Posted in Mental Health, school closures, Uncategorized

Coming Out Of Lockdown – 120 days later….

Hello!  Yes, I’m still here.  Just.

It feels very, very strange to be back in front of a screen as The Homework Fairy Godmother.  And I’m not here with advice, or any hints and tips today.  I wanted to share our journey through lockdown and beyond and how it’s affected us.  And it’s not been a pleasant ride.

It’s been 120 days since The Teen was last at school.  It’s been 118 days since The Tween was last at school.  We’ve navigated the troubled waters of online learning through this time and it has been a rough crossing.

Right at the beginning, I was confident I had home-learning IN THE BAG.  I knew this stuff.  I taught this stuff.  Time away from face-to-face tutoring was going to hit my finances, sure, but just THINK of all the online content I could produce, and I could teach via Zoom, right?  I could improve my fitness (hello, PE with Joe and Yoga with Adriene!) and I could teach the kids SOOOOOO many life skills.  The garden was going to be a sanctuary.  The house would get decorated.  This was going to be the time we’d REALLY come together as a family – good food, lots of family activities, online learning, everything was going to be UTTERLY BRILLIANT.

And for the first couple of weeks it was. 

Then I discovered that teaching via Zoom was horribly uncomfortable and almost impossible for me to do effectively.  I had lots of enquiries, and I gave it a good go, but it simply didn’t work for me, or the kids I tried to work with.  It didn’t fit with my teaching style, and I hated it. 

I’ve battled anxiety and depression for many years and I never seem to remember that upheaval and uncertainty are the biggest triggers for mental health issues for me.  I stopped sleeping well.  Getting through the days became like swimming through treacle.  All my energy went into supporting The Teen and Tween through their online tasks.  And they struggled too:  the sheer volume of work paralysed them both, and I would sit on Sunday night and at the crack of dawn Monday going through ALL the Teen’s work and a lot of The Tween’s organising and breaking it down into tasks.  They are both autistic, and although their academic ability is generally either at, above, or in some areas, way above their peers, their executive function (the ability to prioritise and organise their lives and work) is a very long way below.  This means that they can be willing to do the work, but completely in the dark on where to start, or if what they are doing is correct. 

Often, it would take an hour or two before they could produce anything meaningful.  The Teen settled in eventually, although he needed to talk through all his English Lit essays with me before he could write them, and then he needed me to read them and suggest improvements before he was able to hand them in without massive anxiety.

Some subjects seemed more accessible than others.  History and Geography were difficult – masses of Google slides to read through, and lots of research, which sent them down rabbit holes and off on tangents without a teacher there to guide them.  The Tween refused point blank to do any French after the fifth week, stating that she didn’t see the point of learning it.  I caved immediately (my French is appalling, anyway, so I was very little help) and informed her teacher.  Maths and Science were done through MyMaths and Educake, and this was a great success with both kids!  They Googled what they didn’t know, and the repetition in the questions really helped their understanding.  The Tween loved her Art homework, which she would spend hours on, and The Teen did the same with his IT homework. The school has been amazing, especially their form tutors, who rang weekly to see how they were.

We managed to get out for a walk most days, after an hour or so of procrastinating.  We baked nearly every day.  They began staying up later, and getting up later.  We put rules in place – they had a set bed time for school nights, but Fridays and Saturdays they stayed up often until midnight (or later).  It was less stressful for all of us – I got time in the morning to try and catch up with housework and organising their work, and they got time in their rooms without interruption doing their own thing (which normally involved online games and chatting to friends via WhatsApp).   The Teen often struggled to sleep, and had occasional night terrors, something he hadn’t suffered from since he was nine.  The Tween’s food choices dwindled – she stopped wanting to eat many foods she’d liked before lockdown and lived off toast, yoghurt, apples, grapes, the odd bit of chicken, ham and bacon.  Both began to hate baths and showers – I had to nag them to get clean and dressed.

