When you’re stressed and overwhelmed, make a list

When you’re stressed and overwhelmed, make a list

When you’re stressed out and you know it, and you really want to show it,
When you’re stressed and overwhelmed, make a list.

Did you catch the ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ children’s song reference there? When I was going though a tough time earlier this year, a good friend told me something similar. The song and her revised lyrics got stuck in my head and made me smile even when I was overwhelmed, underslept and trying to work out the next best thing to do.

With HSC, IB, and yearly exams completed, and the summer holidays approaching, you may think it’s a strange time to be talking about anxiety and overwhelm. However we all know that Christmas can be a chaotic time of year. For a student, add to that thoughts about their upcoming reports and thinking ahead about next year and it’s understandable they feel worried and don’t know what to do.

One of the best ways I know to deal with stress is to brain dump all those swirling, chaotic thoughts onto a piece of paper. Usually it’s a piece of scrap paper so I don’t feel pressured to try and structure my thoughts or write them neatly into a nice lined journal. Scrap paper gives me the freedom to write messy, underline key ideas, draw lines all over the page and, if I want, to scrunch it up when I’m done.

Once my thoughts are on paper, I have a visual idea of what’s making me anxious and from there I can triage. I like to sort my messy, unstructured list into the following categories which I first heard about reading Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. (If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend buying a copy for your high-schooler this Christmas!):

  • Urgent and important;
  • Important but not urgent;
  • Urgent but not important;
  • Not urgent and not important.

This matrix makes it easy to distinguish my priorities from those things that feel urgent but aren’t as important as other tasks. I can then add time limits to my tasks and break big tasks like exam revision, reading a novel, or beginning a Major Work, into small, manageable steps that I can use to track my progress.

When our thoughts and emotions are in turmoil it can be really hard to ask for help. Making lists helps to link our feelings to facts. Once I know what pressures I’m facing, I am better able to communicate them to those around me and ask for support. For example, if I’m worried that I’m a slow reader and know I’ll have to read a few books in English next year, once I put that feeling into words, I can ask my teacher for next year’s reading list so that I can get a start on it over the summer break.

Learning is not done in isolation but in families and communities. Parents often tell me that they recognise the signs of stress in their child but they don’t know how to help because their child won’t open up to them. If this is you, consider asking them to write or draw a list of what’s going on for them and volunteer to help them prioritise. Ask them to think of who they could ask for support and encourage them to be proactive. This also allows you to see the ways you might be able to relive some of the pressure they feel.

Nepean Tutoring is open throughout the summer holidays to support and guide your child towards achieving their learning goals, so don’t hesitate to let your tutor know if you’d like some additional sessions in the holidays. If you’re new to the Nepean Tutoring family, simply Contact Us and we’ll connect you with the best tutor to support your child’s education.

(Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash)

What to do about maths anxiety

What to do about maths anxiety

Many students suffer from maths anxiety. The Australian Council for Educational Research estimates that around 20% of students are ‘highly maths anxious’. Signs of a high level of maths anxiety include avoiding the subject, inhibited memory for mathematical concepts, inability to focus, disinterest, and an overall negative attitude towards maths. Ultimately students who are highly maths anxious will avoid all subjects that include maths, which ultimately inhibits their learning and career opportunities.

Maths anxiety is not a diagnosable condition like anxiety disorders or other mental health conditions, however it is important to notice how your child talks about and approaches maths in order to recognise where they need help. Like most health conditions, early intervention can make a decisive difference.

Maths is weighed down by generations of negative myths. You’ve probably heard yourself that ‘maths is difficult’, or ‘maths is for smart people’, or ‘I don’t have a maths brain’. However, these ideas forget that maths is a language of its own, replete with its own symbols, logic, and vocabulary. Just as humans are wired to communicate through language, so too, humans are wired to be mathematicians in various capacities.

In his TED Talk, Australian mathematician, Eddie Woo, said: ‘Mathematics isn’t just about crunching numbers but rather about finding new ways to see problems so we can solve them by combining insight and imagination.’

