Any parent of a young child is likely familiar with the monosyllabic grunt in response to the daily question: "How was school today?" You might get an "OK" or even a "Fine", but these replies often leave you none the wiser.
Younger children may be more forthcoming to start with, but as the novelty of being at school wears off, there's a good chance that they too will clam up. When it comes to teenagers, you could compare the attempt to prise information from them as like squeezing blood from a stone.
That's not to suggest they don't want to talk to you, but there are various ways to ask your child "how was school today?" that might provoke a more satisfactory response — and perhaps even open up a line of stimulating conversation.
Here are 10 ideas for you to try out.
1. If you were a teacher, what would you like to teach best?
This question has the potential to start a discussion where children can say what their favorite subject is and you can explore why. This will encourage them to think a little more deeply and actively about their education. You could also ask what their least favorite subject is and explore the reasons why. This gives you the opportunity to be encouraging and supportive, perhaps even helping them to think more positively about it.
2. What was the best thing that happened at school today?
The answer to this might surprise you, especially if you're told that the best thing was playing in a band during the lunch break when you didn't even know your child was in a band! There could be any number of interesting responses, but the main point is that it will help you discover what your child enjoys or is motivated by when at school.
3. Did you help somebody today — and if so, how?
It's always good to encourage children to think of others and not just themselves. Some children at school may need a little extra help or kindness when teachers are busy. This type of question could gently teach your child to want to be helpful as a natural character trait. You could also ask if somebody helped them in any way. This could help you pick up on something that means they could do with some extra support at school in a particular area.
4. If you had the choice, who would you prefer to sit next to in class?
This could start a discussion about best friends and why a particular person is your child's favorite. Equally, you could ask who they wouldn't want to sit next to and explore the reasons why.
5. If aliens appeared in your classroom and said they were going to beam somebody up to their spaceship, who would you want them to take?
Here the answer might be "Me!" as there's nothing a child likes more than the opportunity to have a thrilling adventure (especially if it means missing school). Again, you can talk about the reasons, especially if it's the class teacher being beamed up to space.
6. What would your teacher tell me about you if I called her this evening?
You might get a puzzled look and a question as to why you would want to call the teacher, but you can explain the question is hypothetical and try to draw out an interesting reply from your child.
7. Did anything make you laugh today? What was it?
Children have a good sense of humor and the littlest of things can set them off. You probably know what amuses your child and it's fun to be reminded that a child also has their own space at school for laughing and enjoyment. Providing they're not laughing at someone else's misfortune — and you can deal with that sensitively — children get a feeling of wellbeing when they're having a good time.
8. What was the best or worst part of lunch today?
You'll know what your child does and doesn't like to eat, so it's good to find out more about food preferences at school. You could find a child likes something you've never had at home and then try introducing it during the next family meal.
9. What would you do if you were the teacher tomorrow?
You could have a lot of fun with this one, as it opens up all sorts of imaginative possibilities for your child to explore.
10. Is there something you think you should learn less of at school?
Expect the standard answer to be their least favorite subject, but don't be surprised if your child comes up with something you didn't anticipate.
Situational Anxiety; 6 ways to help your child adapt to changes, cope with stress and thrive in a new situation.
Every parent hopes that their child will be healthy and happy. Inevitably, there will be situations that your child may find difficult, particularly when there’s a change in their lives or they’re presented with a new unfamiliar situation, which can lead to them feeling stressed.
For instance, when a family relocates internationally, the transition process will be unsettling for everyone, especially children.
For an Australian family moving to Singapore, your child will be adjusting to many new things including new surroundings, a new culture, a new home, making new friends, and they will be starting at a new school such as the Australian International School. With most of these changes, your child will probably easily adapt, such as settling in to the school curriculum. However, with other changes your child might find it more difficult to adjust and they may become worried and stressed, which can make the transition process a bit trickier.
What is Situational Anxiety?
