5 ways to ease anxiety in your child in 2020

Mother and son with online learning

Handling anxiety is best done by bringing it out into the open. Here are some tips to consider for your child.                                     

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Handling anxiety is best done by bringing it out into the open. Here are some tips to consider for your child.

5 ways to help ease anxiety in your child in 2020

It’s no secret that this year has raised anxiety levels for parents and children alike. The uncertainty around schooling under COVID-19 has been challenging. This has meant different methods of learning
as well as social behaviour. For children with special educational needs, change can be especially hard to navigate. We explore five different ways to ease or reduce anxiety for your child.

1. Talk about it (and keep talking about it)

If your child is prone to anxiety or experiencing heightened levels of anxiety, try to talk to them about it.  Remind them that the ‘new normal’ is not the way things will be forever. Discuss fun memories they’ve had socialising at school before COVID-19 and share little stories you have of them and their friends. This can ignite pleasant memories and remind your child of how fun it can be to interact with others. Older children will have different needs but communication with them is still vital.

2. Alert the teacher

You may also consider contacting your child’s teacher and letting them know that your child is experiencing anxiety. This helps provide context for any unusual behaviour your child may present in the school setting. The teacher will also be better able to offer additional support and understanding to your child.  

3. Involve their friends

Additionally, encourage your child to keep in touch with their friends over video calls. When they’re little, think about setting up an online game for them to play together. That way they’ll be playing with their friends even if they aren’t in the same room. This goes a long way to making the transition from social distancing to physical socialising (and the resulting anxiety) less daunting.

Mother and son with online learning
Maintaining social contact when at home is much easier these days

4. Be mindful to stick to a predictable routine

Reinforcing stability is crucial to helping your child feel less overwhelmed. Routine can be useful in creating predictability and a sense of calm for them. Stick to regular hours for bedtime, recreation and other routine activities such as homework or study and meal times. Focus on healthy eating free from excess sugar or other stimulants.

5. Keep things positive

A positive mindset is powerful. Talk about the good things at school and within their friendship circles and how they’re taking the first small steps towards getting back to the life we all once enjoyed.  Sometimes there is unhelpful talk in the media which can affect children’s anxiety levels. For younger children, possibly consider turning off the TV when such conversations are taking place. Remind your child that home and family are a constant source of support and safety. Allow them to feel safe in the knowledge that they can always rely on you for stability and encouragement.

Help is available

Remind your child that trusted friends and other role models, such as teachers and tutors are also there for them to lean on.

Feel free to get in touch to see how we can help. Our tutors are aware of the effects of anxiety and how it can influence learning. We offer an obligation-free consultation which will assist in guiding you towards the ideal tutor for your child in terms of personality and educational needs. Experience the Bright Heart Approach today!

What has been your experience as a parent of a child with anxiety? We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly to chat.


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Having a SEN-friendly Summer in London during COVID-19

We look at summer activities for children and young adults with autism, learning disabilities and other special educational needs.

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Enjoy this selection of SEN-friendly activities for this Summer in London.

Having a SEN-friendly Summer in London
during COVID-19

Finding SEN-friendly activities for summer for children and young adults with autism, learning disabilities and other special educational needs (SEN) in and around London can be a challenge. During the pandemic this is even trickier than usual. We have done a round-up on some of the events and outings that you may still enjoy at this time with your family. Here is a selection of our favourites:

Online Summer School

Song, laughter and dance are available through the Mousetrap Theatre Projects' Online Summer School.

Sing, dance, and laugh your way with your children by participating in theatre and dance-themed #EveryHomeATheatre challenges from Mousetrap Theatre Projects. Revisit past challenges or join their Online Summer School here. There are 90-minute drama workshops available on Zoom daily.  Age groups from 7 to 19 are catered for.

A SEN-friendly Cinema Outing – because it’s always better on the big screen!

Autism-friendly outings for the whole family at the Odeon Cinema are a must-do.

The Autism Friendly Screenings at Odeon Cinema are ideal for families with a child with special educational needs. Here you can all enjoy a film in an environment designed for people with Asperger’s Syndrome or who are on the autism spectrum. Low lights are left on inside the auditorium during the film and the soundtrack is quieter than it would be in a regular film screening. Another difference is that there are no trailers screened before the main film at AFS screenings.  Audience members are also not restricted from moving around, making a noise or taking a break in the middle of the film screening. Some Odeon cinemas reopened on the 4th of July and protocols are in place to ensure that they offer a safe cinema experience. Enquire on their website

Museum of London – Listen and Learn from Home

Find some 'screen-free' activities for your child to enjoy while the Listen and Learn at Home from the Museum of London.

