Archive for March, 2011

Summer Camp Already?

Although it feels like March Break just ended, now is the best time to start exploring your Summer Camp options.  Chances are whatever activity your child enjoys most has been transformed into a Day Camp.  Sports, Science, Art, Chess, Music, Computer are just a few of the varieties of Day Camps available to kids these days.  Maybe your child wants to try a new activity.  A week long Day Camp is a great trial run!  When choosing your Day Camps now you have best choice of weeks available and camps will reward you with an Early Booking Discount. 

Not sure to find a list of available Day Camps? Check out these resources:
 City/Town/Municipality’s website
 Local Library
 Community Centre
 Area Leisure Guide
 Community Pools
 Local Tourist Attraction

Doing an online search for the type of activity followed by Day Camp & the area in the search field.
The best way to find out about reputable Day Camps is to ask parents of older children where their kids enjoyed attending Day Camp.
So relieve yourself of the last minute camp scramble and save some dollars at the same time.  The perfect camp is closer than you think!

Image credit: stock.xchng

Lisa is a Mother to one son.  Co-Host of MeFest, Half of @Those2Girls & a lover of all things Facebook & Twitter.

Book Review: Horrid Henry Rocks

Trying to get my 6-year old son interested in reading can prove a bit of a challenge. Sure there are books on Star Wars and you can find beginner readers based on Lego characters, but I’m talking real books with real stories; stories that I won’t mind reading too. We have come across a few; some I’ve even talked about within this blog like Easy to Read Wonder Tales and Balloon Toons: Adopt a Glurb. The Adventures of Ook and Gluk is another great book. They’re also hoping to make this a series of books, which will make my son happy.

In the same vein of Ook and Gluk is SourcebooksHorrid Henry Rocks (age 6-10), written by Francesca Simon and illustrated by Tony Ross, offers a character boys (and girls) will love. Unlike most main characters, Henry lives up to his name by being horrid, to everyone. And it’s not just a writing trick used to create conflict; Henry is horrid from beginning to end, with little remorse for his behaviour. Now you might think this isn’t a very good book for kids; books are supposed to set an example and show kids the path to being well behaved. In reality, kids don’t behave this way so why deny it. Horrid Henry is a character boys can relate too, whether they behave this way or not. My son loved the names that Henry called his brother and the tricks he played on people. I must admit I had a good laugh reading the books too. Now instead of looking for comic books at the library, my son wants to get another Horrid Henry book out.

Horrid Henry Rocks consists of four mini stories; perfect for bedtime reading or after school quiet time. We zipped through our book quite easily. My son is still working on his reading so this is a story I read outloud to him but as he progresses in his reading skills, any of the Horrid Henry books will be a great fun for reading practice. On Raincoast Books‘ website, there are currently 12 different Horrid Henry titles listed. This means after your son falls in love with Horrid Henry, he can keep enjoying him for many more books. And if Henry keeps boys in books, he can’t be that horrid can he?

I want to thank Crystal from Raincoast Books for my review copy.

Horrid Henry Rocks

(age 6-10)

Written by Francesca Simon, illustrated by Tony Ross

Sourcebooks (Raincoast Books)

Carrie Anne is a contributing book reviewer on Best Tools for School’s blog and No Time for Flash Cards as well as Managing Editor of You can catch up with her and her three kids on her blog Another Day Another Thought… Or Two.

A little praise goes a long way


As a substitute teacher, I am always taking note of great ideas I see in classrooms. I recently came across a page posted on the blackboard that listed 100 ways to praise a child. This got me thinking about how I can use praise not only with my own kids, but also with the ones I teach.

Even though I may not consistently be in the same classrooms, the emotional well being of those kids is still in my hands. I never know if what I say can end up being something that will stick with a child for years to come. With this in mind, I try to be as positive as I can. I want to be the kind of teacher that helps children feel good about themselves, and who helps them build self-esteem.

I’ve noticed that praise works like magic. Who doesn’t like being told when they doing something well! When I notice a group of students having trouble listening, I praise the ones who are sitting well and listening attentively. It doesn’t take long for the others to follow, eager to also have their good behaviour acknowledged.

