Monthly Archives: May 2009

Writing to Learn

Education theorists know that writing increases learning, not only subject matter but also thinking skills.  See an article here

In my own life, I’ve recently experienced the power of writing as a learning tool.

The other day, a freind asked me to encapsulate my thinking on the relationship between the financial industry and consumers in the recent credit crunch.  I was shocked at the struggle a coherent essay required. I thought I understood the subject well.  But, alas, I had much clarity to gain and the only way I could earn that clarity was to struggle with the process of writing for an audience.

At the exaltant moment when I sent the document off, I realized that I’d discovered a deep truth about my own learning:  I had to struggle through the writing process on a subject before I could reasonably decide that I’d reached some solid understanding of it.

By struggling toward coherence we sharpen our understanding of the concepts, the connections, and how the subject fits into our world.  This process also increases our facilities for gaining understanding more quickly and more clearly for the next subject. 

Importnatly, a thoughtful, well-crafted piece of writing and the struggle required to produce it also presents an extraordinary opportunity to boost a deeply rooted self-esteem.

Write on,


She's bright, she'll be fine

Oh, the waste of this fallacy.

So many gifted students are left to find their own path through the educational process.  Some do well, some don’t.   Even the students who choose the high road miss important opportunities unless they are supported in actively directed learning.

In my mind, I see a large ship’s chart unrolling before me. I see the course being plotted across a huge, mysterious sea toward the  far and foreign land of the future.


If I set off from Tatoosh island after leaving Puget Sound heading to Hawaii, a change of just a few degrees at the beginning of my journey leads to places as different as Tokyo and Hanoi.

The same is true in education; one early success on the high road can lead to a long string of future successes.

How high can your child climb?

What will improve the odds of reaching that destination?

Private tutoring is simply the most effective way to meet students where they are and raise their trajectory towards destinations that seem only distant, mysterious, and alluring today.

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin


See our course offerings

Even more classes summer 2009

Reading, Thinking, and  Writing Skills

Writing Intensive: Letting ideas flow onto paper

The big questions: Why can we speak so freely but freeze before a blank page?  How can we warm up to writing freely and comfortably, pouring your heart and mind onto the page?

The content: Will be of our own creation!

The skills and activities: Walking to activate the mind and imagination, writing exercises to reconnect heart, mind, and hand.  Maybe even some drawing to heighten our observational sensitivities.

Laughing at Life

The big questions: What makes writing funny?  How can everyday occurences become hilarious stories?  What in a person lets them create a laugh riot out of what thousands of others simply endured?

The content: Mark Twain’s Roughing It (Enriched Classic Series)

The skills and activities: Deep reading, finding what makes us laugh, writing our own humorous takes on the situations and characters we meet each day.

Great People



The big questions: How did Gandhi become, well, Gandhi?  What was his personal and spiritual path to such amazing moral and political leadership?  How might we convert this knowledge into wisdom for living our own lives?  Why would an intelligent, sane man shoot one of the greatest men who’ve ever lived?

The content: Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth, Godse’s Deposition/Confession Essay.

The skills and activities:  Deep reading, walking, discussion, exercises in voluntary simplicity, journaling.

Thomas Jefferson

The big questions: What in Thomas Jefferson’s life formed him into such an extraordinarily influential thinker, writer, and inventor? Would it be possible for Jefferson to reach the same heights in today’s world?  What would make this extraordinary outcome more likely in today’s world?  Less likely?  What can we do about this in our own lives?

The content: Selected letters and writings from the heart and mind of Thomas Jefferson.

The skills and activities: Walking, deep reading,  letter writing, journaling, drawing our own inventions or homes.

Emerson and Thoreau

The big questions: How shall we live? What can a couple of Transcendentalists from the early 1800’s tell us about our lives today?  What are Transcendentalists and what are they transcending?  What should we work on today?  How should we relate to others today?  How can we possibly relate to others who lived long ago?

The content: Selections from Emerson’s essays “Self-Reliance” and “History” and Thoreau’s “Walden”

The skills and activities: Deep reading, clear thinking, lively discussion, walking, voluntary simplicity exercises.

Moving Modern Tales

The Book Thief

The big questions: How can reading literature help us even when Death is all around us?  What if our personal values conflict with those popular around us?  Are we humans beautifully good or brutally bad?

The content: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak  A moving tale of a young girl’s life inside Nazi Germany during WWII.  We will dive deeply into this page-turner of a book written for young people but moving for any reader with a beating heart.  An amazing fictive feat!

The skills and activities: Walking, deep reading, lively discussion, inner picturing and drawing to heighten imagination and reading enjoyment.


A Time of Gifts: From London to Constantinople on Foot

The big questions: How can a young person step out into the world in a positive, life-affirming way? What happens inside us when we travel?  How do we savor every drop of joyful learning and living from our travel experiences?

The content: Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts: From London to Constantinople on Foot – Walking through the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria in 1933 with the most extraordinary young man on this amazing adventure.

The skills and activities:  Deep reading, walking, journey/pilgrimage planning,  drawing, lively discussion, map reading, orienteering.

Ill Met by Moonlight

The big questions: What makes a mission impossible possible?  Is there anything in this world that can connect even sworn enemies in the depth of war?

The content: Ill Met by Moonlight by W. Stanley Moss – British operatives have kidnapped a German general. Can these gentlemen soldiers smuggle him off the island before they are captured by thousands of Nazi soldiers?  A true, completely engrossing story.  Not glorifying of killing or brutality in any way, therefore in adventure.

The skills and activities: Walking, capture the flag, deep reading, lively discussion, map reading and orienteering.

Military History

First Person Shooter: Literature from the Front Lines (WWI and II)

The big questions:  When the firefight ends, some soldiers settle into their muddy dugouts and pull out pen and paper.  What did they write?  How do these veteran writers portray warfare?  How is their portrayal different from the portrayals in today’s popular movies and games?  How do we turn this knowledge into actionable wisdom?

The content: Selected poems and novel passages from Brooke, Sassoon, Graves, Ledig.

The skills and activities: Deep reading, walking, clear thinking, capture the flag, journaling,  and some drawing.

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