Pretty soon days merged into each other.  I cooked, cleaned, fretted over things I couldn’t change, worried about the schoolwork, and became more anxious.  I’ve been here before, and I knew (in my head) that this was a completely normal and natural response to an unprecedented situation. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was failing.   I’d set myself a completely unrealistic goal and it had backfired spectacularly.  My only relief was sitting down in the evening, crochet hook in hand, creating a soft, squidgy crochet blanket.  I’d fall asleep sometime past ten, waking five or six times in the night, crawling out of bed and doing it again and again.

Finally, the end was in sight – last week I took the decision that it would be the end of term for us last Friday, even though they officially had four more days to go.  And it has been as if a weight is lifted.  The Teen has slept ten hours or more a night.  The Tween has started writing a book.  And I’m starting to be The Homework Fairy Godmother again.

Why am I telling you this?  Well, I hope that this makes YOU feel better about your homeschooling journey.  And that you’re not a failure if you haven’t managed to make sourdough bread, or learn a new language, or keep up with a fitness routine or the washing up.  You’re not alone if you’ve struggled to get or keep your children engaged in educational activities.  And you’re certainly not alone if you, too, have fought mental health struggles during this time.

Give yourself a break.  Have a cuppa, and make sure that you tell yourself you’re awesome to have got through this.  Whatever your situation, whatever you’ve faced – I’m proud of you.

Wishing you a week of peace and calm, my lovelies.

Posted in Mental Health, school closures

Five Things to Help When Home-Ed goes Tits Up

I get it.  That first week of school closures was a pleasant surprise for some of us.  Our Superstars were excited to get on with homework!  Some couldn’t wait to log on to Google Classroom, or Purple Mash, or SeeSaw – or dive into the pile of worksheets.

They were excited to spend time with us – bouncing along to PE with Joe, happily helping us in the kitchen, even enthusiastically doing chores!

(OK, that last one might be a stretch!)

And then… everything changed. 

You were left doing PE with Joe alone.

Getting school work done required nagging, and even then it was half-hearted. 

You’ve started wondering what on earth you’re doing wrong! 

This is perfectly natural.  Let me repeat that.

THIS IS COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY NATURAL!

This current situation is a traumatic experience for everyone, children included. We are experiencing grief – grief for the way life was, grief as we miss friends and family, and for some of us, grief for the loss of loved ones from this awful virus.

Some children react to trauma immediately.  Trauma responses may be irritability, anger, being weepy, being withdrawn.  Wanting to be with you constantly, or wanting to be alone.  Being unable to focus.  Feeling apathetic and lethargic, or hyperactive and unable to keep still.  Nightmares and night terrors.  Being unable to sleep,  or wanting to sleep a lot.  Spending hours on devices.

Others have a delayed response – occurring days, weeks, maybe months or years later.  Very few don’t react at all.  Responses will often come and go – one minute they seem absolutely fine, then all of a sudden they’re not.

DON’T feel as though it is your fault – it isn’t!  (You may be experiencing a similar response to this too.)

There is no one-size-fits-all response to trauma, and there is no global solution to it either. 

But here’s FIVE things that can help:

Go with the flow

Be prepared to change routines, or to drop them completely from time to time.  Or be prepared to stick rigidly to a routine if that is what your child is more comfortable with. 

Validate their feelings

They aren’t daft, these Superstars of ours.  They are picking up on our emotions constantly, and will often reflect those back at us.  Be mindful of their feelings – now is the time to reassure them, rather than dismiss fears.  If your child is worried about you becoming ill, then acknowledge that this is possible, but that you are doing all you can to minimise any risk to yourself.  A fear acknowledged and shared is unlikely to magnify and become catastrophic.  And be prepared to do this more than once!

Don’t compare

Don’t compare how your Superstar is doing to another Superstar – even in the same family.  The Teen is coping admirably, The Tween isn’t.  She needs much, much more support than her big brother RIGHT NOW.  (Of course, this could change at any time!).  Don’t compare how your family is doing to any families on social media.  Remember – social media LIES BIG TIME!  You only get to see the best bits! 

