High-School Worries for Year 7 students.

Recently I have had a spate of year seven students who are suffering extreme anxiety and are obsessively worried about getting assignments done, homework up to date and studying for what seems to be a  never ending round of tests!

The problem as I see it, is that while it does benefit children of year 7 age to have specialist teachers and to begin learning subjects in greater depth; these kids ARE still kids and do not all cope well with the pressures of high-school life.

I know there are many primary teachers employed in highschools to help the transition to be smooth and this is GREAT but the kids I am seeing are being treated like year 8 kids and-

  • are expected to do at least 2 hours homework each night
  • forget where the toilets are
  • are terrified of the “big kids” and suffer lots of teasing and bullying
  • have to carry around all their books and files on their backs like human snails because they can’t find their lockers or want to have EVERYTHING with them in case they’ve forgotten something and so on!

They are not being nurtured and helped to cope and in many cases schools are not paying enough attention to the needs of these younger students.

The transition should be made as seamless as possible but these children who were only just coping at primary school are now absolutely sure they are failures! How sad!

Whether or not there are sufficient staff or funds, schools CAN-

  • Be kind and welcoming to all their kids and ensure ALL teaching and non-teaching staff are aware of potential problems that might occur for these younger children.
  • Ensure teachers from different subject areas have an effective  communication system in place so that kids do not have too many assignments to do each evening
  • Be very aware that children in year 7 may have more need for home-room contact and access to counselling
  • Understand All year 7 children need regular help to develop the positive growth and mindset skills that will help them with their studies and high-school life.

This IS serious. These kids are not just presenting with academic issues. These difficulties can lead to potentially very serious mental health problems.

We all need to think back to our own childhoods and remember that daunting, terrifying day we went to high-school.

I remember the year 12s at Albany high-school looked like GIANTS.

I can still recall the smell of donuts cooking in the school canteen but being terrified of lining up with the giants to buy one! It all sounds funny and silly now but at the time was TERRIFYING!

Taking our year 7 students to highschool was never going to be easy- let’s use our emotional intelligence and just plain commonsense to ensure we don’t shred their self-confidence and kill their enthusiasm and enjoyment of education!

Please call me on 92777596 or 0409911135 or email me on victoriacarlton@iinet.net.au if you would like extra help for your child.

Here is some extra information and interesting thoughts on successful transition to highschool.






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Reading aloud DOES matter! Important research!

Reading aloud to children MATTERS!
Important for ALL teachers and ALL parents!This is an excellent article and shows what many of us suspected about animated stories- we DO need to read to children as often as possible! I have some excellent lists of books for reading aloud-if you would like access please email me separately on victoriacarlton@iinet.net.au



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Subitising is a super-important maths skill but is been sadly missing in many children we assess.

Subitising was coined by Piaget and refers to the ability to instantaneously recognise the number of objects in a small group without having to count them. We do this when we play dominoes or regognise the dots on the dice.

Increasingly we are seeing children who cannot recognise small groups of items and therefore they have to count every items each time.


Early maths skills need time to develop. Not spending enough time on “hands-on” manipulatives and lack of experience with making and remaking groups is contributing to shaky basic number concepts.

Subitising skills are essential to basic maths. There is no fast way to accelerate these skills- the kids actually HAVE to see and manipulate materials in groups. or the understanding of concepts such as “five” simply does not develop.

This of course leads to serious problems with all 4 basic maths processes and a marked lack of understanding of number patterns. As PATTERNS are at the heart of all maths understanding, we need to help children who are lacking with these skills.

Here is some excellent extra information:


Many inexpensive ways to teach subitising skills are highlighted in this link.

https://www.littlelifelonglearners.com/2017/03/subitise-hands-on-activities.html/about the importance of subitising.

Just a few minutes practice each day will lead to a much deeper understanding of our number system and help children to build a firm foundation for this important area.

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There is an alarming trend to describe kids, reading levels, mathematical attainment in numerical terms. We are assigning a number or grade next to each student in some vain attempt to make teaching and learning “safe” and easier. This will NEVER work. We are missing the point of education and we are not allowing children to use their creativity and grow- we are literally stifling their learning.

George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian argues that,

“Children earn best when teaching aligns with their natural exuberance, energy and curiosity. So why are they dragooned into rows and made to sit still while they are stuffed with facts?

We succeed in adulthood through collaboration. So why is collaboration in tests and exams called cheating?

