Category Archives: Parenting

How (NOT) to Teach Your Children to Play Ludo

By Rahila Ovais

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I am sure all moms from South Asia are pretty familiar with the board game Ludo; the beloved family amusement in life before internet and computers. It was our favorite entertainment during  summer breaks, family sleepovers or power outages through long winter nights; where everyone is an expert on the rules of the game, always bending the rules to favor their own move. For those of you who don’t know what Ludo is please refer to the game rules here.

Over this past winter break in an effort to keep the kids entertained with a new activity every day and after ruling out Scrabble and Taboo, we decided to have a game of Ludo one night with my kids; MJ 19 years old, MJ2 13 years old and DJ who is 5 years old. You all can probably already imagine how the night went given the ages of the players.

As per the rules, the one who rolls the highest number on the dice goes first and you need to roll a six to get your pieces out of their giant square boxes. Well lo and behold, the little one rolls a six, talk about beginner’s luck!  Not just one six but three times! At this point MJ2 claims DJ must have a trick up his sleeves to be able to roll out sixes every time; she is now determined to find that out by hook or crook. After several cheating attempts she gets her way. Meanwhile MJ still hasn’t been able to roll a single six! She claims that she does not cheat like MJ2.  This in turn makes MJ2 furious and an argument takes place which requires referee intervention. (Kindly note: a normal Ludo game does not require a referee) MJ makes MJ2 lose a turn as payback for cheating; there is another argument and intervention where DJ then draws a map on a paper outlining the order of each player’s turns.

Another rule of the game is you must take out one of the opponent’s pieces in order to enter the pathway to your corresponding “Home”. You can do this by landing on top of an opponent’s piece.  The piece that is taken out goes back to the corresponding player’s giant square box and the player has to roll another six to get it out. For example, if you roll a four and your opponent’s piece is 4 squares in front of you then that piece goes back in.  Again DJ having beginner’s luck is able to keep taking his sister’s pieces out! In fact at one point, he rolls a four and MJ2’s piece is one square ahead of him and he insists that the piece needs to be taken out as it is in his way!  MJ loses her patience at this point. This time, along with intervention there is a lot of begging and babying to get them to continue to play.

By this time the beginner’s luck for DJ has worn off and MJ2 rolls the dice where now she can take his piece out.  DJ does not accept it, claiming she can make one of her other pieces go and leave his alone; MJ2 insists she has to take his piece out to enable her to go “home”. (Rule: if you cannot take out an opponent’s piece before reaching your corresponding “Home” section and you have no other moves available, you will have to go through the entire board again).  We are all at the height of frustrations, trying to explain the rules to a 5 year old and 13 year old (over their yelling and screaming, between fits of laughter). MJ and MJ2 still argue about the rules and little DJ pitching in where he could.  Emotions running high and voices even higher to the point where nani has to interrupt her prayers and come back to intervene.

 In the end, DJ having his patience maxed out, simply messes up all the pieces on the board, claiming the win as he was the only one who had all his pieces out (while all others had only one or two or no pieces out); a full ten minutes of entertainment!

I couldn’t help but reminisce this is exactly how the games used to turn out when we used to play during our summer breaks, family sleepovers or power outages through long winter nights where everyone is an expert on the rules of the game, always bending the rules to favor their own move.  What mattered most in the end was the laughter over ice cream with chocolate sauce after refusing to speak to each other for two hours.

About the Author

Rahila Ovais is a mother to four ranging from 20 to 5 years old. She’s called Jeddah, KSA, where she was born and Karachi, Pakistan, where she was brought up, her homes before moving to Toronto twenty years ago. She is also a very opinionated person who has a hard time keeping her thoughts to herself. You can follow her on Facebook: HijabiMommy.

Winter; Lost and Found

By Aaisha Zafar Islam

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We waited and waited for Winter to announce it arrival till the end of December last year. However much we like to complain about the weather, snow, wind chill and snow storms, truth is we do miss our Canadian winters. The first snow of the season made a late entry this season, at least in the GTA, well after Boxing Day. Basically we are saying that winter went AWOL in Ontario, till El Nino sent the first storm our way. It’s predicted to be a mild winter this year. However you can catch up on your weather report on other places, today we bring you a list of things lost and found in winter.

