5 Simple Tips for the Foundations Tutor

I am so thankful we have chosen Classical Conversations

Our current year in CC has been so sweet for our family. I know that we will look back on this year with many fond memories and stories of God's faithfulness. 

After being in an established community for three years, this year I have the great joy of  helping a dear friend of mine start a new community.  And (here's the exciting part) after observing my son's tutors for three years, I am now doing the tutoring myself!

I spend each Tuesday morning with 7 precious Abecedarians, and we have SUCH FUN!

 You can learn so much being on the other side in a community. Tutoring not only helps me teach my own child more effectively, but it also gives me greater insight into the Classical model.  (It took me a while to realize the memory work was enough!)

As a Foundations tutor, I am finding the job of modeling a "stick in the sand" approach for the parents in my classroom to be of the utmost importance. I actually do them a DISSERVICE if I stray from simplicity in Foundations. 

I've discovered a few simple tips that have made my life abundantly easier  - and ultimately make the class experience more effective for students and parents. 

(If you have a tendency to go overboard - make elaborate games - spend hours on your board - plan "extra" activities to enhance the memory work - this post is for YOU! And really, it's for me, too.)

5 Simple Tips for the CC Foundations Tutor

When teaching my own boys or when tutoring CC students, I always ask myself this question: If I only had a stick and sand, could I engage and effectively dialogue with my students about the concept I want to teach them? Asking this question helps us to rely more on modeling, dialogue, and relationship than on the false sense of accomplishment a flashy presentation can leave.
— Leigh Bortins

Hand Write Your Board 

CC Connected is full of beautiful resources for you to print and use AT HOME.

During community day, however, the tri fold board should be simple - stick in the sand - and it shouldn't take you hours to prepare.

CC Foundations Tutor Tip #1: Hand Write Your Board

There is one part of the board, however, I always print, and that is the geography memory work. I find that a quality color map helps when we are labeling our maps in class. 

I print the maps from user trvaron on CC Connected to use on the tri fold board.

Everything on the board is also in the same place each week. My little ones need the predictability of Latin always being in the upper left, English Grammar being in the upper right, etc... 

And of course - GOD is always at the center of it all.

Keep the Schedule Consistent

Again, so much goes back to consistency.

We have the same schedule every Tuesday morning. It looks roughly (because of course we need to be flexible sometimes) like this: 

  • 9:00-9:30 - opening assembly
  • 9:30-10:00 - introduction of new grammar
  • 10:00-10:30 - snack and presentation
  • 10:30-11:00 - fine arts
  • 11:00-11:30 - science (usually involves being outside if we can swing it)
  • 11:30-12:00 - review

This consistency lets my students feel like they have control over their time and they function so much better when they know what is coming next. 

5 Simple Tips for the CC Foundations Tutor

My little guys love routine so much that they picked up on the fact that we always do a little "get your wiggles out" activity right before science each Tuesday. Last week I forgot - and someone said "Hey - we didn't get our wiggles out!"

Again, keep the routine simple and predictable. It means less planning for you and more enjoyment and better behavior for everyone else. 

Choose a Few Fun Extras

Notice I say "a few" - because my tendency has normally been to go a bit overboard. (I am a recovering public school teacher, after all!) You shouldn't have to spend a lot of time or effort to pull off a fun Foundations class. 

My tutor bag of tricks contains just a few fun props that we use in pretty much the same way each class session. 

5 Simple Tips for the Foundations Tutor

Among our favorites:

