Saturday, April 25, 2015

I'm happy to announce that my Website is finally up and running.  I have been a writing tutor for over 25 years and I'm so pleased that this website will allow me to reach students all over the world.  If you're interested in on-line writing tutoring, take a look:

Writing can be a difficult subject for many, but it is also an essential skill to master.  Individual writing tutoring can make a huge difference in a student's success both in school and on the job.'s philosophy is that  writing is really organized thinking.  This is a difficult task to accomplish in a large classroom, but individualized tutoring allows for rapid and significant progress.  One on one attention gives students a significant advantage as they hone their critical thinking and organizational skills. offers online, one on one attention with a professional writing instructor who has decades of experience teaching University level students (USC) as well as elementary, middle and high school students of all ages.  Regardless of age, can help any student become a strong and effective writer.  Using Google Docs and a simple telephone connection, will work with a student once a week to supplement school activities and/or develop a specialized curriculum designed to build skill and confidence.

Online Tutoring Rates:
1/2 hour Session = $40
1 hour Session = $60 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

3T - Teens. Tacos. Texting... Friday Night Social Club

There's a new social group for Homeschooling Teens in SCV and we had our first get-together last night!  It was a blast!

We met for pizza and video games and then walked over to the book store where we met local authors doing book signings.  We'll be planning more fun Fridays, so check out our FB page or email me for more information!  Our next event will be a movie night for Big Hero 6!  Here's the trailer:

Monday, June 9, 2014

Fall Writing Classes (UPDATED SCHEDULE)

I am so very excited for the Fall semester!!!!  The days for my fall classes have changed, but the entire schedule with class times is now available at   Registration starts Monday, June 16th.  There are so many amazing classes!  Because so many people have been asking, I’ve included below the entire list of courses I’ll be teaching with the correct days/times.
Fall Writing Classes with Holly Van Houten
Holly Van Houten has worked as a writing instructor at USC, Pepperdine University and CSUN and for the past several years has worked with homeschooled children, of all ages, at the Huckleberry Center for Creative Learning.  For more information, or if you would like help determining which class might best serve your child, email Holly at

9:30-11:00     Novels to Knowledge:  Classic Literature (Ages 10-13)
11:00-12:30   Read to Write:  Coming of Age Classics (Ages 13+)
1:00-2:30       Keyboarding and Creative Writing (Ages 8-12)

9:30- 11:00    Short Stories:  Creative Writing & Classics (Ages 13+)
11:00-12:30  Powerful Paragraphs (Ages 8-11)
1:00-2:30       Writing a la Mode (Ages 9-12)

Novels to Knowledge: Classics (Ages 10-13; Tuesdays, 9:30am) Students in this class will read (or re-read) classics, discuss them in class and write an essay on each.  Our classics for the fall semester will beTreasure Island, The Secret Garden, The Prince and the Pauper, Swiss Family Robinson, andAround the World in 80 Days. Even if your child has read some of these before, this class will offer the opportunity for in depth literary analysis and class discussion to prepare students to articulate their ideas about these classics in essay form. Check out the full description at the following link:!novels-to-knowledge/c3c7

Read to Write: Coming of Age Stories (Ages 13+; Tuesdays, 11am) Students in this class will read (or re-read) classics, discuss them in class and write an essay on each.  Our classics for the fall semester will be To Kill a Mockingbird, Emma, Hamlet, Lord of the Flies and Jane Eyre.  Even if your child has read some of these before, this class will offer the opportunity for in depth literary analysis and class discussion to prepare students to articulate their ideas about these classics in essay form. Read full description at the following link:!read-to-write/c1ce5

Keyboarding & Creative Writing (Ages 8-12; Tuesdays, 1pm) Learning to type accurately and at a fairly high speed, improves students willingness to write longer essays and creative stories. It also encourages revision, which is key to good writing. This class combines standard QWERTY typing instruction with creative writing.  Over the course of the semester, students will learn proper fingering and play lots of fun games to improve typing speed, but they will also be learning the fundamentals of creative writing (plot design, detailed description, perspective, mood, etc) as they write 5 stories of their own.  Check out the full description at the following link:!keyboarding--creative-writing/c144q  

