Posted in Child, children, classes, Courses, Education, Events, Homework Help, Individualized Tutoring, K-12 Tutoring, Learning Activties, Orange County, Orange County Events, Parent, Parent and Child, Parent Help, Parenting, Private Tutoring, SAT, SAT Test Prep, student, Studying, teaching, Tutoring Sessions, Uncategorized

What’s Going On At Oxford Tutoring

The new school year is several weeks in and Oxford Tutoring is in full swing.  Our students are receiving help for many K-12 subjects including math, science, reading, writing, history and more.  And many of our loyal customers have returned for another school year.  We wanted to take a few moments to update everyone on some Oxford Tutoring news, discounts, and processes.

Congratulations to our SAT students!

Recently, many Oxford Tutoring students who took our summer class got their official SAT results back.  Their hard work, focus, and dedication definitely paid off because their scores significantly improved.  We even had a student improve by 230 points!  Check out the chart below for more of the results.

SAT Scores Summer 2017 Email

We are very proud of our students and happy to see that they find our classes beneficial. We are currently gathering data from the ACT official test and can’t wait to share those results with everyone too!

There will be more SAT and ACT classes starting in the New Year.  Both our ACT and SAT school year classes are 8 weeks long and meet on the weekends.  They come with 2 free private tutoring vouchers, weekly practice tests, homework, practice work, test taking tips, strategies, and content coverage.  Sign up for either of these classes 4 weeks early and you will receive 15% off the cost of the class.

Practice tests are available on the following days:

Mon-Thurs: 4pm – 6pm

Fri: 2pm-6pm

Sat & Sun: 9am – 1pm

Call in to set up an appointment for taking your practice test.

Our next SAT class begins January 6 and will last until February 8.  It will be meeting on Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM.

The next ACT class will start on February 3 and end on March 25 .  Classes will be held from 12:30PM – 3:00 PM.

Call to sign up today! (949) 681-0388.

Follow us on Facebook

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We regularly post updates, news, holiday hours, discounts and more on Facebook.  Click here to follow us. 

Refer A Friend

Orange County Tutoring

As a way of saying thank you to our loyal customers, we will give you a free tutoring session for every friend you refer.  We appreciate you recommending us to your friends.

Don’t forgot to review us on Yelp.

Oxford’s Annual Savings Bundle

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Purchase a Silver or Gold Bundle and receive tutoring at a discounted rate.  With purchase of either bundle you gain access to Bundle owner benefits.  These include, a bank of sessions, a family plan, fixed savings rate for a full year, priority scheduling, 10% savings on “a la carte” services, and forgiven no shows.

Access your invoices online

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Your invoices and notes from your child’s tutoring sessions are now available at scanmytests.com.

To set up your account give us a call.

We look forward to seeing you around the center!

 

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Posted in Child, children, Education, K-12 Tutoring, Learning Activties, Parent, Parent and Child, Parent Help, Parenting, school, student, Studying, Tutoring, Uncategorized

10 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed In School

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey

Education is a valuable tool that can set children up for a successful future.  As a result, children getting the best out of their education is vital.  So, how, as a parent, can you come alongside your children and support them in their education?  Here is a suggested list of ways to help your child succeed in school.

#1: Set Up a Morning Routine

Rushed mornings can carry over into your child’s day.  We all know that there are days when hurried mornings cannot be helped, but for the most part, establishing a morning routine will help your child’s day start off right.  Just like children benefit from a routine at school, so too can they benefit from a predictable morning.

#2: Get to Know Your Child’s Teacher

This may seem like an obvious step, but it can be easy to become preoccupied with other priorities.  However, taking the time to meet and get to know your child’s teacher will open up the lines of communication.   When concerns or questions arise, having already developed a rapport with your child’s teacher will make possibly difficult conversations a lot easier.

#3: Volunteer at School

Furthermore, getting involved at your child’s school can be helpful in your child’s success at school.  You will be directly engaged with your child’s education by volunteering for field trips, after school activities, or in class help. With your help, your child will benefit from a more meaningful school experience.

#4: Stay Positive about Education

School is hard work, and when your children are feeling overwhelmed they are going to feel like their school experience is a negative one.  What they need is an education advocate.  By focusing on the positives of education and continuing your education through schooling, reading, and other learning activities, you will show your children why education can help them go a long way in life.

#5: Read Together

Children need to be able to read fluently, comprehend what they are reading, and analyze the text in order to excel in school.  Reading together provides you with the opportunity to help develop these skills.  Read together and talk about what you are reading with your child in order to build these skills and aid him or her do well in school.

#6: Talk to Your Child

Talking to your children about their day and what is going on with them is an important step to helping your child succeed in school.  This way, you will know what is going on with their friends, schooling, and other activities.  Even if your child is in the stage where his or her answers to your questions are “fine” and “good”, at least they know that the lines of communication are open, and they can come to you when they are ready to talk.

#7: Provide a Study Space

It is extremely helpful for students to have a quite place to study and get their homework finished. This can be as simple as a desk with a few office supplies on it.  What this does is provide a focused learning environment that children can consistently go to to get their assignment done.

#8: Prioritize Study Time

Make sure that your children are studying and getting homework done before moving on to other activities like TV and video games.

