Musings from an Education Advocate in Our New America

lord-of-the-fliesI can’t be mute on the subject. I can’t, also, stand idly by and sweep this under the rug.

I want to listen and really hear you. I genuinely do. But I’m not sure if ‘agreeing to disagree’ will cut it anymore.

I want to remain active and loving, mindful and passionate.

I want to stand up and voice my concerns, nay my outrage! But I don’t want to halt the conversation. Stay silent, be complicit? Stay silent, be respectful?

Perhaps, it’s too early, still, to remove emotion from our interaction. Perhaps, we shouldn’t.

This is a twist, a turn, in a topsy-turvy world where up is now down and down is round. And I’m spinning, just trying to keep up with it all. How do we start to make sense of these new rules?

What do I say to you?

To you — the teacher, the parent, and especially the student. You are still our future, right?

To you — the supporter, who believes he will rescue us.

To you — the non believer, who questioned him every step of the way.

To you — the holder of the “purse strings”, the upholder of the Writ to our way of life.

To you — the revolutionist, who is shaking things up for better or worse.

To you — the ‘yes man’ who is interrogated under the guise of due diligence yet affirmed in compromise.

To you — the woman who may become my boss, who may have good intentions but who falters in execution.

Maybe we are an island now. Tide in, tide out.

Maybe we are stuck. Would Dante agree?

Chin up. Move on. Stay strong. Press on.

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Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at


Decoding Reading Fluency & The Tipping Point of Third Grade

booksChances are that at a recent Parent/Teacher Conference your child’s teacher mentioned the phrase Reading Fluency. You nod politely just waiting to hear those magic words: “[Your Child] is on track in his/her Reading Fluency.”

Education Lingo is Another Language

Let’s face it– speaking education lingo is like learning a new language. It’s hard enough to translate what a 1, 2, 3, or 4 means grade-wise let alone understand how kids are learning math these days! So here’s a little cheat sheet, if you will, as to what Reading Fluency means and how to make sure your kid is on track to meeting this goal.

Just Remember to Rap A RAP

ARAP: is a quick acronym for the four components that make up Oral Reading Fluency, as taken from Reading and Word Attack Strategies: Reading A-Z.

  • A: Accuracy – the ability to recognize (decode) words correctly
  • R: Rate – how (1) quickly and (2) accurately a reader reads connected text
  • A: Automaticity – the quick and effortless reading of words in or out of context
  • P: Prosody – the tonal and rhythmic aspects of spoken language. This builds meaning and comprehension

Help Your Child Get Better at Reading with These 7 Strategies

Everybody struggles in something and if your child is struggling in reading, that’s ok! There are strategies you can employ that will help them overcome this hurdle.

1. Use Picture Clues – gives the student visual context and helps begin the word-picture association process

2. Sound Out the Word – helping to develop Phonemic Awareness, which is the fancy way of saying that reading to your child helps them hear what a word or groups of words should sound like

3. Look for Chunks in the Word – Phonics aka The Blending of Letters/Sounds/Symbols/Prefixes/Suffixes/Endings/Whole Words/Base Words

4. Connect to a Word You Know – Ah, the good old Compare v Contrast. A method of testing comprehension that will be on every test/quiz all the way through law school 🙂

5. Reread the Sentence – A good rule of thumb when using this strategy is to remember I do/We Do/ You Do.

I DO: First, you read the sentence so your child can hear what is should sound like.

WE DO: Then, read the sentence with your child to boost confidence and reinforce the sounds.

YOU DO: Finally, have your child read the sentence himself.

Even if your child doesn’t get it right away, don’t worry! Build in wait time. For example, count 30 seconds in your head then go back to reading the sentence together. Encourage your child’s efforts. Refrain from tearing down their attempts.

6. Keep Reading – Go back through the story or passage and look for new vocabulary. Point out patterns and word play. Expose your child to the nuances of the English language.

7. Use Prior Knowledge – Identify repeated words and compare the second sentence to the first. What word makes sense in both sentences?

(Reading and Word Attack Strategies: Reading A-Z)

When Should My Child Know How To Read?

