32 articles Tag education

The Profs Tutoring – University and Beyond!

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m at an age now where some of my friends have kids of university age and older, so as much as my two are still in the early stages of their education, my friends’ kids are moving on to higher education already. It’s a real eye-opener, seeing all of the processes that they have to go through, from UCAS forms to Uni tours and applications for finance, it’s WAY more daunting than a primary school application and that’s before the work has even begun.

Some of you may remember that I started a degree myself, back in 2010 when Sausage was just 2. I had grand ideas of studying psychology and although I managed to get through my first two courses, the workload got too much once I returned to work, not forgetting the huge hike in fees which happened to treble the cost of my courses. It gave me huge respect for the people who move miles away from home at the tender age of eighteen to do it all full-time and made me realise that there must be kids who need help too.

It never occurred to me before that University students might have private tutors, but that’s exactly what the guys at The Profs do. They’re a University tutors service, aimed at students in higher education, and can help with private tuition, applications, academic consultancy, career advice, writing guidance and everything else a student might need to help them to get through their courses.  The tutors are all trained professionals from top universities, so they know all-too-well the rigours of Uni life and how tough it can be to keep on top of everything whilst dealing with what is most youngsters’ first real taste of independence.

The Profs’ mission statement is: 

A Private tutor can improve your understanding, boost your grades, diminish pressure, and enhance employment prospects!

    • We provide private tuition, academic mentoring and educational consultancy for students at all levels. Our tutors are professional tutors with teaching experience at top universities, schools, and institutions.
    • Our tutors are experts in everything from exam technique to revision technique and we seek to give students the confidence and dedication needed to succeed in education.
  • We have hundreds of educators working with thousands of students in pretty much any subject you can think of. Please, give us a call and see how we can help you.The Profs

With the job market being tougher than it’s ever been, even for graduates, it’s good to know that young people (or even people like myself who choose to go back into education after many years) are able to get the help that they need to enable them to get the best results they can. The cost of tutoring through The Profs are really reasonable given that they are all world-class educators and teachers. Many of them can also work online giving students from all around the world ultimate flexibility in having professional classes, no matter where they are based.

If you’d like to know how to find a tutor for yourself or your child, click on the link above to be taken to The Profs’ website.

Getting Ahead with Spires Online Tutoring

Spires Online TutoringWe’ve been toying with the idea of getting Sausage a tutor for some time now. I’ve written before about her lack of confidence in maths and how she’s incredibly bright but seems to get flustered with numbers, and also about how she’s adamant that she wants to do her 11+ and I do worry that her own nerves will get the better of her. The issue we have with private tutoring is two-fold. Firstly, one-to-one tutoring can be expensive, and although it’s possible to buddy up with another family and pay for the tutor together, the second issue is that we live in the middle of nowhere, seriously limiting the amount of tutors who’d even come to us (and giving us a far shallower talent pool to choose from, in much the same way as smaller, rural schools).

The obvious answer is online tutoring, which is where Spires comes in. Spires is an online tutoring site which offers tutors from Oxford and Cambridge and all of their work is done via the internet which means that our location is no longer an issue. It also means that costs are kept down because travel isn’t a worry – a Spires tutor could effectively sit at their desk for eight hours a day and tutor solidly the whole time, without ever needing to move!

One thing that I absolutely LOVE about the Spire ethos is that they’re aiming to level the educational playing field by offering top-class tutoring to ANYONE, rather than only priviledged kids at the top schools getting all of the benefits. They say on their site:

“No matter how much the UK’s top universities are said to encourage entrants from the state sector, the reality remains – students from the best independent schools consistently have a far greater chance of entering the best universities.

So we asked ourselves:

What could we offer to maximise the chance of any student getting into a university worthy of their intelligence, ability and potential regardless of their background?

We attended one of the best universities in the world and we were oblivious to just how lucky we had been. Only at Oxford did we begin to appreciate the unfair advantage that going to a top private school had given us in getting into a top university. At school, we were drilled, tutored and trained to get those places.

We were coached over and above the curriculum. If we were struggling with any element of our studies – great tutors were available, around the clock one-on-one – to fix that problem.