Situational anxiety can be seen as stress and worry caused by new experiences, events and changes. A common form of Situational Anxiety is ‘stage fright’; when a person becomes anxious before a performance. Often these feelings dissipate once the person is exposed to and adjusts to the situation, such as going on stage and realising that they can cope, achieve and might actually have fun!
It’s important to remember that Situational Anxiety is very normal, and everyone experiences it throughout their lives. However, during a time when there’s lots of changes, such as an international relocation, situational anxiety can be difficult for your child to manage and there are ways that you can help them cope, adapt and thrive in their new environment.
Recognising the Symptoms
Some children will be able to verbally communicate to you their worries and feelings of anxiety, but some children might not be aware of what they’re feeling and therefore how to communicate it.
Some symptoms can include changes in your child’s behaviour. The stress might trigger a higher level of activity than how they act normally, and they might fidget and have trouble sitting still. You may notice that your child has difficulty with focusing and becomes distracted more easily. Your child might withdraw, and become less talkative. You could observe that your child is more sensitive than usual, crying easily or becoming frustrated over small things. Physical symptoms can include a feeling of ‘butterflies in the stomach’, sweaty palms, shakiness, stomach aches and headaches.
6 ways to help your child
1. It’s important to assist your child in building awareness of their emotions
When you see that your child is exhibiting stress symptoms, name it for them. You could say “I’ve noticed that you’re biting your fingernails and having trouble with focusing on your homework. You seem nervous to me. Is this what you’re feeling?”
Then ask questions like; “What else are you feeling in your body?” “Can you think of other words to describe how you’re feeling?”, and “Is there something coming up that you’re worried about?”
Not only will this help your child to build awareness of their emotions, but it will also build their vocabulary around emotions and teach them the link between thoughts and feelings. Your child will likely feel a great sense of relief to know that there’s words for how they’re feeling, and that you understand them
2. Teach your child that stress is normal
Talk to your child about how a certain amount of stress can be helpful to them and that they can utilise the feeling. For instance, stress can give them more energy and motivation to take on the challenge. Physical changes in their body (such as more oxygen and blood flow) can lead to greater brain function. Explain how feelings of excitement and stress can be very similar and ‘reframing’ stress to be a positive will help them to thrive in stressful situations.
Mindfulness strategies have been proven to be very helpful. You can encourage your children to engage mindfully in many ways including focusing on the present moment by becoming aware of their senses (feeling of their breath in their nostrils, feeling of their clothes against their skin), noticing 10 things in the room or listening to different sounds. You can also encourage them to think of a nice moment in detail that occurred in the past or the future.
Breathing exercises can be effective in reducing stress. Teach your child to take ‘belly breaths’; breathing in slowly, all the way to their belly and feeling their belly expand, and then slowly breathing out again.
5. Guided Imagery
Help your child to imagine the situation they’re worried about when they’re calm. Encourage them to think about the situation in detail. For instance, imagine the room where they’ll be doing the presentation, how many people will be there etc. This will help them prepare mentally and start to adapt to the situation. Encourage your child to think of themselves doing well and feeling confident. It can also be helpful to gradually expose your children by taking them to the environment before the event. For example, booking a school tour.
6. Encourage a Growth Mindset
Talk to your child about how it’s important to challenge themselves, and that often the greatest personal growth and best experiences come from situations that we find hard at first. When we do something that’s difficult, it’s usually important to us and we’ll have a great sense of reward and accomplishment when we achieve it.
There could be times when you become concerned about your child’s levels of stress and worry. You can receive assistance from a paediatrician or psychologist in this case. Your child’s school can also be a source of assistance at this time. The Australian International School has a whole school wellbeing program with teachers and support staff educated in positive psychology and equipped with strategies to help students to thrive. There is also a team consisting of psychologists and counsellors experienced in working with children and families during the transition process and throughout a child’s school life to help them adapt to changes, develop resilience and not only bounce back from challenges but to flourish and thrive in the environment.