Often our focus with praise comes in the form of rewards. I certainly do that with my own kids, offering a sticker for cleaning up toys, or a treat for good behaviour. But praise doesn’t need to be more than quick recognition of a job well done. When you recognize a child’s achievements, you help them to feel important. Kids will take pride in what they have achieved, but will also feel better knowing that you are also proud of them.

Something that we don’t often think about praising is imagination. When your child creates an imaginary world with blocks, or builds a space ship out of a box, why not take a minute to praise those efforts. Imagination is an important tool that gives a child a space to be authentic, to experience different roles and feelings and to work out solutions to problems.  By praising our kids’ imaginations, we are encouraging them to use them further, and nurturing creativity!

Here are a few things to consider about praising children: 

Praise the behaviour, not the child. Same goes for criticism. With my own kids, I avoid saying that they are bad, because they are not bad, but their behaviour can be.

Be specific in what you are praising. For example, you did a great job colouring that picture, or I’m so proud that you got dressed by yourself.

Be genuine when offering praise, but do not overdo it. Kids can see through fake praise and then will question when you are being sincere.

It doesn’t have to be big. Sometimes all it takes is a thumbs up or a wink from across the room to let your child know that you acknowledge what they are doing well.

Redirecting praise can really help a child build their self-confidence. For example you can say things like ‘you must be so proud of yourself for doing so well on that project.’

Take notice of the small moments. Acknowledge your child when he approaches you with a picture he drew or with something he wants to share.

There are hundreds of ways to say ‘good job!’ Here are a few of my favourites:   

  • Wow, you did it by yourself
  • Super
  • I knew you could do it
  • You’re a super star
  • Thumbs up
  • What an imagination
  • Nothing can stop you
  • You’ve outdone yourself
  • I like the way you did that
  • You’re a shining star


How do you praise your child? What works for you?

image credit: stock.xchng

Vicky, The Parent Teacher

Responses to Readers’ Comments on the French Immersion Blog

Thrilled to see all the responses here, and I’m going to speak to them all. But, I want to preface my responses by saying I am a proponent of second (and multi) language learning. 

As a five year old, I moved to Belgium with my family (my father was with the NATO forces).  Luckily for me, my parents decided not to live in the available military quarters, but rather to allow my siblings and me to reap the linguistic and cultural benefits of our time away from Canada. 

As a result, I went to school in my community, and the language of my life (with my education being but a small part of it all) was French.   In fact, I had been so immersed by attending the community school for Kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2 that I began to code switch at home (lapse out of English and into French). 

My parents were concerned that I learn to read and write English so I would not fall behind at school when we returned to Canada (this was before the era of bilingualism and biculturalism).  So, the summer before grade 3, while the kids whooped it up outside my window, I sat at the kitchen table while my mother dictated from Dick and Jane books, and I became literate in English as well. 

As someone who now makes her living working in English and French with children with reading disabilities, I think I can safely say that I am a successful product of a real immersion experience.  

But mine is not the only valid experience; Devan, Sarah, Natalie, Elaine and Anna all made  important contributions to the discussion and I’d like to address those now:

Hi, Devan.  Thanks for responding, especially for responding with a positive view of French Immersion and the resources that are available within that programme.  So often when we human beings get talking, we focus on the negative.   I’m glad to hear your son’s learning needs are being so well supported by the school.  I wish both of your children an-ever positive experience in French Immersion ~ and in school generally.


Sarah, you make a good point about the cognitive and social/emotional benefits of learning a second language.   I’m glad to hear you will keep an open eye specific to the challenges of the immersion experience.   Your own bilingualism is going to go a long way to helping your daughter feel confident learning and living in French.


Hello, Natalie.  Thanks for responding.  Many students experience difficulties with content area work (especially reading and writing) in French Immersion because of the language demands.  The learner must have a well-developed vocabulary and be able to express her knowledge through the second language.  This may be why your daughter struggled a little.  I’m glad you recognized that, while FI works for some young learners, it is not the best option for all.  I’m really happy to hear your daughter is now more able to demonstrate her potential at school.  I hope the transition was fluid and that she is feeling good about the change.


