19 articles Tag learning

BrightMinds – Educational Gifts for Kids

Being a parent at Christmas can be a tough job. If Burrito Baby had her way, all of her gifts would be things that Husband and I consider cheap, plastic tat which will probably be chewed up by Maureen before New Year because it all gets left on the floor! Also, as you’ll know if you read this post, Sausage is getting  to that ‘hard to buy for’ age, which makes buying presents even tricker. We’ve always tried to find a balance between three things:

  1. Stuff they actually really want.
  2. Stuff which is good quality and will last longer than a few weeks.
  3. A combination of gifts which are fun but are also educational in some way.

Both of the girls are really fascinated by science. Just a few weeks ago, Sausage came home from school absolutely buzzing because she’d used a bunsen burner for the first time and she seems really engaged by things she’s learning in her lessons. BB isn’t quite at bunsen burner level yet, but she’s developing a deep love of all things science, mostly anatomy and nature.

A while ago, BrightMinds got in touch and asked if we’d like to pick some things from the website for the girls for Christmas, and I realised that it’s basically a whole site, dedicated to things my kids would LOVE! BrightMinds specialie in STEM toys (science, technology, engineering and maths), as well as wooden toys, role play & board games that are fun to use but also encourage learning and development.

BrightMinds - Learning Resources Anatomy Models: Set of heart, brain, body and skeleton

We opted for the Learning Resources Anatomy Models which consists of a set of heart, brain, body and skeleton models, giving children gain a deeper insight to the workings of the human body. Children learn as they build each of the models using the step by step photo illustrated assembly instructions. It’s a bit like a puzzle, but taking it to a whole new level!

I just know that both girls are going to love these and that it will hopefully help to continue to foster their love of science. At the moment, BB is adamant that she’s going to be a doctor AND a vet (hello, tuition fees!) and these models might be the thing that inspire her to make a choice. I haven’t opened the boxes yet, as I want to save them for Christmas, but you can see them through the window on the front and the quality and level of detail looks excellent.

I think these make such a great gift for the scientifically-minded kids in your life and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them. The best part is, you can still place an order all the way up to 23rd December for next day delivery, which mean you’ve got plenty of time to get some things ordered before Christmas. Don’t forget to take a look around the WHOLE Brightminds site for other STEM toys, arts and crafts kits, books and a whole load of other educational gifts which are so vibrant and fun, kids will forget they’re learning!

Who Knew Studying Could be Fun? 5 Ways to Enjoy Your Studies as an Adult

Photo by Kyle Gregory Devaras on Unsplash

Whether you’re studying to further your career, secure the job you’ve always wanted, or you just want to have the satisfaction of some additional studies and qualifications under your belt, then returning to education as an adult can seem like the perfect solution. But is it possible to juggle the responsibilities of adulthood – parenting, holding down a job etc and yet still have a positive student experience? Is it possible to actually enjoy your studies while you’re juggling everything else in your life?

Read on for 5 ways you can enjoy your studies as an adult.

Get a little help

Ask any student about which aspect of their studies they dislike the most and the majority will tell you that checking for grammar and spelling errors, proofreading their work and trying to get their heads around correct citations is really what drags them down. Luckily, there is help at hand for all these little tasks in the form of proofreading services, spelling and grammar checks and even an apa citation generator! All of which can be found online, click the link to find out more.

Get some good music

Beware! Not everyone is able to study and listen to music at the same time. It just depends on how your brain works. For some, listening to heavy song lyrics and writing a compelling essay about 19th century art comes naturally. For others, it could be a bit of a hindrance. If you think you might struggle, try listening to some movie soundtracks instead or perhaps some classical music. Before you know it, you’ll be the star of your own study montage!

Use stationary you love

Forget those boring old pens and pads that remind you of school or your place of work. This is your study time, so make it your own. Use stationary that ignites your desire to write, take notes and gives you inspiration. From pretty post-it notes and thought provoking notebooks to highlighters in gorgeous colours, pretty pens with fluffy toppers or sleek and stylish fountain pens that compliment your stunning annotations. Head to the stationary store and treat yourself!

