I have an idea and I need your help

My boys are eager to explore the Internet and create their own content. I came home yesterday and found one of my sons writing his own newspaper. I figure if they are so inclined then others their age share the same mindset. My idea is to create a Let’s Explore WordPress session for children ages 8 to 10. I’d like to try to bring this idea to life for a day over the December holidays or the first professional day in Peel District School Board’s 2013 calendar. I am hoping I can find a teacher – perhaps a high school or college student who would be interested in teaching a group of children for 4 or 5 hours. (physical activity like dodgeball, etc. would also be included and led by me or another adult)

Please can you recommend a WordPress teacher or other ideas for this type of day?



Filed under Technology

Brave New World


Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, 1.

Our children, who were born after 1995, have always known the world to have the internet. To say they are comfortable with technology is an understatement. They enjoy and crave the interactivity and immediacy of response that personal computers and the like provide – plus they seem to be able to do a number of things at once while using technology. I find it remarkable how my boys can follow a television program, have a conversation with a friend while seemingly concentrating on playing an electronic game. (Yet they always seem to be able to tune me out. Go figure.)

How can reading a book compare to the stimulus of the world wide web? Sitting still focused on one thing, letting your brain form the pictures and think about what you are reading… sounds kinda dull when you could use mom’s smart phone to play a game which illustrates the story and gives you immediate results.

Parents and teachers are working in a tough environment to teach children the fundamentals and excite them to learn. The old school way of learning with books, paper and pencils and independent thinking is folding into the new world with bring your own digital devices to school and collaborative group work. Parents and teachers are navigating this territory at the same time. How about we do it together by sharing our experiences, learnings and resources?

If you are a teacher or a parent and you have found a fantastic resource which you think everyone should know about, I invite you to share your findings here.

Here are some resources which I think are wonderful:

Have you checked out www.teachingkidsnews.com? It is a current affairs website for parents, educators and children grades 2 to 8 whose articles are always up to date and written in a manner which children can understand as well as gain greater insight into the situation.

Plus, for educators and parents there are activity and discussion guides provided as suggestions.

Why I love the site?
Easy to read
Updated frequently so content is current
Wonderful variety of articles allowing children to find what appeals to them most
Great writing and discussion guides which help readers to think and form their own opinions on topics
Provides context such as history of a situation, rules of a game, relationship of situations, etc.

Learning to read is a life skill that everyone wants to see their child achieve. Some children will love to read and their imaginations will take them to far away lands. Others just aren’t interested. I believe that if the child enjoys the subject matter then they can become excited about learning. In current affairs there is always something that can interest each person – sports, entertainment, science, etc..

Additionally, reading with discussion can develop critical thinking, development of opinions and so many other skills. Why should learning be concentrated on the development of one skill at a time? This is why I love the exercise of reading the news and discussing it with my family. I would like my children to develop an understanding of current events and their impact on our lives.

As a parent I really find the content of the http://www.commonsense.org website to be topnotch for reviews of all forms of media but more importantly, a resource for parents and educators on how to help teach children digital literacy.

Straight from their website: “Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.

We exist because our nation’s children spend more time with media and digital activities than they do with their families or in school, which profoundly impacts their social, emotional, and physical development . As a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, we provide trustworthy information and tools, as well as an independent forum, so that families can have a choice and a voice about the media they consume.”

While based in the US, their content is very relevant to their Canadian neighbours as we share so many traits. I encourage parents and teachers to spend some time on their site – playing their games and reading their reviews with their families. You will come away feeling better enabled for the media world we live in.

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Filed under Life skills, Thoughts

All Kinds of Creative Fun

When my youngest announced that he wanted a sleepover birthday party when he turned 7, I thought “Yikes, how can I wear these boys out so they sleep?”
Then I put on my thinking cap (and had a glass of wine). With my son being a huge Phineas and Ferb fan, the theme for the party was decided which made planning the activities that much easier. If you aren’t familiar with this Disney cartoon show which makes great co-viewing, here is a quick synopsis. Phineas and Ferb are brothers likely around 10 or 11 years old who dream up some crazy activities to do each day of the summer holiday such as building a roller coaster, hosting their own game show, opening a restaurant, etc.

Here is what we decided to do for my son’s party. As the weather was warm and sunny, we blew up our mini bouncy castle and borrowed an inflatable slide which instantly turned our backyard into a mini-carnival. Once the boys had worn themselves out on these, we had an egg hunt. I had found some of those Easter eggs that you can put whatever you want inside and put some Phineas and Ferb tattoos as the treasure. As the boys uncovered their tattoos and covered themselves from head to toe with tattoos, the grill master Daddee-O, made skyhigh burgers and hotdogs.

After dinner, the boys made tie-dye t-shirts. This was probably the craziest activity I could do with 6 boys and do it inside the house! Dye was everywhere and yes, some was even walked on to the carpet. (Fortunately we found it in time and cleaned up the rogue participant at the same time.) Thanks to Michael’s the craft store, we had a great range of colours. I wasn’t sure how this activity was going to go over with boys given that it was a “craft” of sorts but everyone loved it. Their favourite part was the unveiling the next morning when we rinsed and unwrapped and untied the shirts to see what each one looked like. (They proudly worn them to school the next day!)

