A Parent’s Perspective: School Breaks & Limiting Screen Time

The holidays are upon us for a lot of schools, and for some parents, this is a time to make incredible memories and spend quality time with our children. For others though, it can be a stressful time, wondering how on earth you are going to entertain the kids!

As parents, we all want what is best for our children, but sometimes figuring out what is best is the most difficult part. With social media being so prominent in our modern lives, we can’t help but compare ourselves. Maybe I should do more craft with my children? Maybe we should get outdoors more? Am I helping my child to learn enough? Are they getting too much screen time?

Depending where in the world you are, you might have quite a lot of time with no school, and we all want to ensure that we can help our children get as much value from the holidays as possible.

I have three children, aged eight, five, and four. I also work here at Edmentum International full time. Many parents will be able to relate to my lack of time, and my desire to keep the peace amongst their sibling rivalries! Therefore I hope that some of my tips below for balancing “what’s best” may give you hope for surviving the holidays.

School may or may not provide your child with homework or projects for the holidays. If they have, you won’t want your child spending the entire time working, but if they haven’t, you’ll probably not wish for your child to go throughout the holidays without picking up a book or pen and paper. Your child may even be fortunate enough to have access to some kind of online learning platform such as EducationCity or Exact Path. So how do we find the balance between encouraging them to continue their learning, whilst avoiding far too much screen time?

We have an unwritten rule in our house, if the children want to lose themselves to the television, PlayStation, or Nintendo DS, then they have to do something that will help them to grow first. This can be any of the following:

  • Reading
  • Creativity (writing, drawing, coloring, crafting, Lego)
  • Physical activity
  • Education
  • Time outdoors

If they come to me and ask for cartoons on the TV, I will simply ask them to choose one of the above first and they will. I try to avoid telling them what to do because they need time to explore their own interests. If they aren’t too sure where to start, here are some ideas they might like.

Blake, my eight-year-old son, is likely to choose to read an informative book about cars, write a story, or go for a run up and down our street in a bid to run as fast as the cars.

My five-year-old daughter, Emily, is more likely to make a card for a family member, follow along to Cosmic Kids Yoga, or put on some music and have a dance.

However, my four-year-old, Ellis, would head straight to the garden to do some digging, water the plants, and count the bees, or he’d build something with the Lego or get out his coloring book.

Quite often they get so lost in these activities that they forget all about their request to watch a movie.

All three of my children are lucky enough to have access to online learning platforms, which is good news for me because I don’t have to worry about trying to be a teacher and keep them learning. My only task is to remember where I put their login details! Many of these platforms, like EducationCity, are so fun and engaging that my children will happily spend hours after hours on them, and it is great that they are so motivated, but, if like me you want to be a little cautious of screen time, then anything between 20-60 minutes is quite sufficient.

One way to limit the screen time is by bringing the online activities to life. If your young child is working on maths, consider encouraging them to use objects from around the house to aid their counting such as fruit, toy cars, or leaves from the garden. If they’ve been set an online task to practice adjectives, see if they can get adventurous with describing their favorite toys or cartoon characters to you.

For older children, they may not be too impressed with having to use all of their screen time as educational time. Agree to compromise, if they spend 20 minutes working on their algebra, they earn themselves 40 minutes on their Nintendo Switch. When the 40 minutes is up, they have to do a further 20 minutes of any of my above suggestions before earning another 40 minutes watching random YouTube channels.

If your child is really into gaming, why not set them a task of designing their very own educational game? They’ll need to write their plan, draw their characters, do some research on what questions to ask, explain what controls to use, they could even video themselves acting out the game they have designed. If they do a great job, send it to us or tag us on social media. Who knows, if we love it too, we might just make their idea a reality!

Comment below with your best tips for managing screen time over the school holidays.

A Teacher’s Perspective: How Parents Can Help

Education is a team effort, and a child’s chances of success are greatly improved when teachers and parents work together effectively. Here is one teacher’s take on how parents can best support their child’s time at school.

Communication is key

Teachers understand that things crop up and calendars grow full, both at school and at home. This can make regular, effective communication between parents and teachers a challenge. One great pre-emptive strategy is to share your preferred mode of communication with your child’s teachers. If teachers know that you want to hear from them and have been made aware of a way to do so that guarantees a response, you’re more likely to receive updates. And these updates will not be limited to your child’s struggles or challenges—teachers love to share their students’ successes as well! Open the lines of communication even further by asking teachers about their preferences as well.

