It’s the start of a new school year and many children and teenagers may have started a new school and almost all will be in a new class. with a different teacher. I am often asked by parents how they can support their child’s learning – so here are a few pointers.
See Education and Learning as Important
Children and young people are very good at picking up not just on what their parents say but also on their underlying attitudes. Your children need to know that you see their education as something that is important and of value, and that learning is given priority in the home. It’s sometimes hard after along day at work to then sacrifice half an hour watching TV so that you can help with the homework but apart form the practical support they receive from your input, your children are getting the message that YOU value education and you see their learning as something that is important. If time is set aside for them to get homework done, and be supported they get the idea that learning is a priority in the family. When children or young people watch you will they see that you like to learn, that you are interested in finding things our and learning new things? That too will help them see that learning is something that is of value.
Be Positive about their School
If we are honest no school is ever perfect all of the time. There are bound to be things that happen that you don’t agree with or situations that you think have not been handled well. Clearly there are times you may need to talk to the school about a particular issue. BUT if your child hears you complaining about their school or their teacher it will be hard for them to feel positive about school and that will have a negative impact on their learning. It’s okay to express your feelings but don’t do it in front of your child. If there are conflicts with the school then make an appointment to talk to the staff, or phone or email but don’t do it in front of the child. If the child is reporting problems to you about school it is important to listen but also make sure that you get both sides of the story – which will mean a discussion with the school. If over a period of time you feel that you really have no confidence in your child’s school, even after trying to resolve difficulties, then think about moving schools – a child will learn best when YOU as a parent have confidence in the school.
It is almost impossible to support your child or teenagers learning if you don’t know what they are doing, the topics they are working on, or the course they are taking, and how and when they will be assessed. Most schools have this information available on their website – and all schools should now have a website. If it isn’t or if you can’t find the information you are looking for, then contact the school. Schools want parents to be involved because it makes a huge difference to how well a child learns. The other source of information is of course the child or teenager. Have a dialogue every day about school – ask them what they have been doing – I know often they will shrug and say they don’t know or they can’t remember but it is important to ask anyway AND it is important that THEY know that YOU know what they are doing in school and when homework is due in and when tests will take place. It’s another way they see that you value education and that their learning is important. The same goes for attending events at school, information evenings, parents nights or other events – it can be difficult in busy times but we usually make time for the things we see as important so its another way your child sees that you think school and learning is important.
Support with Homework
It becomes much easier to support with homework when you know what they are studying and what their homework is, including when it should be handed in and how. Everyone has their own views about homework and the amount of homework students should be given but current guidelines are
That is quite an chunk of the time each day (school day) – especially when most children and young people also take part in out of school activities, football, dance, craft clubs, or music lessons to mention just a few. Clearly these activities are important as well AND children and young people need time to socialize with friends and to have some ‘downtime’.
As a parent if you value education- which is a broad term encompassing all different types of learning, make sure that children aren’t TOO busy. Within the home make sure there is a place where it is possible to do homework – their bedroom usually isn’t a good place until they are able to study independently and even then you need to check on what they actually doing. It can be the dining room or kitchen table but there needs to be some time when distractions stop so homework can start. Some homework could be done with the TV on BUT if homework is something that is seen as important in the house then turn it off to reduce distractions – it usually gets done much more quickly then anyway.
Another challenge for parents is being available to help but not taking over. Check that they understand what they have to do and let them get going but be available to answer questions. It’s a good idea to check it when its done and if they need to improve it a bit that’s the time to give a bit of input. We all like to achieve and it is really demoralizing for children an d teenagers if they have spent time doing homework not to get a good mark – it doesn’t mean doing it for them but giving suggestions is certainly okay.
Be Honest – Learn together
Schools and learning practices have changes a lot since many parents were themselves in school. If children, or more likely teenagers, ask things that you don’t know – be honest. You can’t know everything – if you pretend they will see straight through you and what message will you have given them then – that you shouldn’t admit what you don’t know? That simply isn’t helpful. Admit you don’t know but then find out – in fact researching it together can be good fun and again gives that message that learning is important.