Many of us will remember struggling with Maths at school – trying to figure out the meaning of Pythagoras theorem while our heads were spinning with algebra, fractions and long division. Rote learning was a common practice, and we were often expected to memorise long sequences of times tables without really understanding why or how the calculations worked. The Australian International School’s Assistant Head of Elementary and Mathematics expert Lucas McKay, explains how this approach to learning is a thing of the past, and how the Australian International School has found a way to make Maths accessible and enjoyable for every child…
Whether managing finances, watching the news, shopping, or in the workplace, Maths skills are a hugely important part of everyday life. Maths is essentially about problem solving, and good problem-solvers will excel in almost any situation. In the modern world, despite the advancements in technology, there is not a single profession that doesn’t require some form of basic maths skills. Whether you’re a CEO or a shop assistant, the ability to carry out simple arithmetic is a must if you are to succeed at doing your job. And it’s not only number skills where Maths comes into play – logical thinking and the ability to approach a problem from different angles are essential interpersonal skills which impact how we communicate and form relationships, both in the workplace and in our personal lives.
At AIS, our focus is on developing number sense, ensuring that students actually make sense of the numbers and understand not just the what by the why. If we tell a student over and over again that two times two equals four, they will eventually memorise this information, but they will never really understand why two times two equals four. Research has shown that learning through rote and repetition is not effective and turns students off maths, especially girls. It works on the assumption that every student learns in the same way, however we know that each and every child is different so we tailor our approach accordingly. We focus on the different learner profiles within the classroom - developing risk-takers, reflective and open-minded learners, communicators and thinkers. The student voice is valued as a key part of the learning process, and we will always present a selection of problem solving methods so students can choose the one which best suits their learning style.
It is important for parents to focus on process and strategy (eg. How could we solve this? Could we try it another way?) rather than simply looking for the right answer as quickly as possible. Forcing children to work quickly on maths will make them feel anxious and under pressure and is the best way to develop a fear of Maths.
Parents should be positive - reinforce what is being done well, and don’t dwell on what has been done wrong. Explore different ways of bringing Maths into your daily home routine – puzzles and dice games are fun and can be great for developing number sense. You can also try solving problems in context - whether out for lunch, watching sport or cooking dinner, look for real situations that present mathematical problems and encourage your child to solve them.
When you are starting to look for an international school in Singapore for your children, you want to gather as much information as you can about a range of options. You can discover a lot from online brochures and the printed prospectus, but there's nothing to compare with visiting a school in person, talking to staff and students, and finding out more about facilities. Open days are a great opportunity to learn about the subjects on offer and the school's ethos as a whole.
You can certainly do all this at the Australian International School (AIS) — one of the key international schools in Singapore that caters for Australian children, but also welcomes students from many other countries. Our Open House gives you the opportunity to spend the morning getting to know more about what goes on here and to get a feel for how we operate, our style of teaching, and the range of other activities available.
The AIS has two Open House mornings, one for ages 18 months to 6 years and the other for those aged 7 to 18. The schedules for both are the same, beginning with registration, followed by a welcome from the school's Principal, Dr Eddie Groughan, and then a tour of the campus with the academic staff, students and Admissions team. During the tour, prospective students and their parents will experience classroom activities with the school's leadership team to see how things are done. At the end of the tour, guests will be served refreshments and have more opportunities to talk to staff about the educational process.
18 months to 6 years
At AIS, children are constantly learning in a spectrum of different subjects thanks to our interdisciplinary approach. Your child will experience specialist programs that include Speech and Drama as well music, developing abilities such as motor skills, which are especially important for younger children. These programs are designed to ensure your child's daily mental and physical exercise is well balanced.
One of the most fascinating aspects you'll discover is the new AIS Early Learning Village, carefully designed with young learners in mind. It aims to provide an environment completely supportive of every child's learning journey.
