Tutor Mum

Local tutor Kellie McCord is blogging for us about tutoring tips

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June 1

Concentration and values

In this video and blog, we are going to explore:

Defining values

- How our values impact our children’s levels of concentration

- Ways we can expound our values in our children’s learning

After watching the video and going through this blog, you will be able to identify your values and see how they impact your child’s learning, so that you can then actively choose what values to expound. 

We all have values. These are what guide our actions and help us to determine what to do when situations arise. For example, if you find £50 on the floor, you may hand it in to the police station rather than pocketing the money, as you value honesty and integrity. If you have an argument with a co-worker, and it is their birthday, you may still send them a card and give them the gift you bought them, as you value kindness and friendship.

It thus goes without saying that we want to instil values in our children. However, it begs the question: how do our values affect our children’s concentration?

Defining values
To ascertain how our values impact our children’s concentration, it is important to define what we mean by values. 

Looking at the etymology of ‘values’, it comes from Latin valere meaning “be strong”, which altered over time to the old French valoir meaning “be worth”. Thus, values can be defined as something we feel strongly about and what we deem worthy.

Since we have seen that concentration is strongly linked to how we feel, it is therefore little surprise that our values have an integral link to levels of concentration.

How our values impact our children’s level of concentration
When encouraging our children to complete their homework or to study, we often lose sight of the child; we place greater importance on the task. This is not what we mean to do, as we value our children more than the work itself, it is just that we see the work as valuable for our children’s future, and so focus on that. 

So, how can we ensure that we place value on our child rather than the work? Firstly, if we want our child to pay attention and concentrate, then we must give our child the appropriate attention. What does that look like? 

Give attention to get attention by:

Focusing on your child
If you have more than one child, ensure you focus on one child at a time. Make sure your phone and laptop are not in the way so the child can see that you are giving them your undivided attention. Equally, make sure you are not in the middle of something else, such as cooking, cleaning or working. This is not to say that there will be times when you will require your child to listen and pay attention while you are doing something else, but when you are establishing a routine; or, when you are wanting your child to do something you know they struggle with, then it is crucial that you do spend time creating the space to give one-on-one attention.

Being eye-level
If you are on your child’s level, it creates intimacy and lessens the power-play, as you are not above them looking down. 

Giving eye-contact
This is crucial as it helps the child to ‘read’ you, since non-verbal communication adds meaning to what we say. Thus, if we are giving our child eye-contact, it shows that we are focused on them; it also serves as a cue that we want their attention too. It may also help you to re-focus to what you are valuing in the moment - your child! Looking in their eyes, it is difficult to not ‘see’ your child, so you do not lose focus and make the task more important. 

If a child does not make eye-contact with you, do not turn it into a power play. How many times have you heard a child say, “Look at me while I am talking to you.” ? This might be because it is something that adults value, but not a child. So, do not think that it is your child being defiant or unruly. Encourage them to look at you by asking them to do so. If they do not, be clear, but try to make light of it by saying, “Talking to the back of your head is very nice as I do not often see your beautiful hair from this angle, but I would much rather talk to (INSERT THEIR NAME)”. 

You can also explain that by not looking at someone it is difficult to have a conversation and use a role-play exercise. For instance, ask your child to take on the role of a friend. If they refuse, use their toys. Have your child (or one toy), be the friend and you ask them, “How are you today?” Then, have the other person reply with no eye-contact, “I’m fine.” Demonstrate that there is no way of knowing that; play it so that on one occasion the child/toy is not fine. Explain how eye-contact would allow you to see if they were feeling upset. Then, have it played so that they are fine; that they are happy and by making eye-contact it allows you to share with them that joy. 

Breaking down instructions
Rather than giving your child a huge list of instructions, chunk it down so that it is manageable for your child to understand. This prevents them from feeling overwhelmed, as well as helping them to retain the information. You are thus setting them up for success in following your instructions.

By giving your child your attention, you are demonstrating two values: 

- We value them

- We value the task we asking them to do

However, we cannot simply consider our values in isolation. It is equally vital to consider the values of our children, as they will have things they feel strongly about and that they deem worthy. By tapping into this, we can then encourage them to concentrate as they will begin to see the value in what we are asking of them.

Ways we can expound our values in our children’s learning

The most fundamental way in which we can expound our values in our children’s learning is by considering what they value.

For example, Ben, aged 6, is autistic. He values competitive games and receiving praise. He is also passionate about numbers and trains. Ben was having tuition one-to-one, but due to the current situation, we had to transition to online tuition. However, there was the challenge: how to transition to online lessons without alienating Ben?

Knowing and understanding Ben’s values, it made it easier to make the transition. First, we utilised a platform that was easy to navigate. Having an emoji bar, allowed him to receive clear praise with the thumbs up and smiley faces, so he could see when he had done well. The sad, crying face allowed him to clearly see when he had missed the mark. This gave him clear, concise feedback that requires little effort, on his part, to understand. Furthermore, using ‘screen share’, we were able to create a game with his learning by using ‘Paint’ to create a table with both our names. We then raced to find information from the comprehension and write the answer quickly. 

Initially, Ben was reluctant to write and disliked English. Understanding that he values Math, we would start the sessions with some Math. We would then segue into English and would choose topics that were of interest to him, such as reading passages about trains. We would then count the number of adjectives in a sentence. This would lead to a question that required Ben to write a sentence. All of this proved fruitful, as Ben enjoyed the sessions so much that he began requesting to do English and play the game.

Another student, Lara, detests Math and sees it as a waste of time due to the concepts being abstract and unusable in day-to-day life. She highly values baking and cooking. Tapping into her passion for cooking, we were able to integrate Math into her kitchen escapades. Without realising it, she was doing mental Math with ease! When it was brought to her attention, she was elated and was willing to attempt her Math work. 

