At the end of a long tiring day, a phone call from an old colleague from Chennai added to my happiness of sipping the evening ginger tea. After the initial updates and enquiries, as I spoke to him I could feel the anxiety and restlessness in his voice when he hesitantly requested me if I could talk to his wife and advise her on teaching English grammar to their first grader. I understood that she was not able to make her 6-year-old son understand the difference between imperative and declarative sentences which was a part of their school curriculum that the child did not follow at school & wanted his mother to teach him. I, like most of you was a little shocked, does a 6-year-old really need to know what imperative and declarative sentences are? Isn’t it enough they learn to frame sentences properly?  How could the teachers just leave it to parents? Why don’t they make each child understand? And the array of questions lined up in my mind.  That is when I took a break and thought to myself, I can keep questioning and blaming many here, the teachers, the school, the curriculum developers, the parents and so on, I can even be in the role of an activist and revolt by asking them to ignore such a stressful exercise for the child, but would that solve the problem? Here the child wanted to learn what is imperative and declarative sentence and the school wanted him to learn as well, the only practical choice we are left with is to make this learning simple for him. 

Many a times, as parents, in the process of helping our children learn new concepts we are not able to meet the pace of the current competitive, technology driven, interdisciplinary, diachronic and progressive educational scenario. But at the same time all of us want our children to meet this pace or rather be ahead of this pace. Hence we stand at the crossroads where we are unsure if are our child needs help after the school hours or should we let the child cope up with the stress on his own. In the former situation, couple of other questions seem to muddle our thoughts: What is the right time to start sending my child for coaching? Will my child lag behind in school as he/she does not have help when all his friends do have?  Which is the right place? Will my child be safe? How will the child manage time between the school and extra classes? Will he/she get the right kind of attention?  Confused we end up taking opinions from our friends, family, fellow parents and end up following what they followed. It is always good to take opinions and feedback about the classes, but that should not be the sole criteria for you to decide for your child’s additional classes. Most of the times, following drives our decision:

  • My neighbor’s child has been doing well with some ABC classes, my child will also do good.
  • ABC classes are very popular in the town; I should also be sending my child there.
  • There are 100 students per class, they should definitely be good.
  • We have seen their advertisements where so many successful children vouch for their quality.
  • The student counsellor at ABC classes has guaranteed 100% success within three months.
  • PQR classes have conducted entrance examinations at school and my child is the privileged one as he got selected and they are giving him a scholarship as well.

Dear Parents, I would like to urge you all to think a little deeper into this issue before you take up a decision as this not only involves your hard earned money but also is directly associated with your child’s future. I personally feel, additional classes have become a necessity for our children to cope up with the current modern and fast moving educational system but it would be wise if we include certain criteria in our decision making process of choosing the right kind of classes for our children. Here are few suggestions:

Identify your child’s learning style and needs

Parents and educators across the world have identified three main types of learning — kinesthetic, visual, and auditory. Usually, children will show a balance among all three, but there may be a particular style that allows them to thrive. If you know your child's learning style, you'll have a stronger grasp of how to help him/her study, and you can be a better advocate for them at school or at additional classes. Knowing their learning style can better inform your choices as you consider after-school activities, camps, and extra classes. There are several quizzes you can take to help you identify a learning style that works for your child. But you'll also get a good idea of which one applies just by considering what they already like or by thinking about the kinds of activities they are drawn to. You've probably noticed the specific strengths of your child. If he/she displays a strong affinity for one learning style, you can tailor his/her study and assignments to support that strength or find a place which customizes the needs of your child.

Interact with the teacher

As I had mentioned in one of my articles about the importance of maintaining a healthy positive interaction with the teachers at school, similarly it is good to have an interaction with the tutor or facilitator outside the school before you decide to enroll your child or even after you enroll. Please don’t refrain yourself interacting with the student counsellor or a receptionist just because it is a branded organization, any good organization should respect your rights to interact with the teacher before the start of the classes. This will help you understand if your child is truly being benefitted.

Check the classroom environment

Each child has his/her own learning preferences and motivations. It is for us to identify them and choose a classroom best suited for them. For example, for some children competing with fellow friends might be a motivation, putting such children into individual classes will not be a good decision. Some other children might require personal attention and learn well when they know they are being cared for, for such children individual or small sized classes are the best choice. We must remember, these additional classes are to relive your child of the stress and should be a help in the learning exercise and not an additional stress.

Get Feedback/ Read reviews

As I mentioned earlier, it is good to know the feedback and review about the classes and the facilitator from the people who already experienced the same. But that should not be the sole decision making criteria.

Regular Follow Ups

Most of the times, once we enroll our children for additional classes, we tend to relax and leave it on to the tutor or facilitator and the students. I would suggest, it is good to have regular follow ups with the tutor on how your child is performing both at school as well as at the learning center you have chosen.

Measure your child’s performance

As your child progresses and works hard towards his achievements. It is good for us to compare and reflect if he/she was able to improve by virtue of the classes you have registered him for.

Understanding learning as a process with several stages can help us identify where our child’s strengths and weaknesses are. Most students have strengths in several areas, and a difficulty in one area and that is all it takes to make school life exceptionally challenging. We as parents should be able to support our children in overcoming this challenge and not end up adding more challenges.

(The author is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Learning Arena, an e-learning company)