How can you teach your children manners?

It’s long been said that good manners cost nothing. And a school in Portugal has taken this to the next level with a poster highlighting the need for children to learn manners and respect at home. And as you’d expect, it’s gone viral, sparking a widespread discussion about manners and the modern society.

The poster, made up of five points, stresses the importance of manners and reiterates the fact that the teachers are indeed there to educate and guide, but home is where manners should be taught. Its points are as follows:

  • We would like to remind you that magic words such as hello, please, you’re welcome, I’m sorry, and thank you, all begin to be learned at home.
  • It’s also at home that children learn to be honest, to be on time, diligent, show friends their sympathy, as well as show utmost respect for their elders and all teachers.
  • Home is where they learn to be clean, not talk with their mouths full, and how/where to properly dispose of garbage.
  • Home is also where they learn to be organized, to take good care of their belongings, and that it’s not ok to touch others.
  • Here at school, on the other hand, we teach language, math, history, geography, physics, sciences, and physical education. We only reinforce the education that children receive at home from their parents.

Although many parents agree with the statements, it can be difficult, especially when children are younger, to reinforce the importance of manners and respect in a positive manner.

To help you guide your children down a respectful, pleasant road, we’ve jotted down a few tips to help get you started:

Teach “please” and “thank you” early

Young children may not fully understand the meaning of many words, but that doesn’t mean you can’t teach them. “Please” and “thank you” are two of the easiest words to learn and will cement manners early on in life and enable them to get used to saying these words on a daily basis.

Don’t force manners

Although teaching manners is important, it’s even more imperative not to force them as this will attach negative connotations to them going forward.

Encourage playing with others

Whether you just have the one child or two or three, it’s important to let them play with others. Not only will this help them when it comes to developing social skills, but it will also get them used to sharing beloved objects with others.

Practice good listening

Does your child have something to say? Make sure they know to wait their turn. If they interrupt someone, politely tell them that it’s rude and they should learn to wait until there is a natural gap in conversation.

Do you have any tips for helping to teach manners to your child?

Cute, quick Valentine’s Day crafts for kids

At just under a month away, Valentine’s Day is the next big event to dawn on us after the excitement of Christmas and New Year’s Eve has died down. Although this day is often reserved for adults, there is no reason why you and your child can’t get loved up and dive into the spirit of this heart-felt celebration!

Just as we wrote a post outlining some fun bonfire night and Christmas crafts, we thought we’d add to our selection of artsy pieces with a selection of Valentine’s inspired creative activities to enjoy with your child on the 14th February!

Love bugs

Catch the love bug with your little ones with this adorable craft idea! To make these love bugs (or monsters) you will need some paper cups, red and pink string, pipe cleaners, googly eyes and some paper hearts (you can always cut your own out of paper!).

Tip the cup over so the flat base is facing the ceiling, and glue long strands of string to the base so that it falls down the cup to form the monster’s body. Twist the pipe cleaners round a pencil to make them springy and glue two to the top of the cup to form the monster’s antennae. Place one, two or three googly eyes to the front to form your cute little bug’s face, attaching the paper hearts to the top of the antenna to add the Valentine’s Day finishing touch!

Heart shaped paper garland

It is likely that your kids will have made paper garlands before, but this craft offers a love-inspired update on the classic! All you will need for this is small, thin strips of red or pink paper and a stapler.

First, place four of these strips together and staple them together at one end. Then, take the two outer strips and roll them down, bringing them together at both ends to form a heart shape, with two strips of paper at the top acting as the ‘string’ to hang the garland with. Staple the two strips of paper that you just rolled down together at the bottom, then staple two more strips either side of the newly formed ‘point’ of the heart, rolling them down as you did the first two strips, and repeat! (Although this sounds complicated, following the link and viewing the image will show you just how simple this craft is!)

String wrapped hearts

These charming heart ornaments can be used as decoration, to give as gifts or to form the basis of many more craft ideas, making them a fun, easy but versatile activity this Valentine’s Day.