Outings may provide relief from cabin-fever but some of you may feel more comfortable with stay-home practices at the moment. However, you can still have enjoyable cultural experiences with the family. The Museum of London is always a wonderful outing in this regard. During the pandemic, the museum has made a number of virtual tours and other activities available.  You might feel encouraged to know that some of these are also ‘screen-free’.  Find out more here.

SEN-friendly learning with 3D objects

Learning in 3D for students with SEN is available at the Museum of London

Also at the Museum of London, it is possible for students with learning difficulties to still get up close and personal with objects in 3D.  A range of 3D objects with resources designed specifically for students with special educational needs and disabilities is available

Historic Royal Palaces

Learning about history can be fun with the free resources available from Historic Royal Palaces.

For lots of ideas and resources online to help your children continue exploring history and the wider world without having to step outside the front door during the summer can be found here.

These five top history resources will keep your kids learning AND smiling while you’re staying home together. Parental participation is optional.  

SEN-Friendly Outdoor Wild Play

Outdoor wild play can be enjoyed by a variety of ages and is especially helpful for children with special educational needs.

Allowing your child to participate in outdoor activities such as these outdoor games, woodland crafts, survival skills (including shelter-building and tracking among others), have been shown to be helpful for a variety of special needs, including:

The team at Outdoor Wild Play welcomes children with special needs to their sessions. They have a strict COVID-19 protocol in place for health and safety reasons. Contact them directly to discuss which venues are available and to answer any further questions you may have.

What has been your experience as a parent of a child with SEN? We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly to chat.


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Supporting Parents of Children with SEN

Parenting is not always easy and lockdown has added to the challenges. We look at some SEN support available.

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Community support is available for parents. It helps to share challenges and to support each other.

Supporting Parents of Children with SEN

Parenting is not always easy and lockdown has certainly added to the challenges. Many parents are finding it a struggle to balance work, their children’s homeschooling and the need to make some time for themselves. This can be especially difficult when you have a child with special needs. Parents of children with SEN are therefore sometimes in need of additional support.

Help is at hand. We’ve done a short round up on some options available.

For Parents

  • Get in touch with SENDIASS in London. This service aims to help parents, children and young people and professionals work together to provide the best possible support to children and young people with SEN.
  • Connect with SEN Talk Parent Support Facebook group which supports the whole family. This group champions neurodiversity for children and young people, families and the wider community. They are based in Battersea, London
  • Get in touch with Merton and Southwest London Dyslexia Association through Wandsworth THRIVE. This organisation provides advice and information for individuals with dyslexia and their families and carers. For a £10 membership fee, the group also offers advice to parents about their child's dyslexia and an advisor who can attend school/council meetings to discuss their child's special educational needs.
  • Ealing parents of children with ADHD in need of a support group can contact Wendy to find out more about the drop in surgery/ coffee morning twice a month at the Grange Children's Centre in Ealing. For more details contact Wendy on 07970 698 739
Support is available in the community for parents of a child with special needs.

For Dads

We recognise that dads are not always the first person in the family to reach out for help. With this in mind, we have included some options aimed specifically at dads.

  • Take 5 and Chat is a parenting additional needs support group on Facebook (it also has a website). It specifically helps dads of children with SEN. Dads are able to talk through any of their difficulties here.
  • Alternatively you could get help from a non-profit or church-based organisation such as Who Let The Dads Out.
  • Connect with Autism Dads Support Facebook group which has around 3,000 members specifically for dads and male carers of children and young adults with autism.
  • Dads who are in need of support with a child or children with ASD in Hounslow, reach out to this Autism Dads Support group in your area.
There are many dads in similar situations. Connecting and sharing helps.

Giving back to the community

Being able to lean on the expertise, experience and resources of others who work with children with special needs and their families can make a real difference.  You may find you need a combination of different types of support, from therapy or counselling, to familial support for practical care-giving, to educational support from occupational therapists or tutors.

As you progress and gain a sense of feeling supported from within your community, don’t lose sight of how you initially felt before you received the help you needed.  Try to find ways to give back where you can. To help manage the pressures of special needs parenting, we should be willing to reach out and accept help. We should also be prepared to offer it.  It is in community that we can make progress, knowing that we don’t journey alone.

You may find your community within a Facebook Group you belong to, a book club, a church or sports club, your family circle or a non-profit organisation you’ve dealt with.

Don't hesitate to get help for yourself or child should you feel it's needed

What has been your experience as a parent of a child with SEN? We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly to chat.


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Lessons learned during lockdown

parental support and presence

We look at how lockdown has impacted our lives and the important lessons learned during this time.            

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

How many of these lessons learned under lockdown can you relate to?

Lessons learned under lockdown

As parents, our hearts’ desire is to see our children reach their potential and perform at their best. This could be on the sports field, in artistic pursuits or in the classroom.