Elaine, I’m also glad you found this forum!  All of the reasons you want to keep your daughter in French Immersion are reasons other parents express.  You raise an excellent point about French in the home!  Not only does the absence of French in the home keep parents from helping with homework, as you say, but it means the child is not enjoying bountiful opportunities to think, feel, listen and express him/herself in French.  Rather, the child is experiencing “classroom immersion” for a limited number of hours a week.   As well, the language experience (both receptive and expressive) is largely controlled by the education agenda, and not by the child’s intrinsic motivation to communicate.   


Hi, Anna.  If you’ve read all the way through, you won’t be surprised when I say that I agree wholeheartedly with you:  French Immersion is not the be all and end all.  Other things are very important, such as well-developed first language literacy, and firmly rooted self-concept as a learner. By the way, Anna, I’ve heard good things about the AIM programme. I’m glad it’s working so well for your son.  Can you explain why you think it works so well?  What does your son like best about it? 

In summary, let me say this:  Many children (but most especially those whose parents speak French in the home, or those whose parents can afford summer immersion camps) will probably do well in the French Immersion stream.  And by “do well,” I don’t mean earn high marks.  I mean, they will have a positive experience and feel good about themselves. 

But for those who struggle and whose struggles are emotionally deflating, I do not believe French Immersion is not appropriate. School can be hard enough for some learners, without adding to their burden by asking them to mediate everything through the under-developed filter of a new language.

As much as we parents believe that a quality education paves the road to a rich adult life, I wonder if we sometimes forget that some children feel every pebble underfoot.

Looking forward to hearing from you all again.


Test Kitchen: Making Sushi

Believe it or not, ‘The Kid’ actually asks me to make this on a regular basis. We are pretty lucky to have the opposite of a picky eater on our hands, but even so I don’t think it’s the food that she loves in this meal, it’s using chop sticks.

Either way, sushi is easy and inexpensive to make at home. If you are introducing it to your kids for the first time, try sticking with flavours they know such as vegetable sushi and shrimp. Let them work up to more flavourful rolls such as salmon. 

- Nori – seaweed paper
- Sushi Rice – a sticky rice that is usually white. Use brown if you like but make sure it is ‘sticky’ so that it will hold the rolls together
- Rice vinegar
- Vegetables cut into thin strips such as carrots, celery, zucchini, avocado, red peppers or anything your family likes that will add a bit of flavour and crunch
- Raw, fresh fish such as tuna, crab, salmon or shrimp cut into long strips
- Optional condiments: soy sauce, wasabi paste or pickled ginger

Cook rice according to package directions, adding 2 TBSP of vinegar when it is finished.

On a piece of wax paper lay out a piece of nori and cover it lightly with rice.

Add a layer of vegetables and / or fish in any combination you like, then roll sushi into a tight spiral. Pack it tightly and the rice should help it to stick.

Slice the roll in to several pieces of sushi. Serve with soy sauce, wasabi paste or pickled ginger.

Jodi Lariviere is a blogger and food writer with a real passion for healthy, local ingredients and she also writes two of her own blogs:  Simply Fresh – and the new Vegging for Two –

Disconnecting, Noticing your Breath

We took our first family vacation last week to Florida and stayed right on the beach. So close that you could hear the ocean waves crashing each night as we drifted off to sleep.  Mornings were spent enjoying coffee on the balcony watching the waves come into the shore, washing up on the beach and taking any lost seashells, jellyfish and debris back out with the tide.  I was afraid of disconnecting from my business, social media and leaving all my other commitments behind.  When you are in overdrive most of the time it can be hard to just stop.  You would think of all people a yoga teacher would always take time out to celebrate her mind, body and spirit.  But with my yoga teacher hat I also wear a mom hat, an entrepreneur hat, a wife hat, a friend hat and many others. 

So I let the waves of the ocean guide me while on vacation.  My mantra became “let it go” as I watched the waves come in and then travel back out to sea.  With each wave that crashed into the beach my body let go of a little bit more tension, my mind let go of another thought and my spirit lifted a little bit more.  I was amazed by the end of the week how relaxed I felt.   So even though I was a little disconnected from my personal posture yoga practice while I was on holidays I was still committed to my yoga practice through my breath (pranayama) and meditation.

