Category Archives: Home Schooling

Phonics Skills Put Kids in The Driver’s Seat as Readers and Lifelong Learners

We knew it: Kids become good readers when parents/teachers 1) read to them, 2) show them books with great stories & illustrations, 3) talk to them about their ideas, and 4) give them tools to read.

A recent Stanford University study published by Professor Marin Aukerman describes how kids naturally move to the driver’s seat by the end of Grade 2 to take charge of their reading when grownups give them the proper tools.

What’s the secret sauce? The Stanford researcher found that kids who know how to decode (break down words into syllables) well most naturally move between pictures and words to understand the piece- they talk about text more often and are more on point than classmates. That tees them up to apply the techniques on their own and to like reading. It’s what my mentor, Harvard Ed School’s Professor Jeanne Chall wrote in her classic, Stages of Reading Development.

The most exciting finding to me is that the kids volunteered those connections (the strong decoders naturally said more about what they read and ‘proved’ their opinions using text and images more than the weak decoders) without prompting from their teachers.

Thinking along the education developmental trajectory as Professor Chall pioneered, the kids who become ‘unstuck’ from the page as good decoders then pull meaning from text with greater ease and success. Then, as they move toward ‘reading to learn,’ they are ready to apply the information to other language-based contexts, such as discussions in a Belief Systems class or in writing bullet points for debates. Karyn Slutsky, Assistant Director of Queens Paideia School conceptualizes it this way:”At QPS, literacy goes hand-in-hand with critical thinking skills. We challenge students to categorize information, notice and create comparisons, seek connections, explain their reasoning, and elaborate both orally and in writing so as to help them get their ideas to the next level of complexity.” From there, it’s on to top-notch Chemistry lab reports, winning law school Moot Court briefs, and writing a business plan to fund her latest startup!

The take home? They really do take in what we say and what we model. All the more reason to pop by your local bookstore or library.

For great tips on classics or new releases, check out The Corner Bookstore, where your kid can even set up his own account – Add his account to the index card archive of kids’ purchases in the drawers behind the antique cash register- generations of UES kids who grew to adore books at this Madison Ave gem. Or head straight down Madison to 79th Street for great kid and adult reads/programming at the timeless New York Society Library.

For those outside The Big Apple which is your ‘drop everything and read’ spot?

Check out these Ivy Prep tips for cultivating reading comprehension skills, too.

It’s National Reading Month: Let’s Celebrate Books & Baseball


March: Time to Celebrate Books &  Baseball

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 10.44.02 AM

It’s National Reading Month and in NYC the temps are warming up. School teams have started baseball practice, and the first pitches will soon be thrown  at Yankee Stadium​ and Citifield​!

The National Endowment for the Arts’ annual Read Across America finishing its tour and  President and Mrs. Obama supporting the Open E Books Initiative, a government  private corporate partnership designed to provide access to $250,000,000 of digital content free of charge to institutions that assist children who are underprivileged or who  have learning challenges.


Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 8.53.34 AM

What a terrific way to put Common Core in its place: For one afternoon, place appeals for ACT, the ‘New SAT’ and other standardized test accommodations aside,  and pore over a great new release rather than planning summer college visits for you and your  11th grader!  Let’s take the advice of and take 15 minutes to enjoy the pleasure of a  good read.


It’s time to head over to your local book-store and pick up something fun to enjoy – or to read with someone else.  One of my  favorite  haunts is The Corner Bookstore. Insider tip: Set up an account for your child, who will join  thousands of other UES locals from decades past with index cards tracking their reads and balances — all lovingly archived in wooden files behind the counter that displays  the snazziest vintage cash register around.


Reading Recs for Those with Baseball on the Brain

The White House should have total consensus on its Open Ebook Initiative:  It’s a great time for kids and adults alike  stretch their imagination and their mental muscles just as in these weeks the athletes fine tune their Spring Training drills! Here’s a sampling of title we hope you will enjoy:

For the 7-13 Year Old Set  Counting the Minutes till Opening Day:

Dan Gutman​’s latest ‘Baseball Adventure’ release, Willie & Me. It’s the latest in Gutman’s series which  links baseball and history. The series hero, Joe Shostak’s time travel adventures take place with the rub of a baseball card. Parents may enjoy Gutman’s earlier piece, Roberto  & Me, where Joe’s time travel takes him to a  late 1960’s Jimi Hendrix Concert!




