Friday, May 27

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

*Note: Giveaway has ended*

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. {Video no longer available}


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!