We created Spires to provide the one-on-one tutoring experience that gave us the edge in our final exams. Our aim is to make that experience affordable to as many parents as possible and level the playing field in those pre university examination years”

I went to a really good grammar school for my secondary education and was lucky enough to get in despite living WELL out of the catchment area, but my parents couldn’t have afforded tutors because they were expensive (and probably non-existent in a town like Basildon anyway…), although I know lots of other girls have them, so it’s really good to know that my kids won’t be at a disadvantage if they ever need help with their studies.

 

Technology and Kids: Moderation is the Key

kids and technologyTechnology. It’s one of those things which can be SO good when it works but can also be the bane of your life when it doesn’t. We’re quite “techy”, here in the Mum’s the Word house, and all of us have various devices that we use on a daily basis. The girls have tablets and Sausage has a mobile phone which she got for her last birthday, mostly to allow her to go Pokemon hunting without needing to use my phone!

However, it’s not without it’s issues; I often find myself spending far too much time on Facebook or Reddit or playing some mobile game and sometimes I realise I’ve spent almost all day staring at a screen, and naturally, Sausage would be the same if we allowed her unfettered access to her phone. She only uses her phone at home, but just recently My Voucher Codes conducted a survey which found that 75% of parents feel that mobile devices have a negative effect on their children’s education and how social media platforms have become so distracting to students that they are less likely to concentrate during lessons.

I do think that a lot of the problem is the lack of monitoring that goes on – just because Sausage has her own technology doesn’t mean that she is able to use them autonomously – Husband and I have to approve every app she installs and we like to ensure she has a mixture of fun and educational apps. Pokemon Go encourages exercise, so we’re happy for her to use it, and she also has apps which help her to learn foreign languages, her times table and which encourage her to train her memory.

I also think that the issue is WHEN children are allowed to use their phones. Until she’s a LOT older, Sausage won’t be allowed to take her device to school because she simply doesn’t need it. Also, when she’s at home she has to have completed her homework before she can use her phone and we don’t let her use it for hours on end. She also has to put it down at least an hour before bed because it’s now been proven that looking at screens can interrupt a person’s circadian rhythm and we certainly don’t want her to be unable to sleep!

Chris Riley from My Voucher Codes thoughts on technology for kids echo my own:

“It’s interesting to see that three quarters of parents feel that mobiles, tablets and gaming devices have a negative effect on their child’s education, yet half admit that they do not restrict the time that their child spends on the internet.

“Monitoring your child’s internet and social media usage is now more important than ever. Although there is a range of benefits from spending time online, including increased communication and access to information, there is also the risk of online bullying, depression caused by online altercations and exposure to inappropriate content. Setting ground rules, checking privacy settings and monitoring what your child is sharing are good steps to take to ensure your child stays safe online.”

He added: “We find using our mobile or tablet devices can easily take over our lives and those of our children. Setting times when you children can use these devices means they are not on their phones 24/7. It will also be beneficial to their health if they are not on devices late into the night as well as improving their concentration in class.”

How do you feel about mobile devices for kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts so do leave me a comment below.

Educational Gift Ideas For Kids

Buying kids gifts can be so much fun, whether you’re buying for their birthdays or Christmas. However, it’s even better to buy kids gifts that are educational. This doesn’t mean you need to buy them a big fat textbook for school or anything – that might suck the fun out of gift giving a little. It just means you should try to find gifts that will help kids to develop and use their skills. Here are some gifts that can help them to do just that!

Books

Books are always a brilliant educational gift idea for kids. If you start reading to kids from a young age, they’ll learn to love reading. Reading is beneficial at all stages of life. While they’re young, kids will improve listening and speaking skills. They’ll be better spellers, and have a more inventive imagination. As they grow older, they can use books to escape, or learn more about subjects they are interested in. They might even become keen writers themselves, like most avid readers do! You don’t need to make it clear that the book is educational. Just about any type of book can be educational!