Concentrate on the Basics
There is more about reading below but essentially children need to have a sound knowledge of the basics and be skilled in doing basic process so they can become confident learners. Things like being able to count well, knowing number bonds to 10 then 20, being comfortable with times tables – start with 2’s, 5’s and 10’s, – will help them feel confident as they go through school. So if it becomes apparent that they don’t know these and you can see they are meant to then give them help by doing extra practice at home. Other subjects are also important but making sure they grasp the basics of Maths and Reading will prevent them becoming discouraged.
Reading is central to many aspects of learning. Start reading to babies and toddlers then read with children as they learn to read BUT don’t stop, encourage older children to read by sharing stories or even reading the same book independently – i would recommend that every parent reads their teenagers GCSE texts. As a family have times when the TV is off and books or kindles are being read. IF at any point you notice your child is struggling with reading GET HELP. It usually doesn’t get better spontaneously and if they struggle with reading they will often struggle with many other aspects of school. Ask the school how they teach initial reading – if it is not a recognized synthetic phonics programme, like Sounds-Write find out why and and perhaps direct them to the confusion that can occur when mixed method teaching is used. If you wan to learn more yourself try following the links below.
For more info on the confusion teaching using different approaches can cause click here
For a good video explaining how confusing approaches other than a synthetic approach can be click here
And you can find out more about Sounds-write here
As a parent YOU will have a huge influence on how well your child does in school and on the attitude they have to learning and education so give them your best shot. Good Luck.
So once again the school holidays are upon us – for teachers that means a well earned rest, but for parents it can mean juggling work and child care and surviving holidays with children! For the children and young people it usually means a lot of freedom to do things they want and importantly have FUN.
Parents if you want to make sure that children keep learning while they are away from school click here for some ideas of holiday activities that will mean they will keep on learning.
However I know many parents can find holidays with children a stressful experience – so below are a few tips to help parents make sure the holidays are a relaxing and fun experience for them as well.
By this stage the holiday will be booked but you can still plan a few things to make sure both the travel and the holiday go smoothly. Whatever the mode of transport, planes, boats, trains or cars after the initial excitement children quickly become bored so make sure you pack some diversions. They don’t need to be expensive, comics, pens and notebooks, or small pocket money style toys can all help to pass the time. But make sure you keep them out of the way until they are needed so they are fresh and new when children need a diversion.
When you arrive at your destination the planning shouldn’t stop. Make sure each day you plan in some activities that will be particularly geared towards the children – as parents obviously you want to relax but it is much easier to do that when they have had some quality time with you and some child centred play. It is also worth doing some planning around meals out etc – tired children are never too happy and while late nights might be fun – it definitely doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to sleep later the next day as parents you know your children so don’t put yourself in situations where you know they’ll struggle – it simply wont help you to relax at all.
We can’t guarantee that children or indeed any of us will stay healthy but it is worth making sure you prevent what you can – mothing stresses apparent out more than a child who is ill or in pain. So make sure you pack sun cream, a first aid kit which includes a painkiller and an antihistamine and if the weather is hot make sure children drink plenty, wear sun cream and reapply regularly (which can be a struggle) and have plenty of breaks in the shade.
As with so many things your state of mind plays a part. If you anticipate problems and worry about them – they probably will happen! Try to be positive in your thoughts and your words. Often I lie on the beach listening to some parents and it is a constant stream of negatives ‘don’t’, ‘stop’ and ‘no’ for example. It is much better to keep language positive – instead of saying stop doing something tell them what they should be doing – for more information on positive language click here.
The key is to have fun – let your hair down and enjoy spending some quality time with children – they grow up surprisingly quickly and think of your holiday as a time to make some precious memories!!
Many year 1 children will have received the results of the phonics test. The mark is out of 40 and 32 is the mark considered a pass. A mark below this will mean that the child will be re screened next year.
Remember it is a screening check rather than a test. What we know is that children who score above 32 have a good grasp of phonics and are likely to go on to be effective readers and spellers. The purpose of the screening check is to identify those children who are may not progressing well and schools will be expected to offer them some additional support to help them to improve.
If your child has not achieve 32 out of 40 there may be a number of reasons for this, some to do with the individual child and some to do with the school and the method they use for teaching phonics.
