The Little Lilypad is a lifestyle blog mostly written by a mum to two beautiful, cheeky and entertaining daughters. It is sometimes written by the Man on the Pad or our baby bloggers and occasionally we accept guest posts. There is frequently talk of shoes and clothing (we love fashion and savvy shopping), chocolate (who doesn't love chocolate) education and swimming (we love this too). It is hopefully helpful, sometimes funny and always honest.
There has been a distinct lack of blog posts lately but it is the summer and we all get the summer off right? Well no, not really the children may be free of work for 7 weeks but as parents, we have the 7 week juggle to contend with.
So the essential (paying ) work is being done (not to mention the mountain of washing and ironing) but the other stuff, well that will get done when it gets done because there are only so many times a child will ask you to play with them before they stop asking completely.
I worry that my girls are growing up so fast and I can't hold on to it all.
I worry that one day, they won't want me to play any more because they will have grown up while I wasn't looking.
My eldest daughter goes into Year 6 in September, so we are already talking about Senior School. She is going to take the 11+ and I can't tell you the amount of people that have asked me whether or not she is being tutored for the exam. Initially I was quite adamant that she wasn't going to get a tutor and that if she could get into grammar school on her own merit, then I would be happier than her being "coached" for it but the more I think about it, the more I wonder if I am putting her at a disavantage. I wouldn't put her into a swimming gala, without swimming lessons. I wouldn't sign her up for a gymnastics competition, without putting in the training first, so why should the 11+ be any different?
I am conscious that the summer holidays have only just started but we were asked to collaborate with Tutorfair and they talk about the "Summer Slide". The Summer Slide is a term coined by educational psychologist Harris Cooper, who found that US schoolchildren regress in all subjects over the summer holidays, by an average of 1 month, and 2.6 months in maths. (which I can only assume is a similiar scenario in the UK). This is a problem widely recognised by educationalists, here are a few of the stats:
Students will score lower on the same test at the end of the summer than they did at the start. (Downey, 2004)
Students lose on average 2.6 months worth of Maths learning and 1 months worth of spelling skills. (Cooper, 1996)
Of course it’s important that kids have some downtime and R&R over the summer, especially those students who need time to catch their breath after June exams. But every student risks summer learning loss, and it’s a weighty topic on every parent and educator’s mind. Whether your child loves to read, or problem solve, we have a few tips that can be fun and effective ways to retain and promote learning over the summer break.
1. Play not work
Summer learning should be fun. Whether you’re educating your children yourself, or enlisting the help of a nanny or tutor, take the lessons outside the classroom and discover activities that your child will enjoy. Find out about next year’s curriculum; just hearing about a topic in advance helps pupils to learn it quickly in the classroom. Create a treasure hunt with subject-specific clues – this has the added advantage of keeping them occupied for some time, depending on how tricky the questions are!
2. Riveting Reading
Harris Cooper found that the poorest children lose the most reading skills, while those better off actually improved over the summer. The long summer break can be an opportunity for children to discover reading. Studies have shown that reading four to five books over the summer has a positive impact (comparable to attending summer school!) and on average students lose 2 months of reading skills over the summer.
Be inventive; even the most reluctant reader just needs the right trigger!
For the tech-savvy paper-phobic child you could purchase a family e-reader, or take a trip to your local library and encourage your child to choose books that she or she is interested in. You could also try the Summer Reading Challenge, which rewards children with stickers and certificates for free!
3. Marvellous Maths
Adapt recipe quantities while cooking to familiarise children with dividing, multiplying and using fractions. These questions crop up everywhere from primary school to GCSE Maths.
When your 6-year-old asks, again, how long till his best friend arrives: ask him to work out the time in hours and minutes (or days and hours, depending on how early the excitement starts to build…) Young children find time calculations a challenge, counting in a base of 60 instead of the normal 10s and 100s.
Children are natural entrepreneurs: if it would be safe and you can keep an eye on them, a homemade lemonade stall requires plenty of maths practice. Just keep an eye on the recipe to make sure they produce something drinkable! Ask them to calculate the profit margin and hourly earnings - useful to know when employing a younger sibling…(this is definitely something that works in our house)
4. Whirlwind Writing
Long car journey? Encourage your children to pass the time telling stories, this will help develop their linguistic creativity as well as stopping them from pinching each other! You can even offer a prize for the best story.
Postcards are also a cheap and appealing way of getting a child to pen a few lines to a friend.
5. Super Science
Take advantage of the British summer weather: after the next rain shower, draw chalk circles round a few puddles, to observe the water cycle. Even in our damp conditions, your child will see evaporation in action as the puddle shrinks.
