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Summer holiday activities with kids

​Reading time: 6 minutes

Summer holiday activities with kids With so many weeks ahead to keep the kids entertained, you could end up spending a fortune over the summer holidays if you're not careful. Here is a selection of cheap and free activities to keep the whole family entertained during the summer:

1- Pack a picnic, kite and sunshade and head to the local park. Best of all, parks are free. See find your nearest park

2- Build an insect hotel and give nature a helping hand to attract and keep beneficial insects in your garden such as ladybirds which eat aphids that damage plants. Plus, insects need somewhere to stay in the winter too! The Eden Project has a fabulous project to help you build your very own insect home.

3- If the weather takes a turn for the worse (when!), there are plenty of free museums across the North West. To get you started, here are a handful of museums that are free of charge or have a nominal entrance fee:

Located in Oldham, Gallery Oldham is full of fun, creative and exciting activities, events and workshops for children and families of all ages.

Suitable for a rainy day is the Stockport air raid shelters. While not free for adults, children under the age of 16 are free with a paying adult! Carved into the natural sandstone cliffs, the intriguing network of underground tunnels offers visitors an unparalleled insight into life in wartime Britain in the 1940's.

Warrington museum and art gallery is free to all and has well over 200,000 objects under its roof. This museum is well worth a trip and is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon.

A little over 15 miles from Wigan is the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre. Family tickets are available from £17.95 for a family of 4. Makes for a thoroughly enjoyable and educational day out.

Free entry for everyone at the Museum of Wigan Life where you can discover the people and places of Wigan both past and present. A good place to spend a couple of hours. There are often children's activities for which there is a small charge. 

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How to build self-confidence in children

Reading time: 3.2 minutes. 

Self-esteem is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child. This is a gift that will last from childhood throughout their adult life. Positivity and self-confidence help children try new challenges as well as deal with mistakes and try, try again!

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10 tips to prepare your child for secondary school

Reading time: 3.9 minutes

Moving up to Year 7 is a milestone in every child's life. I certainly remember my last day at primary school and the first at secondary! The summer holidays in-between were a long run up to the great unknown.

These days the 'transition' is much carefully thought out, and it's highly likely your child will have made many trips to their chosen school already, engaged with staff and pupils, and even participated in several lesson.

However, any change can still be traumatic, so with that in mind, here are 10 tips on how to help prepare your child for the transition from primary to secondary school:

1-Talk to your child and listen to any concerns they might have. They may be worried about getting lost and unable to find the next classroom. They could go to the school office or ask a teacher. Be positive and enthusiastic about the transition to secondary school. Your child is more likely to look forward to their first day without too much anxiety if you stay positive. This is especially important if the school they will be going to was not your first choice. 

2-A lot of secondary schools offer orientation events for new pupils. This offers a good chance to have a look at the facilities and meet the teachers. 

3-Do you know any parents or neighbours who already have children attending the school? It can be an excellent idea to introduce your child to older children so they will have a friend to look out for during the first few days at the new school. 

4-During the summer holidays have a trial run of the route to school. If they miss the bus, talk to your child about what they should do. Likewise, if you are unable to get away from work and can't pick them up on time. 

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What are Special Educational Needs (SEN)?

 Reading time: 5.2 minutes

Section 20 of the Children and Families Act 2014 defines a child as having Special Educational Needs (SEN) if he or she... 

''(has)... a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for them.'' 

Or ''Their special educational needs may require extra or different provision in relation to thinking and understanding, as a result of physical or sensory difficulties, emotional or behavioural difficulties, difficulties with speech and language or how they relate to and behave with other people. Disabled children and young people may require extra or different provision, for example, if they are less mobile than their peers and require additional or extra provision so they can access the same learning opportunities.''

Special educational needs can have a strong impact on a child's ability to learn. It can also affect their behaviour as well as their ability to socialise. A lot of children find themselves struggling to make friends which can be a huge worry and concern to parents especially when their child doesn't get invited on playdates and spends the majority of their time in their own company at home. It can be extremely hard for the parents not to wonder why. 

For children with dyslexia, reading and writing can become draining. Those children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) on the other hand may well be overactive, lack self-control, talk too much and not pay attention to what others around them are saying. Most cases of ADHD are noticed and diagnosed when a child starts school although some children may not fully diagnosed until they reach the age of 12 years. 


