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Tips for Working at Home and Homeschooling

By Guest Blogger -- Kimberly Charron on Tue, Oct 27, 2020 @ 09:25 PM

Written by Guest blogger, Kimberly Charron.

Kimberly Charron is a homeschool mom of two living with her husband of over 25 years in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She works from home as a homeschool coach and Certified Online Business Manager. In her free time, she likes to hand-spin, knit, read, and volunteer in local theatre.

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In March 2020, many parents suddenly found themselves working at home and homeschooling for the first time. I’ve been working at home and homeschooling since 2005 and it can be challenging at times. It’s even more challenging when things aren’t quite normal – when the whole family is home all day when they’re not used to it, tripping all over each other at times.

Here are tips for working at home and homeschooling and experiencing a happy homeschool, home life, and work life.

Fill up Your Child's Tank Before the Homeschool Day Begins

Fill up your child’s tank with attention at the beginning of the day. This applies if your child is a preschooler, a teenager, or anywhere in between. Kids crave attention and giving them what they need at the beginning of the day means they’ll interrupt you less throughout the day. It could be as simple as eating breakfast together and discussing the day ahead with your child.

For teens, it’s a good idea to start each day with a daily check-in. Discuss what they accomplished yesterday and what the plan is for their homeschool day today. This way you don’t end up realizing they haven’t done their online math for a whole month.

Exercise at the Beginning of the Homeschool Day

Studies show that exercise boosts brain power and academic performance  Encouraging your child to exercise at the beginning of the homeschool day helps them get their wiggles out, burn off their energy, and increase their focus for learning. Besides, exercise also counts as Phys. Ed. class. Anything that works up a sweat counts as Phys. Ed.

If you like to do yoga first thing in the morning, invite your child to do it along with you. Alternatively, dance around to your favourite music together or dance along with a Zumba class on YouTube. I used to send my kids to do laps around the house – they tried to beat their number and do more laps every day. Our mini-trampoline also got a lot of use.

Take Advantage of Homeschooling’s Flexibility

Homeschooling is flexible and can work around your schedule. It can be frustrating to try to get work done while your kids are trying to get homeschool work done. They often need you more than you realize.

You can decide to homeschool your child in the evening or even on weekends if that’s what works best for you and your family. If your work is flexible as well, consider working before everyone wakes up. Then enjoy homeschooling your child in the morning and spending time with them in the afternoon. In the evening once your child is in bed, finish up your work day.

Set Limits for Your Child

You can set limits for even young children with time and patience. Teach your child when it's okay to get your attention, when it's not, and how to get your attention quietly. You can teach your child to knock if your home office door is closed or when a “do not disturb” sign is hung on it. Or you can even get a fancy red do not disturb light that plugs into your computer’s USB port.

Teach your child what to do when you’re on the phone and they need you. One technique that works well is to have them to quietly put their hand on your shoulder to cue they need you. You then place your hand over theirs to acknowledge they need you and you’ll be right with them. Once you can excuse yourself from the phone, you release their hand and find out what they need.

Every family is different and has different daily rhythms. You’ll find yours through trial and error. If something doesn’t feel right, change it up. You will know when you’ve found the rules and routines that work best for you as you are working at home and homeschooling.

 

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Local Homeschool Facebook Groups

By Guest Blogger -- Kimberly Charron on Wed, Oct 14, 2020 @ 02:29 PM

Written by Guest blogger, Kimberly Charron.

Kimberly Charron is a homeschool mom of two living with her husband of over 25 years in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She works from home as a homeschool coach and Certified Online Business Manager. In her free time, she likes to hand-spin, knit, read, and volunteer in local theatre.

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One of the most important things a homeschool parent needs is support. Your local homeschool Facebook group can help you find playmates for your kids, get suggestions on where to shop for local resources, create and find local field trips, and more. Homeschool groups are incredible sources of support from other parents who have been there, done that. I always recommend new homeschoolers seek out homeschool Facebook groups for support.

Almost all the following groups are Private Facebook groups. You will need to click on the blue Join Group button and then may need to be approved, often by answering questions to identify yourself as a homeschooler.

The Comedy of Errors Homeschool Facebook Group

With over 1400 members, The Comedy of Errors is one of the biggest, most active homeschool Facebook groups in Nova Scotia. It primarily serves the HRM, with field trips and activities being organized and shared for the area. However, many homeschoolers across Nova Scotia congregate here. As their description states:

This group is designed to be a resource for our NS home education community for future, past, and present events taking place. Organized activities, as well as general community events that may be of interest to others can be posted. You may wish to use this forum to meet up with others in the group when it's not an organized gathering.

