6 tips for getting prepared for Year 11

6 tips for getting prepared for Year 11

Being prepared for year 11 – which in Australia means senior high school – feels almost as daunting as getting your five-year-old ready for ‘big school’. Only this time the school is actual big school and your five-year-old is HUGE.

My son starts year 11 in three weeks time. I was actually quite surprised by how important the transition to year 10 to year 11 has felt as a parent.

I mean, I assumed that Max would be feeling it. He selected HSC subjects towards the end of year 10 as part of preparing for year 11, and that was quite the punch in the guts.

Shit suddenly got very real.

As for me, there’s a real sense of my ‘baby’ is growing up. I feel that more so than ever before. The sensation of ‘running out of time‘ to raise him into adulthood is my own ‘shit got real’ moment.

Max, on the other hand, is remarkably chill about the whole thing. Mainly because I don’t think he has any idea what’s in store for him (despite his school doing everything right to get the message through!). I reckon there’s a meltdown in his future in about week 2 of year 11… sound familiar?

Here are some tips to make the transition into year 11 a bit smoother for both yourself and your teen. And do remember, being prepared for year 11 isn’t the end of the world BUT, it does mark the beginning of the end of school… yikes.

6 tips for getting prepared for year 11

1. Uniforms

Many schools have a different uniform for seniors in year 11 and 12 (sometimes senior school includes year 10, so your teen may already be kitted out). If you haven’t already, make sure your senior has their new uniform ready to go on day one. They might think they won’t mind continuing to wear the junior uniform… until they rock up first day and they’re the only one. 

2. Subject choices

Getting prepared for year 11 usually starts in year 10 at most high schools. Subject choices are already made, but they may not be locked in. If your senior has had second thoughts about their choices over the holidays, first day back is the right day to go and see their year adviser to discuss options.

Here's how to help your teen prepare for year 11

Often the school timetable and class sizes can accommodate some last minute changes, but it’s not infinite. If you want to make a change, be first in line.

This is especially important if your child has a particular university and degree in mind that they are aiming to get into. They need to make sure they are studying all the necessary subjects and talk to their adviser about getting into the correct classes.

3. School structure

At many schools, year 11 is structured quite differently to years 7-10. Your child will have learned about any differences when they were in year 10, but it’s worth reminding them to check in. This is especially relevant if your school is one like ours that offers classes outside of school hours. An earlier start than the school day is worth knowing about before day one!

Teaching the senior year also relies on students doing more independent learning.

It’s no longer enough to simply show up to class or even get the homework done.

Practising and revision at home is essential, as is extending their learning in key subject areas beyond the classroom. Teachers will, of course, assist with this, but it pays to be aware that out-of-class learning is not just expected, but mandatory.

Remember, too, that year 11 is only three terms. Year 12 starts in term four of the year 11 school year… so there’s plenty to fit into a mere three terms.

4. Workload

There’s no doubt about it, the workload increases substantially from year 10 to year 11. Students are expected to learn more in a shorter period of time. The faster pace of learning means it’s easy to fall behind if you aren’t prepared.

Being prepared for year 11 starts with organisation and time management skills

This means that your child’s commitment and organisation capabilities (see below) will be expected to increase as well. Talk to your teen about their expectations and how they think they will manage the extra load. Ask them what steps they will put into place to ensure they keep up and what they would do if they found they were falling behind.

It’s worth reading through the subject curriculum for each of your child’s subject choices. You can find the curriculum for each subject on your state’s education page.

5. Organisation

The extra workload, expectations and seniority at school means that our kids need to sort themselves out and quick! It’s time to bring out all the organisation and time management tools you can muster and get them into a routine. Forming good habits from the start is an essential part of being prepared for year 11 and beyond.

Tips for newbies are still relevant in year 11: 21+ tips from teachers to get organised at high school

 A (paper) calendar, prominently displayed, is a good starting point, backed up by their digital calendar. Paper is important because writing things down helps them stick in our memory. Setting weekly and monthly goals using the calendar can help your child stay on track and up to date.

It will also pay to try out and master some good study techniques.

