Tutoring for Homeschool, for Credit, and especially for the "Periagogue" - the turning around of the mind and heart to what is true, beautiful and good.
Kevin O'Brien as J.R.R. Tolkien on the "Hobbit Hole" set for the television special Frodo's Journey.

My name is Kevin O'Brien and I used to hate going to school.

After I graduated from Washington High School in Washington, Missouri, way back in 1978, it took me many years even to think about going to college.  I couldn't stand the thought of people telling me what to read!

But in 1991, I enrolled in Webster University in St. Louis, and within 18 months I had a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Literature and Language.  I was able to get a four-year degree in a year-and-a-half because I received 63 hours of credit for taking and passing a number of CLEP Tests, because I produced a portfolio of my life experience, and also because I took as many classes as possible every semester.  I have always, you see, had a knack for working outside the system - or for doing things in an unconventional way.

And the students I have tutored have been like that as well.  My typical student is very intelligent, artistic, has an extremely low tolerance for "busy work" and wants to do things his or her own way.  And I not only accommodate that, but encourage that.

I see education not merely as a means to an end - earning "credit" so that you can graduate and get into college or get a good job - but as an end in itself, provided that the education conveys something real and valuable, and provided that the educator's goal is to increase the student's capacity to appreciate the True, the Beautiful and the Good.  Education ought to open the Mind, the Heart and the Soul toward the awe and grandeur that are beyond us.  Education ought to make us happier - in a deep and comprehensive way.

That may sound a bit too philosophical, but what it means in practice is that I encourage my students to follow what draws them.  This can be done in a number of ways, such as by designing courses that play upon this desire (self-designed courses that challenge the student), and especially by getting to know my students, and by challenging them either individually or in a class setting.

Beyond my educational work, I have had quite varied career that has included ...



... and of course

  • Tutoring online and in person since 1998.


Intellectually, I have been especially moved by the writers Carl Jung, George Bernard Shaw, G. K. Chesterton, Flannery O'Connor, Stanley Jaki, J.R.R. Tolkien, Eric Voegelin, and more.

In addition, I have tutored every imaginable subject, including not only literature, drama, philosophy and writing but also physics, algebra and geometry.  I am also able to self-design courses that receive full credit from a number of institutions that offer high school credit for homeschool and independent learning, such as the University of Missouri and the University of Nebraska.

I am currently teaching online courses in Speech, Rhetoric and Drama for Homeschool Connections, and am available for both in person and online tutoring.

Contact me for more info.

HOW DOES THIS WORK?

Homeschool Connections courses are offered at specific times beginning in September and again in January each year.  Students attend via webcam and participate in an online class setting where they can give feedback, take tests, watch videos, see posted texts, and communicate with one another and with me - all live.  Recorded class sessions are also available.  For more information, visit the Homeschool Connections website.  

In addition to the classes I teach for Homeschool Connections, I am also available for in person or online one-on-one tutoring.  Email or call me for my current hourly rates.

Here are the descriptions of my 2016-2017 Homeschool Connections courses ...


SUMMER 2016


(Literature) A Study of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, “I Call you Friends”
Maximum number of students: 25
Class dates: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, June 20 through June 30.
Total classes: 8
Starting time: 1:00 PM Eastern (Noon Central; 11:00 AM Mountain; 10:00 AM Pacific)
Duration: 55 minutes
Prerequisite: None
Suggested grade level: 9th to 12th grade
Suggested high school credit: ½ semester Literature
Fee: $110 if you register on or before March 15, 2016. $125 after March 15th.
Instructor: Kevin O’Brien
Course description: Two of the greatest Christian writers of the 20th century were also close friends - C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien - a friendship that awakened Lewis to the Faith, but that also may have faltered because of the demands of the Faith.  We examine the relationship of these two men, the ups and downs of their friendship, and how they influenced one another’s writings.
Course outline (day by day): 
Class one: Overview of the course and of the setting and times into which Lewis & Tolkien were born.
Class two: Selections from Surprised by Joy, the life of C.S. Lewis
Class three: Selections from Joseph Pearce's biography of J.R.R. Tolkien
Class four: Tolkien's "On Fairy Stories" and the Night Talk that started Lewis' conversion
Class five: Other influences on Lewis' faith: Chesterton and the Inklings.
Class six: The Inklings and the development of the writings of Lewis and Tolkien: how they influenced one another.
Class seven:  Lewis' marriage and Tolkien's reaction to it: trouble in the friendship.
Class eight: We examine the legacy of each author, review what we've learned, and bring the course to a conclusion.
Course materialsSurprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis, Tolkien - Man and Myth by Joseph Pearce should both be purchased by students and at least one of the two books should be read ahead of time, before the first class session. Other material will be brief selections from works and letters of the two authors, and will be provided by the instructor in class or as PDFs.  
Homework: Completing the assigned reading for each class; taking six quizzes and one essay exam. Estimated homework time each week: 4 hours.