Learning to understand the beauty and necessity of mathematics is fundamental for reducing maths anxiety. Here are a few examples:

  • Cooking: How many ¼ cup measures make up 1 ½ cups of flour? How much sugar do we need to make a double batch of cookies?
  • Shopping: Why is cooking from home is cheaper than eating out? How many kilos of bananas would equal $5.00 worth?
  • Decorating: How many paint tins do you need to re-paint the living room according to the formula on the tin? Will your child’s bed fit in the space between the wall and the door frame or should it sit under the window instead?

By creatively demonstrating the practicality of maths, we can decrease maths anxiety through frequent, real-life problem solving practice.

Similarly, students tend to feel less anxious about topic quizzes compared to formal exams. The informality of a quiz helps students to focus on a specific area of their knowledge and target their revision accordingly. Small check-ins like quizzes make the process of testing their knowledge less overwhelming.

Regularly monitoring a student’s progress and giving specific, timely feedback is essential for improvement. Regular feedback in small doses, one topic at a time, is more easily understood, less intimidating, and is much easier for the student to apply, compared to receiving a large amount of feedback at once.

Each student learns at their own pace and it is true that some learn mathematical concepts faster than others. Tutoring provides a focused, one-to-one approach to meet your child where they’re at. Our friendly tutors work with your child to set individual learning goals and devise a realistic plan to achieve them, giving specific, relevant, and timely feedback along the way. Our tutors are patient and empathetic, encouraging resilience, self-confidence, and a growth mindset which is an essential trait of successful learners.

By combining everyday talk about applications of maths practicality of maths with tutoring to provide regular feedback and support, you can help to maximise your child’s learning opportunities and reduce their maths anxiety. Contact Us today to see how our team can support your child’s learning.

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Senior School Transitions

Senior School Transitions

For a student transitioning from Year 10 to Year 11 or from Year 11 to Year 12, their journey through senior school feels both exciting and intimidating.

  • Exciting because they have more opportunities for leadership, wider subject selections, and are closer to the end of their time at school.
  • Intimidating because of the responsibilities and expectations thrust upon them seemingly overnight. They know that previous years have been preparing them for senior school, yet they feel like they’re staring into the unknown with no idea what to expect or how to survive, let alone thrive.

In these transitions, students who are well-organised and self-motivated have a distinct advantage. Even more so, students who are proficient with reading comprehension, writing, and general maths skills. Students who have not found personal motivation for learning or feel behind their classmates often experience anxiety, which can appear to concerned parents and caregivers as worry, irritability, or apathy.
Qualities of successful students, such as diligence, curiosity, and self-motivation, take time to develop, so it is crucial that students feel encouraged and supported as they seek to cultivate a positive attitude to their education.

Some students in year 10 are completing their Preliminary HSC course amongst their other year 10 subjects. Students in Years 11 and 12 need to complete their Major Works (HSC) and Internal Assessments (IB) alongside exams and other assignments. For all students, organisational skills are crucial to managing the competing demands of senior years.

  • All students need an effective method of note-taking and revision.
  • All students need a reliable system for managing email inboxes and cloud-based file storage using Google, Microsoft Office, Canvas, or another online storage platform provided by their school.
  • All students need to allow adequate time for researching and referencing assignments to comply with academic honesty policies.
  • All students need to balance their studies with time for family and friends and getting adequate sleep and exercise. Some students also need to balance extra-curricular activities and part-time jobs with their studies.

Whether your child is academic, sporty, musical, arty, or just looking forward to life after school, all students need to feel supported through times of transition and encouraged to meet new expectations about workloads and responsibilities.

At Nepean Tutoring, each one of our tutors has been there. We know how it feels to juggle competing priorities and we’re well acquainted with the range of emotions that your child is feeling. Our tutors are patient listeners and passionate about sharing realistic advice and giving practical support to help your child reach their learning goals.
No matter what year your child is in, there is no better time to begin working on these essential skills. We have tutors with openings for Term 4 and for the summer holidays, but be quick! These slots are filling up fast, so contact us today. We’d love to welcome you into the Nepean Tutoring family and help your child on the road to successful life-long learning.