Accept feedback about your child – positive or negative

It may be difficult to hear negative feedback about your child from a teacher, particularly if similar trials are wearing on you at home. However, every teacher wants to see their students be successful in class. So, when your child’s teachers come to you with a challenge or concern, keep in mind that their only agenda is to offer some constructive feedback and open a dialogue to remedy the situation.

Work as a team

If your child does have problems in the classroom during the school year, approach it in a way that you and the teacher are on the same team. Talk with the teacher about what solutions can be created and what behaviors need to be changed or encouraged. Then, make sure that your child is being held to the same expectations, both at school and at home. It is also important to think about the broader team available to enlist if your child is experiencing academic or behavioral problems. Is there a favorite prior teacher or other staff member that you and your child’s classroom teacher could work with to provide additional support? Are there other family members who could help, such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or older sibling that they look up to? Surrounding your child with this type of support and consistency is critical to bringing about real change.

Offer your suggestions

Teachers aren’t autocrats, and like everyone else, teachers appreciate helpful suggestions from time to time. If you have an idea, especially about things that could improve how your child performs in class, speak up. If possible, make an effort to spend some time in your child’s classroom or school to get a taste for what’s actually going on before offering your feedback. Volunteering to help with a class party, reading to the class, or simply running copies is always welcome. Not only does this give you the chance to experience school life as your child does, but it also helps you make a friend in your child’s teachers – and, in turn, make them that much more receptive to your suggestions.

Rally the other parents

In many schools, parents communicate with each other more than they communicate with teachers. It can be really helpful to teachers if one or two parents step up to handle regular communication duties, like updating the class’ social media pages. Parents can also take the lead in efforts like coordinating classroom volunteers or helping plan classroom events. For teachers, this kind of grassroots effort is more effective (and less stressful!) than having to leave voicemails or send emails to get parents involved.

Keep teachers in the loop

Your personal life is your own business, and some things should simply be left at home. However, personal events can also help explain sudden shifts in your child’s behavior at school. So, if your home situation has changed – such as a death or illness in the family or any other impactful problem that has come up – give your child’s teachers a heads-up if at all possible. Teachers care deeply about their students; your child’s teachers will be happy to do whatever they can to help your child work through the challenge.

Looking for more tips on how you can help your child and their schooling? Read our blog from parent, Adele, which explores homework tips for parents.

9 Top Homework Tips for Parents

In this blog, Adele Payne, parent and International Manager at Edmentum International, is exploring how you as a parent can encourage healthy homework habits in your child, even from a young age. Here, she’s put together some handy tips and tricks for parents to consider when helping their children with their homework.

I’m Adele, a parent and International Manager here, and I know first-hand the struggles that can be faced when trying to motivate and encourage a child to do homework. Read my tips below on how you can directly help with this.

1. Set up a study space

A simple tip would be to make sure that your child has a place where they can concentrate to help them focus on their homework tasks. In this space, your children should have what they need such as pens, rulers, etc., with decent lighting and most importantly, it should be a comfortable place for them to do schoolwork. As well as this, the area should be a place where there is little distraction, such as somewhere where people aren’t walking in and out of.

2. Make time for homework

Depending on when your child is set homework, you could set a homework time so your child has a routine when it comes to doing it. It’s also worth communicating with your child about their homework and seeing if you can help in any way with larger tasks and asking them how long they think they will need to spend on them. You can then work on any larger tasks together and break them down into smaller pieces, as well as create a schedule for each piece to help manage them.

3. Set examples with technology

It’s also important to set examples with technology and you can help with this by turning off your phone, social media and TV whilst your child is doing homework. It’s a good idea to set this example so your child doesn’t want to get distracted by them either. When they turn technology off too, they won’t receive notifications and alerts when doing their homework, which will help with not breaking concentration and focus.

4. Complete tasks simultaneously

It’s a good idea to work on some of your “homework” tasks at the same time as your child such as bills or reading quietly. You’ll be setting an example and by modelling concentration-based tasks like this, you will show your child that they should focus when doing homework too. To make this tip even more effective, you could link your tasks to your child’s homework, so they can see how their homework will benefit them in the future and real world.