You are not their teacher

You are their parent/carer.  You are their support system, the person they come to in a crisis.  You are their HOME.  Yes, they learn lots from you all their life, but you are not their teacher for formal schooling.  So if they simply don’t want you to help them, or get frustrated with you, understand that you are their safe space.  This is really, really important!  You are keeping them safe at home.  THAT’S more important than teaching them how to work out percentages!

Let shit go

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – and if you’re really unlucky, I’ll sing it with actions in an Elsa costume.  LET IT GO!  Get rid of the expectations and work WITH your child when they are struggling with their emotions – even if that means not keeping to a rigid schedule.  If they want to bake buns instead of completing a science project, watch The Trolls for the twentieth time instead of all the educational online lessons that are available – it’s ok.  When they are in the midst of a trauma response, be their safe space.  Their comfort zone.  Their life-line.  You are not alone – children all over the world right now are going through the same thing.

Remember – shout out if you need anything!  We are all in this parenting lark together!

Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay sane, my lovelies!

Posted in Key Stage 2 Support, Mental Health, school closures, Uncategorized

School’s out – Now what?

I’m going to start by quoting one of my very favourite authors, Douglas Adams.

Right now, across the UK, there are hundreds of thousands of households in the same boat.

Me included.

And suddenly we feel responsible for continuing our children’s education for an indeterminate amount of time. Along with all the other responsibilities.

So here’s a five point plan to help.

You are not your child’s school.

Home is their safe space, their sanctuary. Don’t think about setting up at the dining room table with a shit-load of printed out worksheets and keeping them there from 9.00am to 3.00pm. I guarantee you’ll be at each other’s throats by 10.15 (if it lasts that long!)

All our children, however much they are bouncing around in excitement at the thought of no school, are going to be unsettled, anxious, and bewildered by this unprecedented announcement.

You are likely to see behaviour differences, whether that means challenging behaviour, crying, clinging, arguing, over-excitement. Children thrive on routine and we are so far out of normal routine that it can send them slightly loopy. You are the person that they feel comfortable being a pain in the arse to – try and take this as a compliment (however hard that feels!)

Give them time to de-stress. Give them time on electronics (often that is a tool they use to de-stress anyway!) They may sleep more, they may sleep less. They will need the reassurance that you are there for them. A LOT.

Find a routine.

Try and keep to routine bedtimes and getting up times. For The Teen and Tween, this means shifting their hours slightly because both of them feel better getting up a bit later, and going to bed a bit later than we normally do on a school day. But we’ll stick to those times because BOUNDARIES and ROUTINES feel safe. (Yes, they will argue about it. No, I won’t give in. Yes, this will make them feel safe. No, they’ll never admit it.)

Check out any homework packs your child has been given and see if you can sort it into small amounts to be done each day. SMALL being the operative word – unless you have a child that absolutely LOVES worksheets and whatever projects are in there, in which case let them dive right in if that makes them feel good.

Older children may be set work on Google Classrooms, or other online learning (this will probably be for kids in high school). Get them to have a look at what they need to do once a day – I’m the mother of a procrastinator who would worry about what needs to do so much that if she left it a few days the anxiety will make it too stressful to even look at.

Ask for help if any of the work set by the school baffles you and your child! You can always email or message me – on Facebook or on Instagram – I will be happy to help! Or put a shout-out on social media (I’ve seen hundreds of teachers share an offer to help with every single subject!) And Google is your friend too! Try not to get frustrated if you haven’t got a clue how to help them, as this will probably make them frustrated too.

Get outside.

So they can’t meet up with friends or hang around in playgrounds right now, but physical exercise releases those feel-good endorphins. Get outside into a wide open space. You’ll both get exercise, your bodies will make Vitamin D, and it’s great for your mental health too. The National Trust are opening all their parks and grounds FOR FREE right now – a great time to go!

Limit exposure to news.

