Friday, May 27

Why "Outsmarting Your Kids Online" Should Be Required Reading For All Parents

*You can win your own copy of this book - read on for details!*

Yesterday I purchased Outsmarting Your Kids Online: A Safety Handbook For Overwhelmed Parents by Amber Mac and Michael Bazzell.

I couldn't put it down, and I finished it before I went to bed.




Here's why I think this book should be required reading for all parents:


  • It is SO thorough. There are chapters devoted to all of the most popular platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., as well as online video and mobile apps.
  • It provides info you won't get anywhere else. I consider myself moderately tech-savvy, but even I was blown away by all the great back-door methods for finding someone's profile on a social media site (because yes, lots of our children will create profiles they don't want us to see).
  • It provides the right balance of parental fear (the horror stories of Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd) and encouragement (including all of the amazing benefits of screens for kids - with some great fun and educational app recommendations)
  • It applies from preschool through the teen years (and while preschoolers likely aren't hiding Instagram accounts from us, parents of preschoolers are at the perfect phase to get ahead, and stay ahead of the Internet game)
  • It embraces practical and flexible - not radical or judgmental - parenting philosophies and advice: how much to trust your kids, how much to spy, how much screen time kids should have, etc. I especially love how they reference author Lisa Guernsey and her three Cs: Content (what's on the screen - educational games shouldn't be looked at the same as violent videos), Context (has your child been outside all day? are you on a road trip?) and Child (each one is different in terms of their reactions to and reasons for using screens - is she addicted? does a video help him relax?). 
  • It also provides a wealth of information that can also be helpful to teachers and administrators 
A final reason I really love it:

  • It includes lots of Canadian content. While Internet information really applies anywhere (it is called the www for a reason) and this handbook is just as helpful for American parents, the patriotic side of me always likes to see Canadian references included in my reading. (Come on, when watching a big TV show or movie you've had a "They just said 'Canada'!" moment too!)




I'm a longtime fan of Amber MacArthur, and know her best from all of her fantastic tech segments on The Marilyn Denis Show (okay, fine, when she followed me back on Twitter and Instagram I loved her even more), and her insights combined with Michael Bazzell's experience as a computer crime detective really provide comprehensive coverage of this huge topic. 


The book has already sparked a great conversation with my ten year old, which ended like this:

Her:  Actually, I don't think I really want an Instagram account yet anyway.
Me:  Really?
Her:  Nah. I'm not that interested anymore. But I do want guinea pigs...

It's always something. (I think I'd prefer Instagram.)

************

To enter to win your own copy of Outsmarting Your Kids Online: A Safety Handbook For Overwhelmed Parents, you can do one or more of the following:

Retweet this tweet
Like and/or comment on this Facebook post
Like and/or comment on this Instagram post

Total number of possible entries is five, and the contest ends Sunday, May 29th at midnight, after which time I will choose a winner using random.org.

Good luck!


Wednesday, May 18

What Parents Need To Know About EQAO

It's almost time for Grade 3 and 6 EQAO - Ontario's standardized testing! (Yes, I just used an exclamation mark.)

This will be my eighth year in a row administering the Grade 3 assessment, and last night I was back on CHEX Daily with Teresa Kaszuba to give parents all the information they need to know about EQAO, including:

  • What is tested
  • How parents and kids can learn more and see past test questions, with sample responses and scoring guides
  • The best way for students to prepare for the tests
  • What my biggest pet peeve is at EQAO time (it's a parents-on-Twitter thing!)

I'm at the 23:14 mark, and if you can't see the embedded video you can find it here.





Some points from my notes that we didn't have time for in the segment (yes, I'm always overprepared, even though I've been doing this TV thing for almost two years now!):

  • Tests are written and marked by Ontario teachers
  • Students with special needs can receive many of the same accommodations for EQAO as they do for regular classroom assessments (e.g,, scribing, use of a computer for word processing, and use of text-to-speech software which reads to them)
  • Elementary EQAO scores do not "count" towards students' report card marks. Scores are usually released in September, and parents receive individual student reports which indicate the students' level of achievement in the three areas: reading, writing and math. Scores for the province, boards, and individual schools go public each fall as well. (But please take scores at face value: they are snapshots of learning taken over a short period of time, and there may be a variety of circumstances in place which impacted the results - for better or worse. I don't recommend buying your next home based solely on a school's EQAO scores.)