The benefits I reaped from my week of disconnecting were amazing.  Don’t we all deserve a little TLC for the soul? When was the last time you disconnected and re-connected with YOU?  I know we all can’t escape to a beach for a week, and even then with kids in tow it’s not all about the adult.  I am committing to myself and my family more time where I disconnect. I have set up a plan in place to enable me to do so and I hope that it works out.  Take a look at your schedule and see where you can cut out a little time to disconnect from the world. When was the last time you looked out the window and just concentrated on your breath?  How does it feel as your breath enters and leaves through your nose? Calm your mind by slowing down your breath and giving it an opportunity to lengthen.  Celebrate you, you deserve it!



DeGrace Energetics & Little Lotus Yoga programs may be found at  & 

Follow @littlelotusyoga on twitter for up to date information, recommended resources and to continue enjoying yoga with your children.

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Planning early, shopping early

Right now it’s the last thing on your mind, but make it your  first: Christmas Shopping!  
I know it sounds weird, but this is the best time of the year to get it done.  I’m not talking about deals on wrapping paper or ornaments.  I mean the good stuff, and by that I mean CHRISTMAS GIFTS.  
Right now all the stores are clearing out their winter items to make room for their spring merchandise.
This means big savings for you!  Coats and sweaters that were $25 and up can be bought for $9.99 or less to make room for sundresses and shorts.  (Parents, this is also a good time to buy snow suits for the kids for next year!) Mitts, boots, wool scarves and hats are clearance priced so sunglasses and flip flops can invade the shelves.  This is not only true for clothing stores.  You can find great deals at department, reno and decorating stores.  They will be marking down shovels, scrapers, and winter decor to make room for bbqs, garden centres and outdoor furnishings.   

So while your out getting some great deals for yourself don’t forget to think about who’s on your Christmas list and have one less thing to do after Halloween.  

Are you a person who likes to shop year round to find the best savings or do you wait until you have to buy something?

Book Review: Adopt a Glurb!

I can’t imagine not being able to read. Besides the ability to read recipes and directions, reading is a great way to escape into a world of fantasy and make-believe or learn new things, even as an adult. Sometimes we forget that it takes time to learn new tasks, like reading, and like any new task, some of us are better at it than others.

Blue Apple Books has developed Balloon Toons, simple stories illustrated with zany cartoon art designed to engage and encourage new readers.  My 6-year old son falls into this category and enjoyed reading Blue Apple Books’ Adopt a Glurb, written and illustrated by Elise Gravel.

A little picture book, a little comic strip, a little owner’s manual, Adopt a Glurb is a fun tongue-in-cheek look at taking care of an imaginary creature, a Glurb. The limited text and fun illustrations makes it a great book to draw in new readers and keep them there until the end. My 6-year old son really enjoyed reading this on his own. Even my 8-year old loved reading this to her younger sister. The comic book style made it feel not as daunting to read as some leveled readers and early chapter books. That, combined with the fun story, kept my son reading Adopt a Glurb right to the end.

There are four more titles available in the Balloon Toons series: Doggy Dreams, Zoe and Robot, Let’s Pretend, Rick and Rack and the Great Outdoors and The Super Crazy Cat Dance.

Thanks to Crystal at Raincoast Books for my review copy.

Balloon Toons: Adopt a Glurb

New reader series

Blue Apple Books

Carrie Anne is a contributing book reviewer on Best Tools for School’s blog and No Time for Flash Cards as well as Managing Editor of You can catch up with her and her three kids on her blog Another Day Another Thought… Or Two.

March break is over, and I don’t want to go back!

March break is an exciting time for students. It’s also a welcome break for teachers! But there are some students who find it stressful that they won’t

be in the same routine for a week. And there are others who feel uneasy and nervous about going back.  During the week-off, there are some things you can do to help your children adjust to the idea that the break is coming to an end and that they will be going back to school:

-Try to maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Although some kids do get to stay up late, or have sleepovers at friends and grandparents houses during the week, sticking to a regular bedtime routine will make the transition back to school so much easier.

- Avoid letting your kids sleep in, and stay up late, especially on the night before school.

-Use a calendar to point out how many days are left, so there are no surprises that Sunday night is a school night.

-Review the school schedule to know what will be happening on Monday. Help your children be prepared for phys ed class, or a library period. Make sure any books or assignments that were sent home are returned.

