Schooling: which school board is right for your child?

As parents, we agonize over the decision of where to send our children to school. How close is the school to our home? Is it French or English (or a bit of both?) How big is the school? What is the academic performance of the school? The leadership? The teachers? 

The reason we agonize is simple

There are 168 hours in a week. About 70 of those will be spent sleeping, which leaves 98. School takes up approximately 6.5 hours a day, which is 32.5 hours per week. That means your child spends 33% of their time per week in school and that doesn’t even include before or after school activities. We want to know that our children are safe and happy in that huge chunk of time away from us.

The Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) is reaching out to families to support them in making such a difficult decision. They strive to provide all of their students with a well-rounded education, inspiring and guiding children to realize their spiritual, social and academic potential. Here are some reasons parents of over 40,000 students in Ottawa choose to send their kids to an OCSB school:

French at every school

Bilingualism is one of the many things that makes Ottawa such a beautiful and vibrant city. It’s no surprise that when shopping for a school, “French” is often near the top of the requirements list for many Ottawa parents. 

Currently, every school in the OCSB offers pathways for your child to learn French. In junior and senior kindergarten, every student receives 50% of their instruction time in French, and 50% in English. To learn more about their approach to French, visit their website

Offering a values-based education

The OCSB encourages students to get involved in social justice initiatives. They’ve been working with schools on a campaign called Keep the Promise, with the aim of bringing an end to child poverty. Check out this video – it’s really inspiring!

The OCSB is also focused on faith-based education – not a coercion of faith, but giving the learner the opportunity to explore their spirituality. My daughter gets to hear faith stories that she LOVES. She has started to draw adorable pictures of these stories, which she proudly shares with her Catholic grandparents. Although my daughter has been raised in a United church, her school had space availability for her, and we are so happy with her experience thus far.

Encouraging care for the environment

I don’t know about you, but learning about our environment is a top priority for me for my daughter’s education. I can see the havoc that climate change is having on our ecosystems, and it’s SO important to me that my daughter learns by example.

The OCSB has strived to improve its energy efficiency track record. A great article published in the Ottawa Citizen features the newly designed St. Dominic Catholic Elementary School. The school is equipped with rooftop solar panels, energy efficient lighting, low flush toilets and more. The OCSB actually leads Ontario’s school boards in energy conservation as the top performing school board in the province!

Preparing our kids for the future

As our children grow up in an era of high-speed and high-tech, there are questions surrounding the usefulness of technology in the classroom. But what if we harnessed the incredible power of technology to promote learning? Recently, the OCSB was picked out of 35 school boards in Canada to become a case study in how technology can be integrated into the classroom.  The board has a “bring your own device” policy for students, and each teacher has their own laptop and tech support. How much paper waste do you think gets diverted with a high-tech school system? I’m thinking it’s a lot!

The OCSB also built their own curriculum called “Samaritans on the Digital Road” which teaches students how to be smart “digital citizens” from the lens of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Many parents are relieved and encouraged to know that their children aren’t just learning how to use technology, but they’re learning how to use it responsibly.

When I ask parents what their number one concern is when it comes to choosing a school board, I rarely hear “academic achievement” as the top priority – although we all care about what our children are doing and learning in school, I think most of us realize that good grades are about so much more. Education is about children learning social and environmental responsibility, developing strong values, and being given the freedom to choose what’s important to them. The “A” that we see on a report card is just a tiny piece of the educational pie.  

Does your child attend a school with OCSB? What were the reasons behind this choice?

Giveaway: Imagination Movers at Centrepointe Theatres

Rich, Scott, Dave and Smitty – of the Emmy-winning Disney Channel TV series “Imagination Movers” – will be bringing their high-octane rock concert to Centrepointe theatres on October 24th! The Imagination Movers began in 2003 as a rock band for kids in New Orleans and have grown into the stars of a hit television series seen in over 55 countries on the Disney Channel. 

Didn't get tickets to the show? You may be in luck, because Centrepointe Theatres has given us a pair to give away! But if you're thinking about buying some, don't delay - head over to the website to purchase yours today.

What you can win

  • A pair of tickets (2) to the Imagination Movers show on October 24th at 4pm
  • A digital download of Imagination Movers latest album, License to Move

How to enter

  • Comment below, and tell us who you would take (special date for you and one of your kids?) and WHY your kid loves the Imagination Movers
  • You MUST be able to attend the show on October 24th at 4pm - please don't enter if you are unavailable that day
  • Winner will be picked through a random number generator ( and will be announced Tuesday October 20th at 12pm.

