6 Education Apps For The Summer Holidays

Kids today are far more exposed to technology than ever before. With the summer holidays on their way, you can expect to see fewer kids playing in the park and riding their bikes and more kids glaring at their video games, computers, mobile phones and iPads. There are obvious downsides to this increased technologisation of childhood; there is no doubt that parents should strictly limit the time that their child spends in front of a screen each day. But it is not all doom and gloom. While new technologies may have negative side effects, they also offer valuable opportunities, particularly for your child’s education. Many teachers and education experts are coming to recognise that tablets such as the iPad, if used correctly, can play a valuable role in engaging students in their education. If your child is going to spend a large portion of their holidays playing on an iPad, wouldn’t you prefer they be doing something that will expand their minds, ignite their curiosity and put them in a better position to succeed at school next year? If so, check out my list of 6 great educational apps for the summer holidays. I have arranged them by recommended age to make sure you can find the best match for your child!

For Early Primary Students:

1. Tell Time – Little Matchups Game

Cost: Free

Ages: 4-8

This app is for younger kids who are learning to tell the time. It uses colourful animations and friendly characters to teach young kids how to read clocks in a fun and engaging way. Even better, it could easily be a great way to keep a Prep or Grade 1 child entertained while out shopping or visiting friends.

Check it out!

2. rED Writing – Learn to Write

Cost: $2.99

Ages: 4-8

This is the only app currently on iTunes that teaches children how to write letters and numbers using the Australian education approved fonts. If your child is still mastering the fine art of writing, then this is the app for them. This app is especially useful on the summer holidays, because this is the time when students are most likely to forget all of their valuable handwriting skills. rED Writing will ensure that when February comes, your child can still write their letters and numbers well.

Check it out!

For Primary Students:

3. Planets

Cost: Free

Ages: 8-14

Description: Planets is a free interactive 3D guide to our solar system. Children can easily navigate their way between the planets, learn interesting facts about each one and get an impression of the scale and magnitude of our solar system. This app is a great way to get kids excited about space. Combine it with a toy telescope under the Christmas tree or a trip to a planetarium or Scienceworks, and you’re sure to have an avid astronomer on your hands.

Check it out!

5. Comic Life

Ages: 8-14

One of the greatest benefit of new technology is that it empowers kids to express their creative side more than every before. Comic Life is a photo comic creation app. It allows kids to take photos of themselves, friends and family and turn them into a full comic narrative, with speech balloons, photo filters, templates, shapes, shadows and effects. The finished comics can even be used as cheap but personalised Christmas presents for family. The great thing about this app is that it won’t even seem like an “educational” app; your child might not even know that they are learning anything. Nevertheless, the ability to come up with and tell a story in an organised, creative and expressive manner is a valuable skill for students of all ages.

Check it out!

For Primary and Early High School Students:

4. Factor Samurai

Cost: $2.99

Ages: 8-16

Factor Samurai is a great way to learn times tables. You play as the samurai whose sacred duty is to cut all the numbers down to their prime factors. The game-play is similar to the popular “Fruit Samurai” game, but players are required to use their times tables skills as well as their reflexes. The ability to factorise large numbers quickly and accurately is a skill that will help your child from primary school to VCE; and if they can have fun while learning how to do so, everybody wins!

Check it out!

6. Geoboard, by The Math Learning Center

Cost: Free

Ages: 10-16

The Geoboard is a tool for exploring a variety of mathematical topics introduced in the higher years of Primary school and early years of High school. The app is great because it allows students to physically explore and interact with various areas of geometry. Students stretch bands around pegs to form line segments and polygons and make discoveries about perimeter, area, angles, congruence, fractions, and more.

Check it out!

Of course, these are only a few of the hundreds of education apps out there. Feel free to explore and find a program that is well suited to your child’s interest and areas of difficulty. The summer holidays are certainly not meant to be rigorous period of study, but if you can get your child engaged and excited about their education while they are relaxing and having fun (and if you can find a healthy balance between screen-based games, fresh air and exercise) then it’s a win-win!