Governments claim to want to reduce the number of children being excluded from school. So why are their curriculums and tests so narrow that they alienate any child whose mind does not work in a particular way?

The best teachers use their character, creativity and inspiration to trigger children’s instinct to learn. So why are character, creativity and inspiration suppressed by a stifling regime of micromanagement?”

Publishers are making a fortune writing formulaic programs that reduce teachers to little more than robots and put children into learning strait jackets! Schools buy these programs as they think they will force standards up and make sure teachers don’t make mistakes.

Teachers are being reduced to program administrators and not encouraged to use their valuable insights and judgement.

The whole explicit teaching movement was meant to raise teaching standards and ensure children were taught effectively so all could learn. It was never meant to crush children’s creativity and force children to learn in ways that don’t work for them.

Our unhappy children are paying the price. Everyday I work with children who are trying to fit this outmoded factory mode of education and giving up.

For the sake of our children, we need to utilise pedagogically sound teaching practices and encourage teachers to teach and not become program robots.

To read the whole article by George Monbiot:


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Thank goodness the holidays are nearly here.

Teachers look tired, children are grouchy and we all need sleep!

As a group, teachers are not great at self-care. They are so used to putting students first they forget that when the well is empty the water cannot flow.

No matter how talented and passionate- when a teacher runs on empty they CANNOT function, their health suffers and children do not learn effectively.

Most teachers spend a substantial amount of their holidays planning, making teaching materials and catching up on reference material.

Some of this is normal in any profession but due to the high stress levels of teaching, better self-care is a MUST for teachers.

An excellent website “Mindful teachers” points out:

 “Self-care is far from self-indulgent, especially among those of us who are committed to serving others. It isn’t about being selfish or shirking our responsibilities. It’s about figuring out what aspects of our work and schedules we have control over and making choices about how to most effectively spend our time and energy.”

It then goes on to offer tips, links, reflections, and mindfulness practices to help teachers cope with some common challenges. This link is well worth exploring to help all teachers retain their sense of balance and be able to give 100% within their careers.

I wish all my colleagues a wonderful break with plenty of sleep, fun and a good dollop of self-indulgence!

If all this fails- try chocolate!











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The A-Z of Child Whispering: S is for STRANGE

I have been trying to make myself read some books from the Dog-Man series and it is like negotiating an alien landscape.

The comic book genre does not resonate with me AT ALL! Graphic novels are not my thing. My daughter bought me one many years ago and it still lays abandoned and lonely in the bedside cabinet!

However, the idea of a dog’s head joined to a man’s body for a policeman appeals to thousands of young readers. Each week I am asked, “Vicky, have you read the Dog Man books?” and each week I sat, “No!”

This week I can honestly say I tried and there WERE funny, weird moments that sort of appealed but no- I am just too staid!

Kids LOVE the weird, kooky, strange and bizarre. They want to borrow books about gruesome facts and scary animals. They LOVE Any Griffith with his crazy Tree-house books and devour ALL of them.

They love science, aliens and space and have absolutely no problem imagining what Heaven might look like! Their brains are like the stretchiest most flexible slinky you could ever imagine!

This will never change.

Think back. If I can, you can too!

I loved books about the supernatural, scary horror stories and movies like that too. I wanted weird. I was once a kid too!

So were you!

It our job to know what kids want but it also our job to gently lead them to engaging fiction that will make them think deeply and problem solve. By knowing what they WANT to read, I can lead them to certain areas.

I want kids to read about the strangeness of Narnia and feel the delicious fear in The Dark is Rising series but I must also enter kids’ weird worlds and meet strange characters like Dog Man.

Thank you to the writers of weird such as Dav Pilkey and Andy Griffiths and even JK Rowling. They keep the kids reading and inspire the ones with problems to WANT to read!

Below is a list of very quirky kids’ books. Some don’t appeal to me at all but they DO to kids! “Go the F*** to sleep” is obviously for adults!


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The A-Z of Child Whispering: S IS FOR SILLY


Kids love to be silly! We all do. At the end of full-on day I need a fair dose of silliness too. We all need to smile, giggle and enjoy a good belly-laugh.

Luckily, I work with kids and their exuberance and out of the box thinking keeps me smiling and light-hearted!

Children desperately need to lighten their days and the larger the difficulties they face, the more “silliness” is needed.

Three children told me last week how much they hate school. All of them are well above average IQs, bright and bubbly but not fitting the “system.”