What constitutes a special educational need? 

To name a few SEN's: Dyslexia, dyscalculia, autism, dyspraxia, mood disorder, Asperger Syndrome and auditory processing difficulties. As you can see, the range is wide and varied. 

Does my child have SEN? 

If your child is pre-school age and you are concerned they have a SEN, there is no need to wait for their next routine health check. Make an appointment and speak to your GP or key worker if they attend pre-school. If your child is already attending school or nursery, have a talk with their teacher and ask to speak to the school's Special Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), who will organise extra help for children with SEN. 

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Screen time for kids: How much is too much?

​Reading time: 3.8 minutes

First off, what exactly is screen time? Well, screen time is the time spent in front of a screen, such as watching programmes on television, using computers, playing video or hand-held computer games, using IPads and smartphones.

From a very young age, children can get addicted to IPads, and research has shown children as young as two spending excessive amounts of time on their IPads which in the short term can lead to sleep disorders, inability to concentrate, aggression and the inability to communicate with others. 

But what about long term damage? Can excessive screen time cause permanent damage to a child's still developing brain? Between birth and the age of three, their brain is still developing and studies have shown that if screen time is used regularly during this all-important period, it can stifle critical brain development on which future development and learning is based. 

''When very small children get hooked on tablets and smartphones,'' says Dr. Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of Britain's Royal Society of Medicine, ''they can unintentionally cause permanent damage to their still-developing brains. Too much screen time too soon,'' he says, ''is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people's attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed.''

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What's the right age for your child's first e-mail account?

Reading time: 2.6 minutes


What age is considered appropriate for a child to have their own email account? 

A growing number of schools do offer pupils school e-mail accounts. Not usually in infant school, but as they move through the education system into junior school pupils are generally assigned a school e-mail address and password. Teachers can monitor and scan for bad language and harmful content. Any e-mail that causes concern will be forwarded to the designated teacher. 

This works because it's an email within an 'enclosed network'. Using email across the entire worldwide web is a different matter!

It's only natural that with so much exposure to technology from a young age, your child will eventually want their very own e-mail account. As a parent, you will want to make sensible and informed decisions. With that in mind, it's important to think about the maturity of your child before letting them have their own e-mail address. Ensure your child is aware that having their own e-mail account comes with responsibility. 


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10 reasons to hire a private tutor for your child

​Reading time: 3.2 minutes

 Why hire a private tutor for your child? Here are 10 good reasons:

The demand for private tuition is increasing, due mainly to the popularity of private tuition with parents who want to give their child extra support or prepare them for oncoming examinations.

In no particular order, here are 10 reasons to hire a private tutor for your child.

1. Confidence building

Some children lack confidence in school and as a result, they can fall behind and find themselves struggling academically. Private tuition can build a child's confidence in next to no time and guide them to academic success they might otherwise miss out on in school.

'Getting things wrong' in class can lead to a downward spiral of confidence. The social aspect of a classroom and its influence on kids cannot be underestimated.

1 to 1 tuition can help to slow down and in most cases reverse this process.

2. Moving to a new school

Most children find the transition of moving schools unsettling and difficult, not only is there an unfamiliar school environment, there is also a change of area topped with having to make new friends! A private tutor can help your child with academic support for the curriculum at the new school and help them settle into their new school environment. 

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When is it safe to leave your child home alone?

 Reading time: 4 minutes

Deciding when your child is ready to be left home alone is a decision not to be taken lightly. 

There are a lot of factors to take into consideration and it's made all that harder because there are no rules or laws to follow. 

The law doesn't say an age when you can leave a child on their own, but it's an offense to leave a child alone if it places them at risk. (Suitably vague!)

It all boils down to how comfortable you and your child are with the idea as well as how adaptable and mature they are. 


While there is no determined legal age to leave a child at home alone, it should be sufficient to say that babies, toddlers and young children should never be left on their own, even if it is just to pop out to the local corner shop. While the child may be sleeping soundly when you pop out, what happens if they wake and you are not there, they might panic and try to leave the house to find you. 


Here is some advice to help you decide. If, at the end of the day, leaving your child 'home alone' is not an option, you will need to consider suitable childcare. 

