Tag Archives: Tutoring

How I Teach


I work on the premise that iron sharpens iron.

To advance intellectually, we must run the mind up against even harder and sharper steel in the form of great writing about great ideas by great people.   I work to ensure that this interaction creates the quantity and quality of friction that sharpens without cutting.  See Mortimer Adler speak on this topic here (highly recommended)

To that end, I seek to hold creative tensions between:

  • Edifying challenge and delightful ease.
  • Material that is “over the student’s head” and being sensitive to exactly where the student is today (skills, knowledge, and emotional/physical state).
  • Focused intellectual work and integrating body, heart, and mind.

Experience samples of my teaching (mp3s)

Tools I use:


The Trivium

  • Grammatical analysis to discover meaning
  • Logical analysis and logical fallacies to steer thinking towards truth
  • Rhetorical analysis to add beauty and grace to expression

Socratic Method

  • Leading Questions


  • Time and Space Mapping
  • Concept Mapping
  • Mind Mapping
  • Drawing

Writing Exercises

  • Pastiche – using great writing as a model for our own
  • Note Taking – capturing ideas from conversation and reading
  • Journaling – to strengthen the heart, brain, and hand connection
  • Editorial – practice reading your own work with fresh eyes


In a 1:1 tutoring  or private class session we might:

  1. Review prior work, discuss successes and challenges
  2. Check in on skills practiced since last session
  3. Read some fresh material with support from me
  4. Use Trivium tools to deepen our understanding of the topic and sharpen those skills
  5. Discuss the material using the Socartic Method
  6. Seek to vizualize part of the piece to make it more real and to impress it in our minds
  7. Begin writing a short piece about what we’ve read and discussed
  8. Prepare to work at home on continuing the reading and writing assignment

In a public class or camp we might, on day 1:

  1. Introduce ourselves and loosen up a bit with a short anecdote
  2. Walk for a few minutes to get our blood pumping to a grassy spot
  3. Dive right into taking turns reading aloud to the group (those who feel comfortable)
  4. I open our Socratic discussion with a leading question
  5. Our discussion begins
  6. We continue our discussion as we walk to a spot a few hundred meters away
  7. We read a bit more aloud
  8. We take time to visualize the scene we’ve just read about
  9. We spend 15-30 minutes drawing what we visualized
  10. We read a bit more and start our discussion anew
  11. We walk on as we share insights and invite those who have yet to share to do so
  12. Etc, etc. until our 3 hours have flown by and we return to the pick up area bodies fully alive and minds abuzz


Experience samples of my teaching

See the classes offered

See my qualifications

See my rates

Deep Reading

The books that help you most are those which make you think the most. The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty.  – Theodore Parker

Learning to read deeply requires patience and practice.  Mortimer Adler and  Charles van Doren wrote the classic How to Read A Book to teach us how.

Students today seem to focus on speed as the ultimate reading skill.   We all bathe in huge, cresting seas of information.  But how much of it do we really process?  How much of it makes us really think?   How much is “deep freighted with truth and beauty?”  Are we avoiding reading anything we think is over our heads?

Here’s what Mortimer Adler himself has to say about that:

If you never ask yourself any questions about the meaning of a passage, you cannot expect the book to give you any insight you do not already possess.  – Mortimer Adler

See Mortimer Adler speak on this topic here (highly recommended)

My goal is to help teach students the skills to elevate their minds with what’s over their heads.

The Process

  • First, we start by slowing down and looking closely at sentences, using the Grammar tools that make up Part One of the Trivium.
  • Once we figure out the meanings of the nouns, the relationships implied by the verbs, etcetera, we move on to looking at the logic of the thoughts in sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and entire works.
  • Finally, we analyze using Part Three of the Trivium, the Rhetoric. in search of elegance and persuasive power.

Waving iron near iron won’t sharpen it.  We must bring our minds into close, friction-heated contact with greater minds to be sharpened.   This work happens with greater ease and predictability when a tutor (that’s me) is close at hand making sure no one gets cut in the sharpening process.

Classical Tutoring

Classical tutoring defined:

Private instruction given to a student by a highly skilled teacher focused solely on helping the student build a strong, broad academic base from which to build a habit of excellent life-long learning.  These tutors often used the proven Enlightenment techniques of the Trivium and Quadrivium.  In days of yore, only the extremely wealthy could afford this best of educations.  Today, Christ Church college, part of Oxford University in England, still uses this 1:1 student:tutor method with famous results.

Christ Church says of its tutorial system,

It is an academic partnership that is both personal and demanding. Through it you should learn to think independently and critically, to form, express and, when necessary, revise or defend your own views, and never to be content with a superficial understanding.

The benefits for your student:

1. Undivided Attention – from a passionate, creative, patient teacher.

2. Tailored Curriculum – to meet the student’s and parents’ needs and interests.

3. Personal Pacing – to maintain your progress and active involvement.

4. Faster Progress – and increased momentum gained toward a love of life-long learning.

5. Advanced Skills – that classroom teachers would love to teach, but often can’t because they must “teach to the middle”.

6. Deep Insights – into the subject matter because little time is wasted on classroom management.

Using technology (Skype or Google Talk). this type of private tutoring relationship is now affordable and practical to deliver to families like yours.

Will this work for your student?

Yes, if your student is:

  • Between the ages of 7 and 18.
  • Without major special educational needs – I am not trained to offer services for students with these exceptional needs.
  • Homeschooled and looking for challenge beyond what parents have time or energy to offer themselves.
  • In public or private school but seeking more challenge, support, and/or enrichment.

How much does it cost?

Contact us if you’d like to discuss the possibilities for your student.

Classical Humanities Tutoring for Excellence

Like a ship heading across a wine-dark sea, the course of our lives can be greatly affected by small changes early in the voyage.   Over time, small changes in direction lead to vastly different destinations.

“The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future in life.”          – Plato

A young person’s education sets their course through life.  Our mission is to help set a course that serves mind, heart, and body over a life time.

Life long learning ahead

Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity. – Aristotle

Our books, courses, and tutoring services all work to nurture a love of learning that will last a life time.  With support, early successes and “Eureka!” moments become virtuous cycle.

When your student sees their opportunity to join the ongoing conversation that is civilization, they will never be able to turn away from the high road of learning, thinking, and contributing.

[If] you have as part of the habitual furniture of your mind the past ages of man, his slow and partial emergence out of barbarism, and the brevity of his total existence in comparison with astronomical epochs — if, I say, such thoughts have molded your habitual feelings … you will have, beyond your immediate activities, purposes that are distant and slowly unfolding, in which you are not an isolated individual but one of the great army of those who have led mankind towards a civilized existence. If you have attained to this outlook, a certain deep happiness will never leave you, whatever your personal fate may be. Life will become a communion with the great of all ages, and personal death no more than a negligible incident. – Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

I know, I’ve done it myself.  I was a latchkey kid left in a house full of books.  I wasted a lot of time on TV, but I also read the encyclopedia and selections from the Great Books.  I rose from a normal, suburban child of the 1970’s to write award-winning history, success in business, and even lecturing at UCLA. Now, I focus my efforts on teaching others to develop the habits and use the tools I’ve discovered along the way.

Learn about these habits and tools here