It is also worth noting that our children may value different activities to ourselves. If this is the case, why not attempt to consider what is valuable to them? By doing this, it reinforces that you see your child as valuable, as well as emphasising your own values of family and connection. 

Lots of teenagers and young people value video games whether it be on PC or on console. Rather than judging it as a waste of time, why not pick up a controller and play with them? Many games are highly sophisticated with intricate stories and game playing that advances children’s vocabulary and creativity. Moreover, as children are interacting with their friends, they are developing their social and emotional skills.

What is more, although we have our own ideas and values about success and happiness, these should not blind us from our core values: love, connection and compassion. Robert and Trude Steen thought their son Mats was wasting his life playing ‘World of Warcraft’; however, after his untimely death, they were astonished by the name he had created for himself in the online world, and the number of people he had inspired in the gaming community. As Robert Steen himself stated, “we should have been more interested in the game world, where he spent so much time”, rather than trying to force him to fit their expectations of living a “traditional” lifestyle.

Here is the link to read the article in its entirety:


Values can be seen as what drives our actions; we feel strongly about them and deem them worthwhile. By staying true to our values, we are able to create connection with our children.

In terms of children’s concentration, if we can creatively tap into their values, we can nurture and foster a love of learning.

Moreover, by discovering what your children value, you may gain greater insight into them and their world, which is invaluable for your relationship.  

What are my values?
This is a questionnaire that can be used to help you focus on what is important to you.

Task 1

1. When was the last time you felt happy?

a) What were you doing?

b) Were you with anyone, if so who?

2. When was the last time you felt proud?

a) What were you doing?

b) Were you with anyone, if so who?

3. If you have money, what are your first instincts? (e.g. spend it, save it, put towards a cause etc.)

4. What form of exercise do you prefer? (e.g. solo or team games)

5. When was the last time you felt angry?

a) What were you doing?

b) What made you angry?

6. When was the last time you felt upset?

a) What were you doing?

b) What upset you?

7. What qualities do you like in your friends? (top 3)

8. When choosing a holiday, what is key for you?

9. If you were on a desert island, what one thing would you bring?

10. What are your 3 pet peeves? 

Task 2
Once you have done questionnaire, try and place them under the following categories: 

Personal/Individual Values
These relate to self-development, such as learning new skills, trying new activities and self-image/self-esteem. It also relates to values that you feel motivate you and drive your behaviours.

Family Values
These relate to how you view your family; how you interact with family members, and how they fit into your life. They are also related to traditions, ideals or anything else that is passed down from generation to generation.

Social Values
These relate to how you view your friends; how you interact with friends, and how they fit into your life. They are also related to how you view society; how you interact with it. Do you try to take advantage of loop holes in any systems?

Health Values
These relate to how you view your health; how you view your body. They are also related to how much exercise you do and what foods you eat. 

Political Values
These relate to how you engage with politics, such as whether you vote or not. They are also related to ideological beliefs; for example, democracy, welfare, civic responsibility etcc.

Economic/Professional Values
These relate to how you view money; how you view ownership of property, vehicles and assets; how you view contributing to taxes, and your attitude towards spending and saving. It is also worth examining whether you are motivated by money in your career choice. 

Religious/Spiritual Values
These relate to your morals and ethics; what you consider to be right or wrong, and what you are inclined to pass on and teach your children. They are also related to how you engage with humans in terms of respect and compassion. If you have a religion, it is how you engage with your religion and practices.

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Step 1: Circle all the values you feel you possess.

Step 2: Group your values into categories.

Step 3: Now list your values from least important to most important.

Step 4: From your top 10 values, choose 1 value that you would like people to know you for.

Once you have done that, you will start to build a picture of what values are important to you. 

Now, go through the table again and choose all the values that you would like to possess. 

Finally, consider some people you admire/people you are close to/people you respect, and write down the values you believe them to possess.

See how much their values align with your own. Notice also where your values may differ.

Note, this task is not about making you feel bad. There are no good/bad; right/wrong values. This task is to get you present to what values you deem worthy, so that you can be more deliberate in your behaviour and way of being. It is also to identify hidden values that you may like and do not feel you possess, so that you can develop and nurture them.

As Aristotle stated: “[People] acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a certain way.”

What this means, is that if we consistently behave in a certain manner, regardless of how we feel, or what we think, then we will produce our intended result. For example, if you value honesty and you are constantly and consistently being honest, then you will begin to be known and valued for your honesty. 

To explore the value of honesty, consider what being honest constantly and consistently honest would look like?

Being constantly honest would look like:

Your friend asks for a favour rather than saying yes to please them, you will be honest and tell them no. Equally, if your friend asks for a favour and you automatically go to say no and look for excuses, such as no time, too tired etc, you will be able to consider whether these reasons are genuine; or, whether they are just excuses. In doing this, you will be able to assess, honestly, whether you are being a good friend or not? By the way, it is okay to say no if you are honestly too tired, but you would communicate with this friend. If you honestly value friendship, then rather than just saying no, you may be able to offer a compromise or a counter-offer so that you can rest and get what you want, and you can help your friend and be a good friend.

May 17

VARK Learning Styles


In this video and blog we are going to explore:

- Defining the VARK learning styles

- How VARK learning styles can be used at home 

- How the environment impacts concentration 

After watching the video and going through this blog, you will be able to identify the different learning styles (VARK). You will have an understanding of how to implement VARK methods at home to enable your children to concentrate, and you will be able to create a physical learning environment that enhances concentration and promotes creativity.