6. Anxiety

There’s an epidemic happening right now, and it’s not just coronavirus. The pressure that society, most schools and, yes, so many of us parents put on senior high school kids is frankly ridiculous. It’s caused a noticeable ramping up of diagnosable anxiety in our young people.

We must do better: Our teens are in crisis and they need our help

We are failing our kids in this way and it’s imperative that we support them emotionally, mentally and spiritually throughout their senior years. Teens need to know that high school results are not the end of the world, nor even the beginning. Senior high school is just a very small part of their overall life.

Preparing for year 11 means encouraging them to enjoy these last years of ‘babyhood’,  while we support them to do the best they can.

Do you have a year 11 starter? How are you feeling?

Feature image by Siora Photography; library stacks by Adam Winger; writing by Green Chameleon 

What my kids do when ‘there’s nothing to do’ in the holidays

What my kids do when ‘there’s nothing to do’ in the holidays

Happy new year! I know, I’m slow with my happies this year. We’ve been away climbing in the (non)snowy mountains (where I achieved the unimaginable) and doing beachy things down the south coast of NSW. Matter of fact, we had so much on in the first few weeks of the hols that I don’t think my kids complained about having nothing to do once. Miracle!

Now though, we’ve been back for a week, and the days are slowly melding into each other. If it wasn’t for work, I wouldn’t know what day it was, let alone what week. There is one thing keeping me company, though, and it’s that old refrain of “there’s nothing to do” from my kids.

Keeping older kids occupied

I know how hard it is to keep older kids occupied in the school holidays. I bet you any money that most of you reading this will also have kids moping about the place complaining that there is nothing to do.

The stirring of guilt that we’re not paying vast sums of money at theme parks, resorts, movies, or other attractions is always there in the background too, is they not? The pressure to keep kids ‘entertained’ with organised activities is exhausting.

Fear not, our kids would most likely be moaning the same thing whether we were home or on an expensive tropical island. Unless they are surrounded by friends, this is the true Age of Boredom.

The Age of Boredom is definitely the teens

Life is boring, the family is boring… mostly because tweens and teens are very, very boring. They’ve outgrown the ‘little kid’ crafty/playground/playing thing, but are not yet ‘adult’ enough to sort themselves out by being productive. For example, cleaning the house is an excellent way to pass the time…

Over the years, I’ve pulled together plenty of things that older kids might like to do:

However, most of the time even my own kids will refuse point-blank to even read such a list, let alone summon the strength to do an activity listed on it.

So, yeah, I get it. Here’s what my ‘there’s nothing to do’ kids are actually doing these school holidays.

The 12-year-old

My extrovert needs to be surrounded by company at all times or she grows very restless indeed. She’s the queen of the ‘there’s nothing to do’ kingdom. Usually expressed like this (about five minutes after she wakes up late in the morning): there’s noooooooothing to dooooooo.

She had a blast over Christmas and the new year with the friends and family we were away with. Unfortunately, she hasn’t had much luck corralling her friends to do things since we got back.

Baking is a good activity when there's nothing to do

As a result, she’s watching way too much Netflix and baking way too many sweet things. She loves to do both.

Three good things to bake:

I had to put an end to the baking this week as we’re all in danger of needing to size up if we don’t stop eating cake. Now Lottie spends her days floating about the pool, snapchatting her mates, facetiming her bestie and dreaming up ways to antagonise her brother.

Fortunately, her big sister is usually up for something active, so as long as Lottie can muster up the energy, there’s always someone to hang out with. The two of them happily headed off to a tie dye workshop run by our local council – something neither of them would ever do on their own…

The 15-year-old

This is one kid who I have barely ever heard “there’s nothing to do” from; actually probably not ever.

Ari never has any shortage of things to keep her occupied. She parkours across the suburb, writes for the blog she started with her best friend, exercises or sews to order (doggie bandanas kept her occupied last year, then Christmas gift bags, and now cushion covers for me!).

Parkouring when there's nothing to do

She came up with the school holiday challenge that breaks the days into blocks of being productive, active, creative or cognitive. It’s added great structure into her days. This one has no time for screens, preferring to do her own thing rather than watch someone else do theirs.

