I heard on the news this morning that more and more families are hiring home tutors. While that may be a good thing if your children need particular specialist help, there are things that you can do that will have a much deeper effect on your children’s education and also on the happiness of your family. They are not only cheaper, they are free!
The press and politicians love to bash schools. They do it to sell more papers and gain more votes. The care and education of the children comes a long way down their list of concerns.
Schools actually do an amazing job. Each year they are asked to achieve more and more, and are given a hard time if they can’t squeeze more into the same sized brains that enter their doors each year. The world is changing just as fast for teachers as it is for you I. Schools and teachers are doing an amazing job keeping up while meeting unhelpful political targets. Teachers want to teach, not win votes for politicians.
Teachers only have so much time in the day and rarely have time for a one to one sit down with your child. If they do, they are probably, subconsciously making sure there is no physical contact and that no part of the conversation can be misconstrued.
Children come home from school tired. They’ve been working hard all day. The last thing they want is to see the smiling face of a home tutor when they get through the door! They’ll put up with it and may even, reluctantly, learn something because, generally, children do what they are told.
You, as a parent are the best home tutor a child can have and you come free! Every thing you do is a potential learning situation. Separating colours for the wash, weighing and measuring, counting, adding and taking away. So many irritating moments can be made simpler and more fun but remembering to turn it into a game. I know it’s hard to remember when you are exhausted too, but it does make it so much easier than fighting and arguing.
But there is one simple thing you can do that no teacher or home tutor can do that will change the lives and educational prospects of your children more than anything else.
Snuggle up together at bedtime and share a book.
You don’t have to be the greatest reader in the world or be able to do all the whacky voices. You are your child’s hero, so whatever you do will be great. If you can make the time to spend twenty minutes or half an hour reading to your child every night, you will be increasing their educational prospects more than any other intervention could ever hope to.
However sophisticated we think we are, we are still apes and we still need moments of physical closeness to bond. It is that closeness that children crave that modern life does its best to exclude. If children learn to relate reading with the best, cosiest time of their day, they will want to learn to do that magic trick themselves.
Following along as you read, is the best way to learn those long words and see them being decoded before their eyes. Learning to read is the hardest job any of us encounter in our lives. It requires thousands of hours of practice to become fluent. And fluency in reading is the key to pretty much every subject in education. Even sport has become an academic subject! Without fluency, don’t waste money on home tutors. They will force learning in one ear for it to pop out of the other. A tutor should enhance a hunger for knowledge, not be there to force it in.
The stories you read at bedtime will stay with your children for ever.
And, if you remove TVs and computers and any other electronic distractions from the bedroom, you’ll find that children who’ve had that special, bedtime story and a quiet review of the good bits of the day or prayers, if you are that way inclined, will go to sleep happy in the knowledge they are loved and that someone has the time to care about them.
This can be your quiet-time and relaxing end of the day too – every day.
There is no contest. The ipad provides the best apps, books, (there is a kindle reader for iPad so it is a kindle too) and the best operating system by far. When I hear schools discussing the choice staffrooms, the same argument comes up, “Well, iPads are so expensive, and we can get so many more android tablets for our money.”
So you can, and with them you buy so many more headaches down the line. Android is the new Windows. A loose operating system that is changed and mucked about with at the whim of Google and the manufacturers of the hardware. One Android tablet is not like another. Each machine has it’s own quirks. They all have different capabilities and idiosyncrasies, just like windows pcs.
An ipad is an iPad is an iPad. They just work, and Apple make sure the apps that go on them work too. As with all technology, both iPad and Android tablets will have their off moments and frustrations, but you will have far fewer moments and lesser frustrations with iPad.
When it comes to illustrated children’s ebooks, iPad is the only game in town. I don’t mean singing and dancing animated app books, I mean books where the text stays still on the page waiting to be read. You can’t learn to read when the text is dancing up and down and reading itself to you – that’s entertainment.
eBooks for children with pictures in the right place, with video and interactive elements for learning are only readily available on the iPad.
If you want to get on and do stuff, get an iPad. If you want to spend your time asking for help from IT support staff, get Android. If you want to save time and money down the line and have the best apps available to you, iPad is your choice every time.
It has always amazed me that those who don’t use Apple products wonder why Apple users are so fanatical about their support for Apple products. Those who use Apple products are the kind of people who try other systems and are always amazed that anyone would want to use anything else.