Lockdown added extra stress to many of our lives by placing the burden of our children’s education squarely on our shoulders via homeschooling. For some, that meant tears, tantrums and unforeseen pressure.

In this blog, we highlight 5 key lessons learned during lockdown.

1. Emotional well-being before academic performance

One of the main lessons learned during lockdown was the importance of supporting our children emotionally. This meant putting an emphasis on their well-being before fretting over their academic progress.  Sometimes a hug and a few words of reassurance at the right time can spare tears over a looming assignment and keep things running smoothly. 

Don’t be shy to step back for a moment and take a break with your child. This creates room for connection before returning to school-related tasks.

Physical and emotional reassurance may be the best academic support you can give your child

2. The power of routine

It may have been challenging for you to manage work responsibilities, household chores and the needs of your family and children. Especially when still finding time for essential exercise. We heard the collective cries of ‘What day is it?’ on more than one occasion.

Whilst in the throes of chaos, there is a lot to be said for creating and maintaining routine. Daily meals at regular times, regular bed times, daily exercise and daily work / schoolwork during set times help to keep the family ship on a steady course.

Reinforce stability through the power of maintaining routine

3. There is no shame in asking for help

Lockdown has been a source of stress. It has negatively impacted on the mental health of adults and children in the UK and globally. Some reports have cited up to 65 per cent of children struggling with boredom and feelings of isolation during lockdown .

For you and your children, looking after your mental health is imperative. There is no shame in asking for help. A number of not-for-profit organisations have made their services and additional COVID-19 resources available (see our blog post on Your child’s mental health during times of stress).

parental support and presence
Don't hesitate to get help for yourself or child should you feel it's needed

4. Managing disappointment

Whether we have had to cancel travel plans, or had exciting events such as birthday parties, weddings or concerts postponed or shifted online, we have all needed to come to terms with disappointment. This can be especially challenging for children and teenagers. Parents can intervene, however, to help them handle disappointment in a positive manner.

Teach them that there are almost always alternatives available, if they are only prepared to look for them with an open mind.  Also, a postponed holiday or event is something that can be looked forward to.

Dealing with disappointment can be a catalyst for developing resilience

5. Being present is enough

Parents are the most important people in a child’s life. No matter what the circumstances, as long as a parent is nearby, a child feels safe.  A child doesn’t really need you to play with her / him all the time. Instead, they value you being around for them to feel secure.

Our children don’t really need lots of toys to be happy. Simpler activities are still entertaining. For example, try gardening, hopscotch or skipping with a rope, board games, cooking or other household chores. Remember, your presence is what your children crave and need most.

Give your child your undivided attention and even mundane chores have value for them.

Any advice or tips you could offer others to learn from? We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly with any questions.


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Your child’s mental health during times of stress

boy with anxiety

We bring attention to some warning signs relating to mental health. This is particular important at this time.    

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In time of stress, mental health is increasingly important. We consider some warning signs.

Your child’s mental health during times of stress

According to The Guardian, fewer young people are receiving help with mental health issues. This is despite levels of anxiety and depression having risen sharply in the under 18 age group. 

Reasons include mental health services being suspended or restricted and a lack of in-person engagement. The closure of schools – a first point of referral for distressed children – has certainly not helped.  

an unhappy girl doing homework
Learning and engagement is strongly affected by one's mental and emotional state.

Lockdowns have negatively impacted many children

Almost one in four children living under COVID-19 lockdowns, social restrictions and school closures are dealing with feelings of anxiety, with many at risk of lasting psychological distress, including depression. In recent surveys by Save the Children of over 6000 children and parents in the US, Germany, Finland, Spain and the UK, up to 65 per cent of the children struggled with boredom and feelings of isolation.”  

Reliefweb International, 7 May 2020

The pandemic has turned the lives of millions of children and young people upside down. Many young people are finding it hard to cope with isolation, a loss of routine, anxiety about the future, a disruption to their education, and in some cases difficult or traumatic experiences at home.”

Emma Thomas of YoungMinds, a leading UK not-for-profit championing mental health for young people

boy with anxiety
We all have times when we need to talk to someone. This is especially true for children.

The impact of COVID-19 on children's mental health

While it has been a challenging time for parents, children have felt the effects of social distancing and isolation with far-reaching effects. The British Psychological Society, together with more than thirty other organisations, have written an open letter to the Government. This letter was urging them to limit the long-term impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health.

What should parents consider for their child's mental health?

Previously, we covered the importance of planning an active day in our homeschooling tips for parents and the importance of physical activity. Eating regular meals, getting sufficient sleep and limiting screen time go together with this.

Good mental health is a much-needed foundation for learning.

However, you may find your children require additional support.  

Some warning signs to be aware of in your child’s behaviour that could indicate impaired mental health can be remembered by using the acronym MASK:

M – Mood

They get irritable, argumentative or aggressive towards you. They may blame you if things go wrong. They can also become withdrawn.

