By Efterpi Sotiriou

“Education can shape the coming generations into virtuous, informed citizens committed to achieving equality, and can provide our children and grandchildren with pathways to solving political and societal problem we ourselves are unable to resolve” (Archbishop Thabo Makgoba).

As we collectively settle into the start of a new Term (2) and welcome the end of the first quarter of a new academic year, we remain ever mindful of our firm commitment and undertaking to provide optimum support to our students on multiple fronts. This extends far beyond goading students to do their homework, read more, tidy up, reduce their screen time, brush their teeth or sit up straight.

The 29th of May 2024 has been set up as a significant “goal post” in the South African calendar. It is election time and all that goes with it… but it is also an opportunity to generate a related dialogue – beyond the political debate – with the all-important emergent South African citizenry – our children, the future.

Within the context of the forthcoming election, it is essential to engage young people in conversations about:

  • democracy
  • leadership
  • the power of our voices
  • the pitfalls of fake news and disinformation
  • digital vigilance
  • the impact of advertising
  • the importance and consequence of voting.

We can embark on the conversation with “yes, you can’t vote right now but you may be voting in the next election and when that time comes, will you be ready?”.

Your conversations need not amount to imposing viewpoints. They may provide an ‘open door’ for the exploration of active citizenry – how we can all stand tall and small; now and later; contribute to a collective national well-being. Awareness, healthy and robust exchanges and engagement in thought and action are key. President Kennedy inspired children and adults to see the importance of civic action and public service. His historic words – “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” – can challenge every South African to “do their bit”. Brainstorm with your child what they could do to help your family, their school, community or country, in some way.

Turning to language skills: increase their word count to include a new, election-related spectrum of words (manifesto, ballot paper, franchise, polling station), draw attention to speeches – their choice of words, length, structures, modes of delivery, clothing choices and impact. Talk about effective, misleading terminology: encourage insight, analysis and review of written and spoken words. A compendium of such language skills assumes an ever-increasing relevance in the midst of the emergent flood of dis-information.

The numerical predominance of the youth within our country, their potential for advancing transformative change and the significant objective of securing a better future for them; all serve to focus attention on their empowerment. We are reminded that they are the next generation and that it is up to us to give them the tools and opportunities to build it.

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In today’s fast-paced world, finding time for family can be a challenge. Between work, school, and extracurricular activities, it’s easy to let family time slip through the cracks. However, prioritising family dinner time can have a profound impact on the well-being and development of all family members. Here are nine compelling reasons why you should make family dinners a priority.

Strengthens family bonds

Family dinners provide an excellent opportunity for bonding. Sharing a meal allows family members to catch up, share stories and enjoy each other’s company. This togetherness fosters a sense of belonging and can strengthen family ties.

Encourages healthy eating habits

Eating together as a family tends to promote healthier eating habits. Home-cooked meals are often more nutritious than fast food or takeout and parents can model healthy eating behaviours for their children. Additionally, family meals provide a platform for educating kids about nutrition and healthy choices.

Enhances communication skills

Family dinners are a chance for everyone to engage in conversation. This interaction enhances communication skills, especially for children, who learn how to express themselves and listen to others. Regular family conversations can improve vocabulary and storytelling skills in younger family members.

Provides a sense of security and routine

Regular family dinners can provide a comforting routine and sense of security, especially for children. Knowing that they have a dedicated time to spend with their family can be reassuring and can contribute to a stable, supportive environment.

Improves academic performance

Studies have shown that children who eat regular family dinners tend to perform better academically. The routine of a family meal can help establish other productive routines and provides an opportunity for parents to discuss school and learning.

Reduces risky behaviour in teens

Teenagers who regularly engage in family dinners are less likely to engage in risky behaviours such as substance abuse. The supportive environment of family meals allows for open communication, where teens can feel comfortable discussing issues and challenges they face.

Offers an opportunity to cultivate gratitude and mindfulness

Family dinners are an excellent time to practice gratitude by acknowledging the effort put into preparing the meal and appreciating the opportunity to be together. It’s also a time to practice mindfulness by enjoying the meal without distractions like TV or smartphones. A good activity to teach children gratitude is to request that each family member mentions one thing which they were grateful for that day.

Cultivates cultural and family traditions

Family meals are a perfect opportunity to pass down traditions, share family history and explore cultural heritage through food and stories. This not only provides a sense of identity and belonging but also helps preserve important family and cultural traditions. Children who grow up understanding and participating in these traditions often feel a deeper connection to their family history and culture.

Encourages teamwork and responsibility

Preparing a meal and cleaning up afterwards can be a team effort that involves all family members. This process teaches children the value of teamwork and responsibility. Assigning tasks such as setting the table, assisting with meal preparation or cleaning up teaches children important life skills and the importance of contributing to family life. Additionally, these activities can be fun and another way to spend quality time together, further strengthening family bonds.

In conclusion, making time for family dinners is more than just a routine; it’s an investment in the emotional and physical health of your family. It strengthens bonds, encourages healthy habits, fosters communication and provides a stable routine. So, despite the hustle and bustle of daily life, try to carve out time for this important family ritual. Your family will be all the better for it.