2589425038_9da0e9a27f_z

author

Tablets/E-readers

Tablets and e-readers aren’t just for playing pointless games. You can easily download books for kids here. Not only that, there are educational apps and games that you can download onto them. A tablet or an e-reader is usually a better gift for older children, as they appreciate how important it is to look after things like this.

Word/Math Games

There are so many word and math games out there. Scrabble for one, is lots of fun and will help kids to improve their vocabulary and spelling. It even incorporates some maths when you take adding up scores into account. Games like Monopoly and Cluedo are a lot of fun and educational too. They’ll be using their math skills in Monopoly, as well as their deduction skills in Cluedo to work out ‘who dunnit’. There are plenty of games that are fun and good for your child’s development!

2213739535_be22e79984

Credit

A Telescope

A telescope can help your kids to see the stars close up, and learn all about them as they do so. If that’s not their thing, a microscope could help them to see bugs and other fun things close up! You can find more information on gadgets such as this on Hawkin’s bazaar and sites of a similar nature.

Science/Craft Kits

Science and craft kits are great for kids who love to learn already, or make things. You can get science kits that allow kids to do fun things like grow their own crystals. Then there are craft kits that let them make mosaics, jewelry, and lots of other things.

Just about any gift you look at can be educational for kids. Any gift that allows them to use their creativity, motor skills, math skills, language skills…you get the picture! If you have any educational gift suggestions for kids, leave a comment below!

Researching Our Options with School Reviewer

School ReviewerI’ve written here before about the potential conundrum with our school situation and with Sausage about to go into year 4, it’s becoming ever more pressing. When we moved to our little village, we gave Sausage three options. She could either quit school and be home educated, change schools to one more local to where we’re living, or stay where she is but have a bit of a commute each day. Ultimately, she decided to stay where she was and we weren’t unhappy about that as her current school is very good and was our only choice of Primary for her.

The conundrum happens when we start to factor in BB starting school in 2018, Sausage’s final year of primary. Do we send her to the same school as Sausage and tie ourselves into another 7 years of commuting a fair distance, send her to a primary closer to home and deal with very awkward school runs for a year (with both of them needing to be in different schools at the same times in the morning) or maybe even home educate BB for reception year until we know where Sausage will be going for secondary.

We recently happened upon School Reviewer, which really is a one-stop-shop for everything school related and it’s been an absolutely invaluable resource for us while we mull over this decision. They say:

School Reviewer is so much more than just a review site

  • It’s the only site with unique video walkthroughs to show how to score a 100% on Maths GCSE and SATs papers.
  • The only site with a unique Buy and Sell section specific to individual schools.
  • A site with a unique catchment area heat map for every state school in the UK.
  • A site that has discussion forums for parents on a local and national basis. A site that is recruiting tutors for free to create the biggest and most trusted tutor site for parents in the UK.
  • A site where you can read or write reviews about your child’s school to help other parents.
  • In fact, it’s the perfect choice for you and your child’s educational journey.

As well as allowing us to get a really comprehensive overview of all of the schools in our area, it’s also a fab resource for tutors, something we’re considering in the run up to the 11+. However, if a tutor is not within budget, School Reviewer also sells practice exam papers for SATs and GCSEs, with 11+ papers to be added to the site really soon. I really like the idea of being able to test Sausage at home and having access to official papers will make this so much easier.School Reviewer Buy and Sell

I think my favourite feature, however, is the buy and sell section, which School Reviewer have recently made completely free to use. You can buy and sell things which are specific to your school, allowing you to grab bargains like nearly-new school uniform, text books and other stuff for a fraction of the price. The back to school period can be ridiculously expensive so giving parents a way to save money is really positive, as well as allowing you to make a few quid off of anything that you no longer need.

All in all, I think the people behind School Reviewer are absolute geniuses. I’m not aware of any other sites which offer such a thorough overview of all things school related and I’ll be recommending it to basically anyone who will listen! Head over to the site to take a look yourself.

 

Getting Ahead with Tutor Hunt

Tutor HuntLiving where we do, the secondary school situation can be pretty competitive. We’re lucky enough to have two amazing girls schools nearby (one of which, my old school in fact, is ranked in the top 60 of the whole country!) and we’re hoping that Sausage will pass her 11+. The exam itself is said to have got a lot harder in recent years and I know that a lot of her peers will start receiving tutoring in the next year or so, to help improve their chances.