While I do mention this in the segment, it bears repeating here: EQAO should *not* be causing stress for students. They should see it as a challenge, where both teachers and parents expect them to do their best, but without any undue pressure. Many students get butterflies before tests (as they would before dance recitals or hockey games) and that's totally natural, but if your child seems unusually anxious about the upcoming testing, I strongly encourage you to speak with the teacher.

At our school, we try to add some fun to testing days: the kids are encouraged to wear PJs or other comfy clothing, and they get to enjoy gum and hard candy as they work away. Many are actually looking forward to it! (No, really. I swear.)

Please feel free to ask if you have any other EQAO questions, and be sure to check out eqao.com as well.



Wednesday, May 4

Canadian Cheese Awards - Giveaway!

Warning: this is my *cheesiest* post yet! (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

My loyal readers know that I am very discerning when it comes to brand partnerships. I receive tons of pitches that range from not-quite-a-fit to wildly-inappropriate, and I don't hesitate to decline...a lot.

However, when contacted with an opportunity share information about Canadian cheese...how could I say no? (Only chocolate would be a better fit for me!)

I'm a fan of Loblaws (I shared information about their super-convenient Click and Collect shopping option not long ago) and Loblaws is the destination to purchase award-winning Canadian cheese, including more than 15 of the Canadian Cheese Awards Champion and Finalist cheeses. (Yep, there are Canadian Cheese Awards! It's the only cheese competition in Canada open to all milks used in cheese making – cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo – with only pure natural cheese accepted for judging.)

Some awards highlights:

  • Cheese of the Year Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, which also took home Best Aged Cheddar (aged more than 18 months) and Best B.C. Cheese
  • Best Fresh Pasta Filata, President’s Choice® Formaggio di Bufala
  • Best Feta/Cheese in Brine, President’s Choice® Feta Light
  • Best Firm Cheese with Holes, Oka l'Artisan
  • Best Old Cheddar (aged from 9 to 18 months) and Best Goat Cheese, Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar

Loblaws stores feature 300-400 varieties of cheese available in-store (would you ever have guessed the number would be so high?), including the best of Canadian and international Cheddar, brie, feta and more, and Loblaws is celebrating the incredible Canadian cheese featured at the Annual Canadian Cheese Awards by sharing them with Ontario’s biggest cheese lovers.

Are you ever unsure about what wine, beer or other snacks and condiments to serve with certain cheeses? This Cheese Pairings chart may come in handy!


And now...you have a chance to win a great prize pack (worth $50), which includes:

 A selection of Canadian Champion + International Cheeses
 PC Black Label Artisan Crisps
 PC Black Label Fruit Spreads, Jellies, and Preserves
 Section of nuts and dried fruit





All you need to do to enter is fill out the form below and name your favourite type of cheese! Extra entries for following This Mom Loves on Twitter (ThisMomLoves), Facebook (ThisMomLoves) and Instagram (KateThisMomLoves), or following LoblawsON on Twitter. CONTEST OPEN TO CANADIANS.




The giveaway will end Thursday, May 12th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern, after which time a winner will be chosen by random number generation.

Good luck!

Disclosure: This post was generously sponsored by Loblaws. Opinions are, as always, my own.


Tuesday, May 3

Hair Donation Day 2016!

We started in 2014 (the first and last time I'll have short hair as an adult!), continued in 2015, and this year we were back for the third annual Wigs For Kids event at our school.

This time around there were seven generous little girls (my Eva returned for round two), plus one teacher and one mom...and it was another great success!

Ready to go:



In progress: (I love this shot: one of my students - who just had her hair cut by her mom moments earlier - is returning the favour!)



The final results:










Again this year we had some very generous donors who helped to fill up gift bags for our amazing participants!

We want to thank...

McDonald's, for the gift card



Shout Factory, for an assortment of great kids' DVDs




Funrise Toys for the Gazillion Bubbles Hurricane Blasters






And a very special thank you to my friends at Hallmark for providing each little girl with a ceramic keepsake box and Mickey Mouse journal, and giving each of the two women an assortment of great Hallmark products. Plus, of course, gift bags and pretty tissue paper!









We had student emcees and DJs, and I always love seeing the school spirit and involvement from the leaders in our school. They make us so proud.

Congratulations to all of our participants...I already had several little girls tell me that they want to do it next year, so things are looking good for a fourth annual event in 2017!