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In the age of digital education, online learning presents unique challenges, especially for students who struggle without traditional classroom interaction. Boosting the confidence of these students is key to their academic success and overall well-being. Today we will explore effective strategies for educators and parents to help struggling online learners build confidence.

Understanding the struggle

It’s essential to recognise why some students may find online learning challenging. A lack of face-to-face interaction can lead to feelings of isolation. Not all students are equally tech-savvy, which can be frustrating. Online learning requires more self-discipline, a shift that can be daunting. Furthermore, traditional teaching methods might not translate well online, which is a disadvantage to certain learning styles.

Strategies to build confidence

Personalised feedback is crucial
Regular, constructive feedback helps students understand their progress and where they need to improve. This feedback should acknowledge individual efforts and achievements, showing students that their work is valued and noticed. Think Digital Academy (TDA) offers a Weekly Activity Report that delivers important insights into a student’s academic progress over the week. This immediate feedback empowers students and their guardians or and/or tutors to quickly gauge weekly accomplishments and evaluate academic progress.

Cultivating a growth mindset is vital
Parents and tutors should teach students that intelligence and abilities can develop with effort and persistence. It’s important to celebrate effort over perfection, reinforcing the idea that challenges are opportunities for growth.

Creating a supportive community is beneficial
Opportunities for peer interaction, like TDA’s discussion forum, can mitigate feelings of isolation. These interactions not only build academic skills but also social confidence.

Setting realistic goals helps maintain motivation
Assisting students in setting achievable goals, and recognising each milestone they reach, reinforces a sense of accomplishment.

Diverse teaching methods address different learning styles
TDA incorporates strong visual aids such as images, diagrams and videos, interactive activities and auditory materials which makes learning more accessible and enjoyable for all students.

Encouraging self-reflection allows students to see their own growth
Guiding students to reflect on their learning process by reviewing their assessment copies and working through the feedback, helps them to recognise their progress and areas needing improvement.

Parental involvement and regular check-ins play a significant role
Parents participating in their child’s learning journey provides essential support and motivation. Parents who regularly check-in with their children, show them that they are invested in their progress. These opportunities can be used to discuss challenges and successes, offering personalised guidance and support.

Promoting self-care and well-being is important
A balanced lifestyle, including activities that promote mental and physical health, is essential for academic success.

To build confidence in struggling online school students, a comprehensive approach is needed. This involves offering personalised support, promoting a growth mindset and creating a supportive learning community. By applying these strategies, educators, tutors, guardians and parents can foster an inclusive and effective online learning environment where every student feels empowered to succeed. The aim is to turn the struggle into a journey of growth and self-discovery for each learner.

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By Leo Van Eeden

As a student who has experienced both traditional and online education, I want to share my positive journey attending an online school. Initially, I was sceptical about the idea of virtual learning, but over time, I came to appreciate the many benefits it offers. Today I get to share my enjoyable experience with others and talk about the advantages of attending an online school and how it has shaped my educational experience.

I can best explain my experience in Think Digital Academy (TDA) as most enjoyable. Flexible hours and easy to understand lessons were the main highlight of my experience. The tutors and the learners on the school forum were a big help when I first started out. The students on the forum already had a WhatsApp Group, and I was added by the Admin and, although there were many learners on the group I was soon able to find likeminded people, from around the world. This broadened my horizons and exposed me to diverse perspectives and cultures. I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with students from different backgrounds, which has been an eye-opening experience. All the people were friendly and kind towards me which assisted me to ease my initial stress.

The traditional school environment can sometimes be overwhelming, leading to stress and anxiety for many students. In TDA, I found a more relaxed and comfortable learning environment. There’s less pressure to conform to societal expectations, allowing me to focus on my own growth and well-being.

The fun thing about learning for me was, that no matter my learning style the lessons were structured in such a manner that it was easy to understand and grasp the concepts needed for the specific lesson. TDA provides access to a wide range of digital resources, including interactive simulations, multimedia content and online libraries. These resources have enriched my learning experience and allowed me to explore a wealth of information beyond traditional textbooks.

Although at first, I had a timetable to cover all or most subjects in a single day, I later preferred learning one subject at a time. This personalised approach to learning has been a game-changer for me. I can explore subjects I’m genuinely passionate about and work at my own pace, ensuring a deeper understanding of the material.

The fact that the day started out quite easily, because there was no rushing to get ready and driving from home to school, instead the start to my school day was with the click of a button, made schooling 50% less stressful. One of the most significant advantages of attending TDA is the flexibility it provides. Traditional schools often have rigid schedules that can be challenging to balance with other responsibilities. However, TDA, allowed me to create a schedule that suited my needs. This flexibility has empowered me to pursue my passions, work part-time, and maintain a healthier school-life balance. The lessons were not overwhelming and hard to understand, there were no loud classmates to distract me – as I often found in a public school where you would sit in a class for forty-five minutes at a time and only really learn for 5 minutes.