Tales of a Tween: Navigating Social Media

By Angèle Alain

Last week, an article appeared on my Facebook feed about banning the use of handheld devices for children under the age of twelve. The article linked the use of such devices to obesity, lack of sleep and other negative side effects.

I was irritated by it because I don’t like the idea of banning in general. Although I agree handheld devices and children don’t mix together harmoniously, I feel that it’s a parent’s role to manage their child’s use and limit side effects. Just like candy, television,  strangers, or anything else that can cause children harm, it’s our job as parents to teach our kids how to navigate those waters. When it comes to radiation exposure, however, I get it. Our wifi shut itself off at night since I don't want us exposed to radiation more than we have to. A phone under a baby's pillow is never a good idea.

Kids as young as age four use handheld devices at school. Why not? We live in a world of electronics and there are so many wonderful tools to assist learning, especially for those who need extra help. I got my child an iPod at age nine, when she mostly listened to music and played games. Now that she’s eleven, she does wonderfully creative things with it: she writes and records songs, she creates and films mini features of all kind, she still listens to music, she plays Minecraft, and she takes photos and posts some to Instagram with clever captions. She can also text and Facetime her friends, email her teachers, as well as call me on Skype, text or email me when she has Wi-Fi. This last part makes me feel better and replaces the phone I’m not ready for her to have. We’ve set limits of use, of course: set the devise to “do not disturb” at bedtime; don’t film things in their entirety instead of experience them (such as concerts); leave the iPod at home, remove yourself from an overactive chat, etc. 

"Oli enjoying the new kitchen"

"Oli enjoying the new kitchen"

We’ve also set rules about social media. Last winter, my daughter asked me if she could join Instagram, that younger-crowd-photo-based-Facebook-type-website that lives in an application. It’s the only social media app she’s shown interest in. I knew about it but I didn’t have an account. I used to be a team lead of a social media group in government, so social media doesn’t scare me. My daughter has seen both her father and I use Twitter and Facebook on a regular basis. Still, the thought of my little girl publishing online was intimidating to say the least. I decided to follow my own advice for a test trial, and teach her about social media rules and etiquette instead of delaying the inevitable.  If you decide to go that route, here are a few the rules we have taught our daughter:

"That moment...."

"That moment...."

Social media rules to live by

1. Keep your account private (until you are 18 or famous or get parent approval to do otherwise).
2. Only accept follows from people you know. 
3. Never, ever post a photo unless you don’t mind seeing it on a billboard. Even if your account is private, you cannot control what others do with your photos.
4. Always be nice when you post and when you comment. The meaning of your words cannot be easily construed when tone of voice and body language isn’t present.
5. Don’t be bothered by mean comments - you might be reading too much into it. If the comments are always mean, block the user.
6. If you see someone being bullied on social media, call them out.
7. Show me your posts on a regular basis and give me your password (I set up her account, so that’s not an issue).
8. Remove any photos I don’t agree with (this hasn’t happened yet, but she did replace a profile photo in which I felt she looked older).
9. Accept my follow and follow me (I created myself an account and her friends follow me. It’s cute).
10. If this test trial doesn’t work, we pull the plug.

These past months of Instagram posts have been a lot of fun. I’m impressed by my tween's arty photos and witty captions. She even brought her device to Japan and posted photos of her experiences on Instagram. Her classmates then shared her photos with their teacher and their class, giving them the chance to experience a little bit of her trip. She also was able to Skype with her class from Kyoto. I’m happy to say no rules have been broken and she is continues to make good decisions about her social media presence. The trial was a complete success.

"I don't know which one is worst."

"I don't know which one is worst."

A Ban? Not in our house. 

Do you have a device ban in your house? Why or why not?

VarageSale all that extra stuff out of your house

by Lara

I've been purging a lot lately. The kids are getting older (9 and 6) and we still have so many things in the house from when they were younger!

Backyard playhouse? All they do is stand on the top of it and act like it's a trampoline!

Cloth diapers and crib bedding? Why on earth do I still have those when I knew I was done having babies 6 years ago and haven't needed either for ages?