Lost:

Winter wear

Snow gear, mitts, hats, scarves and snow pants. Are you one of those moms who has to inventory their child as soon as he returns from school? It doesn’t matter how many snow mitts I stock up on, my son will lose his things at school. Before the winter break he had managed to lose two toques, two pairs of mitts and a couple of sweaters. Trips to the school Lost and Found were not fruitful. It wasn’t winter proper till early December here, so I sent him to school with a mismatched pair, both for the right hand. I am hoping the awkwardness of it all instills in him a modicum of responsibility towards his things. When he was younger I would crochet a three way string; one attached to his winter hat, the other two to his mitts. The base of this trifecta was then sewn onto his snow jacket. I thought it was quite a fool-proof arrangement till he came home one day with a huge gaping rip in his jacket were the strings were sewn, mitts and hat missing. School yard play’s gotten rough lately!

Topping our list of things lost in the winter is accessories you buy for your child to keep him warm. Always have spares handy, even for snow pants and boots. Last year my son got off his school bus sans his snow pants, it was the dead of winter and I near but fainted at the sight of him alighting dishabille.

Daylight and cheer

Grey overcast skies, we all miss the sun come winter. And when it does come out, it is such a half-hearted attempt at being sunny you want to tell him to go back right away! A lack of sunshine means a definite loss of sunny demeanours. People who are usually chirpy tend to get easily irritable.

Sleep

Come winter all I want to do is sleep. If it were up to me I’d burrow myself deep into the blanket and not wake up till the groundhog comes out and announces an early spring. Becoming a mother has changed that. I get no off days, a full night’s sleep is a distant memory as are the thoughts of running a warm bath. So, sleep, already a distant memory goes completely AWOL, at least in the mom world.

Monies

Winter is also the time for crazy sales. We may not celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and the likes but we certainly get into the Holiday spirit and spend away more merrily than the health of our bank accounts allow. Yes, I understand there are major deals to be scored and discounts that are too good to be missed, but stocking up at the same time instead of spacing them out through the year can make a significant dent on one’s budget. True story.

Found

Not all is lost during cold weather. One of my annual favourites is excess pounds on my person, my true friends that come a-visiting every year. When you find your inner sloth and are less likely to move and more often than not found lounging in front of the TV in your most comfortable PJ’s digging into a bowl of your favourite snack, don’t blame the scales when they creep up. There’s a reason weight loss is high on everyone’s New Year Resolutions list; new year, turning a new leaf and getting more active, we set goals for ourselves. Some we meet, some we fail at. Another thing we find in abundance at the end of the year is resolve, again the end of another year in our lives makes us take stock of what we’ve  been up to and promise to be a better (and leaner) versions of ourselves in the coming year.

 

How has your winter been so far? What have you lost and found through this season?

About the Author:

Aaisha Zafar Islam is the Executive Editor of MuslimMoms.ca, every winter she visits her childhood fantasy of being a frog and the ability to hibernate the chilly weather away. No luck thus far.

 

20 Confessions from a Mom of … FIVE!

By Khaula Mazhar

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Motherhood is not easy. It is not easy to be mom of one nor is it easy to be mom of five. There is however, a certain number of children where it becomes easier to let go and just roll with it, mainly because you have no choice and  learned that stressing isn’t going to get anything done. I put that number at three. With kid number three, you wonder why you ever worried about maintaining lego-less floors or taking a shower. Whoever is walking on the floor should watch out for himself and baby powder is essentially dry shampoo for moms who haven’t had the luxury of a shower for days on end.

I confess I am that mom, I feel  no shame admitting this. Shame went out the window with the birth of middle child, and with the birth of twin 1 and twin 2  last bits of sanity joined my sense of propriety.  Those are now long gone, and I don’t regret it one bit. If anything life becomes easier when you lose your mind, insanity does have a touch of genius to it. Besides that, for some mysterious reason crazy, shameless mom is way cooler than well organized, prim and proper, perfect mom.

My advice plus confessions to you as a “been there, done that and have survived so far mom” are as follows (BOGO in shopspeak):

1. Your first child will always be the lab rat. Stop feeling guilty about it, you are doing the best you can. What’s the worst that can happen? Never mind, don’t answer that.

2. Your second child was born to whine, it’s a default of being second. Do not be blackmailed by that whining, know that they are just as guilty as their elder sibling. Cotton dipped in olive oil make for good ear plugs if the howling gets too loud. Also keeps your ears clean, and well you know how long it’s been since you last showered, so yeah.

