Marina Koestler Ruben

Blog Posts: December 2011

The Best Facebook Groups for Parents to Follow

If you've read How to Tutor Your Own Child, you probably saw Chapter 6, "iDon't Think iKnow Where My Homework Is: Helping Kids Connect and Organize for the Twenty-First Century."  In it, I address how to maximize the educational impact of 21st-century technologies.

Now, I wish I could go back and augment the section about Facebook--since the book's publication, I've become much more familiar with Facebook accounts worth following.  While I can't amend the book, I can share information via this blog.  So here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite Facebookers.  For the most part, I'm letting their sites' descriptions speak for themselves:

1. How to Tutor Your Own Child -- Obviously this recommendation is biased(!), but I do try to provide information that will benefit parent-tutors, from book recommendations (e.g., Cheaper by the Dozen) to educational conversation starters ("The 45 Most Powerful Images of 2011") to video resources (YouTube's education channel).

2. Children's Book-a-Day Almanac -- "Daily children’s book recommendations and events from Anita Silvey."

3. Play at Home Mom -- "We are a group of moms who have a firm belief in positive parenting and play based learning. We hope to inspire, educate, uplift, and empower you all to be the best moms (and dads) you can be. "

4. Read Aloud Dad -- "Read Aloud Dad is all about children's book reviews, read aloud tips and advice for all those who are involved with reading to and with children!"

5. Tinkerlab -- "TinkerLab aims to help parents tap into a child’s natural curiosities through creative experiments that support independent thinking, enthusiasm for the wonders of the world, problem posing and solving, and the imagination. The projects and ideas shared here are child-centered and value the processes of exploration, experimentation, and curiosity."

6. Grammar Girl -- I did mention Grammar Girl's podcast in the book, but not her Facebook page.  "Grammar Girl provides short, friendly tips to improve your writing. Covering the grammar rules and word choice guidelines that can confound even the best writers, Grammar Girl makes complex grammar questions simple with memory tricks to help you recall and apply those troublesome grammar rules."

7. I Can Teach My Child! -- "Helping you be your child's first teacher--Activities and resources for parents of children birth to 5 years."

8. Our Montessori Home -- Advice and resources from a Montessori family.

9. -- "My goal is to sneak in a little bit of learning for my kiddos--disguised as fun--every day."

Thanks to all of these Facebookers for their contributions to families everywhere!

Readers, what sites provide you with inspiration?  Do you use any of the same resources that I do, or do you have other recommendations?  Use the comment section (below) to share your favorite Facebook groups. Read Full Post.

Q&As from Parents at St. Patrick's in DC

Thanks so much to St. Patrick's Episcopal Day School (K-8, DC) for the well-organized book event yesterday!  A great group of parents packed into a classroom to hear my presentation about tutoring, and they asked smart questions.  I'd like to adapt parts of the Q&A here, for everyone's benefit:

Q: How do I encourage a distractable student to stay on task when I'm out of the room?

A: Ask your child how long a particular task should take.  Then set a timer and challenge your child to see whether he can finish by the time it goes off.  You can set your own alarm and check back at intervals (and at the end of the time) to see if the time pressure has helped your child stay focused.  This can also help your child develop time management skills and a more accurate sense of how long particular tasks take.

Q: My child works too quickly.  How do I teach him/her to slow down and check his/her work?

A:  If your child consistently rushes--for example, when working on math problems--ask him to talk you through the process of completing a problem.  As you do it, model the pace that you think is appropriate.  Then ask him to teach you how to check your work.  Do so slowly and deliberately, doing the process while speaking the language that you want your child to be using in his head while reviewing.  It can be hard to TELL a child how to slow down, but he may change his speed if you SHOW him how you'd do it.

Q: When my child reads a book that I haven't read, what's a productive way to engage him/her in conversation about it?

A: You can certainly try, "Tell me about your book," but if you want to get more specific with your questions, allowing your child to think about the reading in a new way, you can attempt these as well: "Would you recommend this book to me?  To students of a certain age or interest?  Why?"  "Who's the main character and what does he/she want?"  "Is there something that's standing in that character's way?"  "Did you think this author has a particular way of writing?" OR "Do you think you could identify this author by his/her writing?  Is there something unique about it?"  Asking more directed questions will allow your child to create focused responses, which will be a useful skill to have when responding to writing prompts or just trying to make a concise point in conversation.


I ran out of time at the event, so I didn't get to recommend two other ideas for reading matter.  One is the book I recently raved about, Guerrilla Learning.  The other is The Teacher's Calendar, an annual publication that lists each day's historical, literary, and cultural anniversaries.  It's a good resource for parents and children, providing fodder for interesting, timely, and educational conversations.  Enjoy! Read Full Post.

Featured in the Chicago Tribune!

Thanks to Cheryl Stritzel McCarthy for interviewing me!  Her article just ran in the Chicago Tribune.  Take a look at "Parents as tutors: Author offers instruction." Read Full Post.

College Application Tips from an Admissions Expert

This Saturday, I had the pleasure of speaking as part of the Center for Student Opportunity's bookfair at the Barnes & Noble in Bethesda, Maryland.  Yes, we were in front of the cookbooks, but we were actually talking about preparing for college.









