What do you mean you need to make a model of the solar system and it is due in tomorrow?!

The Scene: An ordinary suburban kitchen around 4pm the Sunday before school reopens after half term…

The Characters: First we have Mum, who has just sat down with a cup of tea and is inwardly congratulating herself on being fully prepared for the first day back to school – all uniform washed and ironed – all bags packed – all school shoes present and correct.

Then we have The Boy – who without taking his eyes off the PlayStation screen announces – ‘Oh, I just remembered – I was supposed to make a model of the solar system over half term – it’s due in tomorrow’.

The ensuing panic is something most parents will experience at some point during their child’s school days. The hastily cobbled together project, then usually in truth, involves the parents hurriedly making and child simply observing. The end result is a learning opportunity wasted. Parents working or looking after younger siblings and the demands from school ever increasing can make keeping track of the to do list seem like a full time job in itself.

Communicating about homework projects, announcements about events or reminders about dress up days and charity events can be one of the trickiest issues parents and schools face. It would seem ridiculous that in our constantly connected world the message that little Freddie needs to come dressed as a Roman Soldier this Friday can still fail to get through. Most schools have a weekly newsletter and a Facebook Group, a school website and even a text messaging system, but there will always be the ones who miss the message, myself included. We’re lucky if there is a super organised parent who will do his or her best to ensure that everyone is up to speed.

As a parent I’d like a little bit more warning sometimes of the need to turn a sheet into a Toga. Involving parents in medium term planning is something which some schools do – an outline of what is being covered that term and any key dates and projects given in advance can be a godsend for busy parents.

I miss the days of the printed school newsletter and the simple system I used to have of fishing the crumpled sheet of A4 out of the bottom of a damp school bag. I’d pin it straight on to the notice board in the kitchen and highlight any dates with bright orange pen. Whilst I get that schools want to cut down on printing costs and the cost to the environment, it always seemed to be a far easier way. Our digital worlds are so huge these days that request for half a dozen iced cupcakes with stars on can so easily get lost in the cloud.

We’ve created a printable which will help keep you on track with 7 weeks or approximately half a terms worth of ‘must do’s and don’t forgets’

Download your free copy here – whether you print or use it digitally it’s up to you but we hope it helps…

Developing a Growth Mindset in your child

There are a lot of buzzwords thrown around in Education – In the first of a series of blog posts, in which we seek to decode some of those buzzwords, we take a look at the idea of a ‘Growth Mindset’.

One of the most important things we as educators and parents can do for children is to build up their confidence, whilst the same time reassuring them that sometimes, failing, is a necessary part of learning. So what do we mean by a ‘Growth Mindset’?

The most successful learners have been found to be those who are accepting of the idea that knowledge is gained little by little and that skills increase as they are practiced. A child who expects to get everything right first time would not be described as having a growth mindset. We have all come across those children – perfectionists at heart who despair at not understanding immediately and sometimes become so frustrated they give up at the first hurdle. It is a trait some carry on into adulthood with the resulting drop in self esteem causing problems in the workplace.

One of the ways we can combat this is to use phrases which praise a child’s work ethic and don’t focus on results – so try saying thing like:

You are working really hard – I love that!

You get better each time you try

You are focusing so well at the moment

It really shows that you have been practising so hard

That took so much effort – well done!

When things really don’t go to plan we need to encourage resilience and perseverance and offer support – recognising that things aren’t quite right shouldn’t be avoided – useful comments at this stage would be:

So you’ve found that isn’t working – what do you think you could try next?

What do you think went wrong and how do you think we can fix this?

Keep going you are nearly there – shall we try a different way?

Instilling a love of learning and a developing resilient approach to difficulties are two goals that should be at the heart of any learning environment. Next time a child tells you that they can’t do something because it is just too difficult, challenge their thinking and help them to develop a growth mindset which will make them a more confident lifelong learner.

Is your child on TikTok?

Is your child on TiKTok or perhaps more to the point for many parents, have you even heard of TiKTok? With over half a billion active users worldwide and despite a minimum age requirement of 13 years of age it is likely that the average ten year old in possession of a smartphone will have come across this video sharing website. Recent data shows that over half of all ten year olds own a smartphone – a statistic which in itself is surprising, but only likely to increase in the future.

TiKTok is packed full of 15 second videos, the most popular of which are quickly turned into memes, which go viral across social media. The site allows users to direct message fellow users which raises immediate safety issues in regard to younger users. TiKTok has announced today that it is introducing parental controls which will restrict age inappropriate content. Given that the average age of users is 20 years of age they are finally addressing the concerns of parents who have discovered their preteens spending time on the site. Bearing in mind the minimum age set is 13, this will still allow content through which in the opinion of many parents would not be appropriate for a ten year old. We must as parents and educators have a clear idea of what our 10-13 year olds are doing online and if parents have allowed preteens a smartphone checking for and restricting the TicTok app is a must. A recent OFCOM survey discovered that 13% of children aged 12-15 were using TicTok which was an increase of 8% from the year before.

Our advice is if you know that your child is using TiKTok and you are happy for them to continue using the site then by all means activate those parental controls – but before you do take some time to have a good look at the content that is on there and decide whether there isn’t a site set minimum age of 13 for a reason – after all as parents we don’t always have to say yes to content even with the benefit of parental controls.