World Autism Awareness Day and the Autism Advantage

6792992-free-light-blue-backgroundsThere is a pervasive misconception that people with autism are technology geniuses or Rain Man-Like savants. It is true that that certain studies estimate the prevalence of savant abilities in autism to be at 10%, whereas the prevalence in the non-autistic population,  to be at less than 1%, that is still a relatively small number of people on the spectrum with Savant-like skills.  How functional these skills are in everyday life might also be questioned. 

More critical are studies suggesting that the fundamental way that people with autism seek out information could enable them to process and think in a way that is unique from people without Autism.  This is why many progressive companies are beginning to recognize “The Autism Advantage” and  realize how a more neurologically diverse workforce can achieve better outcomes.

April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. While many people are affected by Autism, there is still a ways to go for people to embrace the Autism Advantage in a meaningful way – especially at the school level. There are clear advantages for kids with Autism to be integrated in a regular streamed classroom. In an integrated classroom, children with special needs have the opportunity to observe typically developing children, who can serve as positive role models. But we hear less about the reverse.  What are the benefits for neurotypical children in a diverse classroom setting?

Some obvious benefits  include learning tolerance, developing empathy and gaining an appreciation for diversity. But where the real advantage comes is being exposed to seeing the world in a different way that enriches your own understanding and enables you to look at problem solving from a variety of perspectives, thereby providing kids with additional learning strategies.  Inclusive classrooms are shown to provide all kids with greater academic outcomes (where neurotypical kids are provided with opportunities to master activities by practicing and teaching others) and prepares all students for adult life in an inclusive society.

On World Autism Day, we invite our friends to Light it Up Blue and show meaningful support for not just people who are affected by Autism, but people from all diverse backgrounds and recognize it is the sum of all of our parts that makes us stronger, smarter and enriches our lives.



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Getting extra help at school

At Light in the Attic Learning, our core philosophy is that each student is unique and, as such, can benefit from instruction tailored to his or her learning needs. With a one-to-one approach, it is possible to deliver this type of customized program however the realities of the public system do not often accommodate this approach. So what to do when you suspect your child requires special support? The Education Act requires that school boards provide, or purchase from another board, special education programs and services for their exceptional pupils. The catch phrase here is “exceptional pupils”. If you wish to seek out special support for your child, you will first need to get them identified as having an exceptionality.  This designation is only obtained through an Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) meeting.

The IPRC is composed of at least three people – one of whom must be a principal or supervisory officer of the board. The role of the IPRC is to:

  • decide whether or not your child should be identified as exceptional;
  • identify the areas of your child’s exceptionality, according to the categories and definitions of exceptionalities provided by the Ministry of Education;
  • decide an appropriate placement for your child;
  • review the identification and placement at least once in each school year.

If the principal of your child’s school has not already referred your child to the IPRC, you can request an IPRC meeting for your child in writing. Email is fine.  Within 15 days of receiving your request the principal MUST provide you with a guide to special education and let you know when the IPRC will meet to discuss your child’s circumstances.  It is your right to attend the IPRC meeting regarding your child and we highly recommend you do so.  You are also able to bring any representative, including private therapists, family members or support workers.

At least 10 days in advance of the meeting, the chair of the IPRC will provide you with written notification of the meeting and an invitation to attend the meeting as an important partner in considering your child’s placement. This letter will notify you of the date, time, and place of the meeting, and it will ask you to indicate whether you will attend. Before the IPRC meeting occurs, you will receive a written copy of any information about your child that the chair of the IPRC has received. This may include the results of assessments or a summary of information.

At the IRPC meeting, the chair will introduce everyone. In addition to the principal, there may be other specialists such as social workers, psychologists or occupational therapists. The IPRC will review all available information about your child to consider. If you have any private assessments or reports, it would be prudent to share them with the IPRC team at this time.  This is a time for you to ask questions, learn your options and join the discussion.

Following the discussion, after all the information has been presented and considered, the committee will make its decision on whether your child can be designated as “exceptional. If you agree with the IPRC decision, you will be asked to indicate, by signing your name that you agree with the identification and placement decisions made by the IPRC. The statement of decision may be signed at the IPRC meeting or taken home and returned.

If the IPRC has identified your child as an exceptional pupil and you have agreed with the IPRC identification and placement decision, the board will promptly notify the principal of the school at which the special education program is to be provided of the need to develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for your child.

Stay tuned for our next post, which will examine the wonderful world of Individual Education Plans and don’t forget that at Light in the Attic, we help parents navigate through the public education system to achieve the best possible outcomes for their kids.

For more information on navigating through the school system, feel to call David – 416-906-8533.

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5 Ways To Prepare Your Family For Back To School

At the moment the new school year may seem like weeks away, but it will sneak up on us much quicker than expected! Before you or your child panic about organizing the house and picking up last minute items, here are 5 ways you can prepare your family for going back to school.

  1. Add more storage space for incoming books

books3 books1


2. Set up an organized work space for homework and projects

workspace workspace 2


3.  DIY a makeshift mudroom before coats and backpacks start flooding in

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4. Put all their work needs together in a homework caddy or a find place where they can keep their homework organized.

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5. Upgrade their getting-dressed routine for a smoother morning, you don’t want your children to be stressing about clothes 5 minutes before they have to leave!

