10 benefits of online tuition

Online tuition has become a popular choice with parents during the Covid pandemic. At TutorMyKids we are continuing to see a rise in enquiries. Safety advantages aside, here we share our top ten reasons why you might opt for digital tuition.

  1. Finding time is easier

Neither you (or the tutor) will need to factor in travel time. As most face-to-face tuition happens after school, rush hour traffic can mean the time available for tuition is limited.

As it is easier to find time, you can choose to opt for shorter and more frequent lessons. For some students, learning more regularly in shorter bursts is a more effective strategy than less frequent, longer sessions.

2. It is easier to find the right tutor

When you learn online your tutor can live anywhere in the country. This means you have a greater choice of tutor and you are more likely to find a tutor that best suits your child’s needs.

3. More contact with your tutor

As your child will be in contact with their tutor online anyway, it is easier for them to ask for help between sessions by email or via their phone.

4. More flexibility

If your child is suddenly unavailable at the last minute it is easier to reschedule an online lesson than a face-to-face lesson.

Also, if the tutor finds that your child would benefit from additional, unplanned resources during the course of the lesson they are more likely to have them at hand because they are at home.

5. Sharing resources

Teaching online enables the tutor to share files, videos and links during the course of the lesson. Resource sharing via a storage cloud means that practice exam questions and study materials can more easily be shared as there is no need to print reams of paper.

6. Technology assists learning

Online whiteboards, Google Earth, Google Maps and screen sharing are examples of online technology that helps to further students’ learning. Visual technology can increase a student’s engagement and enhance their understanding of tricky concepts.

7. Develops IT skills

Learning online helps students to develop the information technology skills they need in today’s job market. Students will communicate through chat platforms and video conference. They may need to upload assignments, convert files from Word to PDF, conduct searches, install and update software and more.

8. The best of both worlds

Online tuition provides a balance between traditional ‘distance learning’ and face-to-face tuition. Students become independent learners and at the same time receive guidance and support through live interaction with a tutor.

9. Develops independence

Online tuition enables students to take greater ownership of their learning without an adult standing over them. They are more responsible for organising their own time and become better at learning independently. Whatever their next step in life, being an independent, self-motivated learner will be essential.

10. More relaxed

Some students find online learning more relaxing than face-to-face tuition because nobody else is physically in the room with them.  They can feel more empowered and in charge of their own learning as there is less social pressure than there might be with somebody sitting beside them.

Book an online tutor today

During the Covid pandemic our tutors have discovered many benefits to online tuition. We offer maths, English, science, humanities and language tuition online.

All our tutors are highly qualified with years of experience, and they know how to motivate students of all ages to perform to the best of their ability. We will match your child with the tutor who is best suited to them so they get the most from online learning.

To discuss how we can help your child, contact us today: hello@tutormykids.co.uk/01223 858 421

Getting involved in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2021

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch runs from 29th-31st January. To get involved, you need to choose one of those days to spend one hour counting and identifying the birds in your garden. The data you collect enables the RSBP to create a snapshot of bird numbers to monitor which birds are thriving and which are not.

Getting involved can be a great January mood booster for the whole family. Children will learn to identify birds and it might spark a lifelong interest in caring for nature and the environment.

Getting involved in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2021

Visit the RSPB website and sign up to receive details and a free bird guide.

It’s a good idea to invest in some children’s binoculars if you haven’t got any  – they cost very little online.

Bird-themed arts and crafts

Feed children’s enthusiasm for birds with these easy ideas:

Bird cake

Attract more birds to your garden before the Big Garden Birdwatch (or any time of the year) with the RSPB’s bird cake recipe.  This is not a project for children with nut allergies and all children need to be reminded that bird cake is not safe for them to eat.

Birdfeeder

Follow the RSPB’s instructions to make a birdfeeder from recycled materials.

Bird bath

You could make your own bird bath from terracotta pots and paint it with children. There are plenty of instructions online.

Birdcam

Find out what birds visit your garden when you’re not there by setting up a Birdcam. Birdcams cost £40 upwards.

Photography and painting

Encourage children to take photographs of garden birds. They could print a photograph of their favourite bird to paint or draw with water colour paints, crayons or chalks.

Edible birds’ nests

After spending an hour outside bird spotting, enjoy a hot chocolate and an edible bird’s nest together!

Birds nests are made by mixing melted chocolate with shredded wheat and allowing them to set (see Art and Soul’s delicious recipe). Once nests are set, place some mini eggs in the centre. Be aware that mini eggs are a choking hazard for young children, so cut them in half (as you would with grapes).

