Flashback : paint pucks

This is one of the first posts I ever wrote for kids in the capital.  Those exact paint pucks from two years ago are still the ones we use!  :) by Lara

Do you remember these from elementary school?

I'm always looking for new crafts to do with Kiernan and when I saw these at Wallacks (I know you can also get them at Scholar's Choice) a wave of nostalgia came over me from elementary school art class and I couldn't help but pick them up. They cost about $13 for the starter pack and then you can get replacement pucks as well as other colours for when you want to mix things up.

They are awesome. We use them all the time. The colours are vibrant, there's no wasting, and best of all when this happens to your paint (and if you have a 3 year old too, the chances of this are quite high ;)....

... all you need it a little water to get the paint looking good again.

And the best part of all is the artwork you end up with at the end.

Lara is the mom to 5 year old Kiernan and 3 year old twins Quinn and Juliette. You can find her at her blog Gliding Through Motherhood.

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To School Or Not To School

by Nicki Do I send Liam to junior kindergarten or not?  That is a question that has been on my mind for quite some time.  For many parents there really isn't a decision to be made.

My son was born on Christmas Day, 2008, this means that Liam is eligible to start Junior Kindergarten this September at only 3 years and 8 months old.

For us, this makes the decision very difficult.  Do we send him this year, based on his age?  Do we wait another year?  If we do, should he start in Junior Kindergarten or Senior Kindergarten?

If he does go this year, I worry about it being too much for him on many levels at such a young age.  The structure, the independence in self help skills (including using the bathroom), the long days without a nap, can a three year old cope with these things?  Not to mention such a small child riding on the school bus.

If we do wait until next year, which is what we are leaning towards right now, where do we put him?  JK where he will be the oldest and in theory most advanced in the class?  Or SK where he will be the youngest but still with kids born the same year as him.  Will he be too advanced and bored if we start him in JK?  But at the same time, he could be too far behind if we start him in SK.  Either way, our decision will effect his whole school career.  Thinking way into the future, if he starts JK this year as a 3 year old, he will be due to go off to college or university at only 17! Looking back, there was no way I could have gone off to college at 17!!!

Really, I know there is no right or wrong answer to this dilemma.  it is one of those things that every family with an end of the year baby has to make for themselves.  However, I would love to know how other people have handled this issue.  Please share your experiences as a parent or as a teacher!

Nicki is mom to 3 year old Liam.  She is an ECE,  who loves to garden, scrapbook, write and take photos. She blogs about the randomness that is her life at Perils of a Working Mom

Registering for Kindergarten

by Lara It's hard for me to believe that it's already been two years since I first had to register my son for school, or that I'm only a year away from doing it for my twins.  But we all get there and suddenly our babies are ready to go to school!

February tends to be the time that most schools start accepting registration for September - are you prepared?

There are four public school boards to choose from and most have open houses where you can go in and meet the teachers and ask questions about the programs.  The boards are:

English Public: Information on Kindergarten registration.  To find the school in your area.

English Catholic: Information on Kindergarten registration.  To find the school in your area.

French Public : Open house list for 2012 (some have already passed but many haven't yet) To find the school in your area.

French Catholic: Information on registering.  To find the school in your area.

For some the choice on which school to send their kids to is clear, for others there's a little more decision making involved.

We chose to send our son to the French Public board. Although my husband doesn't speak much French and we only speak English at home, I learned French by attending elementary school in French and felt it was the best way for my children to learn as well.  Although it took almost six months for Kiernan to really start feeling comfortable in French, in his second year of full-day French school he is thriving.

Are you ready for school registration? What school board did you choose for your kids?

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Flashback post: Teacher gifts 101

Tis the season again to start planning for teacher gifts.  Here is a great post Angela wrote last year! by Angela

“Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.” - Oren Arnold

To a teacher…a mug?

What to give the person who shapes your child’s life daily? Or, as it is more common, the “people”, as it is rarely one educator these days who cares for our children day in and day out.

What is appropriate? What is too much? Too personal? Too cliched? What if you don’t like your kid’s teacher? What if you just don’t have the money this holiday to gift the teachers you want to?

Who knew Christmas time gift giving at the school was rife with so many questions…

There are no rules about “having” to give your child’s teacher a gift at Christmas ( or any other time of the year). Teachers do not expect gifts…but we as parents often feel a great responsibility in recognizing their service with a yuletide gift. I have been giving teacher gifts for 11 years now. My oldest is in grade 10 and I admit to having been swept up in the gift-a-thon that can become the tissue strewn school hallways that last day of class before Christmas break.

Over the years, I have become more relaxed in my gift giving habits. And this is a good thing. Lessons learned from over doing. I have my teacher gift giving down pat now. No more last minute rush to Winners, overspending in panic and guilt ;) .

But I wondered…is what I choose to give every year the right thing? Is it appreciated or unnecessary? The holidays are expensive…no one wants to give a gift that is not wanted. But even more importantly, I want to give gifts that really say “thank you”. Being blessed with a large circle of friends who are teachers (even a few who have survived my kids) , I decided…who better to ask?

Skip the potential teacher gift fails and listen to the people who know!

So, teachers from Alaska to Long Sault, Ottawa to San Diego were all polled this week in a search for the perfect teacher’s gift.