I’ve started limiting my exposure to watching the daily briefings from the Government. Even that is stressful, but having BBC News on in the background continuously is threatening my mental health. And it’s often worse for our children, who take everything that they hear from adults as COMPLETE FACT – they generally can’t recognise speculation.

Talk to them about it calmly. (Remember, they are looking to YOU to see how to react.) Answer any questions, or try to find out the answers together. Watch Newsround. Brush up on your acting skills if you can and stay upbeat.

Let Shit Go.

For ALL of our kids SOME of the time, and for SOME of our kids ALL of the time, doing set schoolwork will be too stressful. Now’s the chance to do something completely different. Get crafting or making art. Baking or cooking. Decorate a room. Plant seeds or tend a garden. Take photos. Write a journal. Read absolutely anything. Facetime friends and relatives. Learn to sew, knit, crochet. Play games together (yes, I’m including video games in this!) Take naps. Dance. Sing. Play music. Watch a film. Watch make-up and hair tutorials. Coding tutorials are The Teen’s lifeblood, apparently.

All of these things involve LEARNING. (Not that they will notice!)

You could expand this if you wanted – for example, baking could involve maths (measuring the ingredients, working with units of measurement, calculating times in the oven, calculating costs), English (reading the recipe, writing their own version down, following instructions, reading ingredient packaging), gross and fine motor skills (stirring, holding, lifting, pouring) and life skills (washing up. ‘Nuff said.)

I’ll be popping into my Facebook page and Instagram to waffle on LIVE on a regular basis, so please join me over there too!

My lovelies, this is going to be hard, but you are utterly awesome and you – and your Superstars – will get through this. Sending ALL of my love at this time.

Posted in bullying, Key Stage 2 Support, Mental Health, Uncategorized

What to do if your child is being bullied

It is utterly gut-wrenching to discover that your child has been targeted by a bully. You can feel completely helpless – and incredibly angry. It’s pretty much the one thing that can make the mildest mannered parent turn in to a raging bull. It’s extremely tempting to storm into school all guns blazing and yelling blue murder.

I know, I’ve been there at times with both The Teen and The Tween!

But we all know that angry confrontation is unlikely to solve the problem – so here is my guide to dealing with bullying in (and out) of school.

Listen, Listen, Listen!

Let your child talk. However tempting it is to jump in with possible solutions, they may have been bottling this up for a while and getting it all out into the open can be a great relief. Ask them if they have any ideas of how you can help. Ask them if they are happy for you to help – sometimes children feel that getting you involved will make the situation worse. Stay calm!

Gather evidence

Keep a diary of any incidents. Write down everything that your child tells you about the incident. If your child is being bullied on social media – take screen shots (messages may be deleted by the sender in certain apps, and in others, like SnapChat, they disappear after a certain amount of time). Take down names of both the perpetrators and any witnesses.

Check your school’s anti-bullying policy

Every state school in the UK is legally obliged to have a policy regarding bullying – check what your school promises to do. You can always refer to this when doing the next step…

Talk to your child’s teacher

Keep as calm as possible, and present the evidence that you’ve collected. Ask if they are aware of the situation – if so, what actions have been taken so far? If not – what actions will be taken by the school to adress the issue?

Follow up the meeting by an email or message!

Many schools have a messaging app now, like ClassTing, Bloomz, ParentSquare etc to enable you to direct message your child’s teacher. If not, an email to the school’s email address for the attention of the teacher is also good. Message your child’s teacher summarising what has been discussed and what actions were agreed – it is helpful to have a record of all contact with the school in case the situation isn’t resolved, and needs to be escalated. Keep a printed copy if possible!

Head up the pay scale!

If things are not resolved and your child is still experiencing bullying, request a meeting with the Head Teacher and the DSL – Designated Safeguarding Lead. All schools MUST have a DSL as part of their Safeguarding policy. As before, take all the evidence you have gathered and any written communication that you have sent to or received from the class teacher. Remember that schools have what is called a Duty of Care to make sure your child has safe access to learning – and bullying makes this access to education UNSAFE.