A – Actions

They may experience changes in eating and sleeping patterns. Look out for any signs of bullying, over- or under-eating or self-harm.

S – Social

They suddenly appear especially bored, lonely or withdrawn or they start to get into trouble. Losing interest in friends and other things they liked to do or loss of interest and motivation with schoolwork are common warning signs.

K - Keep talking

Refusing or being reluctant to talk about how they’re feeling is common. But keep listening and ask how they are feeling. When they do open up, make sure they know there’s someone there who really cares.

Please note that these symptoms are by no means diagnostic in nature. Professional advice is always preferable, especially if you have any doubt as to what may be causing the change in your child’s behaviour.

Attention and active listening go a long way in making sure your child does not slip under the radar.

Where can I get extra help for my child's mental health?

Fortunately, there is plenty of help at hand and we recommend reaching out to the team at YoungMinds where you will find many resources and professional support available.

Other sources of support include:

The NSPCC and the Mental Health Foundation.

We are also here to help with any learning issues relating to anxiety and social and emotional mental health. Feel free to get in touch with one of our experienced directors to discuss your needs. We offer a free consultation and a free trial lesson to help build rapport.


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The importance of physical activity during lockdown

boy gardening with his father

Keeping moving is important at this time, for children and parents, for mind and body. Several activities are suggested.    

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Exercise is important during this time. Here we look at some helpful activities for children and families

Physical activities for children during lockdown

The day-to-day realities of living in lockdown with your family are not easy. For many parents, the homeschooling, the constant entertaining and attempts at keeping the peace while you are also working from home can leave you feeling frustrated; this “new normal” can be challenging for the child and the parent.

It is therefore imperative to find activities to keep the whole family active and healthy.

Physical activity is paramount; at present we are all too aware of our health and maintaining or improving our physical well-being as a means of strengthening immunity. You only have to watch TV, look online or talk to someone to see the importance of being active – for example, Joe Wicks’ daily workouts , Captain Tom’s gallant walking triumph or even the government’s daily exercise guidance .

Here are some suggestions to help you and your children get more active, creative and fitter:

5 activities to keep the family moving

  1. A family that downward dogs together, stays together

Yoga is the perfect activity for everyone. With a plethora of online kids’ yoga and live Zoom classes to join, you and your children can strengthen your bodies and practice mindfulness together. The blend of flowing sequences and meditative, breathing exercises provides your child with skills to enhance their coordination and balance. It improves core strength and helps connect with their emotions through each backbend, sun salutation and twist.

Have a look here for some online kids’ yoga.

yoga with your children
Yoga is a form of exercise that integrates mind and body.
  1. Dance, baby dance!

Bust through the boredom with a dance party. The blessing of being locked down in 2020 is the wonderful technology at our fingertips. From FaceTime to Zoom, Houseparty and WhatsApp, there are plenty of available online organised dance parties for children of all ages, perfect for a little social interaction with other children, while listening to music and dancing around the living room; high energy for the kids and low effort for the parents! If a dance party with strangers is not your thing, why not arrange a virtual dance party for the kids with their cousins, friends or relatives so you can catch up while they attempt The Floss.

Children dancing for exercise
Dancing will always bring smiles to children, while keeping them moving.
  1. Treasure hunts

This is a great one for those parents that want to get creative and get the kids running around the garden or house. This can be as easy or complicated as you like and can last as long as you choose, meaning the kids are staying active and alert while being fully engaged. Hide anywhere from 10 – 20 gifts, clues or items around the house and watch their inner Miss Marple solve away. This one is great for a physical and mental workout.

map for a treasure hunt
Create your own map and let your children find the treasure!
  1. The Joe Wicks effect

Getting the kids involved in national or global events like daily aerobic classes can be hugely inclusive and great for them to discuss with friends who are also participating. The skilfully choreographed moves are designed to be a perfect PE alternative during this period, which can be enjoyed as a family or just for the children while you do a bit of work from home yourself.

Joe Wicks PE classes for children
Morning PE for kids has proved popular in the UK (Source: thebodycoach.com)
  1. Gardening

Few activities are as rewarding and active as gardening. Don’t worry about how big the garden is, as there are many ways gardening can work for you, from window boxes or small patches to larger areas. For children and adults, sowing seeds, watering, digging and planting are perfect for keeping them active and getting them interested in nature and the environment. In fact, while they are at it, why not get the gloves on them and get some weeding done too? Before you know it, the garden will be looking beautiful, the kids will be exhausted and you may even get some delicious fresh vegetables for dinner.

boy gardening with his father
Gardening is a therapeutic and rewarding physical activity.

Whatever activities you decide to do as a family, you don’t want to squander away this time at home.

