Preparing your child for the first day of ‘Big School’

It’s normal to feel a bit anxious before sending your child off to big school. As a parent, you want to be certain that your child is able to adapt to the new change and a different classroom environment.

As the holiday comes to an end, it’s completely natural for children to experience nervousness, especially since the children are entering a more structured routine after being on holiday. Some children might be welcoming to the change while others need more guidance to acclimatise. 

Below you will find a some tips on getting ready for the first day of big school.

1. Read books about starting school

Seeing a character that the child relates to are useful for relieving first day anxiety. It’s also handy to ask your child questions about the character’s experience and the solutions the character might have. 

See our choices below;

2. Start with your routine before the holiday ends

Getting up early again is tough… for everyone and may stir up some negative emotions just before the first day of school. Get the evening and early morning going again and make your expectations around this time clear. Your children are about the enter a structured day, ease them into it with your own structure at home. 

3. Organise a playdate with someone you know will be in the same grade

In a changing environment, a familiar face can offer some assurance. It may be worthwhile to organise a playdate with a friend the same age that might be in the same grade. They would both be going through change together and can support each other through it.

4. Create a fun goodbye routine

Be positive in your goodbye, children feed off of your energy. If you are anxious or upset, your child will most likely be too. Save the tears for the car. We know it’s tough, but the more excited and positive you are, the easier it is for your child.

Create a secret handshake, a saying, or have a song you always play before you say goodbye. This creates really positive feelings and is a great bonding experience.

Drop and Go

As hard as it is, it’s best to drop and go. The longer you hang around, the more anxious and nervous your child gets. They will be confident in their new environment if you are.

5. Try and get to school before class starts

Being late and walking in while everyone is already settled creates a lot of anxiety. Try your best to get to school early until your child has settled at the school

6. Pack a really fun lunch

Seeing your favourite snacks really puts a smile on that dial. You can even leave a note or draw a picture on a post-it that may reassure your child that you are close by. 

7. Try again tomorrow

If it didn’t go well today, that’s okay, we can always try again tomorrow. 

Restorative Justice – Discipline to Thrive

It is well known that disruptive student behaviour negatively influences school climate and learning. For students to thrive socially and academically, it is critical that an orderly and safe classroom environment be created, a healthy respect for authority nurtured and student self-discipline developed.

Traditional school discipline with its exclusionary and adversarial practices is ineffective at achieving these goals because suspension and punishment break relationship just when the child needs supportive relationship the most.  There is significant evidence that such practices, moreover, are ineffective at helping children develop new behaviours.  In fact, children who are disciplined using exclusion or punishment show reduced motivation to maintain self-control, an increase in anger and weakened academic performance.  Punishment and suspension also add to the risk trajectory of children who have experienced stress or trauma.  It is no wonder, then, that highly punitive schools tend to have higher rates of violence, truancy, and aggression.  

There is a better way…  At Skye Collage we are implementing phase 1 of a child-centered approach to discipline we call the “Thrive Discipline Framework”.  The framework uses five key principles to nurture the respect for authority, self-discipline and cooperation students need to thrive at school and beyond.

Proactive community building.  

At Skye College we invest in proactively nurturing a safe, supportive, collaborative and caring culture.  We achieve this, amongst other things, through frequent student and staff circles.  Circles provide a platform where everyone belongs as equal members of the learning community.  Circles are a forum to safely discuss issues that concern the social life of the class and to learn and practice new social and emotional skills. 

Relational and self-management skills.

At Skye College our Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum will develop the critical skills students need to remain in right relationship with others and stay connected to their inner selves.  These include self-regulation, mindfulness, listening without preconceived judgement and clearly expressing one’s own feelings and needs.  Our SEL curriculum draws from several evidence-based approaches with a proven track record for improving social and emotional intelligence.

Clear expectations
At Skye College we make sure expected behaviour is clearly defined, frequently and explicitly taught, and consistently reinforced throughout the school.  Our “thrive behaviours” are clearly linked to the school’s vision (an education to thrive), so that students understand their purpose; not to control, but to equip.  Students therefore not only know exactly what is expected, but also understand why these expectations are important. 

A consistent restorative response to inappropriate behaviour. 
By investing in proactive and preventative initiatives, unwanted behaviour can be dramatically reduced.  When it does occur, however, it is critical to respond in a way that is consistent and restorative

The Thrive Discipline flow chart brings consistency to teachers’ responses to unwanted behaviours.  The flowchart not only guides teachers to use the least invasive intervention possible but also provides a way to elevate unwanted behaviours constructively and collaboratively when needed.


A restorative response. 
When teachers respond to unwanted behaviour with a restorative mind-frame, the focus is not “what rule was broken and what punishment should be meted out…”  Instead, teachers focus on understanding how the unwanted behaviour harmed people and relationships; how thing could be made as right as possible; and how connection could be restored.  This is better – for both students and teachers.  After all, when teachers feel that they must control students through fear of punishment, they experience high levels of stress in a confrontational classroom culture.  In contrast, when teachers are supported to create cooperative communities through the development and maintenance of right relationships, stress decreases and culture becomes more positive and cooperative. 

Restorative Discipline has shown that, in most cases, students will choose more respectful options when they come to understand, through dialogue, how their behaviour has impacted others.  In other words, restorative approaches to discipline help students learn from their behaviour while strengthening connections to self and others.  This makes it much less likely that students will repeat unwanted behaviours. 