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Light in the Attic Learning is a  premier tutoring company in Toronto. We offer educational enrichment and remedial programs for students JK to grade 12. Our private instruction is tailored to fit each child’s individual needs and learning style while adhering to the Ontario curriculum.



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Learning Games and Activities for Children to do During the Summer Holidays

6a00e55111563088340168e6f3fc88970c-320wiContinuing on from last week’s blog post, we’ve put together a few more activities to do with your children this summer. By keeping their minds activities during these few weeks off, they’ll be fully prepared for school in September.


– Shopping
When shopping look for items that are cheaper than a dollar. Ask your children to pick a couple of items so that the total can be bought for $3.50. They’re rewarded with the items they’ve picked!

– Banks
Give your children piles of 5, 10 and 25 cents to count. If you give them fifteen 5 cent coins, how much is the total?
How many 10 cent coins will they give you to make a dollar?
If you have ten 5 cent coins, ask them how many 10 cent coins will they swap you for them?

– Piggy Bank
Most children like to collect money in a piggy bank, so every time they have earned pocket money give it to them in change.
When the piggy bank is nearly full ask you children to figure out the best way to count all the money. Big coins first? Make 10s? Put all the same values together? Randomly? Start with a few coins then add more, depending on your child’s confidence.

– 2D Identification
On walks, drives or at home, spot and name any 2D shapes that you see, for example: road signs = triangle and a window = square. Ask you children to draw them and then label them with the name of the shape.

– 2D Cutting
From newspapers/magazines, cut out pictures of 2D shapes to make colourful pictures.

– Shape Make
Use an old food box or greetings card to make a range of 2D shapes. Quadrilaterals and triangles should be easy, as should irregular pentagons, hexagons, heptagons and octagons.

– 2D Drawing
Use accurate ruler skills (or shapes made above) to make a picture using 2D shapes. For example, a house with square windows, rectangular door and circular door handle.

– Right Angle Hunt
Look around you to find lots of right angles (90 degrees). You could play an eye-spy type game (“I spy with my little eye a right angle on something blue and metal.”)

– 3D Identification
Draw and name any 3D shapes that you see at home or on your travels. For example a can = a cylinder, ball = sphere. Ask your children to name them and identify some of their properties.

– 3D Model
Make a model with ‘junk’ using mathematical names for the shapes. Discuss their properties, for example: vertices (corners), edges and faces.

Enjoy! Let us know which ones you try!

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Fun Math Activities To Do At Home With Your Children

For many children math is a difficult subject. It is a good idea to help your children to continue to develop their math skills during the summer holidays. It doesn’t have to be boring or a chore! We’ve put together a selection of fun activities for adults and children do together at home.

Time related activities

  • Convert Clocks

If you have a digital clock, try to write the time in an analogue way, if you have an analogue clock, write the time digitally or on the 24 hour clock. Check the time together at regular intervals.

  • TV Times

If you watch TV ask your child to find out what time their favourite programs are on.

What time do they finish?

How long are they on for?

Ask them to calculate how much TV they want to watch for week.

  • Birthdays

Look at a calendar.

Can your children find out how many days there are in a week, in each month, in a year?

How many weeks are in a year?

How many months are there in a year? Name them.

Which is the sixth/last/third month etc?

When are the birthdays or important dates in your family’s year? Put them in order or make your own calendar showing these special dates.

What are the different seasons and when do they start?

Mass activities

  • Kitchen

Record the weight of different foods you have in your kitchen.

Which are in kilograms (kg) and which are in grams (g)? Do you children know how many grams there are in a kilogram?

Choose 5 packs and order them from lightest to heaviest. Are the big packs always heaviest? Are the small packs always lightest?

Are there any units that your children are not familiar with?

  • Recipe

Look at a recipe for something you like. In what units are the ingredients measured? Follow the recipe reading the scales accurately, then enjoy sharing what you have made together!

  • Scales

Weigh different items around your home using any scales you have (kitchen or bathroom).

Focus on accuracy. What items added together make 2kg or 100g?

  • Fruit and Veg

Find a variety of fruit and vegetables. Estimate how much they weigh then weigh them accurately. Put the items in order of mass. Can they add any together to make 300g, 50g or 2kg?

Perhaps make a fruit salad or vegetable stir fry. How much did the peelings weigh?


  • Water

In the bath/kitchen sink/paddling pool/bucket pour water from different sized containers. How many little ones does it take to fill the largest one?

Put the containers in order of capacity. Does the tallest/shortest container have the biggest/smallest capacity? Use familiar objects like yoghurt pots, bowls or plastic bottles.

  • Coloured Water

A few drops of food colouring in the water makes reading scales much easier.

Use a measuring jug of coloured water to measure the capacity (in litres and/or millilitres) of known items. Order them from smallest to greatest capacity.

  • Units

In shops, look at and discuss any products that are sold by capacity, for example paint, lemonade, soup or milk. Estimate, then calculate, how much liquid you drink each day.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog post where we will be putting together more educational activities for you to do at home with your children!

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It’s Never Too Early to Engage Children in STEM Education

istock_kids_stemExperts in education throughout the world agree that there is a national imperative to graduate students with an understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In 2007, a Carnegie Foundation commission concluded that the capacity to innovate and thrive in the modern workforce depends on a foundation of math and science learning.