FALL 2016
(Literature) Love and the Meaning of Life
Maximum number of students: 25
Class dates: Thursdays, September 8 to December 15, 2016. No class November 24 for Thanksgiving and December 8 for Feast of Immaculate Conception.
Total classes: 13
Starting time: 11:00 AM Eastern (10:00 Central; 9:00 Mountain; 8:00 Pacific)
Duration: 55 minutes
Prerequisite: None
Suggested grade level: 9th to 12th grade
Suggested high school credit: 1 full semester Literature, Theology, or Philosophy
Fee: $175 if you register on or before July 15, 2016. $195 if you register after July 15 for all 13 classes.
Instructor: Kevin O’Brien
Course description:  We know as Catholics that “God is love”. We also know that it is our obligation to love God and to love our neighbors. We know that love - especially the sacrificial love of Christ on the cross - is central to the meaning of life. But what is love? Is it an emotion, an action? How do romance and marriage fit into love? How does love determine our identities - who we are - and our vocations - what we are called to? Is there a connection between love and war, between love and desire, even between love and death? We will approach these questions - all of which are central questions to our life as Christians - through great works of literature and philosophy, including Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical on love, Deus Caritas Est, selections from Socrates’ reflection on love, The Symposium, selections from great poems and stories of love, the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, The Surprise by G.K. Chesterton, and notions of love in psychology and the popular culture.  
Course outline (week by week):
  1. Overview - C. S. Lewis on The Four Loves
  2. Love in Scripture - The Old Testament
  3. Love in Ancient Greece - The Symposium
  4. Love in Scripture - The New Testament
  5. Love in the Middle Ages - St. Francis of Assisi & St. Thomas Aquinas
  6. Love in Shakespeare - Much Ado about Nothing
  7. Love in the Romantic Poets
  8. Love in the 19th Century - Wuthering Heights
  9. Love in the 20th Century - The Surprise
  10. The Psychology of Love - Love and Will
  11. Pope Benedict XVI on Love - Deus Caritas Est
  12. Modern Errors on Love
  13. Review
Course materials: Public domain material and Deus Caritas Est will be provided as PDFs by the Instructor; in addition, students should purchase The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis, Love and Will by Rollo May, and “The Lame Shall Enter First”, a short story by Flannery O’Connor, found in many collections of her stories.
Homework: This will be a challenging course.  The Four Loves should be read before the first class session, and each week’s assigned reading must be read before we discuss the readings in class.  Assigned readings will vary from short plays, poems and scripture readings to Wuthering Heights.  Plan on about four to six hours of study time per week.  In addition, expect short quizzes and two essay exams.



(Literature) Mythology in Literature
Maximum number of students: 25
Class dates: Thursdays, September 8 to December 15, 2016. No class November 24 for Thanksgiving and December 8 for Feast of Immaculate Conception.
Total classes: 13
Starting time: 1:00 PM Eastern (Noon Central; 11:00 Mountain; 10:00 Pacific)
Duration: 55 minutes
Prerequisite: None
Suggested grade level: 9th to 10th grade
Suggested high school credit: 1 full semester Literature or English
Fee: $175 if you register on or before July 15, 2016. $195 if you register after July 15 for all 13 classes.
Instructor: Kevin O’Brien
Course description: What is myth and how does it relate to storytelling in general and to our Catholic Faith in particular? How have the great myths of the world’s cultures been adapted into novels and plays?  What are the essential elements of myth that speak to the human condition? Using J.R.R. Tolkien’s insights into mythology as an interpretive guide, we will examine these and other questions, focusing on the connection between mythology and great literature.
Course outline (week by week):
  1. Overview: Selections from Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories” - a Guide to Understanding Myth
  2. Mythology and Religion: Mythology in Ancient Greek Drama
  3. Mythology and Religion: Divine Use of Myth in the Gospels - Parables and Signs
  4. Mythology of Transformation: From Ovid to Dante - Pagan and Christian notions of Transformation.
  5. Mythology of Transformation: Shakespeare’s use of Myth in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  6. Mythology of Transformation in Modern Works - Various Selections
  7. Mythology of Love: Cupid and Psyche
  8. Mythology of Love: C. S. Lewis Til We Have Faces
  9. Mythology of Selfishness: Narcissus through the Ages
  10. Mythology of Power and Creation: Pygmalion from the Greeks to Shaw
  11. Mythology of Humility and Redemption: King Arthur - Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  12. Mythology of Humility and Redemption: Selections from Chaucer through Modern Times
  13. Review
Course materials: Purgatory by Dante, translated by Anthony Esolen; Til We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis; Other materials provided as PDFs by the instructor.
Homework: Reading assignments, several tests, mid-term paper, final paper.  Expect about four hours of prep (on average) for each class per week.




