Children are naturally interested in learning. The best way to KEEP them interested is to help them become successful in their learning with materials that are meaningful, useful, and involving.

To make a plan, we need to know our starting place and where we want to go. We also need a good map of how to get there.

I Work With

I work with students in elementary and middle school who need to:

  • learn to read and spell,
  • improve reading skills and comprehension,
  • understand math and solve word problems,
  • write clearly and expressively, using proper capitalization and punctuation, or
  • prepare for standardized tests, which often requires work in some of the preceding topics.

Where I Work

I work with students in the area west of Boston, Massachusetts: Newton, Waltham, Arlington, Weston, and some surrounding communities.

Initial Free Assessment

I assess students’ initial knowledge and skills for the subject of interest (usually reading, writing, or math) in our first, free session. Parents and I will talk about specific goals. For example, a common goal for young, struggling readers is to increase their reading level for words and text by one year. I check on progress on a regular basis so we ensure that we’re staying on track.

Parental Responsibility

Parents have an important part to play by arranging time for students to complete assigned homework (usually about an hour’s worth, which can be spread over several days) between sessions. Sometimes there are website activities, which I will recommend. Like anyone who wants to learn to play a sport or an instrument well, students becoming better readers, writers, or mathematicians must spend regular time learning their craft. I try to make sure that anything I ask students to do will be time well-spent.

For learning to read, parents also need to set aside a time (at least 15 minutes of dedicated time) each day to have their child read to them. Buddy reading, in which a parent takes a turn in reading with their child and talking about what is being read, can help kids to enjoy reading and, over time, increase the amount of time kids can read without tiring. Most readings will be ones that students have worked on with me, so they will be increasing their fluency (automaticity and ease of reading).


I can work with students in understanding their school homework. However, often it is necessary to help students become successful with previous topics so they can do well on current work. For example, if a student is making many grammatical and other mistakes in writing sentences in a paragraph, the most helpful immediate work is to learn how to recognize and write a good sentence.

Homeschooling Families

I also provide consultation or instructional support to parents who are homeschooling their children. I’d be glad to show and compare examples of materials and resources that parents may wish to consider in order to improve or enrich their current educational work.


Karen McDonald, Ph.D.

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