by Jenna Srigley, Adminstrative Assistant at Teachers to Go & mom of 2
March break already? What am I supposed to do with the kids to keep them busy? If you’ve opted to have a staycation this March Break, don’t worry we have you covered. Here are some fun and educational ideas to keep everyone happy during this upcoming week:
1. A visit to the sugar bush- If the weather cooperates this is a great way to educate the kids and yourself about how maple syrup is made. They will show you how they tap the trees and collect the syrup. It will get the kids moving and outside for some fresh air.
Maple syrup is a Canadian staple and a tasty part of our history. Check out this resource https://thecanadianhomeschooler.com/maple-syrup/ for some history to teach your kids about maple syrup from the Objiwe and Metis perspectives, fun songs about maple syrup for your little ones, along with maple recipes to use for #2.
2. Baking - They will be measuring, counting and following recipes. Have them double or half the recipe so they have to do a little Math to add, subtract, and divide. Be sure to let them assist in choosing what to bake so it keeps them interested. They will look forward to enjoying the treat after their hard work. Even if the end result is not so tasty, reflect and have a conversation with them about what happened and what they could do differently next time. We learn from our mistakes!
3. Scavenger Hunt - Make a list of things (with visuals for younger children) for them to search for on your nature walk. When creating this checklist, consider all 5 senses. Do they hear birds chirping? Do they smell snow/rain? Do they feel the bark? Do they see maple or pine trees? Do they taste snow?
4. Nature Art – Taking inspiration from your nature walk, such as fallen leaves, twigs or acorns, have your child create an art piece using these materials. You can even schedule an art gallery walk with the family to showcase your child’s masterpiece.
These are just a few ideas for March Break activities that are inexpensive. As a mom of teens, I know it can be stressful trying to keep them busy at any age but, if you plan and organize, you can have a great week. That is if they aren’t too cool to hang out with you yet!
International Women’s Day is on Sunday. It’s a day that celebrates the many talents and strengths of women. In celebration, we have rounded up some tips to raise an empowered girl. I know we’ve likely missed some points so let us know your experiences and opinions in the comments. Here is our list:
1. Encourage her to voice her opinion and speak for herself. From an early age, it’s important to give your daughter the opportunities to speak about her opinions and feelings. Listen and show her that her opinion is valued. Let your daughter debate hot topics with the adults and, leading by example, teach her how to be assertive in a respectful way.
2. Help her build positive relationships. Disagreements with friends are a normal part of friendships but there is a huge difference between disagreements and verbal abuse. Girls are often taught to be nice, apologize, and consider others first. But it’s important to be kind AND have a strong voice and boundaries. Teach her how to express and own her emotions using certain vocabulary like ‘When you said this it made me feel this way.”
3. Have conversations about body image. This conversation is imperative because society still puts a huge emphasis on how girls look. Instead of commenting on your daughter’s appearance, make one about how she uses her body as an instrument to conquer achievements. ‘Wow, you held that handstand for a long time. You’re so strong.” Also, show her the importance of taking care of her body and being healthy mentally and physically. Take her to a yoga class. Try meditation.
There’s also nothing wrong with make-up and dressing up! But if/when your daughter experiments with fashion, rather than saying ‘You look pretty” try “You are really talented with the eye shadow. You can braid hair really well.” It’s then an expression of their creative side rather than as a tool to enhance their looks. Be mindful of the conversations you have about your body image as well. As parents, make sure you model positive discussions about your body and do not place emphasis on your appearance being the most important thing.
4. Buy her toys that make her think. Embrace the brain teasers and board games, the medical and scientific experiments, things to build towers and locomotives. Give her the tools to explore, think, tinker as well as dress up. Her toys get her thinking and believing in all the possibilities the world has to offer her.
5. Female role models. Learn something new. Make a new friend. Be assertive. Foster positive relationships and a healthy body image. Be the empowered woman you want your daughter to strive to be. Or perhaps you or your partner have females in your families who your daughter could look up to as well. The more examples of strong female role models in her life the more likely she’ll believe in the reality of achieving her goals.
A big part of raising this generation of children is figuring out what role technology plays in their lives. Kids are surrounded by social media to interact with friends and other people. As parents, it’s important to have a conversation with your child about using good judgment and staying safe when using these tools. Here are some important topics to discuss with your child about using social media, and the internet, safely:
1. Set up strict boundaries: It’s up to you as a parent to decide what age is appropriate to open a social media account for your child. When you do, it’s best to discuss the importance of not sharing or posting any personal information on their account. Signing up with a username, not their real name, and setting strict privacy settings is the best option for most people and especially minors. Depending on their age, or your concerns, you may also want to set a boundary where you have access to the account to start in order to monitor their use. Then gradually pull back as you feel more comfortable.