Again, follow up any meetings with an email or message summarising the meeting and what actions have been agreed on.

If your child has been targeted because of their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or disability, the Equality Act 2010 means that people cannot treat your child in a way that violates their dignity, or creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment – this is considered discrimination under the act. This is extremely serious – bring this up in any meetings if any hate-speech with regards to these issues has been aimed at your child.

Still not sorted? Contact the Chair of Governers

At this point, it’s time to contact the Chair of Governers. The school will have the name and contact details of all the governers, and you can write to them (again, this is where your evidence and records of all meetings and contact with the school is useful) and insist on an investigation. Make sure you give a time frame as to when you wish to hear back from them.

If all else fails…

Contact your local education authority.

You can make a formal complaint about the school through your local education authority.

If your child is continuing to experience physical assaults and threats, contact the police and report it.

I hope that helps! If you have any advice you’d like to add, I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below, or (as always!) you can find me on Facebook, Instagram, or join our lovely Supporting Superstar Students Facebook group for LOADS of hints, tips, resources and advice about navigating those Key Stage Two years!

Posted in reading, Uncategorized

Reading levels – Numbers and colours and bands, oh my!

We’re into the first term of the new school year and pretty soon your Superstar Student will come traipsing home with a new reading book, if they haven’t already!

You may find the book is colour-coded, or it might have a number on it, like 1.5 or 6.3. These relate to the book’s technical difficulty, length, and age-appropriate interest.

The trouble is, there are lots of different reading schemes in schools!

In lower years, you will probably come across the Oxford Reading Tree, and you can find a guide to the levels and their general reading age guides HERE. Prepare to spend lots of time with Biff, Chip and Kipper!

You might also see Collins Big Cat books – you can find a comprehensive guide to what each level involves HERE. Note that this doesn’t give a general reading age.

Another common reading scheme is Bug Club. This scheme has both printed books available for Reception to Year 6, but it also has online books, which have a little bug face within each book that a child has to click and answer a question on that part of the book. If your school uses Bug Club, your child might get sent home with a user name and password to read books online at home.

Many primary schools in the UK have now adopted the Accelerated Reader system, which is where it seems a little more complicated. Accelerated Reader doesn’t have a set of books, but is based on the analysis of many thousands of different books – from Harry Potter to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, chances are that your child can find one of their favourite books in there! Each book is analysed for sentence length, sentence structure and complexity, word count and word difficulty. The book is then given a level – anywhere between 0.1 to 13.5! This level does NOT equate to reading age, so don’t panic if your seven-year-old comes home with a book marked 2.8!

Accelerated Reader is based on two testing levels – an initial online comprehension test, which will give a number range (called the ZPD – Zone of Proximal Development, which gives a guide as to which books would be a suitable challenge for each child) that your child should be given. For example, your child might be given a ZPD of 2.9- 4.0. This enables your child to choose books within this range and be confident that they can read them without a struggle – and also without them being far too easy!

Secondly, each child completes a comprehension multiple choice test on EACH book they read. Scoring 85% or above shows that the text has been understood. These comprehension tests are also taken at school, like the initial online test to assess the ZPD levels (mainly to stop us, as parents, helping with the answers!)

The results of both of these test types are analysed and reports are generated for your child’s teacher to monitor.

Things to look for: If your child is consistently getting 100% in the end of book comprehension, they are finding the books easy and may need to look to a higher level book for a greater challenge. If they are consistently getting much lower than 85% – encourage them to try a lower level book in their ZPD range.

For us as parents, for our Superstars to get the most out of any reading scheme, it’s best to try and read little and often (of course, if you’ve got a bookworm who loves to read every spare minute, that’s great too!) Try and find a time that is suitable for YOUR child – it might be last thing at night, straight after school, after dinner, early in the morning – and get into a routine if possible!

For an added incentive, why not download these FREE reading record bookmarks? There are spaces for you to add stickers, stamps, the date, whatever you like to mark when your Superstars have read. You can find them HERE!

