Certified Tutors in Homewood, IL | Math, Science, Language

Happy Holidays from MASTERs Plus!

To All of Our Parents and Students,

As our holiday celebrations carry us into this New Year, we are reminded once again just how much we love this season. Year after year, the holidays bring so much good into our communities and our lives: Our friends and families join us in recalling old memories and in forging new ones. We share what’s ours with those we love or those who have little of their own to give. We reflect on the year gone by, and we look forward to what we might achieve in the next.

In many ways, we cherish the holidays for their way of bringing out the best in all of us us. Yet as we look ahead to another year, we must also aspire to bring out the best in ourselves. As individuals and as an organization, we hope that the holiday spirit can shine through us and through our actions—not only in these winter months but during the whole year round.

While we understand the holiday spirit may mean many things to many different people, it is our goal—our resolution—to embody that spirit as we know it, now and in the year to come.

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What’s a “Good” Score? 3 Ways to Evaluate Your ACT Score

by Zena Smith


With the latest round of ACT scores set to release in the coming weeks, students (and their parents) may soon be wondering how they did. But despite what they may learn from a quick Google search or by comparing scores with friends, the truth is that what counts as a “good” or “bad” ACT score depends on man things—from the student’s test-taking history to their personal higher-ed goals and even “how they choose to look at it”.

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MASTERs Plus Road Map to College: November

by Zena Smith


For those who followed along on the first leg of our road map to higher-ed, congratulations on making the initial steps toward college enrollment! The road continues through November as we share what this month holds for your student’s journey to college.


As you pack away what’s left of October’s tricks and treats, it’s time to make another push on your student’s college application. Whether your student is sending off their application for an early decision or still putting the finishing touches on their standardized test efforts, there is plenty of college prep work to keep you both busy as the cooler weather rolls in.

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3 Ways to Stay Involved When Your Student Is in School

by Zena Smith

dv1940034As much as we all love the “honeymoon phase” of back-to-school season—a quiet house, easy lunches for one—it never takes long before the frustrations of being away from our children begin to crop up. With our students at school eight or more hours each day, it’s easy to feel helpless, like we’re missing out on a big part of their lives.

Whether it’s your first year with a student in school or your twelfth, this “separation anxiety” is simply a part of parenthood. But it doesn’t have to defeat you. There are many ways you can not only feel more connected to your student’s education, but actively participate in it!

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MASTERs Plus Tutoring Program’s 12 Months of College Prep: September

by Zena Smith

CollegeMoveAs this year’s seniors return from summer break to walk the halls of high school one last time, they may be thinking—and you might, too—that the countdown to college is finally on. By this time next year, those same seniors will have become the small fish in a big pond . . . assuming, of course, that everything goes smoothly at the admission office! 

There is still plenty of time for graduating seniors to make or break their higher ed wishes. Application essays must be written, standardized tests must be taken, and scholarships still need be applied for. When you think about it all at once, the whole idea of making college happen becomes a bit overwhelming. But it doesn’t need to be. The road to college can be as smooth or as bumpy as you make it. However, the key to a smooth ride might be simpler than you think. The trick is to take things one month at a time!

During the next twelve months, MASTERs Plus will provide a monthly road map to help you and your graduating senior navigate the path from home to higher ed. We’ll let you know everything you should be doing each month to make the college application process smoother and more successful and to ensure that your student is ready for the big leap, come next fall!

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Lock Down a Tutor BEFORE Trouble Strikes


by Zena Smith

Foresight is a wonderful thing. The ability to plan ahead is one of those tricks of adulthood that gets easier with practice and makes more sense with age. At a some point we realize that a little diligence now can save a whole lot of hassle down the road. It’s why we bring our cars in for regular oil changes, turn down a loan to search for a better interest rate, or carry a coat to the park, even when our kids insist they won’t need one. In all these cases, some early action makes dealing with life’s troubles all the more manageable.

So why, when it comes to the classroom, do we wait for chaos to strike before we take action? Think about the last time you considered a tutor for your student. Was it because you wanted to keep them on the right track, continuing to get the grades that put them at the top of the class? Most likely, it wasn’t.

When parents call MASTERs Plus, overwhelmingly they approach us with the same stories:

  • “My student is struggling with math and her grades have dropped to Ds and Fs.”

  • “My son performed poorly on the ACT and we’re worried he won’t get in to college.”

  • “My children always do their homework and study hard, but their last three tests have returned troubling scores.”

Sometimes, there is no getting around it. You simply don’t see—or expect—trouble coming your student’s way until it’s too late. But many parents simply don’t realize that hiring a tutor early can help your student BEFORE midterms arrive and long AFTER they’ve left the classroom.

There are a number of benefits to preemptive tutoring. But unlike bringing in the car for a tune-up, many parents either do not know that these benefits exist or do not see the logic in why they do. And we think that should change!

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Are Unsafe Social Media Challenges Putting Your Student at Risk?

by Zena Smith

9733281983_e5feeed89c_oThere was a time when internet safety meant little more than warning your student about the dangers of public chatrooms and making sure they weren’t online past their bedtime. It was a simpler time back then, when getting on the internet was still synonymous with the buzzes and hums of a dial-up modem.

Of course, times have changed since the 90s. Today we no longer have to sacrifice the landline to check our email as our students take the Web with them literally wherever they go (hello, smart phones). With this new age of constant internet use and the rise of hashtags and social media, there’s an entirely different batch of internet safety concerns. Unfortunately, we parents don’t always hear about them until it’s too late.

As students are more connected with one another then ever before (after all, they no longer have to call the house and talk to a parent to get a hold of their friends), they are also more likely to share and encourage dangerous habits that fly beneath our adult radars. At the top of this list: social media challenges.

While some challenges are for a good cause—think of last year’s Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised over $100 million for ALS—there are a number of these social media challenges that are just plain unsafe. Being aware of the latest social media trends is the simplest way to stay aware of what your student is doing to stay entertained, impress their friends, and communicate with the social media world. And that’s a good thing. Because it means you’ll know exactly where to begin your 2015 internet safety chat.

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Keep an Eye Out for Changes at MASTERs Plus

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by Zena Smith

This summer has given the MASTERs Plus family a lot to be excited about, and we’d like to pass some of that excitement on to you. If you’ve stopped in to see us as of late, you may have already noticed that change is afoot at MASTERs Plus. From fresh new faces around the office to the roll-out of new and improved programs, we’ve been working hard to make the MASTERs Plus experience better than ever for each and every one of our parents and students.

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Posted in Around the Office, Back to School, Homewood, IL Tutors, Scholarships, Summer, Summer learning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Structure Your Summer for Success


by Zena Smith

Each year students rejoice as the last school bell rings and summer vacation sets in. Their excitement about summer seems so natural that we rarely think twice about it. But it pays to consider, from time to time, just what it is about this time of year that gets students so jazzed. Of course, the sun and warmer weather are always worth celebrating, but beyond that, are your students excited about summer for the right reasons or the wrong ones? How do they think about summer vacation?

It’s instinctual for our students, and even us as parents, to view summer vacation as the natural opposite of the school year. After working hard all year, students want summer vacations to be a break from all of it: the early mornings, the rigor of assignments and quizzes, and the structure of class schedules. For many students, summer is the one time of year that they can be idle, avoid worrying about responsibilities, and use their time to have fun above all else.

While nobody can fault their thinking, it’s important to remember that, while summer does represent a break from the classroom, it remains an important opportunity for students to be productive and grow as individuals. How your student chooses to use their summers—whiling away the days watching television or learning a new skill outdoors and under the sun—can be the x-factor in how they keep up with, get ahead of, or fall behind their classmates.

Avoid being idle.
All summer schedules are not created equally. Although your student has earned the right to relax, the fact remains that there are better and worse uses of their time as they seek to do so. Of all the summer activities out there, the absolute LEAST productive use of your student’s time is simply being idle. Watching long stretches of television, playing video games for an entire afternoon, or sleeping excessively through the summer will do little to help your student grow and develop outside the classroom. If you want to keep up with the best in the class, then summer shouldn’t be a time to stagnate!

Structure your summer.
Many students may not like the sound of keeping a structured schedule over summer. By the end of the school year, they’ve grown tired of the alarm clocks and long days broken down by periods and appointments. But there is value in keeping a schedule: it keeps students active rather than idle and helps teach skills of discipline, timeliness, and accountability.

The benefit of summer is that the items on your students schedule can be fun ones: club meetings or sports practices, library programs, or even volunteering! By committing to keeping a summer schedule, your student can gain valuable personal and interpersonal skills that they may not learn, even in a classroom.

Choose activities wisely.
As stated earlier, your student’s time is valuable! As such, there are beneficial and non-beneficial ways to fill out their schedule. Try to fill it with activities that have both a fun and an educational side. In addition to being entertaining and/or relaxing, try to find events where your student can be active, learn skills, or develop useful academic or professional traits.

  • Join a club or sports team.
  • Participate in a library/reading program.
  • Volunteer (parks, animal shelters, libraries, etc.)
  • Start an exercise regimen.
  • Attend a summer camp.
  • Commit to a summer-long art/craft/building project.

As you see, there are many ways to keep your student busy through their summer break without sacrificing the chance to help them grow and develop as individuals. It’s only natural that students look to summer as some time away from the classroom, but it doesn’t have to be time away from productivity. Helping our children to see summer “the right way”—that is, as a chance to do their favorite activities—rather than as the season of idleness is a great way to help them avoid “summer brain drain” get to the head of their class. Give some structure to your student’s summer, and you’ll see the difference come fall.


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Early Starts to Academic Success: Develop a Sleep Routine

by Zena Smith a parent I sometimes wonder if something was lost in translation when they came up with the phrase “sleeping like a baby.” You hear those words and you imagine a child, sound asleep and without a worry in the world. But those of us who have been there know that—baby or not—kids don’t always want to go to sleep, and if you’re going to make them, you can bet they won’t be peaceful about it!

Learning to manage your child’s sleep routine is not just a right of passage of new parenthood, but as you may know, it’s an important part of keeping their bodies healthy and setting the stage for life-long learning. Over the last couple of decades there have been more than enough studies to back the science behind sleep. However, new studies have shown that it’s not just the sleep that matters. Your child’s overall health, ability to learn, and creative energies also depend on how well they sleep and how they get to sleep.

That’s right—just saying “sweet dreams” and turning down the lights might be one way to put them to bed, but when it comes to the kind of sleep their developing brains need to prep for long days of learning, it’s certainly not the best way! The “right” kind of sleep, it turns out, comes from a routine!

Developing a bedtime routine that promotes brain development might sound like a lot of work or an impossible task. But take our word for it—it’s not! It all boils down to being consistent and defining the bedtime roles of both you and your student!

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