Monday, 16 July 2018

Get back into school-mode without feeling like you need a holiday.

School resumes again. The holidays have been great, but now it is time for a new start to continue your academic journey.

After spending a long while away from school doing all kinds of fun and exciting activities it sure is hard for most children to wrap their heads around the idea of getting back into school mode. Who can blame them? It is obviously a lot more fun for children to play outside, visit friends and to express themselves through their hobbies than to spend hours in a classroom behind textbooks – and a few more doing homework and studying when they get back home. Luckily we have a few ideas that will help them to get comfortable with their academic routine again.

In this article we will discuss the following back to school tips:

1. Take it easy, one day at a time.

2. Catch up with friends.

3. Get into a routine.

4. Plan ahead with a customised calendar.

5. Become friendly with teachers.

1. Take it easy, one day at a time.

Classes, homework assignments and other commitments related to school can get overwhelming pretty quickly. While it is definitely a good idea to be prepared for your classes and start working from day one you shouldn’t stress yourself out about it. The first few days are always somewhat disorganised. It is quite normal – even teachers are still finding their way back to their regular routines. Don’t throw yourself into the deep end from day one. Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” Pacing yourself is crucial if you want to win this academic race. You don’t want to burn out during the first week. When you go from having almost zero stress to high levels of stress in such a small span of time, you won’t allow your body to adjust to the heavy workload. Your immune system can weaken and you stand a chance to get ill. You won’t be able to function properly and will almost certainly fall behind schedule, which will only add to your stress for the rest of the school term.

2. Catch up with friends.

Chances are that you have spent a ton of time with your friends during the holiday. Maybe you have taken the time to visit friends from other schools that you don’t see very often or maybe you have made some new friends this holiday. Take the time to reconnect with everyone else that you haven’t seen during your break. They will be happy to see you. When you see familiar faces at school your brain will automatically make the connection that you are here at school to learn and so are they. Remember that they go through the same emotions of uncertainty and reluctance to be back. At least that is something you already have in common! Tell them about your holiday and ask them about theirs. Being on good terms with your peers is never a bad thing. You may have to ask them a favour later during the term. This also gives you an opportunity to find a study buddy. Good friends won’t only benefit your social life, but can also help you to improve your grades. Look for people who are hard-working that you can relate to. You don’t have to find the smartest person in the room. Just someone who is dedicated and pleasant to be around with. Things will get tough sooner or later, and it will definitely help to have someone around that is going through the same challenges as you. They’ll need the support just as much as you do. After all, that’s what friends are there for.

3. Get into a routine.

During the holidays routine is not a priority for most. Children like to sleep in a bit later and also go to bed well beyond their regular bedtime. Almost everything is disrupted… Eating habits, exercise schedules and more. Having a routine set out will instantly help when you are trying to readjust to your class schedules and extracurricular activities. Set your alarm clock to wake up at a specific time every day and also for when you have to get ready for bed. Get into the habit of planning out your meals and eating at regular times. It will also definitely help to pack your school bag and get your clothes ready the night before. You don’t want to wake up the morning on time and still be late for school because you couldn’t find anything.

4. Plan ahead with a customised calendar.

Along with getting into a routine, it will help if you plan out your day, week and month. This will help you to keep up with your routine and manage your time better. We have an entire article titled ‘Four tips to help you set up a schedule for a successful school year' which will help you set up a schedule that will suit your needs. Remember everyone is different.

Tip: Seeing a math test coming up in a stylish daily planner will definitely make it feel uninspiring. You will feel more positive if everything is organised and neat. Just don’t spend more hours decorating the pages of your planner instead of actually finishing your assignments.

5. Become friendly with teachers.

Every child has a favourite teacher. You give your best in their class; you are always on time and your homework is always completed to the best of your abilities. Some teachers you like better than others and unfortunately there are also one or two teachers who seem to give you a hard time even if you didn’t do anything wrong. Teachers influence your dedication toward their subjects as well as your grades. You are only human. Your emotions sometimes get in the way and you don’t think clearly. You shouldn’t allow your performance and dedication to be influenced as much by the personality of a teacher. It doesn’t help that you get a distinction in one subject and fail the rest. It means that you won’t develop your mind in crucial all areas, and unfortunately miss out on an awful lot. Remember that teachers are also going through personal issues. If they are having a bad day just brush it off. Don’t let other children influence you into thinking that they are the worst ever. Just maintain a friendly and professional teacher-student relationship. Be friendly and polite to every teacher. Not only is it good manners to show them respect, but they are there to teach you. Education is valuable. Teachers will be more likely to help you out if you struggle with something or give you a simple exam tip if you are friendly with them and work hard in their class. They will notice. Don’t be a bootlicker though. They, as well as other students, will notice that too.

We trust that these tips will help you get back into school mode. Let us know if you have any other ideas for setting yourself up for a great school term.

Monday, 9 July 2018

How to communicate the right way with your teen.

Take the time to catch up with your teen, they might be willing to talk more easily now that they have a break.

Everyone is unique. Teenagers are no different. In fact, they are arguably more “unique” compared to other age groups. I bet at times you as a parent have felt like you don’t even know where they’ve come from. They are trying out strange hairstyles and have very unusual fashion choices. They can be over emotional or show no emotion at all. They can be very competitive or couldn’t care less. They challenge authority and act like the whole universe revolves around them. For some teenagers puberty and high school can be the embodiment of hell on earth. Others handle it with poise and grace – they feel right at home. The reason is because during this time their bodies undergo tremendous change. Their senses are heightened. They have to start thinking for themselves, find their identity and assert their own independence. This can be very overwhelming for them, especially if paired with all of the stresses they have – from their own expectations, peers, love interests, schoolwork and extracurricular activities. The way teenage girls develop, act, think and respond will also differ vastly compared to teenage boys. You can further categorise each in different groups and sub-groups. There truly isn’t a single recipe with easy steps for success with teens. All you can do as a parent is to love them unconditionally. Let them know that you are there for them and will support them in any way they need it. The key is communication.