Try studying somewhere different

You might have created the best studying area that allows you to concentrate and work without interruption. However, even the most productive of workspaces can feel a little stagnant. To shake things up and to make your studies more fun, consider studying somewhere different. Head outside to the garden and enjoy the sunshine or head to a café and treat yourself to a slice of cake. You deserve it! You could even consider reading your study materials in the bath or writing some study notes whilst waiting for the bus.

Give your memory a boost!

Struggling to remember all those dates and names? Try turning the trickier elements of your studies into rhyme or poems to help make them stick. You could draw pictures that trigger your memory or write flash cards and stick them all over the house!

5 Benefits to Having an Aquarium at Home for your Children

aquariumPhoto by David Clode on Unsplash

Have you considered using an aquarium as an educational tool? There are many ways that having an aquarium at home will positively stimulate the imagination and affection of your kids! While many parents look into getting an aquarium simply because it’s fun, there are many underlying reasons that reinforce why this is such a good idea.

If you’re wondering exactly what these benefits may be, read through the following article for some guidance and inspiration. You will also find useful links here comprising technical aspects of having an aquarium.

Aquariums Encourage learning

There’s something so new and exciting about having a live fish tank indoors that always fascinates children. As such, an aquarium is a great opportunity to pique the curiosity of your kids, which in term will help fuel their desire to learn more about the world. They’ll start by pondering simple questions such as how do fish breathe or whether they drink water, and from there their natural curiosity should entice them to learn more about fish species and underwater environments.

Stimulates imagination and creativity

Since an aquarium is a self-contained little world inhabited by peculiar creatures and plants, watching this unusual setting will stimulate your children to look beyond reality and imagine other possibilities. This is especially true if you allow them to play an active role in decorating the fish tank and helping with research – like finding the 3 best aquarium timers. It’s also a fun idea going on some field trips for inspiration – such as visiting a large public aquarium before getting your own.

Increases senses of responsibility

Even though they’re a great tool to stimulate imagination and creativity in children, aquariums are also a great way to encourage your children to keep their feet firmly planted in reality. After all, those are living creatures swimming around in the fish tank, and they have to be properly fed and taken care of. By recruiting the assistance of the young ones, you will manage to get them involved in the project while subtly exercising their sense of responsibility.

Helps with negative emotions

There’s something incredibly soothing about an aquarium that seems to have a positive effect on anxiety levels while promoting healthy bonding. Children who help manage a domestic aquarium will tend to connect with fish and regard them as friends. This on-going experience will provide a valuable outlet to help dismiss negative emotions such as frustration and sadness.

Creates moments of magic

For a growing child, a aquarium can be truly a magical and wonderful thing, since it’s so unlike everything else around them during any given day. Having the opportunity to interact with fish and observing them enjoying their underwater setting can be a magical and character-building experience. It will provide your kids with many happy memories as well as a window that allows them to peek into the underwater world to watch some of its fantastic creatures.

Become a Mini Ninja at YO! Sushi (review)

If there are two things that my kids love it’s cooking and sushi, but unless you’ve got some serious skills, the two passions rarely meet – until now! Recently, the people at YO! Sushi got in touch to tell us about their in-store cooking classes, Sushi Ninja for adults and Mini Ninja for kids, and we knew we had to go along and try them. Our nearest YO! Sushi is in Lakeside and we’ve actually never eaten there before, despite our love of Japanese food, so it was a first for us all.

We arrived at the the restaurant at 11am, before they start opening up for the day, and the kids were sat down with their bamboo mats in front of them, all cling-filmed up and ready for use, before being taught all about the importance of proper hand hygiene, especially when making food with raw fish. They were given hair covers and gloves to wear and I think I counted at least three glove changes throughout the class, which was impressive to say the least.

The class was run by Marcell, the manager of Lakeside YO!, and she clearly knew her stuff. She was excellent with the kids and taught the whole class without once talking down to the kids or making things too complicated. She was happy to help Burrito Baby, whose hands were probably still a little bit on the small side of sushi rolling, and both of the girls thought she was a fab teacher.