Monday, May 2

Kate's Favourite Things - May 2016

BOOKS

I'm assuming most of you aren't interested in all of the Kindergarten professional development books I've been reading, so we'll stick to more mainstream fiction and nonfiction! No blurbs this time, just titles and authors of the ones I really recommend...you can look them up! :-)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz

Still Mine by Amy Stuart

Landing Gear by Kate Pullinger

The Revenant by Michael Punke

The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington  (received free review copy)




Huffington was preaching to the choir with me, but I truly believe everyone should read this - scientific, documented information as well as personal stories and advice all highlighting the importance of sleep! (She even includes info on sleep as an athletic performance enhancer and for the vain, facts on how fine lines, wrinkles and blemishes are worsened by sleep deprivation!)

Two of my favourite quotes:

"The myth persists that we can do our jobs just as well on four or five or six hours of sleep as we can on seven or eight. It's a delusion that affects not only out personal health but our productivity and our decision making."

"Not only is there no tradeoff between living a well-rounded life and high performance, performance is actually improved when we make sleep a priority."


MOVIES

Concussion - extremely powerful and such an important message

Believe it or not, that's the only good one I saw this month!

As always, I'd love to know what you've been reading and watching, so be sure to let me know!



Thursday, April 28

marQ: Melissa Grelo and Shayna Haddon's New Children's Clothing Line

When interviewing Melissa Grelo (cohost of CTV's The Social) a few months ago, she hinted that she would be announcing a new business venture soon...and the time has finally arrived! She and friend Shayna Haddon have just launched a brand new line of stereotype free children's clothing (no candy-toned pinks or blues) which is also kid-friendly (no tags, pesky buttons or harsh fabrics) and made of 100% organic cotton, bamboo and recycled polyester. The items range in sizes from 0-3 months to 4T - so my girls are out of luck for now!

The name of this new clothing line: marQ Designs - named after Melissa's two year old daughter Marquesa. (Their crown logo appears to be a nod to Melissa's penchant for all things royal!)

I had the chance to fire some questions at the two entrepreneurs, and here they share why these products were so important to them, how they decided on a price point, the importance of "Made in Canada", and the pros and cons of starting a business with a friend.




Out of all the possible businesses you could have launched, why was the idea of stereotype-free clothing for children so important to you? 

Melissa: To me, there is a direct link between the messages we consciously or unconsciously send children from the earliest days of their lives to what is happening in the workplace and society at large. If we want to raise empowered children, especially girls who will be leaders as women, we can’t limit them with narrow expectations of what it means to be a “girl”. The same can be said for boys. Clothes are a huge part of that messaging, especially during the most important, formative and impressionable years of a child’s life. When I had Marquesa and quickly discovered how gendered clothing was, I wanted to add more options for parents. It became clear that by creating gender-neutral, stereotype-free clothing options, kids could just be kids without the baggage of gender roles so young in life. 

Shayna: When Melissa approached me with the idea of children’s clothes, and explained to me her frustration in shopping for Marquesa, it made perfect sense immediately. I could see the business right away and could see the present gap in the marketplace. Once I became pregnant myself, I started to think about what I wanted to dress my baby in and it became even clearer. Being a business owner since 2008 with my consulting company Haddon Strategy, I have had many offers over the years to start other businesses with colleagues but I have never accepted, until marQ! It just felt right and a big part of that was doing it with Melissa.



marQ's namesake models one of their looks


We know there's a market out there for "high end" (i.e., ridiculously expensive) designer clothing for kids. Why did you choose to go with this more affordable price point? {Prices range from $19 to 60}

Melissa: What’s so challenging in the fashion/garment industry is balancing affordability and social consciousness in your manufacturing. The more “affordable” something is, there is the increased possibility that someone along the supply chain is not being paid fairly or that quality is being compromised. Conversely, maintaining a high standard of quality and workmanship means higher costs and prices for the consumer. From the outset, my co-founder Shayna Haddon and I laid out our guiding principles as a company and knew that quality was one of our top priorities. Finding a price point that works for parents and maintaining high standards of manufacturing is not always easy, so that’s why designing pieces that will last as long as possible for a fast-growing child also became a top priority. If parents are going to spend money on our clothes, we are confident they will, overall, have to buy fewer garments because ours will last over time. Why are we so confident? Marquesa has been wearing the same marQ Luxembourg harem pants for the last 6 months! That’s unheard of! 

Shayna: We firmly stand behind our “Made in Canada” messaging and quality fabrics. This means, however, we do not create pieces to be disposable clothing, but we also know that parents need a certain amount of affordability. We wanted to meet both those two needs. We offer accessible basics with some very fashion-forward, fun layered pieces that last.