3. We all forget middle child. They end up being the best of the lot, so don’t sweat it. However if you drop them off at their friend’s, it would be a good idea to pick them up, preferably on the same day. Or… eventually. But hey we all need a break sometimes right?

4. I have thrown belongings out the front door when not picked up after I asked several times.

5. I still have baby powder in the house, even though no kid is under the age of eight. Baby powder can be used for unwashed hair, sweaty kids who refuse to shower, inside of smelly joggers, to sprinkle over the liquidy gunk and hairballs the cat coughed up, freshen up a kid after they throw up etc etc. Baby powder is pure magic.

6. There were some clothing items that kid 1 through 5 wore. Yes I believe in hand me downs.

7. I have fallen asleep with three small kids in my lap/arms. You should condition yourself to sleep in any situation, no mercy for the fussy sleepers.

8. I turn leftovers into “fresh” dinners. You should too, and never let anyone know you used leftovers!

9. I let the kids have cake for breakfast once. I slept in. No guilt at all, we were all happy.

10. Should such a situation arise, I will let them have cake for breakfast again.

11. If you forget to wash gym clothes, just throw them in the dryer with fabric softener sheets and hope for the best. Also works with kids’ underwear. Just don’t tell them you forgot to wash the clothes.

12. I reuse my fabric softener sheets. Several times.

13. I always have a secret stash of chocolate just for me.

14. I guard that stash like a dragon.

15. My purse contains every child’s belongings and none of my own.

16. I can quote anything from “My Little Pony.”

17. Plastic bags are a good way to catch vomit in a moving car. Always have a good supply.

18. The bathroom is the first place they look for you, try hiding in the garage instead.  It’ll buy you at least seven minutes alone.

19. Don’t go on Pinterest, those are all LIES! No one can do all that! It is just another Big Pharma tactic to make you take anti-depressants!

20. Love those little buggers, smother them with kisses and hugs, enjoy every second of this time with them, it goes too fast! Don’t regret any thing!

What confessions do you have?

About the Author

Khaula Mazhar, author of Mama Loves Me, has written for Dawn Pakistan and now bestows her wisdom upon the world at her blog. Last time she counted she had five kids, however the vast amount of laundry has given her doubts. This is a cause of constant distraction as she tries to finish writing the next NYT best-seller.

10 Ways to Know You’re a Canadian in the Winter

 By Mona Ismaeil

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1. You know what a toque is: 

Ice cap, beanie or winter hat; none of that means anything! It’s all about the toque! Fur, fleece, knit, whatever it is, we all have them (multiple of them) and cannot live without them!

2. -15 degrees is a mild winter day

Winter hasn’t truly hit until it’s -30 degrees, your eyelashes freeze the moment you step foot out of your house, your car doesn’t start. Your car not starting doesn’t even matter because even if you get it started, you won’t be able to drive it out of your garage since you’re trapped by 5ft of snow!

3. You’ve tried maple syrup on snow

Anyone else may find this to be strange but really with the amount of snow we get, we would be foolish not to make the most of it!

4. Your kids have been dared to lick a metal post 

If you grew up in Canada, you know that it may be against your better judgement but you cannot turn down a dare to stick your warm wet tongue on that cold, frosty metal post. If you haven’t grown up here, then be ready for the day your son/daughter comes to tell you all about it!

5. It takes longer to get ready 

It takes longer to put on your protective gear before stepping out for your daily battle. Two pairs of socks, long john’s, boots, sweater, scarf, toque, gloves and jacket. That’s an extra 5-7 minutes you could have slept it in back in the Fall.

6. Errands and visits are decided upon by necessity

Nonessential= NO! If your family is not eating cereal for dinner, you can go another day without groceries.

7. Your home is filled with a plethora of hot beverages

Black tea? Herbal Tea? Green Tea? White Tea? Chai Tea? Hot Chocolate? You have them all! Too hot? No problem, just stick your mug in the giant freezer everyone calls “outside” for a moment.

8. Parking lots seem to shrink 

A parking lot that once held 200 cars, now accommodates no more than 50 cars. I’ve heard of Winter Magic but seriously, this is NOT a good trick! Holiday shopping lines, waist lines, snow piles, etc. can shrink, not parking lots!

9. Gestures become confusing 

A friendly wave or a not so friendly finger gesture, these two can be super confusing with mittens and gloves on. Just pretend everyone is happy, kind and being their friendly Canadian selves!