In the garden or park, ask your child to collect small (one leaf is good) samples from different plant species. Go over these samples together, discussing differences and similarities, and why one plant is classed as a different species from another.
6. Summer Tuition
Children are remarkably good at learning in different environments with different people, and if you can afford some extra help, a tutor could be just what they need to inject some educational fun into the holidays.
This doesn’t mean someone who will sit at home forcing algebra over the kitchen table! Most tutors are, by now, as fed up of painful exam-cramming as you and your children, and will be only too happy to rediscover the joy of learning over summer.
So, maybe I should be considering tutoring and Tutorfair is a website which makes tutoring accessible for all. It’s easy to use, search by putting in your postcode and subject, and picking the best tutor near you. View everything from qualifications to videos of tutors, so you can get a better idea of what they are like. The website gives students a better choice of tutors, and makes it easy for tutors to do what they love. Online payment makes booking easy, and if you’re not totally satisfied with your tutor after your first lesson, Tutorfair will give you your money back. Tutorfair helps you find the best tutors in your area, and for every student who pays, Tutorfair gives free tuition to a child who can’t.
So should I get my daughter a tutor? I suspect she won't be overly happy about to start with but I am sure we will all be happy with the results in the end
What is the right age to let your child out to play on their own?
If I am honest, I am not sure that there is a "one size fits all" policy as it is difficult to set an exact age when it is safe for children to be out alone and getting the balance between independence and safety can be difficult.
When researching for this post, I found that the NSPCC say “We agree that children need to have time outside to play, but children under the age of eight are too young to be out unsupervised. We know that children under eight can’t judge speed and distance of moving vehicles. They still need help when crossing roads"
So I have a tween and a toddler, one who thinks they know better and one who wants to do everything her big sister does. The little one loves to be outside and is happy playing teaparties in the garden (with or without the cat!) but this doesn't have enough excitement for the tween.
The toddler plays under the kitchen window (usually shouting orders for drinks and snacks) but her big sister wants to be out playing. When the weather is good she wants to be out on her scooter, bike or skates (which always scares me) but the tween always has the toddler snapping at her heels.
We are lucky to live in a small development which is pretty much in the middle of no where and unless someone is purposefully coming to visit, then there is very little traffic, so it is quite safe for the children to play outside. So much to the chagrin of the tween, the solution to allowing the toddler to play outside is playing with her big sister, while I watch on from kitchen window.
I know that when the tween goes to her friends for "playdates" or "hang out" (or whatever the cool thing is to do) that they are slowly now starting to play outside but I have no control over the traffic at her friends houses so I need to make sure that she remember the three Ws! Even as they get older and think they are independent it is important to make sure that they always tell you:
Who they are going out with,
Where they are going and
When they will be back.
I was never allowed out to play as a child and whilst I want to protect my girls fiercely, I also understand that they need to learn independence and responsbility but in my mind, they will never be old enough for me not to watch over them.
It was a quick and easy way to update the room but fast forward to this year and the little one continues to grow (and grow up - sob) and she wanted a big girls bed. Now having the smallest room in the house comes with its own challenges for trying to actually fit a cot bed, wardrobe, small kitchen (!!) and her toys in there as it is, so finding room for a single bed presented a new challenge. In a moment of inspiration, we decided on a cabin bed and I made it my mission to find one that was affordable, good quality and fit for a little princess. So once we had it, I wanted to get the room sorted straight away.
So how do you complete a bedroom makeover in a weekend, here are our top tips
1. Make a plan! Know your budget, stick to it and don't get drawn into buying those additional items just because they are pretty! (I *may* need to take my own advice here).
2. Clear the space. Random teddy bears and pieces of lego will not be your friend.
3. Check that you have everything you need before you start. When dealing with flat pack furniture, make sure you unpack the parts and fixings carefully, checking that everything needed is present. Identify the parts against the instructions as you go. Handy Tip : Packaging can be used to protect flooring.
4. Accept help when it is offered (even if it is from a 3 year old)
5. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. They’re there to help, and no human has yet been born with a universal flat pack assembly manual downloaded directly into his or her brain.
6. Don't build or paint yourself into somewhere you can't get out of!
7. Add a wall decal (toddlers own choice in this instance). Decals are an inexpensive way to give your walls some personality and flair and add colour to plain walls.
Final tip! When buying a new bed for your child, make sure you have a single bed mattress to fit it and don't do what we did and realise that we might have to make a temporary one!! Thank goodness for next day delivery and online shopping!
The toddler is delighted with her new "big girl bed" and she is even more excited that she has a den underneath it but I am just pleased that it has curtains to hide all the toys away, so everyone is happy.
Completing a bedroom makeover doesn't need to be hugely expensive or time consuming, just a few small changes can make a big difference.