Originally, I spoke about ‘using’ time. However, life and learning have moved on. Thanks to books like Oliver Burkeman’s incredible 4000 Weeks, I’m rethinking my relationship with time. Rather than seeing it as a resource to use and consume, it’s perhaps wiser to see it as an ally. Together, you and time can make a huge difference to your child’s learning path, and thus, massively increase their chances of success at your dream school.
Everything we do depends on time. Everything we do, we do in time.
Often, a task we don’t do or don’t complete is because we run out of time. As often, we run out of time not because the end was too far away to reach, but because we started late. The end was always there; the beginning was lost.
This is never more so than when preparing for and passing tests. What you are about to read – combined with the time you take to read it, make notes and DO it – DO time – is going to transform your child’s learning and results. Starting today.
Time is on your side, but it seems to have two opposing energies within it. Realise:
✓ How creative it can be;
✓ How perishable it is.
Every second is single-use; we can’t use yesterday’s time, today’s time, or tomorrow’s time, ever again. Like an apple, time doesn’t last, but like an apple, it doesn’t need to. The goodness comes from crunching on it while it is ripe.
HAPPY WARNING: Much of this is learning for you. It’s learning you will put into practice with the child you are brave enough and wonderful enough to be helping. Filter the information in a way that is playful, fun and stress free. Always make children believe they can do lots, learn lots and grow lots.
For they can and do.
A total growth mindset.
Instead of worrying about running out of time or having no time, or complaining of wasting time, you may frame time, personify it as a friend or teacher or special power – whichever model or metaphor speaks to your child. Embed what follows over the next 7 days of blogs (please come back to keep up) into a regular, happy learning routine. (John Lamerton’s amazing book, Routine Machine, changed my life on living routines.) Over time, each time skill should become a natural, background time-habit, a pattern of thinking and action that becomes instinctive for you both. Be playful and adapt the 7 ways for your own child. Some children pick up strategies and put them into practice quickly, while others need to rehearse the ideas and action several times. Both responses are fine. Each child is different. It’s why I absolutely love tutoring 1:1 – finding the path that works for each child is incredibly rewarding.
So, welcome to the 11plushappy School of Time! An 8 day blogfest that I hope helps you prepare yourself and your child for the path ahead.
Happy Classroom 1: The Superhero Moment of the 11 Plus
“They cannot stop me. I will get my education, if it is in the home, school, or any place.”Malala Yousafzai
The 11 Plus may be your child’s first superhero moment. A first – and ongoing – task is to enthuse both you and your child into seeing this. To get 100% behind the adventure.
Encourage them to feel excited about the all-or-nothing opportunity that the preparation and entrance tests represent.
Yes, both the exam and the preparation are all-or-nothing opportunities. You can’t do one without the other. An exam without preparation is a car without wheels.
As a dad in the playground, I remember loving parents speaking about letting their child ‘just have a go’ at the 11+ on the day, without ‘all those boring months of doing papers’. Perhaps they felt either their child was smart enough, or else might be lucky enough on the day. They were also against forcing their children to do extra learning. I said nothing, but my feeling back then – as it is now – was that this approach just couldn’t be right.
After happy years of teaching, I am certain it isn’t right.
Of course, you should rightly consider your child bright, but it still doesn’t add up that you would ask your child to sit a test without preparing for a test. Your child may be a Ferrari, but a Ferrari without wheels is a Ferrari without wheels: it’s not going far. Which car would win a race? A 2020 Ferrari without wheels or a 2000 Yaris with wheels? Preparation=wheels! (I love my Yaris.)
You might wish to cut the following three sentences out and stick them where your
child will see them daily: next to your child’s bed, on the fridge (even in the fridge!),
perhaps the car dashboard if you drive to school.
“You can’t save the world when you feel like it –
you can only save the world when it needs saving!
You can’t sit the test when you feel like it –
you can only sit the test on the day it happens, at the time you’re given.
You can’t prepare for the test when you feel like it –
you can only prepare now!”
There is no later, there is now.
Better still, invite your child to copy the sentences with coloured pens or pencils and design their own poster to display. Write them inside a unicorn speech bubble or draw each word as if it has been built from Lego…whatever they love to look at is best.
The 11 Plus, handled right, is not pressure, it is adventure. It is not forcing, it is freeing. A chance for your child to influence their own future; a chance for you to influence your child’s future. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get involved with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
At its heart is the love and joy of learning.
It is a series of fizzy wow moments as your child figures something new out, which runs parallel to becoming more confident and empowered by rehearsing knowledge and skills they have already. Make it fun, give them lots of specific genuine praise, and be amazed by how much they grow and come to know. You are teaching your child that they can and should think big, that they are capable of giving everything.
Yes, true, heroes may not always win – but they are winners.
Giving everything to something that matters when it matters makes you a winner, doesn’t it? It’s always possible that in whatever you do, you may not get the result in the end, but it is certain you will not get the result if you do not try with everything you have.
As much as possible, you need to be willing to be your own guarantee.
Teach your child to see and believe this, and to work accordingly in order to make it true. When I was out jogging, around the time of helping my daughter prepare, for 6 months I visualised her getting the letter of admission into grammar school as I ran my last 300 metres. That visualisation helped me out so many times when my daughter and I hit learning blocks. It also prepared me to be calm and happy in the next learning session, even if the last one hadn’t gone too well, which it often didn’t.
By trying, by going for it, your child learns to hold their head up high. You are allowing them to build coping skills, passion skills and belief skills. Do not deny the truth of this message: the strongest way to make time work with you is to realise and accept now that this is a true superhero moment. Grab a book and dive in. Make five extra minutes to learn something together and you increase your child’s chances. Increase the minutes and you further increase those chances.
What will you start with?
Times tables? Why not declare your house a T.T.E.Z. (Times Tables Emergency Zone) until they’re all known? Tables help with fractions, division, percentages, word problems…and multiplication. Put up posters declaring the emergency and have quick, spontaneous meetings under the kitchen table to rehearse the 7 times table, or behind the sofa to rehearse the 12 times tables and their division facts.
How about spelling? For example, do they know the rules for turning reply into replies is:
Swap y for i, then and add -es on to words ending in a consonant + y? (Whereas, just add ‘s’ if it’s a vowel + y? Think key to keys.) Is there one spelling pattern that trips them up regularly? Focus on that with fun and encouragement. Be fascinated when you learn something.
Remember: you can only prepare now. Today. See you tomorrow for Happy Classroom 2.
Oh, and if you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a 9-step video guide to help you both prepare for Story Continuation Success in creative writing.
Lee, London, September 2022