The biggest thing I’m grateful for, was when it came to writing exams, there was no specific time or place I needed to go to in order to write them; I didn’t have to be in a hall which adds more pressure and stress. I was able to do any subject exam at any time, as and when I was ready. Another bonus about TDA exams is that once written, most of them returned an immediate result – thus reducing more stress about bad results or failure. TDA also has prepared study notes for each subjects’ exams – which is an invaluable perk, and really reduces exam prep time.

The most valuable thing I learnt while attending TDA was personal responsibility. Attending an online school requires a high degree of self-discipline. While some might see this as a challenge, I view it as a valuable skill that has developed during my journey. I’ve learned to manage my time effectively, set goals and take responsibility for my education. These are essential life skills that will benefit me in the long run. With no teacher looking down at me all day, it was completely up to me how much work I would do in one day. It all came down to determination and will power because I believe that no matter which walk of life you come from, you can become anything, and overcome anything – it’s all up to how determined you are to reach your goals and fight for your place as a successful individual.

My positive journey attending Think Digital Academy has transformed the way I approach education and personal growth. The flexibility, personalised learning, self-discipline, diverse resources, global perspective, technological proficiency and reduced stress levels have all contributed to a fulfilling educational experience. While online learning might not be for everyone, I believe that it has the potential to provide a rewarding and enriching educational journey for those willing to welcome a new way of learning.

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By Efterpi Sotiriou

Celebrating Heritage Day in South Africa is a poignant and vibrant experience that reflects the nation’s rich tapestry of cultures, histories and traditions. This day, observed on the 24th of September each year, offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the diversity and unity that define the South African identity.

It is a commonly known ‘phenomenon’ that young people display a lukewarm approach to matters ‘South African’ at best or are distinctly dismissive of such, at worst. This is evidenced, inter-alia, in a diminished interest in South African history at school level and ever increasing non-participation in the electoral process. Why is it that our fascinating past with rebellions, revolutions, rogues, Blood River and Isandhlwana draws less interest than Hitler’s invasion of the Sudetenland or Stalin’s five year plans? In the recently published “People Who Changed South Africa for Good” (M Blackman; N Dall), the authors ascribe this to a South African inferiority complex which sees us lesser on the world stage. Furthermore, they cite examples of “airbrushing history” in which notable personalities or events are either overlooked or written out of history books on the basis of a political agenda. The one-sidedness has chosen a few key figures to glorify while neglecting the inclusion of ‘others’ who add substance and identification to the South African story.

As we approach the end of Heritage Month – and beyond our collective enjoyment of the prospect of ‘braai day’, we (caregivers and educators) may revisit the ‘South African’ approach we transmit to our children. Such a ‘revisionist’ view has most recently been prompted on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the death of Sailor Malan (17 September). Malan was a Boland farm boy who became a successful fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain. In all the years of his air-fighting, he was never shot down (yet he destroyed over 30 enemy aircrafts). Upon the end of the Second World War, he returned to South Africa to take up the leadership of the 60, 000 strong Torch Commando in protest against the government’s (Dr DF Malan, a distant cousin) unconstitutional efforts to deprive the Coloured electors in the Cape of their vote. Upon his death, a glowing obituary in London was in high contrast to that granted to him in his own country. He was denied a military funeral. Today, he is beyond recall.

In our South African daily lives, it may feel like there isn’t much to celebrate. And yet, there are acts of courage, goodness and excellence amidst the adversity: past and present. Sailor Malan is just such an example. ‘As the adults in the room’, we should not allow disillusionment to extend into cynicism, inaction and non-participation. So, as we gather around the braai and bask in the Springboks’ successes from the couch, let us promote South Afri-CANs – not South Afri-CAN’Ts… and watch them grow! The more we can learn about our ‘real, whole’ history, the more connected we can become.

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By Efterpi Sotiriou

There are hints of green on the trees… the jacarandas are readying to burst into lilac splendour… another year has tumbled forward. Thoughts have begun to turn to end-of-year matters: grade promotion, subject choices, uni-requirements, post-school prospects… and before all that… EXAMS!

How to navigate this trickiest of challenges: as parents, caregivers, students? Most of us harbour memories of nervous cramming, careless errors, frustrating outcomes. On a general level of exam anticipation, you are ‘invited’ to engage with some personally developed observations emanating from the educational ‘front line’.

At the outset, consider the trending view that the exam-focused education system encourages “Teaching to the Test”, focusing solely on the content that is likely to appear in exams. This approach may undermine the broader educational gains of the students and may not adequately reflect the students’ overall abilities or potential. Exams often prioritise subject-specific knowledge over crucial personal development. This mis-alignment can lead to a gap between what students learn in school and what they need in order to thrive beyond it.

Although exams inescapably occupy a gateway position to academic progression, they need to be seen within the wider context of education. Important stepping stones but not perfect! Also – not the sole indicators of capacity or academic application. Educational gains cannot be reflected only within the narrow confines of that notorious maths / biology test! Operating beyond the ‘exam fence’, one may gain a fairer representation of the varying levels of learnt or integrated skills. Here, one may acknowledge related elements of learning outside the exam results, percentages and averages; build on improvements in study organisation and preparation, self-awareness and regulation in testing situations, projections of curious interest and application, language development or creative extrapolation.