Tutor Hunt is a brilliant service which allows you to find a tutor in your area, letting you narrow down the choices to find exactly the right person for you. You can even find an online tutor so that, as with us, living remotely shouldn’t be an issue. It also allows you to narrow down the search by price range, which will allow you to only look at tutors you can afford, making life SO much easier.

The really unique thing about Tutor Hunt is that it’s not actually a tutoring service, it’s simply a matching service, so although there’s a small fee for matching you with a tutor, they won’t charge ongoing commission, which means that your tutor takes home every penny you pay, which ensures a really high standard of tuition (and is also great for motivating teenagers to study, at a later stage)

Tutor Hunts says “Most tuition agencies will select your tutor for you, based on who they think would be suitable. Tutor Hunt doesn’t work this way: we believe the parent, or the student themselves to be the best judge. They will know better than an agency assessor who is the right tutor for them.

Most agencies work by commission, taking a cut of the tutor’s earnings. This has the effect of driving up the tutor’s hourly rate considerably, as the tutor will seek to recoup their lost funds. This effectively passes the cost onto the student; and with ongoing lessons, the cumulative amount can be quite significant. The hourly rates of tutors signed up with Tutor Hunt are less than tutors working for agencies, as they are in complete control of their rates, we do not take any commission from them.”

One thing that we’re seriously considering is teaming up with another family to make tutoring a more affordable prospect for our families. One of my friends has a son who is in the same year of school as Sausage and his parents are also keen for him to attend a grammar school, so getting both kids tutored at the same time would be economical and convenient for all involved.

If you’re looking for a tutor or simply want to know more about the whole tutoring process, head over to the Tutor Hunt website for more details.

Schools Around the World

With the kids now back at school, we’re well on our way to being back in a routine (despite poor Sausage having been off for the first three days of this week with tonsillitis :sadface: ). Brantano has produced a number of infographics to illustrate what a school week looks like in various countires around the world; here’s the UK

Brantano-Schools-Around-The-World-Flat-section5

Another country that Husband and I really like the look of is the Netherlands. We’ve spoken at length about where we’d go if ever emigrated and the Netherlands is way up high on our list. We love their slightly more laid back attitude to life than the UK and their education system is definitely something which appeals. Here’s their school week:

Brantano-Schools-Around-The-World-Flat-section7

I think Sausage would get a huge kick out of not wearing a uniform to school! Also, Sausage actually started school age 4 so having an extra 2 years with them, allowing them to grow and develop at home rather than in a classroom must be wonderful. It’s interesting also to see the male/female ratio of teachers and how so many teachers in both countries tend to be female. Sausage has only has female teachers up to this point in her career, and I wonder how different her experience of school would have been if she’d had a male teacher?

Brantano-Schools-Around-The-World-Flat-section3

Japanese kids seem to have it pretty tough – Sausage would not be at all fond of the idea of maths drills and learning the 26 letters of the English alphabet is tough enough at the age of 4 – can you imagine needing to learn almost 100 times that many?! Mind blowing!

Where would you like your kids to go to school? Do you love the UK system? Is 4 way too young or were you pleased to get them in the classroom as soon as possible? Leave me a comment below.

If you are interested to learn more about education around the globe, Cognita Schools are the global leader in independent education.

TutorFair Review

tutorfairAs you’ll know if you’ve read this post, Sausage is a super bright girl, but thanks to being let down by a previous teacher, she lacks confidence in Maths and related topics. So when we were asked by Tots100 if we’d like the opportunity to receive a couple of tutoring sessions with TutorFair in a topic of our choice, we jumped at the chance. TutorFair offer teachers in a number of topics, including instrument tuition, but it seemed prudent for us to take advantage of some extra help with maths, if only to show Sausage just how capable she actually is.