  • Babies, toddlers (1-3 years) and young children should never be left alone even if just for a few minutes. 
  • Children under the age of 12 are generally not mature enough to cope should an emergency arise and should not be left at home on their own for long periods of time. 
  • Children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight. 
  • Parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if it is judged that they placed a child at risk by leaving them at home alone. 
  • A child should never be left at home alone if they do not feel comfortable with this arrangement, regardless of their age. 
  • If a child has additional needs, these should be considered when leaving them at home alone or with an older brother or sister. When leaving a younger child with an older brother or sister, think about what may happen if they were to have a falling out and you are not there. 
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What were classrooms like 100 years ago?

​Reading time: 3.1 minutes

​ Just how different are today's classrooms compared to 100 years ago?

One hundred years ago, children did go to school, but the classroom and lessons were very unfamiliar by today's standards. The 1870 Education Act was the very first piece of legislation to deal specifically with the provision of education in Britain. However, the act still did not make education for children compulsory. It was not until the Elementary Education Act of 1880 which finally made school attendance compulsory from the age of 5 until the age of 10. In 1893 compulsory education was also extended to blind and deaf children when special schools were established.

Life at school in the Edwardian times was very different to today and the average class size was 60 pupils all with different ages! If the school was sizeable, boys and girls would be taught in separate classrooms. A teacher's job was mainly to teach facts and figures for pupils to recite and write down on a slate board. All female teachers were unmarried because in Edwardian times marriage was considered to be a full-time duty and so when a female teacher married, she had no choice but to give up teaching.


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The importance of learning homophones

Reading time: 2.6 minutes


What are homophones?


Homophones are those confusing little words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings and usually different spellings. While there are literally hundreds of homophones in the English language, below are 10 common examples.

You can see from some of the examples that some do have the same spelling but a completely different meaning! Homophones are without a doubt the reason why so many of us misspell words on a daily basis.

I would personally say that to, too and two are the homophones that can be held responsible for the most spelling mistakes!

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Help your kids to write better sentences - all you need to know !

​Reading time: 2.7 minutes


​Is your child finding it difficult to write in sentences? Do they make correct use of full stops and capital letters? Read on for some tips and fun exercises that you can do with your child and help them write better sentences. 


(You'll have to tweak some of this depending on the age and ability of your child.)

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Why do we celebrate Easter?

​Reading time: 3.6 minutes

A brief history tells us there are a lot of controversies over where the name ''Easter'' actually originates from. The majority of articles mention that the name ''Easter '' has a pagan origin and originates from the name of a pagan Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring whose name was Eostre. Some scholars on the other hand say the name ''Easter'' stems from the German word 'auferstehung' which means resurrection. Other articles claim the name ''Easter'' derives from ancient Egypt and Egypt's goddess of fertility.


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All you need to know about the eleven-plus exam

​Read time: 3.4 minutes

Have you ever wondered why despite many areas of the UK not using the eleven plus since the early 1970s there are still local authorities and private schools admitting pupils based on selection?


It might surprise you to learn, there are even now, 165 remaining grammar schools in various parts of England and 70 in Northern Ireland (and many more independent schools), and so the eleven-plus examination continues to thrive.

 
These days, the 11 Plus examination is taken by some pupils in their final year of primary school in order to get into their first choice grammar school. Private schools also use versions of it to 'screen' their intake of pupils, predominantly to ensure they only take on the highest-achieving pupils.

Amongst other areas, the examination predominantly assesses the child's capability to solve problems using verbal and nonverbal reasoning, writing and mental arithmetic. However, it should be pointed out that the sort of examination will vary from local authority to local authority or within the actual school itself. 


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Healthy snacks that are easy for kids to make...

​Read time: 4.7 minutes


We have searched the globe high and low! Well OK, we've searched the internet and our own recipe books to be precise and put together a small selection of healthy snacks that are both quick and easy to make but above all, (mostly!) healthy. So go on, treat yourself and the family to a lunch box full of healthy snacks.

There's no doubt about it, kids are going to love getting involved in making their own healthy snacks. Who knows, maybe they will even add a few secret ingredients of their own? One of my youngsters makes the most delicious pasta sauce by adding honey into the mix!