Define the VARK learning styles

Visual learners 
These learners need to see information to process it. The more visual stimulus, the better! Symbols, images, graphs, charts, maps, diagrams and colour are all great ways to help a visual learner concentrate on a task.

Auditory learners
These learners need to hear information to process it. They learn and retain information better if they listen to the content. If the tonality and pace are varied, it can help with retention of information.

Reading/writing learners
These learners need to read the information and then write notes, so tend to learn through words. Reading content that is laid out in chunks may assist these learners.

Kinaesthetic learners 
These learners need to physically carry out tasks in order to process information. They are also engaged and concentrate when they are able to participate.

How VARK learning styles can be used at home

Visual learning strategies
Rather than using lined paper and blue/black pen, allow your children to use different coloured paper and different coloured pens. Permitting your children to create posters to put up around the house is also useful for visual learners.

Auditory learning strategies 
Listening to audio books is a great strategy in engaging learners who prefer to hear information. You can also do recordings of your child’s homework on a phone so they can play back the instructions and questions. Encouraging your child to make recordings for themselves would also be useful.

Reading/writing learning strategies
Providing notebooks for different subjects is great in allowing reading/writing learners to organise their notes. Flash cards and post-it notes are also excellent tools in facilitating your child in making notes that are useful for re-engaging with them later on.

Kinaesthetic learning strategies
Using online games and quizzes are tools that enable your child to participate actively in their learning and so suits their learning style. You can also break down tasks to make them practical, such as ‘jigsaw reading’ (filling in the gaps; matching the title & body of text); using a white board to do Math exercises; going outside in the garden and examine leaves and animals.

How the environment impacts concentration 
Studies have shown that children’s learning is impacted by their environment by 25%. Thus, a well-lit, well-organised and well-supplied study space is imperative for children’s home-learning success. 

What is my preferred learning style?

Here is a questionnaire to help you determine your child’s preferred learning style. There is one for primary aged children and one for secondary aged children.

Primary School Children, 4 - 11 year olds:

1. When you are in class and the teacher is talking, do you:

a) Fiddle with things

b) Listen carefully

c) Try to read the instructions on the board

d) Like it when the teacher draws pictures or uses symbols on the board

2. If you have free-time, which of these activities sounds the greatest:

a) Reading a new book

b) Doing a puzzle

c) Listening to a story

d) Drawing

3. If you are going on a long car journey, do you like to:

a) Stop and walk around

b) Colour a book

c) Read a book

d) Listen to the radio or to talk to others in the car

4. When you are alone, do you like to:

a) Doodle/Draw

b) Sing/talk to yourself

c) Watch TV

d) Listen to music

e) Build or create something

f) Write stories, letters, poems or songs 

g) Colour or paint

5. Do you find it easy to remember:

a) Names of people

b) Faces of people

c) People you have played or worked with

d) When you see their name written down or you write them a card or note

6. When the adverts come on the TV, what do you do:

a) Sit and watch them

b) Get up and do something else

c) Sing along to them 

d) Look up the things see you on TV on the iPad, phone etc.

7. When you grow up, what job sounds the best:

a) Designing and drawing things

b) Performing like an actor/actress

c) Fixing things or playing sport

d) Writing stories and books

8. What do you like best:

a) Reading stories to yourself

b) Looking at the pictures in stories

c) Writing your own stories

d) Listening to stories

e) Acting out stories

9. When learning a new skill, do you like to:

a) Watch a video explaining how to do it

b) Listen to someone give you instructions

c) Try it out yourself

d) Read the instructions or make your own notes

10. At school, what is your favourite activity:

a) English - reading and creative writing

b) Art and making posters

c) PE 

d) Listening to stories

11. When you are learning spellings, how do you like to learn them?

a) Read the words out-loud

b) Write the words over and over again

c) Look at the word and try to remember what it looks in your head/ use different colours to write them and draw images

d) Use the words in sentences

12. When you are learning Math, how do you like to learn your number bonds/times tables?

a) Write them out over and over again

b) Say them out loud/ Listen to someone saying the times tables

c) Use your fingers

d) Use different colours and images 

Answers to Primary School children Questionnaire

Key to the answers: 

Visual learners
Auditory learners
Read/Write learners
Kineasthetic learners

Tally up where your child scores highest and that would help identify their preferred learning style. If they have a dominant learning style, when approaching new tasks; or, establishing a routine, it would be helpful to try and use their preferred style.

Although your child may have a preferred learning style, a combination of different styles is beneficial because it allows your child to nurture other skills.

*** Note, if they cannot answer all the questions themselves, then note what they are drawn to in play and how they behave with others to make an educated assumption. ***

Secondary/Further Education School Children, 12 - 18 year olds:

Here is a questionnaire to help you determine your tween/teen’s preferred learning style.

