In an effort to help parents navigate the often subjective waters of the English Language Skills Areas, I offer a variety of classes, both in my home and electronic. Distance classes take the form of emails and Skype lessons, usually for a set period of time, often by semester, and work towards a specific previously agreed upon goal. In-Person classes flow more week to week, depending on schedules.
Two of my children have been late and very late readers. Because I needed to learn how to help the older of these dear boys, I am Orton trained, which means I can tackle tough phonics troubles, especially dyslexia. I am also well versed with helping older students with more advanced stages of reading and comprehension skills. O-G classes require more frequent contact between student and teacher. In order for maximum learning to take hold, we need to meet a minimum of twice a week, preferably three times, for a little under an hour each session. For some students, I use pure phonics via the Gillingham Manual. Other students benefit more from an Orton-Spalding approach, either through Wanda Sanseri’s version or the Riggs Institute’s, which are the programs I know best. I make this decision based on what I see during the student’s assessment. If your child has an IEP or formal diagnosis, I’d love to read what light those professionals can shed on your student’s skills. Whenever I see these students, especially the younger ones, a parent needs to be on hand and engaged during the lessons. I can tutor O-G/SWR via Skype, but only if Mom or Dad vigilantly watches to ensure directionality and proper placement of all writing the student does. A quiet environment is also a must. When these lessons take place in my home, I can ensure that learning is taking place in the most agreeable manner, but Skype just doesn’t allow for that. Some years I take O-G students on as one-on-one students; other terms, my schedule is too packed for me to do anything other than schedule these children in small groups.
A course on study skills also falls into the reading and comprehension area. Time management doesn’t come naturally to many people but it is a skill that can be taught and applied by anyone. This course contains a gold mine of information for any middle school range (6th to 9th grade) student, but is also very useful for new college students and even adults. I look to biology to see when a student is ready for this class. When puberty is well under way, it’s time for this life skill! (But honestly, it’s never too late to learn how to order your days!) It is best for these students to have a lesson once a week with two different homework due dates between classes–one mid-week and another the night before the next lesson.
Often, parents come to me to live-teach composition to their students. For the most part, I use what I learned through IEW’s Teaching Writing: Structure and Style course as the basis for these weekly classes, both around my table at home or via Skype. After a couple of years of these lessons, many parents feel confident in their ability to continue to hone their children’s writing skills or, especially in the case of older high school students, send them to the local community college for English 101 and 102. Yes, my goal is to work myself out of a job! Mentoring the mother makes for a more satisfying experience for me–and mentoring is built into everything I do. The kids are happy. Mom is happy. I’m happy. It’s a win-win-win situation.
Composition time is more “brain time” than anything else. It is not “penmanship practice” time because the two skills utilize totally different sections of the brain. Therefore, a necessary prerequisite for my classes is the ability to read and form letters comfortably. I’m fine with teaching younger students (around 10 and up) who still need to develop fluency of handwriting, but only if Mom serves as scribe. Younger students may benefit from my reading and phonics classes, which embed the stylistic techniques of IEW and provide important “snowbanking” for composition later.
I am often the go-to gal for older kids. Many high school students need a time of targeted instruction for the refinement of the various essays. I teach a course that I call “The Essay Continuum” for returning students in order to teach the elements which make up an essay and the many ways to slant these composition workhorses, as well as numerous possibilities for structuring individual paragraphs. While crafting a variety of essays, which are usually correlated with the student’s course load, we work in any needful lessons from IEW’s flagship Structure and Style curriculum. Once a student has a firm grasp on essays, we can devote more time to literary analysis, research papers, and the skill of persuasion. In recent years, I have often had a Literary Analysis class going that corresponds to the Reading with Reason selections. Lost Tools of Writing is also a popular choice that lends itself to any publisher’s essay questions, but many curriculum offerings can also provide the scaffolding for these classes.
I sometimes offer tutoring specifically for the ACT, SAT, and other high-stakes testing, but only the reading and writing (AKA, English) sections–never math–although if you look at the science section of the ACT as more of a “reading comprehension” exercise, I can provide tips for that part. Preparation for both the AP English Language & Composition and the AP English Literature & Composition exams are also available. Being tied to the AP schedule, these two classes are highly structured, full year courses with rigorous time requirements. It is not recommended that any student take both courses in the same year. As the new classical test (CLT) takes hold, I look forward to offering tutoring for that as well.
The actual classes I teach each term vary year to year. You would need to contact me to see what’s in store. I urge you to get in touch with me early, though, as my slots fill rather quickly. While my youngest is still in school, all classes take place in the mornings so I can devote my afternoons to his learning. All lesson times run for about an hour–with O-G sessions clocking in at just under an hour and composition at about an hour. If your child is a composition student, your student will receive an email recap after each lesson. You will be CC’d on every email so you know what is going on in class and what the homework is each week. (I will use the parent’s email for students who do not yet have their own email address.) You will need to print these emails and any attachments each week. Parents of O-G/SWR students will often receive photos of board notes after class. These photos serve as a quick check to ensure that the papers are formatted correctly and that all words were indeed spelled correctly. Homework for these classes is nearly always the same (penmanship practice of the words from the lesson, composing sentences or stories using the words from the lesson, and then reading of both the words and sentences or stories), so there is no need for an email recap. Fees for all classes vary depending on the time commitment required outside of the actual teaching time, but all are very reasonable–likened to what you would pay a piano teacher. Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to learn more about any of these courses.