Before the lockdown is over and we start living our new version of post-pandemic life, it is crucial to ask ourselves, “what did I/we do during this unprecedented time?”

The answer, “we survived, we grew, we became stronger, fitter and more connected”.

What has been your experience of exercise during lockdown?

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly with any questions. You can read more about the positive effects of exercise in a guest blog by one of our tutors: learning through sport. 

We have written a series of blogs about education during lockdown which you also may find useful: Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdownQuestions (FAQs) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown and Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

Bright Heart will continue to offer guidance and support during this challenging period.


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Facebook Live Q & A about homeschooling during lockdown

FB Live with John Salmon, Bright Heart director

Bright Heart director John Salmon, M.Ed., answers pertinent questions live on Facebook about homeschooling during lockdown.        

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In a live Q & A, John Salmon, M.Ed, addressed parent’s typical homeschooling concerns due to lockdown.

Facebook Live Q & A about homeschooling during lockdown

We recently held a Facebook Live Q & A to address parent’s questions about homeschooling during lockdown.  This was hosted by Jacqui Mackway-Wilson, our social media manager, with questions answered by Bright Heart director and former headteacher John Salmon, M.Ed.

Facebook Live streaming

Key questions covered

  • 0m49s -- Learn more about John
  • 2m33s -- Typical challenges seen during lockdown when it comes to online learning
  • 5m40s -- Pointers for parents to structure the school day at home for their children
  • 9m51s -- How can technology in general and online tutoring in particular better support parents and students during lockdown?
  • 13m48s -- What about learners with special educational needs and challenges that SEN students are facing during lockdown?
  • 18m33s -- What signs of stress or distress, related to this online learning, should I be aware of as a parent, particularly as a parent of a child with special educational needs? And how can I help my child navigate this?
  • 22m22s -- What should I look for when selecting a tutor, whether for online or in-person support?
  • 27m22s -- Listen to John’s concluding remarks
Facebook Live Q & A about homeschooling during lockdown
Click on the picture to watch the Q & A about homeschooling.

What has been your experience of education during lockdown?

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly with any questions. You can read about the experiences of a Bright Heart student, parent and tutor in a recent blog here.

We have written a series of blogs about education during lockdown which you may find useful: Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdownQuestions (FAQs) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown and Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

Bright Heart will continue to offer guidance and support during this challenging period.


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Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

student learning online with tutor

In part 3 of our lockdown blog series, one of our directors discusses online tutoring and provides some tips.                

John Salmon director

In part 3, I provide some details on online tuition and provide tips for using an online tutor

Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

In this third blog in a 3-part series to help parents during lockdown, I discuss online tutoring. Online tuition has experienced a massive surge in popularity due to lockdown.

With the growth of technology and the desire for education in the home, online tutoring had already been experiencing increasing adoption before coronavirus (COVID-19).     

Online tutoring platforms have been improving, as they allow for interactive teaching and learning, as well as effective evaluation, in real time. Online tutoring also presents opportunities for students who live in areas that are hard to access, where there are not many tutors. For tutors, online tutoring is much more efficient than navigating the city’s public transport or driving at rush hour.

While in-person tuition is often the preferred option for parents, there are some students who find in-person social interaction awkward and who may feel more comfortable online. There are also many students who enjoy technology and find this method of learning exciting. However, for some students with special educational needs (SEN) who require kinaesthetic learning, meeting their needs online will not be as attainable. Building rapport, which is an important part of tutoring, is a bit more challenging online. Some parents are also happier once they’ve met the tutor in person before online lessons commence.

Let’s consider some of the pros and cons of online tutoring and some general tips for parents.

student learning online with tutor
Online tuition has certain strengths and weaknesses

What are some advantages of online tutoring?

  • Generally easy to setup with a tutoring platform – a link can be provided by the tutor
  • Allows education to continue when in-person tuition is difficult for whatever reason
  • For some students with concentration issues a screen can help their focus
  • Some children who have social anxiety may prefer online tuition
  • Children get excited about technology and enjoy the novel aspects of learning this way
  • Tuition can be scheduled to fit in with one’s day much more easily
  • Online tutoring platforms offer many great technological features. Features include lesson recording, enhanced security and an interactive whiteboard. Bright Heart offers online tutoring using a premium online tutoring platform called Bramble.
  • Online tutoring is frequently cheaper than in-person tuition, as a parent does not need to pay for a tutor’s travel time. At Bright Heart, we provide a 10% discount for online tuition compared to in-person home tuition.
  • A greater pool of tutors from which to find the perfect match, as a student is not limited to tutors that live nearby.

What are some disadvantages of online tutoring?