Feather art

All you need are scraps of fabric (old clothes and bed linen will do), some craft wire and tape or glue to create your own feather art. Children’s imaginations are the limit.

For more bird-themed art ideas visit Danielle’s Place.

Decorate eggs

Here are some different ways to decorate eggs. These crafts are suitable for children of all ages.

Collage owl

Create a collage owl by sticking shapes cut from old newspapers and magazines onto a sheet of black or dark blue card.

Cut a light sheet of newspaper (with little print) in the shape of a body, a darker (more densely printed) head shaped piece, followed by black circles for the eyes, dark print for the claws and an orange/yellow print beak.

To get an idea type ‘owl newspaper collage’ into Google Images. You can use an owl template as a basis for the shapes – also printable from Google Images (‘owl template’).

Out and About

RSPB Reserves

To find an RSPB reserve near you visit the RSPB’s website. As well as seeing stunning wildlife spectacles and learning about conservation, children can enjoy activities such as pond dipping, nest box building and face painting in the school holidays.

Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

For a nearby wetlands centre see the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. Children will have the chance to go inside bird hides and see rare species such as kingfishers in their natural wetland habitat.  Some centres have tropical houses full of colourful and exotic species of plants and animals.  There are wet play areas where children can have fun splashing, stomping and wading through the water.

The Raptor Foundation

Based in Cambridgeshire, the Raptor Foundation provides 24 hour care and rehabilitation for injured raptors. Children will experience the thrill of owls and other birds of prey flying closely over their heads –  it’s an amazing experience. 

Our tutors fire children’s interest in science and nature

At TutorMyKids our science tutors are passionate about making science fun for children by showing them how it is relevant to their everyday lives. We believe that harnessing children’s natural curiosity about the world around them is the key to achievement.

Whether your child finds an area of science difficult or they are an enthusiastic scientist with a thirst for learning more, we can help. We offer tailored one-to-one tuition for children from primary school up to A Level. To talk about your child’s requirements, please get in touch today: 01223 858 421/hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Lockdown Christmas with children? Read our activities for a magical time!

The build-up

Call Santa

If you want to avoid Santa’s grotto this year you could arrange a Zoom call with Santa instead. Your child can talk to Santa or Mrs Claus, or they can see what the elves are doing in the toy workshop and what the reindeers are up to. Santa, Mrs Claus or an elf can also read your child a festive story. Experiences start from around £25.

Santa’s Lapland is another company offering a video call experience. Children meet Santa in a snowy setting and have a grand tour of his grotto. However, it’s expensive  – prices start from £85.

Christmas crafts

Poundland stock a range of easy (and inexpensive) Christmas craft kits for young children, like this Christmas card kit.

We love Red Ted Art’s Christmas star idea as it’s easy, relaxing and keeps children of all ages busy. All you need is card (a cereal box will do), oddments of wool and cellotape.

For very young children we like Happy Hooligan’s icicle ornament and Pinterest’s pinecone owl. Older children might enjoy the craft ideas on Crayola’s website.

Christmas cooking

For children who love cooking The Best Ever Baking Book by Jane Bull is full of simple but imaginative festive ideas. BBC Good Food also has easy Christmas baking ideas for children and we can definitely recommend the Snowman Biscuits!

Giving a present to a child in need

The Salvation Army work to make sure that children who are in need receive a present at Christmas. They work closely with schools, health visitors and social services departments to choose families. There are collection centres all around the country, so it’s easy to donate a present. Your child could choose a present and you could talk to them about why it is important to give and how rewarding it is to help others.

Refuge are also asking for donations this Christmas for children fleeing domestic abuse. You and your child can choose a gift box from Refuge’s website to give to a child.

Christmas Eve box

Make the build up to Christmas Day even more exciting by giving your child a Christmas Eve box to open (which could be a shoe box decorated with wrapping paper). You don’t have to spend much money.

You could fill it with bought or home-made sweet treats, a sachet of hot chocolate, a pair of Christmas socks, a book or a stocking filler game. The box can be filled with the things your child loves, and if you’re looking for inspiration there are plenty of great ideas online.

Christmas Day and Boxing Day

Family games

Take a look at these Good Housekeeping games to keep the whole family busy and entertained once their Christmas dinner has gone down. There’s Christmas Guess Who? which features members of your own family, a race to see who can open a present fastest when wearing oven gloves, a snowman bowling game and plenty more!