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Online Maths Games: The Results Add Up

Online Maths Games: The Results Add Up

Gamification of learning is the idea of applying game principles (e.g. scoring points, competing with others, leader boards) to education to increase interest and engagement in learning.

Physical (non-digital) games are routinely used by teachers, especially in primary school, to encourage team work, participation, cooperation, and expend energy. In both primary and early high school, online maths games are used, like physical games, as an additional learning tool to make maths fun and interesting, especially as concepts become more complex.

There are countless examples of online maths games including coolmathsgames.com, Mathletics, and mathsisfun.com, which are used to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, telling the time, fractions, percentages, and more in an entertaining way.

But do online games produce results or are they a distraction from serious learning?

Online maths games are not a substitute for instruction and explanation and must be balanced with other approaches to teaching. Educators and parents must be aware that games:

  • can be a distraction from learning if the student does not know the learning outcome or purpose of the game
  • may encourage a reliance on extrinsic motivators (e.g. peer recognition, status, grades) rather than intrinsic motivators (e.g. personal satisfaction, improved self-confidence)
  • might lead to the assumption that recall speed equals success.

There are, however, many benefits of gamification in learning, especially maths, such as:

  • Developing problem solving skills through experimentation and strategic thinking
  • Encouraging resilience and persistence
  • Giving students the freedom to fail, using mistakes as a motivator to try another way
  • Tailoring challenges at a level and pace appropriate to the individual’s ability
  • Providing an immersive medium to encourage focus and attention to learning
  • Inspiring curiosity, particularly in theoretical subjects
  • Developing computer literacy and confidence
  • Increasing retention through interactivity
  • Enhancing pattern recognition and understanding of numbers
  • Giving instant feedback and visible progress (rewards, level-ups, badges) which increases the desire to learn and improve.

Games are an excellent way of demonstrating that learning can be enjoyable and rewarding. Online maths games are especially useful for bridging the gap between the classroom and home because they provide a meaningful way of practicing concepts in a way that doesn’t attract the usual groans when ‘homework’ is mentioned.

If your child uses online maths games, a great way to support your child’s learning is to talk to them about what they are learning from the game. Try using conversation starters such as:

  • What skill are you practising?
  • What strategy did you use?
  • How would you change your strategy next time?

Encourage your child to reflect upon their learning and to remember that learning takes place in all areas of life: within and outside of the classroom, and, like reading, in real and virtual worlds.

Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash


What is the real purpose of tutoring?

What is the real purpose of tutoring?

During school holidays, and especially after the tumultuous term we’ve just had, no one would argue that our students need a rest. Time away from school brings with it the question of whether they should take a break from their studies, and if so, when school and tutoring should resume.

Whether we realise it or not, many students, parents, and even teachers, believe that tutoring is only necessary during the 9 or 10 weeks of term time, and that it’s only useful when the student has assignments or homework. But that’s not the whole picture. An understanding of the role of a tutor in your child’s education may be helpful at this time.

So what do tutors do?

The role of a ‘tutor’ has more in common with concepts such as ‘guard’, ‘guide’, ‘mentor’, and ‘coach’, compared to ‘teacher’ which is more synonymous with ‘instructor’, or someone who models a procedure or concept.

At Nepean Tutoring, we want to emphasise that tutors are far more than homework helpers. The role of a tutor is to guide students to the point where they become independent learners. Independent learning skills benefit the learner beyond an academic context, equipping them with critical thinking and problem solving skills to carry them into future decision making situations as they step out and live their own lives.

The purpose of tutoring is to guide students to become independent learners through individual attention and a structured approach to skills development. With consistent effort, over time, students are capable of:

  • Starting homework and assignments on their own
  • Knowing where to find reliable information and what to look for
  • Understanding texts and taking notes in their own words
  • Developing and articulating their own ideas

Habit coaches affirm that regular practice is fundamental to skill development, whether that be playing the guitar, achieving fluency in French, becoming a prize-winning novelist or a world-famous sportsperson, or learning to read and write.