Short Stories: Creative Writing & Classics  (Ages 13+, Thursdays, 9:30am) Students in this class will write 5 original short stories of their own, while learning specific skills and techniques through literary analysis of classic short stories by some of the masters of the genre – Edgar Allen Poe, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, O. Henry, Shirley Jackson, Guy de Maupassant, and many more!  Read full description at the following link:!short-stories/c5w6  

Powerful Paragraphs:  (Ages 8-11; Thursdays, 11am) This class begins by teaching students how to structure individual paragraphs, but by the end of the semester, students will have learned, step by step, how to construct full 5-paragraph essays.  It is a wonderful course for teaching kids how to develop their ideas and keep them organized.  Check out the full description at the following link:!powerful-paragraphs/co49  

Writing a la Mode (Ages 9-12; Thursdays, 1pm) This course takes students through many of the "modes" of writing: description, narration, definition, classification, comparison/contrast, cause & effect, etc.  Students will be writing 5 paragraph essays (or longer) as they practice these skills.  Check out the full description at the following link:!writing-a-la-mode/c1vwv

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Summer Reading Recommendations for 8-12 year-olds!

This was the handout I gave to my students and their parents at my Writing Workshop tonight.  There are so many incredible books for this age range.  Each one on this list is a fantastic read and there's something for everyone.

I mention each author only once, but several of them have MULTIPLE books that are FANTASTIC!!
**Indicates ALL books by this author are worth reading!!!

Al Capone Does My Shirts series, by Gennifer Choldenko
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,by Lewis Carroll**
Anne of Green Gables series, by L.M Montgomery
Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne**
At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald**
Ballet Shoes series, by Noah Streatfield
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo**
The Fairy Book series, by Andrew Lang
The Borrrowers series by Mary Norton
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson**
Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London**
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee
The Cat Who Went to Heaven, by Elizabeth Jane Coatsworth
Catherine, Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman
Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White **
Countdown, by Deborah Wiles
The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh
The Cricket in Times Square, by George Selden
The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis
Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos
The Doctor Dolittle Series, by Hugh Lofting
Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery, by Russell Freedman
Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly
The Family Under the Bridge, by Natalie Savage
Frindle, by Andrew Clements
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil
E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg**
Ginger Pye, by Eleanor Estes **
The Giver, by Lois Lowry**
The Golden Compass series, by Philip Pullman**
Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Amy Schlitz
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
Half Magic, by Edward Eager**
Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Heidi, by Johanna Spyri
Holes by Louis Sachar
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
The Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banks
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick**
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell**
Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes
Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead
The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling**
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, by Julie Andrews Edwards**
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving**
The Lions of Little Rock, by Kristin Levine
The Little House series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott**
Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli**
Mary Poppins series, by P.L. Travers
Matilda, by Roald Dahl**
Miss Hickory, by Caroline Sherwin Bailey
Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg, by Rodman Philbrick
Mr. Popper’s Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien
My Father’s Dragon series, by Ruth S. Gannett
My Side of the Mountain series, by Jean Craighead George
The Mysterious Benedict Society series, by Trenton Lee Stewart
Oliver, by Charles Dickens**
One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate
The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall
The Percy Jackson series, by Rick Riordan
Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
Pippi Longstocking series, Astrid Lindgren
Princess Academy, by Shannon  Hale
The Railway Children, by Edith Nesbitt**
Ramona series, by Beverly Cleary**
Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era, by Sterling North
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan
The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright**
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnnett**
Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket
Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds
The Sign of the Beaver, by Elizabeth George Speare**
Sounder, by William H. Armstrong
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger
Strawberry Girl, by Lois Lenski
Swallows and Amazons, by Lee Ransome
Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann Rudolph Wyss
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume
Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain**
Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson**
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi**
Trumpeter of Krakow, by Eric P. Kelly
Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt
The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pene de Bois
Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech
The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis**
The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt**
The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin
When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin **
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischman
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
A Wizard of Earthsea series, by Ursula K. LeGuin
The Wizard of Oz series, by L. Frank Baum
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
The Wrinkle in Time series, by Madeleine L’Engle
A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck **

Summer Reading Recommendations (TEENS)

As I said goodbye to students for the summer today, I left them with a long list of recommended books to entertain them until the fall semester.  I thought I'd post it here too, just in case anyone's looking for some great reads for their teens!