Take on the challenge: Here’s how to help your kid structure the school holidays (free printables)

Most days she is on her slackline, skateboard, or in the pool. She’s also eagerly awaiting a new mountain bike to ride the trails around our house. Oh, and she’s learning Italian via Duolingo and also trying to train herself to be ambidextrous. As you do.

Yep, no issues here.

The 16-year-old

My boy used to be a gamer, but then he found music and hardly plays games at all anymore. I don’t know if it was a ‘grew out of’ situation, or if playing his guitar, uke and the piano is just more his thing these days. Have you noticed a drop-off of gaming as your boy has grown older? I’m curious to hear.

What to do when there's nothing to do

So, Max basically plays his instruments and sings from wake up until bedtime. Let’s just say, we are deeply, deeply regretting getting him an electric guitar for Christmas…

He takes breaks by going to the gym, meeting up with friends, heading out for long walks (the kid loves bushwalking and birdwatching) or by chatting with his mates via Discord. There are various group chats on the go. One way too late at night for my liking…

If your kid likes gaming: Help! My Kid is a Gamer! – so what happens next?

The only issue I have with Max at this age is that he never, ever wants to do anything with the rest of us. We basically see him at dinner time or at random times during the day if he wants to play a new song for us. That’s it.

I miss my boy in lots of ways, but I’m also aware of how awful he is if I drag him out and make him come out with us. It’s never a good idea.

What are your kids up to these school holidays?

Feature image by Joshua Rawson-Harris; pug by Priscilla Du Preez; baking by Priscilla Du Preez; parkour by Jessica Da Rosa; guitar by Oleg Ivanov

Make the most of school holidays at home

Make the most of school holidays at home

I’ve seen a lot of articles around about ‘staying sane during school holidays at home’ and I get it, I really, truly do. The holidays at home are hard work because they force us away from the everyday family routine that makes life easier for us. Holidays then have the added stress of demanding to be fun and interesting and sunny (aren’t holidays always sunny?). Add the threat of COVID lockdown to the mix and things are looking very stressful indeed.

I know lots of mums feel panic rising as January approaches and the ‘holiday feels’ of the Christmas period fade. You realise you’re basically stuck at home for the school holidays and it just feels like… well, more home than holiday.

More here: How to enjoy school holidays at home when there’s nowhere to go

The structure that I have in place to keep my family of five ticking along is like life’s scaffolding and when I kick it away, the whole building feels like it might come down. The good news is, I’ve found out that the life we’ve built is nice and solid without the supporting structure and I’m pretty sure yours is too. So rather than angst about the holidays, I choose to take them for what they are: goodbye routine, hello good times!

When you think about it, school holidays at home are actually kind of awesome.

That said, I’ve pulled together 10 ideas to help turn them into the carefree time that families need at this time of year. A fun break from the everyday where everyone gets some downtime to rest and revive ready for another school year ahead. Happy holidays indeed.

How to make the most of holidays at home

1. Have some general rules

You don’t need to go crazy with loads of rules, but a few rules will keep you from going crazy. Here are our ground rules for holidays at home:

  • Take care of each other and your things
  • No one gets left out if they want to join in
  • Clean up one game before starting on another
  • Make your bed each morning
  • Tidy your bedroom each evening
  • Stop when you’re asked to stop
  • Listen when you’re asked to listen

That’s it. It seems to work for us most days.

2. Roughly plan it out

It’s hard enough to keep track of the family during school days, let alone when everyone is making their own plans in the holidays. If the kids make arrangements with their friends, I’m usually involved as the uber driver, so I need to know.

Plan your days to make the most of school holidays at home

Print out a planner and get everyone to write down what they’re up to. To get my kids to start using the planner in the first place, I had to add some consequences when something came up that wasn’t added. Each kid missed an activity or two before they started making it a priority. 

3. Keep some structure in your days

Older kids thrive on routine, but they don’t need to have the same routine day in day out. We have a separate routine for holidays that is loose and flexible, but keeps things moving just the same. Some days we will have an outing, friends visiting or other activity planned, but on the days we are at home for the day (most days), it’s important to add some structure.