The benefit of your commitment to a 10-week tutoring package is that scheduling in regular revision allows students to work on their weaknesses and fine-tune vital learning skills before the pressure of keeping up with the homework and assignments begins. It reinforces a habit of learning that is vital for success. The first week of tutoring, particularly for secondary students, should be dedicated to a combination of:

  • Goal setting and planning their schedule to balance study with extra-curricular activities
  • Revision of difficult concepts
  • Instruction on study skills, exam techniques and essay writing
  • Encouragement to maintain a positive mindset

When the student doesn’t have specific content from school, tutors use the student’s interests to make the sometimes tiresome work of practice and revision more engaging through activities that encourage curiosity and foster a desire to learn. This is particularly relevant for our younger students.

The skills and confidence to tackle life’s problems independently is the greatest gift that we as parents, tutors, and educators can give to future generations. A week or two of tutoring without the pressures of homework and assignments can make a huge difference in developing curiosity and persistence, which are essential characteristics of learners who successfully adapt knowledge and experiences to solve school and life problems.

Nepean Tutoring is dedicated to providing effective and dynamic educational support and developing foundational skills to equip and inspire the next generation of inquisitive, independent learners. Our 10-week packages ensure that we don’t lose important learning opportunities in that process.

Inspiring the Unmotivated Student

Inspiring the Unmotivated Student

Many students go through stages where it appears they are wholly disinterested in school. They might say, “School’s boring,” and without elaborating further, parents feel powerless to help.

Closer observation or speaking to their teachers might reveal underlying factors such as low self-esteem, trouble at home, conflict with friends, physical or mental illness, learning difficulties, or that they are over- or under-challenged in the classroom. Knowing the cause is helpful, but what do you do when nagging your child to do their homework or threatening to take away privileges is has lost its effect?

Ultimately, motivation has to come from within, but parents and teachers can play a significant role in inspiring students to learn. The key thing to remember is that learning is not confined to the classroom. We are constantly gaining knowledge about history, culture, politics, people, and the environment from the news, our entertainment choices, and our discussions with others. As we reflect on our own experiences and empathise with the experiences of others, we are challenging and developing our opinions, and acquiring wisdom for future decisions.

Here are a few approaches you can try to stimulate your child’s curiosity:

  • Identify their learning style (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, introverted, extroverted, etc) and try a different approach to school work that is more appealing. For example, tackle a maths problem by drawing diagrams or study for a history test through a family discussion about the causes and effects of World War One.
  • Encourage participation in family discussions. Sometimes students disengage because they are afraid of getting the answers wrong. Informal discussions about current affairs or theorising about what will happen next in your favourite television drama allows for students to ‘take risks’ in a safe environment where they don’t feel the pressure of comparison. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge when your child has a good idea or if you decide to change your opinion. This lets them know that it’s okay to be wrong and that there is no shame in reviewing information and changing your mind.
  • Get out of the house. Go for a walk together to review content for an upcoming exam or unpack a daunting assignment. This might also create space for the student to talk about other issues or struggles which are affecting them.
  • See a movie together. Use their current film, TV and Netflix viewing to discuss plot, themes, soundtrack, and casting. Understanding the storytelling techniques of media they are interested in can spark ideas about the novels and films being studied in class.
  • Make links between the student’s interests and passions and the classroom. If they love sport but hate reading, find articles of game results or personality profiles to make reading more relevant. If they love food but hate maths, try doubling or halving a recipe together to see fractions in action.
  • Highlight progress, no matter how small. Celebrating their wins will help them to see the positives in what they are learning and develop vital self-confidence. Even if their level of improvement doesn’t correspond to your standards of achievement, recognising their accomplishments according to their standards can go a long way towards improving their self-esteem.

Still no luck? Many students find that a fresh face or a new approach can help them to reignite an interest in learning, or deal with any underlying learning problems that are causing them to disengage. At Nepean Tutoring, we boast an extensive team of experienced, enthusiastic, creative tutors. Simply Contact Us and we’ll match a tutor to suit your unique requirements.

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