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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

And on the other side of the coin insufficient sleep will make children:

  • Hyperactive.
  • Lacking in confidence.
  • Irritable.
  • Inattentive; and
  • Fall behind in class

If this sounds like your youngster then it is so easy to fix.

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 a.m. 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 p.m. 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 weeknight 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 changes so quickly when they stop being tired.

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

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

By Peter Kenyon: Tutor

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‘D’ is for Don’t Give Up

People, being social animals, need to mix with others and children are no different.  So, what is going on when a child who was excited about attending school is suddenly resisting?

At the start of the school year there are mixed emotions from the new students.  Most of the time going to school for the first time will be met with excitement generated from buying books, a school bag, trying on uniforms and covering schoolbooks. 

The first day or three will be an absolute dream, unless it is your first child going off to school and the tears come from you.  There will come a time when the novelty wears off and your eager young prodigy will dig their heels in explaining they have finished with school.

Sometimes explaining that this is their lot for the next twelve plus years (an explanation better than that I hope) will have them merrily kitting up for the next day, however at times there may be a deeper problem. 

School refusal is an emotional problem experienced by some parents with their children.  Some signs of school refusal are when your child:

  • Throws tantrums about going to school
  • Hides when it is time to leave for school
  • Begs or pleads not to be taken to school
  • Complains about being ill when it is time to leave for school

There are other indicators for school refusal you may read about on the Raising Children website.  Addressing the cause is the key to handling the problem.  There are many causes, but tuition may help when the cause is school refusal because of academic problems.

It is sad to think a Year One student is experiencing academic problems, but it does occur with no fault of any person.  A new school student may be having difficulties because:

The assumed knowledge of Year One (e.g. spatial skills, order and counting, grouping, singing the alphabet) has not been learned in Prep.

The student is not quite ready to learn.  Sometimes students struggle with learning something they see others around them learn easily.  They become frustrated to tears, at which point we praise them for giving it a go.  One day their eyes light up as they have answered a question correctly, but more importantly they understood the question they answered.  Their brain is now ready to learn, and they take off catching the class (with the help of tuition) and at times moving to the head of the class with their results.  Every child is ready to learn at a different time, so you never give up on them.  Sometimes they are seven years of age before they are ready academically for school.  This is a problem when school commences at five years of age.

The student has a learning disability and this may be something as simple to correct as a tracking issue.

Sometimes you may need the assistance of your G.P. or a child psychologist to help overcome your student’s school anxiety or low academic results.  Never give up on them and consider an after-school tuition program to help subdue their anxieties and achieve academically.

By Peter Kenyon: Tutor

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“C” is for Copy Book

The downside to the Information Age is the decrease in fine motor skills used for writing. 

It is a problem presenting more often as laptops and tablets replace the use of pad and pen.  An increasing number of students are unable to form legible letters of the alphabet or write numbers clearly enough so they may read them thirty seconds later.

Some students going into Year 8 are incapable of writing between the lines of a paper or forming numbers within the squares of a quad ruled page.  Students in Year 5 are unable to produce or read their name in cursive script.  These students are struggling with the fine motor skills required to help them to learn.

An article by Maria Konnikova, “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades?”, suggests evidence is emerging of a greater link between handwriting and learning.  It appears children learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand.

Learning is a complicated process.  When we reproduce letters or anything else by hand, a plan is required before executing the action.  The result is highly variable in that it will not exactly represent the original.  Learning to identify variable representations is important to decoding letters when reading.

The research by Virginia Berninger, a psychologist at University of Washington, indicated that when a child who composed text by hand (either printing or cursive) “They not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on the keyboard, but expressed more ideas.”

There is also a suggestion of different neuropathways being developed in the brain when a child progresses on from printing to cursive writing.

Researchers at the University of California have reported laboratory and real-world studies of students learning better when they take notes by hand than when they type on a keyboard.

I ask you, “Is it time to throw away the pen and paper and adopt the technology of the keyboard?  Was it time to give up walking when we invented the car?”

My suggestion to help build a better student is to let your pre-school child use colouring books and pencils; jigsaw puzzles and building blocks; to help develop fine motor skills.  When they are at school continue to use the old-fashioned copy book, so your student may practise and learn to form letters and numbers.  Encourage them to practise twenty minutes a day until they are proficient with writing the printed word.  Allow this to develop into the practice of cursive writing so they may be able to record classroom notes in secondary school, lecture notes at university or record the minutes of a business meeting.

We may lose so much by giving up the pen.

By Peter Kenyon: Tutor

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“A” is for the Academic Year

Sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day to fit in what needs to be done, and there seems to be not enough weeks in the year for the school curriculum. 

There are forty academic weeks to the Australian school year.  This is little enough time to squeeze in the content of the curriculum.  The problem is the school year is not exactly forty weeks.

There are several public holidays to be removed, and then there are “student free” days also to be taken out.  If we remove the school camp that all students seem to be attending these days, sick days and time spent out of school for one reason or another (sports, museums, etc.) then we have a shortened academic year. 

This all puts our teachers and students under pressure as a larger amount of acquired knowledge is squeezed into a reduced amount of attendance time.

“A” initially stood for Academic Year but now I think it should stand for “Attendance”. 

So, how do you make a better student?  Don’t add to the problem by reducing your student’s school attendance by removing them from school for a week-long holiday because it is more convenient.

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“V” is for Visual Spatial Learner

“Let’s look at this differently”, “I can’t see the big picture”, “See how this works?” – stand back here comes a visual learner and a future artist, builder, inventor or musician, that is if they can get through our education system.

