Published on March 28, 2014
All the way from Tasmania, Australia, teacher Kathi Wyldeck doesn’t stop with just tutoring her students. She’s written and published multiple study books for grades 3 to 9 and has done so in 3 versions: Australian, British and American editions, with main focus on English, but also covering Math and Science studies as well. Q: You’ve chosen teaching as a career goal. What prompted you to expand your area of expertise by publishing educational books? A: Actually, I didn’t start out as a teacher - I became a private tutor later in life, almost by accident! I originally studied science and worked in a medical research institute. When I became a mother and my children started school, I assumed that they would be taught to the same high standard as I was. Sadly, I quickly discovered that this was not to be. The education system here in Australia has been “dumbed down” over the past forty years and grammar is no longer taught at school! The teaching of spelling, punctuation, vocabulary, reading, comprehension and writing have also been downgraded. I wanted my own three sons to learn English of a high standard, but there were no good books available in the shops from which I could teach them the necessary knowledge. As a result, I decided to write my own English book for my children. Other parents wanted me to teach their children too, and this is how my job as a tutor developed. I started to send my manuscript to the various educational publishing companies in Australia, and all but one rejected my book as not part of the school curriculum. They proudly informed me that grammar was no longer taught. Just one publishing company became interested – a company that published books for home study. The reason the chief editor took the risk with my first book was because she thought that if a mother had made the effort to write an English textbook, then there must have been a need for such a book out there in the public. Since that time, I have written several other books on grammar, writing and educational games, all of which I have used in my job as a tutor. Q: You have 3 special areas of teaching: English, Science and Math. Why 3 instead of focusing on just one? A: Having been trained as a scientist, and with a special love of not just science but general knowledge as well, I thought – why not include a general knowledge section at the end of each chapter in my latest three books (English – A Comprehensive Course: Grades 3 to 5; 5 to 7; 7 to 9). Because I have not been happy with the quality of education in our schools, and have noticed a terrible lack of general knowledge in our young people, I thought that this extra section in my books might stimulate an interest in learning more about the world, the exciting world beyond the narrow boundaries of school education. My students love it! While tutoring in English, I have become aware of how many children and teenagers struggle with their Maths and Science, so I also offer tutoring in these subjects as well. I enjoy the variety and the students can come to me for half of their lesson in English and the other half in Maths or Science. One lesson with me can kill two birds with one stone! Q: Which age group(s) do you tutor/teach? A: I have tutored all age groups from a little Chinese boy of just three years old to adults in their sixties. I mainly teach children between the ages of six to sixteen in English, Maths and Science, as well as adults in English as a Second Language (ESL), and the first year of French and German. I also tutor international students online, mainly in English Conversation practice and Essay Writing. This includes teenagers and young adults from places like Russia, Korea, China and Japan. Q: Have you previously used the “game approach” and how has that assisted you in tutoring your student?
A: I love games – who doesn’t! We are never too old to play games. To be able to revise and consolidate academic learning with some fun, active games at the end of the lesson is a big reward for children and teenagers, and for active boys especially, it is a great way for them to let off steam after having sat still for a while. When my boys were younger, they joined the Cub Scouts, so I trained to become a Cub Scout Leader, and what fun it was! Through this experience, I managed to turn a lot of the games we played at Cubs into educational games in Grammar, Vocabulary, Punctuation, Maths, Science, History, Geography, French, German Latin, Music and Art. My educational games books, Grammar and Vocabulary Games for Children and Games for Fun, Fitness and Learning are used by schools and youth groups for team games, while Family Games is popular with families for solo players and small groups of children. Homeschooling families especially find the educational games in this book helpful in making learning fun. Q: During your years of tutoring students, what area have you noticed seems to be the most difficult for your students and why? A: What a good question! Children find the learning of multiplication tables very difficult and it takes time, practice and patience to become good at them. The art of writing is a difficult skill to learn as well. It takes years of regular practice, trial and error, and learning from mistakes to become a good writer. Some students have more ability with language than others and for those lucky ones with a natural talent, writing comes easily, but for most students, it is a long, hard slog. Most students get there in the end, but it takes time. Q: Do you tutor mostly during the school year or in between grade changes? A: I never stop. I teach anyone at any time in almost any subject. I love it! Q: Are your teachings more to help a student with issues they are having in the grade they are in, or in preparation for the next one? A: Parents send their children to me for various reasons. When I taught up in Sydney, I mainly taught Oriental children and teenagers from China, Korea and Japan. The parents wanted their children to be high achievers – up at the top of their class. With these children, I could push them ahead with advanced grammar, spelling, comprehension, the reading of the classics, and essay writing. These children thrived on doing more than was offered at school. Down in Hobart, I teach very different students. Parents send their children to me because they are lagging behind and need to catch up. With my younger pupils, I need to teach them the basics of how to hold a pencil the correct way, how to keep their book steady when they write, how to sit properly at the desk, and how to handwrite correctly. I teach them to read and spell