1. You just received a new electronic device and want to know how to use it, what would you prefer to do:

a) Read the written instructions with clear bullet points

b) Watch a video on how to use it/ look at the visual instructions for it

c) Discuss with someone how to use it

d) Figure it out by using it

2. You are revising a topic at home and there is resource with a video with some speaking about the topic. Underneath the video is the transcript that you can read yourself; there are also images and diagrams to explain it and there is an interactive game that goes through the material and you can participate. What would you choose to help you learn:

a) Listen to the video

b) Read the transcript and make notes

c) Look over the images and diagrams

d) Go through the interactive game

3. In science, what do you find the most effective way of learning:

a) Listening to the teacher go over a concept and then discuss it

b) Reading a text book and handouts and making notes

c) Participating in experiments

d) Looking at clear images, diagrams and charts

4. You have to give a presentation to the class, to learn the speech, do you prefer to:

a) Write out your speech in full and in bullet points then read over it

b) Record yourself presenting and listen to the playback

c) Perform it in your bedroom or to your family

d) Create visual cue cards

5. You have injured your wrist and must visit the doctor, how do you prefer to tell the doctor what is wrong:

a) Describe what is wrong

b) Demonstrate what is wrong

c) Make notes of what is wrong and go through them

d) Show them what is wrong

6. You are trying to re-tell an event to your friend, do you prefer to:

a) Show the photos, pictures and images

b) Write down what happened to explain it

c) Act what happened

d) Tell them what happened

7. You are choosing where to eat, how do you prefer to choose:

a) Reading people’s views

b) Discussing it with someone who has been

c) Looking at the pictures

d) Just trying it 

8. You need directions to your friend’s house, how do you prefer they give you the information:

a) Show a map/diagram of how to get there

b) Write out the directions in a message

c) Tell you over the phone or in person how to get there

d) Your friend meets you and takes you

9. You’re in class and the teacher is talking, do you:

a) Listen carefully to what is said

b) Discuss with your partner what is happening

c) Doodle on your book

d) Make notes on what is being said

e) Fidget

10. What type of profession interests you most:

a) Skills that involve listening, communication and talking

b) Skills that involve designing and drawing

c) Skills that involve performing and fixing

d) Skills that involve making notes and deciphering information

11. When choosing something to read, do you look:

a) Read reviews by people

b) Look to see whether the book has been adapted into a film so you can watch it

c) Listen to a review/ hear a friend speak about it 

d) See if others you know have read it so you can participate in discussions 

12. When you are unsure how to spell a word, are you most likely to:

a) Sound the word out aloud (if you can); or, mouth it to yourself

b) Write it out in different variations and see if you can spot the one that looks right

c) Trace it in the air or doodle and fiddle for a bit before guessing

d) Read over the word in your head

Answers to Secondary/Further Education School questionnaire

Key to the answers

Visual learners

Auditory learners

Read/Write learners

Kineasthetic learners

*** Note, question 10 relating to profession for teens deliberately uses skills rather than job titles as teenagers are likely to have opinions and judgements surrounding career choices. By using ‘skills’ it removes some  connotations. ***

Tally up the results and that would be the preferred learning style of your tween/teen.

Here are physical aspects that are worth considering:

A space that is not too dull or too bright
You do not have to re-decorate the space by wall-papering or painting, but you can buy some stimulating posters that motivate your child. Equally, you could encourage your child to create their own artwork to place up on the wall. Even if your child is in their tweens/teens, you can get them resources that allow them to be creative. 

See the list of resources under ‘Home artwork’ for further ideas.

A space well-organised so that the child can easily and readily find all their belongings
Allow your child to be part of organising their study space. This allows them to take ownership of their space so they feel responsible and so they know where everything is. Try to place resources low enough for your child to reach unaided (if it is safe to do so for instance do not place scissors low down if you have a younger child).

A clean and tidy area 
Encourage your child to clean their space so they can take pride in their area. If it is clean and tidy, it helps them to focus on their work and not be distracted by the clutter. Decluttering helps to motivate yourself and your child, as dopamine and serotonin are released in response to anticipating something good. Therefore, if you have a goal to have a tidy space, and it is achieved, the brain releases natural feel-good chemicals, so your child is primed for another task. Moreover, your child will be able to easily find their equipment without having to constantly ask for assistance, freeing you up, and giving them a greater sense of accomplishment and a stronger sense of self. 

Plenty of supplies and resources
Ensure your child has all the equipment they require to do their homework tasks and to study at home. Allow your child to organise their pencil case, so they know what they have, giving them greater confidence that they have everything they need to complete what is required of them. Moreover, by having all the right supplies it reinforces what occurs in schools. For instance, if you do not have a ruler and just get your child to use anything, when they are at school and their teacher scolds them for not having a ruler; or, for using something else instead of it, they will be left confused and angry, as they have been doing at home. 

That is not to say that if you do not have something, it should be used as an excuse. You can reassure your child of your awareness of the resources they need; provide them with an alternative (it inspires creativity and resourcefulness), and then reassure of a day and time when you will be able to get them the correct piece of equipment. In doing this, it provides you an opportunity to bond with your child as you are communicating with them in a way that allows them to empathise with you; you, in turn, demonstrate you understand their needs, and you then have an opportunity to build and nurture trust, as you fulfil your word.

Creative space
Allowing your child to study in different areas around the house is a great way to ensure your child maintains concentration and completes their tasks. This is because it offers flexible learning spaces for different learning activities, as well as inspiring creativity and curiosity in your child.

Vittra School in Stockholme, Sweden is a school that has no traditional classrooms; instead, it has creative learning spaces that expounds their principles of learning through play and creativity. You may not be able to transform your home into the creative space that the Vittra School boasts (ice-burg chairs, reading caves and a home cinema room), but you can offer a wider space for learning. For instance, if it is warm enough and practical, have your child do their science work; or, art-work in the garden. Have your child do technology and Math in the kitchen at the table. Allow your child to create a reading nook in the living-room or in the hallway (if it is safe to do so). 

Perhaps another crucial reason to encourage your child to study in various places is that studies have shown that a space can become distracting. This might be because the brain becomes over-familiar with an area and so begins to wander. However, it is vital to point out, having constant change and novel situations, is equally disruptive, as the brain will be distracted by all the new stimuli. 