The Mini Sushi Ninja classes cost £15 per child, last one hour and include all of the ingredients, the bamboo mat which the kids get to take away with them, and a goody bag containing the recipe cards, chops sticks and the bag itself. The girls made three types of sushi during the class, a cucumber roll, a salmon nigiri, and a California hand roll, which then gets put into a takeaway box for the kids to eat once they’re done. Husband and I sampled the sushi and were really impressed with how well both girls did. The whole class was such an awesome and different way to spend a morning and the girls actually said that it was their favourite activity of the whole summer.

We were also lucky enough to stay at YO! Sushi for lunch, and although we’re regular sushi eaters, we wanted to try some new stuff too – Marcell kindly offered to choose a few dishes for us so that we got a variety of flavours and MY GOODNESS did she choose well! I’m not usually a fan of squid, but I liked their spicy pepper squid so much that I ate a whole plate of it by myself! The beef teriyaki was also basically one of the nicest things we’ve ever tasted; we were back in Lakeside the next day for a different event and were seriously considering just going back to YO! for about five plates of beef teriyaki!

Although this was our first experience of YO! Sushi, it most definitely won’t be our last. The class was excellent, the food was genuinely lovely and the whole experience was hugely positive for all of us. The classes were so fun to observe that Husband and I are thinking about trying the adult classes too! Head over to the YO! Sushi website for more info about the classes, store locations and the menus.

Thanks so much to Marcell and the team at YO! Sushi Lakeside for giving us such a lovely experience.

11+ Help for a Fraction of the Cost with Education Quizzes

Education QuizzesI’ve mentioned before that Husband and I have been looking into getting Sausage a tutor to help her with the 11+ and now that we’re getting towards the end of year 4, it’s becoming even more of a pritority. The main issue we have is the cost associated with tutoring; most of the decent tutors locally charge betwen £25 and £30 a week, which can really build up over the course of the month and it’s quite normal to think that would be well out of the budget of the average family, who usually doesn’t have that kind of spare cash at the end of the month.

Just recently, we were made aware of Education Quizzes, an online education portal which contains quizzes on a number of different levels, including KS1, KS2, 11+ and even G.C.S.E’s and the cost is absolutely fractional compared to that of a tutor. For just £9.95 a month, your child will have access to quizzes relating to the level they’re studying which are written by teachers and are intended to make learning both interactive and fun.

The site is totally advert-free, which is something that appeals to us massively. We’ve done our best to make Sausage super savvy when it comes to internet stuff and advertising, and she even checks all of the permissions that apps ask for before she’ll download them onto her phone, so it’s nice to know she won’t be bombarded with adverts while studying. You can also cancel your subscription at any time without any fees, which is also good to know.

It’s also possible for schools to sign up to Education Quizzes and allow all of their pupils access to the site with one membership – schools are offered a hugely reduced rate per pupil and they’ll have access to a whole new set of resources for helping the kids, as well as giving the children something they can use from home if they choose to. If you’re a parent and think that your kids’ school could benefit from this, I strongly suggest you put the idea forward to them!

I love the fact that we’ll be able to monitor Sausage’s progress as well as the fact that this type of extra curricular learning will be totally convenient for us. Not only do we live well out in the sticks (much further than most tutors are willing to drive!) we’re also usually pretty busy with something or another, but with Education Quizzes we can fit it in wherever, and whenever, we need to. I also think that the online aspect will be appealing to Sausage – let’s face it, most kids would rather look at a screen even if it’s for something educational, so at least we know this will hold her interest!

I’m excited to see how Sausage gets on with the site and I’ll update you at some point in the future. In the meantime, if you want to find out more about Education Quizzes, follow the link above.

Tabletop Games: A Fun Way for Parents to Teach Children a Plethora of Skills

Kids love games of all kinds, whether outdoors or in, a sports or video games. These days, children of all ages are captivated more by the digital than the analog, leaving something to be desired for the developing brain.

According to the Association for Psychological Science, children who play with board games have an advantage when it comes to a specific set of cognitive skills like spatial reasoning. Additionally, playing games can play a major role in social development and the soft skills needed to navigate through the future.

Here’s a look at the some of the board game benefits that go beyond fun.

Cultivating Critical Thinking

Most children are naturally curious, and board games can help foster a greater sense of big picture thinking. A game with an age-appropriate level of strategic thinking offers an opportunity for kids to think outside the box.