Intro to geometry for primary kids
I was so impressed with the sample pages I bought this book immediately and whizzed through it. This book helps refresh those of us who did geometry a LONG time ago, and puts everything simply enough that you can use it to help your kids learn it too.
The videos are superb instruction in how to construct shapes using a pencil, compass and ruler and bisect lines and angles. All of which is coming for your child in school, so it helps if YOU know how to do it. The great thing about the videos is that your child can select the chapter relevant to their current topic of study, use the video to follow step by step, pause, play and go again as necessary.
The jokes are enjoyably cheesy, perfect for a primary school audience, the comic-book character illustrations and simple animations attractively add to the text and I enjoyed the overall look of the book, which does NOT feel at all ‘textbookish’, but instead manages to get across all the important stuff in a fun story style. At the end of each short chapter is a 3-question quiz designed to point children to the right answers, and if they get it wrong, they can keep checking till they find the right answer. It feels very low pressure and I think children will enjoy it.
Cleverly done, and thank you for creating this book, Mr Rayner.
I highly recommend this book
I love it when a plan comes together! I’ve been working like crazy to get my Euclid project up and running by the end of the month – why? Well I’m debuting Euclid at the Wigtown Book Festival in Scotland (why not come along?). This will be my third visit to the festival and the organisers now feel like old friends. Because of that I feel safe trying something new with them, and they are being kind in letting me try!
There is nothing like a deadline to get you moving though! I think I made the decision while working on the iPad version of Euclid. I thought it would be great to do book version too, so I looked at the calendar, worked backwards and decided it was do-able.
I’m a week ahead of schedule. The books have arrived, my banner is magnificent, postcards and posters are printed and I’m ready to go – just waiting for the Tee-shirt!
If you would like a signed copy of the book the head over to eBay where I have them for sale. Buy one and you will also receive a Free A3 Poster!
Meanwhile, the ebook for iPad, which contains extra video tutorials, is riding high at number 2 on the Us Science Charts on iTunes – how amazing is that? You can download a preview for free here.
If you would like me to come and visit your school for a Euclid Geometry day full of story and drawing and constructing angles, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
I’m having great fun with this project. I loved Geometry when I was young and geometry so informs what I draw. An understanding of simple geometry helps so much in shape and pattern recognition when sorting out how to draw something. I think a bit of geometry is a great thing for would-be artists to have.
The idea of the ebook is to show shapes and how they are constructed using story, illustration, diagrams and How to videos.
I’m planning on making a paper version too. I need to get on with things because I’m booked to give a Euclid session at the Wigtown Book Festival at the ned of September. There’s nothing like a deadline to keep a project moving!
I love it when parents tell me that the first book their child read all on their own was one of mine. Often the book they mention is the Ginger Ninja. They tell me how reluctant the children were to read but, for some reason, this was the one that grabbed their attention.
I remember very well the first book I read on my own. Because my parents were in the army, I went to boarding school when I was five years old. I was the only full boarder in the school. There were one or two weekly boarders and kids who stayed while their parents were away.
On Sunday mornings I would wake on my own in a four bed dormitory in a beautiful Queen Anne mansion, and wait until I was told it was time to get up. The owners of the school were pillars of local society and often out late on Saturday night, so Sunday morning lie-ins could be quite extended!
I was desperate to learn how to read. I knew those book things were filled with wonderful stories. There was nothing I like better as a child, than listening to stories. I realised that if I could work out the trick of reading, I’d be able to have stories on tap.
I remember badgering my class teacher to do extra reading in break times and after-school. The Head Master or his wife would tuck me up in bed at night and do some more reading practice.
I don’t know why, but my father bought me stories from the Blackberry Farm series by Jane Pilgrim. Small Square books that were just right for small hands, they were maybe well marketed at the time and easily available where he went shopping. They had just the right amount of text on each page and lovely pictures of all the animals that I got to know and love. Walter Duck was my particular favourite in his rakish college scarf!
It was a sunny Sunday morning and, as usual, I looked through my little collection of books, telling the stories to myself by looking at the pictures.
I opened Christmas at Blackberry Farm, a warm and cosy tale in which Mr and Mrs Smiles, the perfect middle-class English couple, invite their animals in for a wonderful Christmas meal and presents.
I can remember to this day how a feeling come over me, and how I heard a little voice I’m my head saying, “you can read this – you can do it on your own!”