Music and noise acts in a similar manner to the visual stimulation of the space. While most people believe that music helps them to focus, the truth is that it depends on the individual. Some people process music in a similar way to how they process information, and so music, in that case, will be a distraction. It is thus beneficial to have periods of silent study time, and times where there are background noise. This can be in the form of repetitive, non-lyrical music; or, background noises like the sea or low, animal sounds. In doing this, it can help block out distraction sounds from traffic and neighbours.

Utilising the VARK learning strategies at home is a great way to encourage your child to participate in learning that suits their style. By being creative, you can ensure that each learning style is utilised at home.

Including your child in creating their learning space is also a great way to motivate your child and prime them for studying, as they already have a sense of achievement. 

Providing a well-lit, well-organised and well-supplied learning space fosters independence in your child, as they have access to everything they need, and are able to take responsibility for their area. 

To minimise distractions, offering different spaces for studying, as well as periods of silent study combined with periods of repetitive background sounds, can be useful in allowing your child to concentrate on a task.


Home artwork and Colour by numbers

This is a great way to focus your child or teenager on creating something that can be proudly mounted on the wall.





For Math

Subtracting and multiplication Math colouring 

Complete the sums and colour in the animals

Allowing your child to organise their photos may provide a soothing and personal learning space.

Hanging photos with string pegs

Hanging photos with collage photo frames

Explosion photo-scrap-booking

Photos peg hanging on fishing net

Vittra School Telefonplan https://rosanbosch.com/en/project/vittra-school-telefonplan


What is concentration?

In this blog, we are going to explore:

 - Defining concentration

 - How understanding concentration can help kids to concentrate

 - Ways to improve our children’s levels of concentration

 - After watching the video and going through the blog, you will be able to understand what concentration is and so will be able to implement ways to maximise your kid’s concentration.

Key words as used in the video and in this blog:

Neurotransmitter: a chemical messenger that helps balances signals between neurons or nerve cells and other cells in the body. They affect people’s physical and psychological states.

Serotonin: a chemical that elevates mood by elevating happiness and a sense of well-being.

Oxytocin: a chemical that is connected with emotions. It helps to reduce anxiety; increases levels of trust and is believed to be present in people in lasting relationships.

Defining concentration
The word ‘concentration’ derives from the Latin com meaning ‘with, together’ and centrum meaning ‘centre’. So, concentration can be seen to literally mean coming together in the centre; we focus all our attention on one goal, one task.

Using brain imaging, neuroscientists have mapped the brain’s activity during concentration. When people concentrate, the neurotransmitters serotonin and oxytocin are released. With elevated serotonin levels, people focus better as they are emotionally stable and happier, allowing them to pay attention to the task at hand. Research has also discovered how serotonin helps to speed up learning processes by improving memory and retention of information. Oxytocin, similarly to serotonin, helps in retention of information. Since both neurotransmitters improve mood, making people feel calm and content, as well as making them feel good, it helps people to feel motivated to complete a task. By being emotionally stimulated, people feel an ‘attachment’ to what they are doing.

Concentration can therefore be thought of as the brain’s ability to hone in on a single task. To engage in an activity and concentrate fully, without distraction, a person needs to engage with a task emotionally; neurotransmitters serotonin and oxytocin are released, which prime a person emotionally, so they feel engaged and attached. The brain is thus engaged actively in the process and is not simply wandering.

It should be noted that the process of concentrating is a complex task and more research and new findings are being discovered. 

How understanding concentration can help kids to concentrate
Knowing that one of the determining factors in how well a kid concentrates is their emotional attachment to a task, we can prime our kids for the task by emotional engaging them. We can do this by understanding what is important to our kids. For example, we can ask our kids to consider how they will feel once the task is done; how they will feel proud to show their teacher their work; how they will feel confident and capable once they have mastered a concept or skill.

We can also creatively bring their favourite toys, shows or interests into the task, so they are instantly emotional involved. For instance, if they enjoy playing on their bike, you can ask them to write a description of their bike. If they have an interest in trains, you can create questions relating to this field, such as: if a train ticket costs £10.50 and there are 2 passengers, how much money do they need to ride the train?

To further prime our kids, we can notify them of when we want them to move on to another task by telling them how much time they have left. This allows them to emotionally and mentally prepare for the change.

How can we improve our kids’ concentrations levels?
To improve children’s concentrations levels, games are a great resource that develops children’s attentions so they can then concentrate. This is because there is already an invested interest - you want to win the game! It therefore creates an emotional response, so that a child will focus and so will concentrate. Some great games that can nurture and develop concentration are:

Stroops Test


Verbal reasoning



Equally crucial to improving concentration levels is to remove distractions, such as:

Set times to check emails and social media

Switching off electronic devices

Avoid multi-tasking by doing one task at a time

Creating background noise by playing repetitive music with no lyrics

Concentration is the ability to zone in on a task and give your full attention without distractions. Serotonin and oxytocin are neurotransmitters associated with concentration. Thus, emotionally priming a child on a task can help them to fully engage with it, so they do not get distracted. 

Games, puzzles and art can help develop and stretch your child’s concentration levels. Avoiding distractions is also key in ensuring that your child is able to concentrate on the task at hand and get it accomplished to the best of their ability.

Stroop Effect and Brain Games for Concentration
John Ridley Stroop created a test in 1929 to asses individuals’ cognitive processing speed, their attention spans and their level of cognitive control. He did this by creating games that encourage participants to shut off distractions so they can concentrate on a task. It does this by using information is seemingly conflicting so that the brain has to concentrate on what is being asked in the task, rather than automatically processing the information.

Here is the Stroop Test

  1. Read the colours in neutral ink
  2. Read the colour of the font of the words
  3. Read the words, not the colour of the font

You can use a timer to see how many words are read correctly in a given time. This will allow you to measure improvements over time!