A Summer Holidays To-Do List For All Year 11 Students

The year is almost at an end, summer is on its way and the Christmas holidays stretch out welcomingly in front of us. It’s the perfect time for students to kick back, relax, unwind and let their brains unravel, right?

Not exactly. Especially not for year 11 students.

Though the summer holidays are an important time for students to see friends, catch up on sleep, get copious amounts of fresh air and give their minds a well-needed break, for year 11 students it is also a very important time for preparing for the busy year ahead. Students who hibernate through the summer, who ignore their textbooks and forget all of the skills they have learned throughout the year are in for a nasty shock come February. Year 12 starts suddenly, and students are expected to be on the top of their game from day 1. Though I certainly don’t recommend students work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week throughout the holidays, I do believe that all year 11 students should set some goals for the holidays. These goals will put them in a good position to approach the final year of their high school education feeling prepared and confident. So here are my 5 suggested goals that every year 11 student should set for summer.


1. Read Your English Texts

This is an absolute no-brainer. When year 12 starts, English classes will be moving through texts at a rapid pace. If your child has not read their text at least once before the year begins, they will be playing catch-up. A strong understanding of what happens in the text, the ideas that it raises and the style of the writing is invaluable. Summer is a great time to read texts for the first time, because it’s a low-pressure environment. In the summer, your child can actually try to read the book for pleasure, to engage with the characters and become involved in the action, as opposed to rushing through it to meet a deadline. If possible, your child should read their text twice throughout the summer: once to enjoy the story and figure out what’s going on, and once to think about what ideas are being raised, what some of the significant quotes might be, and how they could talk about the text in their English classes.



2. Brush Up On Your Mathematics Fundamentals

When it comes to maths, no year is a blank slate. Come February, year 12 students will be expected to already have a vast array of skills. In particular, fundamental skills of factorisation, expansion, algebra, simplification of fractions, index laws, log laws and differentiation are, to a large extent, assumed knowledge. It is my experience that students who haven’t mastered these basic skills will always be on the back foot when it comes to learning new concepts. The summer holidays are a great time for your child to take a step back and revise some of the basic skills that they have been developing throughout high school. Going over the chapter recap sections at the end of each chapter in the year 11 textbooks is a good way of doing this. Even just an hour each week of revision can make a big difference.


3. Get Engaged In Issues

There is one magic device that most people have in their homes right now, that nearly all students ignore, a device that can dramatically increase the extent to which your child is able to engage in their English and Humanities classes. What is it? A newspaper. VCE students are expected to be engaged in local and global issues, have a basic understanding of important political and cultural figures and have the ability to interpret and analyse a variety of articles, opinion pieces and editorial cartoons. Reading the newspaper and watching the news on a regular basis is one of the easiest ways to develop these skills. And it’s something that your child can easily do over breakfast, or on the bus, every day.


4. Get Organised

The most valuable gift that a year 11 student can give themselves this Christmas is a fool-proof system of organisation for the year ahead. By this I mean that by the start of the school year, your child should be able to answer “yes” to the following questions.

Do I have a dedicated study space for the year ahead?

Do I have all the resources I need for all of my classes?

Do I have a system for organising my notes?

Do I have all available information about assessments for my subjects?

Do I have a study schedule organised?

Have I set myself goals for the coming term?

It is important to ask these questions early, because by the time February rolls around, it may just be too late.


5. Don’t Forget How To Write

People often forget that VCE exams do not just test the mind; they also test the hand. Students are required to write non-stop for hours at a time. Unfortunately, the more reliant we become on using computers for communication, research, organisation and assignment writing, the less likely it is that our hands will have the strength and stamina to write legibly and efficiently for this time. This may sound silly, but I have met many students in the past who have excellent ideas but simply aren’t able to adequately express them within a given time frame due to their inexperience with handwriting. The brain was capable, but the hand was not. It is important that your child does not forget how to write over the summer. It doesn’t matter what they write: letters to Grandma, short stories, lists, love letters, notes to self, holiday journals or letters to Santa. The important thing is that they keep their writing hand in good shape for the year ahead.