10. You’ve experience the DIY leg snow shovel 

Too cold (let’s be honest, you’re too lazy) to shovel? Need to create a pathway to your car? Need to clear the huge snow pile behind your car so you can get out the of the driveway? All you have to do is drag your boots through the snow to create an instant pathway! Easy, breezy!

How else do you know you’re a Canadian in the winter?

About the Author: 

Mona Ismaeil is  the Associate Editor Muslimmoms.ca. She is also an elementary  teacher turned blogger and writer. Mona is the proud owner of Modern Hejab and stay-at-home mom to a sweet little girl. She loves to travel and see all the world has to offer with her family.

 

Taking Children Out of School- Pro’s and Con’s

By Mona Ismaeil

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Winter (Christmas Break) comes at such a great time for Airlines but such an inopportune time for the average traveler. While children are conveniently out of school and most companies are giving time off, hotels as well as airlines and any travel related company are making you pay for those conveniences! Many families try to take their winter vacations a little earlier or a bit later to outsmart those corporate savages! Before, you get too excited thinking you’ve pulled a fast one, think about how this will affect the education of your children.

Pros: 

  • EXPERIENCES EXPERIENCES EXPERIENCES: Not to say laying poolside drinking as many virgin margaritas as you can isn’t a fantastic way to spend your vacation; it is; but opting for a trip with some sites, history, and culture is a better choice. Children can learn a great deal by travelling. We open their eyes to a world that most text books can’t do justice.
  • Family Time: This is very important. Time well spent as a family is vital for the emotional and psychological development of children. Our lives are chaotic and often the only time we get with our children after school, work and extracurricular activities is just a meal here and there. Getting downtime to laugh, tell stories and make memories is priceless!
  • Seeing the World Through New Eyes: Children experience the world very differently than we do. Travelling together can teach both parents and children a whole lot.

 Cons:

  • Missed Important Exams: Timing is important. Leaving school close to the end of semesters or report card terms can being detrimental to your child’s education.
  • Falling Behind on Curriculum: With lots to learn and just barely enough time, every moment in the classroom is vital. Depending on the length of time of your trip, students can miss a great deal of instruction as well as the activities and projects that go along with it.
  • Change of Routine: When in school, students get into a good routine. A steady routine that includes school, studying and extra-curricular activities. While on vacation those routines change and for some students it takes some time to get back on track once the vacation is over.
  • Extra Pressure Afterwards: With any time missed, assignments, projects and assessments will pile up. Students will still be expected to complete those assessments and learn the material. This can put more pressure on them as well as you and the teacher.

 Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Timing: Choose your travel time carefully. Like mentioned before, it is important to plan your trips around significant assessments, report cards, parent-teacher interviews, etc. It is ideal of course to plan trips to coincide with given holidays or long weekends.
  • Length of time: There is a big difference between being gone for a week and being gone for a month.
  • Age/Grade: Younger students will generally be affected less than older students.
  • Ability: This is probably the most important thing to consider. You need to be honest with the fact that some students should not be missing in class instruction. As much as we may want to take that trip if our children are unable to handle the pressure of being out of school, then we need to put their best interest first.
  • Teacher’s Input: Ask your child’s teacher their opinion about your travel plans. They know best when it comes to what your children need from an academic perspective.

Wherever you go, enjoy every moment with your family. Travelling with children can be tough but incredibly rewarding! It’s about that moment when they say: “Mama, remember when we went_________ and saw________?” That is just priceless!  Safe travels!

What are your thoughts about taking children out of school? What are your experiences?

 

About the Author:

Mona Ismaeil is  the Associate Editor Muslimmoms.ca. She is also an elementary  teacher turned blogger and writer. Mona is the proud owner of Modern Hejab and stay-at-home mom to a sweet little girl. She loves to travel and see all the world has to offer with her family.

 

 

 

 

Saving for the Education of Your Child Made Easy

By Erum Zehra

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As mothers, the education of our children is one of our primary concerns. We aspire to give them the best education possible. Fortunately, living in a country like Canada has made this task easy where free education is provided in public schools until high school. After graduating from high school, our children want to join colleges or universities for higher education. This can prove to be very expensive for low income families. Most families with school going children start saving for their college education quite early, to ensure they have enough money to equip their children with higher education.