  • Traditional online tutoring agencies are unlikely to meet tutors in person (as the latter could be based in many different locations and agencies will often have many tutors listed). The vetting process may not be as stringent therefore, as it is for a bespoke tutoring agency such as Bright Heart, which meets all its tutors in person and only offers online tuition using its pool of carefully vetted professionals.
  • More time is needed for the first lesson in setting up the technology and it requires a reliable broadband connection
  • Rapport and trust are a bit harder to build online with the student
  • Although still possible, tactile learning becomes more challenging and online tuition will be less effective for students with certain SEN whose needs require the physical presence of a tutor
  • Sometimes simple instructions or concepts are not so easy to explain online
  • Parents do not get to know their tutor in person
Parents should take precautions to make sure they are happy with the online tutor for their child.

6 tips for parents using a private online tutor

  1. Use an agency that follows strict protocols when screening and interviewing tutors and conducting background checks (Enhanced DBS) and reference checks. Although the tutor is not physically present in the home, using a carefully vetted tutor that the agency knows personally is very important.
  1. Check that the tutoring agency or tutor is using a suitable platform for tuition. This would be one that allows video, audio, file sharing and online whiteboard options. The latter is important when evaluating written content in real time. The ability to share pictures related to the topic (e.g. volcanoes for Geography) is also helpful to maintain interest.
  1. Preferably meet them in person beforehand; however, if this is not possible, set up an online mini interview before the lesson to get a sense of their approach, personality and experience.
  1. Prior to the first lesson, allow some time to set up the technology and to gain some familiarity with it. Children are naturals with technology, but some applications are more intuitive than others.
  1. Make sure the topic is chosen prior to the lesson. Extra preparation is needed for online tuition and this will be much appreciated by the tutor.
  1. Carefully review the first online lesson to make sure that you are comfortable with the tutor and that your child and the tutor have established the necessary rapport. A good tutoring agency will also provide a lesson report following the session and some agencies, such as Bright Heart, even offer a free trial to make sure you are completely satisfied before continuing.   
Gardening during lockdown has shown a large increase in popularity

What can we do to help you during lockdown?

This lockdown period will be a challenge for everyone. But with every challenge there is an opportunity – with a little thought and planning this period can be productive and a time of family connection and reflection. We hope that you keep healthy with your family and make the most of the next months. We also hope you have found this 3-part blog series helpful – see Part 1 and Part 2.

My fellow Bright Heart directors and I are here to help at this difficult time. Please don’t hesitate to contact us. Whether it is simply to ask a question about the blog series or to discuss how one of our experienced, caring tutors could be the right choice to help your child, we are always happy to hear from parents.

Please share our blogs with other parents if you think they could be helpful. We would also love you to share your own experiences and tips with us through our Facebook page.


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Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdown

mother homeschooling her daughter

One of our directors, an experienced former head teacher, provides some homeschooling tips to help families during lockdown.                 

John Salmon director

In part 1 of this blog series I provide some helpful tips for parents to support their children learning at home

Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdown

Boris Johnson made a bombshell announcement in response to increasing cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) by placing the UK in lockdown on 23 March.

This followed the government’s earlier decision to close schools to most students and cancel GCSEs and A level exams. This has understandably created significant uncertainty for parents and children alike. Children are feeling pressure due to the uncertainty and parents are trying their best to help with all the schoolwork, while also trying to devise fun activities and still have time for their own working requirements.

With schools having been due to resume this week after Easter, we appreciate that many parents could do with some helpful tips and advice at this difficult time. As an experienced teacher, former head teacher, tutor and father, I have used my significant expertise to put together a 3-part blog series to help.

In this first blog, I provide tips and suggested activities and strategies for parents to support their children learning at home. I also provide a list of top resources (both academic and non-academic) that can be used during these difficult times.

In part 2, I attempt to answer some frequently asked questions about the consequences of the lockdown on education in the UK and explain how Bright Heart Education is helping in the circumstances.

In part 3, I outline the benefits of using online tuition to support students at this difficult time.

7 homeschooling tips for parents during lockdown

While parents cannot be expected to substitute trained teachers, they can offer support to their children learning at home by following some tips below. Parents should be careful not to put all the emphasis on academics.  As a matter of fact, the British Psychological Society’s Division of Educational and Child Psychology (DECP) has pointed out that this is a good opportunity to spend quality time with your children: “Don’t put too much pressure on doing academic work.  Parents and carers aren’t teachers, and it is important to also spend time building relationships, enjoying shared activities and reassuring children.”

1. Plan your day

While providing extra attention for your children at home can be challenging, a little planning will go a long way. Each night, ensure your child has a plan for the following day. This should involve aiming to get up at roughly the same time every day, eating well, exercising and getting some much-needed fresh air. Creating a routine that is exactly like the one at school would be impractical, but it is possible to follow a similar structure, in the sense that you have one subject followed by another, with breaks in between.  This may be done through work provided by the school, your own supervision or by using a private tutor for online lessons (preferably) or face-to-face lessons (where possible) for students with special learning needs who are unable to concentrate online.   