#9: Continue Learning over the Summer

Ever heard of the summer slide?  This can really affect a child’s learning as studies show that children can lose a full month’s worth of school learning over the summer.  Combat this with continuing education over the summer through reading, classes, and tutoring.

#10: Hire a Tutor

This may be last on our list, but it most certainly should not be a last resort.  Tutoring is a great opportunity for your child to get ahead, catch up, build confidence, and even more.  Check out our latest blog to find out why tutoring can help your child.

Conclusion

These are just some of the many ways you can support your children in their school.  Can you think of any other ways to help your children with their education goals?

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Oxford Tutoring

(949) 681-0388

Posted in Book, Child, children, Education, ELA, family, Homework Help, Parent and Child, Parent Help, Parenting, Reading, Uncategorized

4 Steps to Develop Comprehension and Analysis Skills at Home

The world of education centers on using new research and experience to identify what students need to learn and how teachers can present that information better.  While this system has been trusted to help students reach their academic goals in the classroom, what are students and parents supposed to do if they feel that more can be done to enable students to reach their goals?

Many parents have come to Oxford Tutoring with that very question, and there are times when instruction with our trained and knowledgeable tutors is warranted, if not necessary, especially since the Common Core has changed the way students’ skills are evaluated.  However, when it comes to improvement in English Language Arts, there are a number of activities that are effective, free, and fun which students and parents can work on at home.

The Challenge

The most common request our English Language Arts instructors encounter from students is help with comprehending and analyzing plots and arguments.  The interesting thing about most of these requests is that the real problem is that they are simply unfamiliar with explaining what they know.

Prior to the last couple years, students were only asked to summarize, or repeat back, what they read, but the new requirements ask them to explain themselves.  So, the problem isn’t that they don’t know how to comprehend or analyze, it’s that they aren’t being taught to explain their findings.

Given this revelation, let’s give students some credit for the skills they do have and help them learn to explain their ideas effectively.

The Usual Fix

Most of the time, when a student comes to us because his or her reading and writing scores are less than impressive, we begin by asking the student to read a passage and answer specific questions about what was read.  Then, to the tutor’s surprise, the student answers most, if not all, of the questions correctly.

This is surprising to us because the student asked for help with something they already know how to do.  So, the tutor ponders the situation for a moment and realizes that the student actually needs help explaining how he or she got those answers.

Thus begins the process of guiding the student through each step of his or her internal analysis process and making it an external process with spoken and written words.  The trick is helping the student realize that once they’re finished analyzing the passage, the hard part is over.

An Alternative Fix

I must admit, I love teaching students to comprehend and analyze texts.  But I also think that students can try to develop their own strategies and processes without my help.  Such an endeavor could even be entertaining and might even begin a lifelong fondness for thinking critically.

The entertaining aspect comes from the fact that students are not limited in their choices of practice materials.  One might think that we have to use the same texts provided in English and Social Studies classrooms, but that is just not the case.  A more effective option is to use a medium that truly engages the student, and this is easily accommodated when dealing with only one student.

Therefore, the first step in the process of developing comprehension and analysis skills is getting the student to identify the material that will be most engaging.  For example, because novels can take so long to get interesting, I like to begin by discussing the student’s favorite movie.  Yes, I know our goal is to improve our skills with texts, but, in the beginning, the most important task is getting started – just finding an idea the student finds worthy of putting forth effort to figure out.  Even if the student isn’t a movie/television aficionado, the initial and most engaging themes and plots are guaranteed to already be present in the student’s everyday life.

The Actual Practice   

So, you’ve decided to conduct some at-home practice, and you know what topic(s) your child is truly interested in.  Now, let’s talk about some activities that can help him or her learn to comprehend and analyze the content and then present his or her findings in an effective way.   If I write out the process in a list, you might get intimidated and shy away from this whole process, so I’ll start by explaining the core activities and then we’ll get into the process.

 

workplace-1245776_1920Step 1: Oral Exercises

The most entertaining activities are the oral activities in which you’ll just talk to the student about one of his or her interests.  That is, you’ll strike up a conversation with him or her about the thing that he or she really wants to talk to you about.  Let’s face it; we are talking about young people here.  If you give them an excuse, they’ll talk all day and night, and you are going to give them the perfect excuse.

For example, if your student is an avid Netflix user, strike up a conversation about what he or she is currently binge-watching.  The goal of this simple sounding activity is to get the student to think critically about what they’ve experienced and decide what is important enough to be included in the explanation and what is not.  Then they will have to analyze the content in order to explain how each of those “important” scenes/episodes fits together into the overall plot of the story.

I know; just reading all of this makes it feel like a college level activity, but the student will want to do it and will enjoy it immensely.  And you the “instructor” will have to do very little to make it work; just show interest in what the student finds interesting.  The only challenging aspect of this first activity is keeping the student on track – focused on the same topic throughout the entire conversation.

 

light-bulb-1246043_1920.jpgStep 2: The Socratic Method

The next activity in the process is applying the infamous Socratic Method.  You may be familiar with this form of questioning from your own educational experiences or from modern media’s distortion of it through the angry college professor’s lecture.