-Get homework or projects done and out of the way at the beginning of the week. That way there’s no stress about getting them finished the day before going back.

And remember, not all children cope well with change, so expect it to take a few days or a week for regular routines to fall back in place.

Please welcome our latest Best Tools for Schools blogger, Vicky.  She is a parent to two young children, a substitute teacher and also blogs at Some Kind of Mom.  You can follow her on Twitter too! @somekindofmom

Finding Recipe Inspiration Online

When my boys were babies and toddlers, the world of food bloggers was just emerging, and family focused web sites were becoming reliable sources of parenting information with their large data bases of content.  This is hard to believe given that my kids are only 6 and 8.  I can’t imagine life without social media and the endless streams of data we now find on the web.  It seems everyone has a blog, or a blog community such as the wonderful one found on this site Best Tools for Schools.  Just as the question of “what’s for dinner or school lunch?” can feel a little overwhelming at times, so can wading through content we hope will make our lives better, not just busier.

Since we all want to service healthier and tastier meals to our family, I spent an afternoon going through content to find some great Canadian websites and blogs which I think can help us in our quest.  What I found are some great tools, articles and of course recipes that I think you will love.  Have a quick look, bookmark what works for you and remember to visit when you need inspiration, a helpful tip or just someone to tell you what to make for dinner.

Today’s Parent

I found a great lunch box tool on the Today’s Parent website.  The site offers a large selection of different lunch menus.  You simply need to click on the menus that appeal to you and your kids, click and the tool creates a menu for the week plus a shopping list.  There are links to recipes on the menu items which you can then save to your recipe box.  Go through the list with your kids and let them “click” away on the lunches they like.  The site also features family meal plans designed by dietician Rosie Schwartz, RD.  You will love how they have them organized into categories such as “summer produce”, “super foods” and “make ahead”.


The Chatelaine website has an interesting collection of menu plans based on ideas such as brain foods, immunity boosting, low salt, tummy trimming and fill up on fibre.  The website is not as user friendly as others and I found that not all of the functions worked.  You can search recipes by ingredients or choose from categories such as meal, cooking method or cuisine type which included meatless, party entrees, one dish or big batch.  There is a large collection of kid friendly recipes and I appreciated the nutritional information included. Another feature of the site is it allows users to rate or comment on the recipes.  In order to comment the site does require you fill out a lengthy registration form. 

Savvy Mom

I thought the “one ingredient, four ways” feature on the Savvy Mom site was fantastic.  Not only does the site give you great ideas for an ingredient, they have also categorized the recipes into toddler friendly, 15 minute meal, family meal or easy entertaining.  You can then also find collections of recipes under each of these categories which include photographs and easy to follow instructions.  There are links at the bottom of each recipe to print, e-mail, or comment.  The printing format for the recipes is clear and well formatted.  One of the great features of the Savvy Mom site is it allows you to view a version of the site based on your city.  Recent Ottawa food articles featured local grocers, prepared food stores and farmers markets.

Canadian Parents

At the Canadian Parents website I was immediately attracted to the cooking tips and articles section.  There was an interesting collection of articles which included topics such as entertaining, kids lunches, cookbooks, holiday menu guides, slow cookers, organizing your kitchen and organic food.  You can submit your own recipes to the site with categories including craft recipes, special occasions, school lunches and the great Canadian cookie exchange.  The recipes are well laid out and can be printed, e-mailed or even loaded to Facebook.


Two blogs I have had the pleasure to discover on Twitter are Karen Humphrey’s Notes from the Cookie Jar and Chasing Tomatoes.  She has wonderful meal plans which she also features on the site EverythingMom.  The second blog is Julie Van Rosendaal’s Dinner with Julie.  Julie has a delicious selection of recipes including categories for freezable recipes, beans and grains. Both blogs feature great family friendly recipes and of course lots of mouth-watering photos.  If you are on Twitter, they are fun to follow and always happy to talk food.

Please let us know what your favourite food sites and blogs are.

Tracey is owner of Epicuria and mother of two young boys.  Watch for her lunchtime solutions here at Best Tools for Schools. Follow her on Twitter @epicuriadotca

image credit: stock.xchng

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Candace also blogs for
the Yummy Mummy Club!