IN terms of the child this could be an indication of a problem, perhaps they don’t hear well so can’t discriminate between the different sounds, perhaps they have missed quite a lot of school days due to illness, or maybe this in one of several other problems. As a parent make sure you discuss the result with your child’s teacher and if you want to know more about how you can help them with phonics just click here
But the reason could be to do with the school and the way phonics is being taught. Many schools use a systematic synthetic phonics programme like Sounds-Write which has been shown to be highly effective with several schools results of 95% plus – you can see for yourself here
As a parent you are quite within you rights to ask the school what the results were for the whole of year 1 in the school – that is how many of the children achieved 32 or more. You can also ask what method they use to teach phonics and then do some research- what do people say about it – is there evidence it is effective? If they say they use a mixed or eclectic approach I would ask further questions.
If children struggle with reading it is not long before they struggle to access any of the curriculum – if you are at all worried about your child and their reading, spelling or the results of the phonics screening check – please get in touch, help is available and the sooner your child can access this the better.
For any schools reading this either contact us to discuss training needs for your school or visit the Sounds-Write website by clicking here.
In education we talk a lot of aspirations – strongly desired goals or aims and in schools teachers are asked and expected to set aspirational targets for children. It is all about having dreams, not settling for what is easily achievable but striving for something that may at first seem unattainable.
It is all to easy to settle for staying within our comfort zone – that place where we don’t have to take risks or even try too hard. In essence there is nothing wrong with that if you are happy in that place but many people aren’t and with regard to children and learning we all know that if they are to fulfi potential it usually means getting out of that comfort zone and taking a few risks, try a few new things.
On a recent visit to Sydney I was very inspired by the tale of the Danish architect of the Sydney opera house – surely one of the world’s iconic buildings -John Utzon. He had never been to Australia or even seen Bennelong point the proposed site and in fact then he submitted the sketches the ‘engineering’ of the proposed structure had yet to be worked out. Although his was the winning design the actual building of it saw many challenges. But eventually, years later his dream was realised and what a legacy it is for the world.
But it only came about because of Utzon’s dream. He had an innovative idea based on much on the maritime work he had completed and I am sure there were a lot of ‘naysayers’ and at times I bet he had his doubts that his dreams would ever be realised. But they were! I am sure it took hard work, persistence, and perseverance but without the initial dream or aspiration it would never have happened.
If he hadn’t submitted his design as one of the 232 entrants because he thought he had no chnace of winning or because he had never seen the site it simply would never have been built.
So give yourself permission to dream and when you do – dream BIG – be aspirational for yourself – don’t focus on the obstacles focus on the possibilities.
We all know that for a car to run well we have to put in the right fuel. Happily I have not (yet) put the wrong kind of petrol in my car but I know others have and I know that it doesn’t just have an impact on performance but it can actually cause serious damage to the working of the engine.
So too with our bodies we know that to maintain a healthy body there are certain foods that are good for us and certain foods which aren’t quite so good. In many ways it is about balance, making sure that we have a diet that has enough of all the important food groups to keep us healthy while still enjoying a few ‘treats’ but making sure that the there’s not so many that it will damage our health.
WE understand how important food is to us for our physical health and how that ‘fuel’ can aid performance, athletes and their trainers work very hard making sure that they get the right kind of fuel to ensure that they are peak performance for events or competitions.
We also know that children whose bodies are growing at a very fast rate need a diet that is rich in protein and gives them what they need to maintain physical growth. IN addition to food they also need opportunities to practice, developing skills, they need space to run around in, they need opportunities to practise those emerging physical skills like climbing jumping, riding a bike swimming so it is not just food but the environment that is important as well.
With developing minds and emotions it is exactly the same, though sometimes we may pay less attention to those aspects than to the physical body. With minds that are growing and developing there needs also to be the opportunity for exercise, in the form of situations that challenge, we will all have heard the quotes that learning happens when we are at the edge of our comfort zone, and if we are not making mistakes then we are probably not learning. But to learn we also need the environment to be structured in a way that helps us to feel secure.
We wouldn’t expect a child to get on a bike and just ride. We structure the experience for them, by first riding a tricycle then a bicycle with stabilisers. When they are confident with that we remove the stabilisers but hold on to them running along beside them and giving lots of encouragement, and importantly being there to step in and pick them up if they do fall off.