(Speech & Communications) Debate and Argumentation
Maximum number of students: 25
Class dates: Wednesdays, September 7 to December 7, 2016. No class November 23 for Thanksgiving break.
Total classes: 13
Starting time: Noon Eastern (11:00 Central; 10:00 Mountain; 9:00 Pacific)
Duration: 55 minutes
Prerequisite: None
Suggested grade level: 9th to 12th grade
Suggested high school credit: 1 full semester Debate; Speech; or Communications
Fee: $175 if you register on or before July 15, 2016. $195 if you register after July 15 for all 13 classes.
Instructor: Kevin O’Brien
Course description: Students will learn the art of argumentation and “forensics” and will be challenged to hone their skills of presentation and oral communication as they participate in a number of exercises, including a Mock Presidential Debate, a Mock Trial with closing arguments to the jury, and Mini Debates on issues that affect our faith and culture.  
Course outline (week by week):
  1. What is Debate - Demos and Terms
  2. Preparing to Debate - Structure and Rule
  3. Mock Presidential Debate - Part I
  4. Mock Presidential Debate - Part II
  5. Errors of Logic and Argumentation
  6. Critique of Famous Debates
  7. Mini Debate - Part I
  8. Mini Debate - Part II
  9. Changing Sides - Pro and Con in Debates
  10. Changing Sides - Understanding the Opposition
  11. Mock Trial - Part I
  12. Mock Trial - Part II
  13. Review
Course materials: Handouts in the form of pdfs provided by the instructor
Homework: Assignments and readings and debate prep.  Three hours per week on average.

(Literature) Christmas in Literature, Film, and Music
Maximum number of students: 25
Class dates: Wednesdays, October 12 to December 7, 2016
Total classes: 8
Starting time: 10:30 AM Eastern (9:30 Central; 8:30 Mountain; 7:30 Pacific)
Duration: 45 minutes
Prerequisite: None
Suggested grade level: 6th to 8th grade
Fee: $110 if you register on or before July 15, 2016. $125 if you register after July 15 for all 8 classes.
Instructor: Kevin O’Brien
Course description: What is the “magic of Christmas” and why has it captivated even the secular world for so many centuries?  We’ll explore the history of the celebration of Christmas, from St. Francis and the first Manger Scene in the 13th century to the banning of Christmas by the Puritans in Colonial America, to the commercialization and secularization of Christmas in modern times.   Through it all, we’ll look at the depiction of the Nativity in Literature, Film and Music.  We’ll read A Christmas Carol, we’ll watch scenes from Christmas movies, we’ll read essays and poems on Christmas by G. K. Chesterton, we’ll examine the theology and wonder behind classic and modern Christmas Carols - and we’ll even explore the strange transformation of St. Nicholas into Santa Claus!  But our goal through it all will be to have a deeper understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation.  Note that each student will work on a Final Project that will be a story, poem or other creative work that he or she will present to his or her family during the Christmas season!
Course outline (week by week):
  1. The Nativity of Our Lord in the Early Church
  2. St. Francis and the Manger Scene
  3. The Puritans and the Death of Christmas
  4. “A Christmas Carol” - Dickens and the Revival of Christmas
  5. Chesterton on Christmas
  6. St. Nicholas - from bishop to Santa Claus
  7. Modern Christmas - Songs and Movies
  8. Final Project Highlights
Course materials: Provided as pdfs by the Instructor
Homework: Quizzes and Reflection Papers.  Homework should average about two hours per week.