At the same time, despite the benefits of following a daily routine, child psychologists warn that parents should still leave some room for flexibility to avoid pursuing an overly controlled environment. This may lead to more stress and anxiety in children. It is therefore crucial to maintain a healthy balance, which can be achieved through the understanding of your child’s wants and needs. 

2. Maintain education

Maintaining learning during this period is important to keep concepts fresh and create a sense of satisfaction for children. This will also help their confidence when adjusting to the next year of education once they go back to school. A tutor can aid with any online schoolwork set by teachers and help bring it to life (virtual classrooms are unlikely to offer much 2-way interaction). Maintaining engagement is important and is a challenge when homeschooling.  For parents, online tutoring sessions can also be a period of time when their children are being kept busy and not seeking continuous entertainment.

Creating a dedicated workspace can help to avoid distractions and enhance children’s concentration.

mother homeschooling her daughter
A dedicated space for working in the home is best.

3. Keep them entertained

Aside from academics, it is important not to underestimate the power of play.  Infusing children’s life with play not only helps them to relax, but also ensures their well-being and healthy development. Research has highlighted its numerous benefits. These include increasing self-confidence associated with acquiring new skills, improving or maintaining physical and mental health, and stimulating imagination and creativity. Click on the link below to read about all benefits of child’s play:

-> Why play is important

Additionally, keeping your family entertained will help to keep everyone happy and allow parents the chance to focus on some of their own needs – whether work or some downtime.

For more ideas on how to keep your children entertained, please have a look at our blog 9 Nifty Activities for Children during Lockdown.

Moreover, engaging in games as an entire family is a perfect way to create fun, long-lasting memories and to promote family bonding. See the link below to discover some great board games to try:

-> The top ten board games of all time

Monopoly can entertain the family for hours and help keep children's Maths sharp!

4. Keep them active

Although it is undeniable that having to stay at home has led to a significant reduction of our daily activity, it is essential to maintain physical health for children and adults alike. According to Dr Sarahjane Belton, adults should aim to spend 30 minutes of “moderate to vigorous exercises” on a daily basis, whereas children need twice that time. In order to stay healthy and at the same time help your children expel their accumulated energy, use the allowed one form of exercise a day to go outside for a walk, jog or other type of physical activity, whilst still adhering to the social distancing measures. 

To find out more about how to keep children active during lockdown, read the article written by Dr Belton below: 

–> How to keep yourself and your kids active during the lockdown

Alternatively, stay active even indoors by dancing, skipping, doing exercises found on YouTube or other resources like GoNoodle (designed specifically for children), or stretching your muscles in a good old classic game of Twister. 

A daily walk in Nature does much to calm the mind and body.

5. Help them socialise

Whilst the lockdown presents a wonderful opportunity to strengthen family ties, it is paramount for children’s social development that they remain in touch with their peers. Try to organise a video call with your child’s friends or classmates by making use of numerous available platforms, such as Skype, Zoom, Houseparty, WhatsApp of Google Hangouts. However, even though it is likely that children and teenagers might spend increasingly more time using technology, certain rules regarding their screen time should nevertheless be applied. 

6. Make use of free resources on the internet to help

There is no shortage of resources available online. In fact, there are so many resources available that it can be hard to know where to start. To help parents, we have picked our own top 10 list of online resources (see further below). They will assist you in keeping your children engaged whilst they learn, including a couple of resources outlining creative and entertaining non-academic activities at the end of the list. 

7. Don’t be afraid to seek expert advice when you need it

Homeschooling your children is not easy. Even experienced qualified teachers find it difficult to homeschool their own children. So don’t be afraid to ask for help.

For further insight into homeschooling, visit the biggest organisation of its kind in England, Education Otherwise.

Find more strategies and tips from the British Psychological Society below:

-> Coronavirus and UK schools closures:  support and advice for schools and parents/carers 

Alternatively, please get in touch with me or one of Bright Heart’s other directors – whether you are looking for a homeschooling tutor or just need some friendly advice, we are more than happy to help.