But what is STEM exactly? STEM is an interdisciplinary and an applied approach to teaching. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications. STEM can also be described as a philosophy: it’s a way of helping students to think in a more connected and holistic way.

Many parents ask us what age we think it is appropriate to start teaching STEM to children. We believe that it is never too early to start STEM education.

Children are very active learners at 1,2 and 3 years old so you don’t necessarily have to wait until they start kindergarten to engage in STEM activities. The research is quite clear that the best practice in early childhood education is to break away from passive instruction and allow for more play and investigation, and this kind of learning early in life builds skills and interests that serve children throughout their school years, and later in life. Take your children to the park and let them explore, get up and watch a sunrise with them or let them swim in the sea.

Lilian G. Katz, in STEM in the Early Years, lays out a case that the best practice for early education is to allow students to be active, engaged, and take initiative in their own learning. Allowing our children to have the opportunities to take initiative in their own learning is not only good for STEM learning, but for overall long-term academic success.

In a lot of academic instruction children are in a passive or receptive mode instead of being more active. Early childhood education should tap into children’s natural curiosity and give them ample opportunities to be active participants in their own learning. Natural settings offer children almost unlimited opportunities to explore and investigate, helping them build STEM skills that create a solid foundation for future learning.

If you’d like more information about STEM education please get in touch. We over private and group out-of-school classes in Toronto.

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Our Top 3 (Last Minute) Events to Attend on Canada Day 2015

canada-day-fireworks-586x438Canada Day, the best stat holiday of the year (in our opinion), but if you’re like us and you haven’t made any solid plans for tomorrow yet, here are some last minute ideas for you and your family! It’s always hard to keep track of what’s happening or what’s worth venturing out into the busy city for. Here’s a list of the 3 events we might attend tomorrow:


We love the amount of fireworks on display around the city and the largest display this year is at Ashbridges Bay. It’s going to get started around 9.30pm but it’s bound to be packed so get there early! There are a few smaller shows too at Mel Lastman Square, Downsview Park and at Canada’s Wonderland.

If you’re looking to celebrate Canada Day tonight, the Harbourfront Centre is having a fireworks show Tuesday night at 10:30 pm and it will be accompanied by a playlist of Canadian music.

Fringe Fest

The Toronto Fringe Festival starts tomorrow with a lineup for 148 shows, including 60 comedies, 30 drama and 13 musicals. We’re thinking about taking our children to Hamlet, a kid-friendly puppet show (4.30pm at the George Ignatieff Theatre)! Also Uncle Tommy’s Campfire Ghost Stories (10pm at FIKA Cafe) sounds fun! However, there’s no rush to get the Fringe Festival tomorrow as it runs until July 12.

Ribs Ahoy…

Last Sunday Toronto Ribfest was forced to cancel its third day due to bad weather. It’s not going to take place tomorrow instead! So for meat lovers this maybe a fun event to attend tomorrow as the schedule is full of family friendly activities, live music, BBQ demos and of course tasty ribs to be devoured. The day concludes with a fireworks display around 10 p.m.

What are you guys doing tomorrow? Let us know!


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Teachers in BC to Devote One Professional Development Day to Aboriginal Education

imagesCanada’s education minister announced on Friday that teachers in British Columbia will devote one of their professional development days next year to aboriginal education.

This much needed change coincides with government plans to introduce school curriculum changes that focus on First Nations culture and history, including the discriminatory residential school system.

This is the first time that aboriginal education is the sole focus of a professional development day, a day where teachers gather for conferences without their students in class.

Students as young as 10 will soon be taught that past government policies towards Aboriginal Peoples resulted in the crushing legacy of Canada’s residential-school system. Starting in Grade 5, students will learn about residential schools and other racist government programs, such as the Chinese Head Tax, as part of a new kindergarten-to-Grade-12 education curriculum.

The recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission report into Canada’s residential school experience recommended the creation and funding of aboriginal-education legislation. After six years of hearings, the report concluded Canada’s residential-school system was a form of cultural genocide.

The education minister said in a statement “B.C. is committed to improving education outcomes for aboriginal students and promoting greater understanding, empathy and respect for aboriginal history and culture among students and their families through the revised curriculum.”

He signed a protocol agreement Friday with First Nations educators that aims to guide collaboration efforts on aboriginal education.

B.C. will introduce education curriculum changes next year that will see students learn about aboriginal culture and history, but when will these changes be incorporated to all provinces across Canada?

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Last Minute Revision Tips

Woman studying at the libraryExams may have already started for most students across the county, even if you haven’t revised as much as you should have, it’s never too late to start. Here are 5 winning revision tips that will help you learn as much as you can in a short amount of time.

