Now serving San Diego areas
About Sherwood Tutoring - Where Phonics Ends and Study Begins
Study mastery saves Superphonics Developer
from Academic Failure
Tracy Sherwood, Developer of Superphonics, a well kept secret in phonics now used by various celebrity founded literacy programs, found her way from head banging tutoring sessions to the best of the best over the past twenty-five years of tutoring. Her story is an inspiring one that demonstrates where learning to read and spell the words ends off, and real study begins.
Tracy Sherwood grew up in California during the sixties. In grade school, Tracy mastered phonics and spelling and helped class mates who were struggling in these areas.
Her reading comprehension, however, was a different story. In the 5th grade, the traditional reading curriculum was taken out and replaced by a new curriculum consisting of color coded levels in which the student was timed while reading the materials and then answered questions. Progress up the colors was dependent upon one's excellence in the lower color cards. Students with high vocabularies advanced through the color levels with no difficulty, but they were few.
"In fact," Tracy recalls, "I only remember two students who made good progress with this method. One was Carol Tempero, who was the top student in the class. She was reading at sixth or seventh grade level in the fourth grade".
Tracy recalls the other student to have been an oriental boy who had come to the school after being in private school most of his life.
"The rest of us just couldn't pass the levels well no matter how fast we made our eyes move. I've wished I knew then what I know now", says the Superphonics Founder. "And I see it in kids struggling with reading every day - trying to comprehend what they read without knowing how. It takes more than moving the eyes and reading the words. Words have meaning. They didn't emphasize this in school - they didn't think of it much themselves."
Tracy fell asleep in class
Growing up in the sixties wasn't easy for a high school student who couldn't study. Tracy found herself falling asleep in class after looking at pages that appeared to be written in a foreign language with words she could pronounce and spell but didn't understand. Here, Miss Tracy tells her amazing story...
"I could read so smoothly. Everyone thought I was an excelling reader. I had conditioned myself into memorizing but I couldn't retain what I couldn't understand long enough to do anything with it.
Pretty soon I started hanging out with the druggies and cutting school. I didn't use drugs because early on in my association with that crowd, my brother became addicted to heroin and I saw it destroying his life. He'd always been a failure in school in just about every subject. His teachers were hard on him because he didn't care about learning and adopted himself as class clown with a bad attitude. Like me, he didn't know how to learn. No one taught us 'how to learn', they just expected it of us.
But my friends gradually got into the drugs. At fourteen, I met a boy who would be my first future husband. I got pregnant and had my first child one month after turning seventeen. I tried going to continuation school and for a while thought I would make it. The teachers were caring and we were allowed to go at our own pace. But I still didn't know how to understand materials. I didn't have a vocabulary or knowledge of sentence structure to understand. The pages were blank to me and I soon dropped out.
My second child was born just before I turned nineteen. I'd never had a job, I had no education and no sense of responsibility. My husband was extremely responsible. He was younger than I was and was working hard washing dishes at Jolly Rodgers to support his family. I fell into a long depression and life went by with no inkling I could ever accomplish a goal.
An author rekindled Tracy's desire to learn
One day just after the birth of my daughter Kam, I went to a girlfriend's house who had her first baby eleven days after Kam's birth. She had been reading "Adelle Davis' book entitled "Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit".
"Did you know that sugar is bad for you?" she asked me - still in shock herself.
"No it's not!" I asserted, "Sugar gives you energy!"
"Just for a little while", she preached, "then your energy crashes to lower levels than before you ate it!"
I didn't believe it but was intrigued. I took the book from her hand and sat down and started to read it. I couldn't understand most of it, but I was so interested that I worked hard to pick out whatever I could get. I bought my own copy and soon found myself with a purpose in life. I read every day, every minute I could.
Soon I had decided to go to school and become a biochemist and a teacher. My depression completely subsided. Life was bright and I had purpose - until I began to preach nutrition to my husband when he came home tired from work. I began buying health foods at great expense which I didn't know how to cook and it was a total failure. He became resentful of my health obsession and repulsed by my menu and cooking. My depression soon returned and I left him and moved to my parents in Bakersfield.