Top 10 online resources for children learning at home

Twinkl teaching resources
Gojimo app for KS3 11+ 13+ GCSE A Levels
  1. BBC Bitesize started providing daily lessons for children of all ages on April 20.  They also have a dedicated TV channel full of learning content, podcasts and educational videos.
  1. Seneca is a wonderful website for KS2, KS3, GCSE and A levels. 
  1. Gojimo is a mobile app for revision of GCSEs, A levels, IB, iGCSEs, Common Entrance and several international qualifications. 
  1. The National Literacy Trust provides an online zone for parents who are looking for a variety of activities for their children during school closures.
  1. Khan Academy is a free resource for parents, as well as young and older students, that offers free lessons in a wide range of subjects. Although it is US-based, there is plenty of content that overlaps with UK education.
  1. Twinkl offers thousands of worksheets and activities in Maths, English and Science to teachers, parents, and learners.
  1. Coolmath4kids.com is a great way to keep education entertaining. The website features lessons, quizzes and numerous games to teach children basic Maths.
  1. Hamilton Trust is a UK charity that provides an array of planning and learning resources in English, Maths, and Science for children up to Year 6.
  1. This article highlights 50 creative ideas to have fun with your children and make sure that they will never get bored during the lockdown.
  1. Another helpful article with 59 activities to do at the home to keep children entertained.

For even more help, the Department for Education has a wealth of online resources for home education.

Please see our Part 2 of this blog series: Questions (FAQ) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown where we provide answers to common queries.

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9 nifty activities to survive lockdown with your children

fun coloured window with hearts

It can be tricky to keep children entertained and focus on one’s own work. Here are some fun activities! 

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Need inspiration to keep your children entertained during lockdown? Here’s a roundup of 9 fun & easy activities.

9 nifty activities to survive lockdown with your children

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an almost global lockdown to slow the spread of the virus. Schools are largely closed and many of us are working from home. This means that we’re spending a lot of time with our partners and/or children. It can be tricky to keep children entertained and focus on one’s own work. It’s easy to fall into the trap of letting children watch TV or scroll online for hours on end, but the little ones in particular are bound to become restless as the days go by.

Below are some fun activities you can do with your younger children (or allow your older children to do themselves) during lockdown:

Lockdown Idea #1

Let your children paint numbers 1-1 on ordinary garden stones (or you can use prepared coloured cards).  Hide the numbers 1 to 10…around the garden or around the house and let them play Number Fun Hide ‘n Seek! (You can give younger children clues as to where to look that correspond to each number, for example:  “1 is hidden in or near an appliance that we have one of (e.g. the fridge) 2 is hidden in a room with two beds in it…” etc. ). This will also be a good practice for an Easter egg hunt for Sunday the 12th of April.

Lockdown Idea #2

This will keep the kids calm for a little while – invite them to read or listen to an audio book in an easy, home-made under table hammock using blankets or sheets knotted above a sturdy tabletop as shown above.

Lockdown Idea #3

Have a Lockdown Disco one evening – print tickets and invite your family to have some fun while you play DJ. Suggest each member of the family makes a half-hour playlist, dim the lights and get your groove on! Or try online dance classes and learn a routine.

Lockdown Idea #4

Take virtual tours

The museums and art galleries may be closed but if your teenager wants to expand their horizons, there are now virtual tours of thousands of the world’s most important museums, including the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Guggenheim in New York. The tours are so good it’s like you are actually wandering through the corridors and you can zoom in to view any masterpieces you fancy. Look up the museums’ websites for more details. 

One such example is the National Videogame Museum. Your child can create a Pixel Art character or design their own arcade cabinet with these fun activities to play at home: https://www.thenvm.org/nvm-at-home

Lockdown Idea #5

fun coloured window with hearts

Order tissue paper from Amazon (or simply use any coloured paper you have on hand) and let your children cut these rainbow hearts out by hand. So worth it for adding a splash of brightness to windows and fun to make too!

Lockdown Idea #6

Grow a windowsill garden

Just because they are cooped up inside doesn’t mean children can’t keep learning about the natural world. Inspire a love of nature by helping them grow some easy flowers and veg. To get fast results, order cornflower or pot marigold seeds online, which germinate in as little as two weeks.

Alternatively, help them grow their own salad veg by planting quick-sprouting radishes or cress. A fruit carton, cut in half, with holes in the bottom or even an old welly boot will do the trick if you don’t have any pots. 

Lockdown Idea #7

The Animal Name Game exercises both body and mind. Each player should think of an animal and tell the others a fact about it.

The other players must try and guess the animal, with a maximum of three facts per person to guess.

Players should continue until the group has cycled through five animals each, taking inspiration from the outdoors where possible. For those in a flat, let the participant use Google animal 3D to search for the animal in Google and display it in augmented reality (AR) and let the others try and work out which animal they are looking at once they provide a fact.

Lockdown Idea #8

Paper Crafts are simple and easy to make and these Moving Fish provide extra entertainment value (let the kids put on a puppet show for you afterwards to extend this activity) – older children can also help younger siblings with this activity. Watch the How To video here: https://youtu.be/UmZgsnY8fMQ

Lockdown Idea #9

A fun activity in 5 minutes! All you need is a sock, plastic bottle and a bit of washing-up liquid with water to help while away hours engaged in sensory play in the fresh air or even blow bubbles out of your flat window. Credit to #TheDadLab

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