Take a sheet of polystyrene (or if you don’t have any, using old cardboard will work too) and cut out a heart shape. If you’re using polystyrene then you could use a cookie cutter to help! Then, take a ball of string in your chosen colour and stick the end to the cut out cardboard or polystyrene. Without cutting the ball of string, wind it round and round the shape, changing direction to add different lines and textures, not stopping until it is totally covered and is nice, thick and round! When you are happy with the size and shape of your heart, cut the ball of string and tuck the edge tightly into the rest of the wrapped-round string to secure it – simple!

The best books for encouraging your kids to read

For some kids, they love to curl up with a book as soon as they start reading but other need a bit more encouragement. Finding the right book that captures their interest and imagination can have a big impact and encourage them to turn to paperback books instead of digital entertainment once in a while. Libraries and book stores offer a huge range of stories for children to fall in love with and you’re sure to find a few that your child will want to keep turning the pages of.

If you want to encourage your child to read more and love it too, here are our 6 suggestions to get you started and give reluctant readers a boost.

Horrid Henry – The Horrid Henry books often featured in the top books of any school. Why? Kids love the character and his mischievous antics. The illustrated stories are interesting enough to keep children reading and enough of a challenge that they’ll feel accomplished when they finish it. Reading age: 7-10.

Stormbreaker – The first in a series of stories about a teenage spy, this fast-paced book is perfect for those looking for adventure. While boys are more often reluctant readers than girls, this thrilling book combines Bond-like action and plot twist to keep all enthralled until the end – and then they’ll want to pick up the second in the Alex Rider series. Reading age: 10-13.

The World’s Worst Children – With crazy ideas, stunning illustrations, and stories to keep the pages turning, David Williams has become a favourite children’s author. The World’s Worst Children is ideal for a light-hearted read that will encourage readers to come back for more. Reading age: 7-10.

The Gruffalo – A firm favourite in schools up and down the country is the Gruffalo, why didn’t you know? It’s a superb choice for reluctant readers that are just starting to read. The storyline, style of language and, of course, the voices they can put on as they read will mean children come to adore The Gruffalo. Reading age: 4-6.

Holes – For reluctant teenage reads, this young adult mystery could kick start a love for reading. Since being released in 1998 and having a movie adaption, it’s become a common book in the hands of teens. Combining funny moments, a poignant storyline, and twists and turns, it’s a perfect introduction to reading for pleasure. Reading age: 13+.

Roald Dahl collection – From The Twits to Fantastic Mr Fox, there’s a reason that the Roald Dahl collection of stories are classics and continue to enthral reader today. The incredible stories that are brought to life are perfect for children reading on their own or a bedtime story with an adult. Reading age:7-8.

Should you buy your child’s teacher a gift at Christmas?

At Christmas time it isn’t unusual to exchange gifts with friends, family and loved ones. But over the years an unspoken tradition seems to have surfaced, with many parents buying presents for their child’s school teacher at the end of term. While some see it as a simple token of gratification, it can soon spark rivalry and competition between parents.

In a recent survey, Mumnset found that one in ten parents spend £25 on Christmas presents for their child’s school teacher. It also revealed that a shocking 45% of the parent’s asked felt that there was a culture of ‘out-doing’ each other, while 8% would buy a gift as they didn’t want to appear mean compared to the other parents.

This unhealthy attitude towards present giving is not now, and another survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) from 2010 found that 93% of those questioned received gifts throughout the year, noting opera tickets, champagne, Tiffany bracelets and other treats worth well more than £25 as just some of the types of presents that were given.

Unfortunately, no matter how genuine intentions may be, the act of buying a teacher any form of present comes with various connotations of bribery, favouritism and ‘showing off’, as highlighted by the results of the survey above. So while this tradition does not need to be forgotten forever – with many children enjoying giving gifts to their tutor – it can be difficult to know what, or how much to spend on such a gift.