How important was it to you that the products be made in Canada - when of course they could be even cheaper if made elsewhere? 

Melissa: This is one of the central tenets of marQ: Proudly designed and made in Canada. It’s true that clothing can and is made for a fraction of the cost overseas compared to costs in Canada. And yes, this means far cheaper clothing in terms of price tag and quality. But that is not marQ. We strive for quality and ensuring you get the most out of your purchase. We want to support Canadian jobs, the Canadian economy and be able to ensure 100% that standards of work and quality are top notch. We want to meet, talk to and know our manufacturers personally. We want to be able to ensure our clothing is being made to the highest standards. This is only possible when you manufacture at home in a country that has some of the most talented manufacturers in the world working in some of the best facilities in the world. 

Shayna: Extremely important! You will hear us mention it A LOT. We looked into the process of making clothing overseas and we could not guarantee the garments would be made ethically. How can we be in China or Vietnam and oversee the process? We wanted to know firsthand, the people who were making our clothing. It was one of our first key business decisions besides our name. Now, we go see our manufacturers all the time, we connect with them daily and that connection keeps the process transparent, from knitting the wool of our fabrics to cut-and-sew to packaging orders. We vote for the kind of world we want to live in every time we buy and the idea behind ‘Made in Canada’ is that we are voting for a world where the people who are making our items are making a living wage for their contribution. There is a level of transparency I think is important.




I love the business name, and I'm wondering how hard it was to come up with? Were there other contenders? 

Melissa: While I’m not usually one for nicknames, the variation of my daughter Marquesa’s name, marQ, as our business name was a no-brainer. My daughter is the inspiration behind the business. That, coupled with the aspiration all parents have for their children to ‘make their marQ’ in the world, made this one of the easiest decisions we’ve made. 

Shayna: It was so quick! Everything with marQ seemed to fall into place so easily, the name included. Melissa and I both decided to go away and think of a name separately, we came back the next day to talk and we had chosen the same name! It was uncanny, serendipitous and totally perfect. Just like every other decision we’ve made together since. But then, I am biased about how amazing my partner is!




Right now you're using neutral colours. Would you ever consider adding pinks and blues in ways that could be worn by both genders? As a teacher I see a lot of girls who like blue and boys who like pink - and the boys especially have trouble finding clothing to suit their tastes! 

Melissa: We are definitely not against colours. We LOVE colours! And yes, we hear parents of boys often say that there aren’t enough choices for boys who embrace fashion and colour. Stay tuned for new collections coming in the not-so-distant future. 

Shayna: It’s a good question indeed. And one you will have to wait a little longer to find out! But marQ our words, we have some tricks up our sleeves for those colours!





There are pros and cons to starting a business with a friend - can you share a high and a low from the process so far?

Melissa: Shayna is one of the smartest, business-savvy, caring people I know. Before we were friends, we met and worked together at a charity called Artbound. I witnessed firsthand her prowess as a creator and as a business woman. A ‘pro’ is that Shayna gives all of herself, her passion and her expertise in to marQ. Because we share the same goals and values, it’s been a joy and extremely fulfilling to work alongside her and learn so much every day. A con? We both have full-time jobs outside of marQ so being able to physically be in the same place at the same time is challenging.

Shayna: There are so many highs I don’t know which to pick! Melissa brings intelligence, vivaciousness, an amazing eye, a great business sense and so many other qualities to the table. The low is that I don’t get to see her enough in our office and often miss her dearly! That may sound cheesy but it’s true. Even before marQ happened over a year ago, I have always loved and cherished my connection with Mel.

***********

Thanks so much for opening up, ladies - and best of luck with your new venture!

You can find marQ Designs exclusively online at marQdesigns.com.




Tuesday, April 26

My New How-Will-Everything-Get-Done? Mantra

I've never been one of those bloggers to post about my absences. There are some who will write, "Sorry I didn't post yesterday!" but I don't assume that my readers - wonderful and supportive as they are - miss me that much over a short period of time.

Others post "I can't believe it's been six months! I'm totally going to make an effort to blog more often!"...and repeat six months later. Perhaps better not to draw attention to those absences?

It hasn't been *that* long for me, but I feel like This Mom Loves has certainly been quieter than usual, just because of the busy-ness of work life. In that time period, I have come up with a new mantra (I have decided that Catholics are allowed to have mantras when they are really more like prayers):

"Lord, thank you for my full, rich life."