The same is true of other aspects of learning, children need to feel secure, so start with something they know how to do and then introduce one new aspect, demonstrating how to do it or encouraging them to figure out some parts but providing some ‘clues’ along the way. Allow them to make mistakes but be there to clarify – the point is that you want them to be successful, that way they will see the learning as positive experience and one they will want to repeat.
Sadly lots of children, teenagers and adults have struggled with literacy in fact it is estimated that over 2 million adults in Britain are illiterate, often that is because they have not been taught in systematic way that has given them the tools they need to feel secure in their learning, introducing them to both the concepts and skills that they need to be effective readers. That is why systematic synthetic phonics programmes like Sounds-Write are now the recommended way of teaching reading and they are effective both as a primary reading strategy and as a ‘recovery’ strategy where for whatever reason learning to read has not been effective the first time around. You can find our more about Sounds-Write here http://www.sounds-write.co.uk/
As parents and as teachers we want to equip children to grow up and be well functioning happy adults and our schools are structured towards giving them the skills they need in order to do this though they may not always be effective in achieving this goal. In addition to physical skills, academic skills like reading, writing and Maths they also need to be able to function effectively emotionally. So they need opportunities to learn how to manage relationships, which is why children need ample time to play with peers and have lots of social experiences to develop different aspects of emotional well- being. Learning to make friends, cope with disappointment or being hurt, learn how to express anger appropriately, learn to show empathy and how to ‘read’ or interpret a myriad of social situations and respond appropriately – all important aspects of coping in life as an adult.
As parents most of us want to make sure our children get the right ‘food’ to enable them to grow but that means making sure they are given a whole host of learning opportunities in addition to school. Like a physical diet this should be mixed and include plenty of time for relaxation but also time for challenge – and be varied. In practical terms it means making sure that they can enjoy time watching television or playing on a play station or computer but also time reading, drawing, cooking and being creative as well as going out to parks, socialising with other children and adults and experiencing things like live music, sporting events or theatre, it doesn’t need to be expensive – a small local theatre company can be a very ‘rich’ experience but cost a fraction of the price of a ticket to a West end theatre production.
There are some superb quotes about children and learning and often the particular qualities of childhood they refer to, their thirst for knowledge, their spontaneity, their amazing ability to live in the moment are things we could do well to learn to hang onto as adults.
Thirst for Knowledge
As adults, we would probably all agree that knowledge is important, yet as the business of adult life increases it is very easy to run out of the necessary time, effort or inclination to continue learning ourselves. Yet what comes across whenever you read the biographies of great ‘achievers’ that they take learning seriously. They keep reading, keep studying, and remain open to learn from mentors. It’s worth asking yourself when you last devoted some time to learning yourself. Yes we need time to relax but recent evidence suggests that if we keep learning, particularly skills that involve a cognitive challenge, memory can be improved. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/learning-new-skills-keeps-an-aging-mind-sharp.html
“Anyone who stops learning is old. whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” Henry Ford
So don’t see it as a luxury we all need to invest in ourselves, and if there are children around then it will be inspiring for them to see that as a ‘grown up’ you value learning.
The dictionary defines spontaneous as ‘resulting from a natural impulse, natural and unconstrained’ or ‘growing without cultivation’.
Often there are good reasons why it gets harder to be spontaneous as we get older, after all we have responsibilities, jobs, perhaps family and other commitments. But there can be advantages to being spontaneous too. Think back to a day or outing that you particularly enjoyed, was it, or elements of it spontaneous? I have had some wonderful ‘planned’ evenings with friends but I can also remember some relay great times when a friend arrived unexpectedly and we decided spontaneously to have a meal, or go out, and somehow the fact that it was unexpected adds to the joy of it. Yes it may be a two sided coin, and if everything we did was spontaneous perhaps some of the ‘pleasure’ would be lost but being prepared to be spontaneous can help us have a flexile attitude to change, which might reduce stress, and help us keep mentally sharp.