Just like learning to walk and talk, learning to read is also a developmental process. “All children do not begin to read at the same age. Children reach literacy milestones along the way.” (The National Institute for Professional Practice, see points below)

Typically, a child should be on track to learning the skills of Oral Reading Fluency during the K-3 grade levels:

  • Awareness and Exploration of Reading Stage (typically pre-K)
  • Emergent Reading Stage (typically pre-K to early Kindergarten)
  • Early Reading Stage (typically Kindergarten to early Grade 1)
  • Transitional Reading Stage (typically late Grade 1 to Grade 2)
  • Fluent Reading Stage (typically Grade 3 and higher)

The Tipping Point of Third Grade

Third Grade is when we start to look extra carefully at our young readers. There is a student split amongst their peers between the kids who are “getting it” and the kids who aren’t. Third Grade is also when the work starts to get harder and the testing more rigorous.

Coincidentally, it’s when I start to get a lot of calls from parents looking for a Tutor and we start talking about testing to begin the IEP process.

Reading is a skill that takes time to master. If your child isn’t “getting it” by the time he/she completes third grade, then parents and teachers should be asking “why?”. It may just be a slight developmental delay, or it may be something more. A good Teacher, Tutor, Advocate, and Parent, however, will strive to put into practice the strategies for successful reading fluency to help their student learn this new language and decode the mystery as to why reading is hard.

If you find that your child is struggling in school, contact us. We can help you answer that all-important question: Why?

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services.  Want to Know More? Head on over to

What Would Anne Do?

Im-so-glad-I-live-in-a-world-where-thereAnne of Green Gables: the classic novel of tragic turn-of-the-century orphan whose rosy outlook and outspoken tendencies pave the way for numerous endearing shenanigans. Anne is a character that changes the hearts and minds of everyone she touches just by being her honest, loving self, and because of that iconic quality Lucy Maud Montgomery’s series makes me smile.

You could say I’m a bit of an Anne-groupie: The movie is my holiday treat, Anne and Gil’s contentious friendship turned romance is wrought with Jane Austen-like plot twists, and of course, I make my students read the books too.

Over 100 years have passed since the book’s initial publication and yet Anne remains a staple in the literature world, a representation of childhood dreams and the power they hold well into adulthood. It is a story of love, loss, hope, sacrifice, risk, and above all, honesty.

Here are 15 Things We Learned from Anne by

  1. Making mistakes is a part of life; but if you make up your mind to learn from them, they can’t hold you back.“It’s so hard to get up again—although of course the harder it is the more satisfaction you have when you do get up, haven’t you?” 
  2. People won’t always understand you, but that doesn’t mean you should conform to the ideals of unimaginative people.
  3.  Kindred spirits can be found in very unexpected places, so give everyone a chance
  4. Imagination makes the world a better place, but unfortunately it is of no help at all when it comes to geometry.
  5.  A plain or boring name does not define you: “That’s a lovely idea, Diana,’ said Anne enthusiastically. ‘Living so that you beautify your name, even if it wasn’t beautiful to begin with…making it stand in people’s thoughts for something so lovely and pleasant that they never think of it by itself.”
  6. When it comes to boys, set your standards high and don’t bother with those who don’t meet that standard: “Young men are all very well in their place, but it doesn’t do to drag them into everything, does it?
  7. Octobers make the world a more beautiful place.
  8. Wearing pretty clothes makes it easier to be good, specifically, wearing puffed sleeves.
  9. No matter how dreary today looks, no matter how flawed we may feel, there is always hope in a new day. Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.
  10. Having ambitions and big goals can be tiring, but they are worth the sacrifice. One should never stop working diligently toward something.
  11. Literature not only opens different worlds to us, it helps us to see the world differently.
  12.  One should be in no hurry to grow up whatsoever. “One can’t get over the habit of being a little girl all at once.” 
  13. Always speak what is on your mind if it adds beauty to the conversation, “If a kiss could be seen I think it would look like a violet,’ said Priscilla. Anne glowed. ‘I’m so glad you spoke that thought, Priscilla, instead of just thinking it and keeping it to yourself. This world would be a much more interesting place…although it is very interesting, anyhow…if people spoke out their real thoughts.” 
  14. It is better to live vulnerably, than to live in fear that your hopes may be dashed: “When I think something nice is going to happen I seem to fly right up on the wings of anticipation; and then the first thing I realize I drop down to earth with a thud. But really, Marilla, the flying part is glorious as long as it lasts…it’s like soaring through a sunset. I think it almost pays for the thud.”
  15. And finally, the lesson that possibly took Anne the longest to learn: true love doesn’t look like it does in day dreams, “Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps…perhaps…love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.”