RESP and CLB

Government of Canada provides assistance in saving for higher education of your children through RESP (Registered Education Savings Plans) and CLB (Canada Learning Bond). An RESP is an educations savings account registered with the Government of Canada. You need to open an account with a bank or credit union, or through a certified financial planner or a group plan dealer. These institutions, planners and dealers are known as “RESP providers.” For more information on RESP please visit: http://www.smartsaver.org/pdf/RESP_English.pdf

The Canada Learning Bond consists of an initial amount of $500 offered by the Government of Canada to help you start saving for your child’s education after high school. Your child could get $100 every year until he or she turns 15 years old to a maximum of $2,000. Your child is eligible for the Canada Learning Bond if:

• he or she was born after December 31, 2003; and

• you receive the National Child Benefit Supplement under the Canada Child Tax Benefit (also known as the family allowance).

For More information on CLB please visit: http://www.smartsaver.org/pdf/CLB_lgl_English.pdf

 SmartSAVER

SmartSAVER at http://smartsaver.org is a non profit community project which makes it easier for you to learn about RESPs and to get the Canada Learning Bond. They have teamed up with RESP providers across Canada that will help you get an RESP started for FREE: no enrolment fee, no annual fee and no contribution required.

How to Apply?

You can use their online application, Start My RESP, and apply for the Canada Learning Bond. Apply before Decemeber 31st for a chance to win $1000! A new winner is being selected every week, so the earlrlier you apply, the better your chances are of winning.

 

 

Children with Special Needs; Finding the Support You Need

By Nadia Ali

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Immigrating to a new country can be a tough experience and more so when considering the needs of children with physical and developmental delays or disabilities. There are numerous programs and sources of funding available to improve the quality of life of disabled children however it is a tough experience to find all the resources available.

The first step would be to select a family doctor and get the child registered. Provide all past records and reports to the doctor. Depending on the disability / delay your child is experiencing, your doctor will refer you to a specialist for detailed testing and diagnosis. School-aged children with learning disabilities, speech impairment, ADHD, dyslexia, etc. who have had no diagnosis earlier, are identified by teachers when they struggle academically and referred to the school speech therapist or school psychologist for diagnosis.  

Funding programs vary between provinces; each province has different programs geared towards helping parents who have one or more children with disabilities. For example; in Ontario, the provincial programs are Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD), Special Services at Home (SSAH) and Provincial Assistive Devices Program (ADP). Application forms can be downloaded from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services website.

 

Children with delays / disabilities are also eligible to receive a monthly benefit in addition to Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) amount that parents receive for every child. In order to quality, a medical practitioner must certify on the prescribed form: Form 2201 – Disability Tax Credit Certificate (available on the CRA website) that the child has a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions. Ask your doctor to fill the form and send the completed signed form to your tax centre. CRA will determine whether or not you are eligible to receive the disability tax credit and the Child Disability Benefit. Both, physical as well as developmental, disabilities and delays are eligible. For July 2015 to June 2016, the CDB is approximately $2,695 per year ($224.58 per month) for each child who is eligible for the disability amount. This payment will come to you with your CCTB amount as a single check.

 

The Disability Amount Tax Credit (or the ‘Disability Amount’) is a non-refundable tax credit that can be transferred to a family member, who supplies some or all of the basic necessities of life such as food, shelter and clothing to the person. This credit provides tax relief for individuals who have a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions by providing a credit against payable.  This amount is not a physical payment, like the CDB, but is a tax credit that can be used to reduce your tax / increase your refund at the time of filing taxes.

The list of medical expenses you can claim at the time of filing taxes is very long and extensive, and also includes amounts you have spent for speech therapy, physical therapy, tutoring services, talking textbooks, devices or software to help your child’s learning, etc. Please keep all receipts and submit them to your the person who will be preparing your taxes at the time of filing  to determine which ones you can claim. For financial assistance with treatment and therapy as well as costs of assistive devices, there are several agencies that help parents who may find it difficult to make ends meet. President’s Choice Children’s Charity, Jennifer Ashleigh Children charity, Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy, Easter Seals, etc. are all agencies that will provide funding for those in need to help with the cost of therapies. Proof of income and cost of therapy needs to be submitted along with application. Finally be sure to reach out to other mothers whom are in similar situations as you. There are many support groups for mothers. There are many activities and programs which can help get you out meeting new families and making new friends.

About the Author

Proud mom to a six year old boy, Nadia Ali has earlier worked with Ernst & Young as an auditor. She is now a tax professional at H&R Block and is looking forward to another busy tax season.

Minecraft –More Than Just A Game!