  • Leo the Latin Lion - This puppet only comes out during Latin. He's oh so precocious and loves to kiss pretty girls on the cheek, nibble their hair, and be silly while he is holding the pointer in his mouth.  Often times children will feel more comfortable with the puppet than they will on their own.  We love Leo!  
  • Shaky Eggs - these are great for all of the chants, songs, and anything else that has rhythm. You would be amazed what good behavior the children will have just to have a chance with these little maracas. 
  • Sweet Swats -  These extendable fly swatters are perfect for swatting the English Grammar memory work. They've been particularly helpful with all of the pronouns we have to memorize. I put each pronoun on a sheet of paper, and then a child swats each one as we say them - usually with a fun rhythm. 
  • Big Foam Dice - There are a million uses for these big dice. We use them to play a simple review game at the end of class. 
  • Hand Pointer - You really cannot live without one of these!
  • Voice Cube - I found a template on CC Connected and glued the different voices to one of the big foam dice. The kids LOVE this. 
  • Crown - There are so many history sentences that deal with kings and queens. A good crown will serve you well in acting out history memory work, and just for being silly in general. 
  • Nerf Suction Dart Gun - awesome for review time - and it certainly will get used in your home, too! 

Know Some Discipline Tricks

While it isn't the tutor's job to "discipline" the children, it certainly helps when the tutor sets the students up for behavioral success.

In my many years of classroom teaching I did learn quite a few positive discipline techniques. So much of a successful community morning depends on positive reinforcement and creative discipline.

Some ideas: 

  • Have a few snappy "call-backs" - by this I mean something YOU say, and then the students respond with something else.  Or, just something catchy that you say to get the children's attention. For example:
5 Simple Tips for the Foundations Tutor

Teacher:  "Macaroni and Cheese"

Students: "Everybody Freeze!"

Teacher:  "Eyes on the Ceiling. Eyes on the Floor. Eyes on the Ceiling. Eyes on the Door. Eyes on Miss ___________________."

Teacher:  "1, 2, 3"

Students:  "Eyes on Me!"

You can also Google "Classroom Callbacks" to come up with other clever ideas. 

  • Positive Reinforcement - Simply noticing when a student is doing something well goes such a long way.

"Mary, I love the way you are sitting quietly and waiting for instructions. That is AWESOME!"

"Johnny, thank you so much for listening. You may be our next pointer."

  • Proximity - Often times you don't need to SAY anything to get a desired behavior from a child. A simple hand on the shoulder or standing next to a student will send the message that you are watching their behavior.

You will soon discover which students this works well for, and which students it might not work for. 

  • Use Your Parents! - The parents are in the Foundations classroom to assist YOU. Have a parent sit between two children who might need some redirection. Communicate to the parents in the room that they are FREE to ask a child to be quiet or help them make the right decision. Don't be afraid to take advantage of your greatest resource in the room - other parents! 

Plan Extra - Just in Case! 

There are some days with my Abecedarians that there simply isn't ENOUGH time to get in 30 minutes of review at the end. 

Then, there are other days when science, presentation, or fine arts hasn't taken up the full 30 minutes of time. 

The worst thing to happen is to be stuck with dead time and NOTHING to do. (Ask me how I know.)

5 Simple Tips for the CC Foundations Tutor

It's a good thing to have a tutor bag of tricks that you can pull from when you need that extra something.  These things have saved me on many occasions:

  • Geography Blob Maps - Our children can never have too much practice with mapping the world. Put blob maps in page protectors and let them trace - then turn on the other side and ask them to draw from memory. 
  • Sidewalk Chalk - You can always take your kids outside and skip count the times tables on the pavement! Or, you can write English memory work and hop on pronouns. The possibilities are endless on a sunny day. 
  • Inflatable Globe - You can throw the globe from child to child and identify geography memory work along the way. 
  • Classical Music - Use some of the musical selections for the cycle you are in. Load them onto your phone and if things get a little out of control, or if you just need some quiet time at the end of class, pass out those white boards - let your children draw while listening to music they will be hearing (or have heard) during that cycle. Or, you can turn off the lights, play that music and just have some quiet time to form a picture in their heads.  You will be AMAZED at how much children enjoy this. 
  • Books - I always try to keep a stash of seasonal books in my tutor bin - or books that go along with our science, history, or fine arts. I could give you a huge list, but I'll just list a few favorites.
Ish (Creatrilogy)
By Peter H. Reynolds
The Day the Crayons Quit
By Drew Daywalt

Remember, your students don't want flashy and shiny. They don't want you to spend hours of your time preparing for community day.

What they truly crave is order, discipline, and a tutor who is well grounded in the Classical model. 

