Frequently Asked Questions

Who are the founders of DDIC?

Dr. Margo Barnhart and her husband, Jerry, pooled over 45 years as career educators, and founded Dreamcatcher Learning Centers in 1994 to insure success for each learner through personalized assessment and quality instruction. In 1998, they changed the name to Dreamcatcher Direct Instruction Centers. Dreamcatcher is currently owned and operated independently and is not part of a franchise corporation.

What is your philosophy?

Direct Instruction has two major philosophies: “All children can learn successfully, if taught carefully” and “If the student hasn’t learned it, the teacher hasn’t taught it.” We believe that all students can learn, regardless of their histories, behavioral patterns, or learning preferences. Success breeds success and motivation becomes intrinsic.

What are the qualifications of your teachers?

Certified teachers are given first preference in the hiring process. We employ bilingual teachers and those who specialize in English as a Second Language. Our center directors, supervisors, and teachers have extensive licensure and certification in Special Education, Reading curriculum, and Elementary Education. All of our teachers go through extensive training on how to teach Direct Instruction and are frequently coached and supervised throughout their employment. The progress of all Dreamcatcher students is consistently monitored from start to finish.

What is the procedure for testing?

Each learner is given a standardized test that examines reading, spelling, and math. This initial assessment and consultation takes anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes, and you are given the results immediately. A receptive language assessment is also administered which evaluates a student’s language age relative to his/her chronological age. Increasing receptive language skills results in greater success in any formal learning environment. The learner is then given a placement test, which precisely determines the correct level of the selected program. Our promise is Dreamcatcher students will improve one grade level after 30 hours of instruction in reading, spelling or math, or we will provide free lessons until they do.

How long is the testing?

The initial assessment and complete consultation can take anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the age and skill level of the learner. The placement testing can take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the skill level, receptive language level and particular needs of the learner. We will discuss the results and plan a program, or multiple programs, until there is a satisfactory conclusion.

What if we have already had testing done in the schools?

We welcome you to bring that information into our offices. We are still required to do our own testing, because our guarantee is based on improvement on the standardized test. We must have the initial standardized test to compare the results for every 30 hours of instruction.

Do you have any financial assistance?

We pride ourselves in helping everyone that walks in our door. If someone needs help, we find a way. Financial payment plans are flexible and arrangements are made to accommodate each family on a case-by-case basis.  We do not charge interest on monthly plans. Scholarships may be available through our non-profit affiliate, Legacy of Learning.

How long is the program?

The length of our programs depends on the skill levels and the receptive language level of the learner, the desired level of completion, and how many times a week he/she attends. The more lessons the student has in a week, the faster he/she completes the program. Our promise is Dreamcatcher students will improve one grade level after 30 hours of instruction in reading, spelling or math, or we will provide free lessons until they do.

Do you have a study skills program?

We have two distinctly different programs. One teaches critical thinking, reading comprehension, vocabulary and organizing skills. This program decreases the fear of taking tests and dramatically increases test scores. The other study skills course teaches behavioral and practical skills for organizing the performance tasks for success in school. See the website for detailed information.

How are your different from Sylvan or other learning centers?

There are many differences between our services and our main competitor, Sylvan Learning Centers.

1. We offer flexible hours and assign each student to the same instructor for at least 30 hours, which maintains the consistency necessary to create a relationship and allow for bonding. To the best of our knowledge, Sylvan has set hours and hires teachers for specific days and times, and they teach whoever attends that day. So a student could conceivably have two to three different instructors each week at Sylvan Learning Centers, whereas they have only one teacher for every 30 or more hours of instruction at Dreamcatcher.

2. We offer primarily one-to-one instruction. When you request that your learner be in a small group, all of the students are carefully assembled by subject, skill development and their receptive language level. At Sylvan, the ratio is a minimum of 3 students in various subjects to 1 teacher, up to 10 students in each group. Each of their groups may have students of different ages, studying various subjects at different levels.

3. Our Direct Instruction (DI) method is evidenced based. DI has been learner-verified and research proven in over 3000 field-tested studies. In its most extensive evaluation of competitive reading programs ever, the U.S. Department of Education tested nine different models of education with more than 100,000 children in 170 schools across the country. Only Direct Instruction produced significant gains in all three outcomes – academic, cognitive and affective. Parents of Dreamcatcher students report that in three or four weeks they see a difference in attitude, behavior, and learning ability.

4. Our promise is that Dreamcatcher students improve one grade level in reading, spelling or math in 30 hours of instruction, or we will teach them until they do. Sylvan guarantees that the student will increase one grade level in reading and math in 36 sessions, or they give 12 additional sessions free of charge.

