Tutorfair – helping kids succeed

When I was doing my GCSEs I had a really hard time with Maths, given I now work with statistics and adore data this probably seems crazy but I really found it hard to follow the GCSE syllabus and consequently spent many an unhappy hour crying over my textbook knowing I would face an overly strict teacher the next day. It was the pits, I dreaded the lessons, maths coursework had me a wreck and I felt very anxious about my grades.

My saving grace early in year 10 was a Maths tutor my parents found via an ex-teacher, Jo was brilliant, she came to my parents home once a week and spent an hour building my confidence, more than that I started to see a path through the haze of numbers and algebra slowly didn’t feel like Spanish to me. Jo encouraged me to lighten up a bit, she was someone I looked up to, and unlike my teacher who didn’t have the time to show me the basics that I had picked up wrongly she started afresh and it started to ‘click’. Some of this work took place in the summer holidays where I had the mental space from school to concentrate on key skills.

My parents and I would say that this tutoring was worth every penny, I couldn’t have continued on the same path without it and although my parents weren’t rich they saw how the tutoring increased my confidence and I think this made the expense worthwhile.

Tutorfair is a website that makes tutoring accessible for all. It’s easy to use, you search by putting in your postcode and subject, and voila, it picks the best tutor near you. Fifteen years ago we were lucky to find Jo, so I think anything that opens up the possibilities and makes tutoring more accessible has to be a good thing!

Tutorfair Website[1]

View everything from qualifications to videos of tutors, so you can get a better idea of what they are like and make the right choice for your child. Online payment makes booking easy, and if you’re not totally satisfied with your tutor after your first lesson, Tutorfair will give you your money back.

The big difference between Tutorfair and other traditional tutoring agencies is that Tutorfair gives something back – for every student who pays, Tutorfair gives free tutoring to a child can’t (the ‘fair’ bit).

Tutorfair’s Mark Maclaine really nicely illustrates the experience I had from tutoring and I would seek the same for J if she needed it. Mark talks about Comfort, Stretch and Panic Zones. In the ‘comfort’ zone, the learners are highly familiar with the situation. This includes everything they already know and tasks they can do almost without thinking. Students are comfortable here, feeling like they are in full control. But they are not learning. At the other end of the scale, in the ‘panic’ zone the situation is highly stressful or can seem dangerous to the learner. In this zone there is often a perception that the skill required for success is so far out of reach that it’s not even worth trying. Students in this zone can be overwhelmed, feeling like they have no control, and may ‘shut down’ entirely.

This was where I was when I really needed some support with my Maths. The trick to growth is to be somewhere in the middle, where the student is slightly uncomfortable but still learning. Mark hits the nail on the head when he says “a child who feels shame may find it hard to approach the teacher, but if your students are comfortable approaching you with concerns you can solve problems early on. The same thing goes for a parent. Opening up this dialogue with children helps them feel comfortable about coming to you if they ever feel overwhelmed in the future.”

With some careful support I succeeded in reaching the ideal zone for me, I was stretched and learning, but the panic lessened and I went on to improve from a predicted D grade to a B grade in my GCSEs, and I now know that there are many strands to Math, I love stats and I haven’t looked at algebra since!

Disclaimer: post in collaboration with Tutorfair

Alnwick Gardens Late Summer Bloom

It’s been about eight years since I last visited Alnwick Gardens in Northumberland, how nice to visit again and see how much more established it is, the gardens have been here since 1750 but were redeveloped in 2001 and a Poison Garden added in 2005. Today we took in the Rose Garden, Serpent Garden and Ornamental Garden, quite a walk for a toddler and a real treat for me! Not the best photos but we were busy making memories!





frog prince



peach rose

ornamental garden





small rose


Women’s Equality Day 2015

Women’s Equality Day marks the date in the United States that women were granted the right to vote – August 26, 1920; commemorating Women’s Equality Day (WED) calls our attention towards women’s continued struggle towards equality, and the stories of women forging a path for others coming up behind them.

I’ve blogged before about the importance of amplifying women’s voices, increasing access to opportunities and highlighting and challenging the inequalities women face in their everyday lives. To this end I want nothing more than for my daughter to dream big, learn to become resilient in the face of setbacks and stand up for her beliefs.

For young women coming up behind a long line of women including Emmeline Pankhurst and Malala Yousafzai there’s no shortage of inspirational stories and I particularly like the This Girl Can campaign for shining a light on women’s strengths. Thinking about these stories made me reflect on my own experiences of overcoming challenges and finding my voice.


Recently I’ve felt my own resolve tested and have sought out sources of inspiration and hope, reminding myself of the personal resources and energy reserves I have to fall back on.

I’ve been exploring goal setting in my personal as well as working life and looking to the future after a setback has been a huge challenge, but one which comes with some great rewards. There’s a lot to be said for spending a little time doing some soul searching, living in the moment and taking the time to re-evaluate your personal goals and how these fit with the life you currently lead – making dreams a reality is all about breathing life into them and moving forwards towards them.

I’ve found strength in exploring what makes me feel empowered, these are some of the questions I have found really useful to explore:
– What inspires me and makes me feel empowered?
– What holds me back?
– Who are my role models?
– What attributes do I admire in them?
– How do I deal with setbacks?
– How do I look to the future? What are my hopes and dreams?
– How can I make my dreams a reality?
– What I will tell my girl about life’s struggles and setbacks when she looks to me for support to deal with her own?

There’s a quote by Erin Hanson that I love, “There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, What if you fly?” – there’s such promise to be held in a leap of faith! Which women do you admire? Which stories inspire you?

Disclosure: Post in collaboration with TheCircle

Our Lego Dream House

What if you could build the house of your dreams? What would it be like? Classic, modern, traditional?

How about multicoloured, designed and built by a three year old architect and situated on a blue ‘sea’ road?!

We were challenged by Ocean Finance to design our dream home from Lego for their latest blogging competition. In exchange for 1 kilo of Lego J and I spent a happy hour planning, then building her dream home, if you’re a regular reader you will know animals will be involved and actually in her dream home they play an inspirational role!!

dream house

I absolutely love it when J’s imagination runs wild, so when I challenged her to build her dream house I was delighted by her specification, here’s a brief rundown of her spec!

– “My house is at the seaside”
– “Needs to have a garden for my bunnies on the roof”
– “No Mammy, no black Lego bricks, brown is OK but not black”
– “Can you help me make a sandy road on the sea road?”
– “Has it got somewhere for the bunnies’ lettuce?”

dream house 3

Part beach condo, part open plan fridge (yes, she was serious about storing the bunnies’ lettuce inside the main structure of the house!) I love how her dream home has evolved into this masterpiece, not bad for a just-turned-three year old!

dream house 1

I suggested we build stairs up to the roof terrace but that idea was met with horror!

dream house 2

What do you think of our dream home? Perfect for Flopsy rabbit and family?