The summer holidays should be about relaxing. This is certainly true. But most students know that there are two types of relaxation. There is the blind relaxation of the student in denial, who closes their eyes and refuses to think about the stressful times ahead. On the other hand, there is the relaxation of the student that thinks ahead, does a little bit of work each week, and is free to enjoy their summer, confident that they have done everything they can to prepare for the year ahead. It is this kind of relaxation that will ultimately lead to success.


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What Can We Learn From Video Games?

To make a very obvious statement, most students would prefer to play video games than study for a test. As a parent, this will probably not come as much as a surprise to you. But when you think about it, it’s amazing how much energy and dedication children and teenagers put into their games. They often spend hours mastering new skills, solving problems and overcoming obstacles. They work tirelessly and enthusiastically, quitting only when their goals are achieved.pac

If only they could put as much effort into their school work, right?

Instead of dismissing this as natural, I think it’s about time we start looking closer at video games, and what exactly makes them so engaging to children. By looking at the way children like to work, play and learn within video games, its possible to learn a lot about how we can make their schoolwork and homework more enjoyable, engaging and productive. This field of thought is commonly known as Gamification. Gamification is a teaching technique that uses game design and game mechanics in order to make education more engaging and successful. Gamification recognises that there is something special about the way in which people play games, than can be used to enhance the education experience. Most students love playing games because:

-They are interactive

-They progress from easy to difficult in a coherent way

-They reward you for your hard work

-The more you play, the more experience you gain

When we look at this list, the appeal of video games no longer looks so mysterious. We start to think “Why can’t we use these ideas in teaching and learning? Why can’t schoolwork and homework be this engaging?”


The answer is, they can!


At Spectrum Tuition, we take Gamification seriously.  Each tutor has their own unique way of making their classes as interactive, engaging and rewarding as possible. Tutors use sticker charts, incentive systems, and student awards to make sure students are excited about their time in class.

But what can you, as a parent, do?

Think about ways in which you can Gamify your child’s homework. Here are some ideas.


1. Establish an incentive system in which your child accumulates points by doing homework or improving their grades. Even if the incentive system is just symbolic, your child will associate hard work with positive feelings of achievement.


2. Make a note of your child’s “high scores”, such as how long it takes them to answer 20 times-tables questions, and then encourage them to try to beat their score next time. This encourages students to be competitive with themselves.


3. Link achievement to rewards. For example, if your child does all their homework and study for 5 weeks in a row, take them to a movie. This gives them a long-term goal to work towards.


4. Emphasise progress. Remind your child how much they have learned and how much progress they have made. You may use a chart to show the increase in their quiz scores over time. Alternatively, you can have a set of goals that you can gradually tick off together to show that their hand work is paying off.


5. Set the right level of difficulty. When setting study goals with your child, make sure that their goal is not too easy, but not too hard. A good goal is one that your child will have to work hard to achieve, not one that is impossible. If it’s too easy, your child won’t feel challenged; if it’s too hard, they are likely to give up.


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What Is Your Child Reading This Summer?

The school year is reaching an end, the holidays are approaching and all parents have one looming question on their mind: “How will I keep my child busy over the summer?” Of course, the summer holidays are a great time for students to see friends, relax, get outdoors, visit family and refresh their tired minds for another year of hard work. But the Christmas holidays are also a great time to get enthusiastic about reading. There is no doubt that students who read for pleasure have a distinct advantage at school; they have larger vocabularies, their comprehension skills are more advanced, they will have a firmer grasp on spelling and grammar and they are more likely to be able to respond to problems in a more creative and original way. If your child is not already an avid reader, then the school holidays are a perfect time to convert them.