5. Give advice and support

There will be some homework tasks that require parental support but homework in general is designed to give students practice, so if your child comes to you with questions, guide them in the right direction by showing them your thought process. This can help them become more confident to do a task independently. However, especially when you know an answer but not necessarily the teacher’s directions, it may be best to hold back on giving guidance. In these instances, you could coach your child to remember what the teacher said rather than the way you would answer it, as this could cause more confusion.

6. Have a “support list” handy

There will be some homework tasks where your child may be really confused or has forgotten a completion date set by their teacher. When this occurs, speaking to a friend or classmate from class can be a good idea. So if your child ever needs clarification, it could be a good idea to keep handy three or four classmates to call upon.

7. Contact the class teacher

When it’s right, you could connect with your child’s teacher as all teachers have their own ways of approaching homework. Whether it’s how it’s handed in, or an incentive system they’ve set up, you could ask your child’s teacher what their homework expectations are and how they can best support your child. Having this knowledge can support you in seeing where your child may have any difficulties and help you with motivating them.

8. Listen and provide support

There will probably be some days when your child comes back from school and has found it tough. When this happens, you should allow your child to speak about it and listen to any frustrations, as well as empathize with them to help understand any feelings. This will help your child regain focus and follow any suggestions more readily. When your child has spoken about it, help them by encouraging them to begin a task and focus on what needs to be completed.

9. Set a positive attitude

Finally, by modelling a positive attitude toward homework, you can help your child view it in this way too. By getting involved and showing an interest in your child’s homework, as well as telling them how that homework will help them in school and provide a new skill, you can encourage your child to complete tasks. By boosting perseverance through any tougher tasks too, your child will be better placed to see homework through. You need to remind them that growth doesn’t happen without some initial tougher times.

With these tips, you as a parent should be able to motivate, inspire and encourage your child to complete their homework.

How I Set Goals with My Child

As we approach the new year, this is the perfect time to be thinking about New Year’s resolutions and setting goals for 2019. Many of us have a little reflection on the past 12 months and decide what we are going to set out to achieve this coming year.

I personally set goals regularly, with my full-time career here as an International Account Manager, and with my three children, aged eight, five and three. At home, I often set myself a goal of simply surviving the day! That said, I’m rather ambitious and like to cram a lot into my life – so for me, setting goals is vital for achieving anything. If we want our dreams to become a reality then we must set clear, achievable goals and create a plan for achieving them.

My children have naturally picked up on my goal setting attitude, and over the winter break we will be sitting down together as a family to set our goals for 2019.

A goal has to be something you want to achieve; the more it is desired, the clearer the vision you’ll have towards achieving it, and the more precise the plan will be, as well as the more motivation you’ll have towards working to it. A goal is not something that someone else sets for you if you have zero percent interest in achieving it.

Firstly, as a family, we will sit down, reflect on what we liked about this last year and what we didn’t, then talk about what we want to achieve and break it up into smaller chunks. I’m going to focus on Blake, my eight-year-old and how we will speak about this year, as well as how we will set goals.

Long-Term Goals

I don’t expect an eight-year-old to know what he wants to do with the rest of his life. However, what I do expect is that he has several ideas and we help him work toward them from an early age. Some of Blake’s ambitions include:

  • To attend the local grammar school
  • Become an Olympic sprinter
  • Be a racing driver
  • Be a boss
  • Work as someone who makes, modifies, or fixes cars
  • To live with his best friend
  • To own several sports cars

I’m sure you’ll get the idea here. On reflection of 2018, what has Blake, and us as his parents, done to begin building the foundations for any of these goals? When he turned eight, he was able to join our local athletics club and so he did. Other than that, there have not been any significant changes made in order for him to achieve the above. But as Darren Hardy puts it in his book, ‘The Compound Effect’, it is the small, daily habits and decisions that gradually compound over time to take us toward the life we desire!

When goals are not necessarily achievable within a small time-frame and there are no significant actions that can be taken in order for you to achieve them, a great idea is to create a goal board – or vision board. A goal needs to be visual every single day to remind us to always be working towards it. It’s no use thinking about last year’s goal, realizing you forgot about it all year and set it again for this year. An idea I love is to print off pictures that we can put together in a collage to look at daily. For Blake, we might use a picture of the school he wants to attend, Usain Bolt winning gold, a Formula 1 car, the pits or garage, a house, and several sports cars.