The TutorFair website is one of my favourite things about the whole experience – it gives you the ability to narrow down what you’re looking for by subject, area, even budget, so you don’t end up trawling through a list of irrelevant teachers at prices you can’t afford. It also gives you an overview of the experience and qualifications of each tutor; the young man who came to see us was a Physics graduate and did his post-grad teacher training at Cambridge University, which is pretty impressive!

On the day, our tutor Sam arrived early for the session but jumped straight in (after taking his shoes off at the door, despite my protestations – excellent manners!) and gave Sausage a special programme to work through on his iPad to show him exactly where she was in terms of her knowledge. This allowed him to see exactly where she needed help and meant that their time together was properly optimised.

Using a combination of iPad and traditional pen and paper, Sausage and Sam worked through a whole load of topics (with me hovering around to get a good overview for review purposes) and it seemed like he was really able to connect with Sausage and pass on some new techniques for doing certain sums. I try not to criticize the UK’s free education system too much as it’s fantastic for most families, however there can be a slightly “one size fits all” approach to teaching when class sizes are large which means that some kids catch on quicker than others. Extra tuition like the sessions Sausage received are a brilliant way to solidify knowledge that’s passed on during school time and make sure that all of the new concepts have really sunk in.

In terms of cost, the tutor who came to us would usually cost around £38 per hour, which is by no means the most expensive session on the site and could be well worth it if your child is having a lot of problems with a subject. There are also tutors who offer help with 11+, GCSE’s and A-Levels and Sam told us that, in some cases, 11+ tuition begins as young as 8 years old.

All in all, I felt like we had a really positive experience with TutorFair. Sausage felt a lot more confident even after one session and it’s something that we would definitely consider continuing with, should she need the extra help. As a final point, another thing we liked was that, if you were a normal TutorFair customer, all payments are made via the website, so there’s no awkward exchange of cash at the end of the session – this may sound like a silly little thing, but it just made me feel like I’d be a lot more comfortable about using the service in the future.

For more information on tutors in your area, visit the TutorFair site.

Nurturing Their Dreams

Kid dreaming of being an astronautWhen I was a kid, I was often asked what I wanted to be when I was older. I was a relatively intelligent child and achieved well at school, so from a very young age there were a lot of expectations piled upon me from parents and teachers. Eventually, I passed my 11+ and was sent to a grammar school, where instead of being the brightest in my class, I was one of many clever girls and I hovered somewhere around the middle, in terms of achievement. It was drummed into us from the beginning that we had to constantly have our eye on the distance – end of year exam results dictated which GCSE options we were allowed to take, and we’d need to choose the right GCSE’s to allows us to take the A-Levels we wanted, which in turn were for the purpose of gaining access to the right degree course at the right university.

I was, and still am, a fairly shiftless person. My big dream when I was little was to be an Astronaut – sounds far fetched, but I intended to join the RAF out of sixth form and gain University sponsorship from them, with the hope of going on to train to be a pilot. Once I was told that I had zero chance of flying a plane because of my horrendous eyesight, I went into something of a tailspin. I could never really pinpoint what I wanted to be, and the thought that my career would define the rest of my life never sat well with me anyway.

I can’t help but wonder if my childhood intelligence (which, I have to say, seems considerably dulled by age) is part of the problem. I remember, for a long time, thinking that I’d be a hairdresser when I got older, except when I expressed this to my parents, I was told “You’re too clever to be a hairdresser”. This became a running theme in my adolescence and my passions were trampled under the weight of what I ‘should’ have been doing with my brain. Drama became my new passion and I was pretty good at it, too. I’m fairly extroverted and love performing but once again, it wasn’t considered cerebral enough. I was allowed to take Drama at A-Level, but only as a concession because I took four other ‘serious’ subjects (Chemistry, Biology, English Literature and English Language).

As it stands, I flunked out of sixth form; the mounting pressure got too much and I found myself being anywhere but the lessons I was supposed to be attending. I can’t help but wonder if I’d have been more inclined to attend if I’d not been steered towards subjects that I didn’t really want to take?