In this article we will discuss the following ways you can communicate with your teen:

1. Schedule an appropriate time and place to talk.

2. Get a bite to eat before you talk.

3. Listen, not lecture.

4. Show interest in them.

5. Be attentive to their behaviour.

6. Assess the circumstances at your home.

7. Allow them to grow into the person they were meant to be.

8. Show that you trust them.

9. Get your emotions under control.

10. Do things together regularly.

11. Have follow-up conversations.

1. Schedule an appropriate time and place to talk.

When you schedule a meeting time with your teen it gives both of you the necessary time to prepare mentally for what you want to discuss. Make sure that you select a time and date that will suit you both. Ensure that you have set out enough time. You don’t want to start a conversation and then have to leave in the middle of it to go to a meeting. Select a location that is familiar and/or inviting to you both. The location shouldn’t be too noisy and/or have many distractions, but it also shouldn’t feel sterile or daunting like an interrogation room. Options can include the living room, garden patio, coffee shop or even go for a walk in the park together.
Tip: Make sure that no cell phones are present – including yours.

2. Get a bite to eat before you talk.

Don’t start your conversation right off the bat. Get something to eat first. Remember, you are on a special date with your precious son or daughter. Teenagers can be incredibly hungry since they grow so fast – especially boys. When they are hungry, they are more irritable and less likely to be in the mood for any conversation at all. When they enjoy a nice meal, they will feel relaxed and their blood sugar will become stabilised – which is crucial to have an engaging conversation with them. When you eat together it forces eye contact, which will naturally lead to informal conversation. It is important to regularly share meals with them. Children that can talk with their parents about everyday things at the dinner table will be more likely to open up towards their parents when it comes to harder topics. For more details on the importance of having a meal together as a family read section number seven, titled ‘Nothing brings people together like good food’ in our blog article “Suggestions on how to build trust, relationship and respect with your child”.

3. Listen, not lecture.

Teenagers can be very selective with whom they share information and with whom they don’t. They can speak freely on the phone or via text message with their friends about all kinds of topics, but when you come into the picture they may not be as forthcoming. This may be because they aren’t entirely comfortable to speak their mind in front of you. It is advised to allow them to do much of the talking. Just listen to what they have to say. Thomas Edison said: “We have but two ears and one mouth so that we may listen twice as much as we speak.” When they start a conversation organically with you they will be more likely to share personal details about themselves. If they feel pressured to talk they will likely not have an honest and open conversation with you. 

If your child doesn’t want to talk about personal matters immediately you should respect that. Start the conversation by asking easy questions, such as whether they enjoyed the meal you just had. Ask them to tell you about their day. Tell them a bit about yours. Asking too many direct and personal questions might scare them off. When they make seemingly casual comments about what happened during the day it can be their way of reaching out. Pay close attention. Allow them to tell you more about it out of their free will. Don’t try to force anything out of them.

After you have made some small talk you should raise a short list of points that you would like to discuss with them. Having a list of points will allow you to keep track of what it is you would like to discuss and therefore avoid miscommunication. Remember, the slightest bit of unintentional harsh criticism from your side can throw them off completely and cause them to shut down. Choose your words and your tone of voice carefully. You won’t keep their attention if you lecture them for hours on end. Worse, you won’t find out how they feel or see things. Allow them appropriate time to process each point and to give a response.

4. Show interest in them.

You are having a conversation with your teen, because you care about him/her. Show them that you are interested in their wellbeing and happiness. Ask them what their dreams and goals are. If they play sports, ask them when their next game is and whether you can come and watch it. If they are learning a musical instrument ask them to perform for you sometime. Yes, even if it means that you will be sitting through a loud guitar jamming session! Offer to help them out with schoolwork, should they need any. If you show interest in their life they will most likely reveal more about themselves to you. You never know. Your big rugby star son may have a different side to him. Maybe he surprises you with a talent for drawing that you weren’t even aware of. Maybe your daughter wasn’t hiding illegal substances from you, only the novel she has been secretly writing in her spare time. Understanding what their interests and hobbies are will help you to understand them a little bit better.

5. Be attentive to their behaviour.

Teenagers go through many changes during this period of their lives. Their bodies change. They try to find their own identity and assert their own independence. They no longer are the small kids they used to be only a short while back.

Don’t criticise their new physical appearance. Teenagers can be very self-conscious. Allow them time to grow into their bodies. They have yet to adjust. They have to find their correct posture. Your boy’s voice is now that of a man’s. He will experiment with new ways to speak with his deeper voice. If it does sound a bit odd don’t make him feel uncomfortable. Teens will have their first crush and not know exactly what to do with these feelings. They might temporarily develop some odd habits. It is quite natural. They will eventually grow out of it and become comfortable with who they are. All you can do as a parent is be there for them and show them love and support. Make sure that they are healthy and live a balanced lifestyle. Talk to them about some of these changes and let them know that everything will be alright in the end.

However, if you find that their behaviour changes erratically to the point that you become concerned for their health and safety it is advised to step in. If you see that their energy levels, eating- and sleeping patterns, moods and motivational drive change drastically – so much that it borders on abnormality, you should have to discuss the delicate issue with them. Raise your concerns with love. Don’t be judgemental. Get their permission to take them to see a medical specialist / mental health professional.