Homeschool Facebook Groups for Specific Methods or Needs

HEMS Homeschooling 

The HEMS Homeschooling group has almost 800 members. Although everyone is welcome, HEMS has a Christian focus. Activities are organized for the HRM area, including weekly swimming lessons. Their description explains what “HEMS” means:

HEMS is actively committed to helping, encouraging, mentoring and serving homeschooling families; both at home and across Canada. This group will include information, updates and events dedicated to enhancing your homeschool journey.

NS Unschoolers 

The NS Unschoolers group consists of almost 400 homeschoolers. Unschooling is sometimes referred to as delight directed or child-led learning. As the group description elaborates:

NS Unschoolers is a support network and resource page for Unschooling home educating families, with a strong focus on joyful, relationship building, and compassionate parenting. Members here comprise those interested in learning more about Unschooling principles to full on Radical Unschoolers. Home Ed parents on all parts of the researching/deschooling/unschooling process are welcome here.

Secular Homeschoolers of Nova Scotia 

This is a secular (non-religious) group. Their description explains:

Welcome to our little corner: A support network for freethinking, agnostic and non-believers homeschooling in Nova Scotia.

It’s a fairly quiet group with 308 members. One of their focuses is helping others find secular homeschool curricula.

Local Homeschool Facebook Groups in or Near the Halifax Area

Annapolis Valley Homeschoolers 

The Annapolis Valley area has quite a few homeschool families and this is a very active group with over 500 members.

Annapolis Valley Homeschoolers is a group dedicated to the homeschooling families of the Annapolis Valley, of Nova Scotia. It is a place to share information on family friendly events, field trips, and curriculum.

South Shore (Nova Scotia) Homeschoolers 

While this group is primarily for homeschoolers in the South Shore area, as their description explains, others are welcome:

This group has been created with the goal of connecting home educating families in Nova Scotia, as well those who wonder about whether home educating is a good fit for their family, or simply wish to share their encouragement from homeschooling in previous years. The goal is to use this space to communicate group gatherings and opportunities for learning outside home, with field trips, activities and perhaps even the odd BBQ and Co-Operative Learning Day. Let's gather here to introduce ourselves, ask questions and share our experiences in this fantastic journey. This page is for you!

 

Members of this group, just under 400 strong, regularly share resources, support each other, and arrange meetups and field trips.

With so many parents thrust into homeschooling out of necessity due to the pandemic, support is even more important. Do you belong to any homeschool support groups that you would recommend?

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Living History our students response to the Global Pandemic

By Halifax Learning on Sat, Sep 19, 2020 @ 06:31 AM

IMG-2032Home can be fun

Or it can be boring.

Make it fun and make it jolly

Even when it might be hard.

Lara

Most reported personal accounts and experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic tend to be from an adult perspective. Employment, childcare, and reopening the economy are for many, understandably, top of mind. But Natalie, our Speech Language Pathologist here at Halifax Learning, also saw an opportunity in the health crisis for children’s voices to be heard.

An author, artist, and mom, Natalie often uses visualization and narrative description lessons for students struggling with communication obstacles. It’s been a century since the world’s experienced such a pandemic. Children, who are now living through a moment of significant historical importance, have a unique perspective to bring to the narrative.

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To that end, Natalie worked with 21 Halifax Learning students to compile and create a living history that future generations could refer to and learn from. The book is filled with first-person poems, pictures, reflections, and word art inspired by the seemingly overnight changes the children are experiencing.

The observations and ruminations in “Living History: our response to the global pandemic” run the gamut from Lara’s optimism to Lucia’s firm “I don’t like it.” Duncan created a chart in which he compares his pre- and current COVID schedules. The keen thoughts, perspectives, and emotions expressed in the book are an affecting look into how children are seeing and coping with the pandemic.

Documenting and archiving the children’s experience of the pandemic as it unfolds in real time can be extremely useful in helping them understand what they and others are going through. It’s especially helpful for students who struggle to share their thoughts and ideas with the world.

“Living History” is available for purchase at our three locations. Books are $8 and the proceeds will go to cover costs with some funds raised going to local charity. To learn more about how we help children discover the joy of learning, reach out to Halifax Learning today.