Draw up a revision timetable

Research shows that shorter 20-30 minute spells work best, because your concentration is much higher. We therefore recommend taking short, frequent breaks. We also advise to mix the order order of the subjects. Take a look at the proposed timetable:

9.00-9.30 Subject 1
Break 5 mins
9.35-10.05 Subject 1
Break 5 mins
10.10-10.40 Subject 2
Break 5 mins
10.45-11.15 Subject 2
Break 30 mins
11.45-12.15 Subject 3
Break 5 mins
12.20-12.50 Subject 3
Break 1 hour
13.50-14.20 Subject 1
Break 5 mins
14.25-14.55 Subject 2
Break 5 mins
15.00-15.30 Subject 3
Break 5 mins
15.35-16.05 Subject 1

Find a quiet space

This is a pretty obvious one but one that many students forget when they go to a coffee shop to revise. You desperately need a place where you can be uninterrupted for a few hours. Your room, local or your school/university library will work best.

Start in the morning

You have to make a start at some point and doing it sooner rather than later is a very good idea. Research shows that you are more likely to do all the planned work if you start early, because as it gets closer to the evening, there is bigger tendency to get outside.

Make summary notes

We’ve all been there, trying to read the same text book or glancing at past papers and feeling like we’re being productive, when actually we aren’t! Making notes over and over while you’re reading is the best way to memorize information. It may seem tedious but the most successful students make as many as three sets of the same notes in the run up to exams.

Reward yourself

It is not all about the work; you need good breaks too. People who manage to find the right balance between study and leisure are the ones who get the top marks. For instance go to a cinema with friends after a productive day of revision or treat yourself to something sweet. Work hard, play not-quite-as-hard is the motto here.

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Why We’re Watching The Women’s Soccer World Cup

downloadSoccer may not be as popular as hockey, basketball or even the upcoming PanAm games BUT now’s the time to start taking an interest as the Women’s Soccer World Cup is taking place in Canada next week! After months of preparations the stadiums across Canada are ready and the players are preparing for the biggest tournament of their lives.

Most soccer fans we know have only watched the men’s world cup in past years, a tournament where Canada sadly does extremely badly, HOWEVER that’s not the case with the women’s competition. Canada is one of the better teams and we definitely have a chance of winning, as do our old rivals the US…

A total of 552 players will attend the event, with each of the 24 teams announcing squads of 23. Canada’s team is overflowing with sheer talent and head coach John Herdman has selected a mix of veteran and youth players to don the maple leaf shirt. Captain Christine Sinclair and her 153 international goals for Canada will lead the team. She’s joined by a number of players who were part of the bronze medal winning team from the 2012 London Olympic Games, including veteran goalkeeper Erin McLeod, midfielders Diana Matheson, Desiree Scott and Sophie Schmidt.

Here are some interesting facts that may persuade you to switch the channel over from the Stanley Cup to the Women’s Soccer World Cup:

  1. Known as “the female Pelé”, Marta will be the most famous face. The 29-year-old Brazil forward is five times winner of Fifa’s female Footballer of the Year award and is contesting her fourth World Cup.
  2. Canada – grouped with Holland, China and New Zealand – are excited about their 17-year-old midfielder Jessie Fleming. Canada’s most precocious young star made her senior international debut at 15.
  3. The US are eager for victory. They last won the title in 1999 but are nervous that their former coach, the highly regarded Pia Sundhage, is now in charge of her native Sweden.
  4. This will be the first football World Cup – either female or male – to be played on artificial turf. A contingent of leading women’s stars mounted a legal challenge against Fifa’s decision not to grass the Canadian venues but it failed to gain sufficient traction and the case was eventually dropped. Should players suffer serious “non impact” injuries though, the underfoot conditions will inevitably become a contentious topic.
  5. This is the largest, and longest, event in the history of a tournament which first took place in 1991. Comprising 24 teams, it starts on 6 June in Edmonton, where Canada play China, and concludes on 5 July. Eight countries are making their debuts: Cameroon, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ivory Coast, Holland, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand.

Here’s a little more information about the Canadian team:

GK- Stephanie Labbé | unattached / sans club
GK- Karina LeBlanc | USA / Chicago Red Stars
GK- Erin McLeod | USA / Houston Dash
D- Kadeisha Buchanan | USA / West Virginia University
D- Allysha Chapman | USA / Houston Dash
D- Robyn Gayle | unattached / sans club
D- Carmelina Moscato | unattached / sans club
D- Marie-Eve Nault | unattached / sans club
D- Lauren Sesselmann | USA / Houston Dash
D- Rhian Wilkinson | USA / Portland Thorns FC
D- Emily Zurrer | unattached / sans club
M- Jessie Fleming | CAN / London NorWest SC
M- Selenia Iacchelli | unattached / sans club
M- Kaylyn Kyle | USA / Portland Thorns FC
M- Ashley Lawrence | USA / West Virginia University
M- Diana Matheson | USA / Washington Spirit
M- Desiree Scott | ENG / Notts County Ladies
M- Sophie Schmidt | unattached / sans club
F- Josée Bélanger | unattached / sans club
F- Jonelle Filigno | USA / Sky Blue FC
F- Adriana Leon | USA / Chicago Red Stars
F- Christine Sinclair | USA / Portland Thorns FC
F- Melissa Tancredi | USA / Chicago Red Stars