By Anisa Tayab

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A typical day in my household always includes a story about a Creeper, an Ender-Dragon or Herobine.  And like most moms, I have no idea what my kids are talking about.  Chances are if you have a child who plays video games, they are playing Minecraft!

Minecraft has sold over 20 million copies for PC’s and millions more on iPads and Android Tablets. Microsoft purchased Minecraft from Mojang for $2.5 billion dollars last year and the creator of Minecraft Markus Persson out-bid Jay Z and Beyonce on a $70 million mansion in Beverly Hills.  Minecraft is everywhere.  If you have not heard of it, you really are living under a rock!

I’m not sure how the craze began in my house but I remember downloading the game for my son and then him begging us to buy the full edition.  Still not understanding the game I turned to Facebook and asked my friends for their advice.  A few friends told me to steer clear of the dark side, while others told me why it was so great.

Creative Mode

The game has two modes; Creative and Survival.  In both modes, players (a character named Steve in the game) use their creativity to build.  Players usually begin by creating a home and then expand their world by creating other buildings in a community.  In this game of virtual blocks, players use their creativity to build a world the way they want.  They first must chop down trees for wood, mine for coal, iron and other elements that are used throughout the game to make different types of blocks. You will also see animals roaming around freely, you can make them your pets, let them live or use them to make food.

My son has built amusement parks with roller coasters, bowling alleys with multiple lanes, a school and anything he wants.  Creative mode allows players to determine how to place blocks strategically resulting in a finished project.  Sounds like a lot of future engineers to me!

Survival Mode

In Survival mode, the purpose of the game is to survive.  It has all the features of creative but is more challenging and frightening.  Players use their creations to hide and escape from all the enemies in Minecraft.  They also mine to look for items that will protect them like swords and armour.  Survival mode is where you will find Creepers, zombies, spiders and skeletons.

A creeper is that ackward looking, pixilated, green figure you see roaming around on your child’s screen. If you get too close to it, it will blow up and harm you.  Skeletons also blow up while spiders and zombies hit the player.  The player must destroy these creatures to live.  If the player is destroyed, he/she quickly respawns (comes back to life).

What To Be Wary Of

If you are going to let your kids enter the world of Minecraft there are a few things you need to be weary of.  The most important one is that it is addicting.  My kids will play for hours if I don’t monitor their time.  It’s a fast moving game where a day lasts only 20 minutes.  Your child will always want more time to finish building something or looking for something.

If you let your kids play together in one world, they will fight.  It doesn’t matter how well they get along in real life, in Minecraft there will be problems.  They will bicker about what direction to go in, who found the diamond sword first and who has more experience blocks.  The constant bickering has made me go crazy that I have shut the game off a few times.  I have since learned to take a deep breath and let them figure out their own problems like they do on the playground.

Some parents don’t want their children exposed to the violence in the game.  Parents should be able to judge if their child can handle the game or not.

Why I let my kids play

My boys are 8 and 5. I let them play Minecraft because it’s teaching them certain aspects of the real world.  It’s teaching them you need materials to build and is encouraging them to go find those materials.  It is expanding their creativity while they attempt at and then later succeed at building a more difficult creation.  It’s teaching them how to plan, organize, execute, succeed and sometimes fail all in one game.

I don’t think my kids would have any interest in building if it wasn’t for Minecraft.  They have many Lego sets that are sitting in their closet but they prefer Minecraft because there are no instructions.   They write their own instructions.

I read an article that suggested Minecraft is preparing today’s kids for jobs that don’t even exist yet.  With technology changing so quickly, there is no way for us know what skills will be sought after and maybe the millions of people playing Minecraft are on to something the rest of us don’t understand (yet).

About the author:

Anisa Tayab blogs at That Crazy Mom.

Back To School Back In The Day

By Muneezah Jawad

Back to school back in the day

It’s September! Parents everywhere are secretly rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of shipping their overactive kids back to school and reclaiming their mornings and late nights. Once the school year starts they barely have time to breathe.

I remember my school days were very different from what kids experience today. I grew up in Dubai. The cultural nuances as well as the arrival of a different era has made this next generation of kids look upon schooling with a very different attitude.

Back to school

In the 80’s there were two main staples that every household would buy. First we would buy our books and then was the book wrapping ceremony. I still remember sitting down with  my father and rolls of brown paper. Every text book and note book we got would be wrapped with crispy clean paper and tape. It was most therapeutic for some inexplicable reason. My job was to place a label ever so carefully in the right place. In my best writing I would write my full name.