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Coping with the “COVID slide”

By Halifax Learning on Tue, Sep 08, 2020 @ 08:15 AM

Most of us probably remember the return to school after summer holidays as a roller coaster ride of emotions. We scaled peaks of excitement at the thought of seeing friends again, tumbled down into regret that the holidays were over, and swirled around anxiety over what the next grade may bring.

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We hit classes coming down the proverbial “summer slide;” the previous year’s lessons flung into the recesses of our minds.

This September, students all over are facing a new kind of academic ride – the so-called “COVID slide.” Add to these past two months of summer the previous three months or so that students weren’t in school due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lockdown has super-charged the annual summer slide, and many students will be struggling to keep up.

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Lost souls

Dr. Paul Bennett, the founding director of Schoolhouse Consulting and a respected education professor and policy researcher, claims the rapid and unplanned transition to distance learning “turned the Canadian school system upside down and disrupted the lives of some 5 million children and families, and their teachers.”

Educators were virtually scrambling to master new technology, while the majority of children were left to cope with “a vague and changing set of home learning guidelines.”

Sure, classes continued online during the latter months of the school year, but it’s debatable how engaged the students were in their lessons. Reducing the number of expected hours of work didn’t help motivate students to knuckle down either. “In actual practice, these programs took on a crazy-quilt pattern ranging from high tech to low tech to no tech, highly dependent upon a student’s school district, individual school or classroom teacher,” according to Dr. Bennett.

Nor did guaranteeing students their March grades, which, Dr. Bennett says, “removed most of the incentive to work until the end of the year.”

And he’s not the only one to recognize if not sound the alarm over the situation. A CBC News investigative report concerning the Maritimes indicated an estimated one out of four students in junior and senior high schools went missing or were completely unaccounted.

While the New York Times education reporter Dana Goldstein reported on June 5 that by September , most students would be “months behind” with “some losing the equivalent of a full year’s worth of academic gains.”

And the global non-profit, non-partisan think tank, the Rand Corporation, which is based in California, highlighted a CNN report that losses could be particularly problematic for grade school students who should be in the process of laying critical foundations of reading, writing, and math skills, potentially robbing a generation of students of vital stages of learning.

Back to school – with a plan

Scary stuff. Though it’s comforting to know that at least the Nova Scotia’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development also has recognized the issue. “The lengthy at home learning, followed by the summer break, will have created a variety of different responses, needs, and strengths for students,” reads its Back to School Plan.

Highlighting the Mi’kmaw word kinu, meaning “all of us together, inclusive,” the province plans to emphasize “the importance of reaching out to students who were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and by this year’s school closures to understand the gaps in learning opportunities they may have experienced.”

How parents can help

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So what can parents do outside the school system to give their kids the added momentum they may need? Various volunteers, including students, have jumped into the education arena offering informal tutoring services, which could be looked at.

On the other end of the scale, organizations such as Halifax Learning can go a long way toward bridging the education gap with professional private assistance. Founder and CEO, Sarah Arnold, is a strong advocate of the SpellRead program, which was developed by Prince Edward Island’s Dr. Kay MacPhee and is widely referred to by psychologists, speech therapists and educators alike.

Sarah has channeled the organization to meet the current demand for online instruction in SpellRead. But she remains a strong advocate of basic techniques such as parents simply reading together with their children on a regular basis. And it needn’t be lengthy home lessons either; frequency rules here, she says.

Clearly, as we swing into September, educators everywhere are recognizing the importance of learning routines – at school and at home -- in navigating students away from the COVID slide.

At Halifax learning we continue to offer our free reading assessments, we are offering these online and in person.  

In less than 1 hour you will learn how your child, process language and comprehend text. Our assessment is not a product of the SpellRead program, but an independent standardized assessment that provides benchmarks for the foundational skills identified in research required for efficient reading.

You will also receive a digital copy of the report within two business days with no obligation to enroll in our programs. This information can help access school support as well. 

Our SpellRead students are assessed three times over the course of a full registration to ensure progress and success!

Book an Assessment with SpellRead

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Free Reading Resources for Homeschool Parents

By Halifax Learning on Tue, Jul 07, 2020 @ 01:09 PM

Teaching a child to read can be so rewarding. But sometimes it can be difficult to get your child engaged. These free reading resources for homeschool parents will help you teach your child how to read and turn your child on to reading so learning at home isn’t drudgery.

