Tag Archives: Learning

“F” is for Foundations

Tuition Logo 2If your child was an average student last year, chances are they will be an average student this year.  If they struggled with maths last year, they will probably be struggling with maths this year.  Nothing changes unless something changes.  What must change to improve your child’s grades?

The first thing that must change is someone’s attitude.  Children are children and they will not change unless they are given a reason to change.  Telling them to do better or to change their ways will probably not get the result you, as a parent, desire because they do not know how to change.  They are children, they are young, and have a limited frame of reference when it comes to change.  They must be taught how to change.  At this stage the biggest change must be in you as a parent.  You must make the decisions for them, and then guide them along the path.

One of the biggest problems seen in students is they have problems with weak foundations.  They simply don’t know their multiplication tables up to their year level and they don’t have in place a memory of subtraction and addition of the numbers up to twenty (20).   No matter how well a student understands the mathematical concept they are being taught at school, if they can’t perform the foundations, they will not be able to solve the maths problem.  Continually getting the wrong answer whittles away their confidence.

Every student needs to build strong foundations.  You can’t have lasting structure without strong foundations.

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The Scary Night – by Harry (aged 9)

GhostNeither my brother nor I know anything about the mystery of the ghost on the hill. Last night under a big fat moon, Taj and I were climbing up the slope when we heard a quiet, low-pitched, short moan that sounded like me when I see a spider. We both screamed and Taj ran over the hill and I ran down the valley towards the creek where the fish were slipping and sliding as if they were about to die with me. Something white and weirdly-shaped ran straight at me and pushed me into the slimy water of the slippery creek and I screamed, “help me, Taj!”. The light was just the fat moon and Taj was laughing at me.

Harry, aged 9. 

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“Evad and Adam” by Cohen (aged 9)

HorseWhen the sun was just setting, Evad, the horsefly felt a tingling in his wings because it happened every sunset. Within seconds, he turned into a magical, black horse with red eyes and wings. Every night Evad flew over the city looking for a boy called Adam who was trapped in a nasty orphanage. As he was about to land, he spotted the orphanage and he flew down to it and there was Adam, sleeping on a dirty old blanket as Evad peeked through the window. Evad gently taped on the window and Adam woke up and the boy leapt on the horse’s back and Evad felt a tingle on his back as the sun began to rise and they rose into the sunrise.

Cohen, aged 9 

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“The Karate Master & The Undead Pirates” by Alex (aged 8)

PirateOne stormy night in the heart of the Antarctic Ocean, a Japanese karate master was yelling out “Half-Flesh Pirates!”  Then he boarded the wretched pirate ship and attacked the un-dead scavengers.  Soon the pirates were destroyed and their ship was blown into the Bear Cave where they were eaten by the zombie bear.  The Japanese karate master returned to train his young karate class.

Alex (aged 8)

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“The Fight” by Abbie (aged 12)

GladiatorOn a rainy, cold winter morning in Dublin, Alex and Fiona watched in amazement as everyone around them slowly disappeared into the foggy air.  They heard a loud cheer and clinks and clanks that could be sword fighting and they realised they had somehow been transported into the middle of a gladiator fight.  A big, strong man charged over and forced two golden swords into their hands and told them to fight for their life.  Alex stabbed with his sword at a highly-scarred, fierce gladiator who collapsed with a gasp, and Fiona fought a ferocious lion who bit off her leg.  Suddenly the cheering crowd disappeared into the foggy air and they rushed to the Dublin hospital to save Fiona’s life.

Abbie (aged 12)

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“J” is Just in Time

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” 
 Nelson Mandela

Male Pupil Finding School Exam DifficultIs there a good time to seek out tutoring?  Does your son or daughter display any of these?

  • Lacks confidence with school work
  • Becomes distraught about going to school
  • Struggles with Maths
  • Reads without interest or understanding
  • Reads through punctuation marks or skip lines completely

Of course, these indicators are not the only signs for a cry for help.  Any change in behaviour or mood may be an indicator that moves you to further investigation.

One thing you should not do is shrug off these indicators as, “Oh, it is only a phase they are going through.” because chances are it is a phase they will not get through.  The cause, or trigger, of the change may vary from changing teachers to taking your children out of school for off-season holidays.  The latter has a considerable effect on children in Year 3, 5 and 7.