6. Assess the circumstances at your home.

Many parents try to downplay or diminish the feelings of teenagers, because they believe that teenagers live in a “safe” environment and don’t know an awful lot about the “real world”. In other words paying bills and taxes, having their own business or work stress, raising kids and running a household. Yes, the death of a celebrity will likely affect them more than it will affect you. Yes, they care more about the release of the latest iPhone than what is necessary. Yes, a friend that didn’t greet them at a party will feel like a stab in the heart Yes, next week they will have forgotten all about it... 

The truth is that even if teenagers don’t completely comprehend the whole world, their entire world is you, their home, their family, their neighbourhood, their school, and their friends. If something is out of place there, they definitely feel it. The life of a modern teenager is far from “safe”. They deal with a lot of pressure from within these “safe” communities. That is why you have to assess the circumstances at your home and surroundings. Unfortunately parents split up. One parent loses their job or has to work in another country. Perhaps a sibling unexpectedly got an unusual health condition.

When changes occur that can be disrupting to them, you have to make a point of talking to them about it. Be transparent and let them know that these uncertainties also affect you, but you are in it together. You will make it through. Ask them how they feel about it and how they are coping. Some children are much tougher than others. Issues that you may not have been aware of can also come to light when you discuss the living conditions with them. If there is anything at your home that can cause your children distress, you should try to address it or put a plan into action to improve it. That way you will have a strong and lasting relationship. You want your children to visit your home after they leave school and find a job.

7. Allow them to grow into the person they were meant to be.

The best way to get to know your child is when they are comfortable enough to be themselves around you. There should obviously be parent-child boundaries, but you won’t have a good relationship with them if they fear you or are afraid that they might disappoint you. As a parent you should offer them guidance and support, but you should give them the freedom to explore and find out things for themselves. Allow them to make mistakes and to learn from their mistakes. Let them grow into their own person, not your version of them. For example, you may want your son to take over the family business one day, but he will be a far better software developer than a lawyer. Allow him to follow his dreams. You have had your turn. Your children will become successful and happy adults only if they know who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Praise them for their talents and uniqueness.

8. Show that you trust them.

Growing up is all about learning and experimentation. Teenagers want to be independent. They want to make their own decisions. They want to test their own abilities. They want to show you that they are capable of taking care of themselves. As a parent you have to allow your children to take some responsibility. It can be something small such as taking care of younger siblings, cooking dinner or mowing the lawn. It can also be something bigger, such as going to a party or dating or learning how to drive a car. It is healthy for them. Sometimes the timing is just perfect for them; other times they will fail. Unfortunately, that is life. By encouraging your children to try out different things you will win their trust. It shows that you have faith in them. It will boost their confidence. Inform them of what you expect of them and set some rules and boundaries before letting them run wild.

9. Get your emotions under control.

Things can quickly get out of hand when you are trying to reason with an over emotional teen with a hot temper. Remember, you are the parent and they are the child. You have had time to learn how to control your emotions. They haven’t. Don’t lose your cool when they do. It is incredibly easy to say things that both of you will regret later if you are upset and aren’t thinking clearly. Take a break if the conversation turns into a heated argument. You love your children - that is why you want a relationship with them that can last a lifetime. Don’t try to solve everything in one day. Give them time to process everything that you have just said. You should too.

10. Do things together regularly.

It is important that you and your child have deep conversations from time to time, but it doesn’t mean that you should stop there. You should communicate regularly. Talk about things that aren’t too personal. The easiest way to do that is if you do things together. It can include cooking, watching movies, playing games or hiking. By bonding with your child you win their trust. If you share mutual interests, discuss a possible project that the two of you can do together in the future. You should also be open to learn new things. Try to involve your teen in your world and get involved in his/hers.

11. Have follow-up conversations.

You can’t just have one deep conversation and expect the entire world to change. Change takes time. You have to allow them time to reflect on the things you have said. You should also reflect on the comments they have made. Schedule another time and date with your teen to follow up on your previous session. If your first approach worked, then you can try to do it the same way. If it did not, try a different approach. You can try a new location or allow them to choose this time. When you are having your next conversation make sure you give him/her feedback on their performance or behaviour. Praise them for the things which you see they have been working on to improve. Allow them to also give you feedback.

We sincerely hope that these tips will help you improve the communication between you and your teenage child. Let us know if you have any other techniques that have helped you build better relationships with him/her.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Suggestions on how to build trust, relationship and respect with your child.

During the school holiday life is usually calmer. This is a great opportunity to connect with your kids.

Even though you may love the people closest to you with all your heart, can relationships with them be a lot of work. Sometimes you merely don’t spend enough time with each other, because there simply isn’t a second to spare. On the other hand, you can spend an entire day in someone’s presence and be so occupied with everything else that at the end of the day you haven’t had a single constructive conversation with each other. You work, you have to attend meetings, get your children to school on time because they write exams... You also have to get on that treadmill - something you’ve been putting off for too long. At some point during the day you have to get groceries and decide what to make for dinner…

Does it sound familiar? Of course it does!
To be honest, it is quite the norm in every modern household. There is nothing wrong with being busy. Unfortunately, it is unhealthy when these acts become more important than the people. When family relationships are neglected it is usually the children that feels disconnected from you the most. You may not immediately realise how it affects them, since they have friends and take part in extracurricular activities, but sooner or later the cracks will start to appear. Unfortunately it can also impact their performance in school.