1776, by David McCullough (History)
1984 by George Orwell (Science Fiction)  
AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by John Green (Fiction)  
THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho (Religion/Spirituality)  
THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY by Michael Chabon (Historical Fiction)  
ANGELA'S ASHES by Frank McCourt (Memoir)  
ANYA’S GHOST written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol (Graphic Novel)  
BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver (Fiction)  
BELOVED by Toni Morrison (Historical Fiction)  
BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys (Historical Fiction)  
BOMB by Steve Sheinkin (Non‐fiction) 
THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak (Historical Fiction)  
THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS by John Boyne (Historical Fiction)  
BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley (Science Fiction)  
CATCH‐22 by Joseph Heller (Fiction)  
THE CHOSEN by Chaim Potok (Fiction)  
CINDER: Book One in the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (Science Fiction) 
CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein (Historical Fiction) 
THE COLOR PURPLE by Alice Walker (Fiction)  
DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor (Fantasy) 
DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver (Fantasy)  
THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL by Anne Frank (Memoir)  
DUNE by Frank Herbert (Science Fiction)  
EAST OF EDEN by John Steinbeck (Fiction)  
ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell (Fiction)
ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card (Science Fiction)  
EVERY DAY by David Levithan (Science Fiction) 
FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury (Science Fiction)  
FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON by Daniel Keyes (Fiction)
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green (Fiction)  
THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck (Fiction/Classic)  
THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Fiction)  
HARRY POTTER series by J.K. Rowling
THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers (Historical Fiction)  
HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad (Fiction/Classic)  
THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett (Historical Fiction)  
HIS DARK MATERIALS series, by Phillip Pullman (Science Fiction)
THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams (Science Fiction)   
THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Mystery)  
THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET by Sandra Cisneros (Fiction)  
THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins (Science Fiction/Fantasy)  
I CAPTURE THE CASTLE by Dodie Smith (Romance)  
IF I STAY by Gayle Forman (Fiction)  
INTO THE WILD by Jon Krakauer (Biography/Adventure)  
INTO THIN AIR by Jon Krakauer (Nonfiction)  
JANE EYRE by Charlotte Brontë (Fiction/Classic)  
THE JOY LUCK CLUB by Amy Tan (Fiction)  
LEGEND by Marie Lu (Dystopian)  
LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET by Rainer Maria Rilke (Nonfiction)  
LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel (Fiction/Adventure)  
THE LIST by Siobhan Vivian (Fiction)
LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding (Fiction)  
MATCHED by Ally Condie (Dystopian Romance) 
THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner (Post‐Apocalyptic Thriller)  
NIGHT by Elie Wiesel (Memoir)  
THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern (Fiction)  
ORPHAN TRAIN by Christina Baker Kline (Historical Fiction)
OUT OF THE EASY by Ruta Sepetys (Historical Fiction) 
THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton (Fiction)  
PAPER TOWNS by John Green (Fiction)  
PEACE LIKE A RIVER by Leif Enger (Fiction)  
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky (Fiction)  
PERSEPOLIS by Marjane Satrapi (Graphic Novel)  
A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce (Fiction/Classic)  
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen (Fiction)  
THE PRINCESS BRIDE by William Goldman (Fiction)  
A RAISIN IN THE SUN by Lorraine Hansberry (Plays) 
READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN by Azar Nafisi (Memoir)  
REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier (Horror)  
THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy (Fiction)  
ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein (Historical Fiction)
THE RUNNING DREAM by Wendelin Van Draanen (Fiction)  
THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES by Sue Monk Kidd (Historical Fiction)  
A SEPARATE PEACE by John Knowles (Fiction)  
SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman (Fantasy) 
SHADOW AND BONE, by Leigh Bardugo (Fantasy)
A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING by Bill Bryson (Science/Non-Fiction)  
SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson (Fiction)  
STARGIRL by Jerry Spinelli (Romance)  
THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD by Zora Neale Hurston (Fiction)  
THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher (Fiction)  
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee (Historical Fiction)  
A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith (Historical Fiction)  
WHY WE BROKE UP by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman (Fiction)  
WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan (Fiction)