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder of Terry Tutors and Creator of the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student. Want to Know More? Head on over to

I Made My Student Cry, and I Liked It

cryYep, it’s true. I made my student cry, and I was glad she did.

When my 10-year-old student found out that Beth died, Jo refused to marry Laurie, and then just a few years later Amy swooped in to marry Laurie herself, the waterworks came a flowin’.  See, we were reading Little Women: one the greatest classic novels ever written, and a requirement for young girls making their way towards womanhood. In the likes of Pride and Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables, Little Women makes its mark on young girls today, even though it was written almost 150 years ago.

Little Women is a tale of four sisters, each personally navigating their own destiny with the intuitive guidance of their Marmie. The characters are bright, funny, and layered with complex emotions of the world outside their attic playhouse windows. Together they experience joy, fear, friendship, loss, love, pain, and internal triumph over struggles with gender norms and social status. It was a time when educating a woman was secondary to husband-hunting and learning how to keep home. This book, however, bucked tradition, and instead encouraged young girls to make their studies a priority, an ideal that gave the main character, Jo, permission to become lost in the art of the written word– a nod to the author’s own life.

There’s something almost cathartic about reading a book written long before technology took over. Now, I’m a fan of my gadgets just as much as the next but I didn’t grow up with information overload via iPads and cell phones. When my students find out that fact, oh the gasps of horror that wash over them followed by looks of pity as if to say, “You poor, poor Tutor. How did you ever survive?” Balance, my friends. It’s all about balance.

I ask all of my students to incorporate some classic literature into their nightly reading because I think somewhere along the way of trying to make Young Adult books interesting with vampires, alternate worlds, and magical potions we’ve overlooked the simplicity of writing an everyday, complex character with everyday, complex relationships. Nothing blows up in Little Women, except for Jo’s temper. Yet, my student came to me emotionally distraught over Jo’s choices. That’s a true testament to a story that will stand the test of time because it appeals to our most deepest emotions.

Little Women is one of my favorite stories because it pulls at my heartstrings and reminds me of the importance of family, friends, love, and laughter.  It will most certainly continue to be a staple of sisterhood and an insight into the bonds of those relationships.

So don’t be alarmed when your child comes crying to you about Beth’s death, Pollyanna’s accident, or Anne’s initial refusal to marry Gil. Crying means that they’re invested in the thought-provoking, ethereal world of classic literature.

A few classics that will make your kids cry:

  • A Little Princess
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Great Expectations
  • Heidi
  • Little Women
  • Oliver Twist
  • Pollyanna
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • The Call of the Wild
  • The Diary of Anne Frank
  • The Giving Tree
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Velveteen Rabbit

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Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to

Teacher Town Hall

teacher town hallIf you haven’t heard of Michelle Rhee then get ready to have your world turned right-side-up. She is a proactive, polarizing, purposeful reformer of our broken public school system. Her mission is very simple: to put students first.

As we all know, this mission, albeit simple in name, is complex in nature. Even if we skip over the contentious pro/anti union debate we are still left with the daunting realization that our government is required to educate 74 million children in America. 74 million!

In Michelle’s Teach for America days, she was ushered into zip codes where that commitment flat-out failed. As she became more aware of the forgotten children she found herself drawn towards education reform. It’s fitting that on the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous I have a dream speech we are looking at our accomplishments but realizing there’s still a long way to go. Don’t let the reality of the situation get you down though. Instead, tap into your fighting reformer spirit and find a way to get involved– make a change for the better.

If you’re in Los Angeles (9/5), Birmingham (9/12), or Philadelphia (9/16) make it a point to stop by this free Teacher Town Hall for a little education and inspiration.

Recommended Read–Radical: Fighting to Put Students First by Michelle Rhee

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Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to

The Golden Ticket: Teaching the Concept of Earnings Power Through Reading

We Can All Agree That Reading Is GoodSummer Reading Club

We are all aware of the significance of reading at a young age: (1) reading is instrumental to a child’s cognitive and emotional development, (2) phonemic and phonological awareness is the basis of speech and language processing; (3) reading is directly connected with an increased vocabulary which helps to build strong writing mechanics and essay structure, and (4) let’s not forget that reading stories about adventure, love, loss, and friendship makes us feel more connected to ourselves and each other. We can all agree that reading is good.