Children crave your attention, love and respect. That is why it is important to speak with them and let them know that you care about them during these times. Luckily life has its cycles and things won’t always be like this every day. There is no better time than to spend a little bit of quality time with your children during the school holidays. They will be less stressed and more likely to talk openly with you.

In this article we will discuss 10 ways you can connect with your children:


1. Tell them how much you love them.

2. Understand where you are at in your relationship.

3. Listen attentively and speak only when spoken to.

4. Understand what makes your children “tick”.

5. Make their dreams your own.

6. Plan a special day for your children.

7. Nothing brings people together like good food.

8. Have a family game day/night.

9. Meet their friends.

10. Find your inner-child.

1. Tell them how much you love them.

‘I love you.” These 3 simple words are very obvious, but probably the most import words any parent can say to their child. Telling your children in words that you love them is a verbal confirmation that you care. Children that feel loved by their parents will have a strong and lasting relationship with them, because they will feel safe and secure in their presence. This is very important as they will be open and forthcoming when things are going well or not so well in their lives. Children that have a strong bond with their parents will tell them when they are being bullied or in harm. It is crucial to win your children’s trust and let them know that you are there for them. Unconditional love from a parent also directly affects children’s confidence, self-esteem, health and overall happiness. A study conducted by Duke UniversityMedical School that involved 500 people over a span of 30+ years found that when mothers displayed affection toward their children from infancy, they grew up to into adults that were happier, less anxious and less likely to display psychosomatic symptoms. The researchers concluded that oxytocin, a chemical secreted by the brain during moments of closeness between parent and child, is responsible for the positive effects. Because of this, it is not only advised to tell your children you love them, but to really show it.

2. Understand where you are at in your relationship.

In order to have a great relationship with your children, you have to take a step back and analyse where you are currently at. Do you enjoy spending quality time together regularly? Do you take part in fun activities and have meaningful conversations? Do you hardly see each other and speak only occasionally? Do they behave differently when they are around you? There are many determining factors (such as their age, household arrangement, your work schedule, personalities, mutual interests etc.) that influence the type of relationship and bond you and your children have. It also depends from child to child. Sometimes kids and teenagers can be difficult to understand. Some might seem distant no matter what you do. Don’t press them too hard when they don’t open up immediately. You should never give up on them. Let them know you are there and love them dearly. They will eventually get around to asking your advice should they need it. If they don’t behave properly you have to let them know that you discipline them because you love them. Be transparent about your actions and open your heart to them. Ask them what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. Aim to make some changes if it is necessary. They will eventually act the same toward you.

3. Listen attentively and speak only when spoken to.

For some children it might be a big deal to say something about how they truly feel. It is not because they don’t trust you. It may simply be because they are still unsure about their own thoughts and feelings. Every person is unique and therefore every relationship is unique. Just as soon as you think you understand someone you understand nothing about them at all. The reason is because everyone changes. You should know. You aren’t the same person now as when you were their age; when you went to university; got married or when they were born. You grow as a person with the passing of time. Children change especially. They literally transform right in front of your eyes. They don’t just change physically, but mentally also. Sometimes these experiences can be uncomfortable. None the less. They learn new things every day and experience many emotions as they go through life. You have gone through many growth processes and have learned how to cope with life, but remember that everything is new to them.

Encourage them to tell you about what they learned in class. You may even learn something new. Encourage them to tell jokes or sing out loud. Ask them questions. When they really want to talk to someone about their feelings they would recognise you and their home as a safe environment. Allow them to speak and think for themselves. Often times they already know what the next steps are to solve a problem, they just need to verbalise their plan of action. They also want confirmation that you are standing right behind them and will catch them when they fall. Use your discretion as a parent when to intervene and when to stand back. Mistakes can also be good, because they learn from it.

If you see that they want to talk to you, make a special appointment with them. Take a few moments out of your day to listen to what they have to say. They will appreciate it. Also, remember that it takes time to build trust and relationship. You will probably need more than one sitting to help them figure things out. You shouldn’t just give your opinion or an ultimatum and walk away - especially not with rebellious teens. Allow them to hear your advice and come to their own conclusions. Tell them that you support them and are proud of them.

4. Understand what makes your children “tick”.

Every child is unique. This means that even if you share DNA, you can differ vastly from your each other – physically, mentally and/or emotionally. It is your responsibility as a parent to find out what makes them “tick”. What interests, viewpoints and personality traits do you share, and how do you differ? Start to build a relationship with them from commonalities and work your way up to the areas that are foreign to you. The easiest way to find out how different or alike you are is to simply try out different things together. Open your children’s eyes to see the world. Help them explore and discover new things. Visit places and go to events. Take note on what they like and what not. Do something together that is outside both of your comfort zones. This will show your child that you are open to new things.

Another great way to help them discover things that can potentially makes them “tick” is to read together about a number of different topics. Read bedtime stories, the news, history books etc. It is the safest and cheapest way to “travel” with your mind to different places. Discuss the things you read afterward.

It is important to love your child unconditionally even if you don’t always think alike or understand them. Just let them know that you care about the things that make them happy, because if they are happy so are you.

5. Make their dreams your own.

“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” ~ Christopher Reeve. Dreams are precious. It is important for children to be allowed to dream up things that are bigger than all of us. The dreams that are formed in a young child’s mind can grow into a powerful desire to improve our lives. Dreams influence our thoughts, the tools we use, the architecture we build and ultimately the way we shape our world. As a parent you should always encourage your children to use their imagination; to dream up fantastical things and never to lose their enthusiasm for the discovering of new things. It is far more advisable to ask your children what difference they would like to make in the world, or what problem they would like to solve, than to ask them what occupation they want to have when they grow up. Children’s minds won’t expand if they are forced to be boxed in and only learn and think in a certain way that is expected of them.