Being in the moment
As adults we can easily slip into the habit of spending most of our time thinking either about the past, (oh that meeting didn’t go well, or I didn’t like the way they handled that situation) or the future (what will eat tonight, I wonder if the traffic home will be awful or even I must start buying the Christmas presents). Which means often we aren’t enjoying the present. Most people will have heard of mindfulness, which has been shown to reduce stress. It is a way of stopping and noticing the present. If you ‘d like to try some mindfulness exercises there are some in an article I wrote for success stories. Just follow the link below. http://successstory.com/inspiration/4-ways-to-fight-stress
Obviously as parents, step parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers and society as a whole we need to value our children, and their learning but we can also learn from them and their approach to life.
But as Dr Zeuss said
“Children want the same things we want. To laugh, to be challenged, to be entertained, and delighted.”
It’s also worth remembering that what children need, in many ways is just what we need, we may have finished ‘growing up’ but we still need to feel like we belong, to laugh and have time to relax and play.
Maybe we all need to practice being a bit childlike.
I find I must agree with this statement by Princess Diana – it seems to me that in many ways we have become intolerant as a society in ways that can be very damaging to individuals.
I was at a check out in a shop the other day when the rather elderly lady in front of me appeared to have lost her purse and took quite a while to find it. She was getting quite visibly stressed and although the sales assistant was being very patient I could hear plenty of tuts coming from the queue behind me. Some even moved to an alternative queue. I offered to help but at that moment triumphantly she found it paid and hurried away, almost forgetting her change, in an embarrassed fashion.
But we are all human and in a few years or decades time that might be us. My own view is that we all deserve to live in a society that can show kindness and tolerance. Yes she held everyone up but maybe for a minute or two at the most. Are we really so important, our time so valuable that we can’t even allow someone a very small amount of our time without becoming angry or impatient? After all those emotions are damaging for our own health as well as being a source of stress to others.
Tolerance, like kindness is something that we practise – and actually it will enhance our lives as well as those of others. So as we all rush about our days business let’s all be tolerant of those who are frail in some way, or for a huge variety of other reasons somehow don’t live life in the metaphorical fast lane. IN shops or restaurants, at doorways on the roads, when we are being served let’s try and show some kindness and empathy and lets be tolerant ourselves and intolerant of others who don’t show tolerance.
But then there are times when we need to be intolerant – for example where there is any kind of discrimination, humiliation or abuse of any kind. It’s easy to stay quiet when a racist joke is told but the attitude that fuels the joke can lead to a subtle and insidious acceptance that racism is okay. It isn’t, ever, under any circumstance. Neither is any sort of discrimination – because ultimately discrimination leads to hatred and surely no one wants to live in a society filled with hatred.
So the other side of the tolerant coin is that we should be intolerant of some things – that is right and proper.
Let’s make sure that we are tolerant but never tolerate intolerance!!
“There is a huge difference between being tolerant and tolerating intolerance.”
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
We all do it and we all know it doesn’t actually achieve much at all. There is a quote that says
“Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair – it gives you something to do but you doesn’t get you anywhere!” – well nowhere that’s positivethat’s for sure.
What worry does is to
So what on earth should we do about it – we all know it is very easy to SAY to others or ourselves ‘don’t worry’ but very hard to actually DO.
Here’s a 5 point plan to put an end to worry (if you want to!)
1. Verbalise specifically what it is you are worrying about – it is important to be really specific. The problem with our ‘worried’ thoughts is that they spread and that’s makes it hard to decide what exactly it is that we are worrying about. You can do this on your own but often it is helpful to chat to someone else about it
2. Think about the outcomes – a kind of ‘what’s the worst case scenario’ this helps you be even more specific about your worry – so for example is it that you don’t want to go for the interview because you hate interviews or is it that you really really need the job so you are worried that you won’t be successful. Getting clarity on the precise issue that is causing you to worry will help you bring it under control.
3. Take Action – if you can – so in the scenario above you could do some prep for the interview AND think about any other jobs you could apply for in case you aren’t successful. If there is no action you can take – perhaps it is an outcome beyond your control then go straight to the next step.
4. Manage your thoughts – we all know that if we try NOT to think about something – the upcoming interview for example – that is exactly what our thoughts keep coming back to – SO change that pattern. Set for yourself an alternative thought pathway and there are 2 options here –
EITHER simply think of something that is different and calming for you – for example imagine yourelf in a place of peace and happiness so choose a nice memory and every time you find your self thinking about ‘the interview’ or whatever switch to the memory – it takes effort at first but keep at it and you will find it gets easier.