In summary, the Thrive Discipline Framework will create a safe, supportive, caring and collaborative culture through proactively building a positive school community, developing the skills students need for effective self-management and relationship, clarifying expectations and explicitly teaching thrive-behaviours.  When unwanted behaviour does occur, the framework will guide teachers to respond in consistent and restorative ways that strengthen relationship and provide the learning experiences students need to thrive. 

10 Toddler Potty Training Tips

How to support your toddler to take care of their own hygiene

Our Principal, Claire says;

As with every learning opportunity that takes place at Skye College, we follow the child. No child is forced to learn something they are not ready to embrace.

How to know your child is ready to begin using a potty/ toilet:

  • She is beginning to try to remove her pants and nappy without your help.
  • She is aware of her need to urinate or have a bowel movement (even if wearing a nappy) and she’ll tell you.
  • She is watched you or other family members use the toilet.
  • She sits on and tries to use the potty, e.g. before her bath in the evening.

At this stage go out a buy a potty. There are many choices of potties on the market. Many times, one has been given to you as a gift or you can go out with your child to choose their own potty. Most importantly go underwear shopping. Make a big deal of letting them choose their own special underwear. This will encourage them to take ownership and want to take care of their underwear. Allow your child time to explore the potty. They need to learn to sit on and get up from the potty independently.

Praise and encouragement are the most important part of any learning. At Skye College we believe in positive praise. When a child has used the toilet effectively (or gives a good effort), we clap hands, we give verbal praise to the child, and, in the case of a child who may have been struggling: a sticker. We do not generally use sticker charts as this can be very damaging to their self-esteem. They may see other children getting lots of stickers and they don’t which instills the idea of “I can’t do it”. This will not support positive development. 

Skye College bathrooms
Skye College bathrooms for littles

Signs of potty-learning readiness

Your child should display several of the below signs to indicate they are ready for the potty-learning journey:

  • Communication: Your child must be able to tell you that he/she needs the toilet / has a soiled nappy.
  • Less wet nappies: An average of 2-3 soiled nappies per day (indicates bladder control). 
  • Interest: Your child must show an active interest in using the toilet, i.e. he/she will follow you at home to the bathroom and be inquisitive about it, and is are excited about sitting on the potty.
  • Self-Awareness: When your child is starting to develop a self-awareness of what is happening in and around their bodies, they will, for example, realise they have a runny nose and will actively seek ways to deal with it (fetch a tissue or ask for their nose to be wiped). Your child must show signs of frustration and discomfort with wet nappies. 

Tip 1 – Get yourself ready.

You, the parent, have to be ready for this transition as well. Change your mindset around the frustration and know that even the accidents (as bothersome as they may be) are an important part of the learning process. Your toddler will mirror your feelings around this journey. It is important that we as parents do not stress them out during this time or we may prolong the process. 

Tip 2- Allow your toddler to choose their own potty and underwear.

Whether online or in a store, give your child two potty options to choose from. This empowers them with choice and creates excitement around using something they chose!

Potties should be made visible and easily accessible, usually in the bathroom or toilet area. Allow your child time to practice sitting on and getting off the potty – even if they don’t make use of it at first. 

It is important for your child to choose and go shopping for their own underwear. This further creates a sense of ownership and excitement about the process. 

Tip 3 – Buy the books and learn the songs.

Introduce the idea of your toddler using the potty with books and/or songs. This can help you to relate not only on their level, but make the process less daunting. 

Below are some tools online you might find to be useful:

Click on the above images to go to their links

Tip 4 – Switch from nappies to underwear.

The nappy is a safety blanket and while wearing it, your child may fall back to eliminating into the nappy. If your child has been practicing on the potty, displays signs of readiness and is comfortable wearing underwear, make the daytime switch from nappies to underwear.  

Soiled underwear is uncomfortable and sometimes cold which ignites a consciousness around the consequences of not using the potty. Don’t forget to allow your child to pick their own new underwear. This creates more excitement as they won’t want to wet their new underwear.

Tip 5 – Invite your toddler to your own toilet sessions.

Most of what our kids learn is through modelling the behaviour ourselves. Start talking about what you are doing in the bathroom when you use the toilet. Young boys benefit from watching their dad or older male sibling urinate. Note that boys often learn to urinate sitting down first, before standing up. 

Tip 6 – Don’t be in a hurry.

Being rushed may create a negative experience for your toddler. It often takes some time before toddlers are comfortable enough to  urinate or defecate while sitting on the potty. When they are practicing and getting used to the seated position, keep them entertained with a toy, book or video while on the potty.

Tip 7 – Be empowering with your language and tone. 

If your toddler has an accident, try saying “Your pants are wet. Looks like you had an accident. Let’s change and clean up.” Don’t panic, don’t show your frustration. Create a space that is safe for your toddler to make mistakes and learn from them .

Tip 8 – Celebrate the small wins!

“Well done! You noticed when you needed the potty, thank you so much for noticing that.”

Celebrate with your potty song and dance or parade and make a big deal of every little success – even just the identification of the need to go!

Tip 9 – Set your toddler up for success.