Since we had uniforms there were few new clothes, but we did get shiny new shoes that we kept polished and made them last.

A rectangle pencil case with cartooned vinyl plastic lids and many compartments was filled very carefully with sharpened pencils and fountain pens. An oxford compass box, a metal lunch box, and a drinking thermos was place carefully into a back pack that was from the year before since we took great pains to keep it presentable. Then off we were for the first day of school. Our clothes neatly pressed, our hair tied back. We were terribly excited and filled with pride at our new treasures and revered them.

Today the routine in most households is to shop till you drop. Tops, bottoms, shoes, sweaters, stationary, files, folders you name it we have to have it. Stores like Wal-Mart and Staples are filled with confused parents holding an endless list in one hand and an excited child who is jumping like a jack rabbit ready to dart off in opposite direction. Trolleys are over flowing and so are the tears as children battle with parents for the newest fad item.

The first day of school is the same for everyone though, that excitement, seeing who’s in your class, the new teacher, where to sit etc. What is different is the respect and realization that one must take care of those new things. I myself have had to go out and buy new shoes and stationary within one month of school and see countless parents doing the same. Children don’t even receive their own textbooks. They share used books that are kept in class. I sometimes shudder at the condition of the books the odd time they are brought home.

Which brings me to a pet peeve? Where is the HOMEWORK? I mean I agree that we got too much of it, but here I see none. Until high school kids rarely bring home anything daily and whatever they do is at best 15 minutes long. I don’t know about you but I am a firm believer in homework. It disciplines you and involves the parent. The jump from primary school to high school is often as a result much harder as children simply have not been trained to handle a larger work load. However the pros and cons of homework is another article for another day.

Technology

My first computer was the Commodore 64 and it came with those giant floppy disks. The internet was that strange noisy dialup thing and face book was the actually title of a fiction novel. At present the trend is to do as much as possible online. From the use of smart boards to submitting assignments, it’s all on the net. In fact children are encouraged to bring their devices into class. The use of calculators in my case started in high school. We used to layout our work showing all methods and calculations. Each piece of work had to have our name, the date and an underlined title. We would be marked on these things. My daughter was taught to use the calculator for the simplest of things and I am continuously telling her to use her head to work things out. Handwriting, grammar, organization and neatness all have suffered simply because kids are being taught to rely of their devices. Cursive writing is a dying art, as is going to the library to do research. Information is available immediately thanks to the internet but this instant gratification leads to a lack of patience and the loss of  satisfaction of actually solving something for themselves.

After school

Life after school has also changed. I used to come home, do my homework, watch a few cartoons and then hang out playing whatever with my neighborhood friends outside. Here the majority are shipped from one afterschool activity to another, and then it’s off to get hooked onto the TV or the latest play station game. Even when friends meet, it’s usually over the latest TV show. Gone are the days of a good board game or hide and seek. The word ‘Bored’ is a frequently used one in their vocabulary and parents are being forced to play referee between the children and their devices.

While the new generation of children is no doubt smarter and brighter and faster, I do think they are missing out on the most important part of education which is being a child. Life is far too commercial and not personal enough. The ‘wonder years’ should be exactly that. A time to literally stop and smell the roses. To slow down and relish every moment that is their childhood. It’s a time for families to bond over dinner not squabble over the latest smart phone a teenager suddenly needs.

About the author:

Muneezah Jawad is the social media manager at MuslimMoms.ca.

How does your childhood compare with that of your offspring? Let us know how you feel. What you like and what you dislike about the system your child is in and why.

Back To School – A Survivor’s Guide

By Muneezah Jawad

Back To School - A Survivor’s Guide

With school starting in less than a week, we really hope most of us are done with their back to school shopping already. For those who still have to tackle this task, we put together a quick guide to make it a (relatively) stress-free process.

Shop for supplies

From Kindergarten to Grade 8, every class requires different supplies and the best way to know what you need is to look at the school website which usually publishes a supply list by grade. Sometimes more specific things are needed intermittently during the school year and the teacher usually sends out a note letting you know what that is.

The list does get longer as the grades get higher. Kindergarten requires very little, just some tissue boxes, glue and perhaps crayons. Grade 8′s usually require calculators, folders, dictionaries and more.

It’s always a good idea to have an English and French dictionary at home as well as some encyclopedias and if you are like me and like the kids to do a little bit extra at home, you can get a grade specific activity/curriculum book. They have great deals at Costco.