For dessert we kept with the creative theme and had made cupcakes ahead of time. Each child became a mini dessert chef – choosing their icing and variety of toppings to create a sweet! masterpiece. After their work was done, they indulged in their creations.

As they had expelled a great deal of energy outside and with some of the thinking activities, they were ready to watch a movie in the basement (and so was I)!
Everyone slept through the night, much to my amazement as this was the first sleepover for all but the birthday boy. Yet they were up at 5:30 the next morning.

A few words of advice if you are thinking of tie dying at a child’s birthday party (for children under the age of 12), I recommend you have 1 adult for every 2 children as the dye can get very messy. Also, wear gloves! The dye is quite strong and it took me 4 days to wash my hands back to normal.

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Filed under Creativity, Organized Fun

NounSens-ical Fun!

My family loves to play board games – our favourites are ones which make us laugh and talk and generally relax. We were recently introduced to a new game called NounSense by the wonderful people at OurKids and here is our review.

If you enjoy reading and filling in the blanks with the Mad Lib books, this game is for you. The object of the game is to be the first player who completes their story with nouns and collects the most points. To begin the game, each player picks a story card (but shouldn’t read it). Each story card has blanks on it – this is where the nouns go. You find the nouns on this board which has all the nouns you can use to complete the stories. (When I first saw the board I was skeptical that the sticky stuff was going to let us reuse the nouns but not to worry it is great.) Then you take turns moving your marker around the board, landing on spots which tell you how many nouns you can peel and stick into your story.

My boys were so excited to complete their stories that they didn’t want to wait for their turn. This caused some problems because while they tried to wait for their turn they would read their stories to themselves and giggle. Of course when one giggles the other wants to know why….
We had so much fun since we first played the game about a month ago, my ten year old son has asked to play it at least once week since.

A few details: We have played without keeping score as the points are not really necessary. Instead we see who can make the others laugh the loudest and longest with the funniest story. We recommend that when you play you don’t look at the Wild Words as you pick them otherwise these will be the nouns that everyone wants first (causing arguments and competitiveness to crush the fun).

As a mom, I really enjoyed listening to my son who is in Grade One read his story. Some of the words were a bit challenging for him which was great! My son who is in Grade 4 loved the freedom to make up the silliest sentences possible.

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Filed under Impromptu Activities

Show Me The Love… Not The Money

Son #2's door

For son #1

This morning I read the following facts:
Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest gift-giving holidays of the year. The National Retail Federations (NRF) 2012 Valentine’s Day Study revealed that the average person will spend US$126.03 this year. This is the highest level in the last 10 years. The survey also revealed that consumers will spend $4.1 billion on jewelry, $1.8 billion on flowers, $1.5 billion on candy, $1.4 billion on clothing and $1.1 billion on gift cards. Oh my?!!

Call me Scrooge but I don’t need to show my family my love through the purchase of stuff! Instead I have decided to do some personalized crafts.
Someone I follow on twitter shared a pin she found on pinterest. The image showed a bedroom door which had been decorated with hearts. Each heart had a characteristic that the mom or dad loved about the child. I loved this idea! What a great way for you to recognize the talents of your children. I loved it so much that I copied it.

This morning when they woke up I received a big hug from son #2 who said “Awesome job on the Valentines, mom!” That is all I wanted – hugs and smiles from my boys on Valentine’s Day.

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Filed under Creativity, Uncategorized

Teaching The Value of Saving The Hard Way (or How to maintain composure in Walmart)

On Friday night, my 6 year old son said to me “Can we go to Wal*mart? I want to look for this cool video game Skylanders.” The first thing that crossed my mind was “I would rather clean the bathrooms” and the second was “Why? Christmas was only four weeks ago.” I had expected this request to come up a few weeks earlier as the moms at the bus stop the first week back at school after the holidays had been saying this is what their boys were asking for. So we were a few weeks behind.

I had no idea how much this game would be but given the description that my little guy was giving me “You need the game and the powerpack and the 3 dudes come in the starter pack but I want to buy more than the starter pack.” Oh dear! How much is this going to be I thought.

On the way to the big blue monster of a store which I try to avoid most weekends, I tried to prepare my son by saying “We are going to see how much this thing is. It sounds like it is a lot of money. If it is, then we won’t be buying it.”

“But I will spend my own money.”

While he has been putting his allowance in his piggy bank each week, I also knew that he had dipped into his savings a few times to buy a book or two from the school book orders. I suspected his savings were under $10. Nowhere near enough to buy the simplest video game.

“If the game is a lot of money, we won’t be buying it. So no tears.” I know my son. If I say no way to the price tag as we stand in the aisle, he will harrass me trying to change my mind. There was no way this was going to happen with this situation. He had received enough gifts at Christmas.

Sure enough when we found the game it was just shy of $70.00 without tax. I immediately explained that this was far too much money and he didn’t have enough in his savings. He said in a broken voice “But we could all pay – you, me, big brother and daddy.”