  • Put on easy to pull down clothes. Try and avoid dungarees, jumpsuits, button or zip down pants during this time.
  •  If your toddler is also engaging in potty learning at school, equip the teachers with easy to pull down clothes, updates on progress at home, and a couple of spare clothing sets. 
  • When starting out, discuss with your child all the steps involved in potty-learning: undressing, going, wiping, dressing, flushing and hand-washing. Show them each step and help them to practice the whole routine. 

We created potty training cue cards to stick up in the bathroom so that your little one can remember their potty routine!

Tip 10 – Avoid bathroom battles.

If you are met with resistance from your toddler, it’s okay. You can try again tomorrow, next week or next month. There’s no set schedule and no pressure on your child to learn as soon as possible. Let your child show you when they are ready. Our experience has taught us that when a child is not ready, the process takes much longer than it should. 

Remember, potty learning is a partnership where WE are the junior partner. Our toddler is doing most of the work, we are just setting the stage. So, take it easy and remind yourself: “This too shall pass!”


Still feels daunting – speak to your class teacher – we’re here to help!

Keep toddlers busy on trips – Top 10 tips

Toddlers - Ideas to keep toddlers busy on trips

Going on a long road trip with toddlers or tots might just deter even the most patient of parents from adventuring. We end up having to deal with their impatience, boredom, discomfort, refusal to nap and let’s not forget, dropping things that we constantly need to pick up. Never mind having to deal with our own frustrations.

Here’s the deal though, we need to be ready to counter anything our kids strike us with. The best road trip activities for little kids are simple, mess-free, and something they can do without supervision. Here are the best road trip activities for 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and pre-schoolers plus links to where you can get the supplies.

1 .  Let them eat!

Pack a bag or box of goodies and surprise them with it. Let them discover all the yummies these bags have to give.

We found a healthy “Kiddylicious Snack Box” put together by Rivionia-based online retailer Charley’s Boxes for these exact instances.


Click on the image to go to the Charley's Boxes site

2 . Sticker Books

Stick on your kid’s good side with a sticker book that not only keeps them busy but keeps their fine motor skills in good practice. What’s even better is that we found a sticker book with hundreds of stickers to keep them busy for as long as possible.

The Melissa and Doug brand also has great magnetic sticker boxes and Scratch and Smell sticker books that explore sensory play. Click the button below to view their range on Takealot.

Click on the image to purchase this item from Takealot
Click on the image to puchase this product from Takealot

3 . Music

What better way to spend a toddler’s energy than singing and dancing in the car. This becomes a fun and playful way to cure your child of boredom, and not only creates bonding but likely some special memories! Encourage their musicality by packing some instruments in the car. We found a gift bag of instruments from Charley’s Boxes that any kid would love to dig their hands into.

Click on the image to buy Charley's Music Box

4 . Sensory books

Allow your child to explore their touch and hearing senses with a sensory book. This becomes ideal for developing language recognition and motor skills. You can also never go wrong with a Melissa and Doug book that mixes sensory and motor skills play in one. For older kids, audio books come in handy too!

Click on the image to purchase the item on Takealot



5 . Post-it Drawings

Prepare some post-its and crayons in a container and let your child draw images and stick them up all over the window, yes it becomes messy, but a very easy-to-clean mess.

6 . Busy wallet 

Keep idle fingers busy by filling up an unused wallet or purse with unused cards, pictures, colourful papers and any small goodies you can find. Let your child explore what is inside and encourage them to put it back as well.  

7 . Pop its

Glorified bubble-wrap, pop it toys can keep little fidgety fingers and fussing toddlers busy for several minutes because the act of fidgeting allows the mind to be still and focus.

Click the image to purchase this product on Takealot

We suggest you pair this with an audio storybook from Youtube for some calm-time in the car. 

8 . Search and find books

Buy yourself some free time with a book that kids can dig themselves into.

Click on the image to purchase this product from Takealot
Click on the image to purchase this product from Takealot

9 . Doodle Tablets 

These are inexpensive LCD tablets whose only function is to draw on them. Using an attached pen, kids can doodle and clear and doodle and clear to their heart’s content. 

10 . Bring out the screen

At this point you have held it off for long enough, your kids can relax to a good movie or keep occupied with downloaded series. Just remember to download it all at least two nights before leaving.

Click here to purchase this product from Takealot

One of our new favourites – The Playfully App

Driven by the mindset that children learn best through play, Playfully allows parents to play with their children by providing several activity ideas that they could do in the comforts of their homes.

It determines the best activities using algorithms based on your child’s age, your rating of activities, and the milestones you ticked off. Activities are created for children up to the age of three.

...children learn best through play...

The activities also indicate which milestones (e.g. physical, language, social and emotional, or cognitive) are being targeted and give tips on how to best target them. They also show how long you can expect them to take.

The app also gives parents a heads-up of the common materials they might need for the activities lined up for the month.

Each week, the app shows a “tip of the week” coming from
child development experts, like paediatric speech-language therapists and paediatricians. The app also shows a list of milestones that you will probably see emerge in your child.

Additionally the app comes with a catalogue that shows all the app’s
activities. The catalogue tab allows you to filter the activities according to your child’s current stage of development and age range.

We love it because it assists with relationship building between a child and their caregiver and encourages learning through play. You also get to keep tabs on your child’s developmental progress.

Follow the link below to download the app onto your phone.

What Sets Us Apart

Skye College: Lofty ambitions achieved through practical tools.