OR think about the outcome YOU DO want – getting the job for example and put all your efforts into imagining and visualising what that would ‘look like’. Here try to be as detailed as possible really add the colour to your thoughts, imagine telling people about it, think about and imagine your first day in the new job, this is a rally good antidote to worry and this works even if you are worrying about someone else – just focus your thoughts on the positive – what would the GOOD outcome be rather than the negative which is usually what fills your head with worry.
5. Repeat the previous 4 steps – worry attracts worry so often you’ll feel like you’ve got one aspect under control then up pops another thing to worry about. So go through the steps again BUT if it keeps happening then actually you have probably got a mind set that is fuelling the worry – often worry stems from some of the subconscious fears and beliefs we have – so in the interview scenario a belief that you don’t deserve success or that you always mess things up. BUT even these deep seated mind sets CAN be changed. Scroll to previous blog post for details of a MIND SET WORKSHOP in November
You will notice that next to the title of the 5 point plan to put an end to worry – I put in brackets ‘if you want to’. Sadly like lots of things we can get into a bit of a habit so that worry becomes our default position – something is happening so e go into worry mode – or even nothing is worrying us and we worry about that. It sounds crazy but worry can become a bit like a comfort blanket – so you need to be prepared and want to let that go.
If you want to do away with worry it is possible – after all YOU are the only person who controls your thoughts.
Finally a few Quotes to think about
“Stop worrying about what can go wrong and get excited about what can go right!”
“Don’t think too much – you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place!”
“Worrying does not empty tomorrow of it’s troubles it empties today of it’s strength!”
Just to let you know about some courses that we’ll be running in the Bedford area in the next month or so
5th November 10am – 1pm MIND SET MAGIC
A half Day workshop where you will learn how your mind set can sabotage your success AND how to fix that
so if you want more success in your business or life BOOK YOUR PLACE NOW by sending an email to email@example.com
full venue details will be sent on booking.
Cost £50 – includes lunch and workbook
Short Sounds-Write Course
This 2 day Sounds-Write Course is designed for nursery or pre-school professionals OR parents.
On this course you will learn all about synthetic phonics and the theory and practice of teaching children to read, spell and write using Sounds-Write.
This course will be held at
St Marks Church and community Centre
on 13th and 20th November (both Fridays) from 9am – 4pm (approx)
The cost is £210 pounds this includes a resource manual and light refreshments but participant are asked to bring a packed lunch.
To book a place just email us firstname.lastname@example.org
4 Day Sounds-Write Course
This is a fully certificated course for school teachers, assistants and sometimes parents, which takes place over 4 days form 9am -4pm.
The cost of the course is £420 and includes a Sounds-Write manual packed with resources.
Provisional dates are November 12th, 19th, 26th and 3rd December (consecutive Thursdays)
Watch this space for venue details, or email us.
There is a lot of talk about ‘mind sets’ at the moment, and for good reason. Mind sets are simply what we believe in, what we see as true and these mind sets can have a great impact on our lives.
We often se it with children, they think they can’t do something so get all stressed when they need to ‘do it’ reading, maths, riding a bike and without a lot of encouragement they would easily fail again which of course would reinforce their belief that they can’t do it …..and so on.
But it doesn’t just apply to children – the wrong mind set can be responsible for holding back lots of adults in their business or personal lives.
Mind sets are often subconscious, in fact many people wouldn’t even know what their mind set was in relation to a particular area like money or success but it may well be preventing them from moving forward. Sometimes people will say they want to be successful in business for example but actually their mind set may be that they are pretty useless and will always fail, other people may want fulfilling relationships but actually their mind set is that they are unlovable and no one will ever want to be with them.
What happens is that the sub-conscious will cause us to self sabotage so no matter how much effort we put in we will rarely see the results we want -UNTIL we sort out the mind set.
If you want to experience greater success and fulfilment in your life then there are some key mind sets to sort out – you can read about them by following the link below.
Life is precious and it’s easy to let weeks, months or years drift by struggling against mind sets that will limit you – so take action today