Sausage is an incredible kid, with a great imagination, huge intellect (she’s currently reading books at home which are for 8-year-olds, because her school books aren’t challenging enough) and artistic flair. She’s got the potential to be anything she wants to be, but I remind myself almost daily that the key part of that sentence is “SHE WANTS”. We spend so much time telling our kids that they can be anything they want to be and then second guessing their choices because they don’t sit well with our plans for their lives and it’s about time we stopped being so bloody arrogant.

Just this morning, Sausage told me that we wanted to be a nail technician and masseuse. One side of my brain said “That won’t earn you much money. You’ve got so much more potential than that. Why don’t you do that as a hobby, instead?”, but I managed to stop myself from saying it out loud. I adjusted my brain and instead thought “If that’s what makes you happy, then I’ll support you”. And, isn’t that what’s important? Supporting our kids in their choices and nurturing their happiness?

It is to us, at least.

How to Teach Your Kids About Sex

sex educationI’m not a parenting expert, not by a long shot; I’m more of a “fly by the seat of your pants” kinda girl (the fact that I’m quoting a fictional hooker has probably undermined any potential expertise I’d have gained, anyway…). Having said that, I like to think that Husband and I are doing a reasonable job of raising Sausage, who’s a kind, bright, inquisitive little girl and one of the things that has set us in good stead is our ‘no-bullshit’ rule.

When I was pregnant with Sausage, Husband and I made a pact that if we were ever in a position to explain something to her properly, we’d never whitewash her the way some parents do and would do our best to always explain things in a kid-friendly, but accurate manner. This is as much for our benefit as it is for hers. From our point of view, it means that we’ll never be in the tricky position of trying to think up some elaborate tale about the ways of the world, plus it’ll instill a sense of trust between us all. I often think that the more parents lie to their kids when they’re little, about things which are easily explainable, the more potential damage they could be doing to their relationship. Imagine growing up being told fairy stories about every fact of life, then having to learn it all the hard way when you’re older, not knowing if what your parents told you about anything  was ever true.

From Sausage’s point of view, I like to think that giving her information does a few things – firstly, it instils a sense of trust from us because we credit her with being logical and reasonable enough to be able to be given facts. Also, I link to think it brings us closer together. If, when she’s older, she knows that she can talk to Mum and Dad about anything, without having to watch us squirm with discomfort at “awkward” questions, she’s more likely to come to us for the really important stuff. And, on a totally different note, I’d much rather she learn about the science of reproduction from us than from her peers, who (I hope…) know a lot less about it than we do!

I’m always surprised that parents are reluctant to let their kids have sex education during primary school, too. The way I see it is that if you’re not able to give your child the information they need about sex, then why not feel relieved that a professional is doing your job for you? I completely refute the premise that teaching kids about sex will make them go out and do it – we taught Sausage the basic principle of nuclear fission once, but she’s not out trying to procure fissile materials. Kids aren’t sheep and I think many parents fail to credit them with enough intelligence and maturity to deal with cold, hard facts. If anything, teaching them that SEX leads to BABIES might make them think twice about unprotected sex.

The thing with kids (and some sciences, for that matter) is that there’s always a level to which you can break things down where they get the information they need, without making it too graphic. We’ve told Sausage that females have an egg and men have a different type of cell, called a sperm and they fit together like pieces of a puzzle. The Dad gives his sperm to the Mum and it fertilizes the egg, then it lives in the Mum’s tummy for nine months so that it can grow into a baby. She was more than satisfied with this description and we didn’t need to go into details about HOW daddy gives mummy the sperm (although, it may occur to her to ask when she gets older). That’s the easiest way to break it down, for us, it doesn’t go into unnecessary detail (which I think would probably just confuse her at her age anyway) and allows us to give an accurate and totally squirm-free explanation.

Sausage found a book in the library called the Flip Flap Body Book, which tackles  How Babies Are Made in a way that we were really comfortable with and I highly recommend it if your little ones are asking questions that you aren’t happy to answer (if you read the Amazon reviews, people are saying that it’s even good for up to 9-year-olds, so don’t feel like you’ve missed the boat if you’ve never tackled the subject with your child).

All in all, I genuinely think that honesty is the best policy when it comes to kids, especially when it’s something like this which can, in reality, be so easily explained in a way that suits you both.

Good luck!