Thrive in life

At Skye College we are vision-driven, and our vision is unashamedly radical.  We aim to equip every student to thrive – not just in school, but in life.  Not just now – but in the future.  From the research, people who thrive have four things in common.  Firstly, they are deeply connected to others and are able to continually build and sustain those deep connections.  Secondly, they are equipped to reach their full potential in order to, thirdly, contribute to their world in ways they find personally meaningful.  Finally, people who thrive have healthy and productive habits that lay down the rails for a successful and resilient life.  

Research driven

At Skye College, supported by Skye Education, we have invested years in research and development.  We are equipped with a solid understanding of what works in schools, and what it takes to equip students to thrive in life.  We exclusively use approaches with a proven track record for maximizing success.  

For example:

·       We understand the skills students will need to thrive in the 21st century, and we know how to teach in the most effective way to ensure our students (all of them), not only gain these skills but maximize their own potential and develop unique talents.

·       We understand how learning works.  We know that people can make rapid progress when we align our teaching to the way the brain is wired.  We design our classrooms and Professional Development programmes accordingly – so that students and teachers can get better faster. 

·       We know that socio-emotional and academic development go hand in hand – each building the other.  We understand how to create great school cultures of psychological safety, positive social-norms, consistent adults, supportive connections, and discipline processes that restore, rather than strain, relationships.

·       We understand what sets successful teacher teams apart…  One component is the team’s beliefs about their efficacy – their perception of their shared ability to be successful.  This sense of shared efficacy is, in fact, one of the greatest predictors of student achievement discovered to date.  Luckily, we know just how to build such teams.    

The missing links that leads to implementation

The knowledge on what works is available (if complex) and yet schools have, in many cases, not benefitted fully from what we know about what works.  We believe that the “missing link” is a practical process to translates the “big ideas” of what works into granular components and behaviours than can be easily trained, practiced, implemented and monitored by busy staff of bustling schools.

At Skye College, we support our teachers to do just this by going granular.


We go granular by translating research-based best practice into granular techniques and practical tools.  Here is just one example of the process we follow with the various, complex and interconnected components that make for thriving schools.

Going granular – an example

We know that teacher and student expectations are a major driver of student achievement.  In short, students tend to live up to these expectations – whether high or low.  We understand this dynamic, and we know how to elevate expectations by equipping teachers with granular techniques and micro-behaviours that can be easily taught, practiced, monitored and perfected – demystifying this vital component of great teaching.  These tools include:

·       Asking interesting, rigorous, and open-ended questions (technique 4 – “art of the question”).

·       Asking all students to answer questions, whether or not they’ve raised their hand (technique 14  “cold-calling”).

·       Creating a safe classroom, where mistakes are welcomed, peers are supportive and students can take the intellectual risks necessary for growth (technique 42 – “culture of error”)

·       Planning an “exemplar” answer to a question.  Knowing what a good answer looks like will help a teacher to “stretch” student thinking and not settle for the first best, semi-correct answer.  (technique 7 – “exemplar planning”).

·       Rewarding right answers with harder work…  In other words, teachers should make it a habit to ask more of students and stretch their thinking even further (technique 22 “stretch it”).

·       Creating joyful classrooms where student motivation and engagement are maximized (technique 61 – “the joy factor”).

These are only a few of many techniques that build great expectations.  And great expectations are just one small part of the amazing classrooms that are within reach of every school who implements what works.

At Skye College we’ve taken our vision – an education to thrive – apart.  We know how it works.  We understand the intricate parts and how they fit together.  We’re ready to give our teachers the tools they need to put it back together and bring it to life, for all.  

To find out more and visit Skye College, book a tour now with the Skye College Principal. Click the button below.

Making sense of CAPS, IEB and Cambridge

Making sense of the various curricular and graduation options available at schools can be overwhelming.  This article briefly outlines three common approaches, namely CAPS, IEB and Cambridge.  Skye College preparatory and high school will implement the Cambridge curriculum.  This article will provide the main reasons we believe this to be the best choice, while also explaining how the curriculum fits within the larger Thriveway approach at Skye College.

CAPS, IEB and Cambridge?

Allow me a few introductory remarks about the role of a curriculum at school.  Firstly, a school’s curriculum provides guidance on the content a school teaches (for example, grade four science might focus on magnetism, forces, and ecosystems – to the exclusion of other topics).  Secondly, the curriculum specifies the level at which that content should be mastered (for example, students should not just be proficient at mixed operations with fractions using certain procedures, but should also be able to provide evidence for their reasoning – showing deep conceptual understanding of the topic). 

CAPS, IEB and Cambridge

CAPS (National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement) is the national curriculum followed by public schools in South Africa.  Many private schools also follow this curriculum.  Some of these schools, however, are also “IEB” schools.  IEB, the Independent Examination Board, does not refer to a stand-alone curriculum.  IEB schools generally use the CAPS curriculum as a guide but grade 12 students write an alternative matric examination that is administered by the IEB.  In other words, students in CAPS and IEB schools will be taught similar content, but they will not write the same exam.  Students from CAPS and IEB schools will all receive a National Senior Certificate when graduating from grade 12 – either the regular NSC or the IEB NSC.  All South African assessment bodies (such as IEB) are monitored by Umalusi, which ensures that their curricula and assessments are appropriate. 