However, at heart, the Socratic Method and our main goal in this second type of activity is based on trying to truly understand what the student likes about the topic he or she has chosen to discuss.  What makes him or her so passionate about it?  Why is it worth talking about?  The difference between this activity and the previous is that you are more of a participant now.  In the first activity your goal was simply to keep them talking about the same thing.  Now, you want to understand that thing, game, sport, skateboarding trick, movie, whatever.  It’s kind of like the game children like to play with adults, where they ask you a question and then keep asking “why?”  It’s hilarious and frustrating when the kids do it because there’s no point except to keep you talking.

For us though, there is a point – deep and true understanding, not only of the thing itself, but of the student’s relationship with and to it.  You will probe for more and deeper understanding through a back and forth conversation that tests and then expands your and the student’s conception of the topic.  To make this work, you’ll want to channel one part: that annoying kid who asks “why” all the time, one part: wise person who says, “hmm” and “that’s interesting,” and one part devil’s advocate who challenges what is known by pushing the idea to the extreme and taking the idea and standing it on its head.  Doesn’t that sound fun?  I thought you’d think so.

Once you’ve completed these two oral activities a few times, the student will become accustomed to thinking critically about the things he or she cares about.  Then, the student will be ready to start writing about what he or she has been thinking about.

 

coffee-1128136_1920Step 3: Written Exercises

The first stage of getting comfortable with writing about what’s on our minds is based on the tried and true method called Journaling.  The great thing about Journaling is that there are no rules, so you can’t mess up.  For this to work, the student need only put pencil to paper or fingers to keyboard.  Ask him or her to fill a page with text about a single topic.  These pages will not be subject to reading or critiquing, just ask the student for a quick glance so you can see that writing took place.

The reason this activity is so informal is that the goal is to get the student to put more than a single thought or sentence into the writing process.  His or her teachers are expecting more than a yes or no answer and more than just a sentence or two in response.  Asking a student to fill a page with text, even if it’s not the most eloquent text, helps him or her to get comfortable with putting ideas together and building on or expounding on an idea.  Just give the student some time and a comfortable place to work and watch the ideas trickle and then flood onto the page.

Once the student is able to fill a page with text, it’s time to move on to actual essay writing practice.

Instructional/Informational Essays

Before you get too excited and feel the need to remind me that I said this would be easy and fun or that you might not be an English teacher, let me assure you that my use of the term essay in this passage is rather loose.  I, and you, don’t want your student running for the hills at the very mentioning of these activities.  Given that, let’s think of essays as writing down thoughts in an organized fashion.  Just as with the prior activities, we are focusing on helping the student think critically and fully about an idea, not on the technical correctness of their expression.

When presenting this activity, remind the student that you are not asking him or her to think up anything new.  He or she will have already informed you about the basics in the first oral activity.  You both will have thought about the ins and outs and finer points of the idea through the Socratic Method.  He or she will have already written about it in the Journaling activity.  All you’ll be asking for now is an “organized” presentation of the information.  In the Journaling activity the student was asked to fill the page, so there was no organization, just thoughts recorded as quickly as they entered the brain.

Now we want to organize those thoughts into an intelligible sequence.  If the idea the student wants to express is about explaining how to drive a car, help him or her put the steps in the proper order.  Should he or she write about the finer points of shifting the car into fifth-gear before putting on the seatbelt and starting the ignition? No.  That’s the kind of organizational awareness we are going to be looking for.  If you knew nothing about the topic, was the information presented in a way that would make it possible for you to understand what the student was trying to explain?  That’s it.

Neither you nor the student need worry about effectiveness of the hook or if the imagery was descriptive enough for you to feel like you were there in the car hammering the gas pedal while simultaneously feathering the clutch and yanking the E-brake hard enough to make the car Drift through the S-curves like Vin Diesel in a “Fast and Furious” movie.  That’s my job.  You just need to help the student present all of the really important parts and put them in order so that you can follow along.  The same goes for an essay where the student is trying to present his or her opinion about something.

In these analytical or critical essays, ask yourself if you can identify the student’s position or feelings about the issue and why he or she feels that way.  Think of it like watching a story on the news or reading an article; don’t worry about how well it was presented as long as you get the important parts.

books-1605416_1920.jpgLevel 4: It’s the same, but different

At this level the student will make the transition from working with an idea that he or she is completely familiar with to an article or novel that is new to him or her.  This is the stage where you and your child can work together through each of the first three level’s activities.  You will work together to build the student’s comprehension and analysis skills as partners.

In the previous activities, the student was teaching you something only known to him or her.  Now, you will work together to build each other’s understanding through a genuine partnership.  You will read the text at a similar pace and you will think about and discuss the text with the same level of unfamiliarity and newness.  By completing each of the first three level’s activities with a new text, you will be able to operate from the perspective of a peer rather than a know-it-all teacher.  There will be no wrong answers, no errors, just two people’s unique perspectives on a singular topic.

Keeping It Real and Really Fun

The first thing the more pragmatic of you might think about is, “How long is this going to take?”  While it is a good question, the answer depends on how motivated you and the student are.  Ideally, you could complete one activity every other day, but I know that life and complicated schedules can get in the way.  So, in the end, this can be as formal and regulated as you desire.

You can work with a set schedule so that you and the student can be fully aware and accountable for completing the activities, or you can play it a bit looser and focus on the oral and journaling activities that can be done during car rides and lazy weekends.  You know your student best, so you will likely know how best to motivate him or her to start this process as well as what it will take to get you both to stick with it and keep practicing.