If you’ve got a question about reading levels, or anything else about school for your Key Stage Two child, feel free to drop in to my Instagram or Facebook page, or why not join our Supporting Superstar Students FREE Facebook Group? Of course, you can always add a comment below, or email me – thehomeworkfairygodmother@gmail.com – happy to help in any way I can!

Happy reading!

Posted in Uncategorized

When Growth Mindset = Utter Bollocks

Yes, I’ve gone all sweary. I’m not apologising.

Let’s get something out of the way. I’m a huge fan of having a growth mindset. It’s amazing. (I don’t actually have one, but I’m working on it.)

What it is: resilience. It’s picking yourself up, dusting yourself down, looking at what just happened and learning from it. It’s analysing what you’ve done to shape what you try next. It’s appreciating what you’ve achieved without comparing yourself to others. It’s building on that achievement, using that knowledge to go the next step.

What it isn’t: believing that you can do anything you set your mind to.

It doesn’t matter how hard I try, how focused and single-minded I am, I am never going to be an astronaut. I’m 50, I have menopausal brain-fog, I don’t have the qualifications and I get horribly travel sick unless I’m driving.

Yet I see our kids being told that if they only work harder, they can be THE BEST. They can be ANYTHING they WANT to be.

That ain’t necessarily so, to quote the song. And so we have lots of malleable minds that can react to this in a variety of ways:

  • Some become high achievers but fall apart the first time they don’t get top marks in a test.
  • Some don’t try at all because the focus is all about comparing their achievements to others.
  • Some blame themselves and develop rather nasty self-esteem issues if they don’t come top however hard they try.

What can we do to encourage our kids to try their best, without emphasising achievement?

  • Praise the effort. Think about saying “I’m proud of you for reading your book tonight/starting your homework/cleaning your plate/tidying your room.” Even when they’ve come top in a test – “I’m proud of you for working hard.”
  • Avoid talking about next time – so don’t say “Oh well, next time you’ll do better/read more/do your homework in one go/keep your room tidy.” Keep the focus on the effort that has happened THIS TIME.
  • Lead by example (this is the one I find difficult!) Instead of seeing (and saying) how much you haven’t done – “I’ve still got all this work/washing/decorating/gardening/cleaning to do, ” say “I’m really proud of myself – I’ve got this, this and this done today!”
  • Encourage their interests – whether it’s coding, like The Teen, drawing (The Tween), sports, music etc, they probably have far more of a growth mindset around things they love to do. Praise them for all the practice they do and their effort in JUST THE SAME WAY as you praise the effort for the things they might not be as keen on – homework, for example!
  • Aiming high is fantastic – but keeping lots of options open is even better. They might not end up being a Premier League footballer, but they might use their skills in teaching others their favourite sport.
  • Show them that failure isn’t the end – I burnt a batch of cookies this week and resisted getting cross – I just made sure I put the timer on for the next batch!

What do you think? I’d love to know! Pop a comment below, or you can always find me on Facebook and the ‘Gram!

Keep growing, lovelies!

Posted in Key Stage 2 Support

Are you a Superstar Student Supporter?

Are you a parent or carer of a child in, or going in to Year 3 to 6? Are you a terrific teaching assistant (TA stands for Totally Awesome, by the way!) working in Key Stage 2?

Then you’re a Superstar Student Supporter!

All our kids deserve to get the best education support possible to help them achieve their potential throughout their school career. And that’s not easy in the age of austerity, government cuts, local authority shortfalls, larger class sizes, poorly supported SEN integration, more rigorous curriculums and over-worked teachers.

I’ve created the Supporting Superstar Students group over on Facebook to give everyone who lives with, loves, supports or works with Key Stage 2 children a safe place to access unique resources, get news and views, connect with other like-minded people and learn more about what our kids are being taught in Key Stage 2.

Come on over and join us!

www.facebook.com/groups/supportingsuperstarstudents

Posted in science

Science Geek Alert! Partial Lunar Eclipse TONIGHT!