And I did, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, until I reached the end of the book. I can also still remember the amazing feeling of success. I had done it! I had read a whole book all on my own – I had to do it again there and then! And so I did. I read another Blackberry Farm Book and another.
And that is how children get to be good readers and that’s why series of books, with strong characters and short, sharp, snappy stories, are so important at this stage of reading, when children have just learned the trick of reading all by themselves.
They need piles of books that they can recognise as being similar to the one they just managed to read all on their own. They need characters whom they get to know and love, characters that become friends and help them on their reading journey.
That Christmas my sister and brother hung up a sheet for a curtain in the sitting room and we put on an entertainment for my parents. I read Christmas at Blackberry Farm, all on my own, from beginning to end. I still remember that too, another wonderful staging post in my learning to read adventure.
What was the first book that you read? Which series helped you gain confidence reading on your own? Which characters helped you on your reading journey?
Yes, that’s me – posing at the starting line of the sacred running track of Ancient Olympia, home of the original Olympic Games that started some 2500 years ago. We went there on holiday three years ago and that’s where the stories for my Olympia series began to take shape.
As I stood in the tunnel that leads out to the stadium at Olympia, I knew I was standing where the great olympians of old once stood. I could feel their energy, strength, purpose and hopes recorded in the stone of the walls
I could hear the cheers of the crowd, thronging the grassy banks and smell the smoke from hundreds of burning sacrifices. I knew what it was like to be an olympian, ready to take the stage and show the world that at, that moment, I was the best, the fastest, the strongest, the leanest and the fittest.
I suppose I have a very strong imagination! That’s why I do what I do.
I’m not sporty, nor do I watch much sport from the sidelines, but once every four years I’m gripped by the endeavours of the world’s greatest, as they push themselves to the very limits of human physicality and mental strength.
It’s the psychology of sport that really interests me. What is it that keeps the best going? What pushes them through the pain barrier again and again, just to win some stupid race?
Walking around the ruins of Ancient Olympia I realised that the Ancient Olympics were about more than just sport. They were a religious festival. The athletes weren’t only running for glory, they were running to please the gods. They put up with the pain because they knew the gods were with them and for a moment, they were their mortal representatives.
Religious fervour was their motive. Realising this gave me the key to writing the series. Olly is inspired by the stories of the gods that are told by Simonedes, his history teacher. It is the pact Olly makes with the gods that support him, that give him the mental strength to beat his arch enemy, Spiro.
This format allowed me to explore the ancient myths as well as to tell of Olly’s mental and physical efforts to be the best. As I wrote each story, I ran and wrestled, swam, threw and jumped every step of the way with Olly. After each writing session I would be quite exhausted, for I had, in my mind, been Olly and had done all the training and competing myself.
And that’s where art and sport and psychology meet. Great athletes know how to visualise their races. They go through upcoming competitions in their minds, again and again and again, imagining and rehearsing every move they should make until they know how to run the race to perfection.
No Olympic gold medal is ever one without having been won a thousand times before in the imagination of the winner.
It the exact same process I go through when writing my Olympia books. When I’m writing such a series, I go to sleep dreaming of high-jumping and wrestling and throwing discus and javelins. I wake up and carry on imagining, rehearsing and re-running the race, day after day, until it is perfect and I know that Olly is fit and ready to win. Then I sit down and write – and write and write. I write like the clappers, breathless with anticipation – can Olly really do it? Can he really win against all odds?
The first draught is often garbled and full of typos, but that’s what editing is for. I have the memory of that epic race to bask in while I polish up the text until it resembles the emotion and excitement I felt while writing as much as possible.
And that’s how those of us, who don’t get up at five in the morning to train, day in day out, win our secret olympic medals in the fantasy world of sport.
That’s also why sporty children should read and read, immersing themselves in action and fantasy books.
Any unthinking idiot can create the perfect body. Your genes bring the luck of the right physique for the competition. But it is only with imagination and visualisation that great athletes put all the physical attributes together to convince themselves that this is their time – the time to be Champion of the World, to raise that gold medal high into the air and receive the rapturous applause of the adoring crowds – the crowds who only watch and dream.
Designing your own cartoon characters is not easy. It takes time and thought. Of course you can just do carbon copies of other people’s characters, but in the end that won’t get you far. You need to design original characters. Thes come from you and are very often a prt of your personality. Just keep drawing and let the character evolve.