Simply stated, work within the system to optimise educational growth but also seek out a balance in personal pursuits within the school ambit – don’t be restricted by it!

A reference point of interest within this review is that provided by Finland; a top educational performer. Finland prioritises learning over passing tests. Schools strive for less stress, unneeded regimentation and more caring approaches for their students. The school environment promotes co-operation not competition. Elements of this individualised and non-regimented approach are well-represented within the pedagogic structure of Think Digital Academy.

In the anticipation of the ‘exam season’ and taking a page out of the above perspectives, let us adopt a ‘softer’ approach to the examination system – driven by sensitive, individualised levels of support, a compassionate engagement, inclusive of on-going, open communication with the students. Banish the fear of failure and the fear of trying. Help build a reservoir of perseverance and willpower. And, while broadening the levels of insight and assessment remember that the ‘fundamentals still apply’ too – strive to provide a safe, stable learning space and don’t forget that a hug, a snack or late night cup of tea retain top position in the strategy of exam preparation.

That being said, here are a few keys to success in developing effective habits for independent learning.

Create a study space at home

Creating a study space at home is key when you study independently from home. Here are some tips for creating a successful study space:

  • Choose a quiet location. Finding a place in your home where you can concentrate and not be distracted by noise or other activities is important.
  • Make sure the space is well-lit and comfortable. You’ll spend a lot of time in your study space. Good lighting is crucial for reducing eye strain.
  • Stock the space with supplies. Ensure all your supplies are within easy reach, including paper, pens, pencils, highlighters, etc. See our online school stationery list.
  • Keep the space clean and organised. Keep the area neat and tidy to help yourself stay calm and focused while working.

Time management strategies for independent study

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to time management for studying independently from home. But, some general strategies can help you maximise your time and get the most out of your independent learning experience.

  • Create a schedule and stick to it. This will help you ensure you spend enough time on each subject and can also help prevent procrastination. It is also important to break down tasks into smaller, manageable pieces so you don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Set deadlines for yourself. This can help keep you on track and motivated and give you a sense of achievement when you reach your goals.
  • Remember to take breaks! Studying for long periods can be mentally and physically exhausting, so giving yourself time to relax and rejuvenate is essential.

Effective study habits for independent learning

There are some general tricks that can help anyone study independently from home.

  • Take effective notes. Taking effective notes can be a powerful tool to help you retain information and stay engaged with the material. Make sure to jot down important concepts, ideas, and key terms as you go along.
  • Active reading. This means not skimming through texts but also highlighting key points, making notes in the margins, and even writing summaries after each chapter.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice. Regular practice quizzes and/or past exam papers are essential for solidifying your understanding of the material. By testing yourself, you can identify any areas that need further review.

Overcoming challenges and staying motivated

In any journey towards success, there will be challenges and obstacles to overcome. Here are a few tips for overcoming challenges and staying motivated:

  • Set realistic goals for yourself, and break them down into small, manageable steps. This will help you stay on track and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Stay positive and focus on your long-term goals. Remember that setbacks are temporary and that you are in control of your success.
  • Take care of yourself physically and mentally. Get enough rest, exercise, and eat healthy foods to maintain energy levels.
  • Ask for help. There is no shame in admitting that you need assistance to achieve your goals.
  • Celebrate your successes. This will help keep you motivated and remind you of why you are working so hard in the first place.

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Freshly clean, tucked-in, cuddled and snuggled, in happiest anticipation of ‘story time’… Reading is a multi-layered universal ‘prescription’ for childhood joy, comfort and exploration. Perhaps with some overreach one might call them inalienable rights, firmly upheld, freely given. Central to the referenced collective is the experience of reading, fuzzy, funny, fantastical, fabulous BOOKS! Reading is an irreplaceable ‘entrée’ into the world around us, ‘vitamins’ for the growing mind.

Clue: watch the excitement of a child carrying their book into bed at night, tracing the illustrations and sounding out the letters and words they know, imagining what might be next…

Instruction: “Harness the uniquely portable magic of books” (Stephen King).

The uncontested South African truth is that the all-important practice of reading, the encounter with books is not equitably available or actively pursued. This fact is conflicted by the scientific global evidence that places reading (with meaning) at the learning forefront; for it not only prepares children for literacy participation at school but for life. This regimen remains neglected, ill-administered and minimally prioritised nationally. In the absence of a systemic government plan for sufficient budgetary allocation and the availability of trained teachers, the capacity to read a simple story remains tragically illusive.

Evidence: 81% of South African Grade 4 pupils were found to be unable to read with meaning in any language, the highest percentage of all 57 participating countries in the study. This means that of the 1.1. million children in Grade 4, about 900 000 children cannot read or comprehend written text (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, 2021).

The President has set a goal that “all children can read for meaning by age 10 by 2030”. The ambitious trajectory, undermined further by the COVID-19 pandemic, appears unattainable with “business-as-usual-schooling”. As proposed by the 2030 Reading Panel, collaborative efforts by government and the private sector, dedicated funding, a review of teacher training, minimum norms and standards, and a large-scale procurement of reading resources, remain central to the desired outcomes. All these interventions are important but, at this juncture, we also need to ask: “How can WE help?”.