Bag some bags

It’s a good idea to recycle whatever can be used from last year especially backpacks and lunch bags unless the condition is really run down. I usually get new backpacks every 2 years so that the children’s desire to have the latest design is fulfilled and it does not break the bank.

Lunchboxes are trickier and if they are the soft ones they can smell a bit funky after a while and so I replace them every year.  Get something that suits your child’s style of eating. Small children need something with many compartments so that they can have tiny portions of their favourite things. A bento style box or little Tupperware containers work great. I don’t spend too much on these things as they do frequently get lost. Make sure all containers are BPA free.

Lunch Ideas

As there are usually 2 nutrition breaks you need to make sure you separate the food. I usually pack a main meal such as a sandwich or nuggets, some fruit, a granola bar, cheese and crackers and sometimes a treat altogether and the kids pick what to eat when. Please remember that most schools have a peanut free policy. I also have a thermos style box into which I sometimes pack a hot meal. A water bottle that is easy to open and closes firmly is very important otherwise often you will find a flood in your lunchbox.

What’ll they wear?

Unless your children go to a school where uniforms are required you are going to need plenty of clothes. The first step is to go through closets and see what can be reused or passed on to siblings and then make your wardrobe checklist.  September is not a terribly hot month and by October it’s getting chilly in the mornings so it’s a good idea to buy some track pants and fleece for the in-between weather. Layering clothing is the best option as kids can add or remove layers as they need.

If you find a great sale stock up on shoes as kids need a pair of indoor shoes and outdoor shoes. I know that my kids go through several pairs through-out the school year. Velcro shoes are great for the little ones.

I don’t do much back to school shopping. I pretty much avail the sales throughout out the whole year especially at Christmas time.  They are always losing something on the other. Make sure you have plenty of winter gear especially gloves, hats, socks, thermals as kids frequently lose them and then they are sold out of the stores by February but it stays cold sometimes well into April. Going to the States to shop used to be a great idea but with the current downward trend of the Canadian dollar against the US it’s not worth it anymore.

Ease into routine

Slowly returning to a regular routine will also make life easier. We have been sleeping past midnight and waking up late, eating at odd times and generally just chilling. Try pulling back bedtime by an hour every few days until school starts. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers 1-3 years need 12-14 hours of sleep, children 3-5 years of age should average about 11-13 hours, School-aged children need 10-11 hours and teenagers need at least 9 hours.

Time their time

Studies also show that students lose 2-3 months’ worth of learning over the summer. That means that even though your child went to school from September to June it would be like they went to school September to March.  So it’s time to curb their device usage. Start limiting their screen time. There are many great apps such as ‘Screen Time’ which can actually lock a child out after a certain set period of time of usage. I use this with my daughter and it works really well. It’s set for an hour a day then it locks her out for everything except phone calls.

Make sure they study 20 minutes daily. More if they are older. This will get them ready to concentrate on their work and in ‘school mode’. A good idea would be to have them write about their summer holidays. It will get them thinking and spelling. Go over their multiplication tables by holding skittle contests. A skittle for whoever gets the answer right.  This would be a great time to go over those activity books that we discussed above. You could do the ones from last year. I never let my kids write in the books but they worked on paper as I have 2 kids close in age and wanted them to be able to reuse the book. You can also find worksheets online. It doesn’t have to be much and the holiday is not over but a little will go a long way. This is actually something they should do all year round.

Put meal times and the socialising on a time table too.  Start talking to them about expectations about the coming year. If it’s an EQAO year, or new high school it’s good to talk those things out. I am constantly telling my daughter to brace herself from an onslaught of work and other temptations as she enters high school. Talk to them about school and morning routines. Laying clothes out the night before, how they will be getting to and from school and who with. If you car pool or use the bus make sure you have the scheduling all planned out well ahead of time. If you have been helping little ones in the toilet over the summer now would be the time to have them start going independently again.

Don’t stress yourself. The first day of school is always a fun and exciting one. If you didn’t get everything done or didn’t have a change to buy something it’s alright. There is nothing that the kids can’t do without initially. Slowly you can fill in the gaps of what you need to do.

About the author:

Muneezah Jawad is the social media manager at MuslimMoms.ca and a veteran back to school survivor for the past many years.

Tell us how you have gotten your family ready for September. Do you have any tips for us? Do let us know how your first day went. Most importantly don’t forget to breathe a sigh or relief and lay back with a cup of coffee and enjoy your first day of school morning.