Christmas walk incentives

Days Out With The Kids suggest some fabulous ways to persuade reluctant children to get some much needed fresh air with the family.

We like the forest postcard idea. Cover a plain postcard with strips of double-sided tape and ask your child to collect things as they walk, decorating the postcard as they go with leaves, sticks, seeds etc.

You could also incentivise your child to walk by taking them on a Geocaching treasure hunt. Geocaching is finding hidden goodies using a handheld GPS.

Zoom call games

If you’re planning to call family and friends over the Christmas period you could turn your meeting into a party with online games such as 20 Questions. To play 20 Questions, everyone takes turns to ask each person in the group twenty questions. It doesn’t matter how well you know the other people, you will always discover something new about them. For ideas, see 200 Questions to get to know someone.

For more Zoom call games, visit the Good Housekeeping website.

Your child’s positive start to 2021

Coronavirus has disrupted children’s education over the last year causing a great deal of confusion, uncertainty and worry.

TutorMyKids home tutors are here to help children regain any confidence they may have lost, to re-ignite their love of learning and to help them achieve their goals.

If you think we can help to give your child the very best start to the New Year, get in touch by phone or email today: 01223 858 421/hello@tutormykids.co.uk

How to write an outstanding UCAS application

An outstanding UCAS application is the key to being offered a place on the university course of your choice. Here we offer you top tips to help you write your way to success.

  1. Meet the selection criteria

All universities have selection criteria. These are guidelines that they use to decide whether to offer you a place on your chosen course.

Most of the time, selection criteria can be found on university’s websites. These will tell you what A level and GCSE subjects you need, how many grade points you will need to have, and any other specific skills they look for.

As an example, if you look at the University of Portsmouth’s Biology page you will find ‘Entry requirements’ and ‘What experience you’ll need’ – these are the selection criteria.

2. Get the best grades you can

Exam grades are the most important selection criteria. It is possible that you could be rejected if your GCSE results are not high enough. If you are yet to sit your A Levels then your teachers will supply predicted grades for your UCAS application form.  It is fine to ask your teachers what these grades are likely to be so you can apply for the right courses.

If you do not receive the GCSE grades or A Level grades you were hoping for then it is certainly not the end of the world! Read our blog post, Exam resits: your guide to a fresh start.

3. Make sure your referee is behind you

Your referee is the person who will provide your predicted A Level grades and the person who will persuade the university to offer you a place on your chosen course. Make sure you make a positive impression on your referee. If you don’t turn up to classes, you are often late or you miss coursework deadlines, this will colour their opinion of you.

If your referee plans to predict A Level grades that are lower than you had hoped for then it is worth asking them whether they will raise their predictions if you improve your work from now. Remember to be realistic in your expectations though. If you have been mainly achieving a specific grade all year then this is likely to remain their prediction.

4. Write an outstanding UCAS personal statement

An outstanding UCAS application will always have an outstanding personal statement. In your personal statement you need to say why you want to study your chosen subject, what you’ve achieved in your life and who you are.

The university admissions tutor will need to be convinced that you have the commitment and ability to stick with the course and achieve the best results at the end. University admissions tutors know that students who get involved in interests outside the classroom are more likely to join in with university life and be independent-minded. Students like this tend to find living away from home easier and are more likely to stay the course.

Make sure you know the university’s selection criteria (see above) inside out and that you have read the course description. That way you can link your skills, interests and achievements to what the university are looking for.

Begin by emptying your head of all your ideas and listing them on paper. Consider:

  • Your reasons for choosing the course, which you could relate to your A Level subjects and career plans.
  • Your achievements, interests and experience and how these are relevant to the course.
  • Why you are enthusiastic about the course.
  • How you have the skills needed to do well in the course, emphasising any skills mentioned in the selection criteria.

Write as much as you can and get others to help you if you get stuck for ideas. If you are applying for more than one subject area you will need to emphasise one subject over the other. Make the point that you are interested in your second choice subject but at the same time strongly gear your UCAS application towards your first choice. It might be possible to emphasise both equally but beware of making your application too vague and general. If you really can’t decide which subject to emphasise then go back and really study the course descriptions, asking yourself why you want to choose each subject.

Always be honest on your personal statement. Your referee will read your personal statement and the university will expect you to discuss it during an interview.