The problem does not lie with the children, the problem lies with the policy makers and the existing system, yet we should not forget that the basis of early literacy development begins at home. It doesn’t require expensive resources, just a willing and active carer and / or parent / family member.

In the real world of working parents, single parenthood, guardian-care and multiple limitations and barriers to involved parenting; bed-time-story-reading may seem like something that only happens on TV. There may be no book to speak of…

What is needed is a strong sense of awareness, an understanding of the formative role of reading and an embrace of the reading culture solution. Take on any / all opportunities to read with / to your child. Often. Regularly. Informally. Variably. With meaning and extrapolation. Read for joy. Make reading fun. Download our free digital stories from our website. Visit the local library. Exchange and share books. Find an atlas. Adopt a favourite comic strip. Scan an advertisement. Take note of newspaper headlines. Generate a love of shared and paired reading. Be aware of excessive emphasis on correction, reading difficulties or comprehension questions. Encourage interactive, independent and expression-filled reading. Routinely read at a time that works for both you and your child. Practice reading a short poem for a family audience. Celebrate finishing a book. Visit a bookshop with a child. Use technology wisely. Digital resources can be helpful to extend the reading experience. Choose interactive e-books or reading applications designed for children.

Conclusion: Seize every opportunity to share reading with your child. When it comes to reading to your children, the benefits to your child’s life range far beyond the development of a close bond with them, although that’s certainly one of them. Reading aloud to children is truly the single-most important activity for building the understanding and skills essential for reading success that your child will carry with them throughout their life.

Subscribe to our online Reading Room to receive FREE stories every week. It will bring enlightenment and enlarge their world. Dr Seuss said it best, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you will go!”.

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(Even though we know you don’t have much since switching to online.)

Online schooling can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it’s not without challenges.
One of the biggest hurdles that online schooling parents face is managing stress.
Between juggling daily responsibilities and trying to provide a quality education for your children, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and burnt out.

But fear not!

In this article, we’ll explore the common causes of online schooling stress and offer practical tips for combatting them.

Common causes of online schooling stress

Although online schooling can be a oodles of fun for both parents and children, it can also be a source of stress for the whole family. Here are some common causes of online school stress:

  • Feeling like you’re not doing enough. This is a common cause of online school stress, as parents often feel they should do more to ensure their child’s success.
  • Worrying about your child’s future. Many parents worry about whether or not online schooling will set their child up for success.
  • Lack of routine. Online schooling can be flexible, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a routine. A lack of structure can lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
  • Unclear expectations. It’s essential to have realistic expectations for online schooling. If you’re putting too much pressure on your child or yourself, it can lead to stress.
  • Too much pressure. Besides having clear expectations, giving yourself and your child some grace is crucial. Relax and enjoy this fun process!

3 Ways students can manage online school stress

There are several ways that students can manage the stress of online schooling. Some common methods include:

  • Taking breaks throughout the day. Make sure to schedule some time for breaks, whether five minutes every hour or a longer break in the afternoon. This will help you avoid burnout and return to your studies refreshed.
  • Keeping a routine. A daily routine can help reduce stress levels by providing structure and predictability. Wake up at the same time each day, eat meals regularly, and carve out time for academics and leisure activities.
  • Staying organised. A cluttered space can lead to a cluttered mind, so keep your workspace tidy. Invest in a planner or utilise digital tools to help you keep track of deadlines and upcoming tests and/or assignments.

How parents can help their kids cope with stressful times

Online schooling can be a big adjustment for both children and parents. Here are some ways you can help your child with online school stress:

  • Allow for some flexibility. If your child is struggling with a particular subject or task, try breaking it up into smaller chunks or allowing them to take a break before returning to it.
  • Make time for breaks and fun activities. Online schooling can be intense, so schedule in time for your child to relax and have fun.
  • Encourage healthy habits. Taking care of one’s body can go a long way in reducing stress levels overall. Think Digital Academy offers a wide variety of live social clubs that your children can join to learn new skills, take up a new hobby and make new friends. This is a great way to have fun beyond the curriculum.

Expert tips to help parents manage their stress levels

Many parents struggle with finding the right balance between work, home, and education. That’s why we’ve compiled some tips to help you manage your stress levels.

  • Take time for yourself. As a parent, getting caught up in caring for your children and schooling them at home is easy. However, it’s essential to take some time for yourself every day.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to ask friends or family for help. They can watch your kids while you take a break or even lend an ear if you need someone to talk to.
  • Find a support group. Other parents in your area are likely schooling their children online too. Finding a support group can give you much-needed social interaction with others going through the same thing.

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This month we celebrate our youth and raise awareness of the challenges they face and their future importance in our society.

Youth Month takes place in many countries around the world. In South Africa, it is being celebrated under the theme “Accelerating youth economic emancipation for a sustainable future”.

Education is key to drawing more young people into the economy. Why? Because education raises productivity and creativity, as well as stimulates entrepreneurship and technological breakthroughs – all of which lead to greater economic growth and a sustainable economic future.

