I’ve had a busy summer here at Storymakers, and I can’t quite believe how quickly it’s gone.
Many people have booked extra 1:1 sessions to help prepare for the 11+ exam. Although not every county in the UK has grammar schools, lots of them do and the 11+ is a big deal for many children (and their parents) as they spend Year 5 preparing for the test. The children who live in my local area (Kent) tend to go into Year 5 with a sense of trepidation, but they always finish the year by acknowledging that it wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be. Preparation is essential, and as long as they get to grips with the exam content and practice the techniques required for the test, they can go into it confidently, knowing they’ve done all they can.
During the summer, I hosted a week-long 11+ English revision course.
We did one hour every morning, working through some comprehension pieces and brushing up on SPAG. The summer of Year 5 is not the time to start working towards the 11+ test. Regular practice throughout Year 5 is the best way of ensuring they are prepared and don’t find the elements of the exam a surprise when they come to do it. Schools don’t teach the 11+ syllabus, so you need to either get the practice books and help your child go through them or enlist the help of a tutor. Some tutors offer specific 11+ tutoring, covering all the content, including verbal and non-verbal reasoning, English and maths. Then there are others, like me, who focus specifically on individual subjects.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a school holiday without me doing a story-writing workshop! I love doing these as it means I get to work with a group of children to help them plan, develop and write a story. Not only that, once the stories are completed, they are printed as a hardback book. The joy of this is seeing (or hearing) how happy and proud the children are when they receive their books in the post. It’s a tangible thing that proves what you can achieve when you put your mind to it, and very motivating, even for the most reluctant of writers!
As well as working, I’ve had the opportunity to get away a couple of times this summer.
First stop was Croatia, which was beautiful. However, we arrived in the middle of a heatwave, and it was unbearably hot most of the time. On a cooler note, I spent a week in my homeland of Yorkshire with a visit to Haworth (home of the Bronte sisters), the historic Piece Hall in Halifax and the picturesque town of Knaresborough, where we visited Mother Shipton’s Cave and made a wish in the sacred waters of the natural spring and well. As much as I love my work, I believe it’s important to have time off. I work from home, so I barely have any separation from work and home life (other than that my office is at the bottom of my garden). For the first time, I put an out-of-office on my email when I went to Croatia and did a complete switch-off.
I believe it’s important to find the balance between screen time and ‘normal life’.
I’ve been making inroads into this during this month and even had a week of no social media whatsoever. Yes, you did read that right. It’s not as easy as it sounds and it made me realise how absentmindedly I would check my phone and scroll through the social media apps. I’ve stopped doing this now and limit myself to first thing in the morning and at the end of the day. I honestly feel relieved. I’d recommend giving it a go.
All this extra time has given me the headspace to think and I’m finding it’s helping with my creativity. I have an idea for a new novel and I want to add to my knowledge with some CPD; I’m looking into some courses, one of which is concerning creative writing as a therapy, as I strongly believe in the healing powers of writing for mental health.
Looking forwards, it’s now time to start thinking about my groups again, which will begin in September.
I will be continuing to offer the writing group on Wednesday evenings for children aged 7+, where I will be challenging them with various prompts and writing styles. On Saturdays, I’ll be running the Writer Buds group for children working towards school entrance exams in Year 6 (11+ and independent school exams). It’s not exclusively for children who will be sitting exams, though. We will be covering all types of writing, from descriptive pieces and stories to opinion pieces and balanced arguments, and each week we will work through a piece from start to finish. Then, of course, I can’t forget the Young Writers, my older group. I run a youth creative writing class for children beyond Year 6 interested in creative writing who want to continue honing their craft. I can’t wait to start them up again.
Although I offer both online and in-person lessons, I continue to host my groups online only as it means I can welcome children into the Storymakers fold from all over the UK and even the world and I love being able to do that.
It’s an exciting and positive time with lots to look forward to.