There are various gift-guides online (with presents all priced under £25!) to offer some inspiration that goes beyond the simple box of chocolates. However, for a low-key token of gratitude this remains a staple, popular choice that will be enjoyed by any treat loving teacher!

Ultimately, any decision towards buying a present for your child’s teacher should reflect your personal budget and views. To avoid the rivalry outlined above, dropping the gift off to the teacher before or after school, out of view of other children and parents can ensure you and your child distance yourself from being part of any competition.

So how much will you be spending on your child’s teacher this year? What is the culture towards gift-giving at your child’s school? Is there a policy towards teachers accepting presents?

Let us know in the comments below, or share your views with other parents in our online forum!

Fun activities for kids to help bonfire night go with a bang!

Just as all the excitement of Halloween is over, bonfire night comes along to provide more opportunities for fun with your children. Known for its fireworks and explosives, many parents may be concerned about celebrating this potentially dangerous festive period but there are still lots of ways you can get in the sparkling, crackling spirit and enjoy an exciting evening with your little ones, while keeping out of harm’s way!

There is nothing kids love more than eating yummy food and making fun crafts, so in order to celebrate bonfire night safely we’ve scoured Pinterest, the virtual pin board of creative inspiration, to bring you our top picks this bonfire night. If you like the sounds of any of these activities, click on the links to find out more!

Light up balloons

Light up the skies in a safe way with some illuminated balloons! Simply choose some brightly coloured balloons, crack open a glowstick and place in each one before you blow it up in order to create a beautiful, shining bunch of fun! Kids can pass them around, throw them to each other and tie them to a string, making this a great way to make the most of the darker nights.

Painting fireworks

We know – painting fireworks is extremely difficult to get right but one clever Pinterest user has come up with a genius solution! Cut slits at the end of an old cardboard tube and dip in paint. Then, simply twist the tube on some paper to watch the explosive colours come to life! Layer up different colours and let your children’s imagination run wild as they paint their very own firework display.

Bonfire cakes

Even if you can’t make it to a local bonfire display or don’t have room to build one in your garden, the fiery fun can be captured in a creative baking activity. Use your favourite cupcake recipe, then create the flaming finishing touch by using chocolate flakes as logs, and piping orange icing to show the flames flickering through.

Crafted sparklers

As well as watching the huge firework displays in the skies, it is tradition on bonfire night to also enjoy the glow from smaller, hand-held sparklers. If you’re unsure about giving these to your children, or just want another way to enjoy the fun then this sparkler craft activity is great. All you need is some straws, glue and lots of shiny, metallic material. The best part about these sparklers? They will keep on sparkling forever!

Should schools give out homework?

At the beginning of every school year the debate over homework reignites with some arguing it’s an important part of a child’s education while those opposed state it puts too much pressure on children at a young age. But should schools give out homework?

After the Philip Morant School and College in Essex announced it was ditching all homework they added to the debate. The school’s head teacher said the decision was linked to teachers struggling to find the time to mark and prepare lessons. With the extra time it’s hoped that teacher will now be able plan better lessons that engage and benefit pupils. Other schools have previously scrapped homework in a bid to reduce health problems and stress among pupils and some have opted to extend school hours over homework.

Under a Labour government guidelines suggested that children aged between 5 and 7 were given an hour of homework a week, with the amount gradually rising to 2.5 hours a week for those in year 11. However, these guidelines were scrapped in 2012 to give head teachers greater discretion.

The argument for homework

Giving homework to both primary and secondary school pupils does have some benefits, including:

  • Encouraging responsibility – Being responsible for their own homework encourages children to be more independent and take charge of their own education.
  • Improve parent involvement – Homework can act as a bridge between a child’s home education and school education, it allows parent to support their child, see what they are being taught and see their progress.
  • Preparation for tests – Homework can help children that are preparing to take tests or exams as it’s something they’ll often work independently on, building their problem solving skills.
  • Reinforce classes – Going over what’s been taught in the classroom with homework can help reinforce what a child has learnt and make sure they are better able to recall the information.