I continued studying nutrition on my own and took my junior college entry exam. I flunked out in reading comprehension, English and math and would have to take several additional classes. But I had reason to try this time. I started college with enthusiasm and purpose. My new texts felt so valuable in my hands as they were promises of a better tomorrow. But that tomorrow soon looked like it would never come. I couldn't keep up with the pace. I couldn't understand the texts. And as equally upsetting was finding out that college doesn't teach one how to teach reading or study - only school subjects and a lot of psych. So, I dropped out of college and soon applied for Welfare. My depression returned and with it went my energy, sense of responsibility and dream of becoming a biochemist desire to be a teachers.
I continued getting as much out of nutritional study as I could, going at my own pace and picking out the texts I could best read. While studying nutrition, I improved my study, but not enough.
Tracy has ups and downs tutoring others
At twenty-two, I began tutoring neighbor children in phonics and spelling and it brought back purpose for me. Word of mouth spread and for the first time in life I was able to support myself and children.
Although I was doing well for the most part, it was often tiring and frustrating. My students would so often not understand what they were reading even though they could read and spell the words. They would become bored, tired, confused and want to quit the session. I was too often impatient. I didn't know what to do. Reading the words well was just not enough, but I persisted.
In 1980, my life took a big turn for the better. My brother - once again resident at his fourth or fifth drug program - called me with great enthusiasm.
"Tracy, you have to check out the study method they have here, I can finally read and really get it!" I was speechless. My brother... the junkie? Into studying? I don't think so.
"He persisted as though his life depended upon it. "Come for the weekend Tracy. I told them about you and you can observe the classes and see how the method works."
I was there the following weekend. It was a pretty old and worn Victorian house in Los Angeles. It was so casual. I could only tell the difference between staff and client by watching them. Then it was easy. The staff were casual but every movement and word they said had some purpose of value - even in social conversation. They were busy. They moved with exactness like they had something important to accomplish. It was different. When I'd visited my brother in other programs, it was either too clinical and impersonal, or unprofessional and lax. Other drug programs used degrading techniques on my brother frequently - making him wear a beer can hung around his neck and such. He never made progress in prior programs.
The Turn-around happens
"Two minutes to study!" Someone announced at the door of the study hall. Students began to gather in the class and they looked like it was something they wanted to do. It was interesting to observe the attitudes in everything. It was refreshing. The Course Supervisor took roll call and the students sat down to their studies. The first thing I noticed was that the instructor didn't announce a bunch of instructions or teach, she was indeed what her title indicated, 'course supervisor'. Students approached her, she said something or pulled out a text to show them some reference, and they would take the text to their table and move along on their own.
The second thing I noticed was most interesting. Each and every student had a least one dictionary beside them - and they were using them. It was as though they were Spanish students in need of a Spanish-English dictionary in order to read the words or something. It was obviously the essential study tool.
I watched for a while and then became so curious that I began to stroll behind the students hard at study to see if I could grasp a little more of the significance here. All I could think of was 'how do you get a druggy to crack open a dictionary every few minutes - and so willingly?' I strolled and observed closely. I saw students looking upward at nothing and it took some close looking to see they weren't daydreaming, they were learning. Dictionaries were opening and closing throughout the room. I noted the fact that the student didn't just read a definition and then close the dictionary. Each student was really getting into every definition of the word and then conceptualizing it in some way I was not yet sure of. Fascinating.
Then behind me I heard two students talking quietly. I turned around to see that one student had the text of the other in his hands. He was looking through the materials and asking the student to tell him the definition of words from his text! AWK! Impossible! You have to tell the meanings of words in your studies to pass a test? How formidable!
Each time the student gave a definition, I could tell it wasn't memorized - it was pretty much his own words. Then he was asked to put the word into a made up sentence to show he could use it conceptually. I was impressed. But then something really spooky happened.
Studying for understanding rather than a grade?
The student giving the test said, "Flunk.' Clear that word up fully, restudy from there and we'll give it another go".