My daughter came up with the idea of the holiday challenge earlier this year, and we’ve been using this to add structure to the school holidays. It means the kids have about 3 hours out of their day dedicated to something that’s NOT SCREENS, which is important to me – and hopefully to them, too.

You can find out more about the holiday challenge here.

4. Have a list of activities

Here’s a list of things tweenies will love.

Some of the activities may need your input, depending on how your kid goes. Most are things you can set up and leave the kids to it.

Plenty of ideas here: 100+ engaging, non-cringe things for teens to do at home

7. Don’t overschedule

You want them to get a little bit bored (see below) so they remember that they have an imagination. Plus, when you schedule something in every day of the holidays, it’s bloody stressful. Every day becomes somewhere you have to be, so the holidays turn out to be quite similar to the school term with rushed mornings and a general scent of overwhelm. Reeeeelaaaaaax.

Let the kids have a few friends over every other day, plan one ‘big’ activity each week and the rest of the time let them decide what they want to do. They don’t have to be ‘on’ all the time to have fun.

6. It’s okay to be bored

When kids say “I’m bored” it means you are doing a good job. It’s not our job as a mum to entertain our grown kids 24/7 – that’s their job. I always answer, “only boring people are bored” and it annoys them so much every time (very satisfying).

Being bored is okay when you holiday at home

We used to have a “boredom buster” jar when they were a bit younger and that is certainly a good way to keep them looking for something to do rather than flopping around whinging about their sorry lot in life (that’s so annoying when they do that, isn’t it?).

Getting them to make a list of things they can turn to would be the ‘older kid’ equivalent. Either way, boredom makes kids creative and resourceful and that’s a very good thing indeed.

7. Spend plenty of time apart

School holidays are a great time to up sticks and go out with your man. It’s okay for the kids to have a late night during the school hols (let’s face it, they’re not going to sleep while the cats are away). You’ll definitely benefit from the time away from each other.  

Go see a movie on cheap night Tuesday followed by a late dinner. Go see a band at a pub. Go out with a bunch of other escapee parents. Just go.

8. Do it with a friend

If your kids are younger, you’ll most likely need the support of someone to look after them while you either work or catch a break. This was certainly the case for me until I felt my kids were old enough to be left to their own devices for the day. Of course, leaving them to their ‘own devices’ generally meant just that! Screens!

How do you know? What’s the right age to leave kids home alone?

With three kids it was always so difficult getting them a play date at another friend’s house all on the same day, so mostly I didn’t bother. What I did instead was team up with another mum for the day and do something together.

So, my friend Dee would bring her boys over and we’ll go for a bushwalk together. Or Mich and her girls would come over for a crafting session and I’d send Max off to a mate’s. It was great to have my own friend’s company and the kids got their buddy for the day too.

We still like to go out for dinner with a family or two a couple of times during the holidays. It doesn’t need to be expensive – one holidays we all went to Subway because budgets were tight – but it’s nice to spend some time.

Make the most of school holidays at home

9. Clean little and often, but not too much

I’ve made my peace with the fact that the house always looks rough around the edges during the holidays. It’s just too hard for kids to keep everything clean in the way I’d like, so we compromise.

They make their beds each morning and do a general tidy of their rooms each night (this is a new thing at our place and I like it). I also expect them to pick up one game before they start on another.

But all the little bits of kid that gets dropped about the place without them even realising it – well, that stays where it is and we do one big clear up at the end of each day. Otherwise I find that I’m just constantly haranguing them to stop making a mess and that’s not a very nice way to spend the holidays for anyone. Live and let live.

10. Put your money into big days out

Rather than drip, drip, drip my cash into little things like the movies or a treat at the shops, I prefer to spend it on a workshop or two that the kids really want to do.

We might still have money left over to see the latest film together, but that comes after we plan an ‘away’ day each week where they get to choose what they do.

I guess this is a hangover from my working-away days, when I had to book the kids into care each day and finding activities they all wanted to do was a bit of a nightmare. Instead, I booked them into a fairly standard care each day except one day of their own choosing. I was happy to schlep across town that one day to pick them all up separately because the other days they were all together and it was an easy day for me. It worked then and it works now.

Are you home for the holidays? 