The argument against homework

However, there’s many arguments against giving out homework to children too, including:

  • Adding pressure – A lot of homework can add pressure to children, particularly if they struggle with it or can’t access help at home, resulting in some children feeling stressed.
  • Overworking children – Adults can feel overworked if they work all day and bring tasks home with them and it’s not different for children the bring home their school work.
  • Cuts into social activities – Having a lot of homework means children can miss out on other social activities, whether that’s spending quality time with family or taking part in a sport, that are important for their development too.
  • Takes up teachers’ time – Planning and marking homework takes away a teacher’s valuable time and this can have an impact on the quality of lessons.

Do you think children at primary and secondary school should get homework or should it be banned across the country? Let us know your thoughts.

 

What should you look for in a private tutor?

As competition for top school places increases and children sit more exams, more parents than ever are turning to private tuition to help boost their child’s education. But if you decide to hire a private tutor what should you look out for to make sure your child gets the best benefits possible?

Research by Sutton Trust found that in 2016 a quarter of pupils received private tuition, an increase of a third when compared to 2005. In the last year alone one in ten of all state-educated pupils at secondary school were tutored, and this figure increased to 42% in London. The most common reasons parents sought extra tuition was to provide additional support with school work, to help their child with a specific GCSE exam and for grammar school entrance exams.

Hiring a tutor can give children some extra help if they are struggling with certain areas and give them the boost they may need to achieve their full potential. It can also help with their confidence, managing their homework load and act as some additional support if they are feeling stressed about exams or grades. A tutor will be able to create a plan that goes at your child’s pace and targets the areas they need to work on, giving them more flexibility than they would receive in a traditional classroom setting.

The cost of hiring a private tutor varies and will depend on a number of factors, including experience, the topics your child requires tutoring in and the age of your child. If you’re considering hiring a private tutor to help support your child there are some things you should look for and check.

Make sure they have a DBS check

A DBS check, formally known as a CRB check, will make sure that the tutor is safe to work with children and you can see any criminal convictions they may have.

Ask for references

Some tutors will be retired teachers but others will be students or using tutoring to supplement another income. Whatever their background it’s a good idea to ask for references so you can assess their track record.

It’s not all about qualifications

If you have a few options it can be tempting to pick the tutor with the most qualifications but other areas are important too. It’s crucial to see how they interact with children and how patient they are to bring out the best in your child.

Test their subject knowledge

If you have a particular subject in mind make sure their knowledge of the topic is up to scratch, this becomes more important the older your child is.

Set out targets

When you’re going through the hiring process set out any specific targets you have in mind and ask how they would each work towards them.

Foreign Language Apps for Children

Learning a foreign language will help improve your child’s English standard and it is a fantastic lifelong skill. Schools tend to start teaching foreign languages when children turn 11 but some educational experts complain that this is too late for them to really learn it. You can encourage your child to start learning a foreign language from a younger age by hiring a tutor but this can be very costly. However, in this current technological age there are plenty of apps for smartphones and tablets that will provide a great education without the high price tag. Here are some of our favourites.

Juana la Iguana en la Granja 

Aimed at children five and up this fun learning experience will help your children with Spanish. Set on a farm an iguana called Juana will guide them through a series of games in Spanish. The games are all very educational but are also fun and engaging. It will improve your child’s Spanish vocabulary very quickly. The app is £2.29 to download but your child will have hours of educational fun.

Little Pim

This ingenious set of apps can actually adapt to your child’s learning style which will help them retain information. Little Pim the panda guides children through vocabulary in a wide range of languages including Chinese. It features a fun series of challenges that will ensure your child sticks with it. They even have a parent’s tracker – which means you can monitor progress without your child knowing. The apps are aimed at children from six upwards and are all completely free.