My most fervent hope and strenuous recommendation is to keep it fun at all costs.  Save the “work” aspects for the classroom teachers and us here at Oxford.

 

Meet the Author: Alex Claude is an SAT and ACT ELA Director and an ELA tutor at Oxford Tutoring.  He takes the time to get to know his students so he can learn and apply how to best teach them.  Alex teaches his students how to effectively communicate through writing, and how to analyze informational texts and novels.

 

Posted in Book, Child, children, Education, family, Parent, Parent and Child, Parent Help, Parenting, Reading, student, Uncategorized

Thank You, Jim Trelease! – The Power of Reading Aloud to Children

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My son, Matt, reading to my four grandchildren.

Reading aloud to my four children is one of the fondest memories I have of their growing up years.  They are all adults now with their own families and busy lives, but I have wonderful memories of cuddling on the couch with them, reading stories together, watching their eyes light up as we traveled to other lands and other times through story.

As a teacher, reading to my children seemed a natural part of the parenting process.  Even when they were babies, they would sit on my lap as we enjoyed books like Pat the Bunny.  As they grew older, we graduated to story books.  Some were fairy tales, some were Bible stories, but all were chances to bond together over printed word. They had their favorites that they asked to be read to them over and over and over. We went to our local library’s story time and listened to books read aloud that we would then books that we checked out to take home to enjoy again and again.

However, it’s a common belief that when a child begins reading on his or her own, there is no longer a need for parents to read aloud to their children.  I confess that I held that same view until I met Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook. He was advertised as a guest speaker at our local library.  The title of his book sounded intriguing, so I went to hear what he had to say.

I am so glad that I did.

Jim Trelease’s idea that reading aloud can and should continue long after a child is an independent reader powerfully impacted both my parenting approach to reading as well as my own teaching  philosophy.  His belief was that children will be excited about reading if we are excited about reading.  They will think it’s fun if we think it’s fun. That evening, Trelease read aloud to us, an adult audience, the Bernard Waber classic, Ira Sleeps Over. He read it with energy, enthusiasm and wonderful vocal animation.  That’s all it took.  I was hooked!

Read-alouds became a fixed part of our family routine.  We cried together through books like Where the Red Fern Grows, laughed together through books like The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and experienced the  thrills and adventure of C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.  I am happy to report that I have raised children who love to read.

Now, as a grandmother, I am enjoying reading some of those same familiar stories to my six grandchildren.  What is even more rewarding to me is that my children are reading to their children; the torch has been passed!

I have never forgotten the way Jim Trelease closed his evening talk, reading from a poem by Stickland Gillian, titled “The Reading Mother.”

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings–
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be–
I had a Mother who read to me.

About the Author: Kathy H. is a tutor at Oxford Tutoring who enjoys tutors because she can make a difference in the lives of her students.  Her goal is to make learning fun by teaching to each student’s unique method of learning.  For fun, she likes to read, binge-watch TV shows on Netflix, serve at her church, and spend time with her grandchildren.

Posted in Child, children, Education, Parent and Child, Tutoring, Uncategorized

Sometimes Great Things Come in Small Packages – Tutoring Stories

by Kathy H – tutor of ELA, Math, Social Studies, History, and Speech and Debate

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His name is Emmanuel, and he is a force to be reckoned with.

He is a cherubic, bespectacled five year old darling who came to visit me in my little tutoring room this past spring.  He was just finishing his kindergarten year, but his father was told by the teacher and the school district that Emmanuel was not ready to advance to first grade.  His papa could not accept that decision. He knew his son, and he knew what I would soon come to learn.

Our little Emmanuel was not only bright, but inside that tiny frame was the bulldog determination of a never-give-up hard worker. His wise father became Emmanuel’s advocate, and convinced the district to retest his son one more time before the final decision to retain him in kindergarten. That is how Emmanuel came to work with me for several hours per week this past summer.

And work we did!  He memorized sight words, segmented phonemes, read countless nonsense words, beat me over and over at The Train Phonics Game, and learned the names of geometric shapes.  I still smile when I think of that little voice flawlessly saying difficult terms like “rectangular prism.”

When we first began working together, Emmanuel had two teeth missing.  It was a challenge getting him to be able to pronounce the “th” sound without those teeth, but he practiced and practiced until he got it right. I can still see that determined little face working to form the words.  Small but mighty, Emmanuel did anything and everything I asked him to do, without a whimper or complaint, as we vetted him for the retest mid-July.

As the day of the retest came, I prayed and waited to hear if he had passed.  When his dad arrived at our center, he was all smiles as he proudly showed me the congratulatory email on his phone.  There were high-fives all over our lobby, and we took Emmanuel’s photo, with both thumbs-up, to put on our bulletin board to celebrate his victory.

At Oxford, we are in the business of helping all of our students achieve their individual goals.  If one strolls through our center during a busy day, one might hear Shakespeare, calculus, chemistry, or physics concepts wafting through the air. We take pride in our high school students who score high on their SAT’s and go on to Ivy League schools.  But we also take every bit as much pride in the success of a kindergartener like Emmanuel.

At Oxford Tutoring Center, there are no small victories.