Keep it simple and bear a few simple tips in mind and you will have a GREAT year!


Are you a CC Foundations tutor?  Do you have any additional tips to share? 

5 Simple Tips for Foundations Tutors

Favorite Picture Books for Fall

My kids know when I go to the basement storage room I might not be back for a while.

I was searching for picture books to read to a class of little ones I teach each week. As predicted,  I fell down a rabbit hole - pulling out all of our favorite picture books from this time of year. 

It's like opening presents when I sit with those Rubbermaid storage tubs in my basement. 

Precious, precious presents. 

Make time to read to and with your kids and you will never ever regret it. 

It fits into the BIG PICTURE of homeschooling!

When I pulled out How to Bake an Apple and See the World - both of my children said (in unison), "Awwww. I remember that book!"    

As I showed them the Corduroy's Best Halloween Ever they immediately remembered grandma reading this book to them years ago. 

Cranberry Thanksgiving brought found memories of the sweet friend who had recommended that book to me as a young mom. 

We sat for a long time - my big kids and me - and just read those books together. Once again we created a memory.


*This post contains affiliate links.

Favorite Picture Books for Fall

I am so glad I invested in these books so we can pull them out now to relive the memories. We always had a library for each season - when the fall decorations came out my kids knew the orange tub held all of the fall themed books. 

So, here's my list of favorite fall picture books - I hope you can enjoy a few with your little ones!

Over the years we have adopted the philosophy of "less is more" - as I look back I can see this was wise. A few things done well - a few books read year after year - it all adds up to childhood time well spent. 

Picture Books About Fall

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves
By Julia Rawlinson
Because of an Acorn
By Lola M. Schaefer, Adam Schaefer
Hocus Pocus, It's Fall!
By Anne Sibley O'Brien

(We had to snap a picture of our ALL TIME favorites from the orange fall book tub -- it's so fun when your kids have shared memories through books! )

Picture Books About Leaves

The Falling Leaves
By Steve Metzger
Autumn's First Leaf
By Steve Metzger
Leaf Man
By Lois Ehlert
We're Going on a Leaf Hunt
By Steve Metzger
Leaf Jumpers
By Carole Gerber

Picture Books About Pumpkins & Apples

We recently went to North Georgia to pick apples. My 15 year old has such good memories from our row of How to Make An Apple Pie and See the World - we picked apples and have been making pies, cakes, applesauce, and more. 

A book can hold oh so many memories.  (And yes, we read that book when we got home!)

Favorite Picture Books for Fall
Pumpkin Moonshine
By Tasha Tudor
Pumpkin Soup
By Helen Cooper
Pumpkin Pumpkin
By Jeanne Titherington
The Apple Pie Tree
By Zoe Hall

Picture Books About Thankfulness & Thanksgiving

There are so many good books in this category -- again, just a few of the BEST because we believe less is more! 

The Thanksgiving Story
By Alice Dalgliesh
Thanks for Thanksgiving
By Julie Markes

What is your favorite picture book for this time of year?  I'd love to know! 

Favorite Fall Picture Books

Big Picture Homeschooling

I've reached a point in our homeschool journey where I feel really GOOD about homeschooling.

It is no longer the way we choose to educate our children, it is the way we choose to live our lives.

It feels like this is just how things are SUPPOSED to be - like they were early in our nation's history when people just taught their kids at home and did life with them - together - all the time.

This view of homeschooling changes everything - and it has me asking a BIG question: 

Do we fill our lives with activities and subjects that will TRULY matter when it's all said and done? 

This has been heavy on my heart the past year. 

Perhaps it is because I can see the "finish line" for my oldest, or maybe it is because I can see the last months of childhood slipping away for my youngest as he inches towards being a teenager. 

I want every moment to COUNT. I want everything to be purposeful and meaningful. 


Recently, I was feeling very much this way and recorded those feelings on Instagram

Now that sixth grade is here, the days are FULL of good things. I am fine with having busy kids, as long as there are beauty and purpose in the busy-ness!

And that's just it, isn't it?  BEAUTY and PURPOSE in the busy-ness.  