Over time, we have educated Blake about the daily habits he needs in order to achieve his goals:

  • Try hard to learn at school in order to pass his 11+ exam to gain entry into the school he wants.
  • Choose to do things that are good for the brain: reading, writing, drawing, practicing spellings, and maths.
  • Choose healthy foods to fuel the body.
  • Take responsibility for his own learning and not wait to be told to learn.

Short-Term Goals

Working toward long-term goals can be daunting and it may be difficult to stay motivated when there is no immediate reward. Hence why us adults are so good at joining the gym, attending one class and then quitting because our trousers are still too tight! Therefore it’s equally important to set smaller, achievable, short-term goals, and this is where us as parents can really help toward rewarding small achievements.

Stickers, chocolates, toys, and money are all great for rewarding children; but they are also all materialistic. An idea I love is to write down a list of things my children love doing with me, pop them into a jar and let them pull one out each time they achieve a small goal. For example, a goal could be to learn 10 words on the spelling list, or to learn the names of a number of car parts. It may take a few days or a few weeks, but once this goal has been achieved, they get to pick a reward. Some things that Blake might put on his are a big hug, a high ten, watch a movie, play with the toy cars together, read Harry Potter together, play on EducationCity together, stay up late with us at the weekend, go for a run together, etc. None of this costs a penny, but for my child it is still a reward earned.

Goal setting and earning can be a fun experience for all the family and it’s a great way to teach children about managing their own choices! We’d love to hear about your new year goals too – tweet us @Edmentum_INT!

A Parents’ Guide to Phonics

Phonics is an approach to teaching reading, and some aspects of writing, which develops learners’ phonemic awareness. It is supported by a whole range of educational bodies, including the Education Endowment Foundation.

Phonics: The Basics

Phonics teaches children to listen carefully to words, and helps them identify the phonemes (sounds) that make up each word. It breaks down words into their components sounds, then asks students to blend the sounds together and sound them out aloud to create a word that is recognizable. These decoding and blending exercises help children to learn to read more quickly so that they can engage and enjoy books at the earliest opportunity. In addition to this, phonics helps children understand how graphemes (letters) and phonemes correspond, facilitating early writing and correct spelling too!

Phonics Terminology

What phonics also provides, however, is a whole plethora of new terminology relating to language, that you as a parent, will never have come across before. So, if you don’t know your CVC words from your split digraphs, prepare to be enlightened!

Our Phonics Presentation for Parents

Our presentation, entitled An Introduction to Phonics for Parents, will give you all the information you need to help you support your child as they learn. It includes:
• What phonics is
• Why it’s used
• What the three different systematic programs are called
• What is covered in each phase of learning
• What a typical phonics lesson looks like
• Ideas of how you can support your child at home

As with most things, you’ll find that practice is the key, so any activities you can do at home will undoubtedly help your child become more adept and skilled. From pinpointing words which include the target sounds, to supporting them as they read, it all helps to reinforce what they’ve learnt in class and commit it to their long-term memory.

How Parents Can Take a More Active Role in Their Child’s Learning – And How it Makes a Difference

In this post, the term “parents” is used very generally to refer to grandparents, other family, foster family, guardians and similar, who care for students when at home.

Much research has been undertaken, which highlights the importance of parents’ and other caregivers’ involvement in a child’s education, and the benefits that result.

The research is there to support the premise that those simple “What did you learn at school today?” conversations matter. Let’s take a closer look at three ways staying involved in your child’s education makes a difference, as well as three simple things you can start doing today to take a more active role!

How Parent Involvement Helps:

Improved Academic Outcomes

Studies, such as this one by the Michigan Department of Education, have shown that children whose parents are actively involved in their education are more likely to perform well in school, earn higher grades and test scores throughout their schooling, and achieve better results when they finish their time in formal education.

Increased Motivation and Positive Attitudes

When parents talk about education in a positive light around their children, it’s contagious. Kids pick up on the positivity, and come to regard education highly themselves. This positive attitude then leads to higher academic aspirations and an increased motivation to do well in school.

Better Behavior

Parents who view education and school positively can help their children to be better behaved in the classroom as well. When a child has a deep sense of respect for education, they’ll value their time in the classroom, and be more likely to be on their best behavior.

Simple Tips to Take a More Active Role in Your Child’s Education:

Encourage Learning at Home

Establishing a consistent structure and routine for learning with your child, for example scheduling dedicated time for homework or reading together every night before bed, helps make learning a priority in your family. In turn, this helps education become important to your child as well. Try creating a designated study or reading space for your child to help them take greater ownership of their learning.