Each day for them is a trial where they know they will fail, be in trouble and be embarrassed in front of their peers.

So, we laughed, played learning games, read picture books and wrote books together- with me as final editor and often “writing slave” with the keyboard! I needed to help them feel more positive and be able to see they can be successful learners.

I know that the encouragement and motivation I provide is FAR more important than any of our learning programs.

A daily dose of silliness and light-heartedness with children leads to less stressed classrooms, better bonding and happier homes.

Being silly helps us all to keep a sense of perspective and to be able to climb above our problems and perceive possible solutions.

Interestingly, creativity and therefore problem-solving skills improve markedly with regular humour within our teaching.


As the above article states: “Simply put, a child needs to be a child, and part of being a child is being silly. …….. when you take part in being silly, you are role modelling that life can be fun, joyous, and happy.”

 I could not agree more!

Let’s have some fun today and allow ourselves to laugh and be silly- whether with kids or by ourselves. We will ALL benefit!

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Finally, my colleagues are vindicated in their anti-NAPLAN comments! This morning’s news featuring the report from Dr Ainley showing:

“There has been no improvement in maths and reading among students in a decade and the results of disadvantaged students have declined sharply, a major report obtained by the ABC reveals.” (link at end of this blog)

I train teachers around the country and many outstanding educators have privately shared their NAPLAN concerns with me.

These concerns include:

  • Having to teach to the test- not the curriculum.
  • Reducing child development to grades and benchmarks and not taking learning styles into consideration
  • Children’s fears and anxiety around these tests.
  • Parents making children work on endless worksheets that purport to give better marks- a whole industry has grown up around this reduction of the education process to grades and numbers!
  • Children are pretested,  post – tested- they are tested so often there is little time to teach!

I regularly give workshops to SE Asian teachers as well, and my Singaporean colleagues have asked me why we have so many national exams.

Singapore has very high standards of education and has been very exam oriented in the past but is gradually injecting more creativity into the curriculum.

We NEVER had to go this way.

Sure- literacy and numeracy standards needed to improve and we needed more rigour in our education process.

This could have happened with a tighter curriculum, more effective professional development and extra teachers and assistants to work with children.

NAPLAN was always a broken, inferior tool to mend an education system that needed serious improvement.

Read more about it here-



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Tuition before school?

Today I worked with an amazing child who avidly dislikes tuition.

His wise, loving Mum wants him to improve academic outcomes so we put our heads together and decided to try 45 mins twice a week BEFORE school.

Today was the first session and I was blown away! This was a different child- keen, positive, chatty, receptive and the 45 mins just flew!

BUT- not only did we get done what I had planned- we did a whole lot of extra things too- fitted in both literacy and numeracy in a relaxed yet very productive, “vibey” way.

Some kids and adults are just morning people and if so- this is when tuition really works!

I am also a very early riser and MUCH more energetic in AM. Perhaps we need to match teachers and students by our most energetic times!

We have decided to offer these early slots for individuals every day after seeing how extraordinarily effective today’s session was!

I look forward to my next “early bird” session with this (now enthusiastic) morning oriented child!

Educators will know what I mean- you try 100 things that don’t work and then one REALLY does and it is all worthwhile again!

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The ABC of Child Whispering: S is for SMARTER

Can we REALLY help kids get smarter?

Intelligence is defined as “The ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills”- Oxford dictionary.

Yet we know it is MORE- it is to do with flexibility, thinking, reasoning and insightful “noticing” and “indwelling”- ruminating and often having a “rangy” mind.

It is not so easily captured in tests and IQ profiles and in fact we may well do children a real disservice by over-reliance on these instruments. We so often look at a single result from a test and make snap judgements about a child. This has a very limiting effect on their progress- there is no doubt they become whom we expect!

Thanks to the research into neuroplasticity area we know now that intelligence can be grown and that it comes in many varieties.

Our brains are capable of far more than we ask of them! All children can be helped to be smarter and develop their particular shades of brilliance. We now know that intelligence is not fixed at birth and that careful nurturing of intelligence will lead to higher levels of academic, social and cultural achievements.

Howard Gardner’s research from Harvard University has expanded our understanding and led to an enlarged map of intelligences. We now know we can be smart in many ways- at least 8. We need to expand our understanding of the term INTELLIGENCE to encompass all the identified intelligences.