In order to achieve those ideals it's necessary to know the big picture. Why do we homeschool, and what is our expected outcome? 

What do we REALLY want from homeschool, and what are we doing to nourish the souls we are raising under our own roofs each and every day? 

This year I'm coining a term for myself:  Big Picture Homeschooling

I want to school with the end in mind. I want to school with intention and focus.  

(Hopefully our plans for 10th and 6th grades reflect that intention and focus.)

Big Picture Homeschooling - School each day with the end in mind

Reading through Teaching From Rest (for a THIRD time) is helping me keep focus this year. I love how Sarah writes about ordering our children's affections and not being a slave to curriculum. Oh my - such a great book.  

I get motivated and passionate when I think about Big Picture Homeschooling, but that needs to translate into our every day homeschool, and that is not as easy as it sounds! 

Let's break it down into practical pieces. Wha does big picture homeschooling loos like on a macro and micro level?

What is REALLY Important?  

In our homeschool I needed to decide what was TRULY important. 

Please know this is MY important. It can't be anyone else's important or it won't work. 

Do some soul searching. Pray. Figure out what your goals are for your children's education.

Put aside what the world says education needs to look like.  Stick to what you KNOW education needs to look like for your precious children.  

The four areas of importance in our family are the following:  

Core Academics, Fine Arts, Physical/Spiritual Well Being, and Margin. 

If something doesn't fit into these areas then it's not becoming a part of our days. 

These two children are my mission field. I have one chance to get it right with them, and through God's grace and guidance from the Holy Spirit I pray our Big Picture Homeschooling will help us focus on what is truly important. 

Big Picture Homeschooling: School each day with the end in mind

Core Academics

I've come to love the simplicity of doing less to see greater results. 

This is why we are educating our children Classically.

All of our academics fall into the following areas:





Grammar & Writing

Language (we choose Latin)

When my children were younger we were more eclectic and at times almost unschoolers. As my children have grown, however, I have seen the time demands creep in and we can no longer pull off those carefree days from the preschool and early elementary years. 

(I will NEVER regret our time spent using Five in Row, designing our own unit studies, or notebooking leisurely through The Story of the World. Those were magical days and there was definitely benefit in those years.)  

When I think about everything I would have missed had we not homeschooled it makes my heart hurt... thank GOD I listened to that small, still voice that told me I could teach my kids at home! 

Currently our core academics are set forth through participation in Challenge II (Anna) and Foundations/Essentials (Grant).  

Fine Arts

Being exposed to the fine arts is a priority in our homeschool.

What better way can our children experience truth, beauty, and goodness, than through music and art? Whether it be simply observing and appreciating, or creating and performing, children need ample time to explore what makes us HUMAN, not to mention the discipline that goes into the fine arts. 

 The kids take piano lessons and of course help with me field testing each and every SQUILT lesson! This year my Anna is branching out to guitar, too - fun! 

We've come to love the 13 Artists Children Should Know series during our Morning Time, and we also adore the mixed media art classes at Flourish. 

Physical / Mental Well Being

One of my favorite things about Big Picture Homeschooling is that as we find opportunities to volunteer, be on sports teams, or whatever it might be that seems SO GOOD at the moment, I can truly choose just a few things to spend our time on.

How does this activity fit into our GOALS for our children?  How does this activity help us fulfill God's call on our lives? 

As my daughter has gotten older she is developing a passion for working with the special needs population. Through our church she works with a wonderful ministry - she works with a music group and also helps with a Bible study and small group ministry.  For the past two years she has been a volunteer for a special needs VBS at our church.

She is expressing a desire to be a music therapist or a special education teacher. 

These volunteer opportunities fit into her BIG PICTURE! 

It isn't that she has "too much homework" or "not enough time" to do these worthwhile activities. 

 I love that we aren't beholden to an academic institution and hours of homework each evening because it allows us to truly tailor Anna's education to her desires and interests.

And don't we want our children to live their lives this way?  Passionately, and with purpose? 

Big Picture Homeschooling - School each day with the end in mind

Let's talk about organized sports, shall we?

