivated through encouragement and being shown specifically how they were growing and progressing, I also found that children enjoyed the element of friendship that evolved as they'd see each other regularly.

Now, having said that, this was 12 years ago. I'm not as familiar with the Sylvan of 2007, but perhaps this can give you at least some helpful information.

For what it's worth, I also worked as a private tutor during that same period of grad school, with children in grades ranging from 1st-12th. My experience was that there were advantages to both tutoring formats.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 7:34PM
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A few families from our elementary school used Sylvan for 2-3 years. Unfortunately, a couple of the children, now in high school, still struggle. It was also fairly expensive.

Have you had him tested? All the tutoring and encouraging in the world won't do a lot of good if his learning type isn't addressed. I wish they'd known that when I was in school. I did well in geometry because I could 'see' what I was doing. Algebra was a nightmare until a teacher finally explained what we were doing and where we were going (plotting an equation to make a picture (parabola) shaped like a comet). If I could 'see' it, even in my mind's eye, if I knew what I was trying to see, I could do the work.

Before you rush to have him tested, remember that math IS a developmental subject. Just as a young child won't read until his brain is ready and able to do so, different 'steps' in math are grasped by the developing brain when it is ready.

But do get him some help so he's not too far behind and discouraged. I'm emailing you the name of a tutor several of the high school kids use. Their parents rave about her. DD2 hasn't needed her yet, but I'm keeping her name for future reference.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 9:44PM
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I am a teacher. I sent my daughter to Sylvan when she was in 2nd grade to strengthen her reading/phonics. As Halfdecaf said, the tutors were very encouraging. My daughter loved going.

However, for HS math, I would recommend a private tutor- preferably a teacher from his school who knows the expectations and may even speak to his teacher! Talk to his teacher first, and ask for a recommendation.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 9:16PM
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I work for the Coordinator of Mathematics and Business Education for our local school district. When a child is either looking for assistance in a particular area or is struggling in general, we recommend that they first speak with the child's teacher and request extra help either before, during, or after school. All our teachers are willing to do this. If additional help is needed, we have a list of our mathematics teachers who are tutors. The list includes the specific math course/s they tutor (ie. Math 7, Math 7H, Math 8, Math 1, Math 1A, etc,), which is especially critical when a student is in high school. The tutor determines the fee to be charged (usually per hour). The benefit of having a teacher from within the district tutor a child is that the teachers know the curriculum and what is expected. They are also flexible with regard to scheduling tutoring lessons, and the lessons usually take place at the student's home.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 9:09AM
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