SPRING 2017
(Literature) A World Without God
Maximum number of students: 25
Class dates: Thursdays, January 12 to April 6, 2017
Total classes: 13
Starting time: 11:00 AM Eastern (10:00 Central; 9:00 Mountain; 8:00 Pacific)
Duration: 55 minutes
Prerequisite: None
Suggested grade level: 9th or 12th grade
Suggested high school credit: 1 full semester credit Literature, Theology, or Philosophy
Fee: $175 if you register on or before November 15, 2016. $195 if you register after Nov. 15 for all 13 classes.
Instructor: Kevin O’Brien
Course description: St. John tells us, “You have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.”  But what is the nature of this “antichrist” or this anti-Christian spirit, so prevalent in the world today?  How does it fight against God?  What sort of world does it create?  What are its goals and assumptions?  We will look at this spirit of defiance that puts man in place of God and identify its nature, its philosophy, its goals, where it most contradicts the Catholic Faith, and how ordinary people can combat it.  We will do this by studying the art and literature that shows us what happens when men try to build this “world without God”, including reading all or parts of Macbeth by William Shakespeare, 1984 by George Orwell, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, Father Elijah by Michael O’Brien and selections by philosophers such as Nietzsche, Camus and Voegelin.
Course outline (week by week):
  1. Christ vs. Antichrist
  2. Man as God - Macbeth - Part I
  3. Man as God - Macbeth - Part II
  4. The Spirit of Friedrich Nietzsche
  5. Nihilism and the Christian Critique
  6. Heaven or Hell on Earth? - 1984 - Part I
  7. Heaven or Hell on Earth? - 1984 - Part II
  8. Hilaire Belloc on the Modern Heresy of the World without God
  9. Eric Voegelin on the Closed System and Unreality
  10. Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw as the Haunted World without God
  11. Visions of the Apocalypse - Selections from Father Elijah by Michael O’Brien
  12. Antidotes to the Antichrist
  13. Review
Course materials: Public domain material will be provided as pdfs by the instructor.  Students must purchase 1984 by George Orwell, The Great Heresies by Hilaire Belloc and Father Elijah by Michael O’Brien
Homework: Reading, quizzes, final exam, mid-term paper, final paper.  Plan on about four hours of homework per week.
Note – Kevin, do you think that A Brave New World is okay for Catholic homeschool students? I recall some weird sexual references.




(Literature) A Mastery of Mysteries
Maximum number of students: 25
Class dates: Wednesdays, January 11 to April 19, 2017. No class March 1 for Ash Wednesday and April 12 for Holy Week.
Total classes: 13
Starting time: Noon Eastern (11:00 Central; 10:00 Mountain; 9:00 Pacific)
Duration: 45 minutes
Prerequisite: None
Suggested grade level: 6th to 8th grade
Fee: $175 if you register on or before November 15, 2016. $195 if you register after Nov. 15 for all 13 classes.
Instructor: Kevin O’Brien
Course description: In this course, students will strive to become “mystery masters”!  We will read some of the greatest mystery stories of all time, including tales of detectives such as Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and mysteries by Christian writers such as Dorothy Sayers, G. K. Chesterton and others.  We will not only examine the structure and content of mystery stories, but also try our hand at writing our own short mysteries!  Plus mini-mysteries will be read and solved in every class session.  
Course outline (week by week):
  1. Introduction and Mini-Mysteries
  2. Sherlock Holmes - Part I
  3. Sherlock Holmes - Part II
  4. Father Brown - the Anti-Holmes
  5. Chesterton’s other Mysteries
  6. Agatha Christie - Part I
  7. Agatha Christie - Part II
  8. Dorothy Sayers
  9. Nancy Drew
  10. The Hardy Boys
  11. Mystery Dinner Theater
  12. Student Mysteries - Part I
  13. Student Mysteries - Part II
Course materials: Public domain mysteries will be provided by the instructor.  Each student will need Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers, The Mousetrap and Other Plays by Agatha Christie, and The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew).
Homework: Quizzes and Final Exam.  Students will be asked to write a final project mystery story.  Plan on about four hours of homework  - mostly reading - per week.