About the Author: Kathy H. is a tutor at Oxford Tutoring who enjoys tutors because she can make a difference in the lives of her students.  Her goal is to make learning fun by teaching to each student’s unique method of learning.  For fun, she likes to read, binge-watch TV shows on Netflix, serve at her church, and spend time with her grandchildren.

Posted in Child, family, Orange County, Orange County Events, Parent and Child, Uncategorized

OC Summer Family Fun: The Sawdust Art Festival

Celebrating talented artists, the Sawdust Art Festival features over 200 Laguna Beach artists from fine arts to crafts.  There is even free art sessions for kids, magicians, food and more!  Spend the day with your family at the Sawdust Art Festival.

Where: Laguna Beach, CA

When: June 24 – August 28

Tickets: Adults – $9; Children 6-12 – $4; Children 5 & under – free

Recommended for all ages.

Learn more here.

Posted in Book, ELA, New year 2016, New Year's, Parent and Child, Reading, Uncategorized, Writing

16 Book Recommendation for Every Teenager to Read in 2016

The New Year is just around the corner, and you know what that means: New Year’s resolutions.  From exercising to eating healthier, many of the resolutions people make at the New Year have to do with physical benefits.  These are great goals, and benefiting the body is extremely important to your overall health.  However, we at Oxford Tutoring want to encourage you to take care of an often overlooked part of your being during 2016: your mind.  One simple way to expand your mind is through reading.  Reading will improve your vocabulary, your communication skills, your writing, your comprehension, and your ability to think deeper through analysis. So this upcoming New Year, pick up a new book while you jump on the treadmill or while you are eating your healthy lunch.  Here is our recommended list of sixteen books that we think every teenager to take the time to read in 2016.

 

Gone with the Wind

by Margaret Mitchell

gone with the wind

Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book:  A young girl of only 16 at the start of the bloodiest war in American History, Scarlett O’Hara is forced to be the sole caretaker of her family in order to survive the devastation in the south as a result of the Civil War. Learn about her difficulty to move forward with her life once she no longer has to struggle to live, and the choices she makes along the way.

Summary: Many novels have been written about the Civil War and its aftermath. None take us into the burning fields and cities of the American South as Gone With the Wind does, creating haunting scenes and thrilling portraits of characters so vivid that we remember their words and feel their fear and hunger for the rest of our lives.

In the two main characters, the white-shouldered, irresistible Scarlett and the flashy, contemptuous Rhett, Margaret Mitchell not only conveyed a timeless story of survival under the harshest of circumstances, she also created two of the most famous lovers in the English-speaking world since Romeo and Juliet (Goodreads).

Gone with the Wind quote

Memorable Quote: “As God as my witness, as God as my witness, they’re not going to lick me.  I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again.  No, nor any of my folk. As God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”

Kate Remembered

by A. Scott Berg

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Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: Go behind the scenes into the life of one of the most celebrated actresses in Hollywood with a career that spanned over seven decades.  This biography allows you to see Katharine Hepburn through the eyes of her friend, author A. Scott Berg, and experience the glory days of Hollywood through the eyes of one of its brightest stars.

Summary: In addition to recording heretofore untold biographical details of her entire phenomenal career and her famous relationships with such men as Spencer Tracy and Howard Hughes, Kate Remembered also tells the amusing, often emotional story of one of the most touching friendships in her final years. Scott Berg provides his own memories of Katharine Hepburn offstage – quiet dinners in her town house in New York City, winter swims (she swam, he watched) in the Long Island Sound at Fenwick, her home in Connecticut, weekend visits with family members and dear friends…even some unusual appearances by the likes of Michael Jackson and Warren Beatty. Finally, Kate Remembered discusses the legendary actress’s moving farewell, during which her mighty personality surrendered at last to her failing body – all the while remaining true to her courageous character.

Kate Remembered is a book about love and friendship, family and career, Hollywood and Broadway – all punctuated by unforgettable lessons from an extraordinary life (Goodreads).

kat hepburn quote

Memorable Quote: “Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only with what you are expecting to give – which is everything.”

 

The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak 

Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: Zusak offers perspective on the side of the war rarely discussed through the life of Liesel and her adopted family during WWII in Germany. Liesel uses the power of words to make it through the difficult times of the war and to influence the life of a friend who would otherwise have died.

Summary: It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul (Goodreads).

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Memorable Quote: “I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”

The Horse and His Boy

by C.S. Lewis

horse book

Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: This novel details the events of two former slaves who face many dangers on their journey to Narnia in order to be free.  With powerful life lessons for all ages, The Horse and His Boy is full of interesting characters and fascinating adventures.

Summary: On a desperate journey, two runaways meet and join forces. Though they are only looking to escape their harsh and narrow lives, they soon find themselves at the center of a terrible battle. It is a battle that will decide their fate and the fate of Narnia itself.

The Horse and His Boy is the third book in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has been drawing readers of all ages intoa magical land where horses talk and destiny awaits for over sixty years. This is a novel that stands on its own, but if you would like to explore more of Narnia, read Prince Caspian, the fourth book in The Chronicles of Narnia (Amazon).

 

the horse and his boy

Inspiring Quote: “‘Child,’said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers.  No one is told any story but their own.'”

Atonement

by Ian McEwan

atonement book

Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: A novel that takes the reader into the trenches of WWII and the loved ones who are waiting for them at home.

Summary: Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.