Cambridge, on the other hand, is a stand-alone international curriculum.  Cambridge qualifications are not monitored by Umalusi, but by Cambridge Assessment International Education, part of Cambridge University Press & Assessment – an organisation that provides world-leading academic research, learning and assessment globally, backed by the first-class teaching and research departments of the University of Cambridge.  Students will usually complete their General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) by the time they are 16.  They then graduate from matric with a varied combination of AS levels and A levels (equitable or, in some cases, surpassing CAPS grade 12 standards).

It is important to keep in mind that, despite differences, there is significant overlap among most curriculums, especially for sequential subjects like Maths and English.  In other words, even though curriculums may vary with regards to when and how fractions are introduced and assessed, all curriculums will cover fractions.

Before we elaborate on the Cambridge curriculum at Skye College, and why we believe it to be the best choice, allow me to make a quick but important point…  Even though a school’s choice of curriculum is important, it is not the most important thing.  After all, adopting a curriculum with high standards is one thing.  Making sure all students succeed at these high levels is another.  What makes a curriculum come alive, therefore, is the way in which it is implemented in the classroom.  At Skye college we are committed to exclusively using those methods and techniques proven by research to maximise learning and academic success – for every child in every classroom. 

We also believe in the proven power of learning teachers.  Skye College teachers, therefore, not only begin with pedagogical best practice but also engage in regular examination of their own teaching.  This rigorous, job-embedded professional development leads to continuous improvement of professional practice.  Our high impact teachers are, therefore, true professionals, constantly honing their craft to create the most enjoyable and effective learning experiences for your child.  To sum up, the right choice of curriculum is important.  It guides teachers to choose relevant content and sets the bar for mastery appropriately high.  When this curriculum is effectively implemented by teachers who exclusively use pedagogical best practice, and who continue to hone their craft, the effects compound – year after year – unlocking your child’s full potential. 

So, why the Cambridge curriculum at Skye College? 

Because we believe the Cambridge curriculum will contribute to your child’s success in five important ways.

First, the Cambridge Curriculum will maximise tertiary study options.  With Cambridge, your child will gain an internationally recognised qualification.  Cambridge qualifications are also recognised at local universities including prestigious universities such as the University of Pretoria, University of Johannesburg and the University of Cape Town.  This means that a Cambridge qualification will provide your child with a wide range of local and international study options.  For more information on the Cambridge curriculum in South Africa, please click here. 

Second, the Cambridge Curriculum provides a rigorous standard that prepares your child for tertiary study success:  The Cambridge curriculum and exams are of a high, internationally benchmarked standard.  Most schools focus on helping your child access tertiary study.  At Skye College we believe that equipping your child to succeed at university is equally important.  Studying at Cambridge’s high standard will prepare your child for the rigor of tertiary study. 

Third, the Cambridge Curriculum provides flexibility that allows us to successfully weave it into our larger Thriveway tapestry. Implementing the Cambridge curriculum will be a necessary part of the Thriveway, but it will not be sufficient.  To truly equip your child to thrive[1], we, therefore, embed the Cambridge curriculum in the larger Thriveway, which includes, among other things, and in addition to the Cambridge curriculum, a high-impact socio-emotional development component.

[1] The Thriveway will equip your child to thrive in four important ways – by developing: deep connections to self and others; skills and competencies needed to contribute to the world; productive habits that lay down the rails for a successful and resilient life; and by supporting your child to develop their full potential.  The flexibility of the Cambridge curriculum will allow us to continue to focus on these four components of our vision while implementing our curriculum. Read more here. 

Fourth – a simple high-school core will increase fluency and provide opportunity for the development of 21st-century skills and personalised learning:  The Cambridge curriculum offers a vast number of subjects but requires fewer subjects to graduate – presenting these at greater depth.  This allows us to offer a strong and simple academic high-school core.  Because we are not required to offer a myriad of shallow, “filler” subjects we can, instead, focus on deep mastery for a few important subjects that will be most critical for your child’s tertiary career.  This simple, strong core also creates capacity to focus, in addition to the core curriculum, on developing important competencies for the 21st century.  These include, among others, creative intelligence, critical thinking, and entrepreneurship; all built on a solid foundation of math, language, and science.  A simple academic core also frees up time to focus on pursuing personal interest and developing unique talents – at school.  Math, science, tech, language – plus your passion.  The Thriveway will support students to discover and pursue their unique purpose through, among other things, workplace internships for high school students. 

And finally, the Cambridge Curriculum will connect your child to the world.  Your child’s ability to successfully navigate a multi-cultural, global workplace will be key to their future success.  Through the Cambridge curriculum, Skye College is naturally connected to other Cambridge schools – internationally and locally.  Many excellent South African schools (including some of the schools in the Curro network, Dainfern College, St. Johns, Nova Pioneer, the Generations Schools and others) offer the Cambridge curriculum.  Worldwide, Cambridge is offered at 10 000 schools in 160 countries.  This community of learning provides a natural platform for local and global collaboration and skills building. 

CAPS, IEB and Cambridge

We believe that the Cambridge Curriculum will provide an excellent foundation for your child’s academic success.  However, our research-based methodology means we are never limited to a single approach or curriculum.  Because we have a deep understanding of what works in pedagogy as well as a firm grasp on what it means to thrive, we are crafting an education that will truly serve the needs of your child in today’s world.  An education that will set your child up for success – not just at a job, but at real life.  When you start with what is proven to work, and you redefine your objectives to no less than success at life, school looks very different.