Years 3, 5 and 7 appear to be the years when new concepts are introduced in Maths, and probably other subjects.  But we, at the tuition room, see these years as the most influential to the student’s development.  Basically, a lot of new stuff is taught in Maths during these years.  Missing one or two weeks during the school period has a lasting and recurring effect on that area of knowledge through the following years.

Back to our original question, is there a good time to seek out tutoring assistance?

You would think Year 1 students would not require tutoring assistance, after all they have just started school and what have they learned?  Unfortunately, Prep is used to prepare children for Year 1 and it is at this stage they learn the simple things like singing the alphabet, counting to ten or twenty and spatial skills such as left, right, in front, under, first, second, last and inside and outside.  Even colouring in pictures helps to develop the fine motor skills required to hold a pencil to form letters while learning to write.  Sometimes children miss some concepts and this puts them behind during the first year because there is assumed knowledge in Year 1.  Yes, tuition does help to restore confidence to a Year 1 student.

It is always easier to help students who are in Year 2, 4 or 6 because these are the years before the next knowledge jump.  Catching them up in these years aligns their Maths knowledge for the next year jump in concept learning.  We have noticed the most distressed students who come to us are in Years 3, 5 and 7.

When is the best time to bring a student for tuition?  When you notice a change in behaviour that continues for more than two weeks.  There is generally a reason for that change and if it is related to learning then tuition may be your answer.  Having said that, it is never too late to seek out tuition.  We have had students in Year 8 that have received tuition to cover knowledge short falls from Year 5.  No, it is never too late to help a student who wants to be helped.

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” 
 Confucius

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“I” is for Interest

“A man who limits his interest limits his life.” – Vincent Price

pretty young mother teaching her little kid childWe all want our children to do well in school and in life, but how do you ignite that spark that fuels a need for knowledge.  How does your child develop an interest in the world around them?

Well, for starters, let’s look at your environment.  After all, we shouldn’t put the responsibility for learning and growth upon the school system alone.  Children’s exposure to teachers and schools is small compared to their exposure to parents and home life.  So, let’s take stock of the most influential environment upon your child’s growth – you and your home.

Do you talk with your child or do you talk at your child?  Talking with your child encourages conversation and participation while talking at your child is more about giving instruction: “Don’t do that”, “Sit and be quiet”, “Go outside and play”.  Which type of parent are you?  Is most of your communication one directional, or do you urge a more open form of communication?  Do you talk with your child about the things you are interested in, such as books, movies, and gardening?

Do you have interests you can talk about with your children and your friends?  Your growth and learning doesn’t stop when you become an adult.  Your child is likely to become the adult you are because you are the major role model in their life.  Your continued growth doesn’t have to be purely academic.  Your interests, hobbies and activities continue to develop you as a person.  As an adult, have you continued to grow or do you come home at night and sit in front of the computer surfing YouTube or watching television.

How many books do you have in your life?  Look around your house and count the books on your bookcase.  What? You don’t have a bookcase.  Reading is still the best source of gaining knowledge.  It is a sad fact that today many households don’t have a library.  Their interests and knowledge are not on display.  I enjoy visiting people and scanning the titles on their shelves as it immediately lets me see the interests of the people who live there and gives a basis for conversation.  Many people will have a display case for their sports trophies and I consider bookcases as display cases for your knowledge.  Now, before you go thinking I am some sort of nerd, as well has having several hundred books, our household also has a movie library with several hundred movies.  Display your interests and talk about your interests.

Do things and show your child how you do things.  Involve your child in your interests, within reason.  If your hobby is your garden, then have them help with the weeding.  If you love live theatre, then take them to some live shows to expose them to the experience.  Just keep the experience relative to their developmental level.  Let your children see you reading at night instead of squatting in front of the television.  Being entertained by books offers a different intellectual experience to being entertained by X-Box.  If you are an X-Box kind of dad, you may just have to try a little harder.  Try playing board games that offer challenges and choices while playing to help with the thinking process.  Become involved with your children in thinking games and not just reaction games.