On a hot summer day in 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece (Goodreads).Atonement quote.jpg

Inspiring Quote: “A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended.”

The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

the help book.jpg

Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: Follow in the footsteps of Skeeter, the main character in The Help, as she learns about the importance of forming her own opinions and standing up for her beliefs and those who cannot speak for themselves, despite what society and even her own friends are telling her.

Summary: Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed (Goodreads).

The Help Quote.jpg

Memorable Quote: “‘Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision. You gone have to ask yourself, ‘Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?'”

 

 The Hobbit

by J.R.R. Tolkien

the-hobbit

Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: A wonderful adventure filled with colorful characters and exciting obstacles, the Hobbit is a great read for anyone looking to discover more about himself or herself, as Bilbo does on his perilous journey to do good.

Summary: In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent. The text in this 372-page paperback edition is based on that first published in Great Britain by Collins Modern Classics (1998), and includes a note on the text by Douglas A. Anderson (2001). Unforgettable! (Goodreads)

Hobbit Quote

Memorable Quote: “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found.  It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.  Small acts of kindness and love.”

 

Rebecca

by Daphne Du Maurier

rebecca book.jpg

Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: Mysterious and exciting, Rebecca is beautifully written and details the drama that unfolds at the Gothic mansion Manderley.  This novel depicts how to write a mystery beautifully and how to keep your readers hooked until the very last page.

Summary: The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

First published in 1938, this classic gothic novel is such a compelling read that it won the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Century (Goodreads).

Rebecca Quote.jpg

Memorable Quote: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again.”

 

The Historian

by Elizabeth KostovaThe-Historian

Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: Discover the hidden secrets of the ancient history of Dracula through this story that unfolds, layer by layer, and keeps the reader guessing until the very end.

Summary: Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself-to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive. What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler have to do with the modern world? Is it possible that the Dracula of myth truly existed-and that he has lived on, century after century, pursuing his own unknowable ends? The answers to these questions cross time and borders, as first the father and then the daughter search for clues, from dusty Ivy League libraries to Istanbul, Budapest, and the depths of Eastern Europe. In city after city, in monasteries and archives, in letters and in secret conversations, the horrible truth emerges about Vlad the Impaler’s dark reign-and about a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive down through the ages.Parsing obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions-and evading the unknown adversaries who will go to any lengths to conceal and protect Vlad’s ancient powers-one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil  (Amazon).

the historian quote.jpg

Memorable Quote: “The very worst impulses of humankind can survive generations, centuries, even millennia.  And the best of our individual efforts can die with us at the end of a single lifetime.”

 

The Trial

by Franz KafkaThe trial book

Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: This book portrays the difficulties of trying to break into a system that refuses to bend the rules.  It is a powerful example of how dangerous it can be for a group of people to stay set in their ways and refuse to be open to the opinions and ideas of others.

Summary: “Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.” From its gripping first sentence onward, this novel exemplifies the term “”Kafkaesque.” Its darkly humorous narrative recounts a bank clerk’s entrapment — based on an undisclosed charge — in a maze of nonsensical rules and bureaucratic roadblocks.

Written in 1914 and published posthumously in 1925, Kafka’s engrossing parable about the human condition plunges an isolated individual into an impersonal, illogical system. Josef K.’s ordeals raise provocative, ever-relevant issues related to the role of government and the nature of justice. This inexpensive edition of one of the 20th century’s most important novels features an acclaimed translation by David Wyllie (Amazon).

THE TRIAL QUOTE

Memorable Quote: “Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.”

 

Sense and Sensibility

by Jane Austinsense book.JPG

Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: Sense and Sensibility  juxtaposes two extreme ways of living: with the heart or with the mind.  While Mariane runs headlong into events with her heart exposed, her sister Elinor takes a step back and considers her options before making a decision.  This novel details the importance of having a balance rather than living by one extreme or the other.

Summary: Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behavior leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love (Goodreads).

sense quote.jpg

Memorable Quote: “I wish, as well as everybody else, to be perfectly happy; but, like everybody else, it must be in my own way.”


The Death of a Salesman

by Arthur MillerDeathOfASalesman play

Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: A wonderful read for anyone wanting to learn more about theater and how to read or write plays.  This play explores how the choices we make, to risk or to play it safe, can affect the rest of our lives.

Summary: Ever since it was first performed in 1949, Death of a Salesman has been recognized as a milestone of the American theater. In the person of Willy Loman, the aging, failing salesman who makes his living riding on a smile and a shoeshine, Arthur Miller redefined the tragic hero as a man whose dreams are at once insupportably vast and dangerously insubstantial. He has given us a figure whose name has become a symbol for a kind of majestic grandiosity—and a play that compresses epic extremes of humor and anguish, promise and loss, between the four walls of an American living room (Amazon).

 death of a salesman

Memorable Quote: “Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be . . . when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am.”

 

Call of the Wild

by Jack LondonCallOfTheWild book.jpg

Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: This book explores the idea of nature vs. nurture, and finding who we really are at our core, despite what others have told us that we are or forced us to be.