Once you’ve made your notes, write your personal statement to the best of your ability. Remember you are likely to be judged on the quality of your writing too. If your statement isn’t long enough talk to family, friends and teachers who may be able to help you with ideas or remind you about achievements. If your statement is too long, remove anything repetitive, irrelevant or an achievement from long ago. You can also save space by taking out ‘nothing’ words such as ‘particularly’, ‘very’, ‘really’ and so on.

When you have written your personal statement always read it aloud. Reading aloud will help you to hear anything that doesn’t sound right. Ask another trusted person to read your statement too – choose somebody who knows you well and has good writing skills themselves.

Leave your finished personal statement to ‘rest’ for a few days. It’s surprising how new ideas will come to you in this time and how you will suddenly see how you can make it even better!

Achieve the best grades with TutorMyKids

TutorMyKids one-to-one tutors help students to achieve the grades they need for an outstanding UCAS application.

Our supportive tutors work at students’ own pace and we make sure that subject areas and concepts are fully understood before moving on. We help students to build their confidence so that they can fulfil their university dreams.

If you think we could help you or your child with forthcoming exams contact us on 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Ways to teach children time management skills

School is very busy and for an adult life can be busier still. Helping your child to learn to manage their time from an early age is equipping them with a useful skill forever.

What are the benefits of learning time management?

The ability to manage time effectively:

  • Reduces stress. There is nothing more stressful than leaving homework or work projects until the last minute.
  • Means more time for fun activities and friends.
  • Leads to better outcomes at school and at work.
  • Increases independence and develops a sense of responsibility.
  • Improves decision-making skills.
  • Brings the satisfaction that comes with completing tasks.

Downtime is important

There are so many after school activities available and children’s homework load can be so heavy that they can feel overwhelmed. It is important that children do not feel overloaded, whatever the circumstances.

Do not fear boredom because it can be beneficial. Children need to be able to let their minds rest and wander for their own mental wellbeing. When children have to find ways to entertain themselves they become more creative and develop the ability to solve problems for themselves. For more about this read, The Benefits of Boredom.

It helps children to learn that effective time management means there is free time to relax, play and just sit for a while.

Learning to prioritise

Effective time management involves prioritising tasks. Children learn to prioritise from an early age through normal daily routines ‘first…’, ‘next…’ and ‘last…’ For example, when you get home from school first you wash your hands and then you have a snack.

Older children begin to understand prioritising in view of longer-term goals. ‘I do my homework before I play a game so that I will pass my GCSE’.

Motivate children to prioritise by encouraging them to think about the reasons why they need to complete one task before another. ‘Why do you think you need to wash your hands before you have a snack?’ ‘Why is it important to finish your maths homework before you play a game?’

Tips for teaching time management

  1. Be a good role model. Show how you manage your own time wisely and that you’re not always missing deadlines or running late. When this does happen let your child see the consequences.
  2. Show your child how you make lists of tasks to complete and tick off. Encourage them to do the same.
  3. Help an older child to create a schedule by giving them a diary or planner that might be in paper form or an app on a phone.
  4. Make sure your child doesn’t over schedule their time. It’s important to have fun and just ‘be’.
  5. Support your child to prioritize activities and make choices. There might be a time clash between one activity and another, or it might be that trying to do two activities on the same day will be too much.
  6. Encourage your child to establish routines. If your child knows what they need to do as soon as they get home from school, they won’t waste time trying to decide what to do.
  7. Limit electronics. Too many hours can vanish in a whirl of social media or computer games. Set time limits and establish rules.
  8. Help your child to set their own goals. If they want to get into a sports team, for example, how much practice do they need to do each day or each week?
  9. Set rules and expectations for your child, but don’t constantly remind them to complete tasks. Feeling the consequences of leaving homework until the last minute, for example, can be memorable. Sometimes your child will genuinely miscalculate how long a project takes to complete – help them to learn from their mistakes.

Is your child studying towards exams?

Our experienced tutors support children studying for SATs, Common Entrance Exams, GCSEs and A/AS levels. We recognise the importance of teaching children not just the subject matter but other skills, such as time management, that will help them to succeed now and in later life.

We offer maths, English, science, humanities and language tuition both remotely and face-to-face, subject to local lockdowns. To find out more email hello@tutormykids.co.uk or telephone 01223 858 421

How to incorporate maths into your child’s everyday life

It’s Maths Week from 9-14th November this year. The purpose is to promote the message that maths is enjoyable and that it’s embedded in every single person’s life.

Some people believe (perhaps due to negative experiences at school) that maths is difficult and boring, but the truth is the very opposite. Maths is everywhere and we use it all the time – we can’t escape it.

