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Whoa! What a mouthful? National Family Literacy Month!   Will your celebration be modest or over-the-top?   Let's start slow here... Who wants to be overwhelmed right now - when you are still scrubbing the candy corn out of your youngest child's teeth?   I propose a Family Literacy Minute - one for every member of the family - every day if you can(!) - once or twice a week if that is what know you can do!   OK, the minimum is ONE minute, but anyone can take up to TWO minutes. Any longer and it may be too long for those accustomed to the surfing and clicking that we all do too often.   These minutes will be, blessedly, technology free!   Day 1 - Tell me one thing you learned today - at school, work, OR something very useful that you learned at anytime in the past from someone at least 20 years older than you are!!!  (The second option is great for kids who had to take a (sigh) sick day, and/or... read more

Parents: Why not, on the first day of school - and the last day of school, serve ice cream for breakfast? The first day of school should be celebrated! And, yes, I think that you should also serve something else - first! Here are some ideas for protein and Vitamin C. Upon awakening: Orange juice - or Pineapple! While getting dressed: Have a "square" of bacon strips. Just build it - a 4 x 4  and they will come to the table! Or, finger sandwiches. Slice an ordinary sandwich into "fingers" (lengthwise) or into 4 wedges. Or, Hard- cooked eggs- sliced in half -with maybe a little dab of mayo and a sprinkle of sea salt Or, Peanut butter on a bagel Then, just before they go out the door - Why not say a quick prayer - and/ or offer encouragement for the school year? And, then, the surprise - Ice Cream - that you have scooped into disposable little paper bowls with little plastic spoons... read more

Summer should be fun! Time to wind down, relax, be with friends, go to your fav waterpark or wave pool, and take a family vacation - even if it is just a "staycation" at a local hotel with a pool and an elevator and a great breakfast buffet! For many kids, it is also a chance to explore a new interest, (specialty camps such as drama, art, cooking,) or to hone a skill, (soccer or other sport camps,) or to (YES!) ) catch up on school work - gaps in education that are holding your child back - preventing him or her from reaching his or her full potential! If your elementary child is behind in reading, writing, or math, just 18 - 24 hours of tutoring over the summer can have a positive impact. With my students, I like to do a pre-test at the beginning of the summer, a brief mid- summer assessment, and a post-test at the end. But, I can only do this if the child puts in at least 18 hours of work because experience has shown me that it takes that much time to... read more

It is a privilege to work with international students; I wonder if they will take part of my teaching with them back to their countries and teach others - just one thing - that I have taught them. I hope so! As well as the short term goal(s) of learning English well enough to pass a course, get into graduate school, or just have a more meaningful exchange with peers, I am hopeful that learning more about a language will contribute to citizens of all countries coming to a greater understanding of one another, and as Anna Quindlen says in one of our essays, realizing our greater "interconnectedness." That's the good part. The part that can be frustrating - for my students - and sometimes for me - is the complicated nature of English - the nuances, idioms, the quirks that must be explained, mulled over, and often explained again. I never tire of trying to find new ways to explain, but the mental work my students must do sometimes takes a toll. Toll - wait a... read more

A popular TV commercial tells us how to take "Stephen" - pronounced STEVE uhn to "Stephen" pronounced Ste FAHN." Same spelling, same amount of letters, but more pizzazz... or style... (or something to that effect!) I was reminded of this one week ago when a shy third grader - who needs help in reading - asked me about something I had just read to him. Almost inaudibly, he said, (I thought) something about a word being "wrong." "I'm sorry," I said, "What did you say?" "That word," he explained softly, tentatively... "You got it wrong," MOI??? "Which one?" I asked, curious to know what he was thinking. He slowly pointed it out. I guess he was wondering, Why would a TEACHER get a word WRONG? "You said, 'wind." (Long "i" pronounced.) ... "It's wind." (Short i pronounced.) Yes, that word can be wind. The wind is blowing hard. Put on your... read more

If your child is in elementary school, you may wish to evaluate his academic needs before scheduling camp, special interest classes and your family vacations. Then, plan accordingly. How do you know if your child needs "academics" this summer? And, how do you plan around the fun you want him or her to have? Three EZ things! 1) Is your child up with his peers - in the way he expresses himself... in the way that she initiates and plays games... in his grades... in his class participation? 2) Is your child's report card good? Notice I did not say ,"OK," but good! An elementary school child should have mostly A and B grades. If there is one C, then, you the parent can educate yourself and try to help, but it that does not work, you should speak to your child's school counselor or teacher and/or contact a tutor. (And, it doesn't have to be me; it can be any qualified tutor!) If your child has mostly C's or is not meeting "benchmarks,"... read more

Many articles in our popular magazines bemoan the loss of "family communication" and time spent together - whether it be "quality time" or just "down" time. If you, the parent, try to think back to your own childhood, you may remember that some of the best conversations or touching moments occurred when you least expected them. What you may not realize, even now, is the impact that your family life had on you. All of the little conversations, the quiet moments, the time spent watching TV together - when most of us only had one or two TVs - were times when mom or dad, grandma or grandpa, or even your siblings and you spoke, whispered, yelled, or just gave one another knowing looks - all of this added to your life - emotionally and educationally. For most of us - back then - we didn't have to fight for "down time", we were the captive audience in the backseat of the car, and when we saw signs we were somehow required to "read"... read more

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