As my daughter has gotten older, I’ve noticed a few things about school. Learning a subject well sometimes depends on the teacher. We’ve had years of excellent teachers. We’ve also had years where, for various reasons, teachers have fallen short of our expectations.
Those years have been challenging, but my child is fortunate in that she has two parents who stay on top of her education, one of which just might have earned extra money as a math tutor in college. Not every child has that one on one attention when needed. Sometimes both parents work outside the home, and I know just how few hours there are in the evening to get everything done. Sometimes a parent doesn’t easily recall a subject (or the new ways of doing it – I’m talking about you common core).
No matter what the reason, we all know that children thrive in environments where they are set up to achieve, not fail. Where they can be fearless. That’s why so many turn to Explore Horizons, a tutoring and enrichment center with many locations right here in Dallas/Fort Worth.
Thanks to Explore Horizons sponsoring this post, I was able to take my daughter to one such Explore Horizons center, and see what it could offer my daughter.
Why Explore Horizons?
When I mentioned to others that I was taking my daughter to Explore Horizons they assumed she was struggling in school. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. She excels in school, always has. She has been given the often misunderstood label as gifted and talented on top of that.
But Explore Horizons is much more than tutoring. Sure, it can help those students who are struggling and need some one on one time with a tutor. But it can also enrich the learning experience, often providing learning of skills well before they are taught in school. It can also help with test preparation, like the much-anticipated STAAR test in Texas each year.
The Explore Horizons Method
They describe it themselves…
Our method is a “whole child” approach found exclusively at Explore Horizons centers. Since 2001, our professional educators have been taking it “above and beyond the grade,” creating personal connections with students and achieving success through plans customized to each child’s individual needs. And Explore Horizons’ systematic evaluations help us assess impact on outcomes so – together – we can track your child’s improvement over time. Our experiences show that achieving real academic progress requires your child to experience real gains in confidence. We help students become hungry for information, believe in themselves, and pursue knowledge with the spirit of a fearless learner.
Originating first in London, there are several locations here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas, from Frisco and Garland to Fort Worth and McKinney.
Tutoring and enrichment (a great companion to school) is offered for subjects like math, reading, and writing for all children in Pre-K through 8th grade.
While at the center I did see children of all ages, though I would highly recommend for younger Pre-K children that they be potty trained and well-behaved (as there was a child that seemed to disrupt others). It’s not babysitting but tutoring, something that might need to be addressed with that child’s parents.
Free In-Person Assessment
To start out with Explore Horizons, you simply schedule a free in-person assessment at the nearest location. Your child will be tested and based on that, Explore Horizons will know whether the time spent there is with a goal of tutoring or enrichment, and at what grade level the child is performing at.
- Up to two 75-minute, individually-tailored tutoring sessions per week with professional educators
- Drop in with no pre-booking required
- Customized plans aligned to the curriculum of your school district
- Preparation for test taking
- Regular open houses and one-on-one parent progress meetings
- Handwriting development for Elementary Success members
- Open homework clinics on Wednesday evenings
- Reserved one-on-one tutoring session per month to tackle identified challenges
With such a hectic family schedule, I adored the drop in policy. It was often difficult to know which nights she would be too busy with homework to attend, so this allowed us to fit Explore Horizons in when we could, even if that meant a Saturday or Sunday.
How Explore Horizons works
The brand new McKinney location is what I will call the flagship location, with an entirely new layout for the center.
Everything was different at this location when I compared it to others (as I had visited more than one to see), and my daughter agreed that the McKinney set up was definitely better.
Much, if not all, of the child’s work will be done on computer, something that I wasn’t a fan of initially as I do feel my daughter gets way too much screen time just from school alone. I understood the concept behind it though, as the creators of the curriculum are actually creators of the STAAR test as well. That alone made me feel good about the learning going on.
Funny thing though. One day we arrived and the entire block was with without electricity. We decided to stay and my daughter really got one on one time with tutors who manually helped with worksheets and white boards. Old school, as I like to say. I think it was good for her.
The centers are filled with plenty of computers, quality headphones, tables, and chairs.
Not once did I see it at capacity, which provided a great tutor-student ratio.
At the brand new center in McKinney, and up front for parents to see, are tags with descriptions about the tutors.
The tutors always seemed knowledgeable about the subjects. I will say that math always seemed to be the priority of the staff, and I did have to ask them to incorporate a bit more reading and writing, as I wanted it to be a little more well-rounded. They were completely receptive.
Each session was about 75 minutes, which consisted of an hours worth of work, followed by 15 minutes or so of recharge time.
By far we loved the McKinney recharge zone the best. Completely separated by a wall, this area was for kids after they have completed their work.
This area allows them to play, relax, and clear their head after spending so much time working.
You could tell this area was made more of a priority at the McKinney location, as they were just small sections in another location.
From drawing on the chalkboard to playing board games, kids could do just about anything in this zone.
What I loved most as a parent was that I almost always saw an employee interacting with the children while in that area.
Playing a game of cards.
Teaching them a board game.
It’s where the tutors and students could get to know each other better, 15 minutes at a time.
Rewarding the Students
What child doesn’t like to be rewarded for their efforts?
Explore Horizons uses that to encourage attendance, attitude, and being fearless.
My daughter quickly started collecting Lizard Cards at every session. Though admittedly lizards aren’t our favorite thing in the world, the cards were valuable.
The Prize Wall!
Yes. After a period of time, you’ll collect enough lizard cards to be able to turn them in and exchange for an item or two out of the cabinet. There’s some really good stuff in there! I spied LEGO sets and more!
Each session ends with the parent being given a session card which explained what was worked on and where they might have needed help.
Tips for Parents
- Kids will find themselves bonding with different tutors. Some will work. Some personalities might not be a great fit. If you find one your child likes, figure out that tutor’s schedule and show up then. We had one tutor who wasn’t a great fit – it happens. It’s an easy problem to solve.
- If you travel, don’t worry. Though you sign up for a monthly membership package (and there is an initial registration fee), you can work with the manager to make up sessions – just speak to a manager and if you are gone for an extended time, ask to have your account frozen while you are away.
- If money is an issue and you are eligible for free school meals, you may be able to get 50% off with the Explore Horizons scholarship program. Ask.
- Multi-kid families get a discount. Ask.
- Refer your friends – it benefits both of you.
- You can drop off your kids and leave them there, but like I said, make sure they are well-behaved, as it can be a distraction to others. My daughter mentioned that it was the kids who were loud that got much of the attention.
- There is a small waiting area for parents who wish to stay while there child is working.
Interested in trying it out? Schedule a free in-person assessment at the nearest Explore Horizons location!