Here we look at how you can use everyday opportunities to extend your child’s maths skills and have some fun!

Board Games

Most board games involve counting and other maths skills. Traditional games like Snakes & Ladders, Ludo and Monopoly all involve maths. Some games are designed specifically with maths skills in mind. Orchard Toys make several games: Magic Maths, Mammoth Maths, and Times Table Heroes.

Building

If your child likes building with blocks or Lego maths can easily be incorporated. They can count out blocks as they build. Lego blocks have different numbers of studs and these are great for times tables practice. For example, blocks with two studs can be used for counting in twos etc. 

Children can use rulers or tape measures to measure the heights and widths of their models. You could ask, ‘Which part is taller/shorter?’ and ‘What’s the difference between the two measurements?’

Maths is all about patterns. Children can make Lego models with repeating patterns, e.g. two red blocks, one blue block, three green blocks, two red blocks, one blue block, three green blocks…

For more ideas read, Questions in block play can support mathematical learning.

Cooking

Cooking and baking provide plenty of maths opportunities. Children can weigh, measure and count out ingredients and use an oven timer. They will begin to understand how long 25 minutes is, if that’s how long their cake takes to bake.

Develop maths skills and language by giving instructions and asking questions such as:

How much more flour do we need to measure out?

Please put four tablespoons of golden syrup into the bowl.

Can you put in a little bit more/less sugar?

Can you measure out 50ml of milk?

Can you count out five chocolate buttons for each cake?

Can you put the oven timer on for 25 minutes?

How many minutes are left on the oven timer?

Crafts

Crafts usually involve maths, whether it’s measuring, counting, fractions (halving, quartering) or playing with shapes. As an example see this Christmas tree card craft.

For practicing measuring and problem solving, sewing is brilliant. See 10 best sewing projects to make with kids for ideas.

Shopping

Children can pay for items in a real shop (or play ‘shops’) so they learn the value of different coins. For example, if something costs 10p they can pay with 2 x 5p, 1 x 10p, 10 x 1p and so on. They can add different shop items together and calculate change.

Older children can work out discounts. For example, how much money will they pay for an item with 10% or 50% off?

Singing

Young children learn counting, addition and subtraction through nursery rhymes, especially those with actions. Think about 5 Current Buns and 10 Green Bottles. The BBC schools website has plenty of ideas.

Older children can learn times tables through songs. You can purchase songs or listen to free versions on YouTube.

Time

For young children the first step is to understand the concept of time – how long is a minute? Five minutes? An hour? Say, ‘It’s ten minutes until we go to the park’ (you could set an oven timer or turn a sand timer to show ten minutes). Play games – ‘How many times can you jump on the trampoline in one minute?’ and time your child or count the seconds, ‘One potato…two potato…etc’.

If you are going to school at nine o’clock draw their attention to the hour and minute hand on the clock. Read stories about telling the time such as What Time Is It, Mr Crocodile? by Judy Sierra.  Play board games like ‘What’s the Time Mr Wolf’ and ‘Telling the Time’ by Orchard Toys.

Weather

Children can record temperatures and make graphs or bar charts to record different temperatures each week or each day. You might ask ‘What was the warmest/coolest day?’ and ‘How much warmer/cooler was it?’

You could make a rain gauge together so children can measure the amount of rain that falls and compare different days. Ask, ‘How many centimetres of rain fell today?’ ‘What’s the difference in centimetres between the wettest and the driest day?’ ‘How much rain has fallen in total so far?’

Would your child benefit from extra maths support?

TutorMyKids maths tutors have the ability to make maths applicable to children’s lives by drawing upon real life situations. They also help children to make connections by building on skills previously learnt, and by checking that children have understood concepts rather than simply memorised.

Our tutors adjust their teaching strategies to suit each individual child’s needs and learning styles. Their aim is for children to feel motivated and to have the confidence they need to succeed.

To talk about how we can help your child email hello@tutormykids.co.uk or telephone 01223 858 421.

Fun ways to teach your child where their food comes from

World Food Day is celebrated on 16th October every year, even in these unprecedented times. The aim is to raise awareness that everybody – food producers and consumers alike – have an important role to play to ensure nutritious food is available to everyone across the world.

As consumers we can influence what food is produced by making healthy, sustainable choices. To learn about how our daily choices can have a positive impact visit the United Nation’s World Food Day website.