Name | Birth year | Hometown
Bélanger, Josée | 1986 | Coaticook, QC, CAN
Buchanan, Kadeisha | 1995 | Brampton, ON, CAN
Chapman, Allysha | 1989 | Courtice, ON, CAN
Filigno, Jonelle | 1990 | Mississauga, ON, CAN
Fleming, Jessie | 1998 | London, ON, CAN
Gayle, Robyn | 1985 | Mississauga, ON, CAN
Iacchelli, Selenia | 1986 | Edmonton, AB, CAN
Kyle, Kaylyn | 1988 | Saskatoon, SK, CAN
Labbé, Stephanie | 1986 | Stony Plain, AB, CAN
Lawrence, Ashley | 1995 | Calendon East, ON, CAN
LeBlanc, Karina | 1980 | Maple Ridge, BC, CAN
Leon, Adriana | 1992 | Maple, ON, CAN
Matheson, Diana | 1984 | Oakville, ON, CAN
McLeod, Erin | 1983 | Edmonton, AB, CAN
Moscato, Carmelina | 1984 | Mississauga, ON, CAN
Nault, Marie-Eve | 1982 | Trois-Rivières, QC, CAN
Schmidt, Sophie | 1988 | Abbotsford, BC, CAN
Scott, Desiree | 1987 | Winnipeg, MB, CAN
Sesselmann, Lauren | 1983 | Green Bay, WI, USA
Sinclair, Christine | 1983 | Burnaby, BC, CAN
Tancredi, Melissa | 1981 | Ancaster, ON, CAN
Wilkinson, Rhian | 1982 | Baie d’Urfé, QC, CAN
Zurrer, Emily | 1987 | Crofton, BC, CAN


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3 Reasons Why Your Child Has A Bad Report Card

Image source: Today's Parent

Image source: Today’s Parent

It’s that time of year again: SCHOOL REPORTS. Every parent wants their child to get good grades and to succeed in school, so report day is as nerve racking for the parent as it is for the child. Sometimes parents assume that their child will get great marks, but when they receive a bad report card it can take them completely by surprise. Bad grades usually start showing up around middle school, which is a time of change in a child’s life. It’s key that you talk to your child openly and try to identify what’s causing the bad grades together. It could mean anything from your child needs extra help with certain subjects or they have adopted poor learning habits, the main thing to remember is to not panic and/or get angry at the child. Here’s a list of some of the main reasons which could contribute to your child’s bad report:

Reading Ability

As a child moves from grade to grade emphasis changes from learning to read to reading to learn. If reading abilities are lagging it will affect every subject, even understanding homework instructions will be hard. Our main advice to all parents is to read to your children from a young age and encourage them to read to you as their reading skills develop. If your child is older and isn’t interested in books, try and find something else that they may be interested in. Do they like comics, many comic have a detailed story, what about newspapers and magazines? Sit down with them once a day and read together.


We live in a fast-paced tech-driven world, which provides too many distractions for children. It takes children more effort to concentrate on any task compared to children a decade ago. Often your child will be on their cell, playing the playstation or on an iPad instead of dedicating time to homework. We suggest that during the week set out a “no tech time zone” where between the hours of 4 and 6 your child spends time either doing homework or non-tech activities like reading. They may kick up a fuss, but they’ll thank you in the end! Maybe reward them at the end of the week with a pizza night, for example.


Organization is key!! Especially in today’s hectic world where a child has numerous after school clubs, homework, various classes and an array of tech devices. It massively helps to establish a routine early on: same wake up time, breakfast, study time etc. Encourage them to keep an agenda and prioritize activities, obviously studying for test comes ahead of a swimming class, for example. We also recommend that you stay organized, children learn a lot from their parents so if you’re organized it will encourage your child to be too. Also keep an agenda of your child’s activities and test dates so that you can make sure they’re keeping on top of their work.

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Finland propose radical overhaul to their education system, would you want your country to do the same?

Image credit: The Guardian

Image credit: The Guardian

Did you know that Finland has one of the best school education systems in the world? According to the PISA rankings by the Organization fro Economic Co-operation and Development, Finland is always near the top for mathematics, reading and science.

Image credit:

Image credit:

Despite being routinely praised, Finland is considering a radical overhaul of their basic education system by abandoning teaching by subject for teaching by phenomenon.  Traditional lessons such as English Literature and Physics are already being phased out among 16-year-olds in schools in Helsinki.

What is this new phenomenon? Well, it involves subjects such as the “European Union,” which encompasses learning languages, history, politics, and geography. The idea is to eliminate the saying that is regularly heard from students everywhere: “What is the point of learning this?” This would mean changing the traditional structure of the schooling day: no more of an hour of history followed by an hour of chemistry. Lessons will draw on a variety of different subjects relevant for the future. 

Pasi Silander, Helsinki’s development manager, says the world has changed with the spread of technology and many of the old ways of teaching have no practical purpose. “Young people use quite advanced computers,” he told the Independent. “In the past the banks had lots of  bank clerks totting up figures but now that has totally changed.”

Many teachers who have been teaching single subjects oppose the changes, and it’s not hard to see why, change on this sort of scale is incredibly daunting. The new system is much more collaborative, forcing teachers from different areas to come up with the curriculum together. 

Marjo Kyllonen, Helsinki’s education manager and the person responsible for reforming the system calls this “co-teaching” and teachers who agree to it get a small bonus on top of their salaries. Kyllonen told the Independent: “There are schools that are teaching in the old fashioned way which was of benefit in the beginnings of the 1900s—but the needs are not the same and we need something fit for the 21st century.”