Less than 60 years ago it would have seem an impossible occupation to become an astronaut. Fortunately dreamers have set out to go into space. With incredibly hard work and research in astronomy, physics, aerodynamics, engineering, and computer fields they have actually made that dream a reality. On April 12, 1961, Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space. The lesson to take way is that it is important to understand your child. Support them in everything they do, no matter how absurd it sounds right now. They might just overcome the impossible! You don’t have to spend all of your money, time and energy on their “extravagant” projects, but it will be enough for them to know that you support them. Buy some books for them on a particular topic that fascinates them. Try to find a tutor or coach to help them get on track.

6. Plan a special day for your children.

There is nothing more fun and rewarding than to spend a day with your children. We know, it isn’t always possible with a demanding work schedule, but every once in a while you have to schedule a time and date with them. Chances are you both need some time off and to reconnect. Ask them in advance where they would like to go. If you know them really well you can surprise them. Just make sure they have some free time. The day and activity will depend entirely on you and your child. It can be as adventurous or relaxing as you want it to be. You have a wealth of options to choose from in our blog article “18Interesting places for South African learners to visit during the schoolholidays”.

7. Nothing brings people together like good food.

There is certainly a lot of truth in the saying “Good food brings people together”. Everyone has to eat, so why not make something special of it? Everyone can help out in the kitchen. Making a delicious meal together is a lot of fun. The scents, aromas and textures of food and spices can be very therapeutic. Everyone will start to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Enjoy your meal together at the dinner table – not in front of the TV. Sitting down at the table encourages eye contact, which leads to conversation. Ask your children how their day was and tell them about yours. Discuss different topics. Chef John Besh said it best: “Growing up, I learned life’s important lessons at the dinner table”.

8. Have a family game day/night.

Everyone loves a good game. Games are an excellent choice to start building relationship with your children. Games should be light-hearted, playful and relieve stress. When you play games with your children you will learn more about their personalities. Games also allow you the opportunity to teach new things to your children, including valuable life-lessons. Competition is good - the whole purpose of games is to encourage the players to perform their best, but try to keep destructive rivalry to a minimum – especially between siblings.

Ideas for games include:
  • Board games such as Chess, Monopoly, 30 Seconds, Scrabble etc.
  • Card games such as Uno
  • Hide and Seek
  • Ball games such as soccer, rugby, cricket, hockey, netball, basketball etc.
  • Wrestling
  • Imaginative play
  • Pillow fights

9. Meet their friends.

Meeting your child’s friends can be a great way for you to learn more about your own child. Every child should have at least one friend and try to make more friends. As a parent you are encouraged to take interest in their friends. Friendships help your own child learn more about relationships and other people. Let your child know that his or her friends are welcome in your house. Review some “house rules” beforehand. Make it known to your child, the friend and his or her parent/guardian that you will be present. Make it an enjoyable experience for their friends. Everyone should spend some quality time together. You can also choose to take your child and their friends (with permission of their parents) to a fun activity, such as seeing a movie or having an ice-cream. You will soon find out what their mutual interests are and or why they are friends. By reaching out to your children’s friends, they will realise that you care about them.

10. Find your inner-child.

The best way to understand your child is to reflect back to the time when you were young. Remember what it meant to you to gaze at the stars; what it meant to wander around in amazement at the zoo; what it felt like running as fast as you can down the street; what it meant to win your first gold medal... Once you have been exactly where they are now. Sure, the world is slightly different now compared to what it might have been then, but the core of what it means to be a child will always remain the same. All children are filled with hope and wonderment - sometimes even a little bit of harmless mischief, but they will always have the same need for love and acceptance from a parent.

Teach your children the important lessons you have learned along the way. Have the relationship with your children that you have had or wanted to have with your parents as a child. Time flies by incredibly fast. Don’t allow life’s unpredictability and demands interfere with your relationships in a way that you become strangers to each other. If you do, this wonderful opportunity to have a great, meaningful and lasting relationship with your children will pass you by. Once your relationships are no longer there, everything else that you’ve been working for won’t matter much in anyway. Take this holiday to (re)connect with them and to get to know them better – even if you see them every day. You won’t regret it.

Let us know how you will be spending quality time with your children.

Monday, 25 June 2018

18 Interesting places for South African learners to visit during the school holidays.

The weather might be cold outside, but there is a wonderful world out there to explore during this school holiday.

After exams we are all grateful for the holidays so that we can rest and recharge. Take your time to recover from all the studying by sleeping in late, watching your favourite shows and spending time with friends. However, there is a great big world out there, full of adventures and discoveries to be made. Jawaharlal Nehru, former Prime Minister of India, said, “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

During this school holidays make time for something and go on an adventure. Here are 18 interesting places South African learners can visit during the school holidays.


Geluksfontein Goat Cheese Farm

If you love cheese, this farm in Limpopo is not to be missed.  Located in the Waterberg Area, 30 km from Modimolle (Nylstroom), Geluksfontein offers guided tours that demonstrates the cheese making process alongside cheese tasting. Tour tickets are priced at R 25.00 per adult and R 15.00 per child under the age of 12. 
Visit their website to see what else they have to offer.