Calendar by Debbie Hudson; Bored kids by Izzy Park ; beachy by John Schnobrich 

Photo nature hunt poem for curious kids

Photo nature hunt poem for curious kids

A nature hunt is so easy to do

All they need are a camera (the i’s Pod and Phone are good options here), curiosity and a list of things to take a picture of. Easy, huh?

The thing is, taking photos like this is actually very absorbing. Some kids will really find they love it and might go on to develop a love of nature photography. You never know! Encouraging any kind of creative pursuit is important. Creativity is the trait many top companies listed as the most important for future success. Who knows where this simple nature hunt could lead your kid?

Around the block is enough

Of course, the furthest it will most likely lead them is around the block, but that can only be a good thing. Keeping tweens occupied in the hols requires plenty of creativity all by itself. Hopefully they’ll fall in love with the nature hunt concept and you can write them out a list every other day. What a great way to keep a kid happy and busy! 

Here are 124 more ways to keep tweens engaged.

Print out the poem/list

I’ve created a printable pdf list to get you started. I wrote a little poem for you to make this nature hunt seem like this is more special than just a list of things to take a picture of. Even though that’s pretty much what it is.

Reckon you’d like to go on a nature hunt yourself?
Here’s how to help your kid structure the school holidays (free printables)

Here’s how to help your kid structure the school holidays (free printables)

A week or two of lazing about doing not much at all is brilliant. Six weeks of it is ironically exhausting and definitely not the way for kids to shake off an old school year and get ready for a new one. The best way to make the most of the break is to structure the school holidays in a way that encourages refreshment and growth.

When you don’t feel like doing anything it can be hard to motivate yourself. Plenty of kids fall into the trap of letting time on screens become their ‘new normal’ in the holidays. The more you do it, the more you don’t want to do anything else.

There are so many good reasons to fight the pull of the screen (here are quite a few). Lucky for our kids, the girls at teen blog Toolbox for Teens (my daughter is one of the girls!) have come up with a holiday challenge you just might be able to get them into.

Structure the school holidays so you're not always just on screens

Toobox for Teens holiday challenge

The challenge is basically a neat way to structure the school holidays into daily routines. Each day, the challenge is to do something from each of these four categories:

  1. Creative
  2. Active
  3. Productive
  4. Cognitive

The girls also suggest that adding a Social element could be a good idea, though that’s not necessarily one that needs to be completed daily.

They’ve got a really neat progress tracker to print that creates an effective ‘Jerry Seinfeld’ don’t break the chain reward system. There’s also a printable ideas list for kids who get stuck trying to think of something to do in each category. Head over to their blog to download the printables.

Structure the school holidays to make the most of them

Three hours of goodness

Each of the category targets is to do the activity for 45 minutes, so by doing all four in a day your child will have put in 3 hours of worthwhile time. A typical day of activities might look like this:

  1. Sewed a drawstring bag
  2. Took the dog for a long walk
  3. Weeded the front garden bed
  4. Did a jigsaw puzzle

A different day might look like this:

  1. Practised my saxaphone
  2. Went for a surf
  3. Cleaned out my clothes drawers
  4. Made an anime cartoon

Loads of activity ideas

Toolbox for Teens lists loads of ideas to fill each of the categories, as well as encouraging each person to come up with a list of their own. This is a very good idea as having a go-to list of things they genuinely love to do will help motivate your kid on days where they just want to be buried in a screen all day.

A brilliant way to structure the school holidays

It’s quite handy if you’ve got more than one kid at your house doing the challenge, because they can do many different activities together. It also means they are more likely to stick to the challenge – seeing a sibling not breaking the chain each day is high motivation!

Take the challenge yourself?

Ever since my daughter put together this holiday challenge (initially just for her and my other two kids, but I encouraged her to post it on her blog), I’ve kinda-sorta been doing it myself. Rather than flop in front of the tele at the end of the day, I’ve been motivated to do something creative, cognitive or active instead. Frankly, I reckon any mum does more than her fair share of the ‘productive’ category every single day already!!!

Reckon this will help your kid structure the school holidays?

Feature image by Asaf R ; Skateboard  by Daniel Wirtz; Embroidery by Nathana Rebouças

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