Developing Motor Skills and More

Motor skill development from games is largely dependent on the age of the child in question. Small children or toddlers can benefit from the hand-eye coordination required to play the game. Rolling the dice and precisely moving a game piece across the board gives the littlest players a chance to develop a sense space, balance and hand-eye coordination.

Games that feature building blocks require a steady hand to keep pieces from toppling over, while games with a drawing component allows kids to think about how to represent something with a limited amount of time and tools available, and others still, have a focus on math and counting, helping with numerical development.

Other tabletop games may ask players to count quickly or solve a puzzle, all things that boost skills in the classroom, as well as out.

Enabling Social Development

From following directions to taking turns and losing with grace, board games can teach children a lot about being good citizens. For example, smaller children playing games will learn firsthand the give and take required to play games or work together with other people.

Board games also encourage children to vocalize needs and wants, whether it’s expressing a desire to win or getting that right card or position on the board, it opens up an opportunity to chat about expectations, as well as fosters a sense of understanding the instructions, or the nuances specific to trying to outsmart a competitor.

Building Confidence

As adults, we underestimate the power in feeling like we accomplished something. For children, successfully playing a game, win or lose, is an accomplishment—they may have learned a new skill, and now have knowledge that can be applied elsewhere.

If parents are playing, too, games are a great opportunity to offer praise for things like their creativity, curiosity, reading skills, etc., all things that boost confidence in a healthy way, which carries through to school and beyond.

Keep the Focus on Fun

Games don’t need to be intentionally educational to provide an enriching experience. A game designed with fun at its core still boosts brain development. Puzzles, word games and basic board games offer a wide range of opportunity for growth. Be it Monopoly or Chess, Chutes and Ladders or Candyland, anything your child chooses has benefits.

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.

 

A whole new Supermum: The Academic Mother

hands-woman-legs-laptopIt is expected in today’s society, that a mother be able to juggle both family life and career. Yet, the realities of having children still pose difficulties when it comes to returning to work. Whether it’s to continue academic studies, or to start afresh on a whole new career: finding that balance to fulfil both roles can be daunting.

But, it is possible.

The archaic notion that a woman’s role is in the kitchen is gone. More women now are the main bread earners in their family, and are able – with some support – to balance their roles as both mother and worker. It may not be as perfect as the glossy, high quality Instagram photographs of “super-mums” show, but with the help of improving technology, it is now more feasible than ever. Not only get to a degree after childbirth, but to study for a better career that will earn a more comfortable living for the family.
So, how is it done?

Time management. Motherhood will already demand this, so creating a routine that incorporates study time and time with your children is a must.
Work out schedules that will be realistic and time conserving.
Enlist support, not only from family and friends, but also from your study advisor; and embrace any resources offered by your university or college.
Even simple things like getting up an hour earlier, doing your studying while your children do their homework, or doing extra studying while your child sleeps, can all make a big difference.

Also, embrace technology. It has never been easier to sign up for – as well as to acquire – an online university degree. By now, most large and well-known universities offer certain courses online, some even for free! But it might be a good idea to check universities that offer the possibility to study online full-time, like NC IUL for example. Besides the ease and convenience of applying and enrolling, you are offered many different and diverse areas of study to choose from.

Online courses provide greater flexibility: you can work at your own pace from the comfort of your own home, opening up a new range of choices for the new mum looking to keep informed and develop a career while away from work, or making a complete career change. This flexibility does not mean an easier pathway to a desired career. Most online courses will require the same amount of coursework as classroom courses; but you will be able to do so at your own schedule.

Make up a designated computer space for online study that will have the same effect as a campus classroom. This can be anything from your dining room to the campus library: the key is to have an area that is yours for studying alone with no distractions for that set time. Take advantage of supporting resources offered by the online course, and keep in touch with fellow students and lecturers with social media to help with your studies.

Above all else, know your limit. Make sure to schedule downtime, from both studying and your children. If you don’t, you risk a breakdown; and both your studying and your family will suffer.
It will be hard work, and there will be stressful times; but the rewards will be worth the efforts.

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.