1. Read the colours in neutral ink

Black Blue Pink Yellow Orange Red Brown

2. Read the colour of the font of the word

Red Green Purple Yellow Brown Black Orange

Green Purple

Pink Blue

3. Read the words, not the colour of the font

Purple Green Brown Pink Yellow Red Blue Black Purple

Brain Games

Word Search Puzzles

Word Search Puzzles are a great way to improve concentration, as they brain has to focus on deciphering the muddle letters to find words. It has to push aside the distractions of the insignificant letters to find the words.


Flashcards are a great way of engaging visual learners. You can write a concept or word on one side with the definition and have an image on the front. From looking at the image, they then have to guess the word and its definition. You could also have the word/concept and an image and on the back have the definition, so the child has to guess the definition.

Flashcards can also be used to encourage younger children to become independent as they have cues for what is expected of them. You can also turn into a game, such as an image of brushing your teeth with the words and then a question: “How long should you brush your teeth for?” and at the back have the time.


Why is routine important?

In this blog, we are going to explore the following:

1. What is a routine? 

2. Why is a routine vital?

3. How to create a routine?

4. How to know if the routine is ‘just right’? 

After you watch the video and read the blog, you will be able to create a routine that not only allows you and your family to survive, but to thrive! 

Key words and their definitions in accordance with how they are used in this blog and the video:

Self: a person’s awareness of themselves and the way in which they think and feel about themselves.

 Autonomy: from the Greek roots ‘auto’ meaning self; ‘nomos’ meaning custom or law. It means a person’s ability to self-regulate; to make their own choices. 

 Anxiety: a feeling of unease, worry or fear, that can be mild or extreme.

1. What is a routine?
From the French word ‘route’ meaning ‘way, path, course’, it evolved in the late 17th C to ‘routine’ meaning repetition of a set behaviour.

2. Why is a routine vital?
A routine allows everyone to know what is expected of them and when they are expected to do it. By creating this, it is clear and easy to see whether something is completed or not.

Routine helps children to develop greater autonomy and to learn new skills, as they are able to practice specific tasks. For example, if they routinely brush their teeth at a specific time for a certain amount of time, they will learn when they need to perform this task, and for how long they need to do it. After time, they will begin to gain confidence in their ability to complete the task independently, instilling in them a sense of pride in their achievement. Although this may seem like a small feat, if you are not having to constantly nag your child to do it, imagine how much happier you’ll both be? If you are not having to focus on reminding them, then those few minutes can be spent on something else. And, finally, if a child masters this, they will feel empowered to take on more challenges as they know that with repetition they will improve. You will also have a reference point to illustrate that by doing something routinely they will improve and you can remind them of these small achievements. 

A carefully implemented routine helps to establish boundaries and develop values. For instance, if you and your family eat meals regularly at a set time, then your child learns that family time is important. You are instilling this value in your child. 

For children who experience anxiety, a routine can help create a sense of security and calmness, as they have stability and a sense of certainty. You can also allocate time for them to worry. This may seem counter-intuitive, but there are many reasons why this is helpful. 

First of all, worrying is not in itself a harmful activity. In fact, worrying can serve us and be useful. For example, studies have shown that worry can be a great motivational tool. This is because if someone is concerned about something, they may be motivated to take action; or, to seek further knowledge. Another way in which worry is useful is that it helps to buffer people emotionally. If people brace themselves for the worst, then it helps to mitigate negative emotions and prevent them from spiralling. On the flip side, if someone is concerned about something, and it turns out better than they had expected, their feelings of elation and joy are greatly elevated. As a result, both the bracing and worrying have an emotional pay-off once the outcome is known.  

Secondly, allowing your child a set time for worrying gives them the space to vent their concerns. They are then reassured that their worries will be heard, and so they do not have to ‘worry’ about expressing them. By knowing they have allocated time to worry, it will prevent it from spilling over into their day-to-day activities, so they are not consumed with worry. 

3. How to create a routine?
Sitting down with your child and allowing them to take ownership of their routine is vital in setting up a schedule that your child will consistently commit to. So, how to do this? Allow your child to sit down and contribute to the schedule. This effectively empowers your child to have a voice and so nurtures and develops their sense of ‘self’ and autonomy.

If your child deviates from the routine, you can remind them that they helped to construct it. Doing this should be from a place of trying to find out why the child is not sticking to it, and not to be used as a weapon to guilt-trip them; or, to manipulate them. This effectively sets them up to exercise their power of choice.

Power of choice
What is ‘power of choice? Power of choice refers to someone’s ability to be able to take action in selection. Reminding a child of the routine they helped create, allows them to engage in taking action in selecting what they are going to do. Perhaps they have not completed a reading task. Rather than instantaneously deducting time from their free-time, you can ask your child what they will do to complete that task, and still have time to do what they please. 

It is worth noting that children can be overwhelmed by choice. Thus, it is imperative that you follow these steps to help your child to be empowered by choice, and not be over-powered by choice.

Empowering your child with choice:

Step 1: Make eye-contact with them. You may need to position yourself to be at their level.

Step 2: Give them a clear choice. If they are quite young, then offer them a choice between two options. If they are older and maturer, then see if they can create something on their own. If they struggle, then request that you  interject by offering clear options.  

Step 3: Give them lots of praise to positively reinforce their selection of choice. 

Using these steps helps to avoid power struggles, since you are allowing your child to take responsibility and have a say.

