Why passing the tradition of real food to our children is important?

Our generation has been bombarded by fake food for long enough that we have stopped questioning what we see in the supermarkets or restaurants. So I am on a quest to educate myself and my children about the food to increase their chances to stay healthy. I am trying as much as possible to buy seasonal, organic and locally produced food (thanks to well spread home delivery services from farmers as well as farmers markets). But more importantly, I am trying to learn from farmers, nutritionist and food makers as much as I can.

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What makes us happy and how to raise happy children?

The eternal question is what makes us happy and what makes our children to grow into happy adults.

I signed up for a talk with Paul Dolan, professor of Behavioural Science at LSE who will present his new book How to Escape the Myth of the Perfect Life: To prepare for the talk, I read Dolan’s previous bestseller, Happiness by Design: Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life, which gives an interesting view: happiness is an intricate balance between immediate pleasure and life meaningfulness. So, the life is less about trading off happiness now for happiness later (and vice versa) and more about trading off pleasure and purpose at different rates at different times. How we can turn these observations into practical advice for parent? I would say:

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Changing admission process into London girls’ schools

The British Education system is defined by it’s diversity and complexities – day, boarding, single sex, co-educational, 4+, 7+, 8+, 11+ and 13+ entry…. Numerous options have one unique feature that characterises them all - challenging admissions processes.

Many recognise such potentially harmful pressure on children is not sustainable and thus welcomed the well documented decision last year by the North London Girls Consortium (which is made up of twelve independent day schools see the list here) to replace their current 11+ admission process quoting: “There will be no further written assessments at our Schools, and we will develop the creativity of our interview processes.”

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Nature vs Nurture: does parenting matter?

Last week I attended a debate between Robert Plomin, author of Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are and Ann Pleshette Murphy, author of The Secret of Play: How to Raise Smart, Healthy, Caring Kids from Birth to Age 12 organised by Intelligence Squared.

It was an evening of revisiting the old questions: how much does parenting matter; should we relax and not put too much pressure on ourselves as children are individuals born with their own blueprint and to what degree can we change the outcome?

Read the story of Gavin, a local father of a 16 years old son to see how parenting can make the difference.

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What you have to know about mental health, social media and drugs if you have a daughter.

With the current budget, UK Government announced special £2bn funding to boost mental health support (here). Last blog, I talked about introducing meditation to the children from young age to manage their stress (here). This time, I wanted to look, is there a difference on how to raise a mentally healthy daughter versus raising emotionally healthy son?

The gender differences diminish with the age and there are always atypical girls and boys. But there are studies to show that the girls are more at risk: more than two-thirds of antidepressants prescribed to teenagers are for girls (see details here).

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Is mental health a new buzz word or parents should start thinking about it more seriously?

As a parent, I come across more and more discussion about mental health issues.  Senior schools introduce mental health counsellors, junior schools talk to students about stress and how to manage it, teens talk about depression and suicide is the leading cause of death among young people in the UK (see here).

What did change from the time we were growing up that makes our children emotional and psychological well-being more vulnerable? I think one of the reasons is that we are losing our skill to connect with ourselves as we are getting more connected with the outside world.

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Reading-aloud to children: tips & suggested books

Following up on my last blog about how to choose books (see here), few parents asked if I can share a list of books. Searching for good sources, I came across The read-aloud handbook by Jim Trelease.

On the back of this book, there is a very comprehensive list of wordless books for babies, predictable books (rhyming) for toddlers, picture books for pre-school children, short novels, poems and full novels for teens. The author has arranged all books by age and has given a short description for each book, so you can decide if the complexity is the right level for what you are looking for (as I discussed last week about story, vocabulary or narrator complexity).

Apart from the list, I found the book very inspiring as there is a great research-based discussion on how reading aloud to children benefits their cognitive development.

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Top 5 Tips for successful Assessment preparation

Maya Cara's two-hour workshop aims to help you navigate through the obscure 4+ assessment process to ensure that your child is fully prepared for the assessment. The workshop describes in details the assessment process while informing you on the areas to focus on and how to work with your children while suggesting which materials and resources to use. Armed with appropriate information and structure, you can teach your little ones the necessary skills through play and fun activities at home using everyday items and objects. 