Research shows the direct relationship between how much you earn and your years of schooling. Each additional year of schooling means more money in your pocket, with a significant increase in those who have Matric (Grade 12).

Not only does schooling affect your earnings, but parents’ education level has a significant impact on their children’s success.

How do we nurture our youth?

  • Make learning fun by providing online class environments, digital lessons and books and teachers who can and do!
  • Empower the young through engagement in multiple activities beyond the classroom – in sport facilities, music, dance, entrepreneurship, community affairs, access to study / internet hubs.
  • Nurture the youth by embracing their youthful optimism, and listening to their banter and pleas. Know that you are ‘watering’ a beautiful bloom readying to unfurl if only you do your part in the ‘garden’.
  • Remain sensitive and responsive to the ‘tender stems’ of youth. Beyond their sometimes apparent brash, dismissive eye rolls, lie individuals yearning for your love, attention and care. Give it abundantly and freely.
  • Optimise the potential of the youth. Create, and support initiatives that give purpose and outlet to emergent youth development and activation – in the home, community and, at the work place.

Education for an empowered youth – we’ve got the answer!

It’s no secret that here at Think Digital, we take the slog and boredom out of learning and teach our online lessons in an interactive and engaging way. Perfect for ensuring that your children achieve their school goals while learning to love learning. Not only that, you can also learn at any age (see our Adult Matric). Curious? Why not try our online learning environment by enrolling for our free 14 day trial.

More to explore:

If silver linings exist from the pandemic or the current youth mental health crisis, it’s that awareness about the importance of supporting mental health is at an all-time high. A win for sure! But awareness is just the first step. Real change includes access to quality mental health services and support for everyone who needs them. We know we can’t do it alone and are calling on all our TDA family and to join us by increasing the love we show our children a little bit more every day!

Mental health is an essential aspect of our overall well-being and this holds especially true for children. A child’s mental health is crucial for their healthy development, learning, and socialisation. However, despite the importance of mental health, it is often overlooked or stigmatised, leading to negative outcomes for children. Therefore, in honour of Mental Health Awareness, let’s discuss why it’s important to prioritise mental health awareness in children.

Childhood mental health problems: prevalence and impact

Mental health problems among children are quite common. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about one in six children aged 6-17 years, experience mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and behavioural disorders. Furthermore, mental health problems can have a significant short-term and long-term impact on children’s lives. These can include difficulty in socialising and making friends, poor academic performance, self-harm and even suicide.

Stigma and misconceptions: barriers to mental health awareness

Despite the prevalence and impact of mental health problems in children, stigma and misconceptions are still significant barriers to mental health awareness. Children and their families may avoid seeking help due to shame, fear of being labelled, or a lack of understanding about mental health problems. Additionally, there is a widespread belief that mental health issues are not real illnesses and that children will eventually outgrow them. Such beliefs can prevent early identification and treatment, leading to further complications.

The importance of mental health awareness in children

Mental health awareness in children is essential for several reasons. Firstly, it helps children and their families understand that mental health disorders are real and that seeking help is essential. It also reduces stigma and helps children feel less isolated and ashamed, making it easier to seek help. Secondly, mental health awareness can help with early identification and intervention, reducing the severity and long-term impact of mental health disorders. This, in turn, can lead to better academic, social and emotional outcomes for children. Finally, mental health awareness in children helps create a more supportive and inclusive environment that promotes overall well-being.

How can we promote mental health awareness in children?

There are several ways to promote mental health awareness in children. Firstly, we need to provide education and resources to parents, teachers and caregivers on identifying and addressing mental health disorders in children. This can include providing mental health screenings, counselling services, and training on how to support children with mental health disorders. Secondly, we need to raise awareness and reduce stigma through public campaigns, school programmes and community events. Finally, we need to prioritise mental health funding and research to better understand the root causes of mental health problems in children and develop effective prevention and treatment strategies.

Mental health awareness in children is crucial for their overall well-being and healthy development. However, stigma and misconceptions continue to prevent children and their families from seeking help. By promoting mental health awareness, we can reduce stigma, increase early identification and intervention and promote better academic, social and emotional outcomes for children. Therefore, let us prioritise mental health awareness in children and create a more supportive and inclusive environment for all.

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It is my contention / observation, from the wings of a long-time teaching career, that ‘true education’, in its ‘wholesome best’ should reach, even over-reach, into all aspects of the lived experience. Education should neither begin nor end with the school bell.

Parents / carers commit to optimise the benefits of school-going for their children. Some are able to extend those with their support and encouragement of various extra-mural activities and augment them with cultural opportunities. There are dashes from cricket practice to choir. Corrective strategies in reading, writing, extra-maths are added to the ever expanding ‘school run’.

The online experience is arguably far more dependent on parental activation and organisational support in order to provide the above range of exposure without the traditional school framework. Their input is impressively ever-present beyond the attendant demands on time and resources.