with the help of phonics, something that has been ignored at school for decades, and I teach them their tables through rote learning, the only effective way to learn them. As you can see, I teach the traditional way, because it has been tried and tested over the ages and proven to work more effectively than the more modern, trendy methods. With my teenagers, we work to catch up on maths, reading, comprehension, spelling and writing technique. Although grammar is not required at school, I teach it to my students anyway, and that is when they realise how little they know about their own language. I also have some adult students for ESL and German. For many ESL students, the only time in the whole week that they speak any English is when they come and talk with me. As for the students who come to me to learn French or German, because they have never learnt English grammar at school, I need to teach them their grammar along with the foreign language. They are at a real disadvantage because this country has failed to teach grammar for so many years. Q: What would you say would be a good percentage of successfully building a student’s knowledge compared to failure? i.e. 9 out 10 of my students successfully advanced and were able to move into the next grade with new enthusiasm and confidence. A: Good question. Over my twenty-five years of tutoring, I would say that 99% of my students have improved and been ready to move into the next grade with greater ability and confidence. I have only had two students in the twenty-five years whom I feel I couldn’t help very much. They both had special needs and required a specialist to help them make progress. Q: You teach grades 3 to 9. Have you ever considered teaching to higher grades? A: I feel most comfortable and confident in teaching children and teenagers up to Grade 9 or 10. Once the final school exams are looming, I feel that specialist tutors are needed to help students to focus specifically on their exam work. I consider myself a general education tutor, rather than a specialist. Q: What prompted you to home school your third child when you did not with your first two? A: As I mentioned at the beginning of the interview, I was not at all happy with the quality of the education my three children were receiving at school, and third time ‘round, I couldn’t bear it any longer! By the end of Grade 4, I took my third son out of school and taught him at home for two years. We both loved the experience and my son went ahead in leaps and bounds, covering four years’ work in the space of two. By the time I put him back into the system in Grade 7, he was two years ahead of the class in all his subjects. However, by the end of Grade 8, I kept thinking “I can do better than this” in regard to the quality of the teaching and curriculum content, so I took my son out of school again and he studied Grades 9 and 10 at home before entering college. People always say, “Oh, but what about socialising?” He went to Scouts and Youth Group every week, played soccer with the local club, and took part in the various homeschoolers’ groups that were held regularly. Unlike the negative socialising at school, where bullying and peer group pressure to try drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and sex are common, homeschool socialising allowed my son to be himself, away from these negative influences. My homeschooled son eventually went to university to study science, and is now a neuroscientist. Q: If you had to choose one important reminder for your students, what would that one thing be? i.e. take your time, think it through, ask questions, work it out on scratch paper first A: Another good question. For my younger students, I would say to practise, practise, practise (by the way, in British English, “practise” when used as a verb is spelt with an “s”. I haven’t made a spelling mistake!) For my
older students, I would say, “Plan what you are going to write before you write it, and make sure to check your work before you hand it in for marking.” Q: How many books have you published and are there any future books in the works? A: I’ve written thirteen books. The first two were published in Australia by Pascal Press and have both become best sellers. My later books were self-published via Lulu.com. The rigmarole of sending manuscripts around the publishing houses and waiting for replies was too time-consuming. I also think that book publishing has really evolved with the print-on-demand format that the Internet has made possible. Publishing houses may become a thing of the past in a few more years as “indie authors” take over. Q: You also publish your books in 3 formats: English, British and Australian editions. Are there any major differences between the 3 and if so, what? A: I’ve published Games for Fun, Fitness and Learning and Grammar and Vocabulary Games for Children in three different forms because some of the games in the books are specific to the region and require local vocabulary, idiom, content and spelling. For example, in Games for Fun, Fitness and Learning, there is a navigation game to teach the use of a map and compass using a national map for the “journey”. Each version of the book uses instructions to play the game in that particular country. Q: You include English, Science and Math studies in your books. What was your motivation to include all 3 in one book vs. one on English, one on Science and one on Math? A: There are so many good Maths and Science books available these days that I didn’t feel the urge to write my own. English is my main interest, along with general knowledge, so just adding some maths, science and other topics at the end of each chapter satisfied my need to include some broader knowledge in my English books and to provide a better-rounded course for my readers. Q: You’ve also published your books in various e-Book formats. Has that fact enabled you to reach more students i.e. They can study anywhere: home, i-Phone, i-Pad, while on the beach, sitting on the bus A: I think the invention of the Kindle, the iPhone and the iPad has been brilliant. I still love printed books the most, but being able to read an eBook on one of these electronic devices is also fantastic, especially when you can buy the eBook for a bargain price. For students to be able to study from an eBook on a school computer or to be able to carry many books in one little, neat eReader when out and about is a fantastic advantage. I think that eBooks probably attract more readers than printed books these days, as eBooks are generally cheaper and occupy almost no space. I certainly sell more eBooks now than printed books by a ratio of 2:1. Q: Is there anything else you’d like to cover with readers that I may not have asked? A: Maybe one extra thing would be to let people know that I run a family website of games, writing exercises and general knowledge quizzes, which I update regularly, so there is always something new to try. My books are also shown on this site. The website is called www.FunFitnessLearning.com Many thanks for the interview, Cindy. You do a great job. Kathi’s books are available in print & e-Book formats at Amazon, Kindle, i-Bookstore, and from her publisher at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/kwyldeck.
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