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Understand the Five Essential Reading Skills 
When you’re teaching your child to read, it can be helpful to know the breakdown of all the skills your child needs to develop to read efficiently before you start. The 'All Children Reading Well' resource from Halifax Learning explains those five core components. It all starts with phonological awareness, the ability to identify and manipulate words and syllables. We break it all down so you can understand the process your child will go through from start to finish.

Download our free guide, "All Children Reading Well" to learn more.

Starfall.com Website
The Starfall website offers fun and engaging games for children in Pre-Primary through Grade 3. It’s run by a non-profit organization (the Starfall Education Foundation). Your child can work through all their reading levels, starting with the ABCs and then Learn to Read, It’s Fun to Read, and I’m Reading. The Word Machine can be so much fun.

Watch your child enjoy clicking letters to change simple 3-letter words into brand new words. Plus check out their library of fiction and nonfiction picture books that read along aloud with your child. 

Khan Academy Kids App
Khan Academy is best known as an excellent website that offers a variety of free educational lessons and practice. Experts from Stanford University collaborated on their app, Khan Academy Kids. Designed for ages 2 to 7, it offers early literacy and reading practice. Five different characters (such as Kodi Bear), are your child’s guides through activities and stories. Your child will enjoy original activities, books, videos, games, and lessons.  Their book reader allows kids to follow along with recorded audio narration or read on their own across fiction and non-fiction levelled books.

Preschoolers can learn their ABCs and phonics sounds through read-along stories and enjoy tracing letters and copy words through fun games. They’ll also be able to practise reading labels, packages, and door signs. And enjoy rhyming, counting the syllables in each word, and start blending sounds together.

Beginner readers in Primary through Grade 2 can enjoy interactive story books. They can be read along aloud to the child or they can choose to read independently. The Khan Academy Kids app is available on the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, and Amazon Appstore.

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Phonics Rhymes at Education.com 

Although some of the resources at Education.com are for paid members only, games, worksheets, and lesson plans are available with a free membership. Their learning library is designed for Preschool through Grade 5.

Kids remember what they rhyme because rhymes are catchy and fun. That’s why these games are terrific for young learners. For instance, in the “Short E Mud Hopper” game, listen for the short e sound to help the muddy monster find them. The “Silly Socks: Poetry Featuring the Letter S” lesson plan involves identifying the letter S, reviewing the S sound, and printing the letter S with a poem about socks.

Duolingo ABC - Learn to Read App

Rounding out our free reading resources for homeschool parents is Duolingo, famous for its language instruction website and app. With the app, your child age 4 and up can enjoy games, stories, and activities with no ads and no in-app purchases to worry about. They’ll love the fun and engaging stories and activities such as letter tracing. Lessons are gamified so your child wants to enjoy learning to read.

One of the best features of the Duolingo ABC app is that it is usable offline so your child doesn’t have to be connected to the internet or your data. Available for iPhone and iPad.

Want to see where your child is at in reading so you know where to start with these free reading resources for homeschool parents? Click here to schedule a free online reading assessment. 

We assess their phonological and phonetic skills, word recognition, reading fluency and comprehension as well as spelling and writing skills to give a clear picture of their strengths and weaknesses and the way your child is reading.

Book a Free Assessment

 

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How Parents Can Help Kids Learn Online

By Melinda Cameron on Thu, May 14, 2020 @ 06:15 PM

At Halifax Learning, parents have always been a big part of their child's reading success. These days, it's more important than ever. But how can parents provide the best support on their child's reading journey, as they learn to read online with SpellRead?

1. Be present...

Kids usually need older family members around to start the Zoom or video chat meetings and to make sure the microphone and camera are working correctly. There can also be times when it's good to be around to troubleshoot any issues that come up, like if kids accidentally click the wrong part of the screen or if there's a problem with wifi.

2. ...but not TOO present.

Classes are designed for kids to do successfully with their class and instructor, so parents don't need to be around to give hints about the answers or do the activities! Any support that's needed will be provided by the instructor.

3. Have materials at the ready.

Each online class goes by quickly, so the better prepared kids are, the more work that gets done. Some families set an alarm for 10 minutes before each class - that way, they can be logged in and ready to go when the class starts. Better yet, set an alarm for 30 minutes before each class, giving kids time to have a quick snack and drink if needed and to use the washroom.