Summary: Buck, a sturdy crossbreed canine (half St. Bernard, half Shepard), is a dog born to luxury and raised in a sheltered Californian home. But then he is kidnapped and sold to be a sled dog in the harsh and frozen Yukon Territory. Passed from master to master, Buck embarks on an extraordinary journey, proving his unbreakable spirit…

First published in 1903, The Call of the Wild is regarded as Jack London’s masterpiece. Based on London’s experiences as a gold prospector in the Canadian wilderness and his ideas about nature and the struggle for existence, The Call of the Wild is a tale about unbreakable spirit and the fight for survival in the frozen Alaskan Klondike  (Goodreads).

Call of the wild quote.jpg

Memorable Quote: “Love, genuine passionate love, was his for the first time.”

 

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

by Terry Ryanprize winner book.jpg

Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: A story of overcoming great odds, perseverance, and the importance of making the best of what you have been given, this book is a must read for anyone looking for an example of beating the odds.

Summary: “Evelyn Ryan, wife of an alcoholic husband and mother of ten children, lived in a small town in a time and place when women did not seek jobs outside the home. When finances ran low, feeling desperate, she turned to her parish priest who suggested she “take in laundry.” Ryan had to laugh at the advice because she could barely keep up with her own family’s washing and ironing. A lesser woman might have succumbed to poverty, but she was determined to keep her family financially afloat and to teach her children that the life of the mind was important. In the early 1950s, Ryan started entering contests, composing her jingles, poems, and essays at the ironing board. She won household appliances, bikes, watches, clocks, and, occasionally, cash. She won a freezer, and several weeks later, she won a supermarket shopping-spree. When the family was faced with eviction, she received a $5000 first place check from the regional Western Auto Store. Ryan’s unconventionality and sense of humor triumphed over poverty, and her persistence makes the reader cheer her on (Goodreads).

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Memorable Quote: “At that moment we knew that as long as we used our brains, we were not victims.  By striking out to write our own ticket, we would grow up to be like our mother, winners.”

 

Jane Eyre 

by Charlotte BronteJane-Eyre-book.jpg

Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: Through the character of Jane, readers can experience the value of making decisions for yourself, and doing what is right even if it is going to be painful.

Summary: Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.

With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte’s innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers (Goodreads).

 jane quote.jpg

Memorable Quote: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

 

Lady Elizabeth

by Alison Weireliabeth book

Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: Go inside the mind of one of England’s fiercest and most iconic Queens, with this historical fiction piece while learning more about 16th century England.

Summary: Even at age two, Elizabeth is keenly aware that people in the court of her father, King Henry VIII, have stopped referring to her as “Lady Princess” and now call her “the Lady Elizabeth.” Before she is three, she learns of the tragic fate that has befallen her mother, the enigmatic and seductive Anne Boleyn, and that she herself has been declared illegitimate, an injustice that will haunt her.

What comes next is a succession of stepmothers, bringing with them glimpses of love, fleeting security, tempestuous conflict, and tragedy. The death of her father puts the teenage Elizabeth in greater peril, leaving her at the mercy of ambitious and unscrupulous men. Like her mother two decades earlier she is imprisoned in the Tower of London–and fears she will also meet her mother’s grisly end. Power-driven politics, private scandal and public gossip, a disputed succession, and the grievous example of her sister, “Bloody” Queen Mary, all cement Elizabeth’s resolve in matters of statecraft and love, and set the stage for her transformation into the iconic Virgin Queen (Goodreads).

lady elizabeth quote.jpg

Memorable Quote: “But what use was the semblance of power without the substance?”

Do you agree with our list? What books would you recommend?

Disclaimer: Research these books to make sure you are comfortable with the subject matter of each book.

© Oxford Tutoring 2015

Julia Author PicMeet the author:  Julia Myres is an ELA instructor at Oxford Tutoring who has been working with students for over 10 years.  She builds up her student’s confidence in the subjects they struggle with through encouragement and support.  Striving to make her students ready to tackle even the most difficult concepts as they move up in their education, she motivates her students to take their education into their own hands and thrive.

Posted in Education, Homework Help, Parent and Child, Parent Help, Parenting, Private Tutoring, student, Studying, teacher, Tutoring Sessions

A Teacher’s Advice: Managing the Classroom from Home

A mother is late for school and work while rushing with her children for a funny stress concept on a white isolated background. There are objects flying away from them.With schools settling into a hectic hum of activity, students and parents need to guard against the complacency that can take place when students get lulled into the mundane details of school, forgetting to keep up with its demands. Deadlines slip. Important papers are left unsigned. Projects get pushed to the last minute. Days become shorter and shorter. All the while, progress reports and grades loom. As a classroom teacher for over a decade, I had to worry about managing twenty-five students making sure they had what they needed to be successful. However, a student’s academic prosperity first depends on what happens at home. So, as a guard against the overwhelming big picture students and parents have to face, I’d like to offer a teacher’s perspective on helpful practices at home that will make a student’s time in the classroom more productive.