Make Learning Fun

One of the most important things you can do to support your child’s education is to help them see that learning happens everywhere – and is fun! Take advantage of simple, everyday opportunities to instill a little extra learning. For example, play card games that emphasize counting and probability skills, turn a trip to the grocery store into a packaging label word hunt, or take a walk through your local park and see how many different kinds of animals or plants your child can find and identify. Your child won’t even realize they’re practicing important foundational skills.

Help Your Child Set Goals

Goal setting is an important skill – it helps all of us stay focused, motivated, and productively working towards things we value. Working with your child to identify goals and get a plan in place to achieve them can make a huge difference in their academic career. Start by talking to them about the things they do and don’t enjoy, why that is, and what they see as their strengths and weaknesses. Then, pick two or three goals to focus on, helping your child set a timeline and break their goals down into smaller, manageable tasks. Be sure to talk about your own goals and what you do to achieve them in the process.

So, that’s it in a nutshell. We hope we’ve given you some new ideas and things to bear in mind. Many of the ideas come naturally as part of normal parenting, but as they say every little helps with often fantastic results!

Setting Goals with Your Child: 6 Tips for Parents

Setting goals with your child or children, even possibly as early as age six, has important benefits. But why? Well, setting goals has many benefits for children such as helping teach the value of working hard toward a goal and the success and achievement of reaching it.

Not only this, working towards a goal develops a sense of perseverance and grit, and means children gain greater self-confidence in themselves as they achieve their aim.

To try and encourage goal setting, it’s worth talking to your child directly about what goals they would like to accomplish so they are enthusiastic about them – and this can be anything! Whether it’s something practical such as learning to swim, or academic such as succeeding with understanding basic fractions!

I’m a teacher and below, I’m going to give some advice for setting goals with your child.

Select goals that present a challenge but are within reach

Although goals should be challenging, and should require some work in getting there, they should also be realistic. We don’t mean for you to set difficult, impractical goals, but we encourage you to help your child push themselves to meet new challenges rather than doing something they can do easily. By setting unrealistic goals, your child may give up on them early but by sitting down with your child and setting ones they feel that they can accomplish, you’ll be helping them find ones that are achievable. Nevertheless, some goals won’t be attainable but it is learning the process of trying to achieve those goals which is important, and not reaching them is okay.

Consider the 6Ws

It’s worth making sure you have the 6Ws in mind when you set goals, as this will help your child see the process behind achieving them.

What: What is it your child wants to do?
How: How is your child going to get there?
When: When will the goal be accomplished?
Where: Where is your child going to do it?
Who: Who is going to help do it?
Why: Why is this goal significant for your child?

By putting a goal into manageable sections in this way, your child can see how they’re progressing and how they’re going to accomplish it. To help visualize further where they are with a goal, it might be worth setting up a board with the process or just the goals set, and hanging this up somewhere so they are reminded of them.

Be a support for your child

Make sure your child knows you’re there to support them even though you should encourage them to lead the success of goals. Show your child the process of how you’d break down a goal for instance and be a role model to them. This should help your child to persevere and succeed with their goals.

Reward accomplishments and encourage where it’s needed

Use statements for your child that promote effort and perseverance to encourage them in accomplishing their goals, and offer rewards where it’s fitting to encourage your child where they may be stuck on something difficult. If a goal is accomplished, it’s time to reward your child! You could either treat them or go and do something fun together. This will give your child satisfaction at achieving goals and encourages them to tackle their next one.

Give time to reflect

It’s good to have time for your child to review what went well or what didn’t go so well during a goal. Help your child evaluate themselves and learn from the process of pursuing a goal, even if he or she didn’t succeed. As your child has self-reflection, tell them that not all goals are accomplished, and encourage them by showing them that we all grow most from learning from mistakes. Reassure them by showing them not to let initial failures deter them.

So is it now time to start goal setting?

Here are a few examples of goals you could work on with your child:

  • Advancing in a reading level
  • Learning how to swim
  • Memorizing the multiplication table
  • Learning a new language
  • Learning how to get organized
  • Learning how to play an instrument

Setting goals will benefit your child in so many ways but remember that it’s okay to not reach a goal. It’s your support in helping your child achieve them which is important too.