The Cambridge Curriculum is just one way in which we are delivering on our promise – an education to thrive for all.  

By Jean van Schalkwyk / Advisor for whole-child education at Skye College

Books that Inspire Us in the Classroom

Today we’d like to share three resources that have inspired us in our journey towards relationship-driven learning.

The first – “How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk” has been dubbed “the parenting bible”.  First written in 1980, authors Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish have been inspiring more than one generation of parents to take a more feeling-centred and playful approach to parenting. 

Years later, Faber’s daughter, Joanna, released a follow-on book (our second recommendation) – “how to talk so little kids will listen”.  Though slightly different in their approach, both books focus on understanding and accepting feelings, and finding ways to build relationships with children.  Both books are filled with encouraging stories from parents all over the world who find better ways to get out of the house / put on shoes / eat dinner with their small people.  What we like about Joanna Faber’s book is that it focuses specifically on ages 2-7, and groups commons struggles together by chapter.  So, if you are struggling at bedtime, you can simply turn to the bedtime chapter. 

Our third recommendation provides much greater depth of understanding that, we believe, will help you better implement the suggestions in the first two books.  The incredible work by Marshall Rosenberg – “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” is truly life changing.

Two truths that have inspired us in our journey towards relationship-driven learning weave like a golden thread through these three works…

  1. Accept feelings and understand the needs that trigger them
  2. Create positive feelings of cooperation through playfulness and choice

 Accepting feelings and understand needs.

Many parents struggle to accept and understand their child’s negative emotions.  Our first response is often to try to get a child to stop feeling a certain way…  Bottling up emotions can be dangerous, however.  Research suggests that not acknowledging an emotion can increase its strength.  On the other hand, successfully supressing emotion can negatively impact mental and physical health.  A 2013 study by the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Rochester found that people who bottled up their emotions significantly increased their chance of premature death from all causes.  Short term consequences include negative effects on blood pressure, memory and self-esteem.

Accepting and regulating emotions begin with understanding.  Emotions are not, as we commonly think, triggered by what someone else does.  Instead, emotions are triggered by our own, human needs.  Marshall Rosenberg has brought warring factions to peace through this simple yet profound principle.  His book, our third recommendation, can bring peace to your home by helping you create a safe space for feelings and needs.  To do this, follow four steps (simple, yet deceptively difficult due to the way most of us have been socialised to react when confronted with strong negative emotions.)

Steps to regulating your child’s emotions

Step 1.   Observe behaviour (e.g. yelling “No!”, hitting a sibling etc.)

Step 2.   Identify the emotion that is triggering the behaviour (Angry / annoyed / sad etc).

Step 3.   Identify the deeper human need that is being met / not being met to trigger that emotion (Need to decide for oneself / need for fun / need to feel safe etc.). 

Step 4:  Verbalise the behaviour you see, and guess the emotion and need.  You don’t need to be sure.  Simply allow the space for your child to correct / confirm your guesses and so continue the conversation.  We’ll share a link to a list of common feelings and needs at the end of this post… if you’re stumped, you might find you / your child’s need here. 

Step 5:  Make a clear request.

What does this look like in practice? Let us say you are trying to leave the house, where your child has been happily playing.  Instead of commanding, insisting, and threatening, you might say to a child who is stamping his foot and frowning: “I see your face look upset.  Are you feeling angry because you need to play / it’s important for you to play? Once you have correctly identified your child’s feelings and needs, they may be more open to hearing your own feelings and needs.  Continue the conversation, focusing on feelings and needs as they come up.  Once all feelings and needs have been heard, you can make a clear request.

It is impossible to do justice to the incredible work of Marshal Rosenberg in this post.  We highly recommend reading his book if you are interested in learning more. 

Create positive feelings of cooperation through playfulness and choice.

Adelle and Joanna Faber remind us of the simple truth… nobody likes to be told what to do, even if they know that what they are being asked to do is good for them.  Imagine coming home from work and having your spouse tell you – “Sit down.  Hang up your coat.  Eat your dinner.  Finish your food.  Don’t spill.  Brush your teeth.” 

How do you feel?  Like doing what you’re told?  Unlikely…  We all have a deep human need to decide for ourselves.  This need is real and valid.  When told what to do, we feel rebellious because our need is not being met.

Parents often have better results when they intentionally create positive feelings – helping their child to feel cooperative rather than rebellious, by meeting their need for connection and play.  Instead of trying to pin down your three-year old to put on socks, make the sock talk.  “I’m feeling so flat and empty and cold!  Oh, how I wish someone would put a nice warm foot into me…”  Most of the time, kids will be delighted to oblige.   You may also focus on playful choices.  Instead of saying “go get in the car,” you might say “how would you like to go to the car today?  Hop like a bunny?  Walk backwards?  Ride on my back?  Fly like a pterodactyl?”.  Most likely you will reach the car giggling, instead of yelling. 

We have only scratched the surface of these three wonderful books that have helped us to formalise relationship-driven learning as part of our Thriveway journey.  

We sincerely recommend them to each Skye College Parent. 