Backpack Check

School bag with books and equipment isolated on white background

This should happen every day! I have encountered countless assignments, office paperwork, flyers, food, and assorted classroom supplies stuck at the bottom of a backpack or trapped behind some internal zipper.  Every night, the student should completely empty out their backpack and go through any materials with a parent. Don’t forget to check between book pages and through pencil pouches. The daily backpack check will then set you up for a:

Homework Check

Parent asks, “Can I see your homework?” Student says “I did it already. At school.” The parent now has no way of knowing what their child has done at school and what to anticipate in terms of upcoming tests, school activities, etc. Make it a household rule: bring all work home. Even if it’s “finished.” A perusal will tell the parent what the child needs to do, and can praise accomplishments. Now, a parent does not (and should not) have to correct the homework, especially if the parent is not comfortable with the material. However, a parent should be aware of the homework, and make sure that it’s finished. A homework check will be followed by a:

Planner Check

Most schools provide and require a “binder reminder,” daily planners for students to write down their assignments. This planner should be coming home every day, and be found during the backpack check. A parent can see in the planner if the child has what they need for homework completion, plan for future assignments and activities, and help with organizational skills. This will then lead to a final check:

Website Check

All schools have a website that is updated daily. A parent and student together can look over the site (and its calendar) to be updated on the chaotic life of school activities and stay on top of what the student needs to anticipate, and engage in conversation.

With very little practice, these daily checks will become secondhand and not take up much time at night. Anxieties will be mitigated, grades will go up, life will become less stressful at these helpful routines becomes of part of everyday life.

Happy family laying on the floor reading in the kids room

Meet the author: 

Brendan with his Masters in Education, a Math Credential, and a Bachelors in Psychology is a highly-qualified tutor at Oxford Tutoring with over a decade of teaching in the classroom.  As a curriculum and lesson planning expert who knows the Common Core State Standards inside and out, Brendan can ensures that his students understand the material they are being taught, by making certain they articulate and express their comprehension.

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© Oxford Tutoring 2015

Posted in Child, Education, English Language Arts Tutoring, Homework Help, Individualized Tutoring, K-12 Tutoring, Parent, Parent and Child, Parent Help, Parenting

Dear Parent: You Don’t Have to Do It All Yourself

“I only practice on the days I eat.”  The words of Dr. Suzuki, the father of the Suzuki music teaching method, ring through my head as I struggle to motivate my son to play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on the piano.  How is that I, as an educator and pianist, struggle so much to teach my son to play such a simple melody?  It isn’t for lack of effort or creativity, nor even lack of patience.  The practice finishes with him asking, “Mommy, can I just practice the piano at the teacher’s house?  I like practicing with her better.”  I am crestfallen but manage a composed, “Honey, it’s important to practice every day or you will not be ready to see your teacher,” but the truth was, his words hurt.  The experience got me thinking… thinking back through the scores of students I have tutored over the past 15 years at Oxford Tutoring.  I remember the sophomore whose mother was a PhD in English, who brought her 16 year-old son to study English with me, and the 4th grader whose mother was a special education teacher who brought her daughter, a delightful child with severe dyslexia, to see me, a young woman in college at the time.  These mothers were highly-skilled, professional women who without a doubt were more skilled than I.  What value did they see in what I was doing, and what did they know that I have yet to learn for my own son’s sake?

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The question is difficult.  The most obvious answer is that the parent-child relationship is often complex and “high stakes.”  The parent brings a vision for his or her child’s future, a deep gut-wrenching desire for the child to be successful, a history of positive and negative interactions, and expectations that on a good day are high, and on a tough day perhaps insurmountable. Furthermore, parents and children bring their day with them into the room:  the child brings the exhaustion, excitement, and frustrations of school, peers and teachers; the parent brings the challenges of bosses and deadlines and all the pressures we put on ourselves.  It all leaks in.  It leaks into our tone of voice, our questions and answers, how constructive our criticism is, and how heartfelt our accolades are.  Furthermore, when the assignment is done, there’s no cheering.  The crowd doesn’t go wild because you gave it your all.  The book closes, the pencil rests, and no one is watching.  Everyone is just relieved.  The homework is done.

But in thinking about it further, there is more to the question than stressed parents and kids.  Dr. Suzuki described an exchange between himself and the parent of one of his students.  The parent asked, “Professor, will my boy amount to something?” and Dr. Suzuki jokingly replied, “No, he will not become ‘something’.”  Her shock forced him to continue seriously, “He will become a noble person through his violin playing.”  His words awakened my mind.   The mothers of my students didn’t come to me just because they were too tired or their children were too difficult.  They came because they were in the business of building a fine young man and a fine young woman of noble characters.  They understand that it takes a village, as some say, to raise a child, and that association with quality people builds beauty of character. It builds strength and resolve. It builds understanding and commitment.  And ultimately, it provides purpose.  Over these long years, I have been given the gift of an opportunity to participate in that effort, and now, as administrator and instructor at Oxford Tutoring, I have the opportunity through the wisdom and strength of our instructors, to further that effort: an effort I will need for my own child, and an effort we will nurture for yours.

Special thanks to the writings of Dr. Suzuki, founder of the Talent Education approach to teaching children music.   Story excerpted from his seminal text, Nurtured by Love:  The Classic Approach to Talent Education by Shinichi Suzuki.

RebekahMeet the author: Rebekah, an ELA/SAT/ACT instructor and administrator at Oxford Tutoring has over 15 years of tutoring experience.  As a parent, her passion for furthering her student’s education stems from a first-hand understanding of the importance of learning in the lives of students. Combining her years of experience as a tutor and parent, Rebekah reaches her students through encouragement, incorporating various learning styles, and an awareness of tutoring methods that makes the learning experience personal and relatable to her students.

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© Oxford Tutoring 2015