Later this month, she is proposing that the new system is rolled out across the whole country by 2020. Will the rest of the world follow the Finns’ lead? How would you feel if Canada opted for this new system too?

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Kids Activities for Earth Day 2015

earthday_logo_2015We’ve put together a list of our 3 favourite hands-on activities to empower children to help the planet.

Earth Day Pollution Solution

What You Need:

Tub of water
Cooking oil
Paper towels
Fabric squares
Cotton balls
Dish detergent

What to Do:

Children often think that if oil spills into the ocean, it could be easily scooped out of it with buckets. This is an experiment which will change their minds. Encourage your children to “pollute” a tub of water with cooking oil and glitter, and then use various supplies to try to remove the oil. They will soon figure out that the cotton-based material is useless and that the cotton fibres will not hold on to the oil. Will the fabric squares work any better? Ask them to place feathers (to represent birds) in their tubs and to observe as the oil-coated feathers sink.

Afterward, watch online videos showing how volunteers use dish detergent to clean up oil-covered animals in real-life oil spills. Repeated the experiment with the detergent, your children will be amazing at the result.

(Source Scholastic)

Earth Day Science: Crystallization

This activity takes time and requires a quite a few components but it will hopefully encourage your children to take an interest in how the world continues to change and evolve. Discuss global warming with older children.

What you need:

Blown-out eggshell
Alum powder
White glue
Small paintbrush
Plastic or glass container
Egg dye
Hot water
Craft stick or spoon
Latex gloves
Drying rack or newspaper

What to do:

Geodes can be grown without using egg dye. The resulting crystals are clear to milky white, like quartz. While large chicken eggshells are suggested in this process, larger eggshells can be used. Simply increase the size of the plastic or glass container and double or triple the amounts of dye (1 packet), alum (3/4 part), and water (2 parts) used to create the growing solution.

This science project shows kids how the natural crystallization process works. You can also buy ready-made Crystal Egg Geode kits available from Professor Figgy’s Fabulous Science Kits at
Start by blowing out a large white chicken egg and splitting it in half, lengthwise. The egg can be cracked by striking it against a surface or cut with a small pair of scissors. Make sure the inside of the eggshell is clean and dry.

With a small paintbrush, apply white glue to the inside and cracked edges of each half of the eggshell and sprinkle with alum powder until completely coated. Set eggshell halves aside to dry overnight.

The next day, prepare your growing solution in a glass or plastic container by using a craft stick or spoon to mix 2 cups of very hot water (almost boiling) with an entire packet of powdered egg dye. Be sure to wear latex gloves to protect your hands from the dye.Tip: Liquid food colouring can also be used to dye the geode — 30 to 40 drops will adequately saturate the solution.

Add 3/4 cup of alum powder to the hot dye bath and stir until completely dissolved. If there are remaining crystals in the bottom of the container, place the solution in the microwave for a few minutes to dissolve them. This will prevent alum from being drawn away from the geode.

Once the alum is completely dissolved, let the solution cool slightly (for about 30 minutes) and then submerge one of the dried, alum-coated eggshells in the growing solution, allowing it to rest on the bottom of the container with the inside of the shell facing up.

Set the container aside in a safe place overnight to allow the crystals to grow undisturbed. The longer the eggshell is in the solution, the larger the crystals in the geode will be. Twelve to 15 hours will usually result in a perfect geode.

The next day, remove the geode from the growing solution very carefully (as wet crystals are quite fragile), being sure to wear latex gloves to prevent the dye from staining your hands. If you are not satisfied with the size of your geode crystals, return the geode to the growing solution and wait a day or two. As water evaporates from the solution, more alum will be deposited in your geode, increasing the size of the crystals.

Place your geode on a drying rack or newspaper and allow to dry completely before handling.

To grow a second geode in the other half of the eggshell, simply re-dissolve the crystals remaining at the bottom of the growing solution in the microwave and follow the instructions above starting at step 5.

(Source The Martha Stuart Show)

Earth Day Picnic

What You Need:
Bag lunches

What to Do:
Show your children how to reduce the trash generated by their lunches. Instructed them to pack their lunches as usual for day one of the activity. As they eat, ask them to keep track of how many pieces of trash they threw out. For day two, help your children to pack their lunches as free of trash-generating items as possible. Think of things like reusable containers. On day two, ask your children to count the trash from their second lunch and see how they compare. Or for older children set a competition: “Who can pack their lunch with the least amount of waste? Winner gets an ice-cream!”

For unavoidable waste, see if there’s anything fun you can do with it, like make a collage. Most kids love an outing to the park, so this task doesn’t have to seem like a chore, work in a game of catch or soccer.

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World Autism Awareness Day 2015: Characteristics of Autism

displaymediaWorld Autism Awareness Day takes place every year on April 2nd. The aim of the day is to spread awareness about a neurological disorder called autism. The resolution for World Awareness Day was adopted by the UN in December 2007, and since then countries across the globe have been highlighting the importance of understanding autism.

Did you know that according to the National Autistic Society, Autism is the world’s third most common development disorder? One in every 100 people suffers from autism in the UK and around one in every 68 children in America, but those figures are nothing compared to India: close to 15 million people suffer from autism at present. It’s when we realize that so many people suffer from autism across the world that days like World Autism Awareness Day become so important.