If your child is starting high school in the next few years, it is vital that they develop good reading habits. When they get to high school, they will be required to read novels independently and discuss complex ideas in their classes. Unfortunately, students between the ages of 11-14 are often the pickiest when it comes to what they read. The good news is, Australia has countless talented authors who are producing some amazing books for pre-teens and teenagers of all interests. Here is just a small sample of the range of Australian Young Adult novels out there; slip one or two of these in your child’s stocking this Christmas and help them develop good reading habits that will help them throughout their education!


Fire in the Sea

Myke Barlett











Sadie is sixteen and bored with life in Perth. It’s summer, and lazing on the beach in the stifling heat with her cousins and Tom is a drag. Then something comes out of the sea. Dark menacing forms attack an old man, leaving him for dead and Sadie wracking her brains to understand what she saw. Then there’s a mysterious inheritance, a strange young man called Jake and a horned beast trampling the back yard.

Sadie finds herself caught in the middle of an ancient conflict that is nearing its final battle, a showdown that threatens to engulf Perth and all those she loves in a furious tsunami.


Life in Outer Space

Melissa Kell











Sam Kinnison is a geek, and he’s totally fine with that. He has his horror movies, his nerdy friends, World of Warcraft u and until Princess Leia turns up in his bedroom, worry about girls he won’t. Then Camilla Carter arrives on the scene.

She’s beautiful, friendly and completely irrelevant to his plan. Sam is determined to ignore her, except that Camilla has a plan of her own u and he seems to be a part of it! Sam believes that everything he needs to know he can learn from the movies. But perhaps he’s been watching the wrong ones.


A Fine Mess

Norman Jorgensen











Michael Hardy and Woody Decker have a talent for creating disaster. While testing a replica Roman catapult they accidentally fire a brick through the church window, and so a month of mayhem is unleashed. The school library burns down, the principal is knocked unconscious, a huge dog runs amok, a wedding is totally wrecked and a regiment of garden gnomes is massacred. Could anything else go wrong? Uproariously funny and witheringly witty, A Fine Mess! will have you laughing out loud and begging for mercy.


Tomorrow, When the War Began

John Marsden

 tomorrow when the war began









Six teenagers spend five idyllic days camping in a remote and tranquil beauty spot called Hell. But when they return to their homes they find their families gone, their farms deserted and the animals lying dead in the fields. That’s when they begin to understand the real meaning of hell.


All I Ever Wanted

Vikki Wakefield











Mim knows what she wants, and where she wants to go – anywhere but home, stuck in the suburbs with her mother who won’t get off the couch, and two brothers in prison. She has set herself rules to live by, but she’s starting to break them. Now Mim has to retrieve a lost package for her mother. Does this make her a drug runner? Why is a monster dog called Gargoyle hidden in the back shed? And Jordan, the boy she sent Valentines to for years, why is he now suddenly a creep? How come there’s a huge gap between her and her best friend, Tahnee? And who is the mysterious girl next door who moans at night? Over the nine days before her seventeenth birthday, Mim’s life turns upside down. She has problems, and she’s determined to solve them herself. But in the end, she works out who her people are, and the same things look entirely different.


Deadly, Unna?

Phillip Gwynne











Deadly, Unna? is one year in the life of fourteen year-old Gary ‘Blacky’ Black. Like most boys his age,he plays football, worries about what to say to girls, shirks responsibility and has problems at home. However, through his brief friendship with Dumby Red, one of the local Aborigines, Blacky learns important lessons about human dignity, racism, justice, death, courage, family and friendship


We’d love to hear your experiences of getting children to read. What is your child reading this summer? Is your child an avid reader, or do they have a morbid phobia of books? What genre/style of books does your child find particularly interesting? Can you recommend any authors or titles? Let us know.

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