I’ve been fascinated by space, the moon, our Solar System and all things Not Of This World since I was a little girl who created a travel agent shop in her bedroom selling trips to other planets!

You’ll find me outside tonight with the camera trying to catch shots of the partial lunar eclipse that should be visible from the UK tonight. If there’s a break in the clouds, of course!

Smithsonian Institution

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth is between the sun and the moon – the moon is in the Earth’s shadow. A full lunar eclipse happens when the full moon is completely in the Earth’s shadow – and tonight’s full moon will only be partially in the Earth’s shadow, so only part of the moon will be affected.

Unlike a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse happens over several hours. Tonight it should be at it’s deepest – around 65% in shadow – at approximately 10.30pm, but you should be able to see the effect half an hour either side of this! (so don’t panic if you can’t see it through the clouds at first!)

Credit: Greg Smye-Rumsby / Astronomy Now

You won’t be able to see it all over the world – this shows where in the world you CAN see it! Clouds permitting, of course!

Image credit: NASA/Fred Espenak

And if the clouds DO bugger up my chance of seeing it, there’s always live stream from the Royal Museums Greenwich Facebook page!

With impeccable timing, this eclipse coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission which put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.

Boggle your kids’ minds with these facts about going to the moon!

  • Only TWELVE people have ever walked on the moon – all men!
  • Nobody has walked on the moon during more than one mission
  • The last time anyone walked on the moon was in December 1972
  • Only FOUR men who walked on the moon are still alive today
  • They are all in their eighties
  • The successful missions to the moon were called Apollo 11, Apollo 12, Apollo 14, Apollo 15, Apollo 16 and Apollo 17.
  • Apollo 13 was supposed to land on the moon but due to an explosion in an oxygen tank, it was unable to. Fortunately, the crew were able to return to Earth safely, although it was a very close thing!

I’m all excited! Can you tell?

Posted in holiday, Maths, reading, times tables, Uncategorized

Beating the Summer Slide!

Who doesn’t love a good slide? Even The Teen can be persuaded to let go of the grimace that often accompanies Forced Family Fun if there’s some messing around on slides to be found. But what the heck is the ‘summer slide’?

Unfortunately, the summer slide isn’t a whole heap of fun. It’s the term that refers to the loss of learned skills during the summer holidays. It’s been studied extensively in the USA, where children often have as much as twelve weeks of holidays during the summer months, where studies showed that ALL the children studied lost maths skills equating to 1.8 months of study and spelling skills were set back almost 4 months!

There has been much less research into this learning loss in the UK; however a study in 2016 tested children aged 5-10 in three schools in spelling and word-reading at the end of the summer term, the beginning of the autumn term and seven weeks into the autumn term. Whilst word-reading (individual words only) didn’t deteriorate, spelling did!

Maths skills weren’t tested in this study, but I do know that The Tween easily forgets some maths skills (if you don’t use it, you lose it!)

You don’t have to make the summer holidays school-like to combat the summer slide. I’m a firm believer that our kids NEED the down-time the holidays provide. Keeping our munchkins’ brains active doesn’t mean thrusting a pencil and paper at them and tying them to the kitchen table filling in worksheets!

Here’s a few ways to keep those brains ticking over during the summer holidays!

Reading

  • UK libraries run great reading challenges every summer, with posters, stickers, bookmarks and rewards to collect. And it’s free to join in and borrow the books! Pop into your local library or click HERE to find out more.
  • Reading isn’t just about books. Magazines, newspapers, graphic novels, maps, recipes, instruction manuals – that’s all reading. The Tween loves singing karaoke – she’s reading the lyrics!
  • Reading doesn’t even have to involve words on a page or screen – listening to audio books is fantastic as well (and something I recommend to my students with dyslexia – this often enables them to access texts that they find hard to read in book-form.) And if you have the time, reading TO your kids is just as fantastic for their learning when they are competent readers as when they are toddlers. Sharing books YOU love is a great way of inspiring a love of reading in them too.