2. The internet is permanent: People seem to forget this and don’t think carefully before they post. Talk to your child about the repercussions and give examples of bad posts so they understand. Everything you share is tied to you now and 10 years from now. Many companies nowadays will conduct a search online and look at social media accounts before hiring someone. Stress the importance of taking a moment to ask themselves that if it’s not something they’d want their future boss to see, then they should probably not post it.
3. Stranger danger: Make this a rule for their safety. If someone they don’t know messages them online, don’t respond. If they ask for personal information, show your child how to block accounts. Social media makes it even easier nowadays for predators to connect with children so it’s important your child understands the risks and protects themselves.
4. Filters and filtering: Explain to your child that social media is not an accurate representation of people’s lives. People have the control to filter what they post so they tend to show the best days or parts of their lives and post photos of themselves edited with filters. As your child grows up in this digital world, it’s hard not to compare themselves to the images they see and think what they see online is real. We as adults can be guilty of doing this too!
Start with these conversations about social media and try to lead by example on your accounts. Set privacy settings on your accounts. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss seeing. Don’t add anyone that you don’t know on your accounts. Even try taking a selfie without filters!
February is the time of year when you get your child’s report card. You may also get the opportunity for a parent-teacher interview to discuss or ask any questions. It’s important to take the time to review the report card with your child. The report card is a great resource to reflect on your child’s achievements and areas to work on. Here are some suggestions to make it a positive and effective experience:
1. Review it independently. Read the comments and make notes of the successes and areas of improvement. Planning what you want to discuss with your child beforehand makes for a more productive and positive discussion. Keep in mind that every year is different, and some grades/subjects are generally more challenging than others.
2. Read the report card with your child. Ask them about their thoughts. Listen to what they have to say because they will have valuable insight. Celebrate their successes and keep the conversation positive. Don’t compare your child with another friend or family member. It’s important to remember that every child learns and performs differently.
3. Make a plan for success on the next report card. Together with your child, identify areas or subjects that could use improvement. Then create goals and steps to achieve each one along with how you will provide support. Write them down to provide a visual. If there are subjects that are out of your comfort zone or realm of expertise, tell your child and discuss the possibility of getting other support from a tutor, other family member or friend.
4. Communicate and track your child’s progress. If you choose to go to the parent-teacher interview, ask your child for their input and follow up with them about the discussion. Share your child’s goals with their teacher as well. As the new semester progresses, set aside time to check in and have daily discussions with your child. Refrain from asking yes/no questions such as: Do you have homework? Instead ask questions like: What was the best part of your day? What was the hardest thing you had to do today? Can you show me something you learned today? What is something you’re going to review tonight?
Having positive and daily conversations with your child about school will motivate them to achieve their goals and/or come to you when they’re feeling discouraged or need support. It will also avoid any surprises during report card time.
As a teacher I can confirm that we do have ‘eyes on the back of our heads’ (we see everything our students are up to!) but unfortunately, we haven’t quite learned the talent of mind-reading. We don’t know everything going in our students’ lives, but these events directly contribute to their (lack of) performance inside the classroom. Mental health and wellness have become crucial components of many yearly action plans in schools across Canada. With the concerning number of students reporting stress, anxiety or other mental wellness issues, some school boards are taking action through the implementation of mindfulness programs.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention and being present in the moment. Mindfulness activities range from breathing exercises to listening to music. One school in Vancouver even offers tai chi to elementary students! In a nutshell, mindfulness is essentially giving students and teachers the opportunity to take a break and have some quiet time to reflect.
In 2013, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) introduced meditation lessons to Grade 9 students at Dr Norman Bethune CI. Known as The Mindfulness Project, this workshop was led by classroom teachers and carried out in six workshops over two months. The students at Bethune practiced breathing, body scans and other strategies to assist them cope with daily pressures. The students’ response to the program at Bethune was extremely positive. The project’s organizers received a TDSB Award of Excellence 2014 and the workshop has since been extended to all Grade 9s in the school district.
In January 2015, a mindfulness program co-developed by actress Goldie Hawn was tested as a control study with 99 Grade 4 and 5 students in Coquitlam, BC. Known as MindUp, the students were taught social, emotional and mindfulness skills with activities that included mindful tasting, listening to music and “brain breaks.” The results from the study were also extremely positive. The children exhibited less stress, more optimism and even showed improvements in their math abilities. The MindUp program now partners with schools in Abbotsford, Coquitlam, Vancouver, West Vancouver and York using 15 lessons to help teach students how to be mindfully engaged.