I could have fainted. Who could ever pass a test like that? You mis-define one word and have to restudy the whole thing from where the word was found? Who could ever get through one page say anything about a course or a program? I was intimidated by this. I was use to failing and this was one test I would never pass.
I continued strolling and watching, listening and learning. At some point I noticed that the testing student was now asking him questions about the materials and carefully choosing his questions so that the answers could not be rote. The student had to answer the questions with examples of how the materials could be used or how some datum could be useful or not useful in life. He really understood those materials.
No one was bored. No one was goofing off, daydreaming or fiddling with objects; no one was slouching or looking at the clock. These druggies were genuinely learning - of that I was sure.
I joined staff that weekend and with a mixture of terror and exhilaration I started my own study course. It was hard for me.
No one said it would be easy
I couldn't spot the words I needed to look up, I just didn't see them. And when I did, I couldn't understand the dictionary. 'Which meaning fits here? I can't make up my own sentence using this word! And when I finally got it, I would forget it when it was time for 'oral testing'. Two times I literally threw the dictionary across the room. A dozen times, I walked out.
I was taken in for tutoring. The tutor helped me with the dictionary definitions and in reading my materials. He helped me through a lot- in light of the fact that I was now a staff member and should be sufficiently literate. He and the supervisor just rolled up their sleeves and turned me inside out. I had to learn punctuation symbols, parts of speech, dictionary abbreviations, derivation usage, prefix and suffix usage and seemingly endless basics. I had to understand each and every definition of the word I was looking up even though I knew which definition was applicable to the materials. But I learned. I very thoroughly learned. (To find out about this rehabilitation program, which is trademarked by name, email me)
Taking on my own students with skills our teachers never got
Later, I went back Bakersfield, my tutoring town, got in touch with old contacts and got my tutoring business going again, this time equipped not only with advanced reading skills, but with the technology to tutor with them. My business boomed. Results soared. I turned kids inside out one at a time and gave them real study skills for life. A session no longer held the purpose of getting through a student's homework assignment or sounding out and spelling words he didn't understand. There was no more frustration in my sessions. No more search for reasons this kid is bored and that kid is nodding out. I knew the barriers to study and their symptoms. I knew how to keep a student alert, interested and learning.
And through the next eighteen years, my skills increased. Somewhere in the midst of thousands of hours of tutoring children in phonics, coupled with vital missing basics and advanced study skills, I transformed from skilled, to expert, to best of the best - because I also mastered phonics.
Superphonics is born
And over the years I was able to isolate the concepts and abilities that were vitally missing from the leading phonics programs and developed techniques to smooth the road out for learning to read and spell. I worked and reworked these techniques until the illiterate child or adult, masters these simplicities so well, that he himself can teach others to read. This program teaches literate children to teach others to read in about three days. Equipped with an advanced ability to study, they become stellar tutors as young as age 12. Contact me to find out how to undergo this stellar study training. I've seen college students and professionals increase learning and study aptitude by tenfold.
Study mastery and phonics are like the breath and blood that make true literacy a reality for a child. When we see them yawning, slumping, disinterested or confused, we know they are in need of study mastery. In the drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, these symptoms were missing and that is what made the study environment a mystery to me at first observation. Drug addicts were truly learning. And I know first hand why this can be.
I will always fulfill my tutoring guarantee, because I have faith in even the most struggling student. Please see some client testimonials
Founder of Sherwood Tutoring
Developer of Superphonics
Homeschooling Assistance by Tracy Sherwood
Come to north coast San Diego
for a 3-day, 5 day, or 30-day Booster
If you're local to San Diego,
schedule tutoring with me!
Parents are wanted! to help start parent-shared homeschool program using
the curriculum and techniques described in the article above
Tracy also paints murals and wall paintings. See a few here
Tracy's hobbies include dog and horse training and more recently, organic cooking and gardening.
San Diego Call my cell phone: 323-394-9422
Testing/Assessment $225 (50% of special needs assessments are sponsored by citizens for horses & kids)
Encinitas, San Marcos, Carlsbad, Solana Beach, Oceanside, Escondido,
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