When the Love & Hope kids come home from school at 2:00 p.m., they settle down in the kitchen to eat lunch, then eventually make their way into their rooms to change out of their uniforms. By 2:30, everyone is expected to be outside of their rooms, ready to do homework.
In addition to homework, we maintain a tutoring schedule that starts at 2:30 p.m. every afternoon. Kirsten, our educator, is in charge of planning this time for the kids. Every child gets between 1/2 hour and two hours every week to spend individually with Kirsten, working in areas of academic weakness. Tutoring takes place in our play/therapy/tutoring room. This room has been set aside specifically as a place where the kids can work quietly and individually on academics or talk privately with Jessica, our psychologist.
With the help of a few teams last year and this year, our tutoring room has become a very welcoming and fun area. There are a lot of books, special toys, educational materials, board games and two computers available for the kids to use for homework or play. Because this room is separated from the main house, it usually remains a quiet and calm area. One volunteer even created a chalkboard wall, a beautiful mural based on Salvadoran art, and a word search that includes everyone’s name!
Some are more enthusiastic about tutoring time than others. The little boys, for example, are always eager and excited to trabajar, or work, in the tutoring room. It has become an everyday after school ritual for Tonio and Chamba to ask Kirsten, “¿Hoy me toca trabajar contigo?” “Is today my turn to work with you?” Irene and Moises are also enthusiastic studiers in this context; they love to read and play math games. A few of the others take a little more coaxing and encouragement to get them downstairs and ready to learn.
The kids work on different things during their tutoring time. To separate it from homework and motivate the kids, they do very little work on paper. Instead, they play math and English games, use the computer to make study guides on Quizlet, manipulate magnetic letters to practice the alphabet and make words, answer writing prompts, read novels and poetry, reverse roles to reteach concepts to Kirsten on the white board, use beads to make patterns, etc. In the case of a few kids, not much educational support is necessary as they are already performing so wonderfully in school. With Brenda, for example, we have encouraged her to use her time to start learning something new: French!
The frequency of this intensive, purposefully educational time with the kids is new for us at Love & Hope Children’s Home. We are eager to see what the results and benefits will be. We hope to see an improvement in grades, and would also like to use this time to teach better study habits, increase English fluency, learn keyboard typing, and foster career exploration. But more than that, we realize the importance of the extra and individual attention the kids are receiving during their tutoring time. Living with 20 other children can be difficult sometimes, so we hope that the kids are enjoying the little oasis of quiet and attention that can be found when studying, playing or just hanging out to use the computers downstairs.