Supplies kids will usually need to have include:

  • Pencils and a notebook or scribbler
  • Sound cards
  • Speed packs

4. Be positive!

Make your home a safe place to make mistakes. Not every answer will be correct the first try - if it was, what are we even doing here? Encourage kids by noticing when they're working hard. 

For more information, please visit our website www.halifaxlearning.com

game tip

 

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How Halifax Learning Supports Homeschool Parents

By Halifax Learning on Wed, Apr 15, 2020 @ 01:10 PM

So, you’ve decided to homeschool. You’ve got this! But sometimes you may need a little outside help. After all, it takes a village to raise a child. Halifax Learning staff are athletes, coaches, volunteers, published authors, entrepreneurs, and parents, too! Here’s how Halifax Learning supports homeschool parents.

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Free Online Reading Assessment 

When you’re starting out homeschooling, you may not know your child’s reading level. It’s handy to know so you can start from there to meet them where they’re at.

Halifax Learning offers a free online reading assessment. It only takes about an hour to complete. Your child’s phonological and phonetic skills, word recognition, reading fluency and comprehension, as well as spelling and writing skills are assessed to give a clear picture of their strengths and weaknesses and the way your child is reading.

Tips on How to Choose a Reading Program

If you’re seeking a reading program or a tutor for your child to help them learn how to read or improve their reading skills, it can be difficult to know how to choose. We have a free resource available, How to Evaluate a Reading Program, that can help. It not only gives you questions to ask the teacher or tutor, but also indicators to watch for in your child that may reveal they need some help with reading.

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Reading Help

Instilling the joy of reading in your child is so important for their future education. We are proud to have successfully supported over 3000 struggling readers in Halifax and throughout Nova Scotia since 1997. Halifax Learning offers a variety of programs for children learning how to read and struggling readers. Many parents choose to homeschool their kids with special needs because they’ve fallen through the cracks and they feel their kids’ needs aren’t being met and their skills aren’t being developed. Our SpellRead Program is perfect for kids with challenges. It’s a structured literacy program that helps all developing readers, including children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and ADD.

The SpellRead Program is based on specific skill mastery. Children move progressively from simple activities with easy sounds and one syllable words, to blending sounds and two syllable words, to clusters and polysyllabic words. It’s a fast-paced, engaging program. Our goal is to bring your child’s reading and spelling skills to a point at or above grade level within one year.

Writing Help

Competent writing skills develop through reading. The more your child reads, the better they write. Our Writing Connections program is designed for children in higher grades who need to develop excellent writing skills quickly.

Like SpellRead, Writing Connections begins with simple topics. Your child is provided with ongoing mini-lessons and opportunities to practise each skill to mastery before introducing a new concept. They will learn all about and practise using capitals, punctuation, commonly confused words, and sentences properly. They will also cover past and present tense, paragraph structure, essay structure, resumes, and cover letters – all excellent skills for your homeschooled child to develop.

More Support for Homeschool Parents

Halifax Learning supports homeschool parents through our newsletter as well. Get tips for reading, writing, and spelling success, community events, and more. Sign up for our newsletter here.

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Bundles of Joy

By Britt P. Curran on Sun, Jan 19, 2020 @ 12:55 PM

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We entrust individual tool-kits made for emergencies to ensure preparedness in times of need or against the elements.

First Aid: rife with bandages, alcohol swabs, and tweezers. Car gear: brimming with vice grips, jumper cables, and a handheld GPS. Survival sets: jam-packed with the likes of granola bars, matches, and a rescue blanket.

But safety needn't be the only motivator for compiling personal provisions. Last decade—which sounds like LIGHT-YEARS ago—spawned a shopping boom of moderately customized subscription boxes. From beauty and pets to accessories and meal prep, these deliveries introduced consumers to new products and new ways to simplify or enhance day-to-day.

Learning kits are no different. Tailoring a go-to bundle for your learner means no fumbling for a sharpened pencil or humming and hawing over a book choice: everything is already prepped in a designated box, basket, or bin!

Herewith, two 10-item educational packs to have on-hand during homework, a holiday weekend, or yes, even a hurricane!