Another mindfulness project at a school in San Francisco has seen some exceptional changes in their students. Visitacion Valley Middle School implemented meditation in 2007, with twelve minute ‘quiet times’ to start and end each day. Since then, the school’s truancy and suspension rates have decreased by more than half while the state of California’s rates have continued to climb.
With my own students, I’ve found that by allowing my students some time to get themselves into a positive and calm headspace ready to learn, they’re more engaged and happier.
Here are a few mindfulness activities, some that we use with our students, that you can use at home to introduce mindfulness to your child:
Whichever mindfulness activities you choose to introduce your child, just remember these tips:
Most importantly, feel free to get creative and have fun exploring quiet time together!
Please note: Teachers to Go is now offering sessions in the comfort of your own home (in-person or online) with a teacher certified in mindfulness for children. They will design tailored lessons for your child to practice mindfulness and promote self-confidence. For more information please contact us.
People who display resilience, or ‘grit’, can overcome challenges and failures. They aren’t devastated by setbacks and are able to get back up and try again. Having grit means to have confidence. It is an incredibly important life skill for children to have when facing difficulties at school or throughout their lives. Gritty children are also more likely to perform better, and be happier, at school. So how do you build a gritty child? Here are some tips:
1. Read about grit. From Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go to The Little Engine that Could, there are so many options to teach your child about perseverance. Check out this website for more examples: https://www.noodle.com/articles/10-picture-books-that-teach-grit When you’re reading with them, ask your child to make connections to their life, the world, and other books they’ve read. This will enable them to see the possibility of making those fictional stories a reality.
2. Discuss examples of gritty famous people or others they know who have overcame setbacks. Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Jim Carrey are just a few examples. Talk about the barriers they encountered and what they did to overcome it. You might notice a common theme that positive mindset and self talk goes a long way!
3. Develop your child’s interests. Find things that fascinate and excite them and foster it. Talk to them about your passions and discuss your goals together. Passionate people also tend to be resilient.
4. Practice. The best way to learn is to not succeed the first time. Failure can be a good thing for children. The whole process from experiencing the setback, accepting it, reflecting on what went wrong and revising your plan to try again is all part of building grit. Let your child make their own choices, even if you know it’s not right, and then help them work through their mistake and motivate them to try again. Encourage your child to communicate when they’re feeling discouraged and strategies to break through the barriers. Permitting your child to experience failure is challenging as parents since our instinct is to protect them from disappointment in any form. But teaching your child how to manage these situations effectively is crucial to building resiliency.
5. Praise their effort over ability. If you praise their determination over the abilities they were born with, this will encourage them to put in the hard work and grit rather than the belief they can coast by on their innate abilities.
6. Lead by example. Teach your child about the importance and rewards that come with hard work. Share any examples you may have had in your own life from failing and persevering. Modeling this resiliency in your own life will build their confidence to feel like they can take on anything.
Schools have been making the shift from teacher- to self-directed learning with independent projects, online tutorials, etc. Self-motivated learning is an important skill for your child to learn to prepare for the real world. Here are some tips to help your child become an independent and engaged learner:
1. Create simple step-by-step objectives together. When they have homework or a project, it can be overwhelming, and your child may have no idea where or how to begin. Sit down with them and show how to break it into smaller more manageable tasks by using a to do list. Your child could choose to do it as a piecemeal approach (finish this page of Math or this part of the assignment) or with a timed objective (half-hour of work then 5-minute break). This alleviates any anxiety and creates an ‘end in sight’ to keep your child motivated.
2. Discuss the time of day that they feel the most alert and focused. For many teens, that may be later in the evening while elementary students may be right after school or on weekend mornings. Then create a weekly schedule during these optimal times for learning.
3. Have your child identify distractions they may encounter (social media, their phone, tv, video games, their sibling(s)?) and explain how they can avoid them to stay focused.
4. Learn how you learn. Talk to your child about what kind of tools help them learn best. Does a YouTube video explain the concepts? How about making a study sheet and using colourful sticky notes or pens? Flashcards? Turning the content into a game to study for tests? It’s important that your child understands the way(s) they learn in order to make the most of their time and best retain the information.
5. Set rewards. We all work harder when we have a goal or reward to work towards. Students can set their own personal reward after they complete a certain number of tasks on their To Do lists. This may be a treat to eat or gaming – whatever the learner finds rewarding. It’s important that they choose this reward on their own to ensure they stay motivated.
Teaching your child how to tackle tasks on their own gives them more chance for success now and in the future.