Polokwane Art Museum

The Polokwane Art Museum is a place where one can learn about culture and tradition. The museum contains more than 1000 artworks, which includes paintings, ceramics, sculpture, photography and more. The art showcases local talent and reflect the area’s local mythology


Perry's Bridge Reptile Park

This adventure is not for the fainthearted. Perry's Bridge Reptile Park houses more than 80 different species of reptiles and even have opportunities for you to touch the snakes. The park is situated in Hazyview, near the Kruger National Park and will keep children (and adults) busy for hours. Tickets are priced at R85 for adults and R50 for children under 13 years.

Skyway Trails

If you’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to fly, then Skyway Trails will show you how to spread your wings. Skyway Trails is set in a natural forested valleys along the Sabie River, next to the Kruger National Park. Here you can zip line, climb and slide through the high trees and experience nature in a unique way.  Cost range from R160 – R495 per person. 
Visit their site for more.


Wits Planetarium

The Wits Planetarium is based in Johannesburg and will entertain the whole family by teaching young and old about astronomy. It is fascinating to learn about our vast universe and the way planets, stars and astronomical figures work. Tickets are priced R50 per adult and R35 per child. 
Visit their website to find out more.

Gold Reef City

If you are more on the adventurous side, Gold Reef City will thrill you with all its rides and activities. There are water rides like the Raging River Rapids, slow carousels like the Cups & Saucers and the exhilarating Anaconda. However, if you’re not keen for rides, you can enjoy the Heritage Tour to learn how Johannesburg came to be, how gold was discovered on the reef witness the magnificent glow of a live gold pour! Tickets range from R135 – R215 per person. 
Visit their website to book your tickets.

North West

Pilanesberg National Park & Game Reserve

If the wildlife calls you during the winter months, then you need to visit the Pilanesberg National Park & Game Reserve.  Here you can get in touch with nature, listen to bird sounds and if you’re lucky see the Big 5.  
Visit their website to book your safari/tour.

Elephant Sanctuary Hartbeespoortdam

Elephants are majestic creatures – and to see them in real life is magical. At the Elephant Sanctuary in Hartbeespoortdam you can have an interactive elephant experience, where you can learn hands-on about elephants and get to know the elephants on site. They also offer elephant rides, brushing and monkey tours. Rates for children start at R335 per person.

Free State

Kututsa Hiking Trail

If you love being outdoors and walking in nature, you should give the Kututsa Hiking Trial a go. This 22km hike will take you two days to complete, but will amaze you with a refreshing experience. You will walk alongside a stream, through the mountains and even sleep in a rock overhang. 
Visit their website to make your booking.

National Women's Monument

The National Women’s Monument in Bloemfontein is to commemorate the women and children who died and suffered in British concentration camps during the Second Boer War. The obelisk of 36,58m is grafted from sandstone from Kroonstad and depicts two women in front of the obelisk. The inscription on the monument reads “To our heroines and dear children, Thy will be done”.


Kwazulu-Natal Sharks Board

The KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board Maritime Centre of Excellence (KZNSB) is the only organisation of its kind in the world. KZNSB keeps the coastline of KwaZulu-Natal safe through shark nets, drumlines and bather safety gear.  They also conduct research into the biology of sharks, educate tourists and scholars, house the Shark Museum and offer boat tours (R350 per person). 
Visit their website for more.

Umgeni Steam Railway

Experience historical travel means through the Umgeni Steam Railway. The train runs through the beautiful Valley of a Thousand Hills between Kloof and Inchanga in Durban. The line runs through a 53 metre long tunnel at Drummond built in 1878. Trains run on the last Sunday of each month and also houses the Inchanga Railway Museum. Tickets are priced at R240 per adult and R170 per child. 
Visit their website for more information.

Northern Cape

Big Hole

The Big Hole is one of the largest hand-dug excavations in the world.  Here at the Big Hole you can have an underground miners experience, view the hold that delivered beautiful diamonds and visit the Old Town. Tickets range from R100 per adult to R60 per child up to the ages of 12.
Learn more here.

Augrabies Falls National Park

Within the National Park you will find the spectacular Augrabies Falls with a height of 56m.  The indigenous Khoi called the Augrabies Falls “Aukoerebis”, that translates to ‘place of great noise’ and when you visit the falls you will know exactly why.  Here you can also walk the Dassie Trail, see the gorge and view spectacular wildlife in the park.

Eastern Cape

Tsitsikamma National Park

The Tsitsikamma National Park will refresh your soul after the long exam cycle. During a hike through the Tsitsikamma you will see oceans, beaches, forests and wildlife.  There are plenty of fun activities to do like swimming, climbing, abseiling, mountain biking, diving and snorkelling.

The Owl House

The Owl House is known today as a provisional national monument and is a museum in Nieu-Bethesda that attracts tourists to enter a new world of art and sculpture.  The Owl House is the artwork of Helen Martins that is filled with sculptures of hostesses, mermaids, camels, pilgrims and of course owls. Tickets are available for R50 - R70. 
Visit their website for more information on this mystical place.

Western Cape

Table Mountain

The famous Table Mountain has a lot more to offer than just pretty pictures. Not only is the view great, but Table Mountain is home to an estimated of 2,285 species of plants. You can either hike up or travel by cable car.  
You can book your tickets here.

Castle of Good Hope

The Castle of Good Hope is a prime example of a “star fort” and was built between 1666 and 1679. The Castle of Good Hope is the he oldest building in South Africa and can be seen as the oldest, operating office in the country.  The Castle of Good Hope has museums, guided tours, cannon firings and key ceremonies. Tickets cost R50 per adult and R25 per child.
Visit their website to learn more.

*Please note that prices may be subject to change. Please contact the individual facilities for updated prices and information. 