MATH MIX

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CALCULATOR
For checking, not completing, work!
LARGE, FOAM DICE
Your favourite dollar, craft, or game store might carry a variety of oversized dice. To use, have your learner roll two at a time and either add, subtract, or multiply the numbers, depending on skill level. Take turns challenging each other, or both roll two dice at a time and total your set to see who has the highest number!
1-100 FLASH CARDS
Helpful for familiarity and distinguishing high numbers, flash cards are a tried-and-true method for studying and recall. Battle it out by shuffling the card deck and splitting into two even piles. Flip your pile's top card at the same time as your learner: the highest number wins both cards! Count your pile at the end to see who reigns victorious.
BASIC OPERATIONS FLASH CARDS
Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division cards foster learner engagement and automaticity. Timed readings also fuel speed and accuracy, and tackling single questions at a time promote focus. For example, if the card reads 4 x 5, the learner concentrates on just this; it isn't jumbled together on a page full of equations, which can be overwhelming.
PENCILS + SMALL SHARPENER
Have at least four writing utensils primed for problem-solving, and a sidekick sharpener for the inevitable broken lead.
GRAPH PAPER
Large, grid paper helps keep numbers aligned and work neat. Grab a stack at your local stationery or office supplies store, or print at no cost from this fuss-free site!
WORKSHEETS
A workbook on par with your learner's grade or skill level helps reinforce fundamental skills (e.g. mental math) and could effectively advance fluency. Digital inventories are often organized by concepts (decimals, order of operations, fractions, etc.) and offer thousands of printable activities. Math-Drills.com even features a holiday section, like Valentine's Day sheets, aimed at incorporating seasonal festivities into numerical practice.
RULER + PROTRACTOR
Make taking measurements and identifying angles easier by supplying the right tools. Opt for a clear ruler so learners can see work or lines underneath!
BUTTONS
Basic operations are strengthened through tactile and visual work. Seek out 50-100 buttons of any colour and size. Place all buttons on a table and ask your learner to isolate a designated amount, like 20 buttons, then regroup into fives. Discuss how four groups of five are created from 20 buttons. Ask them to rework the buttons into groups of four. Discuss how 5 x 4 = 20 AND 4 x 5 = 20. Reconfigure the 20 buttons again, asking your learner to make two groups of 10. Discuss how 2 x 10 = 20another way 20 can be divided. Continue with varying scenarios and operations.
WALL CLOCK
Manipulate the hands on a clock and ask your learner to write down the time displayed. Additionally, set a time and ask them to move the clock ahead by one hour and ten minutes; see if they can correctly change the hands. Continue exercises with different times. Looking to get crafty? Create your own clocks from Instructables for endless practicing!



LITERARY LOT

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NEWS ARTICLES
TIME for Kids offers printable news stories organized by grade and feature a high standard of readability and interest.

NEW + KNOWN BOOKS
Have a few surefire favourites to give your reader a confidence boost. Contrast to the well-worn pages of a beloved book, fresh reads can spark a similar excitement. Find a topic, level, or work by a treasured author to present a new challenge. If helpful, co-read to share the load, and tackle the longer, more daunting pages.
BOOKMARK CRAFT
What's better than a personalized bookmark to complement your kit? Browse Pinterest for a bounty of ideas, or peruse this well-curated DIY collection!
TIMER
Swap out your oven clock or cell phone for the job: pick up a cheap kitchen timer (and batteries) to designate for speed-reading flash cards, blocking off an independent writing portion, etc.
PHONETIC FLASH CARDS
From vowel sounds to real words, handy flash cardslike those for mathemphasize repetition, practice, and comprehension.
POCKET DICTIONARY
Seek out a second-hand tangible copy and avoid using a laptop or technology for searches, which helps minimize screen time. Thumbing through a dictionary (or thesaurus!) flexes your learner's alphabetization muscle, and creates moments of success when a word is found, read, and understood. Your Dictionary also offers a litany of literary terms with a printable version for kids!
PENS, PENCILS + HIGHLIGHTERS
Writing utensils and accessories are invaluable. Stick with a trusty HB #2 or try these mechanical pencils designed for handwriting. Pen options can include glitter, felt, fine-tip: whatever motivates students to express themselves! If printing a story or article, encourage your learner to highlight words they like, don't know, or want to include in a summary but fear forgetting.
BLANK JOURNAL
Opt for lined notebooks to inspire neatness. Your learner can write down the book's main points; create brainstorms for future poems and projects; summarize the story; etc.
BOOK LIGHT

In case the power does go out! Handy clip-on lights illuminate pages at night, during an outage, or in dim reading environmentslike a tent while camping.
MAD LIBS
A popular literary pastime since 1953, Mad Libs create prime opportunities to supplement learning. Not only are parts of speech discussed (verbs! adjectives!) but the end producta silly story customized by your learneris sure to elicit laughs. These classic printable editions are great for class, home, on-the-go, or in the car!