You must become your child’s best teacher.  From the day they are born your number one priority is to protect then and to prepare them.  The adult they become is the result of your influence as much as that of the school system they fall into.  Sometimes being a good parent requires learning new skills, but that is alright as learning new skills is part of life’s processes.  No-one is born knowing how to parent.  We learn some of it from our parents through their role modelling and we learn some from interacting with people as we grow up.  Though, having said that nothing will prepare you for being a parent, you just learn as you go along.  But you do have to learn.

Don’t overload your child.  Now, you don’t have to expose your child to everything at one time.  There is no need to fill every waking moment with experiences and knowledge.  You should allow down time so they may process what has been experienced, what has been learnt and to rest and recover.  Being a child takes a lot of energy and there is a need time to re-charge their batteries from time to time.  Build quiet times into their day when it is alright to sit and do nothing.  Remember, a tired child will struggle at school.

Be positive about their school experience.  “It’s alright mate, you have to go and there is nothing we can do about it.” does not send a positive message about going to school.  The school years are such a wonderful time of our lives and must be reinforced as such.  Don’t bring the woes of being an adult, or the problems you are experiencing upon your child’s fun years.  You can use their experience to bring some release from the pressures of your life.  Encourage them to become involved with school activities and then be supportive and join in with them at these events.  One of my most vivid memories is when my father and his friends turned out to watch me at my school rugby league game.  I played many games but that one I remember.  Don’t under estimate the importance of being part of their school experience.

“We will all be role models in our children’s lives.  We don’t have that choice.  The choice we do have is whether we are a positive role model or a negative role model.  That is our choice.” – Peter Kenyon

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“H” is for Help

Education concept: Student and Time to Learn with optical glassA decreased ability to concentrate, confused thoughts, motivation low, increased irritability, grumbling, quarrelsome, overly sensitive to criticism, anxious or depressed.  This may sound like a typical teenager but they are also signs a coach watches for in athletes.

Good coaches recognise the signs of over-training and adjust their athletes’ schedule so the next phase of over-training, burn-out, doesn’t occur.  A great coach will not let these signs develop because they know how to pace the training sessions without over-stressing the athlete.

What has fitness training to do with students?  Burn-out may occur in any person in any profession at any age.  Many parents don’t realise how much pressure they place on their children when they load up their awake time with sports training and competition outside of school hours.  Some students are playing two sports a season.  Some parents don’t realise they may be setting their child up for burn-out later that school year because they haven’t planned sufficient recovery time for their student.

If you are a parent who encourages outside sports for their children, then you should consider these three things:

  1. Training and playing sport is tiring, very tiring.
  2. A tired student will find it difficult to concentrate in class.
  3. In today’s world, a person has a much better chance of achieving a high income with good grades than becoming a highly-paid athlete.

An over-committed student who finds it difficult to concentrate in class will eventually fall behind on their grades.  They may require the help of a coach, an academic coach.

We have many athletic students attend our tuition room because of the reasons mentioned above.  When they do attend, we ask parents to consider dropping one activity before introducing a program of tuition.  There is no sense in adding to an already over-loaded timetable.  Nothing will be achieved.  The tuition, depending upon the grade the student is in, will probably take one full year to bring them aligned with the class.  That is only one season of any one sport, so they will not miss much when dropping one activity to replace it with tuition.

As an academic coach (with a long background in fitness training) I watch for signs of over-training in our students and act on it.  Sometimes that action will be to remove tuition from the student’s time-table if nothing else is removed.  We do this for the well-being of the student.

But you don’t have to be a sporting student to fall behind.  Sometimes a high achieving student places themselves under unnecessary pressure because they have not learned to budget time or to study correctly.  A student like this will benefit from some one on one guidance so they may learn from an expert how to research and produce assignments, or how to prepare for secondary school exams.

So, as the school year progresses, watch for signs that indicate your student may not be keeping up and is silently crying for help.

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“F” is for Foundations

Christmas is over and school is back! What is next for your student?

TeacherWell, if your child was an average student last year chances are they will be an average student this year.  If they struggled with maths last year they will probably be struggling with maths this year.  Nothing changes unless something changes.  What has to change to improve your child’s grades?