When VarageSale approached us for a partnership I was keen to try out their service and hoped it would prompt me to get rid of some of that stuff!

Today I'm going to share some of the things I really like about VarageSale:

1) The app

It's easy to use and I like being able to easily list my items from my phone, since that's the device I use to take photos of the items. 

It's easy to find all my items in one place or be able to get to the different areas of the apps - such as items I might be wanting to keep an eye on, or discussions I might be having in the communities.


2) Bumping

One of the things that frustrates me when I put my items online is how quickly they get dropped so far down the list of items for sale that almost nobody will see what I'm selling. You can bump your items back up the list, which is great. To make sure people don't just sit there bumping their stuff up constantly, you get a limited amount of bumps per hour. Genius.


3) Threaded conversations (with push notifications)

When people have questions on your item, they can comment right there and you get a notification right on your phone. I loved that I could reply to people's questions quickly because of them.

I also love how easy it is to push out the listing to your own friends on Facebook.

4) Local

VarageSale has all kind of local options. You can post by community, but there are also options for having discussions right within their platform as well. They are trying to create a space where we can share, sell, and talk about events they have coming up and get beyond just listing items for sale.

It's a cool app and web site and I'm all for getting some of the extra junk out of my house. Check it out and if you list anything, share your listing in the comments here or on Facebook!

*This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are straight from my brain :) 


Concerts: A Family Activity?

By Angèle Alain

Recently, One Direction made a tour stop in Ottawa. It was the second of two shows at the Canadian Tire Centre. This was quite an event for many reasons, as fans will understand!

One Direction in Ottawa

One Direction in Ottawa

One Direction doesn’t always come to Ottawa. Last year, we had to go to the Rogers Centre in Toronto to see them live. They even played two shows here, which is rare in itself. They are only playing stadiums now, so Ottawa got a treat. A stadium show is more impressive, but there are never any good seats. An arena feels intimate by comparison.  AND, this might be One Direction’s last tour! We hope not, but they are taking a break next year and who knows what will happen after that.

As I was dancing around with my eleven year old, I thought of all the concerts we’ve been to together over the years. It’s a great family activity. We’ve seen 1D, Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran just this summer. Last year, it was Katy Perry and One Direction. The year before that, it was Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber. Spoiled, you say? The way I see it, music is an interest I share with my daughter and therefore, I set concerts as a priority, like other parents might for sports or theatre.

Concert tickets can be expensive and hard to get, but there are a few tricks for saving money and making it easier  

  • If you have an American Express card, you have access to presales on Capital Tickets.
  • Always buy tickets off Capital Tickets. You are paying the real price, not inflated middle-man prices. Even on Stub Hub, which is legitimate, the tickets are more expensive.
  • Tickets usually go on sale before Christmas, which helps you or Santa figure out gifts for your children.
  • Only one parent needs to go with the kids, and consider only bringing the one who is the real fan. You can do something special with the whole family another time.
  • Look for tickets on Capital Tickets on the day of the concert. It is surprising what you can get, as tickets are often released late. 
  • Any ticket is a good ticket. Kids don’t care if you’re on the floor or in the nose bleeds. In fact, some of the best, less expensive tickets for kids are in row A in the 300 level. That way, no one can stand in front of them. We saw Taylor Swift that way and we were able to take in the whole production, with a great view.    

Of course, concerts are loud and can be intimidating. My daughter didn’t want to go until she was 8 years old. We started with a quiet concert in a small venue; I brought her to see Coeur de Pirate at the Canadian Museum of History concert hall. She wore headphones and fell asleep before the end, but it was worth it. There’s nothing like the experience of live music.  

Now that she’s a tween, she’s a seasoned concert goer. She still wears her pink headphones to protect her ears, and she’s willing to go see artists I like with me. When she was seven, I felt I had five years left of her wanting to spend time with me. As this time is expiring shortly, I realize music is one of the many activities we enjoy together. I hope it’s something that will keep her coming for more. In fact, there’s something to be said about listening to music on the radio, or watching a video of a band you’ve seen live. It’s a bonding experience; an event to be remembered and cherished. I’m sure my eleven year old will never forget the “hello!” she got from Katy Perry and Harry Styles  --yes, it does happen, especially to children. I’m also sure that little old boy in front of us we saw dancing out a storm to What Makes You Beautiful won’t forget either. Concerts, big or small, are very much a family activity.