While they might not provide shelter during a storm—or help home cooks decide which spices complement certain ingredients—these kits can offer unplugged entertainment and practice. The best part? Creating a kit is a bonus activity for you and your youngin at a one-time cost with the rare addition of surplus components.

Here's lookin' at you, kit.

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2020 Vision

By Britt P. Curran on Wed, Jan 01, 2020 @ 04:38 PM

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New Year's resolutions can make even the keenest of change-craving individuals squirm with anxiety. We might take the countdown to midnight as seriously as Cinderella, anticipating a wave of consequences if there isn't enough shift, shuffle, or progress.

But much like fashion's jelly sandals, steely resolutions are a thing of the past; the should and must and have-to dialogues are dated. To approach 2020 with plans, not pressure, allows both you and your learners alike to breathe easier, placing good intentions and realistic goals at the new year's forefront.

With 2019 in the rear-view mirror, here are four ways to make January—and a fresh decade!—sparkle with educational success.



CHECK (OUT), PLEASE!
Libraries rival It's a Wonderful Life for timelessness. While e-readers and downloadable novels are popular present-day preferences, little competes with the task of physically trekking to a library to peruse classics, new releases, or suggested reads. Before visiting, reflect on a recently beloved story and Google "books similar to (title here)." Browse names until one peaks your interest, then search the Halifax Public Library's online catalogue to check availability, put on hold for pick-up, or join a wait-list.
Once at your local branch, ask staff for recommendations. In July 2015, the now five-year-old Halifax Central Library housed more than 80,000 books alone—a statistic substantiating that you and your learners will surely find something fitting!

In an effort to re-welcome youth to their neighborhood site, HPL offers Read Away Your Fines: a program aimed to help individuals ages 5-17 quash outstanding account charges. Accompany your learner and chat with staff about starting. Every 15 minutes of on-location reading = a $2 decrease toward unpaid fees. It's a win-win-win: the library reduces its borrower debt; young persons have more opportunity to check-out items this year; and designated reading time encourages active, intentional literacy.

Similarly, to motivate community members back to public libraries, HPL hosted a "Go Fine-Free" initiative in December, 2019, to waive individuals' outstanding fees. As a limited-time opportunity, the mission hoped to alleviate borrower debt without judgement, question, or expectation. Stay tuned for news, events, and potential comparable offerings!


KEEP IT CHILL
What's cooler than magnetic poetry? From basic building pieces to a slew of novelty versions, your kitchen appliances will become a new canvas for learning, laughing, and wordplay silliness.

The original Magnetic Poetry brand features a vast selection of younger editions, including Story Maker, Kid Artist, and Opposites. Work together to create sentences and ridiculous poems, or leave your child to their own imaginative devices and see what transpires on the fridge! **IMPORTANT: Supervise website browsing, as other themed kits are named and geared for older audiences.

For younger learners, foam letters help foster alphabet familiarity. Woozles and Tattletales, two beloved local children's bookstores, offer varieties like Magnetic Wooden Letters by Melissa and Doug and Magnetic Learning Letters, respectively. Craft and discount stores also feature options, so see what budget, size, and style is most attractive!

GIVE ME A CLUE?
Group word activities nurture togetherness and teamwork, with a bonus focus on fine motor skills.

Crosswords are a tangible, challenging choice for family time. Kids Puzzles and Games promote free printable crosswords, as well as word scrambles, Sudoku, mazes, and much more.

Depending on the ages of your learner(s), find a topic and length that feels manageable and fun, not impossible. Reviewing the answers afterwards and filling in blanks can also be a helpful way to finish without frustration!

TAKE NOTE
In keeping with a pen-to-paper theme, source out stationery that suits your learner's likes, hobbies, and preferences. Try themed cards (forest animals, anyone?), Post-its, dollar store index cards, or whatever else inspires imagination.

Every weekend—or as often as doable—have your learner draw a name to see who's on his or her to-write list. Extend the recipient list beyond the immediate family! Maybe a cousin, coach, teacher, friend. Place as many names into a Mason jar as your little likes, and lead by creative example: fill your own jar, perhaps including your kids, siblings, boss, neighbour, favourite barista, whomever! Set aside 10-15 minutes together to scribe your own notes.