The CN Tower lit up blue last year for World Autism Awareness Day

The CN Tower was lit up blue last year for World Autism Awareness Day

What is autism?

Autism Speaks describes autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism as “a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. With the May 2013 publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual, all autism disorders were merged into one umbrella diagnosis of ASD. Previously, they were recognized as distinct subtypes, including autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.

ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art.”

The most obvious signs of autism tend to emerge between two and three years of ages, highlighting that autism has roots in early brain development.


When we first started researching and trying to understand autism, one of the most important things that we discovered is the fact that every autistic person is different and they have their own idiosyncratic characteristics.

This means that a child’s senses and development of skills are not in sync, this may lead to a situation where a child may have developed cognitive skills while language, social or motor skills may lag behind, for example. Some children become sensitive to noise, light or smell while others may find social interaction challenging. These are some of the not-so-subtle signs that all parents needs to look out for.

People with autism often suffer from restricted behaviour and establish an affinity towards routine and find it difficult to accept change.

An autistic child may show signs of finding it difficult to make sense of the world around them and communicating their feelings. This includes establishing relationships with people, being able to express themselves, understanding metaphors or associating symbols with language.

We have briefly described autism and some of the systems to look out for, so it’s definitely worth doing your research to find out more. Even if you don’t know anyone who suffers from autism, spreading the word about the disorder can only better our communities.

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Easter Weekend in Toronto, Canada, 2015 – Family Events

EasterParadeI don’t know about you, but our little ones are counting down the days until next weekend, when we celebrate Easter! Our children love Easter for many reasons including the chocolate easter eggs, goodies, arts and crafts at school and easter egg hunts. But our children love Easter for another reason too, we spend the whole long weekend exploring the city and attend events and festivals. Here are some of our favourite events happening next weekend! Make sure to register in advance!

  • Easter Traditions at Colborne Lodge
    March 21, 2015 to April 5, 2015 – 12:00 pm until 4:00 pm
    Visit inside Colborne Lodge and learn about 19th century Easter traditions. Families will tour the museum and spot Easter treasures hidden in the restored rooms. Children dye their own eggs using natural dyes. Last tour at 3:15 pm.
  • Kidnetix Annual Easter Egg Hunt
    April 3, 2015 – 9:30 am until 4:00 pm
    A fun filled Egg-citing Easter Egg Hunt! 3 hunts to choose from: 9:30 am to 11:00 am, 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm, and 2:30 pm to 4:00 pm. Includes: indoor playground fun, crafts, Hunny the Easter bunny, tattoos and face painting, Easter egg hunt, Easter basket giveaway, free play passes, and lots more surprises! 2 locations: Brampton and Toronto.
  • Brooks Farms Easter Fest Egg Hunt
    April 3, 2015 to April 5, 2015
    Events includes: Train or wagon ride, barnyard playland, maple sugar bush tours and meet and greet with the mascots! Take part in an Easter Egg Hunt (1 to 6 years) and a Scavenger Hunt (7 to 12 years). Easter weekend 2015 overlaps with the Maple Sugar Festival, which means the Sugar Bush tours will be included with admission to the Easter Festival. Weather permitting.
  • Canadian Pet Expo
    April 3, 2015 to April 5, 2015
    The Canadian Pet Expo is a true pet lover’s and pet family experience focusing on promoting responsible pet ownership with interactive events, demonstrations, vendor support, and workshops. Kids can take part in special Easter activities on April 5.
  • Easter Egg Hunt at Alpha’s Discovery Club Indoor Playground
    April 4, 2015 – 10:00 am until 12:00 pm
    Alpha’s Discovery Club Indoor Playground in Mississauga is holding its annual Easter Egg Hunt with the Easter bunny. The children will make an Easter theme craft and hunt for Easter eggs hidden around the indoor playground. Space is limited so reserve your tickets!
  • Community Easter Egg Hunt at Adventure Valley!
    April 4, 2015 – 10:00 am until 4:00 pm
    Adventure Valley welcomes all families in the community to the Community Easter Family Fun Event! There will be entertainment, food, Easter egg hunting, arts and crafts, and more. Set on a country club-like setting, conveniently located right at Leslie and Steeles.
  • Easter Sweets & Chocolate Tour
    April 5, 2015 – 11:30 am until 1:30 pm
    Treat yourself and your loved ones to a sweet Easter on Toronto’s only sweets tour, eat your way through the colourful neighbourhood of Kensington Market. What to expect: guided tour on the history of sweets, introduction to 6 sweet stores, samples from each location, discounts at select merchants, fun yum times for all! The tour is from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Adult $35 – Children $20. At Ding Dong Pastries & Cafe.
  • Toronto Beaches Lions Club Easter Parade
    April 5, 2015 – 2:00 pm
    Over the years the Toronto Beaches Lions Club Easter Parade has grown into an event that the entire city enjoys. It attracts more than 50,000 spectators of all faiths, religions, and cultures. This is a very important event to the Beaches Lions Club, our community and the charitable organizations they serve. It begins at 2:00 pm sharp and runs for approximately two hours. It will begin the parade on Queen Street at Munro Park and proceed west along Queen Street ending at Woodbine Ave.