The event's main speaker was Doris Davis, an educational consultant who formerly worked as part of the admissions teams at Cornell and Barnard.  As an admissions insider, she provided valuable thoughts for the college students and parents in attendance.  Among them:

Bookfair on Saturday in Bethesda, MD

I recently connected with the Center for Student Opportunity (and here's their Facebook page), a Maryland nonprofit with an admirable mission: "To empower underserved, first-generation college students to and through college by providing critical information, guidance, scholarships, and ongoing support."

This Saturday, I'll be speaking at CSO's bookfair at the Bethesda, MD, Barnes & Noble.

The timing:

2:05 - 2:45: "Gain an Edge in Planning for College" -- Doris Davis, educational consultant and former Associate Provost for Admission and Enrollment at Cornell University

2:45 - 3:05: "Take a Do-It-Yourself Approach to Your Child's Education" -- me

The bookfair runs all day, so please come by even if you're not free for the talks.  'I'll be around throughout the afternoon, so come say hello!

  Read Full Post.

Publication Day!

Dear Friends and Readers,

Do you interact with a school-age student--or know anyone who does?  If so, read on:

I'm pleased to announce the publication of How to Tutor Your Own Child: Boost Grades and Inspire a Lifelong Love of Learning--Without Paying for a Professional Tutor, which was released today, August 2, 2011.  The book is available in print and digital forms from Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House.

How to Tutor Your Own Child is appropriate for parents, grandparents, and caregivers of students of all ages (kindergarten through high school).  It aims to further the intellectual development of children by enriching their relationships and home environments.  The book draws on my experience as a professional tutor and covers the basics for parents: the Six-Step Session, communication tricks, ethical dilemmas, technological resources, and organization.  It includes a special chapter about supporting teenage students.

Gerald Richards, the CEO of the tutoring company 826 National, was generous enough to write the book's foreword.

You can purchase copies online from Amazon (where reviews are welcome!), Powell's, IndieBound, and Barnes & Noble, among other retailers.  If you live in the DC area, I encourage you to find a copy at Sullivan's Toys and Art Supplies, Barton's Child's Play, Kramerbooks, or Politics & Prose.

How to Tutor Your Own Child has a companion website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account, and here it is on Goodreads.  I'll be using all of these locations to post additional resources and share questions and comments from readers.  I would also be happy to hear from readers at

The book has gotten great feedback so far.  From Dr. Fran Walfish, a child psychotherapist and the author of The Self-Aware Parent:

Marina Ruben uses wisdom, experience, and laser-sharp intuition coupled with support and concrete tools and strategies.  This is a must-read for parents of every school-age child.

From Dr. Lea Ybarra, the recent executive director of the Center for Talented  Youth (CTY):

A thoughtful, humorous, and practical guide for parents and anyone interested in child enrichment.  Reading and discussing this book will be time well spent.

Reviewer Sara McGrath also recommended the book to homeschoolers and unschoolers, writing that its "obvious respect for children quickly won me over."

I'll be appearing at book festivals and speaking engagements throughout the year.  See here for details, and please do contact me if you'd like me to read or do a presentation or training session at your school, educational organization, book group, or conference.

If you know of others who might be interested in the book or its companion sites, I'd love for you to share this message with them.

Thanks so much!

Best wishes,
Marina Read Full Post.

Goodreads Giveaway!

Random House has provided three copies of my book for a Goodreads giveaway!  Winners will be selected (by Goodreads) on August 2, the book's launch date, and copies will be mailed then.

If you haven't used Goodreads before, you might want to check it out.  I started devoting time to it recently, and I'm enjoying it so far.  It's basically a social networking site devoted to books.  You can add friends (as you would on Facebook), but instead of learning that they graduated from Ridgewood School or are part of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or are in an open relationship with a Cornish Rex cat, you'll find out that a friend recently read Tina Fey's Bossypants and loved it, participate in a discussion about the age appropriateness of The Hunger Games, and enter book giveaways to win new releases.

I've never used Shelfari, but I'd imagine it's somewhat similar.  (Is that true?  Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.) Read Full Post.

Reviewed in Library Journal!

Thanks to Library Journal and Karen McCoy for reviewing How to Tutor Your Own Child!  

From the review: 

This book is for parents interested in providing holistic learning opportunities for their children. Ruben advocates the importance of “parent-tutoring” as an effective supplement to regular education, and she derives many examples from her experiences as a professional tutor. She begins with tips to engage children in the learning process and proceeds to ideas to make education fun and creative. Parent tutors are also encouraged to model a love of learning for their students. In “Tutor Toolboxes,” Ruben recommends everything from mnemonic devices to organizing learning spaces and materials to, most important, encouraging reluctant children. Each chapter ends with a “Tutor Take-Away” table that summarizes the section. Parents with teens will be most interested in the final part of the book, which focuses on how to adjust educational approaches for adolescents.

 Read Full Post.


Welcome to the How to Tutor Your Own Child blog! Read Full Post.