For children, the first step in making the best choices is understanding where their food comes from. Advances in technology mean that with every generation we become further and further removed from the source of our food.

Here we share some enjoyable ways to teach your child how food gets from farm to fork.

Grow your own fruit and vegetables

Children love sowing seeds, looking after plants and eating what they have grown themselves.

To begin with choose food that is quick and easy to grow such as herbs see ‘How to make a herb garden’. Once interest is sparked your child could grow courgettes (these are very easy to grow), tomatoes, mange tout, green beans, butternut squash, strawberries and raspberries. Even in autumn and winter there is plenty to grow!

Involve your child in picking and preparing their fruit and vegetables. They could make a pizza from home grown tomatoes and basil, or pies and smoothies from strawberries and raspberries. Your child might eat some of their produce straight from the plant or in a salad.

Pick your own

This is an activity to save until late summer. Pick blackberries – remembering not to pick blackberries from near roadsides or near to the ground. Apart from blackberry crumbles and pies your child could make summer pudding, ice cream, jelly and sorbet or eat blackberries as they are. There are lots of recipes online.

Pick-your-own farms are a fun and cheap day out. You can pick strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, redcurrants and more – depending upon your closest farm. Type ‘nearest pick your own fruit’ into Google.

Read food books

There are some fantastic books that spark children’s interest in the connection between nature and food, and the importance of healthy eating.  These are our favourites:

How Did That Get in My Lunchbox: The Story of Food by Chris Butterworth

Looking at all the food in a child’s lunchbox and how it got there. Where did the chocolate in the biscuit come from? Who made the bread for the sandwich? This book looks at the steps involved in producing some foods e.g. planting wheat and mixing flour into dough to make bread. There are also healthy eating tips and an introduction to food groups is included.

I don’t Like Salad! by Tony Ross

The Little Princess does not like salad, especially tomatoes. She changes her mind when she is given some tomato seeds to grow and sees the first shoots appear.

Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle

Jack wakes up very hungry – he wants a pancake! But first his mother needs flour from the mill, an egg from the hen, milk from the cow, butter churned from cream and firewood for the stove. Will Jack help his mother and get his pancake?

See Inside: Where Food Comes From by Emily Bone and Peter Allen

Children lift flaps to find out what food is produced in greenhouses, on farms and in the sea. There is a map with flaps showing where chocolate, tea and other things we enjoy come from. Children discover the importance of corn, rice and wheat around the world.

Encourage your child to look at the labels on the food they eat to see where is has come from. They could find places on a world map and use the internet to research the journey their food has had from source to plate.

Visit farm shops or markets with your child to find out what is seasonal and talk to them about what ‘seasonal’ and ‘sustainable’ mean.  The World Food Day website is a great source of information.

Visit a Farm

Whether you visit a city farm or a farm in the country this is a great way to show your child where their food comes from. Some farms allow children to feed lambs, collect eggs, stroke sheep and even to see cows being milked and cheese being made.

There are farms that offer overnight stays so children can really experience life on a working farm. It is also worth keeping an eye out for farm open days near you.

One-to-one science tuition

Is your child interested in science and nature? Our experienced science tutors build on children’s enthusiasm introducing them to many areas of science in an engaging, hands-on and creative way, motivating them to pursue sciences throughout school and beyond.

If your child isn’t enthusiastic about science at school and finds a particular area challenging we can also help. Our tutors tailor their teaching to individual children’s needs, making sure learning is both fun and relevant to them.

To find out more please contact us on: 01223 858 421/hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Can apps really help children learn to read?

There are many different reading apps on the market today, but are they an effective and safe way for children to learn to read?

In today’s blog we look at the pros and cons of reading apps and share our pick of the best.

Advantages of reading apps

  • In a study of children aged 4-5 years Flewitt et al (2015) reported that: ‘children’s motivation to succeed in iPad activities sometimes led them to display more advanced literacy skills than staff had previously given them credit for. For example, the reception class teacher was ‘blown away’ by the quality of some children’s iPad work… iPad-based literacy activities stimulated children’s motivation and concentration.’
  • Reading apps encourage children to engage with texts through games, puzzles, treasure hunts and other activities. Children have fun and are therefore motivated to learn.
  • Children can choose from a variety of fiction and non-fiction at the tap of a button. They might read classic fairytales, twists on classic fairytales, fables, short stories, travel logs, joke books, books on science and nature – it is all at their fingertips. Children can choose genres that match their interests.
  • Reading apps are convenient. They help to ensure that children read every day no matter how busy the family schedule.