“We will have to go home and talk about it. Time to go.”

He stayed standing in the aisle trying to think of another approach. I walked away. That was when his tantrum began – calling me names, pushing me back to the aisle. Not pretty. I swear this is why they put the games section at the back of the store – so parents like me, can suffer the most abuse from their children in front of strangers and neighbours. I tried to smile and laugh. But all I wanted to do was cry and yell at him. I tried to explain to him in front of the couples buying towels and food, “Money doesn’t grow on trees. You have to save. Not everything can be done instantly.” Finally I picked up this awkward, distraught boy who was still calling me a bad parent and tried to carry him out of the store while he hurled angry words at me. When we got in the car, the tears were streaming down his face with a bitter expression on his mouth. Not fun. All the way home he cried and said he would talk to his daddy.I turned the music up loudly so I couldn’t hear his abuse.

No luck with his dad or his brother. Both knew the price of the game and said no way. Then little guy started to count out his money from his piggy bank. Yup. $10 and change. He was not happy.

Now he is asking for a Walmart gift card for his birthday which is 5 months away and is all ready talking about what he wants to buy his brother for his birthday which is in 4 months. He is strategizing on what he needs to do to save for the game. At least he is thinking about how to add money up with a goal in mind. Knowing my son, he won’t forget and he will put his mind to it. I just hope the grandparents don’t hear about this and little guy does save his money.

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Filed under Life skills

Little reminder of a good teacher” The Vinyl Cafe: Mr. Fisher (CBC Radio FM 99.1)


Mr. Fisher

When I was going to High School I had the good fortune to have Mr. Fisher for Grade11 History. The class was “People and Politics”. It was a history of the 20thCentury, the good and the bad. Mr. Fisher used to be a boxer, and he moved around his classroom like a boxer dances around his ring. I had heard stories about Mr. Fisher and his history class. I heard that during his description of Vimy Ridge he got up on his desk and rat-a-tat-tatted an imagined machine gun at the students in their desks. I heard that Mr. Fisher waved around a blue handkerchief. I was curious to say the least. During our first week, Mr. Fisher taught us the basics of how he wanted assignments handed in for his class. We were to underline the date, title and our name with a red pen, and we were to use a ruler. Our writing was to be legible, or assignments would be handed back. I saw a few people get papers handed back on the basis of poor pen manship. Mr. Fisher did not fool around. During our study of World War One, Mr. Fisher made the trenches imaginable for us. We were stunned, and horrified by what we learned. He explained the tragedies of a soldier’s suffering with tears streaming down his face, his big blue handkerchief always at the ready. We were learning, and learning well. There was a boy named Dennis who sat in front of me in Mr. Fisher’s neatly ordered rows. Dennis was a trouble maker. Dennis often had his assignments handed back to him. Dennis was often late for class. In Mr. Fisher’s world, lateness was not acceptable. One day, in the middle of term, Dennis came in late, and sat down after tossing his assignment onto Mr. Fisher’s desk. Mr. Fisher had reached his boiling point. He stood up, pushed back his chair, grabbed Dennis’ paper, ripped it in half and threw it into the garbage can. He rushed over to Dennis’ desk, pointed his finger in his face and began a two minute tirade, berating Dennis from everything to his tardiness, to his messy hair. The whole class was uncomfortable. The longer the tirade continued, the quieter the room got. And Dennis  never said a thing. He didn’t even look up at Mr. Fisher. Suddenly he stopped, patted Dennis on the shoulder, and said “Thank you Dennis.” Then Mr. Fisher turned his eyes on all of us. “I stood here for two minutes completely humiliating this boy in front of you all, and not one of you said anything. You all knew I was out of line, and had no right to be saying those things to Dennis, yet nobody tried to stop me. Why? Because I am a teacher, a figure of authority? Because you were afraid?” Not one of us could meet his gaze, so he continued, “Dennis was expecting this today, because I asked him to come in late, throw his homework on my desk and asked his permission to rant at him like a lunatic for a couple of minutes.” All of us looked up at Mr. Fisher and Dennis mouths agape. “Today,” he said, “we begin our study of the Holocaust, and the Second World War, and how it all got started.”

There are not many things that I remember about Grade eleven. I don’t remember how to do polynomial equations anymore, and I’m not sure how to conjugate the past participle of a female pronoun in French, but as long as I live, I will never forget that morning in Mr. Fisher’s class. Yes, he was eccentric, and yes, he did get up on his desk and reenact gun battles from the First World War. But he also celebrated with us when Nelson Mandela was let out of prison, and wept as he read the article detailing Mandela’s first hours of freedom.  He used his blue handkerchief to blow his nose, mop his brow, and always to wipe his tears. Mr. Fisher taught us to be accountable, to be empathetic, and not to be afraid to stand up when we knew something wasn’t right. In the four months that I had him as a teacher, I grew to love him like a father. I can only hope that more children have a Mr.Fisher in their lives.

That was from Irene Wood of Edmonton, Alberta courtesy of the Vinyl Cafe on CBC FM


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