Rosetta Stone Kids Lingo Letter Sounds

Focused on Spanish speaking lessons this app is full of fun games that will encourage your child to learn. Rosetta Stone is experienced in providing language courses which means you can expect the highest standards of accuracy. It was a winner at the iKids Awards, being named the best pre-school learning app category. Aimed at children between the ages of three and six, it is completely free to download.

Duolingo

With arguably the best language selection out of any languages app, Duolingo will take a child through the basics and onto more advanced usage. The app works much like a game with achievements, badges and streaks as they progress. This little reward will encourage your child to keep going and learn more. The app is aimed at slightly older children but is completely free to download, just be wary of the in-app purchases.

Will you try encouraging your child to learn a language with any of these apps? Share your experiences on our social media pages.

Motivating A Teenager

The stereotypical moody teenager is a reality as most parents up and down the country will attest to, not only can they be in foul moods they can also suffer from a serious lack of motivation to do anything but sleep. There is some scientific evidence behind this too, with many experts citing these mood changes as a result of their changing brain chemistry. Many parents will worry about their child’s future or lack of during these periods but there are ways you can motivate them and encourage them to perform well in school.

Tangible Tasks

There is no easy solution that will change your child into a motivated young person determined to succeed, because you can’t make someone care about something that they simply couldn’t care less about. Instead, you need to offer rewards that they value as a motivating factor. They want to go to a concert this weekend well that’s fine but say they can only go if they complete their homework or finish college/university applications. But you actually have to follow up on this instruction otherwise you will appear to be a soft touch which will only make them challenge you more.

Consequences

Another way to motivate them is to allow them to make their own choices even if this means skipping homework, it will make you anxious but they will have to face the consequences for their own decision. Nothing quite makes them change their behaviour like punishment from school or extra work to make up for what they choose to skip over. Fairly quickly they will start to make better decisions about what they want to do and how they should be spending their time. This also means that they will be more motivated because they are aware of what will happen if they don’t get on top of the responsibilities that they have.

Inspiration

You shouldn’t try and appear to be motivating them instead you should aim to inspire them to achieve. Being controlling by screaming and shouting at them will not work, you need to ask yourself if the behaviour you show your child is overly controlling. It is difficult to understand what an inspiring behaviour is but the best way to achieve it is think about someone who has inspired you and model your behaviour around theirs. Chances are if it inspired you it will have a similar effect on your moody teen.

How do you motivate your child? Share your tips with us on our social media pages.

The Role Of Parent Governors

As part of the new controversial education white paper, plans have been made to remove parents from school governor boards. There are worries that this will silence community involvement and sideline parents in the education of their child. But what do school governors actually do? And doesn’t it make more sense to use unattached experts rather than parents with emotional ties to the school?

Parent Governors: What Are They

Governing boards oversee the day to day running and are charged with improving the overall standards. They are one of the largest volunteer forces in the UK. Usually parents are elected to these boards, if they want to participate and if they have children at the school. The hope is that they reflect the voice of parents and can highlight any concerns. They are more approachable than teaching staff and have a good understanding of parent’s problems. Any parent can choose to stand for the position and no experience is currently required.

The new focus of governing board members will be on the skills that they can bring to the role. No longer will it be necessary for a school governor to have children at the school. It does make sense with the move to more academy based institutions–knowledge of finance and management will be required to create successful academies so having these skill sets on the board will be advantageous. Some critics claim this harms the school by removing it from the community and is disingenuous towards parents.

The white paper said: “We will expect all governing boards to focus on seeking people with the right skills for governance, and so we will no longer require academy trusts to reserve places for elected parents on governing boards.”

What makes the right skills to become a governor is still unclear. Will degrees in finance and business be required? Maybe only those who can prove their management experience will be considered? Is there any reason that parents who have these skills cannot become governors? Whether they want to is another question. Parents on governor boards provide a vital perspective and it could be argued that they are more likely to care about the running of the school than an expert brought in to fill a gap.

This policy is still very much in the air and until further clarity is provided it is impossible to know whether these new governors will be effective.

Are you a school governor? What do you think about changes to this current system? Let us know on our social media pages.