For the Budding Sabermetrician:Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 9.10.20 AM

Preorder MLB Network​ sportscaster Brian Kenny‘s ode to analytics, Ahead of the Curve with a taste here from last week’s SABR’s 5th Annual Analytics Conference.  I spoke with  Brian about his mantra: Analytics shape critical thinking on and off the field. We talked baseball, critical thinking,  and metacognition: Here’s what he had to say about why baseball is such a great way to engage our kids:

For Mommies Dashing Around Town……..

for last minute spring break reads can grab the handy paperback (Birken Bag friendly)  Primates of Park Avenue:A Memoir, Wednesday Martin​’s intriguing, dramatic. and humorous take on UES/UWS life and  parenting,


Reading Skills Grow When Reading is Fun

Summer Reading

Enjoying reading and improving fluency happens when books are engaging and when we can read them at an independent, comfortable reading level. This  can be a year-round experience, but spring and summer vacation lend themselves to family time and more relaxed opportunities to live literacy through our passions.



Reading Levels
Stages of Reading Development (Chall)

Professor Jeanne Chall, my Harvard Ed School mentor from 30 years ago would want us all to remember that reading is a developmental process that can be systematically taught  but  is best fostered gradually and in naturalistic ways. It starts with talking to our kids when they are babies and is a lifelong process, just ask the entrepreneurs, lawyers, physicians and writers I teach as they fine-tune their skills to advance their passions and their professional aspirations. Let’s remind ourselves, our students and children to enjoy books that are not always ‘a stretch’ – This is essential to honing reading and ensuring fluency grows and that reading remains  a fun experience. Check out these Ivy Prep tips for  improving reading comprehension.


Baseball Harvard

We invite you to share this blog, and to comment it, and jot us  a note – whether about your favorite books  or places you’ll be enjoying  them this spring. And then… head outdoors with your kids to enjoy the beautiful day and…. PLAY BALL!

Ringing in a New Approach to Home Instruction

Study Plan
It’s a new year, and if you haven’t made any resolutions yet, here’s a suggestion for one you can make and make happen: A commitment to finding and providing educational experiences that reflect who your child is. I’m with you on that; that is my daily resolution for the children with whom I work.

For that reason, Ivy Prep’s tutoring program now includes more services for homeschool instruction to meet the needs of New York’s burgeoning homeschool community.

Ivy Prep’s customized neuropsychological approach will help your child achieve goals with confidence and enjoyment, whether it’s support for a course, a full curriculum, enrichment, balancing instruction with other demands (e.g., sports, music, dance), or individualized content for students on an accelerated track. We are also expert at filling in curricular gaps in anticipation of a new school placement or due to medical attendance disruptions, and at integrating remediation for credit recovery for students enrolled in traditional schools.

As we get to know a student, we work in partnership with parents to understand his/her learning style, temperament, and any learning challenges that can be addressed through intuitive, customized instruction and strategies for long­term success. Ivy Prep has everything your child needs to advance, achieve, and arrive at his/her goals, and to do so with deeper understanding and self ­esteem.

  • Customization: Materials and approach aligned to a student’s current school or future program.
  •  Space to learn and grow: Learn at home or drop by Ivy Prep’s Learning Center at any time.
  •  Course credit and credit recovery: For students on an advanced track or who need to complete a course for school, collaboration with parents and current school administrators to optimize instruction through an accredited program.
  •  Collaboration and vision: Partnering with outside specialists, customizing effective technology, and incorporation of real­time enrichment. Ivy Prep also identifies further enrichment opportunities (individual, small group, etc.) to enhance the student’s big­picture experience.
  • Distance learning: Internet­ based instruction brings our full range of services to anywhere in the world.
  • Experience and time­tested methodology: Ivy Prep founder Dr. Rebecca Mannis has 30 years of experience in developing and providing at­-home instruction plans that match students’ learning styles and academic needs.

Call 917-495-5107 or email office@ivy­ to learn more about how we can help your child grow, learn, and flourish.

Happy holidays and best wishes!

Rebecca Mannis, PhD, Learning Specialist
Ivy Prep Learning Center