Moreover, having a routine helps to motivate your child to manage themselves. For example, if your child has to do some studying before having free-time, you can acknowledge that you know they want to have that time to themselves. They thus have a choice: do the task as quickly as possible to the best of their abilities, and then they will be able to move on. The longer they procrastinate, the longer they will not be able to have that time - it is their choice what they do. By doing this, you are also helping them to concentrate, as you are engaging them emotionally; the reward of doing the task outweighs the gratification of not doing the task.

Although you want to create choice and allow your child to contribute, you may also want to consider Mark Twain’s advice: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Now, this is not saying feed your children frogs (unless it is a delicacy for you!) What it is saying, is that you should prioritise a task that you dread the most. The reason being is that the longer it is left, the more the negative emotions surrounding it will build up to the point where procrastination sets in and further delays occur.

Priming your child
Priming your child is also helpful in reducing resistance to tasks. What this means is that if your child is on their phone; or, playing in the garden, and you want them to move on to do some homework, you let them know that they have 15 mins’ left, 10 mins’ left, 5 mins’ left. It therefore prepares them for the next task and helps to mitigate the emotional charge surrounding the next activity.

Chunk down
To further assist your child with tasks, you can ‘chunk down’. What this means is rather than making a general statement, such as: “Clean your room”, you break it down into manageable chunks. For instance, you may say, “Take all your toys from the living-room and put them in your toy-box”. Or, rather than saying, “Do your homework”, actually have a look at what they need to do and help them break it down. For example, if your child has a research task on the Tudors for History, break it down into clear ‘bite size’ topics (the monarchs, the fashion of the time, attitudes towards women, to name but a few). If you have a teenager who has to do an essay on Shakespeare, encourage them to break down the question by identifying key words, so they can focus on one part. In doing this, it will help them to concentrate on the question and answer it fully, rather than being weighed down with the perceived magnitude of the task.

Being overwhelmed with tasks, seems particularly commonplace for children today. Since schools are closed, many teachers are using online platforms to set work, such as ‘Sam Learning’ and ‘Educake’. Now, these are great resources, but when a child sees they have over 100 tasks to do, it is very demotivating! Panic and dread quickly set in, rendering the child incapable of knowing where or how to start, so they just give up. This has been the reality for my 14 year old brother. He showed me, via Skype, the 100 tasks for English, the 80 tasks for Maths and the 60 tasks for Science! His protests that the school had set him more work than he would have done at school seemed to be true. Why had the school done this? They want to ensure children have enough work and are kept busy.

However, for my brother and his classmates, they were over-scheduled. This left him feeling helpless, so he was not focusing on the work, only the amount of work. The only subject he seemed to not mind doing was Maths. When asked why, he stated that although there were a lot of tasks, they had been broken down into topics. Within each topic, there were clear learning objectives; examples of the work and a clear expectation of what he had to do. He had to work through some questions relating to the topic and then do an end of topic test to consolidate his learning. Over Skype, I sat with him and broke his other subjects down according to their topics. This helped him to see the trees through the woods; or, the essays through the books. 

Now, you may be thinking that you are not an expert in the subject. Do not let that hold you back from helping your child set up a routine that works. You can group the work according to categories. For example, he had Spanish work to do. I do not know Spanish, but I do know that to learn Spanish you need to cover: Speaking & Listening and Reading & Writing. I also know that there are specific topics for each of these, such as: home life, describing your city, food & drink, pets, the environment, to name a few. Working together, we were able to get really specific with his work. This allowed him to have clarity with what he was doing. He also had tasks that were manageable and the outcomes measurable, so once he completed it, he felt good. Remember, concentration, focus and attention is impacted immensely by how we feel. Thus, if he felt good, he was more likely to engage with the subject and so be productive.

4. What are the indicators that the routine is not ‘just right’? 

These are some indicators that the routine is too much:

 Your child is over-tired

 Your child is moody and uncooperative 

 Your child does not want to play and have fun

 Your child complains of headache, stomach-aches and generally feeling ill

These are some indicators that the routine is lacking:

 Your child seems to get into a lot of mischief

 Your child is easily angered

 Your child is clingy and needy

 Your child lacks confidence in completing tasks

In the beginning, when establishing a routine, it might be a challenge knowing what is ‘just right’ so do not be afraid to make adjustments.

There should be moments when your child has nothing to do. Being bored is not a bad thing. This encourages your child to think creatively and to design their own ways to entertain themselves. It also allows them moments to not be concentrating, so they can daydream or simply explore and be curious. More importantly, it allows your child to rest. Concentrating requires energy and takes effort. 


A successful routine is used to: 

 Empower both parents and children to know what is expected of them and when. 

 It fosters shared values within the family, as they have shared experiences and it is clear what is important. 

 Children gain greater autonomy and independence.

To give a routine the best chances of working, it is vital:

 That parents are consistent with the routine.

 That parents do not use the routine to manipulate children to do what you want.

 That parents are patient, empathetic and creatively engage with their children.

I would love to hear your opinions, thoughts and feelings, so please feel free to get in touch or leave a comment.

I’m Kellie McCord. I started tutoring officially in 2016. Since then, I have obtained my Diplomas in CBT, Mindfulness and Dyslexia Therapy. Oh, and a Level 3 in Veterinary Science for the sheer love of animals!


Passionate about language, I am also pursuing public speaking through Toastmasters, achieving a place at the Division B final in 2019 for the International Speaking Competition. Now, I am at the District Finals for the 2020 Evaluation Competition…


But, this was not always my reality. Born in a socially deprived area, my school lacked the funding and resources to provide adequate education. Both my parents had not completed Secondary Education, and so could do little to assist me academically. However, they instilled two values that stuck with me:

Always try your best. If I tried my best, I had nothing to be ashamed of.

If I did not die from the experience, and no one else died, then there’s nothing wrong.