The classrooms are inspired by Reggio Emilia, an approach to education that comes from northern Italy. This philosophy focuses on preschool and primary education. The approach is student centered so that children have myriad opportunities to develop and fulfill their potential.
Each classroom has an outdoor play space attached to it where children can explore with water and sandpits, sensory play equipment, and creativity project tables. These areas are flooded with natural light and are accessible via child-sized doors.
The classrooms are situated close to one another in small groups. Children are taught cooking skills in a dedicated teaching kitchen and each cluster has a resource area and mini-library.
The motivation behind this is to stimulate the imaginations of young children and encourage them to experiment and explore in a safe, secure environment.
7 to 18 years
The AIS curriculum has been developed to support children from Early Years to Elementary and then Secondary education. The same principles apply across the board, in that children are encouraged to learn in classroom sessions and then to take part in activities that include a number of sporting disciplines and the opportunity to get involved in music, theatre and other arts pursuits.
Naturally, academic study is significant and all-important subjects are studied during the Elementary years to prepare students for moving on to the Secondary school.
At the Open House, you will be able to find out more about what's available for your child and discuss the options with staff, especially when it comes to choosing subjects for later years. The school follows the Australian Curriculum for Years 6 to 8 that moves students on to the Cambridge IGCSE course in years 9 and 10. Students are then prepared to follow either the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme or the New South Wales Higher School Certificate in years 11 and 12.
Arts and sport
Music, drama and many sporting activities are a normal part of education at AIS, with dedicated teaching staff to encourage participation not just within the school but also in events and competitions outside it.
As well as extracurricular activities, the school is also involved with a programmes of language education to help equip students for future careers in a global economy. At the Open House events at the Australian International School, you can talk to staff about what's available and discover the best options for your child.
Young children have boundless energy. Just watching them run around can be positively exhausting! But when it comes to playtime, more and more toddlers and preschoolers are also spending time with electronic devices, such as tablets and phones.
Many of these have educational applications, which can be valuable for early learning. However, increased screen time favors periods of stasis at the expense of play, which obviously involves healthy physical activity. With this in mind, it is important to do as much as possible to encourage your child’s physical as well as mental and emotional development.
Understanding the importance of your child's physical daily diet
Your child’s natural development requires repeated movements of muscle groups. These movements contribute to their motor skills — both gross (large) and fine (small). The large motor skills develop first, so you should see children aged two, three and four doing lots of running, reaching, and jumping. Indeed, we don’t often see them sitting still for very long! The small motor skills require dexterity that develops later when kids learn to use their hands for fine movements, such as drawing or playing with smaller toys.
Both types of motor skills are important during any child’s development and growth, and activities for both should be encouraged. At the Australian International School (AIS) in Singapore, the younger children from families living in the city are able to take advantage of lots of different outdoor pursuits provided in the uniquely designed AIS Early Learning Village.
The Village's three outdoor playgrounds, encouraging children to clamber over climbing frames, jump through hoops and kick footballs into soccer nets to help develop their coordination skills. They can also enjoy bike rides on the outdoor track, which improves their coordination and balance skills.
Simple activities you can try outdoors
A family walk is a great way to make sure everyone gets a good dose of fresh air and an opportunity for exercise. Encourage your kids to partake in alternate periods of walking, jogging, marching and running. In quieter moments, encourage them to start a collection of pebbles, leaves or shells, depending on where you are walking.
If the weather is pleasant and you have a sandbox, introduce lots of small toys the kids can manipulate, and add different sized plastic cups for pouring and building games.
Your condo pool or garden can also be used for water play. Running around and splashing is great fun — just make sure there is adult supervision when your children are playing with water.
Ball games that involve catching, rolling, throwing or kicking are great for building those important muscle groups, and the more your children practice the more skillful they will become. Keep the rules simple for toddlers and preschoolers. For older kids, a basketball net offers an incentive to stretch and reach, as well as an opportunity to develop hand-eye coordination.