The first thing that must change is someone’s attitude.  Children are children and they will not change unless they are give a reason to change.  Telling them to do better or to change their ways will probably not get the result you, as a parent, desire mainly because they do not know how to change.  They are children, they are young, and therefore have a limited frame of reference when it comes to change.  They have to be taught how to change.  At this stage the biggest change has to be in you as a parent.  You have to make the decisions for them, and then guide them along the path.

One of the biggest problems I see in the students who attend tuition is they have problems with weak foundations.  They simply do not know their multiplication tables up to their year level and they do not have in place a memory of subtraction and addition of the numbers up to twenty (20).   No matter how well a student understands the mathematical concept they are being taught at school, if they can’t perform the foundations I spoke about they will not be able to solve the maths problem.  Continually getting the wrong answer whittles away their confidence.

Every student who attends our tuition spends at least ten minutes of every hour building upon their foundation knowledge.  You cannot have lasting structure without strong foundations.

You can find some tools to help with learning the foundations of maths by following this link to Study Tools

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“E” is for Enough Sleep

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin

 Sleep deprivation word cloudAnd on the other side of the coin insufficient sleep will make children hyperactive, lacking in confidence, irritable, inattentive and fall behind in class and if this sounds like your youngster then it is so easy to rectify.

Much study has been devoted to knowing how much sleep is needed, or not needed, to remain healthy and productive.  The conclusion being “…. there is a lot of individual differences in what children and adolescents need to sleep to be at their best.” (Australian Centre for Sleep Education).

As a general guide, primary school students require between ten and twelve hours of sleep per day while secondary (higher) school students get by with eight to ten hours each night.  Research has indicated children of any age will arise at about the same time each day so the difference in hours of slumber occurs at the time of going to bed.

What time should a child go to bed to be at their peak the next day?  To make this exercise easier and because Australian schools commence at 9:00 am let’s assume our children get up at seven to start their day during the week.  This would require a primary school student to be in bed by 7:00 pm and no later than 9:00 the night before, and our secondary student in bed by 9:00 pm no later than 11:00.

The younger the child the more sleep required.  Students from grades one to three require closer to twelve hours of sleep each week night while those from grade four to six/seven may drop to needing ten hours of sleep.

Problems occur with teenagers as their bodies are not ready for sleep when the clock says it is time for bed and they stay up whiling away the hours until slumber overtakes them.  Unfortunately, the activities they do while waiting to sleep may not be conducive to bringing sleep on and they miss out on their required sleep quota.  They then go into sleep debt which they try to reclaim on weekends by sleeping in.  This problem may be compounded by staying up later during weekend nights to interact with friends and sleeping even more of the morning away to further knock the body clock around and make sleeping during the week more difficult.  As a parent, you must take control of this situation.

Children deprived of sleep, like adults, are hard to rouse and will feel sleepy during the early part of the day.  Unlike adults, primary school students will become more active during the day, though still be less able to concentrate.  Because they have become more wired they will be less likely to fall asleep easily, thus becoming more sleep deprived.  Parents may have trouble identifying a young child who is not getting enough sleep because they are active.

Some home factors compound sleep deprivation in children.  Families in general are not going to bed as early as they need.  For one reason or another, parents are staying up later and as role models may be setting poor examples of a healthy lifestyle.

We see how the concentration of a child who has insufficient sleep is affected in our tuition room.  A student who the previous week was performing wonderfully on our program suddenly has low scores and answers very few questions.  When asked what they did the previous night the answer always involved a late night of movie watching, game playing, internet surfing or social media.  We have also seen how a poor student can change so quickly when they stop being tired.

You can take steps to create good sleep habits by cleaning up the bedroom and the time leading up to retiring.  Some good sleep hygiene habits are:

  • No T.V., computer, mobile phone or exercise 1 hour before going to be.
  • No T.V., computer, mobile phone in the bedroom.
  • No coke or caffeine drinks 2-3 hours before sleeping.
  • Set bed-times and wake times and keep them to form healthy habits.
  • As a parent, be a good role model and lead by example.

You can learn more about sleeping times and sleeping problems from the links to the following fact sheets:

Or you can visit the Australian Centre for Education in Sleep TM   website for a more comprehensive read.

We talked about another study problem back in 2014.  You can follow this link to “Student Burnout” to see what happens when we over-load a student’s week.

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