These both took a while to take root and grow.

At school, I was the shy kid who never raised their hand. To make matters worse, I struggled to grip my pen ‘properly’, so was a placed in a special class. There I had a raised desk and a triangular rubber on my pens. It was uncomfortable! I felt alone, alienated and ashamed!

On top of that, I was labelled ‘slow’ in Math. I can still remember when I learnt of my ‘Mathematical inadequacies’. In year 4, our teacher handed us a red card full of fraction problems. We were expected to solve all the problems independently. I watched as one-by-one my classmates completed the task. I could not do it. Finally, it came down to me and Jessica. Sweat dripped down our foreheads. We glanced at one another with sympathy, as the teacher informed us that unless we completed it, we could not go out to play. Jessica beat me to it, and went out to play. Panicked, I eventually completed the task. Holding my breath, I handed it to the teacher. She marked it and told me that I was terrible at Math and did not deserve playtime. This started a long-lasting hatred of Math.

Has your child ever been told they were bad at something?
Moving up to Secondary School had even more challenges than fractions! My family moved around, causing my education to be disjointed. Not knowing where to put me, the schools would place me in the bottom set. Confused by the different syllabi, I felt out of place. Constant curriculum changes rendered me behind in everything. Unable to complete homework and keep up, I felt anxious. Dreading going to school, I would feign illness. 

Has your child ever felt anxious?
However, I loved reading. Whilst in the playground, I was reading a book on Napolean when my History teacher spotted me. He called me into the classroom and asked me to answer a bunch of questions. I scored 100%. I was then moved up to top set for all my subjects (except for Math). One day, my Math teacher approached me and told me he was moving me up as I worked hard and could do with a challenge. This teacher believed in me. Despite being out of my depth, I worked hard. Using the school’s textbook, which had the answers at the back of the book, I would first attempt the questions. If my answers were incorrect, I would turn to the back of the book and look at how they arrived at the answer by working backwards (from the answer to the question).

Finally, GCSE results day came. I remember feeling overwhelmed. But my mum’s words - if you tried your best, you have not failed, and if no one died, then it is not that bad - rung through my head. I knew I wanted to go to University, so if I did not make the grade, I would re-sit. Opening the envelope on results day: I achieved…9 A*s and 2 Bs. I had proven everyone, who thought I was ‘dumb’, wrong. I then completed my A levels, accomplishing 3 As. I also sat the Advanced Extension Award, and obtained a Distinction in English. With my academic achievements, I qualified to study at The University of Nottingham. 


First in my family to attend University, the establishment made me (and others in the same boat) feel included by offering extra seminars to catch up with our Public-School colleagues; offering ‘First in Family Bursaries’, and offering many formal social occasions to learn correct etiquette. Like a kid in a sweet shop, I seized every opportunity. I took up Ninjutsu; I volunteered with Conservation Society (later becoming Publicity Officer); and I took up an internship at Nottingham Domestic Violence Forum. This entailed going into schools and working with Primary and Secondary Schools on healthy relationships. 

Yearning for adventure, I participated in the Erasmus Exchange at Helsinki University. There I volunteered at an International Centre, offering English tuition to children and adults alike. Whilst at the University, I saw a conference being held. Sneaking in (as you had to have registered), there was a presentation about the opportunity to take up an internship at the Centre for Environmental Education for the International Conference ‘Ethical Framework for a Sustainable World’ with Earth Charter Initiative. To be accepted, you had to prepare a presentation. Easy, right? Except for the fact that the other applicants were PhD students with a wealth of conservation work under their belts. Oh, and they were studying Environmental Science. What chance did a Second Year English Studies undergrad have? Undeterred, I prepared and presented myself. After-all, if no one died…

Returning to the UK, I was informed that I had been accepted for the internship! Preparing for India was exhilarating. There I helped to build and create designs for the website; prepare programmes and contact participants. It was an enriching experience, which gave me the confidence to push back the boundaries of my experience. 

Nearing the end of my University Studies, there was an application to teach English in China. I applied thinking I would not be accepted. To my surprise, I was offered a position at Wuhan Yangtze Business University, as a lecturer for English Majors. Can you imagine at 21 being a University Lecturer? Scared, I told myself: the worst-case scenario I fail and return home. No one would die. Being resourceful and adaptable, I quickly familiarised myself with the Chinese curriculum.

Arriving in China, I was informed that I would be preparing students for their TEM-8 (the final exam for English Majors). Acquiring the information, I then had to assimilate it and teach it. Not only did my students all pass their exam, but I was voted in the top ten teachers at the University. Due to becoming a part of their faculty, I was asked to teach IELTS classes (International English Language Test). Proving fruitful, my students were able to work and study in Canada and the USA. Can you imagine the life experiences these students gained?

Returning to the UK, I taught in Secondary Schools. Although I loved teaching, I felt restricted. I therefore began private tutoring. I now have the freedom to work with Primary School children, Secondary School pupils, A level and BTech students, University undergraduates, and SEND learners. 

Combing a love of learning, a true passion for personal growth and development, and speaking - my purpose lies in empowering people, from all walks of life, to create a life they truly want by awakening their natural love of learning. My mission is to transform education into an engaging, enjoyable experience, as I have learned, first-hand, that if you try your best, and no one dies, then you will succeed.

So, my question is, what do you want for your life and your children’s life? Remember the two Golden Rules:

If you try your best, there is no shame.

If no one dies (including yourself), you can try again!

Kellie will be blogging for Local Mums Online with tips for homeschooling during lockdown and helping your child learn going forward. 

Kellie McCord
Kellie’s Tutoring
Email: kelliestutoring@gmail.com

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