Thursday, 29 October 2015

How can I help my child to prepare for the Speech Festival?

The HKSMSA festival dates have just been announced. Students will have had their poems for a few weeks now. A common question from parents is 'how can we help?' Brandon has a few suggestions:

1: Come to one of our Speech Festival Prep classes (of course!)

2: Read the poem through with your child and get them to retell the story to you. Do they understand all the language? If not, look up the words together.

3: Mark up the poem with the relevant emotions. Play with the voices and add in facial expressions.

4: Practice whenever you can in front of family members.

Most importantly....

The Speech Festival is a brilliant way to build confidence, encourage your child irrespective of their final result!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

What is the difference between Common Entrance and Schools' own papers?

If I had a pound for every time parents had asked me to explain the difference between Common Entrance (11+/13+) and schools' own papers, I would have a nice little pot of savings! So here we go:

1: Common Entrance is an examination created by the ISEB (Independent Schools' Examination Board). The exam is available for a board range of subjects and different levels are available (maths has three for example). Individual schools decide: which papers candidates should sit and, the level required.

You need to check requirements with the school (ask for subjects/levels). Registration is done through the ISEB website.

Schools are provided with a suggested marking scheme but some adapt to suit their needs (e.g. rewards for correct spelling/forgiveness of incorrect spelling)

Depending on the selectivity of the school, Common Entrance could be used to confirm an offer or just for setting purposes.

Common Entrance can be sent to ONE school. The only way that it can be used for a second application is if your child is unsuccessful with school A and they then send the papers to school B.

THUS... if you are applying to two schools which use Common Entrance, you need to make a decision!

Common Entrance is taken in Spring (mainly for girls' schools) and Summer. Check the timetable online as dates do change.

2: Schools' own papers are written by the schools themselves and tend to be of a similar level but are often designed for students whose schools do not prepare for Common Entrance. Eton, for example offer their own papers for students from state schools who are following the National Curriculum.

Typically English, Maths and possibly Science are required.

Most of our HK students fall into this bracket. Benenden, for example, offers an option of Common Entrance/own papers which is very welcome to overseas students.

Some schools are extremely helpful and provide past papers or guidelines which parents and teachers can use to prepare. If in doubt, ask!

Schools set their own timetables for exams - for example, Tonbridge is in November for our students, Winchester is in May.

For more information about the Common Entrance Syllabus:

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Coping with homesickness - preparing for life in a boarding school.

Leaving home at any age is a shock to the system but leaving home as a young child can be traumatic. Post 13+ or 11+, students tend to be euphoric as they realise that their hard work has paid off and their thoughts turn to summer rather than the new term.

Missing home is inevitable and, as parents, there are a few ways you might want to consider to help your child cope:

1: Prepare for the new school, visit at least once (amazingly, the first exposure some students get to their new home for five years is when they arrive on the first day)

2: Talk about similarities and differences before your child goes - be attentive to cultural differences.

3: Identify ways of smoothing the transition - does your child have a favourite snack you can send?

4: Speak to the new housemistress/master and matron and work out when your child can call home, how you can contact him/her and what support can be provided.

5: Listen to your child. Don't dismiss their fears or worries, small problems can be overwhelming for a child and talking through problems can make a massive difference.

6: always fabulous to receive. Even if letter writing is perceived as being old-fashioned, receiving a card can make your day.

Most importantly, reassure your child that you are there for them and will support them. The majority of children do adapt and settle in and the complaint from parents is often that their child doesn't have time to call them. And to share a secret... I left home a LONG time ago but sometimes the homesickness still hits. We are never too old to need our families.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

What is a dress code?

I did an interview with Singtao newspaper today in which we discussed dress codes and why they are important. I know that some people think that dress codes are out of fashion but to me they are a way of saying to your host "I appreciate you inviting me to this event. I recognise that you have invested time and money in planning and care about me enough to share your generosity with me. I am making an effort!'

We are living in a society in which the silent ways of showing we care for each other are being eroded. I do not think that respect is an old fashioned value, rather it is a standard by which we can live our lives. Not turning up in jeans to a formal wedding is little to ask of us!

Watch some of the interview on Singtao online

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Finding happiness through the eyes of children

I had a miserable day yesterday which changed dramatically when I found this fabulous picture on my desk. The picture (and flattery, take it where you can!) reminded me that sometimes we need to stop taking life so seriously and live more in the moment. Children have a real gift for spontaneity and we should cherish it. Learning and educating goes both ways!
My instant cheer up present from Akuri!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

My Holiday Memory Journal - a summer activity for students

Remember your childhood holidays? Apparently the sun shone every day, happiness abounded and every day was an adventure. What was the reality? A quick wander through the records for 1980s Ireland reveals that our corner of Kerry had a 24 hour rainfall of 106mm and extensive flooding during an August I remember as being particularly sunny.

Summer project: A memory book for holidays. Cheap, easy and a way of helping your son or daughter to build confidence (and fill those rainy days!)

Step one: Get a plan A4 exercise book. The first project is to cover the book in plain paper and decorate the covers. Use colours, felt-tips, pictures... be creative!

Step two: decide on what to include. Each day can have a different focus such as:

food (stick in menus, pictures, restaurant reviews);

friends - get new friends to sign the book (this is a terrific confidence booster!);

short stories or poems based on what you see out of your window;

pictures of the view from your room/hotel/tent;

descriptions of what you see, and of course...

the weather! (temperature)

If you can't decide on your topic for the day, put all the ideas in a hat and pull one out.

REMEMBER: this is your child's experience and does not have to be a parent-perfect production!
On your return, show the book around and relive the experiences

Memories can fade but journals do not!