Indoors or out, young children love animal games. Besides making the appropriate noises, encourage them to pretend to be a puppy or kitten, walk like a chicken or gallop like a pony. Other options include playing wheelbarrows, rowing a boat or flying like an aeroplane.
Things to do indoors
An indoor alternative to the family walk is a parade around your home using real or imaginary musical instruments, flags, balloons or whatever else is available. You could also make an obstacle course, using cardboard boxes and scattering cushions or any larger toys that are safe for your children to climb on.
Did you know that playing musical instruments boosts your child’s physical development in tandem with the associated mental benefits? This means that not only is their dexterity improved, it can also enhance their concentration and confidence. So if your toddler or preschooler wants to flex their fingers, wrists, arms, elbows, and shoulders by bashing a keyboard, try to put up with the noise and let them play. You can always follow up with some quiet time activities while your ears recover!
Some tunes are ideal for encouraging movement. Let your kids sing along to nursery favorites such as The Wheels on the Bus and I’m a Little Teapot and check with teachers to see if there are any familiar classroom songs you can repeat at home. Consider teaching your toddler games with vocal aspects that also encourage small motor skills, such as Itsy Bitsy Spider and Patty Cake.
There are a lot of different activities you can do at home to encourage your young child to move. Just remember that all the time you’re playing together, you’re helping to balance your child's daily physical diet!
In recent years there has been much debate in research and the media about the validity of homework in relation to student learning outcomes. At AIS, we take the approach that homework has different purposes according to the age and stage of the student.
Whatever the age or stage of the child, there are some strategies that can be employed at home to help them get the most out of homework.
1. Develop routines that work for your family and stick to them.
Life in Singapore is busy with many children having CCA and other commitments after school and on the weekend. In the younger years work with your child to plan and set the homework routines. Once you find a workable routine, stick with it as much as possible. Routine and structure help children to manage and organise their time. As children become older, there should be a gradual release of control, handing over the management of homework routines to your child. By the time your child reaches Secondary it is important for them to be able to organise and manage their own homework routines.
Whether or not your child starts studying immediately after school, encourage them to take a break during their allotted homework period. Encourage your child to eat a healthy snack or spend a few minutes doing something different so that they can return to their tasks refreshed. This can actually improve their ability to concentrate and think through any problems they have been set. Taking strategic breaks becomes increasingly important as the length of study increases in the Upper Elementary and Secondary years.
2. Craft a plan
Children of all ages can feel overwhelmed by homework if they don’t have a plan. Breaking homework down into smaller chunks is an important skill which can begin from Prep. In the Lower Elementary, parents can sit with their child and help them to assign a day or time for each task. As children progress through the Elementary, they should take greater responsibility for building the plan themselves. Older children, particularly those in Secondary, benefit from using a calendar or Student Organiser to plan out their homework across a week or fortnight.
3. Access and refer to task sheets and resources materials
At AIS the teachers take time and care to prepare homework tasks and resources. , many of which are posted on Connect. Whether your child is in Elementary or Secondary, it is important to encourage your child to refer back to the resources provided as they work through the task. Referring to the resources as they work, helps your child to best align their work to the requirements of the task.
4. Ask questions if you are unsure of what is required
If your child is confused or unsure about part of the homework it is fine for you to assist them. However, it is also important to encourage your child to ask the teacher to clarify when there are real challenges. Elementary students are encouraged to ask the teacher in person, while Secondary students may also email their teachers. Recognising when a task is hard and having the confidence to ask for assistance are important skills to develop as independent learners.
5. Work in a comfortable environment
Some kids love to work at a desk. Others will tell you that they do their best work when sprawled on the floor of their bedroom listening to music. Generally, however, it’s important that your child has a quiet and comfortable place to aid their concentration and build good home study habits, without distractions such as TV, gaming or other noisy activities.