To be honest…I was a little surprised by how absolutely similar their responses were, across the land. Teachers love interesting books and wine but mostly?  Little things made by the students they love. Pretty straight forward.

The big surprise? They’re not such big fans of home made food. Now, I think this would depend on your familiarity with the teacher…but several mentioned a bit of an aversion to home baked food gifts.

Except chocolate, of course.

According to my completely unscientific survey…a most definitive “yes please” was given to the following gift ideas, from my posse of educators: -something handmade *by the child* -handmade cards ( no gift ) -a book you *know* they would enjoy ( about a shared interest, not random) -unique book related gifts – bookmarks! Handmade? Even better:) -gift cards were appreciated for coffee and…books:) -wine (if permitted)

What teachers wish you would not buy… -pencils, pens, stationary -homemade food -those super cheesy #1 teacher things (ornaments, mugs, pads of paper)

Overwhelmingly, something heartfelt and handmade by the child topped all their lists…even more than wine. Hard to believe, I know.

It seems almost too easy. And a reprieve from the thought of braving the dollar store with your child/children, allowing them to purchase with their own money, some chatchke that will likely just end up in a corner of a desk…when something crafted by their hands would sincerely warm their teacher’s heart.

So, where to find these heartfelt, handmade ideas?

Time for an admission…I am not a crafty mama…the thought of making versus purchasing makes me a little antsy…so I took the time to explore some ideas for homemade, teacher loving, child manageable, parent tolerable ideas that will leave everyone feeling warm and fuzzy:)

Here are my three favourite ideas to get you started…for you non naturally crafty types;) (and those crafty ones among us, please share and post your best successes in the comments)

For little hands – Frames decorated with buttons, stickers or flowers (sorry…you didn’t escape the dollar store after all…). Easy for your preschool or kindergarten child to glue and fill with a hand drawn picture ( that can be switched out for a photo later).

For your middle elementary school child – NoSew Pillows. We received one from a babysitter once with my daughter’s initial on one corner. It was adorable. With some fleece, a pair of scissors and some batting, you have a charming gift that can be personalized with an initial or beads or a iron on patch if desired.The easiest directions I  found are here.

NoSew Scarves are another fab option, easy and funkifiable – and good for a male teacher! (These were my two favourite guides)

For your high school kid…just kidding. Apparently secondary school teachers are just plain out of luck. No gifts for you according to real life educators everywhere.

Another option for Christmas gifting at the school, if you are looking at having to buy gifts for several teachers for several kids plus the school secretary (who is so good to you when your kid forgets her pizza money and covers for her out of her own pocket for the third time this year), is to provide a gift for the staff room or front office.

My daughter has two homeroom teachers, a music teacher, a science teacher and a drama teacher…it can get expensive quickly. Staff gifts are thoughtful and share the Christmas joy:). A gift of coffee and flavoured creamers for the school coffee maker, or a Timmies gift card for the front office are lovely ways of saying thank you. A FarmBoy fruit plate on the last day of school has also been a big hit in our school – healthy and refreshing and not much over 20$ for the whole staff. Or a gift basket, filled with candies ( may I suggest local Ottawa giftbasketeer www.shophaven.ca ?). I know it is more food…but who can resist candy?

My other favourite Christmas thank you speaks to the love of books that all the teachers mentioned. Bring your child to the bookstore ( the clearance section offers up some of the best deals )  and let them choose a book for their classroom, in the name of their teacher. If appropriate, have them write a Merry Christmas 2010 message inside the cover so the gift can be shared over the years in the classroom. Perhaps for younger siblings to enjoy later on!

After all this polling and Christmas present rethinking, I have decided to change my gift giving habits…

This year my little guy is going to be giving frames decorated with flowers, glued on by him. And likely to him…but that will be part of the fun:).

My daughter will be giving scarves to her teachers, designed and made by her. Likely with some bling or at the very least, a little monogramming.

I hope they do not miss the wine ;) .

Angela is mom to a teen, tween and toddler, wife of an intrepid businessman, master of two big dogs and she loves her camera-baby very much. She is a displaced montrealer living in Long Sault, Ontario. She blogs at From the Dock.

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Chapter books : The Bailey School Kids

by Lara After Donna's post awhile back about introducing her daughter to chapter books I thought it was time to start introducing them to Kiernan.

He loves them!

At the last MBFA sale I ended up chatting with a teacher while I manned the book section of the sale (much more dangerous than helping with checkout, I had 4 additional hours to shop ;) and she recommended I check out the Bailey School Kids books, of which I was about to find quite a few for sale right in front of me!

They are light and easy reads, and only take two or three nights to read.  They are fun and simple and Kiernan really enjoys them.

We alternate between books like these and longer more classic stories (he and my husband are currently reading Alice in Wonderland), and working on Kiernan sounding out the sounds in the simple learn to read books.  It makes a nice balance to switch between all the different kinds of books.

Are you reading chapter books with your kids? What are some of your favourites?

Lara Wellman is mom to 5 year old Kiernan and 2.5 year old twins Quinn and Juliette. You can read her personal blog at Gliding Through Motherhood and her social media blog at Larawellman.com

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