Newsletter Library

Alexandra in Tutorland

As the 2013-2014 academic term comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on this past year: What did we do right? What could we have done better? What lies ahead for Thinking Caps in 2014-2015? There is one thing I am absolutely certain about – we are the luckiest folks in the world to be able to spend our days with the most inspiring, energetic, and enthusiastic young learners. Our students are eager to learn and dive into new challenges with abandon. It is a pleasure to be able to spend every day with curiosity and discovery! Thank you to all of our students and families for another great year.

And thank you to the wonderful Thinking Caps team. I am so grateful to each and every passionate educator at TC. The enthusiasm and energy of our instructors, academic directors, and office staff truly defines us as a team.

As I look forward to next year, I am excited to simply plan to do more of the same - more curriculum design and resources for our students, more professional development and engagement with our staff, and more guiding bright students to becoming brilliant learners.

A Tale of One Tutor

Maureen Darcy,
New York

When I started studying French in high school, I came to realize that the foreign language classroom was a place of possibility and transformation for me. It was not only the first time that a subject came so naturally, but also fostered a desire to travel abroad to France and stay with a host family for the first time at 15, where I could actually use my French directly. That first trip to France was the starting point for all of my future endeavors. My horizons were not only broadened (I absorbed the realizations that French wasn’t just a language in my text books, that America wasn’t the center of the universe, among other then not so obvious insights) but my relationships with my French teachers and chaperones with whom I traveled became so much stronger as well. In the same way that French became a real, living language, during that trip my teachers became real, living people, who I appreciated and admired even more. I continue to keep in contact with my two high school French teachers, and continually let them know that looking back, this trip dragged me out of my ignorant American adolescent bubble and into a whole new world; a world where I discovered that a different language is a different vision of life. Moreover, having arrived in France as an insecure awkward teenager, I returned a confident, self-aware, eager-to-learn, and motivated young woman. Ever since that first trip, the pursuit of mastery of French and learning for the sake of learning has been my absolute passion. I have grown to realize, from that time in high school to two more host family stays, to ultimately studying French in both the French and American University systems, that teaching, mentoring, and volunteering serve as perfect avenues for me to share my passion for foreign language learning (and learning in general) with others. Now I myself am a French teacher and tutor, and seeing how each of my students learns and thinks in different ways, getting to know them, being a role-model for them, and watching them grow as both students and people provides me with a deep sense of personal satisfaction and solidifies my commitment to a career in teaching.

The (academic) Odyssey

Corinne Carpenter is a psychotherapist and Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Dallas, Texas. She specializes in the treatment of anxiety, depression and self-worth issues in preteens, teens and young adults. Visit her website for more information:

A picture of Corinne Carpenter

Setting academic expectations for your child and their future can be tricky. Parents often question if they are pushing their child too much or too little. Many parents also worry about raising successful, happy children. Setting expectations is an essential role in parenting and the development of a successful child. However, expectations can be harmful if they are not set carefully. Unrealistic expectations and excessive pressure on children and teens can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. Every child has different strengths, talents, and abilities. This is important to keep in mind when setting expectations for your own child. High, yet realistic expectations can further your child’s educational progress and set them up for success.

Sense and Sensibility

A student asks: I’m afraid of falling behind academically this summer, but I also know that I’m not going to do too much work. What should I do?

Answer: Fighting summer brain drain doesn’t have to be very time consuming. There are a number of things you can do keep yourself sharp, the first and most important of which is staying active. Recent studies have shown that being healthy and fit in your youth improves your cognitive abilities when you’re older. So every time you’re outside running around, know that you’re keeping yourself smart for the future! Another easy thing you can do is to play Sudoku or a Crossword instead of TV or video games once or twice a week. Brain games are fun, engaging, good for cognitive health, and easy to do outside or on the beach. We can’t avoid reminding you to read. Check out our reading list for some ideas. Good luck!

Much Ado About Learning

"I recommend Ella Enchanted. It's an incredibly fun untraditional story of Cinderella that I have re-read many times because it is so great. It is very entertaining and carries a refreshing feminist approach with many female role models! " -- Tess D, Dallas

"I enjoyed reading Flowers for Algernon last summer. It is a good moving story about a mouse and mentally handicapped man who participate in an experiment to become smarter. It was written in 1959 and still has a theme that people could relate to today." -- Haseeb A, Austin

"If you're interested in learning what makes our universe so fascinating, check out the book Cosmos by Carl Sagan. This book opened my eyes to the beauty of the science, and how humans strive to figure out the world around us. Even if you're not a "science person," this book is incredibly fun and easy to read, and you'll learn a ton of cool facts about pretty much everything." -- Gabe I, New York

"I recently read Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, which uses case studies to explore the reasons behind the success of famous figures. Gladwell emphasizes the importance of the circumstances surrounding high-achievers like Bill Gates and the Beatles. An insightful read, Outliers should not be missed!" -- Kelly L, New York

"My favorite book to read in summer is The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. I like to sit outside and imagine myself roasting in the Mississippi heat with the Compton family. The plot is deeply compelling, and because of its non-linear nature, I discover new things about the book with each read." -- Holli C, Central/Northern New Jersey

"My book recommendation would be The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. It is a heavy read, but beautifully written and uses really wonderful metaphors and imagery throughout. It provides a thought provoking viewpoint of the Holocaust with dynamic, loveable characters. I loved it and think it's a great summer reading book!" -- Katelyn Z, New York

"My favorite summer read is the series A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s a long series and will keep you content and absorbed all summer. It's a must read if you watch Game of Thrones. " -- Tiffany T, Houston

"Summer is a great time to experiment with new genres and discover books or series that might interest you. My favorite thing to do on a lazy summer afternoon is head to the library and check out a huge stack of books I would never normally think to read. The trick is to always make sure you give these books a fair chance. I never give up on a novel until I've read at least 50 pages. Every summer, I usually find one new genre or a series. Last summer I was obsessed with YA dystopian novels and I worked my way through the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld and the Matched series by Ally Condie. It's exciting to expand your reading interests beyond your usual favorites." -- Jen G, New York

"Reading is crucial to helping the topics taught during school develop into habits, and does a lot to keep the brain active during the summer months. A book that matches the student's interests will nurture and expand those interests, strengthen the student's critical thinking skills, and produce fun, thought-provoking conversations with the family!" -- Jereme G, Austin

"I recommend reading Ishmael Beah's autobiography a Long Way Gone. Beah's extraordinary tale of his time as a forced boy soldier during a civil war in Sierra Leone. At a young age Beah is forced into adulthood as he is torn away from his family and brainwashed into committing acts of violence. This inspiring story teaches lessons about compassion and love in the most unlikely circumstances. Clear your schedule because once you pick up this novel you'll have to finish it." -- Joey G, New York

"My favorite summer read is a throwback to my fifth grade English class. The Giver, by Lois Lowry, is an incredible novel about a boy learning to live in a world that was created for him. But not only does he learn the everyday norms, he also learns the society secrets. " -- Justyn F, New York

"Whether you have plans to travel over the summer or not, I think it's important to read books that provide that wonderfully exciting sense of adventure that comes with emersion in a foreign land or time. I'll never forget the summer before my senior year in high school, in which I traveled through time and space via almost every novel John Irving wrote from 1968 to 1998. Start with The Hotel New Hampshire and A Son of the Circus -- two of the most whimsically hilarious timeless tales you will ever read. See if you can find common themes between the two. You won't be disappointed." -- Rebecca B, Austin