Without straying into simplistic generalisation, I think it is true to say that every parent wishes and works towards providing the ‘best possible’ range of educational opportunities for their child. Based on this well-validated assumption, one may conscientise parents to widen their paradigm of educational exposure for their children into experiential learning. The proposed goal is to weave in the ‘bigger picture’ of life around them. Integrate learning to include divergent views, nuanced language, rear-view historical insight, contact with a local baker, security vs protection mechanisms, understanding waste, influence of the built environment on the everyday; transport…

In short, never close the door on learning ~ at a traffic light, in Checkers, in an overcrowded bus, around the table, on the way to church, after a fight, talk about a billboard on the highway, walk through a museum, make / sell popcorn together, identify the birds in your garden, prepare a family quiz for Sunday evening, page through a newspaper, plant / monitor a fruit tree of choice, scrutinise a savings account, a telephonic chat with an auntie … the possibilities – opportunities – are endless! The benefits are unquestionable! The development of capacities for insight, reflection, tolerance, compassion, expanded knowledge horizons, persistence, critical thought, responsibility… the illusive ‘soft skills’ whose absence mars the ‘educatedness’ of even the top mark achievers!

It is worth remembering that life is best filled by learning as much as you can about as much as you can, taking pride in whatever you are doing, having empathy, sharing ideas, running, being enthusiastic, mountain climbing, learning to love! This doesn’t happen within the narrow confines of the classroom / digital learning arena / on the rugby field… ‘educatedness’ comes with an embrace of the whole of life!

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As technology continues to rapidly advance and change the way we live, learn and work, it’s important for parents to prepare their children for the future of education.

The future of education will likely involve a greater use of technology and will place a greater emphasis on skills such as creativity, critical thinking and collaboration.

To help prepare children for this future, parents can take several steps such as fostering a love of learning, developing strong study skills, encouraging technology proficiency, fostering creativity and critical thinking, promoting collaboration and by modelling empathy to them. By taking these steps, parents can help their children develop the skills and mindset they need to succeed in the ever-changing world of education.

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By Efterpi Sotiriou

As educators we bear our responsibilities seriously, accountably, with steely determination. We are mostly very busy: planning, printing, disseminating subject matter, marking – ‘fountains’ of knowledge, sound instruction, disciplinarians even!

At the ‘end of it all’, we sit back proudly in reflection of ‘a job well done’ – bountiful distinctions, escalating matric pass rates, impressive personal achievements. We may be inclined to give ourselves the proverbial ‘pat on the back’… but… should we?

How do we honestly and earnestly respond to the question: has the student been personally empowered by the expert knowledge flooding the school satchel?

The plea here is for active, life-related ‘translations’ of the subject matter.

So, for example, in the fact-intense, fast-paced, curriculum-driven history classroom, as one relates / demonstrates / explains / describes the minutiae of Hitler’s foreign policy or of Stalin’s five-year plans or the Sharpeville massacre… don’t stop there!

Tackle questions of leadership, styles of political organisation, criteria in assessment of programmes, present parallels, impact on communities, who gains? Who suffers?

Consider / contemplate wider issues at stake: universal rights / individuals rights, projections of image, patterns of unrest / revolution, the impact of matters of the purse, rights of citizens, foreigners…

Extend the conversation into the personal: what kind of leader would one chose to be? Who is who in the family? How does it work? What if any, are the justifications of ‘strong / forceful’ leadership? Responses to failure, impacts of punishment…

Against the backdrop of historical information covered within the curriculum, how would the individual structure / review personal, family, South African prospects?

The possibilities for engagement, self-application and growth are tantalisingly available, ready for the picking. Opportunities not be missed.”

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By Efterpi Sotiriou

‘Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learnt at school’ (Albert Einstein).

The task of education is widely multi-faceted, extending far above and beyond the narrow parameters of what is taught in the classic exchange of subject information at school.

Educators are commissioned with transmitting and inspiring an all-important value system as a carry-over life-tool. In application, however, the targeted paradigm of the student is a complex one, underpinned with youthful vulnerability, peer pressures, pre-established curriculum-rigid frameworks and parental prescriptions.

Critical questions arise, inter-alia:

  • What subject matter to include in the education journey?
  • Who decides on content, method, assessment?
  • How to dynamize content with life meaning?

Ultimately, the objective of the teacher is irrefutably daunting but privileged in equal measure. Empowering a child to enter ‘the big world’ with knowledge, skill, insight, sensitivity, tolerance, compassion and awareness must remain the objectives of the educator.

When confronted by decisions in their lives, pupils should be able to make informed choices. As educators, we are required to enable pupils to choose commitment and diligence over indifference, the difficult and worthy over the easy. We should empower them to defy mere conformity to robotized assessment expectations and develop their talents to the limits of their personal potential. The gains in self-respect are immeasurable.

We wish them to be proud of themselves, helpful, purposeful, generous-rather than selfish and self-centered. These are the attributes of true education. Its far-flung capacity should be earnestly sought, cultivated and upheld. It’s ‘the only way’.”

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Children are always learning new skills, new ideas and new ways of doing things. Like, discovering how to make TikTok videos upside down, in 2.8 seconds, or, spending four hours doing a YouTube-athon learning how to boil an egg without water, or watching 80% of the internet trying to figure out whether dogs make better pets than cats. In fact, learning something new every day, is the way they develop and become more confident in their knowledge and abilities. But learning something new every day can become challenging for children unless, we, as parents and educators, inspire them to do so.