We hope you make the best of this holiday by resting, but also making new memories by going on a couple of adventures. Let us know what your plans are for the holiday and how you plan on spending your “lazy days”.

Monday, 18 June 2018

5 Tips to stay motivated during the exams.

Your exams are almost over. You cannot wait for the holidays. How do you stay focussed?

The last stretch before the holidays is always the hardest!  Especially when some of your friends have already finished all their exams and you still have to study.  How can you possibly stay motivated when freedom is so close (yet so far)?  That’s why we want to give you these 5 super easy tips to stay motivated to study for you last exam.

1. Stick to the schedule.

Sticking to a schedule can be quite difficult towards the last few exams.  This is because you are tired, probably have mental fatigue and you simply wish you could be on holiday already.  Therefore, your schedule will be your cornerstone.  Make sure you study in sessions of 45 minutes with a 15 minute break between sessions so that you don’t wear out during the day.  Make those 15 minutes memorable each time by doing something you enjoy, not just lying on the couch and checking your phone.  For example, sit outside during your break to breathe some fresh air, take a walk around the block, play with your pet or talk to some friends.  Remember to stick to your 15 minutes and return to your books after the break.

2. Find a study-buddy.

One of the things why we dread studying for the last exams is because we have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), because some of our friends might already have holiday.  There is inherently a feeling that you might miss out on certain fun activities that your friends are doing.  Find a friend that has the same dreaded exam they have to study for and create a study group.  Ensure that this study group only contains highly motivated people, the kind of friends who will encourage you to study and not decrease your motivation.

3. Minimise distractions.

When you need to study for that last exam, distractions seem to be everywhere!  If you usually study with your phone nearby or the TV on in the background, you are more likely not to remember new information.  During studying for the last exam you will be even more tempted to check your phone to see what everyone is up to.  Rather put your phone in a different room from the one you study, put the TV off and focus on your studies.

4. Schedule your temptations.

Instead of wishing you could be doing something else while you need to study, write down the activities you really want to do once the exam is over and schedule it in your diary.  Therefore you will be less tempted to do it while you need to study, because you know you will do it as soon as you are done with exams.  For example, if there is a series you love to watch or want to start watching, write in your diary that you will binge-watch the series the very first day of holiday. Do this for every activity or temptation that comes into your head.

5. Review your goals.

One of the most effective ways to bring your mind back to the reality of exams is to review your goals.  How badly do you still want a distinction in Life Sciences?  Do you want to be in the top ten academic performers in your grade?  What are your goals?  Review them and recommit yourself to study so that you can reach your goals.

The last few exams are always the hardest to study for – but learn to finish strong.  Finish your exam cycle with determination and perseverance.  Don’t give up right before the finish line.  Dan Green said, “Regardless of what came before or what has yet to come, what matters most right now is how I choose to respond to the challenge before me.  Will I lie down or will I fight?  The choice is mine and I choose to finish strong.”

Let us know how you plan on staying motivated for the last exam and share this with a friend who also needs a little motivation.

Monday, 11 June 2018

What parents can do to help their children during exams.

Every parent wants their child to do well in school. Here are some ideas how you can help out during the exams…

Being a parent means you want your children to only ever experience happiness and joy, that’s why during exams it’s difficult to watch your child go through stress and difficulties.  We want to encourage you to never stop believing in your child.  Matthew L Jacobson said, “Behind every young child who believes in himself is a parent who believed first.”  Here are some great ways how you can encourage your children to perform their very best.

1. Make sure they have a healthy diet.

One of the key factors to excel in exams is to have a healthy diet. By getting enough nutrients and staying hydrated during exams will strengthen your children’s immune systems so that they don’t fall sick and they feel more energised to study longer and more efficiently.

Make sure they eat a healthy breakfast in the morning before the exam.  Remember that too much sugar for breakfast will lead to a drop in blood sugar later in the morning.  Make sure you include healthy snacks in their diet, but remember to spoil them with a little treat every now and again – a few blocks of dark chocolate does wonders for the brain to help them study again the afternoon.

2. Watch their sleep cycles.

As children get older they might not have a bedtime anymore, especially if they need to study until late in the evenings.  However, make sure your child gets enough rest the night before a big exam.  Fatigue is one of the reasons why children don’t do well in the last few exams remaining.  It is important to note that if your child has a busy week of exams, for example they write Monday, Wednesday and Friday, that they can’t stay up too late to study on Sunday evening, because they still need to be able to write on Friday.  According to LiveScience children between the ages of 6 - 13 need from 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night, while teenagers, ages 14 – 17, is recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night.  

3. Carrots and sticks.

An old economic metaphor to explain how a desired outcome can be reached is by use of carrots and sticks – rewards and punishments, respectively.  The metaphor is based on the idea that a mule will either work harder when presented with a reward (carrot) or punished by means of a stick.  Time and time again it is proven that rewards will induce bigger results.

The same principle goes for your children’s exam.  Don’t threaten them with punishments if they don’t do well in an upcoming exam.  Rather inspire them to work hard by presenting a reward, like going for a milkshake after the exam.  It doesn’t always have to be a literal gift or something of monetary value, for example, tell your children that when they receive a good education they will have the ability to change lives, they could start a business, they could own a beautiful home one day, they can have a career that make their dreams come true.  Inspire your children to study because they have a wonderful opportunity to reach their greatest potential.

4. Trust them.

Always make sure your children’s mental states are taken care off.  Make sure they know you are there for them and that you will help whenever possible.  Ask questions like “What is the most interesting thing you learned today?” or “How do you think the teacher will test a certain chapter?”.  Help them think about exam situations and help them focus on what’s important through questions.