These right hemi-sphere thinking (that’s creative thinking) students are not wired to produce written reports on the thoughts they visualise in their mind, at least not until they learn how.  They think and learn in multi-dimensional images.  Our education system is more geared to teach left hemi-sphere thinking auditory learners who think and learn in words rather than images.

A visual-spatial learner may be good at spelling and lousy with names, needs a quiet study time, likes colour and is good with charts, maps and diagrams.  They remember pictures and are good with direction.  They will always have trouble remembering verbal instructions and must learn by taking notes.

As a parent you can help by explaining a project you wish them to do by explaining why you want them to do something, because they need to see the big picture first.

by Peter Kenyon: Tutor at XtraMile Tuition Strategies

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“U” is for Understanding the Curriculum

There has been some talk of late about the school curriculum and the changes it is going through.  These changes, like any change, cause ripple effects of anxiety on students, teachers and parents.  But what are the learning expectations of our young students?

I have been looking at www.australiancurriculum.edu.au for some guidance just so I, as a tutor, am aware and aligned with expectations.  I would advise popping onto the website and having a look.  Meanwhile I will give a brief summary focusing on maths as this is the area parent seek the most guidance from tutors.

Year 1

By the end of Year One a school student is expected to know the numbers to one hundred; skip count by 2, 5 and 10; and be able to locate numbers on a number line.  Simple addition is accomplished by counting on, re-arranging or performing partitioning.  Fractions are introduced as they learn to recognise “1/2″ and be able to tell the time to the half hour.

I mentioned only a small area of the curriculum as these are the areas I see most when a student is presented for tuition.  At this stage of learning any short coming in these areas may be made up by parents sitting down with their little one and turn learning into some form of game.  There are several aids available from various websites and suggestions on the Australian Curriculum site.

Year 2

If you are a parent with a young student in Australia, then chances are you have your mind in a muddle as to education expectations.

In Year 1 students have mastered the numbers up to 100 and skip counting by 2, 5 and 10.  This year sees them progress even further on the number line as they move towards recognising and placing order to the numbers to 1,000, and investigate the number sequences of 2, 3, 5 and 10.  It is this year they explore the connection between subtraction and addition.

By the end of this year they will master reading a clock (analogue and digital) to the quarter hour using the words “to” and “past” appropriately.   They will be able to name the months of the year in the correct order as well as the seasons of the year.  They will be able to use a calendar to find the date and know the number of days to the month.

This is only a small amount that is on the curriculum and only relates to maths as this is the area, as a tutor, I see the most problems. 

How can you help your child with their studies?  Do you remember this:“Thirty days has September, April, June and November,all the rest have thirty-one days clear,except February alone which has twenty-eight daysand twenty-nine each leap year.

Year 3

“These are the best years of your life.”, self-assuring words spruiked by many a parent and teacher to seven-year old students who don’t need reassurance after remembering their potty-training years.  They have just cruised through the first two years of primary school, they know all the numbers, the alphabet and can write their name; what else is there to learn?

Year 3 is where many young students realise their world will never be the same again.  It is during this year they discover numbers do not stop at 1,000 but continue all the way to 10,000 and they must know their order, place value, and be able to recognise if they are odd or even!   Not only that but there are numbers smaller than one that no-one told them about as they are introduced to the fractions 1/2, 1/4, 1/3, and 1/5.

When learning the multiplication table by heart for 2, 3, 5 and 10 no-one warned them about having to manage multiplying a two-digit number by a single digit number, without a smart phone.  In fact, they are expected to develop strategies to perform addition and subtraction in their head (mental maths).  Counting on, regrouping and partitioning are all strategies employed to perform mental maths.

It is during this year our students are introduced to metric measurement.  I hear very few complaints from students in our tuition centre about learning measurements.  I simply remind them that learning 1,000 metres equals one kilometre is much easier than remembering there are 1,760 yards to a mile, 22 yards to a chain, or 16 ounces to a pound.

Yes, there is a lot to learn in Year 3 (and this is only maths) and yes, these may be the best years of their life because Year 5 is ahead of them, but we won’t tell them about that yet.

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“Super Zebra in the Jungle” by Zaiden (aged 6)

ZebraA long, long time ago, in the jungle, there was a flying zebra called Super Zebra. He was always very nice to people and Santa heard about him from the reindeers who were flying over and saw him rescuing a baby possum from the swamp. Santa asked Super Zebra to help deliver the presents because he was one reindeer down in the sleigh team. The night before Christmas, Super Zebra was flying high in the sky picking up presents and delivering before morning. That was the beginning of his job as Santa’s delivery zebra.
Zaiden, aged 6

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“Grandma’s Visit” by Amy (aged 10)

GrandmaGrandma’s Visit

This morning before breakfast, on the top of the hill where Lucy lived, everyone was getting ready for Grandma’s visit. Lucy loved Grandma because she was very talented, and she could grow a tree into a tyre and juggle eggs without breaking them. As soon as Grandma arrived, she snapped her fingers and turned the teapot into a cat. Then, suddenly, the cat turned into a bird and flew around the house, knocking over the vase full of Lucy’s favourite flowers. It was always like this when Grandma visited.

Amy, aged 10.

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“Cats” by Ella T (aged 9)

ginger catOnly on dark nights when there is no moon, from a big house in the city, the ginger and black cat leaves to go out adventuring. She is small, friendly and adventurous. She goes, with her friends, to an underground river where there is a little house that is full of woolly pink balls and cat food that tastes like marshmallows. They play for three hours, eat for one hour and then they sleep until they wake up. On dark nights the cat goes home and then she goes to sleep.

Ella T (aged 9)

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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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