Unfortunately, so often in the past we have only been interested in language and maths intelligence and so children who are brilliant in science, music, music or sports have been dismissed as “non-academic” and therefore not smart!

The truth is we can ALL improve our intelligences but we certainly do have an individual “cocktail” that tends to shape our career choices, hobbies and personal preferences.

Here are some ideas to help you stimulate each intelligence:


“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”
Roald Dahl, Matilda

  •  Read to your child and listen to them read.
  • Play word games and encourage them to do crosswords.
  • Encourage them to write stories, keep a journal, and write letters to friends and relatives.
  • Write notes to your child and leave in their lunchboxes or on their bed.
  • Encourage them to talk about their opinions and feelings. Make meal-times TALK times.
  • Buy them jokes and riddle books.
  • Provide a good dictionary and thesaurus.
  • Buy books of word searches to improve visual discrimination, spelling and vocabulary.
  • Restrict access to digital media




Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.

Albert Einstein 

  • Play board and card games that involve number and logic.
  • Provide brainteasers and number puzzles.
  • Encourage children to ask intelligent questions.
  • Computer strategy games.
  • Encourage children to classify their belongings and keep in an orderly way.
  • Visit museums, planetariums, and Sci -Tech.
  • Follow directions eg cooking, making models from patterns.
  • Help children to become interested in real-life maths  eg. How many litres of petrol do you think it will take to fill the car and how much is it likely to cost?
  • Use apps and websites that encourage maths understanding



I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I had no words for.

Georgia O’Keefe 

  • Encourage children to make things with left over packaging, wrapping paper, old buttons etc. Keep scraps in a special “Making Things” box.
  • Provide clay and play dough.
  • Encourage use of different media.
  • Allow your child to draw and paint and display their efforts.
  • Jigsaws and Junior Pictionary.
  • Take them to art galleries whenever possible.
  • When you read to them, point out the types of illustrations used.



Great ideas originate in the muscles.

Thomas Alva Edison. 

  • Provide lots of construction toys and help your child to use them.
  • Encourage your child to keep fit by walking, jogging, swimming or participation in team sports.
  • Encourage participation in some type of dancing or drama.
  • Allow children to pull apart old appliances and toys and put them back together again.
  • Play computer games that need fast reflexes.
  • Throwing and catching balls or Frisbees.
  • When they are doing homework, allow frequent breaks so they can move.



An agreeable harmony for the honour of God and the permissible delights of the soul: Johann Sebastian Bach

I shall hear in heaven: Ludwig van Beethoven-last words 

  • Encourage children to listen to many types of music.
  • Help them put important facts to music- AutoRap is a great App for this! MathsRockx is a great App for times tables- put to great music!
  • Sing along to songs and encourage family sing-a-longs.
  • Show your children how to make simple musical instruments and encourage them to play along with their favourite music.
  • Buy your children simple percussion instruments and if possible let them learn a musical instrument.



Small things with great love. It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving:  Mother Theresa 

  • Buy your child some biographies and encourage them to learn about famous people.
  • Make sure your children have sufficient free time to play with their friends.
  • Play games with children and help them to learn to play by rules
  • Let your child join scouts, Brownies or join organised sporting groups.
  • Make sure your child has the opportunities to mix with children of different ages and interests.
  • Talk with children at meal times and make sure you stay off your devices and don’t continuously message when with children.



What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us: Oliver Wendall Holmes

  •  Encourage children to keep a journal for reflection.
  • Talk about your own feelings regularly so that they learn that it is O.K. to do this.
  • Model strong I MESSAGES to help them to become more assertive. Eg. “ I feel sad when you call me names and I would like you to stop it.”
  • Drawing self-portraits
  • Making a family tree.
  • Keep records of all your children’s milestones and regularly let them have access to these records and old photos so they can know themselves as well as possible and be aware of their changing lives.
  • Allow children spare time so they can THINK and REFLECT



 “No matter how few possessions you own or how little money you have, loving wildlife and nature will make you rich beyond measure.” :  Paul Oxton Oxton

  • Make sure your children get to experience nature as often as possible
  • Take time to stop and look at plants, insects etc
  • Talk to your children about pollution and ways we can help to save the earth.
  • Establish a nature study table for interesting rocks, plants etc.
  • Allow children to start their own garden plot, choose plants and care for it.
  • Encourage children to have pets and to look after their physical needs but also to pay attention to how their pets are feeling.








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