Disadvantages of reading apps

Reading apps should not replace human interaction. Oral language skills are the foundation for young children’s reading and language comprehension. Parents should still read with their children and to their children daily if they possibly can and not consider apps as a replacement. In this way parents can help their children to understand what they are reading, answer their questions and extend their vocabulary.

Too much screen time can cause eyestrain (possibly even near-sightedness), dry eyes (we blink less when reading from a screen), neck pain and poor posture. Eyes become more tired than when reading print books because digital text and images are made from ‘pixels’ – tiny pieces that make our eyes work harder.

Reducing the brightness on screens can help to reduce eyestrain. E-readers (such as the Kindle) have a display that is more like ink on printed paper and this reduces eyestrain, but children’s reading apps are often used on smartphones and tablets rather than e-readers.

Both children and adults should not spend time in front of any screen for hours on end without a break.

Our pick of the best reading apps

When used as a complement to print books and not for extended lengths of time, reading apps are a valuable way of motivating children to read. However, there are so many apps available that it can be difficult to choose, so here is our pick of the best.

  1. Reading Eggs

Suitable for children aged 2-13 years, Reading Eggs supports children through guided reading tasks, activities and e-books. The app starts with phonics and tricky words moving on to building vocabulary and developing reading comprehension skills. Over 2,500 e-books are included.

2. Teach Your Monster to Read

Children create a monster and then take it on a series of adventure games that covers phonic phase two to phonics phase 5 (roughly children aged 3-6 years). There are short e-books for children to enjoy too. This app was nominated for a BAFTA.

3. Reading Raven

Children read, recognise and trace letters in order to build words and sentences. Reading Raven is a multi-sensory approach to reading that also develops listening skills and hand-eye coordination. The app is aimed at children aged 3-7 years.

4. Montessori Preschool

Although this isn’t just a reading app we’ve decided to include it here because it is brilliant for young children who might miss out on education this year due to lockdown. The app teaches children everything from phonics and maths to music and early coding skills.

5. Epic!

This is a digital library containing over 25,000 books including bestselling titles and National Geographic non-fiction books. You can create a profile for your child inputting their age and the categories of books they like (pets, sport, adventure etc). Children collect badges as rewards for progress and they can review titles for others when they’ve finished reading. Suitable for young children up to teens.

Does your child need extra reading support?

TutorMyKids’ English tutors have helped many children to overcome difficulties with reading. It is our aim to boost children’s confidence and to instil a love of reading that will last a lifetime. We provide engaging one-to-one tuition that is sensitive to every child’s needs.

Whether your child just needs a little bit of extra help or you are concerned that they have fallen significantly behind their peers, please get in touch with us today: 01223 858 421/hello@tutormykids.co.uk

How parents can support children with dyslexia returning to school post-lockdown

For many children with dyslexia being away from school for a long period of time was a dream come true. For those children school represents struggle and at home they felt more relaxed being able to learn at their own pace. They may have felt a weight off their shoulders away from the daily pressure to produce quick results whilst sitting at a desk in a noisy classroom.

Other children may have found learning alone very difficult without the support of their teacher. Lockdown may have exacerbated the challenges they face with reading, writing, memorising and organising information.

If your child is anxious about returning to school you may be wondering how to help them. Here we share some suggestions and signpost you towards any further help you may need.

  1. Contact friends

Arrange for your child to regularly see one or two friends from their class after school. Friendships help children to feel a sense of belonging. Knowing that others care for them raises their self-esteem and helps to reduce feelings of anxiety.

To avoid seeing too many different people at this time your child could contact friends over video call. Video calling doesn’t work quite as well with small children but you could set up a game to encourage social interaction.

2. Talk to your child about their worries

It’s not always easy to talk to a child or young person about their worries. Pick a time when they are calm such as when you are out for a walk together rather than when they are in an emotional state. Be clear that their worries are not silly and that you won’t take any steps to tackle their worry that they are not happy with. 

You might start by asking your child how they are feeling about returning to school and normalize their feelings: “You’re right, the first day back is always nerve-wracking – I feel like that too when…”

3. Give children time to express their feelings

Activities can help children to express their feelings as they are more relaxed. Small children might enjoy sensory activities such as playing with homemade playdough scented with herbs and spices, making chocolate cake, or engaging in messy play with flour and water or paint.

Older children might like hands-on activities such as cooking, painting, crafting, and planting (see our blog post Summer science fun: Growing monster plants!)