(Literature) Drama and the Human Spirit
Maximum number of students: 25
Class dates: Thursdays, January 12 to April 6, 2017
Total classes: 13
Starting time: 1:00 PM Eastern (Noon Central; 11:00 Mountain; 10:00 Pacific)
Duration: 55 minutes
Prerequisite: None
Suggested grade level: 9th to 12th grade
Suggested high school credit: 1 full semester Literature or English
Fee: $175 if you register on or before November 15, 2016. $195 if you register after Nov. 15 for all 13 classes.
Instructor: Kevin O’Brien
Course description: This is the High School version of our popular class for Middle School Students.  From its beginning in ancient Greece and from its inception in England in the context of the liturgy, drama has always been about man's relation to God (or "the gods"). This survey course will examine some of the great works of drama and comedy, focusing on how dramatic art grapples with the question of the meaning of life and the revelation of God in the human heart.  
Course outline (week by week):
  1. Ancient Greek Drama
  2. Classical Roman Drama
  3. Early Medieval Drama - Mystery, Miracle and Morality Plays
  4. Shakespeare - Tragedy - Macbeth
  5. Shakespeare - Comedy - Much Ado about Nothing
  6. Moliere - The Forced Marriage
  7. Commedia del Arte
  8. Restoration Drama
  9. Melodramas of the Early 19th Century
  10. Ibsen’s A Doll’s House
  11. George Bernard Shaw vs. G. K. Chesterton
  12. Theater of the Absurd
  13. American Theater and Course Review
Course materials: All materials will be provided as pdfs by the instructor.
Homework: Tests, Reading, Midterm and Final exams.  About three hours of homework per week.



(Speech) Speech and Communications
Maximum number of students: 25
Class dates: Wednesdays, January 11 to April 5, 2017. No class March 1 for Ash Wednesday
Total classes: 12
Starting time: Noon Eastern (11:00 Central; 10:00 Mountain; 9:00 Pacific)
Duration: 55 minutes
Prerequisite: None
Suggested grade level: 9th to 12th grade
Suggested high school credit: 1 full semester credit Speech or Communications
Fee: $175 if you register on or before November 15, 2016. $195 if you register after Nov. 15 for all 12 classes.
Instructor: Kevin O’Brien
Course description: Effective communications and good public speaking begins with an understanding of rhetoric - how a good argument is developed, how a good speech is structured, and how spoken communication differs from written communication.  In this course, we will examine the greatest speeches of the greatest orators in history, analyzing what they wrote and (when audio or video of their speeches exist) their style of delivery.  And while Speech and Communications is essential to success in the business world, it is also essential for understanding and presenting arguments in support of the Catholic Faith, or even for persuading others of anything that's important to you.  The goal of this course, then, is twofold - to learn to appreciate and analyze good verbal rhetoric, and to apply what we've learned to come up with our own short speeches that are engaging, entertaining and effective.
Course outline: Kevin – please adjust to reflect 12 instead of 13 weeks.
1. Introduction and Overview
2. The Great Orators of Greece and Rome
3. Public Speeches as Recounted in Scripture - The Prophets of the Old Testament and the Apostles of the New Testament
4. The Rhetorical Structure and Dramatic Effect of Speeches in Shakespeare (selections from Julius Caesar, Henry V, and Macbeth)
5. Religious Persuasion through the Ages - The Sermon on the Mount, Jonathan Edwards and the Puritans, Bishop Fulton Sheen
6. Speeches by Students - Delivered and Critiqued during Class
7. Speeches by Students - Delivered and Critiqued during Class
8. Great Political Speeches of the 18th and 19th Centuries - Patrick Henry, Jefferson, Wilbeforce, Lincoln
9.  Great Political Speeches of the 20th Century Part II - JFK, Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan
10. The Use of Humor and Oratory for American Pop Culture - Mark Twain, Will Rogers, etc.
11. Speeches by Students - Delivered and Critiqued during Class
12. Speeches by Students - Delivered and Critiqued during Class
Course materials: Will be provided by the instructor in the form of PDF’s and eBooks; videos and audio recordings of speeches will be reviewed during class time.
Homework: Weekly reading. Each student will be required to write two short speeches (no longer than five minutes each), with outlines to be approved by the instructor at least two weeks before the speech is to be presented.  About two hours of homework per week.