Facts or Fads… Equipping your child to thrive by doing what works

What works in education?  This question has been at the heart of an ongoing debate … until recently.  The most extensive educational research study ever undertaken presents us with clear, if complex, answers.  Over the past 15 years, Professor John Hatti and his team have investigated and ranked a myriad of influences that affect student performance at school.  His results are based on data from a staggering 240 million students (and counting) worldwide.  His findings surprised many…  Of the 150 influences he investigated, the vast majority (145) had a positive effect on learning.  Seems that almost everything done in education works.  But here is the catch – not everything works equally well.   Not by a long shot.   

Teachers who maximise their impact focus on the big ideas, the powerful strategies, those approaches that radically maximise learning and equip every child to reach their full potential.

The following is an all-too-brief summary of some of the key ideas that lie at the core of Skye College’s approach to education.  Thank you, John!

Effective teachers understand learning

Learning happens in three phases.  During surface learning, students are learning to understand single ideas, such as addition.  Over time, students move into deep learning – understanding deepens as students grasp connections among multiple ideas (for example, multiplication as repeated addition).  The end goal of learning, however, is transfer learning – the transfer of knowledge and skill to new domains.  Students have reached transfer when they apply what they know of addition and multiplication in the science class or while shopping. 

Effective teachers understand this learning process.  They know where students are at any given moment and adapt their teaching strategies accordingly. 

During surface learning, for example, the strategic use of concrete manipulatives should play an important role.  New math concepts can be effectively introduced using concrete objects like counting beads or fraction circles.  The use of concrete manipulatives should be followed by more abstract pictorial representations of these manipulatives (pictures of counting beads), preparing the child for the fully abstract world of numbers and symbols.  Maria Montessori perfected this concrete-pictorial-abstract progression in her rich manipulatives, which is why we love using Montessori equipment to help students move through surface to deep learning.

During deep learning, collaborative peer interactions become increasingly important.  Approximately 50% of math time each week should be dedicated to “learning out loud” with peers in pairs, small groups, or the whole class.  This is more than answer seeking.  Math talk includes explaining strategies, justifying answers, and comparing approaches – all skillfully facilitated by the teacher towards the end-goal of deep mathematical thinking.  The reality at many schools, however, echo the research – teachers spend up to 89% of classroom time in monologue and students seem to come to school to watch their teacher work.

During transfer learning, problem-solving teaching offers great potential.  Students draw on their knowledge and skill to collaboratively solve complex and meaningful problems, consolidating and further extending their learning as they interact with the real world.  The timing here makes all the difference….  Introducing complex problems too early in the learning cycle is not effective.  After all, it is impossible to creatively solve a problem you do not deeply understand.

"Effective teachers never value any approach over student learning."

Effective teachers are precise.

Effective teachers understand the learning cycle and use teaching strategies appropriately.  Importantly, however – they never value any approach over student learning.  Good teachers are constantly checking, in real-time, that students are making progress towards the learning goals of the lesson.  Such teacher can stop, correct, adjust, reinforce, and give timely feedback because they have their finger on the pulse of learning.  What is more, they view the results from student assessments (whether a quick verbal check for understanding or a mid-term test) as feedback on their own teaching.  They are learning teachers, always honing their craft.

Effective teachers create safety.

Great teachers create trusting learning environments.  In these classrooms, everyone’s voice is important, mistakes are opportunities to learn and learning, rather than results, are celebrated.  There is much that goes into creating a classroom culture where everyone feels safe.  One strategy is to intentionally teach students the language of respectful collaboration. 

Sentence starters are a great place to begin … 

  • “I agree with you because _____ and I’d like to build on that by _____”
  • “Would you mind explaining your thinking when you said “______” so I can follow your reasoning?”
  • “I disagree, because it seems to me ________________”

When students use the language of respectful collaboration, they hone a vital skill.  What is more, they co-create safe spaces where everyone can learn out loud.

Effective teachers equip students to drive their brains.

Remaining relevant in a future world will require your child to continue to learn, unlearn and relearn throughout their life.

Being in the driver’s seat of one’s learning requires several complex skills.  Importantly, you need the ability to think about your thinking (meta-cognition) and the self-regulatory skills to persist when things get tough.  It is equally vital that you know what to do when you are stuck. 

Effective teachers weave the development of these skills into the fabric of classroom life.  They think out loud so that students can observe and learn self-questioning. They value interesting mistakes and intentionally focus on learning to learn.  Good teachers provide feedback beyond the right or wrong answer – feedback that includes the kind of information students need to develop as life-long learners. 

Instead of “good job”, an effective teacher might say.

  • “I like how you approached that difficult passage by making a key-word outline – that’s a really helpful strategy.” Or
  • “You really developed your stamina by redoing that problem and I love how you built on your mistake.”  Or
  • “You don’t know? Well, show me what do you know…”

When teachers speak to students in this way, students develop an internal voice that will support, teach, and encourage their learning long after the teacher’s voice has faded.

"Effective teachers think out loud so that students can observe and learn self-questioning. They value interesting mistakes and intentionally focus on learning to learn."

Thrive in life.

At Skye College, we choose research-driven pedagogy because we believe in equipping every child to reach their full potential.  People who thrive have this in common…  People who thrive are also deeply connected and skilled at building strong relationships.  They are equipped to contribute to their world in ways they find personally meaningful.  People who thrive build good habits that lay down the rails for a successful and resilient life. 