Yes, I have been distracted by day and awake by night thinking of everything that's going on, but when you see the list, you'll realize how blessed I am:

What an honour that I get to prepare a class of young students to receive the sacrament of First Communion - including my beautiful daughter - and that we have family members who want to celebrate that occasion with her at our home that day.

How lucky that I have the opportunity to coordinate Wigs For Kids at our school, and that there are seven children and two adults making the generous donation of their hair next week - again, including my seven-year-old. (Been there, done that - this year I'm only giving up my time!)

What a gift to be entrusted with a challenging new teaching assignment next year to prepare for...if you haven't heard, I'm going to be teaching kindergarten! Of course my brain is going crazy soaking up information and thinking ahead.

I am so fortunate to be able to prepare Grade 3 students for EQAO (our provincial standardized testing)...okay, maybe I'm stretching it there.

When these pieces, mixed in with the normal responsibilities that go with parenting, friendship, home ownership and a side writing career, conspire to overwhelm me, I stop and repeat my mantra as many times as necessary to calm my mind:

"Lord, thank you for my full, rich life."

P.S. My full, rich life also includes readers who take the time to read my posts and support me in so many ways. Thank you!



Thursday, April 14

Talk With Our Kids About Money - Powered by BMO

I feel very strongly about the importance of talking with our kids about money, both as a parent and a teacher.

From a very young age our girls have had save/spend/share piggybanks for them to divvy up any small amounts of money they receive, and it really helped to start the conversations early.

When they were 7 and 5 we took them to set up their own bank accounts with debit cards - which I will admit I still hang on to for now! I love seeing them deposit money, but to tell you the truth I also love to see them spend it wisely – for example, both girls saved up to buy iPod Touches, and they definitely have gotten their money’s worth out of them, learning a lesson about worthwhile investments.

Now at 10 and 7 they have also started buying their own books and accessories, and it gives me pleasure to see them doing mental math, estimating how much they will have left, and counting out their cash…or not. Often they make an informed decision not to make a purchase, which is amazing too.

I was very proud last summer when they decided to set up a cold drinks stand to earn some more spending money. Even after paying us back for the startup costs (aren’t we mean parents? Hey, it’s business!) they still made a nice little profit, and decided to give half of it to our local hospital – another proud mama moment.




Eva actually wrote her public speech this year on “Tips for Running a Successful Business”, based on their summer experience – and won two gold medals and a silver in competitions! (I don’t think people expected that topic coming from a 7 year old girl!)





To help start conversations and teach kids some important financial literacy, BMO Financial Group helped launch the Talk With Our Kids About Money (TWOKAM) program with the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE) in 2013, making this BMO’s 4th year of partnership. BMO’s Talk With Our Kids About Money Day is taking place on April 20, 2016.

Talk With Our Kids About Money, powered by BMO in partnership with CFEE, has tools and resources for parents to help build money conversations into their day-to-day interactions with their kids (from age 5 right through the teen years), and is a free program accessible to families of any income. Some of the activities even involve watching and discussing popular movies – now there’s a way to hook your kids!

While the resources for home are fantastic, there’s also a great school program as well, with curriculum links for the different grades and provinces and ready-made lesson plans which include student activities. (This isn’t just for math teachers – there are lessons linked to music, drama, art, science, geography and more!)

As parents, we don’t want to end up in a position where we are bailing our children out – or taking the tough love approach and not doing so – because of serious financial circumstances. Of course they’ll make mistakes with money (as we all do) but knowledge is power and I want to see my daughters and students with the information they need not only to make money, but to make their money work for them.

Financial literacy isn’t just for kids, of course: BMO believes it should be a year-round focus for all Canadians. That is why, beyond their partnership with TWOKAM, BMO launched YourFinancialLife.com which provides Canadians with financial tips for life events. They have a dedicated page for tips and tools on how to talk with your kids about money and prepare for your child’s financial future (https://yourfinanciallife.bmo.com).

I dream of seeing my girls grow up to become independent, fulfilled, healthy women – and that certainly includes financial health as well. I appreciate the fact that BMO is helping us to do that.

Join the conversation using the hashtag #TWOKAM and make sure to follow BMO on Twitter (@BMO) and on Facebook (/BMOCommunity).


Disclosure: This post was generously sponsored by BMO. Opinions are, as always, my own.