Helping your child become a better learner is as easy as motivating them and giving them the positive reinforcement they need to learn and grow. With just a little bit of your time and effort, your child can become better prepared for school and the world beyond it. With that said, we defy you to read through these six tips without letting out an audible groan of joy. We’re certain that they’re exactly what’ll set you off on your journey to success as a parent.

Let’s take a look at some ways that you can help your child become a better learner:

1. Identify their learning style

By identifying your child’s specific learning style, you can adapt the way new information is presented to them. Teachers, tutors and parents should work together to ensure that their children get the best education possible, and that sometimes means creating custom tailored lesson plans that suit the needs of the child.

2. Encourage questions

The more questions the better! Encouraging children to ask questions until they understand the ideas or material they are learning, is important for the proper development of their brains. Limiting their curiosity could lead to lower test results and a decreased ability to learn new information.

3. Learn from mistakes

Show your child that it is okay to learn from their mistakes. By letting your child make mistakes, they will have the opportunity to learn from those mistakes and develop better reasoning and problem solving skills as a result.

4. Build their confidence

Praise and motivate your child. Teach them that through hard work and discipline, they can do anything they set their minds to. Encouraging them to try something new and learn from every new experience is a good way to help them become a much better learner.

5. Get enough sleep

While this might seem obvious, the fact is that many children in South Africa and, the rest of the world, don’t get nearly enough sleep for their brains to recover and save memories and new facts from the previous day.

6. Contact Think Digital Academy

To learn more ways to help your child become a better learner and how South Africa’s 4x Award Winning Online School can provide your child with a much better education, reach out to us on WhatsApp, by phone call or mail.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it on your favourite social media sites.

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Kids these days…

They’re almost always indoors. Influencing, and TikTok-ing, and weird internet challenge-ing.

These days, smartphones are the name of the game, and nearly every single child has one. We don’t even need to sing their praises, goodness knows you can probably get them to do that themselves. From scrolling through social media to snapping millions of selfies, if it ain’t a smartphone, teenagers nowadays ain’t interested.

Gone are the good ol’ days when we couldn’t wait to get home, not to do homework or anything – let’s get real – but we just couldn’t wait to get our hands on our parents’ classic Nokia cellphone so that we could spend the afternoon beating our previous score on Snake.

Fast forward a few years later and we had our very own brick of a phone with which to play games, try out polyphonic ringtones and send SMSs JUST long enough to not use up all our airtime and start sending “Please Call Me’s”. Just look how far we’ve come.

We live in the most awesome time in history – the digital age. Google has the answer to every question we can conceive, we never get lost because of GPS and TikTok captures our latest dance moves. But we all know that social media can be a tricky place to navigate, especially as a teenager. With their lives primarily lived online, teenagers are very vulnerable in the digital age and can easily find themselves in hot water if they don’t use the web responsibly. From cyberbullying to copyright infringement, avoiding these pitfalls is essential for staying safe and out of trouble. One innocent mistake can damage your child’s reputation, result in legal costs and even land them in prison. In this article, we’ll explore some of the ways you can help protect your child while they use social media.

  1. Set rules and expectations: Make sure your child understands the importance of being safe online. It may seem obvious to you not to share intimate information or photographs on social media, but explain the importance of this to your children. Talk to them about appropriate behaviour, such as not accepting friend requests from people they do not know, sending messages to strangers, and not meeting up with people they don’t know in person.
  2. Monitor activity: Many social media sites allow parents to monitor their child’s activity. Take advantage of these features and keep an eye on what your child is doing online.
  3. Educate yourself: Social media is more than a passing craze, it is a fundamental shift in the way our children communicate. Become familiar with the different social media sites your children use, so you understand how they work and can spot anything suspicious.
  4. Restrict access: Consider setting up restrictions on the devices your children use to access social media. You can also block certain websites and disable certain features. Teach your children that with great power comes great responsibility!
  5. Talk to them: It’s important to have regular conversations with your children about social media use, so they can feel comfortable talking to you if something bothers them or makes them feel uncomfortable online. Talk to them about context, tone and audience so they understand that saying something at a party to a particular audience is very different to posting something on social media where it can be misinterpreted and there is no little control over the audience.
  6. Report any suspicious activity: If you come across anything on your child’s social media accounts that seems inappropriate or dangerous, take action right away. Most sites have ways to report suspicious activity, so make sure to use these features if necessary.

By taking the time to protect your child while they are using social media, you can help ensure that they have a positive and safe experience. Remember – stay smart, stay safe and have fun in the digital age.

*Bonus* – if it feels wrong, don’t do it! That should be your mantra in the digital age. 🙂

Happy surfing!

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Mind Power courses

At Think Digital we’ve developed two short courses, Mind Power for Kids (ages 6 – 12) and Mind Power for Teens (ages 13 – 18), that is fun to take and teaches them how to navigate through life and remain positive and focused.

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