Sounds like the education you wish you had?  Click here to learn more about how the Skye College Thriveway will equip your child to thrive.  Thrive today.  Thrive tomorrow.  Thrive in life. 

Bringing the calm of a Montessori education home.

Mom and dad, we invite you to pause.  There, where you are, in the thick of parenting and life.  Pause, for a moment, to consider the miracle of your child’s developing brain.

Your child’s brain is deeply extraordinary.  Your baby was born with approximately 100 billion neurons.  As an adult, you only have about half that many. 

Your child’s brain is a learning powerhouse.  It more than doubled its volume in the first three months and connections are forming now at a rate that will remain unrivalled in later life.  Even more incredible – this is not a passive process.  Children are actively involved in their own brain development.  They seek out the social and sensorial experiences that build healthy brains.

Maria Montessori’s work was guided by this insight, which reframes everything we do in parenting and education.  Your child is profoundly capable!  Your child is building their own brain!  Your job is to shape the environment so that it supports this natural development; to facilitate the sensorial and social experiences your child needs to thrive.  Your job is simply to create a safe space for your child’s developing brain at home.  Here are some thoughts on getting started.

Nurture and touch

“Of all things, love is the most potent.” – Maria Montessori.

Nurturing touch at school and at home is vital.  The research here is unambiguous.  Children who experience loving physical touch show improved and lasting cognitive development.  Children who experience above-average affection from their mothers are less likely to be hostile, anxious, or emotionally distressed as adults.  Receiving minimal touch as a child, on the other hand, is associated with long-lasting cognitive delays and aggression.  

Yes spaces

“The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.” – Maria Montessori.

Your child touches things because they are driven by the deep and important need for sensorial experience.  Your child is not just messing around… they are engaging in the important work of building their brain.  To support your child, create yes-spaces around your home.  Yes-spaces are areas your child can freely explore without fear of breaking anything, getting into trouble, or hurting themselves. 

Remember to view your home from your child’s perspective.  You might be surprised at what you notice when you get down to see things as they do… One mom we know discovered a mysterious space (cave) under a cabinet where her son (pirate) had stashed all her teaspoons (treasure).    

Productive struggle

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” – Maria Montessori.

The comedian Michael McIntyre has his audience in fits when he proclaims, talking to expectant couples, that they have no idea how difficult things will become when they have kids.  “Things you don’t even consider to be things will become nearly impossible… like leaving the house.”  We’ve all been there.  We often respond by doing things for our kids and, of course, that is often appropriate.  It is important to remember, however, that your child builds their brain through productive struggle.  When you can, design some time into your schedule to allow your child to do things for themselves – even to help you out.  Their confidence and independence will soar.

Follow your child

“Follow the child, but follow the child as her leader.” – Maria Montessori.

You don’t share your child’s passion for dinosaurs / dead bugs / the dog’s tail.  We get it…  Following the child is simply about respect.  Remember that, in all these things, your child is building their future self.  Your child is unfolding their unique personality.  Allow yourself to know them and be fascinated.  Here are four simple things you can do tomorrow…

  • Observe.  Following the child requires, firstly, that we learn to observe without distraction.  Take a few minutes to simply watch your child at work and play – we guarantee that you will notice something new. 
  • Create a rich environment.  Provide opportunities to discover interests through books, experiences, and time in nature. 
  • Slow down.  Do not overschedule!  Your child does not need to be a soccer superstar AND chess whizz AND master chef AND programmer by the age of eight.  Allow your child the precious time and space to simply be. 
  • Respect.  Always respect your child’s choices and interests and, if you can, share in their joy.  Let them show you the wide and wonderful world (of sometimes icky things) they are discovering for the first time.    

Child-friendly order

“Order is one of the needs of life which, when it is satisfied, provides real happiness.” – Maria Montessori.

Order, for a child, is about more than mere tidiness.  Your child’s job is to make sense of the world.  To discover its properties, patterns and relationships.  Your child’s job is to find out where they belong.  This path of learning and development is more like that of a butterfly than that of a bullet.

When ordering spaces, remember your goals.  Ultimately, you want your child to develop competence and independence and to grow as an individual.  This means that your child’s things should be stored and displayed in ways that are inviting, encourages independence use and reflect their current development and interests.  The easiest way to achieve this is to limit the number of things your child can access at one time by rotating objects.  Providing simple categories your child can restore themselves is a good start.  Think “vehicles”, “people” and “animals” for toys.  Refrain from insisting that Silvanian Families are not “people”, but “animal-people”… you can work your way up to that.    

Let go of perfection.  Focus on kindness

“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future… Let us treat them with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them.” – Maria Montessori.

Have you ever considered the paradoxical truth that the “perfect parent” would be unable to truly prepare kids for life?  Life is messy and your kid is not perfect.  Luckily, being imperfect yourself, you are the perfect person to teach them how to be imperfect – gracefully!  Think about it this way…  if you never made any mistakes your child would never see resilience in the face of failure.  If you were always right, strong and in control your child would never see you model humility or be okay with weakness.  If you never had to accept help and grace from your child, your child would not experience the joy of such a kindness. 

Mom and dad, we invite you to give yourself a break.  Be human.  Do your best and, when you fail, apologise.  There are few lessons more valuable you could teach your child!



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