We have been looking for a maths tutor for Oscar for a while now. In his old school he had a year of a completely new method of learning maths. It was kinaesthetic and quirky, and had a language of its own, which if you follow the system all the way through can probably revolutionise maths for you. If however, you do it for a year and then change schools and go back to the more traditional ways of doing things there can be an issue.
This issue can be exacerbated when the government see fit to finally implement a new curriculum across schools after years of allowing them to pretty much do as they please.
This new curriculum has many issues which need finagling to fit into where the children are currently at in terms of their ‘learning journey’ and where the new curriculum wants them to be. In some cases, with maths for example, it means that the goals the children were expected to reach by the end of year 3 primary (Oscar’s year) are no longer relevant. They are, in fact, now signs that the children are practically special needs. The new curriculum sets the level of progress for the end of year 3 as being what in the old way of things they wouldn’t be achieving until the end of year 4.
What this means is that if schools do not want to fail OFSTED and children do not want to be told that they are useless, the schools have to teach the children two years worth of mathematics in one academic year.
This could cause problems.
Hence looking for a tutor. We are not unhappy with where Oscar is at mathematically speaking, but he needs a bit of extra support in some areas where time pressures mean that teachers cannot linger, and other pressures mean that parents should never, ever try to teach their children new maths unless they buy a lot of Kleenex Balsam and gin.
After much failing to find anyone, and long periods of ignoring things, we finally pulled our finger out and plumped for a system called Explore Learning. They have branches in High Streets and supermarkets and other random places, and are some kind of learning franchise type place where the education is mostly computer based with hands on help from tutors who have six children each to look after.
Oscar started a couple of weeks ago after a taster session where he and I turned up feeling scared (him) and pessimistic (me). We came away with him being utterly enthused and me being cautiously optimistic.
Firstly he loves it, which is a massive tick in the box. Unlike his sister, who needed and got one to one attention in a tutor’s home, he loves the computers and the other children and the bustle of it all.
Secondly they are flexible. He is signed up for 2.5 hours per week over two sessions but I can take him at literally any time they are open on any day, including weekends and school holidays. This is a god send with my erratic time tabling, the demands of other children, and my ongoing battles with the CLD (TM).
Thirdly I don’t have to worry about car parking (our nearest one is in a huge Sainsburys’ superstore) and I can pick up all the inevitable things I will have forgotten to purchase during the normal run of things while I’m waiting for him.
His sessions are actually for maths and literacy. He doesn’t need any help with literacy. I say this as someone who is being treated to being read ten pages of Terry Pratchett every day including full on discussions and explanations and the odd question, and I use the word odd in all senses.
The whole ‘Explore’ thing comes as a bundle though, so he gets literacy regardless. I was quite fed up about this, but since finding that they are tailoring it to his capabilities, and as they take children up to age 14 at Explore, he will be being challenged in ways that can only benefit him in the long run, I am much more happy about things.
He is so happy he pesters me to take him, particularly on a Tuesday, when they have a teacher he really likes.
The cost is a bit wince worthy, but actually no worse than what we would spend for a one to one tutor, it’s just that it comes out in a lump once a month, so it seems worse. I know this is not logical, and no I am not signing up for maths lessons. I just prefer a trickle of money going out rather than a lump. That’s all.
The hidden cost is the fact that I have two and a half hours a week to kill in a Sainsburys’ store, and I hate their cafes with a deep and abiding passion, so tend to spend most of it browsing around adding random things I don’t need to the shopping trolley of things I do need.
I am also very suggestible in this shoptastic state, and so when I heard a small child say excitedly to their mum: ‘Mummy! I only just DREAMED of Potato Waffles last night, and NOW. NOW! We are having them for TEA!’ I became slightly fixated on potato waffles, and could not rest until some had been bought, along with the obligatory fish fingers.
We had them for tea tonight.