Seal and decorate with stickers, then hand-deliver (or mail) before the next time you draw! Eliminate the pressure for anyone to produce a flawless memo and write what comes to mind. Maybe a haiku? Recall a fun, shared memory. Tell your reader something new, or jot down a simple "thanks for being you!"



Halifax Learning believes in practices that focus on enjoyment and effort, not perfection. Need more ideas? Two posts from 2018 and 2019 highlight parallel exercises!

Go ahead: Spell "CHEERS" on the freezer door, too.

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Making the Grade

By Britt P. Curran on Sat, Dec 07, 2019 @ 04:29 PM

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December has swiftly approached like a quick-on-its-toes cat, ready to pounce on ribbons, bows, and dangling ornaments. Parents, students, and educators alike share in the end-of-calendar year anticipation as much as those same feisty felines await long, winter naps.

The academic weeks leading up to the holidays boast their own brand of busy. By now, mid-term reports are distributed, PT meetings completed, and, potentially, a new dialogue has emerged regarding your child's areas of concern.

First things first: let's retire the phrase "bad report card"; words implying disappointment are unlikely to inspire change. They also often overshadow the full picture: every child has strengths, but something isn't clicking. Look beyond the letter or number of struggling grades. Which of your child's skills have been well-developed? What's been progressing as hoped or expected? What needs work or improvement?

Take an in-depth look at the data. What could a "C" or "D" really mean? What's considered when tallying percentages? Perhaps he or she has strong organization skills and positive interactions with others, but the actual workassignments, comprehension, correctness—is where they might be fumbling, not failing.

Parent-teacher interviews may be short, but try to make those minutes matter. If you're feeling post-meeting uncertainties, contact your child's teacher or administration with specific questions for additional feedback. Furthermore, HRCE's website suggests the following four prompts to help guide the conversation (during a chat or after):

  • "What do you see as my child's unique strengths/challenges?"
  • "How can I help build on/support my child's learning strengths and challenges at home"?
  • "How is my child's progress evaluated?"
  • "What outcomes has my child met and what are the outcomes my child is working towards?"

Lower or worrisome grades can prompt a dip in self-esteem. Be mindful of changes in your child's mood or behaviour and reach out to the school, a healthcare professional, or trusted resource to help boost confidence and self-worth when a learner feels heavily impacted.

photo-1479091792771-cdb6e8b16ed6The emphasis on grades can obscure other positives and accomplishments. During the upcoming two-week break, consider creating a "ME JAR": a crafty project to highlight strengths, skills, and special qualities. Re-purpose a large Mason or candy jar (or snag a cheap dollar store or second-hand container) and help your child decorate as they please—stickers, paint, washi tape, photos, rhinestones.

Cut strips of colourful paper and scribe encouraging, descriptive words that encapsulate who they are. Steer away from too many physical adjectives, like PRETTY or TALL, and focus on character traits and internal worth: KIND, PATIENT, BRAVE, GENEROUS, ORGANIZED, TIDY, POLITE, CURIOUS... the list goes on and on—literally! Be more specific, too: SUPER AT LAUNDRY,  MAKES A YUMMY SMOOTHIE, HELPS YOUNGER BROTHER, etc.

Every day or once a week, pull out a piece together and read aloud while both offering evidence to hit the point home. (Psst: lead by example and make your own jar; self-love can be inherited, learned, and nourished.)

FUNNY
PARENT/GUARDIAN:
"You are funny because you tell your grandfather jokes."
CHILD:
"I am funny because I do silly impressions."

MULTIPLICATION MASTER
PARENT/GUARDIAN: "You are a multiplication master because you know your eight times tables."
CHILD: "I am a multiplication master because I try to help others in math class."


The potential adrenaline from finishing strong isn't a myth. While the school year is into its fourth month, there's still a substantial amount of time to make meaningful changes. Use long weekends and snow cancellations to incorporate learning. Co-read a story, offer a creative writing exercise, enjoy an educational board game, or try a math worksheet—like these customizable ones from Web Math Minute.

Little rewards for hard work go far, too, and they needn't be extravagant or even monetary. Stickers, a bookmark, cozy socks, five extra minutes on YouTube, colouring a printed page, Go Fish!, or a free or low-cost community event. Perhaps even start a fridge chart where children build towards a bigger goal, like a movie date, hosting a sleepover, or a snowy outdoor scavenger hunt.

The holidays come but once a year, but the gift of feeling strong and supported—academically, emotionally, mentally? That will guide your learner better than the best red-nosed reindeer.

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