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Home schooling is on the increase

​Read time: 4.7 minutes

While there are no exact figures, it is estimated that there are around 75,000 home-schooled children in the UK and this figure is increasing every year. One of the reasons why the figures are estimated is because children who never start school are not likely to be reflected in the statistics.

Even more surprising, is that although taking children out of school for holidays is illegal, despite having an otherwise good attendance, and despite the possible educational content that travel allows, it is perfectly legal to remove your child from school and teach them at home, without any teaching qualifications and without any requirement to follow the National Curriculum. Bizarre.

So why is homeschooling on the increase?

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Thoughtful Mothers' Day gifts for kids to make

It's time to get crafty with the kids because mums love nothing more than a homemade gift on Mothers' Day. Best of all, with our choice of homemade gift ideas, they are all so easy that anyone can make them!


The trick will be how to direct your little darlings to this blog post, without being obvious about it! Perhaps that's a job for dad? :)


Fabulous hug cushion


Basically, all you are going to do is to trace and cut out felt hands before using a hot glue gun to stick them to a cushion. If you don't have access to a hot glue gun, you can use stick on with Velcro or iron-on mending tape.

Take a look at the full tutorial here: DucklingsInARow.com


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10 ways to organise family life using Evernote

Read Time : 6.2 minutes

So what exactly is Evernote? Well, some people will tell you that this tool is their digital brain! Others will tell you it's a cloud-based software tool which will keep all of your important things and store them in the cloud instead of locally on your mobile device or laptop (it can do that too of course).


For both the professional and the casual, personal user Evernote is one of the best tools to help you stay organised. It will most certainly change the way you organise your personal day-to-day projects as well as business projects. Once you start with Evernote, you will probably find yourself using it more and more and rely on it to keep your life organised and running smoothly.


You can store anything that you need to reference at a later date and once you start using it, you will find Evernote quickly replacing your current physical filing methods. (Note from Geoff: Ash Tutors is 100% paperless, all stored in the cloud!)


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Things to do in London during the half term

Read Time: 6.7 minutes 

Planning a trip to London with the kids during half term? Take a look at these 10 top places to visit, all of them are FREE with the exception of the HMS Belfast. However, there is a 2 for 1 offer available if you travel to London by train. I promise you, these places will keep the whole family entertained come rain or shine. Please do check the official websites for opening hours as some of these attractions are not open every day.



On a personal note, I do have three favourite places that I can easily visit time and time again when I am in London. They are the HMS Belfast, Sir John Soane's Museum and the Novelty Automation Arcade. The latter are both in Holborn and within a 2-minute walk of each other and Holborn underground station. If you like walking and every corner turned is an interesting one in central London, then it is a very pleasant walk from Holborn to the HMS Belfast, passing the famous Forbidden Planet store en route.


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10 Tips for Stress-free Homework

Child anxiety? What about their parents?!


Read Time: 3.8 mins.  

Do you have a tendency to hide when you see your children coming home from school with a bag full of homework? Rest assured you are in good company because it's a well-established fact that most parents dread homework nearly as much as children dislike it.


Here are 10 simple tips and suggestions to help relieve the anguish of homework which you may not have thought of before. These suggestions will help establish a routine and make homework a positive experience. (For the whole family!)


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Fun activities for a rainy day

Fun activities for a rainy day

Read Time: 5.6 mins

So it's raining cats and dogs and the kids are getting bored, and worse still it's only 10 in the morning! When the weather forecast is bleak, turn the day into an adventure with these fun family activities and games for a rainy day.

Set up a camp site indoors

Create your own indoor camp site with small pop up tents if you have them, otherwise make your own tents from sheets and blankets draped over furniture. Make the inside of the tents cosy and comfortable with sleeping bags, pillows and cushions. If you happen to have any battery operated tree lights, hang these in the tent(s) too. Finish this activity with an indoor picnic.

Treasure hunt

Keep the family entertained with a treasure hunt! Write down a set of clues and fold the paper or pop each of the clues into separate envelopes. Mark each envelope or piece of paper with a number which will help the treasure seekers keep track of the trail. The family member who solves the clue and finds the treasure wins that piece of treasure. Alternatively the kids can play as a team and the whole team need to work together to solve the clue and find the treasure.

"Treasures can be a handwritten IOU!"

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