5. With a 24 hour notice, you are not charged for missed lessons. You are never charged for a missed appointment for an academic assessment. At Dreamcatcher there are no contracts required. If you choose a payment plan of 40 or more lessons and need to terminate after ten hours of instruction, Dreamcatcher will refund all of the remaining balance for unused lessons, pro-rated at the current hourly rate.  Your written request for this refund will be honored within 60 days of the date that Dreamcatcher receives the letter. To the best of our knowledge, once you sign on at Sylvan, your money will not be refunded for either missed lessons, scheduled testings or if you no longer require their services.

Do you have an incentive program?

The incentive for students at Dreamcatcher Direct Instruction Centers is their own success.  Each lesson is taught to mastery, and they know they are truly learning, remembering, and applying the information being taught.  Their accomplishment is reflected in their eyes and body language. For the thousands of students who have been through our program, the incentive is their own personal growth and heightened self-esteem.

Do you give homework?

No. All the instruction is done during each hour spent at our center. During holidays or upon request the student may have a mutually agreed upon assignment.

Can you help with homework?

Yes, upon request, but the majority of the hour is spent on teaching the selected program. We may devote some time at the beginning or the end of the session to go over homework, but we know that filling in the missing gaps in learning will result in being able to do future homework assignments without the need for assistance.

Do you teach what is being taught in school?

We teach the basic academic skills necessary to succeed in school. We use the Direct Instruction curriculum because it has been demonstrated to be the most effective program available for teaching fundamental skills. It has been consistently reported to us that students readily integrate, transfer, and manifest their new skills into any formal educational environment.

What is the difference between tutoring and teaching?

Tutoring usually refers to coaching a student with school homework or projects, not teaching to fill in the learning gaps that have developed throughout the years. At Dreamcatcher, we teach. We teach fundamental skills so that students can perform with more academic independence and excellence. We will help a student with homework upon request for a few minutes during a lesson.

We tutor in advanced math, creative and expressive writing, foreign languages, all sciences and provide homework help when the learner is at or above grade level. We also teach OR tutor adults who have a variety of needs; they may be struggling with learning disabilities, need help with college entrance essays, or preparation for ACT, SAT, or GED. We have held classes for ESL learners, and prepared city employees in test-taking skills for certifications. Our skilled teachers and flexible scheduling allow us to address additional needs beyond traditional K-12 academics.

How long are the lessons?

Lessons are typically one hour long, but depending on attention span, a student may attend for a half hour up to two hour sessions or longer at one time. A minimum of two sessions per week is highly recommended for best results. The learner will be with one teacher and no other students during his/her instruction.

Is small-group instruction offered?

Two or more learners may be placed in a small group. What makes our small groups different from other learning centers is that everyone in the group is working on the same program, at the same skill level, on the same lesson, and all participants are at a similar receptive language level.

Do you teach learners with disabilities?

Direct Instruction works for all types of learners, no matter how they’ve been labelled. We believe that every child can learn successfully, even though for some, it might take longer than 30 hours to increase one grade level. Some of our students display serious developmental delays. They may have moderate to severe conditions of one or many of the following:  Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Down’s Syndrome, Bipolar disorder, ADHD/ADD, auditory and visual processing problems, dyslexia, sensory integration, and non-verbal learning disabilities.

Do you get students who just don’t try or want to learn?

We get students who appear not to want to try, but the fact is that they have tried and failed. So, they have given up. We believe that lack of motivation is a learned survival skill–it means you do not have to engage yourself in the moment. Many students excel at appearing unmotivated; once they realize that they can learn what they couldn’t before, their whole attitude and intention toward learning dramatically and positively shifts.

What is your fee structure?

Prices range from $40 to $52 per individual hour. There are various packages available, which reduce the cost of each lesson. Any package over 40 hours has a 10 lesson unconditional refund policy: If you do not see a difference within that time, usually a month or five weeks, or your child is unhappy, we will gladly refund the unused portion of the payment, pro-rated at current hourly fee. We also offer payment plans without an interest charge, and may have partial or full scholarships available to qualified participants through our non-profit educational organization, Legacy of Learning.

My child has a busy schedule. Can we wait until after he/she is done with sports or other extracurricular activities?

We understand it can be challenging while students are involved in after school activities; however, we can schedule lessons during a time that is convenient for you. We schedule students a minimum of two times per week per subject, and we make every effort to fit your needs. The longer you wait to accelerate your child’s learning, the longer it takes to improve life in school, and at home.

What hours are you open for instruction?

We have flexible hours for scheduling lessons. Dreamcatcher respects the time constraints of the modern family and works diligently to meet your preferences. Our center is open all week, usually from 8 am to 9 pm.  Some teachers work on Saturdays and Sundays.  The most sought after time is from 3:30 to 6:30 PM, Monday through Friday, but there have been many times a student will leave their school and receive lessons in the morning if he or she needs to accelerate at an even faster pace.

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