Maths

  • Keep practicing or learning times tables! When I’m asked what’s the MOST important thing a child can work on in maths my answer is always times tables. And it doesn’t have to be incredibly tedious – check out my post HERE on different ways to learn times tables and click HERE to find free downloads of times tables fortune tellers, and HERE for the division facts fortune tellers!
  • Get cooking or baking – following a recipe is FABULOUS for maths skills. From working out whether you’ve got enough ingredients to measuring skills, it’s fabulous. And if you’re anything like The Teen, you can use your multiplying skills to make double the amount of Triple Chocolate Brownies!
  • Use comparison skills when shopping – for example, what’s the best teabag bargain? Supermarkets often put the cost per 100g on shelf labels, so your kids can compare different sizes or brands to find the best bargain.
  • Grab a tape measure and start measuring things – how tall are plants in the garden, how long is the dog’s tail, who can make the tallest pile out of bricks! Can they tell you the answer in centimetres? How about in millimetres? Or metres?

Here’s wishing you and your Superstar Students an AMAZING summer holidays!

Photo by Bruce Warrington on Unsplash

Posted in Maths, times tables

Times Tables – once you got ’em, you GOT ’em!

It’s Sunday night, and The Tween and I were having a long and involved chat about STUFF, as you do when you’re a Tween, it’s Sunday night and you know that the longer you keep mum talking, the later your bedtime is.

We were talking about maths, which is one of my favourite subjects and one of her least favourite ones, and specifically about learning times tables.

“I’m good with all times tables except my sevens and nines,” she announced. “I can’t get the hang of them. I’ve got a mental block. I’ve got a gap in my brain where they should be. My brain simply can’t do them.”

Challenge accepted.

“I bet you can learn your 7 times tables in less than half an hour,” I said. She still insisted there was no way she could do it. Mental block. Lack of brain ability.

“Look, I bet you a quid you can. You do it, I pay you a pound. If you can’t, you pay me. I bet you already know most of it.” Bribery is a common parenting technique in this house, because it works well and involves less arguing. Don’t judge me.

Turns out she already knew 1 x 7 = 7, and 2 x 7 = 14. (“Duh, mother, I’m not STUPID.”)

So for a minute I grilled her over and over – “What’s one times seven? What’s two times seven?”

And then I said, “You know what three times seven is? Twenty one.” And grilled her over and over for another minute, asking her randomly what 1 x 7 is, 2 x 7 and 3 x 7.

I repeated this adding 4 x 7 = 28 into the mix. She knew what 5 x 7 was, so that was added in really quickly, and turns out she knew what 6 x 7 was (“The answer to Life, the Universe and Everything!” – yes, we are Douglas Adams fans in this house!) AND what 7 x 7 was.

Eventually I was randomly asking her ALL the multiplication questions for her seven times tables. If she got it wrong, I didn’t correct her, I just paused, while she tried again.

After fifteen minutes, I asked her to tell me her 7 times table.

Big deep breath. Eyes up to the ceiling, concentrating…. “Seven, fourteen, twenty-one, twenty-eight, thirty-five, forty-two, forty-nine, fifty-six, sixty-three, seventy, seventy-seven… EIGHTY-FOUR-YOU-OWE-ME-A-POUND!”

Even she conceded that she was surprised she managed it so quickly. Of course, this is still bedtime, and OF COURSE she had to prove she could do it again by reciting it to The Hubster, The Teen, both cats individually and finally me again before eventually getting into bed.

It was worth the pound. AND the £1.50 when she learned the nine times tables the following evening (“It’s called inflation, mother.”)

This is just one of the techniques I’ve used to teach times tables, and it happens to work well with The Tween (and The Teen before her, who never required bribing or mentioning inflation. EVER.), but that doesn’t mean all of our Superstars learn this way! Check out this blog post HERE for more ideas to help get those times tables into brains!

Have a fine Wednesday, lovely people!

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash