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

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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Announcing the 2015 Summer Program Line-Up

summerstudyby Zena Smith

When we launched our first Summer Program two years ago, we wanted to give students in our community the option: The option to make their summers productive and fulfilling. The option to keep practicing the skills they worked so hard to learn during the school year. The option to get ahead of the class, even when class isn’t in session. At the time, we were sure that some of our parents and students would take advantage of our summer sessions, but we never expected you to respond by making the Summer Program one of our most popular offerings!

Needless to say, we’re excited to announce that the MASTERs Plus Summer Tutoring Program will be back for a 3rd year! In response to your demand and wonderful  feedback, we’re expanding the program to make this summer’s line-up the most expansive one yet!

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Happy Mother’s Day from MASTERs Plus!

mothers day

To All of Our Moms, on Mother’s Day:

Today, we ask that you take a break from the test scores. Forget about report cards, about parent-teacher conferences, and unfinished homework. It’s a special day for you and yours, and Momma, you’ve earned it.

boy-on-lap-378x378You’ve earned it before dawn, on those mornings when you wake up early so your student can get to class on time and well fed.

You’ve earned it on late spring afternoons, sitting in the hot car so that someone will be there to pick them up when class lets out.

You’ve earned it after dark, with each late night you’ve spent helping them get ready for their first day of school or their last round of final exams.

You’ve earned it in the summers, when you enroll them in summer programs, because in your house, learning doesn’t take vacations.

You’ve earned it in the winters, when working that second job is the only way to keep some heat in the house.

You’ve earned it in auditoriums, during eighth-grade promotions and high school graduations, in college admissions offices and on campus tours, and in the doctor’s office or classroom where they finally found their first job.

To each and everyone of our MASTERs Plus moms: Here’s to you—to breakfasts in beds, big family hugs, and big accomplishments for the students you’ve raised.

Today is yours. You’ve earned it. So however you choose to spend it, just be sure to find the time to take a break, take a breath, and get away from sweating the small things. Thanks, Mom, for all you do.

And Happy Mothers Day from MASTERs Plus,

Zena Smith and the Staff


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Don’t Miss Summer Savings at MASTERs Plus

by Zena Smith

college moneyWith summer vacation in sight, your student is likely jumping for joy at the thought of three months away from the classroom. That’s okay—everyone loves a break from a busy schedule—but remember that learning doesn’t have to stop just because school’s out. In fact, it shouldn’t!

Like any skill, the things our students work hard to learn in the classroom can be lost just as easily if they fall out of use. Think about it this way: an athlete doesn’t stop practicing during the offseason, a musician doesn’t give up playing between concerts, and a student shouldn’t cease learning during the vacation months. As the saying goes, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” 

While we’re sure you know that summer learning matters, those of us with kids are also aware that it can be awful hard to get a young student excited about doing anything academic while the sun is shining outside. That’s why we at MASTERs Plus want to make summer learning extra easy on you AND your pocketbook.

This summer we’ll offer $50 in savings to help you and your student make this summer count. Sound enticing? Here’s how it works.

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