How To Help Non-Readers Become Active Readers

But what do you do if your child is just not that into reading? With so many other activities vying for their attention it is difficult to make reading a top priority. Some kids are naturally voracious readers, even categorized as autodidacts. Some kids are not and that’s okay because as we talked about last week, there are many ways of learning and various Multiple Intelligences. For the kids who need a little extra golden ticketencouragement to pick up that book, I suggest quantifying their efforts through what I like to call, The Golden Ticket. Commonly known as a book program or reading club, you too can adopt this strategy in your own home simply by setting forth an expectation of reading daily for 20 minutes and then allowing your child to earn a weekly prize once they compete their weekly reading ticket. That weekly reading ticket becomes a Golden Ticket just by attaching expectations and earning power to it, elevating its importance and giving it some real clout.

The Correlation Between Hard-Work & Rewards

Healthy self-competition is good for the soul and keeps motivation alive. It’s important to instill the essence of earnings power, the ability to generate profit (whether monetary or not ) from working hard, at a young age. The idea that your child has true potential but needs to capitalize on that by putting forth the time and effort to raise the status quo is the same idea used in everything from potty-training to chores to pay grades in the work force. Motivation comes in all forms and for things that are difficult for kids to do, it may require a little extra incentive. But don’t just give them that reward! Instead, help them learn to earn it. You’ll not only teach them the importance of reading but the importance of two life lessons: hard-work and tenacity.

For Good Reads Check Out Our Recommended Book List: Summer Reading Club- Upper Elementary School

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Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to

The Smart Drug Debate

accelerated I’ve just finished reading Accelerated, a striking debut novel by Bronwen Hruska. She is a Manhattan Mom who writes about the over medication of children used as a platform to excel in academics. This debate, which she so cleverly brings to life, is really one over the use of Smart Drugs: Piracetam, Aniracetam, Desoxyn, Ritalin, and Adderall, all of which are FDA Classified Scheduled II Drugs (the same as Cocaine) and are intended to change brain chemistry with the effect of stealth-like focus.

It is an all too common path nowadays, used as a means to an end: to get to and stay at the top of the academic ladder. I recently met with the parents of a young child who is super smart but exhibits a lack of impulse control in and out of the classroom. The mother informed me that the school suggested she seek out a doctor for the purpose of possible ADHD diagnosis. She relayed her experience: after the doctor barely examined my child he then said, “Okay, so I’ll write her a prescription for Adderall, 10mg a day, and we’ll see how it goes.”

Confused, guilt-ridden, and afraid of the negative side-effects this powerful drug would have on her child’s brain chemistry she sought out other avenues to quell the disruptive behaviors. I met with her to discuss my Family Coaching Service, which is designed for students experiencing behavior challenges in and out of the classroom. 25% of the students I work with either in my Private Tutoring or Family Coaching practices are officially diagnosed with ADHD: some have been on and off various medications, some are not on any medication, some are taking holistic vitamins and seeking out alternative therapies, and some are doing great on medication. More and more, however, parents are relaying their concerns and are starting to question the schools, the doctors, and our society’s emphasis on medication in the classroom. The fact of the matter remains, however, that Adderall and Ritalin–two of the most common ADD and ADHD medications prescribed to young children– do their job very, very well: students are able to pay much better attention in class with these drugs. But at what cost?

We all know that Lance Armstrong got busted for using performance enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France seven consecutive times. Let me play devil’s advocate with you for a second and ask: How is putting our children on brain-changing medication, brain steroids, any different? The lines are becoming a little blurry these days. Would that ‘A’ paper written by Christine, the student on 10mg of Adderall, actually be a ‘B’ paper if it were written by Christine, the student who was not on Adderall or any other medications? On the flip side, proponents of these prescriptions would argue that medical science has done us a favor, fixing a part of the brain that just wasn’t working quite right. Furthermore, there is always controversy when a successful medical path to improvement is found, such as the Cochlear Implant Debate, which is hotly contested amongst the deaf community as either a help or a hindrance. The Smart Drug Debate is, therefore, no different. Who is right and who is wrong is left up to the parents and their influencers.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule but in general I’m fearful that our society is headed down a slippery slope, embracing a generation where The Advanced are in fact The Medicated.

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