You don’t have to sit by your child 24/7 to make sure they study.  Sometimes pushing and smothering them do more harm than good.  All they need is someone that will hold them accountable, someone that will be proud of them when they study and work hard.

5. Know your child.

One of the major responsibilities of being a parent is to make sure your children is physically and mentally taken care of.  Your children’s mental health will require you to really know them.  Ask yourself, do you really know what your children’s dreams are?  When you know what your children’s dreams and desires are, it’s a lot easier to help them.  Know your children’s strengths and weaknesses, know in which subjects they feel confident and in which they struggle.  Have a copy of their exam timetable and make sure you give them an extra big hug on days you know they will be stressed.

We want to share with you a letter that a principle in Singapore sent out to the parents of all the pupils:

“Dear Parents,

The exams of your children are to start soon.  I know you are really anxious for your children to do well.  

However, please remember, amongst the students who will be writing exams, there is an artist, who doesn’t need to understand Math.  There is an entrepreneur who doesn’t care about English literature or History.  There is a musician, whose Chemistry marks won’t matter.  There is a sport star, whose physical fitness is more important than Physics.  

If your child does get top marks, that’s great!  However, if he or she doesn’t, please don’t take away their self-confidence and their dignity.  Tell them “it’s just an exam” and that they are cut out for much bigger things in life!  Tell them, no matter what marks they receive, you love them and you will not judge them.  Please do this, and when you do, watch your children conquer the world.  One exam or low mark won’t take away their dreams nor talents.

And please, do not think that doctors and engineers are the only happy people in the world.

With warm regards,
Your Principal.”

We want to wish every parent the best of luck with their children’s exams.  Look well after them, encourage them, love them and support them unconditionally.  Let us know how you help our children cope during exams and how you make them feel special when they need you most.

Monday, 4 June 2018

How to deal with exam stress.

This time of the year is extremely tough and stressful for every learner. Don’t let stress get the better of you.

Stress has been the cause of health problems, anxiety and failed tests for decades – or so it may seem.  Today we want to change the way you view stress for the rest of your life!  Even though stress can feel paralysing or even make you feel sick, stress can actually activate strength in you. 

The key is to find the optimal amount of stress to perform our best and understand that we should change the way we think about stress.

Find the optimal amount of stress.

When you feel stressed for a test you can either feel overwhelmed, motivated or paralysed.  These three emotions has a direct effect on the outcome on your test.  Scientists, Robert Yerkes and John Dodson, conducted a study of the effect of stress on your performance.  The results is best described through a visual representation in terms of a graph.  On this graph, the x axis represents the amount of stress you experience, while the y axis shows your performance level (how well you do).  

The relationship between stress and performance results in a bell curve.  In the section marked “A” the stress is low and performance is low too.  This indicates where there is no stress before a challenging event you lack focus and motivation to work hard.  Section B and C is your optimal performance with moderate to high stress.  This is where you feel motivated to work hard, adrenalin is pumping and you prepare your best to meet the challenge.  Lastly section D shows extreme stress correlates with low performance.  When your stress is too high you become preoccupied with the stress itself and it gets the better of you, for example lack of sleep, anxiety or feeling like you “blanked out”.

When you find the optimal amount of stress you will feel inspired, motivated and determined to succeed.

So how do you get the optimal amount of stress?  

  • Practise under exam circumstances and get used to the feeling of exam stress under controlled environments.  You can do this by using ASP School Project’s Exam Papers and Answers.
  • Prepare in advance for your test so that the workload doesn’t put unnecessary pressure on you.
  • Don’t cram your study work so that you feel confused and flustered when writing the exam.
  • Minimise stress not related to the exam.  For example, if you have an important test or exam coming up, don’t put yourself under more pressure for a different activity that produces stress.  You should also eliminate stressful factors like fights or arguments with friends, stress surrounding your household or stressful social situations.  For that week of your exam, try to focus only on your exam.
  • Find relaxation techniques to calm yourself down when you’ve gone over your optimal performance stress level.

Change the way you think about stress.

Even after seeing this graph and understanding your optimal stress level, you might still be terrified of the word “stress”.  However, the way you think about stress can actually boost your performance even more!

Kelly McGonigal is a health psychologist from Stanford University who studies the relationship between your health and stress.  She claims that a shift in the way you view stress will improve your life experience, happiness and health.  “When you change your mind about stress you can change your body’s response to stress.”

During a test, have you ever experienced symptoms of stress, such as an increased heart rate, breathing faster or even breaking out in a little sweat?  We have all been there!  We have all experienced anxiety and stress over exams and pressure.  However, McGonigal makes a new suggestion: “What if you view these signs as a way that your body is energised and preparing you to meet this challenge.”  

In other words you can view your stress response as helpful.  Your pounding heart is preparing you for action.  Increased breathing is sending more oxygen to your brain so that you can make decisions quicker and more accurate.  When you view stress as a helpful tool to increase your performance, your blood vessels don’t close up, but stay relaxed even though your heart might be pounding faster.  This is simply your body rising to meet the challenge.  This is your mind and body being courageous.

We want to encourage you to view stress an advantage during exams.  Change the way you view stress and find your optimal amount of stress where you can perform at your best.  Remember “A diamond is just a piece of charcoal that handled stress exceptionally well.” ~ Unknown.  So handle your stress, ace your exams and become that diamond!

Share this article with friends if you know they have been have been dealing with stress.  Let us know what other techniques you use to perform your best!