6. Give ownership of the homework to your child
Children should complete their homework with increasing independence as they move through the school. From the earliest years it is important to give ownership of the homework to your child. In Elementary, encourage your child to complete the homework on their own, checking in with them from time to time. This check in might be in the moment, or later, when you come home from work. In Secondary…….
A British comedy film released in 1950, entitled The Happiest Days of Your Life, features an amusing plot twist. During the Blitz, girls at an exclusive London school are mistakenly evacuated to a school for boys in the English countryside. More recently, British comedian Paul Merton commented: “My school days were the happiest days of my life; which should give you some indication of the misery I’ve endured over the past twenty-five years.”
As a grownup, you can probably identify with the idea that school days are blissfully happy, free from adult concerns. However, being in school today is not necessarily a carefree experience. For some young people, anxiety about exams or experiences of being bullied affect their lives negatively. Then there are the more intangible yet universal stresses of growing up that arise from simply trying to fit in or deal with changes triggered by adolescence.
Mood swings are one important indicator of children who are worried or feeling stressed.
Moods and foods
The science of how food affects your mood is based on the knowledge that dietary changes can alter your brain structure, both psychologically and chemically, which may, in turn, lead to altered moods and behavior. For families living in or moving to Singapore, the Australian International School (AIS) offers a well-thought out catering provision, which means that your children enjoy nutritionally balanced food options at every stage of their education. This encourages them to engage in healthy eating habits as they grow.
For example, particular foods that are known to be beneficial for your children’s moods include:
2. Organic eggs
3. Whole grains and oats
4. Dark leafy greens
You will also find that eating berries and drinking plenty of water has very positive effects and can help your children be happier and more productive and in Singapore's equatorial climate, staying hydrated is a must....which is why you'll rarely see a student at AIS without a water bottle to hand.
Salmon and oily fish
Salmon contains a form of Omega-3 called DHA, and also a range of B vitamins, which scientific studies have shown is vital for brain development in children. It’s also known to support learning abilities. The same can be said of tuna, mackerel and fish oils in general. Salmon is a natural mood enhancer and may reduce the risk of depression. It’s a rich source of quality amino acids and protein, thus helping to regulate appetite and sleep patterns.
Protein contains various amino acids that increase specific hormone levels such as epinephrine, dopamine and nor-epinephrine. These will help you and your child to feel alert, energized, and positive. Besides the focus on eggs, you should also encourage your child to eat low-fat dairy products like beans, lean cuts of meat and tofu, to make sure they get adequate amounts of protein.
Whole grains and oats
The amino acid tryptophan is present in many whole grains. It occurs naturally and your body needs it to produce melatonin and serotonin. Serotonin is well known as the feel-good hormone, which improves mood and relaxes your body as well as your brain, while melatonin helps establish and maintain regular sleep patterns. As a mood booster, oats are effective because of their low glycemic index (GI) and the mineral selenium. This means they release energy into the bloodstream slowly, so you and your family can avoid the kind of blood sugar rush that often descends into irritability.
Dark leafy greens
While there are mood-regulating substances such as dopamine in organic eggs and serotonin in whole grains, dark leafy greens such as spinach contain both and are additionally rich in folate. In fact, all dark leafy greens (think broccoli and chards) are great for calming kids’ nerves, as are fruit and many other vegetables, with the exception of dried fruit and fruit juice.
Beans of all kinds are remarkable when it comes to better physical and mental health. Choose from black beans, chickpeas, lentils, split peas or kidney beans, to name just a few, that are packed with nutrients. These will help your child benefit from increased levels of calcium, copper, folate, iron, magnesium and zinc, thereby improving their mood.
Chartwell’s unique Smart Food Program in the AIS school canteen follows the ‘Fresh Food First’ philosophy, offering the very best of fresh seasonal produce and a great range of options.
Fill up the form below to express your interest in attending our Prep Experience day, and one of our friendly Admissions team will be in contact to arrange a suitable date for you and your child to attend.