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How to take your child’s reading abilities to the next level.

To read is to have a power to learn regardless of the school one attends or the teacher who teaches.  But what books should I encourage my children to read and how?

Coming from non-English speaking background, I rely on school or friends to advice some tittles. However, schools often say that as soon as a child is reading, it does not matter what she/he is reading.  I took it as given and followed that instruction, letting my children read whatever they choose.

However, I noticed, despite reading quite a lot, both of them struggle with comprehension tests and that made me wonder. Looking for some help, I came across this book that turned my perception of reading upside down. Reading Reconsidered: A Practical Guide to Rigorous Literacy Instruction.

In a nutshell, it does matter what children read. It makes a difference also how children read. And it is very important to discuss with your children (orally and in written) what they are reading to give them a framework to build an independent ability to analyse. If you are interested to learn more, I put together the main highlights from the book below.

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Asking the right questions while choosing a school

My son is going through the process of applying to senior schools and as most of parents I am anxious to choose the right one. The academic results are important for me and they are easy to measure as all schools can show statistics on where students are going after their school and with what grades. But how to capture less tangible things that make the school the right place for my child?  What are the right questions to ask when visiting the school, talking to head masters and teachers as well as current students and their parents?

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How parents can inspire their children to like maths

This Monday, I run into a friend whose children are in the American School. One of the things we talked about is how her daughter (who is the same year as mine at Y3) does not have to study time-tables, or sit timed tests or be allocated into the ability set in her class. The school focuses rather on maths fluency.

That got me curious. Why the system are different and which one works better?

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Raising an introvert child in an extrovert society.

Our society has placed extroverts as a golden standard: parents, school and employers expect a child/a person to be outgoing, confident and sociable.  Contributing to the discussions, taking an initiative, competitiveness and be good at public speaking seem to be a must for a bright future. 

What if your child is an introvert and does not like to be in the centre of public attention, prefers to have a deeper relationship with a smaller group of friends and occasionally needs to recharge the energy level by being on his/her own?

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Teaching your child to say “No”

As a mother of 8 and 10 years old children in London, I am more and more thinking how to teach children to say “No”.

I am doing my best to teach my children to make the right choices in life but it is very hard to confront peer pressure.  I am not sure if my children will be strong enough to say “no” to watching a movie during a sleep-over that would give them nightmares, or “no” to watching a disturbing video on YouTube during a play-date, or “no” to drugs when they are older.  It will be even a harder challenge to tell “no” to adults, when things do not feel right (confronting an attempt of emotional, physical or sexual abuse).

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How to teach children to take risks and encourage failures

Looking at an adult life, I find most of the stress is coming from a fear to disappoint other people. I would love my children to grow up differently and understand what makes them happy and be OK with making mistakes while they are trying to sort it out. Unfortunately, most of the schools do not encourage making mistakes. So we have to do more work at home as parents to teach children to take risks and celebrate failures as a part of growing up and building self-knowledge and resilience.  Below are my three suggestions for parents on how to encourage children to take risks and be OK with mistakes.

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How to support a world-class achiever in your child

As any parent, I want my children to do their best in whatever life they choose for themselves.  But how do we recognise the talent in our children and how do we support its growth? As an inspiration we should look how it works for the real superstars such as world renown athletes/artists/inventors. As Norman Vincent Peale said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."

So how one lives the dream and fulfils their potential? Read more and listen to the interview with a real rising star.

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Five steps to help financial education of your children.

As a parent, I keep asking myself what skills would matter for my children when they approach the job market in 15-20 years? With more and more jobs being outsourced to AI (not only manual but more intellectual ones), everybody knows the skill set is changing. There are a lot of discussions about problem solving, social/communication skills, ability to adapt to changes etc. But I wanted to look at the questions from a different point of view. I want to teach my children financial independence not matter what the job market is going to look like..

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Tips on How to Develop Study Skills

Some children are naturally tidy, organised with their homework and find it easy to remember things.  Others are not like that. And in my case, my children sometimes surprise me by their independence and organisational skills and sometime drive me crazy with messiness and lack of desire to study.

So I decided to look into what a parent can do to make the child better at their learning and organisational skills.

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