Procrastinating causes stress and anxiety the night before a test. Cramming the information into one night is not an effective way for your teen to attain knowledge and perform well. Here are some strategies to help them curb procrastination:
1. Plan out your week using a calendar: Before your week begins, look at your availability, as well as your long-term assignments, and map out the small steps that can be accomplished to ease up the workload. For example, maybe you have an essay due in a month and you haven’t started. You could make it a goal to brainstorm ideas this week on a mind map then start your rough draft the next. Coming back to your assignment a few times with fresh eyes helps you see things you may miss when you do it all the night before it’s due.
2. Set aside ‘Homework Time’ each evening: Don’t set aside four hours every night because it’s too long and you’re likely to feel overwhelmed and skip it altogether. Instead, plan for an hour or two (depending on your courses and grade level) each night so you can review and plan rather than play ‘catch-up.’ Also, focus on one subject or task at a time. Swapping between assignments can make you feel stressed and it will take longer to finish.
3. Disconnect and address all distractions: Turn off your cell phone, social media accounts, and TV. Tell your friends and family when you’re going to be working so they don’t disrupt your concentration.
4. Create a realistic and manageable To Do list: Look at each individual task, break them down into small tasks and check them off as you go. Seeing your progress will prompt you to keep going!
5. Start with the most difficult task first: You will know that the hardest part is over and it will motivate you for the rest.
6. Reward yourself! Having something to look forward to at the end of a productive work session is a great motivator.
1) Get to know your child’s teacher(s)
Get to know your child’s teacher on an individual basis. Take the time to develop strong and respectful relationships with each of them. This will pay off down the road whether in resolving potential issues and/or establishing the trust necessary for a collaborative approach to your child’s success.
2) Clean slate
Do not judge your child for their indiscretions last term and give them the chance for a fresh start. Also, if you have more than one child in school, don’t show favouritism. Each child should feel they have an equal chance to learn, grow and shine at home.
3) Set learning goals with your child
Ask your child what they’d like to achieve this semester/school year and create some learning goals together. Make sure to consider all areas of their lives including their academic, social, physical and emotional. It could be anything from: ‘I want to get an A in Math’ to ‘I want to score 3 goals in one hockey game’ or ‘I want to have my first sleepover.’ It’s important to balance all areas of their life so they feel motivated inside and outside of class.
4) Provide structure
It’s important to provide your child with structure every evening. Let your child plan the evening – between when they will complete their chores, when they’ll have free time etc. Create this calendar together at the beginning of the school year and hang it up in the common area. Getting your child involved in planning the weeknight schedules helps them feel empowered. Not to mention, it’s easier to get them to work by reminding them that they created the schedule.
Remember to encourage your child to live a healthy, balanced life full of exercise, nutrition, sleep and friends. A great mental break from technology can really do wonders. Instead try a family board game night or partake in a mindfulness activity (yoga or meditation). Regardless of what you choose to do, remember that it’s important you lead by example and take care of yourself too!
Wishing you a fantastic start to the school year!
The warmer weather is on the horizon (finally!), and mid-term reports have been handed out, which mean that there are only a few more months of school. It’s important your child makes the most of the time they have left before June. Here are some tips to help:
1. Wake Up at the Same Time Each Day – This may a tough one for your teen but waking up at the same time each day can actually improve their quality of sleep and give them more energy through the day. That extra, however little, time in the morning can also be a great time to encourage them to try mindfulness, review the schedule for the day or have a complete breakfast.
2. Take Good Notes – This is a skills that is so incredibly helpful when reviewing and studying for tests. As a teacher for grades 6-8, I have found the Cornell Note-taking System very effective for students. Using columns, it makes it easier for students to record and absorb the information quickly. But, like all educational tools and strategies, one way is not fit for all. So, it’s important to try different note-taking strategies and find the one that works for your child. Have you found a note-taking strategy/tool that works for your child? If so, please share with us in the comments.
3. Do Not Procrastinate – Putting off studying for the test until the night before is never a good idea. Not only does it make for a stressful night the day before the test but it also hinders their ability to retain the material and have a restful night’s sleep. Instead try to encourage your child to review their notes after each class from the beginning of a unit. A quick review of the notes and daily homework completion will ensure they deepen their understanding of the material and feel more confident and prepared for each class.
4. Keep a Balance – School is important but it is only one piece of the puzzle in your child’s life. The best way to achieve success, in school and life, is to have balance. Make sure they don’t overexert themselves with hours upon hours of studying every night. They should also make time to enjoy with family, friends and other activities.
5. Know When to Ask for Help – Encourage your child that if they are struggling it’s okay to ask for help. They can confide in their teacher after class, ask you, or request tutoring. Tutors can help your child identify their learning needs and work with them every step of the way so they feel confident in their abilities as a learner. The first step to success is the belief in themselves that they can do it.
Julie Diamond, OCT
Julie Diamond is a certified teacher in Canada and the founder of Teachers to Go.