I believe in the value of teamwork, and working hard to achieve a goal, but I don't believe in being a slave to a schedule, and putting a sport ahead of family time or time for worship. 

Again, how will this sport fit into our big picture?

Having a pre-teen boy has made me keenly aware of the time suck organized sports can be, so we proceed with caution (because I do have a boy who loves sports and is good at them). I also was NOT happy with many of the team environments we experienced when my son was younger. 

If I had a child that was passionate about a certain sport we would seek opportunities and make time.... but we're not at that point right now. 

Right now, tennis has been a great compromise for us. Learning a sport that can be played your whole life is important, as well as a sport that can be played individually or as a team.  

It is important to be physically fit, so my children know that something physical will be a priority - whether it is tennis, winter basketball, or something else. 


I've long been a fan of the book Margin.

As my husband and I strive for margin in our own lives, we want to teach our children to have margin, too. 

It's OK to have down time. In fact, it's good to have time to be bored. 

You don't have to be everything to everybody and you don't have to say "Yes" every time someone asks you to do something. 

As I look at the big picture of our homeschool there must always be plenty of time for MARGIN.

I will never regret the hours spent on our back deck reading aloud to my children, and I am so thankful I didn't crowd out that precious time with busyness and silly commitments. 

(and by the way... even the middle school boys love to be read to - we're loving our current read aloud!)

Implementing on a Daily Basis

It's so easy to get caught up in the "busy" of every day life. 

Finally - this year - I feel like our days have purpose, structure, and discipline. Yes, they are busy, but that busyness has a purpose.

Here are a few things we do to bring peace and order to our days - to keep that BIG PICTURE in mind. 

Morning Time

I'm so thankful for my friend, Pam, who has taught me so much about Morning Time. 

Our simple morning basket helps us spend time together each morning focusing on Bible, Latin, Fine Arts, and current events. 

Staying HOME

We're at home every morning of the week (except for our CC community day). No outside commitments creep into that time, and the earliest we are leaving our house is 4:00 for afternoon/evening activities. 

With a 10th and 6th grader we need this time at home to really dig into our school work. We will take breaks to play tennis or run a quick errand or two, but I don't let anything get in the way of our protected school hours. 

(Yes, things come up. I know that. But for the most part we stay home!)

Big Picture Homeschooling

Outsourcing Hard Things

Math and Latin weren't really getting along so well with me the past couple of years. 

Anna takes outside math through Mr. D Math and a Henle Latin class through Memoria Press Online Academy. 

We no longer struggle in these areas, and it has made all of the difference!  Sometimes it's just necessary to have an EXPERT come alongside a homeschooling mom to eliminate confusion.  

"Staying in Our Lane"

This is my new favorite expression.  It's the death of any homeschool when you start to compare yourself to anyone else, or start to copy what works well for your friend down the street.

Find your lane and stay in it!  Don't go in someone else's lane. Stop comparing and start doing! 

 I see this as we homeschool high school. It could be so tempting to look at friends who have kids in traditional school and feel that somehow my children are "missing out" because of a certain subject we aren't studying. Or maybe it is because my kids aren't taking a lot of "AP" classes. Or maybe it is because we aren't hyper focused on college being the ultimate goal of a high school education. 

It takes a whole lot of faith - not fear - to homeschool upper grades!  

I keep telling myself this:  we decided to homeschool because we wanted to step away from the crowd, so why would we follow the crowd from the confines of our own home? 


The Big Picture Challenge

I challenge you to look at the BIG PICTUE of your homeschool - and of your life. 

How does what you do with your children each and every day fit into that big picture? 

Are you checking off boxes, meeting requirements, and spinning your wheels, or are you intentionally focused on pursuits that will benefit your children for the rest of their lives?

If we look at our homeschools from this vantage point I believe it changes everything, don't you?

Talk to me about your big picture.

Do you have one?  

What is it?

Have I challenged you to think differently about your homeschool?  


The following books have been extremely helpful to me as I think about our big picture:

Big Picture Homeschooling: School each day with the end in mind