For Parents: Frequently Asked Questions

What sort of student is this tutoring intended for?

This program is meant to help children and youth who can benefit from some strengthening of psychological skills and/or reading and math skills. If this sounds vague, that’s intentional: many different students – of different ages, of different life circumstances, of different skill needs, and of different levels of skill proficiency – seem to have benefited from this tutoring. 

In fact, as we've said elsewhere: we are of the opinion that everyone can benefit from some strengthening of psychological skills. Some can work on these skills in the hopes of decreasing a psychological problem of some sort. And some can work on them in order to become even happier and more productive than they already are. 

The same could be said of academic skills too: all students can benefit from getting good, better, and even better still at reading and math. Some of our students work to catch up to their grade’s standards. Others work to get ahead; to get even more comfortable, even more fluent, even more confident.

Perhaps the most important question, then, in determining whether OPT's tutoring is appropriate for a given student is this: Does the student want to try telephone tutoring? We are not in the business of forcing students to work with us against their will, even if parents are strongly in favor of tutoring. And while some young people take to telephone tutoring very positively, others prefer not to bother with it. 

This said, we encourage parents not to be discouraged if their students are not hugely enthused by the prospect of telephone tutoring. Most students have no way of knowing what this tutoring is like, and some are simply not enthusiastic about adding more work tasks to their daily schedules. We encourage everyone to start with a two-week trial period to see whether telephone tutoring could be a good fit. 

My child doesn't like talking on the phone. Does this make telephone tutoring a bad idea?

Not necessarily. The sessions are very different from typical phone conversations, as there are lots of readings and exercises to be done. Our students are not expected to be experts at social conversation by any means - though they often get much better at social conversation over the course of the tutoring!

What happens during a typical phone tutoring session?

The typical session has three parts: 

1) Alternate Reading, in which the tutor and student take turns reading sections of one of the program’s manuals, answering comprehension questions as they go. 

2) Psychological Skills Exercises, with which tutor and student practice certain psychological skills more directly. Just as push-ups and running are exercises to build up physical strength and health, exercises such as the celebrations exercise, the psychological skills meditation, the four-thought or 12-thought exercise, the option-generating exercise, the reflections exercise, listening with four responses, the conflict-resolution role-play, and others are meant to build up psychological strength. 

3) Social conversation between tutor and student, giving tutor and student a chance to bond and have fun getting to know each other better, while also practicing the skills of social conversation, listening, joyousness and friendship-building and kindness, among others.

For some students, this three-part system is altered somewhat to include more of a focus on academic skill practice.

What if my child cannot read?

Then we start by teaching the child to read! Even early reading materials in our curriculum are psychoeducational; we can take great strides towards psychological skill development even in the earliest phases of teaching students to read. 

And even once students have learned to read proficiently there is often much reading skill that can still be gained. For example, students in our program do a lot of reading aloud; we find that this can confer a level of reading fluency beyond that which comes from typical silent reading (having the potential to carry over into enunciation and public speaking skills, etc.) 

How long does involvement in this tutoring typically last (i.e. for how many weeks or months or years)?

Though there is considerable variation student-to-student, many students will continue with the tutoring for a year or two.

Why are sessions held so frequently?

For at least two big reasons: 

1) People usually do not become expert at skills by working at them once a week or once every two weeks. We think of an analogy to piano lessons: just like piano is best learned with daily or almost-daily practice, so too are psychological skills and academic skills. Frequent sessions allow for much greater “time on task” and much less forgetting. 

2) We’ve found that tutoring is more effective when tutors and students have strong relationships with each other, and having a higher frequency of sessions seems to contribute noticeably to the tutor-student bond.

Can sessions be held less frequently, like once a week?

No.

Why are sessions held via telephone?

For one thing, the telephone makes the logistics of our high-frequency tutoring possible. If tutor and student had to travel to meet each other in person almost daily, tutoring would either not happen or be exorbitantly expensive. 

The phone also makes it more possible for tutoring to happen long-term; tutoring can continue even if one or both parties move geographically, change schools, etc. 

And even beyond this, many students seem to react quite positively to the phone routine. For some, the novelty makes things special; not many people have someone who calls them at an appointed time almost every day! For others, the elimination of potential in-person distractions seems to aid concentration. And for many, the use of the phone seems to bolster social conversation and phone skills specifically. It is more than possible for tutors and students to develop positive interpersonal relationships by phone, we’ve found (and some tutor-student pairs have even found ways to engage each other quite creatively over the phone, as in carrying out imaginative play, for example).

Can we use Skype or Facetime instead?

No, we ask that tutoring be carried out with voice input only. Because most of the work students and tutors do together involves reading (with much of each session spent looking at a book or page), Skype or other types of video chatting only add needless distraction. And in addition, Skype often has a lag that disrupts the flow of the session’s work.

How much does this tutoring cost?

Please see The Telephone Tutoring Model

Is there scholarship funding available to help with tutoring costs?

Yes, on a limited basis. Contact us for more information on this.