4. Support your child how to manage anxiety

See our 10 stress-busting tips for students for some tips to help older children. Childline also has some advice on managing anxiety and on the coronavirus.

If your child has an ongoing struggle with anxiety you can also talk to your family GP who can put you in touch with a specialist service. Remember anxiety is treatable and it is possible to help your child to manage it so that it doesn’t impact the quality of their life.

NHS England lists some signs of anxiety for parents to be aware of. These include changes in mood, difficulty eating and sleeping and noticeably struggling to manage their emotions.

5. Talk to your child’s teacher

If your child has enjoyed learning at home and is feeling anxious about returning to a classroom environment, talk to your child’s teacher together with the school SENCO. They may need to put additional strategies in place to support your child. For example, they might give your child lesson materials such as Powerpoint slides to view in advance of a lesson, take a more multisensory approach to their learning or consider assistive technologies.

6. Plan fun things to do

Having interesting things to look forward to on the weekends and in the evenings reminds children that school is only part of their lives. It might be as simple as a film and takeaway night or a weekend visit to see a family friend.

Support for children with dyslexia

TutorMyKids can match your child with a specialist dyslexia tutor who can work in partnership with you to support their individual needs and raise their self-esteem.

To find out more please visit our parents page or get in touch: 01223 858 421/hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Going to university? 10 top tips for managing your finances

Going to university or college will probably be the first time you’ve had to manage your own living costs.

On average the maintenance loan is just £540 a month so many students rely on additional funds from parents, a part-time job or a savings account.

Whatever funds you have available to you, we share our best financial strategies to help you get the most from university life without running into difficulties.

  1. Write a budget

Work out your monthly income including student finance, money from parents or a part-time job and any savings you are planning to use.

Next calculate all your essential monthly outgoings – rent, utility bills, phone bills, transport costs, food, course materials etc. You may need your parent’s help to do this in the beginning and there will probably be some guessing.

Then work out how much money is left for non-essentials such as nights out, gym membership, new clothes or any of the usual things you spend money on.

Make sure you give yourself a bit of a buffer. Don’t budget down to the very last pound. Remember unexpected expenses are likely to occur such as repair to a phone or an extra trip home. There are student budgeting calculators you can use to help you calculate a budget.

2. Make sure you aren’t missing out on money

You may be entitled to a grant or bursary you didn’t know about – check the UCAS guide to student finance in England.

3. Have two separate bank accounts

The best way to stick to a budget is to have two separate accounts. You might have a current account and a savings account – consider opening a student bank account (see below).

When you receive your student finance and any other income place it in one account. Have a separate account for your weekly expenses. Transfer money each week by direct debit from your income account to your weekly account.

4. Pay for essentials straightaway

Make sure direct debits for rent, utilities etc. come out of your account at the very start of the term or month.

5. Plan your meals

Before you go out shopping for food plan your meals (Monday – lasagne, Tuesday – chili con carni etc) as this is the best way to make sure you don’t overspend. Never go shopping on an empty stomach.

If you have freezer space it’s cheaper to cook big meals and separate them into dated containers. Read 24 supermarket saving tips for more advice.

6. Resist sales and non-essentials

A bargain is only a bargain if you really need it so avoid Black Friday. Remember that takeaways, gig tickets, new shoes etc. are non-essential expenses. If you pay now with an overdraft, that’s less money you will have next week.

Never impulse buy – sleep on purchase decisions – you may feel differently in the morning.

7. Keep track of your spending

Check your online bank account weekly or use your bank’s mobile app to manage your finances. You can set up alerts to tell you when your balance drops below a certain amount.

8. Be aware of student bank account benefits

Student bank accounts offer all sorts of extras such as free travelcards and discounted cinema tickets. Before you open an account consider which benefits are most financially worthwhile to you.

9. Remember student discounts

When you go out to a museum, theatre, clothes shop, cinema or restaurant you may be able to save money if you take student identification with you as many places offer student discounts. It’s always worth asking if you’re not sure.

10. If you find yourself in financial trouble seek help

Speak to your university or college’s student welfare service as soon as you find yourself struggling. They can give you tailored, confidential advice about any emergency funding available. They can also put you in touch with job services if you need them.

Never be afraid to ask for help. Whatever the situation you find yourself in they will have seen it before and they are there to help.

TutorMyKids would like to say…

We are incredibly proud of all our GCSE and A level students in what has been a strange and challenging year. For those about to leave home for the very first time, we wish you a happy and successful future!