Toronto’s Easter Parade is one of the city’s oldest traditions, starting in the early 1900’s along the waterfront at Sunnyside Park.

  • Easter Chocolate Workshop
    April 5, 2015 – 4:30 pm until 6:00 pm
    A fun and interactive afternoon for parents and children playing with chocolate! Learn about chocolate history and tasting, then get creative making your own vanilla chocolate truffles and lollipops with the host chocolatier Odile (Odile Chocolat). What to expect: taste and learn about different chocolates, roll your own vanilla chocolate truffles, for the children, create chocolate lollipops, take home your handmade treats, happy times for all! Adult $49 – Children $39. At Odile Chocolate.
  • Easter Brunch at Casa Loma
    April 5, 2015
    Join CasaLoma to celebrate Easter with a spectacular Easter Brunch. This unique buffet brunch will feature a delectable array of traditional brunch classics and signature dishes. The complete menu can be viewed on the website. Reservations are required.

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Affordable And Natural Ways To Protect Your Kids From Swimming Pool Chemicals

Fun Swimming Over the last few weeks the weather has warmed up considerably and the promise of hot summer days is just around the corner – hurrah! That means outdoor swimming and weekend water park trips… okay maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, but swimming is a super fun activity for children, especially in the summer. Not only is a fun activity but it’s great for exercise and family bonding, the only downside are the health risks connected to swimming pool chemicals, that’s just a buzz kill.

Many parents are a little nervous about sending their children to a place where red eyes, dry itchy skin and green hair are common side effects of going for a dip in the local pool. Doctors like Doctor Joseph Mercola have been talking about the list of serious ailments connected to chlorinated water for many years:

“Your body absorbs more chlorine, and more importantly disinfection byproducts (DBPs) [such as chloramine], by swimming in a chlorinated pool than you would by drinking tap water for one week. Disinfection byproducts are far more serious than chlorine. They form when the chlorine in your pool water reacts with organic matter such as skin and hair.”

While indoor swimming pool chemicals won’t seriously harm your children, there are certainly a number of health problems that are linked to the chlorinated water including:

  • Hormone disruption
  • Asthma and allergies
  • Gut flora imbalance

However there are many cheap and easy ways to help protect your kids against swimming pool chemicals:

1. Swim outdoors

Ventilation, never a bad thing. Also many outdoor pools use salt water, UV or ionization instead of the regular chemicals used to maintain an indoor pool.

2. Rinse before swimming

Did you know that if your kids rinse before they swim it could help to protect them against absorbing the pool chemicals through their skin. A chemical compound called chloramine forms when chlorine reacts with ammonia from sweat. Showering before swimming can remove excess sweat that interacts with chlorine, reducing formation of chloramine on the skin.

3. Coconut Oil

A family favourite for pretty much everything. Putting coconut oil on your child’s body before swimming could provide the skin with an extra layer of protection.

4. Topical Vitamin C

The chemical structure of vitamin c neutralizes chlorine and chloramine. Spray a mixture of powdered vitamin c and water on to your child post swim and rinse in the shower. You can buy topical vitamin c spray online, or make your own.

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St. Patrick’s Day Joint Activities for Parents and Children

St-Patricks-Day-Kids-3St. Patrick’s Day is a chance for everyone to celebrate Irish culture and heritage. We’ve put together a fun list of activities and facts for your children, with a cheeky Irish themed cocktail recipe at the end for parents!

1. Grow your own Shamrocks

The weather has been so nice over the last couple of days here in Toronto, if it continues you could head out into your garden with your children. Plant some shamrock seeds and talk about the importance of gardening: you could mention anything from the source of food to looking after the environment. Alternative you can by little pots and plant your shamrock seeds indoors, either way your kids get to make a bit of a mess with a spade and you’re broadening their minds at the same time!

2. History

St Patricks Day history for kids doesn’t have to be all about drawing rainbows and wearing green. We’ve always enjoyed teaching our children the real history behind holidays and events. In this list we’ve include some of the popular stories and legends as well as the actual facts about the holiday, take note of the ones your children show interest in, you should follow up on them. There’s a ton of information online or head to your local library. Here’s a brief rundown of St. Patrick’s history:

  • St. Patrick’s Day is the feast day of the patron saint of Ireland named St. Patrick. Patrick wasn’t born Irish, he was brought to Ireland as a slave after he was kidnapped. He managed to escaped back to Britain to be with his family but while there, a voice told him to go back to Ireland. He was ordained as a priest and spent the rest of his life working to bring Christianity to Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day is the national holiday of Ireland and we celebrate it each year on March 17 because this is the day he is rumored to have died.
  • People search for four leaf clovers which are very rare, finding one is supposed to be very lucky. A shamrock is actually a three leaf clover like plant. Legend has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).
  • The colour of St. Patrick’s Day is green. Ireland is known for it’s green shades of grass and the shamrock is green as well.
  • Traditionally people eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day although we enjoy it all year.
  • Some people claim that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. However, science has proven that there never were any snakes in Ireland because of the cold climate. It is thought that the word snakes in this legend actually represent driving out the pagan ways when he introduced Christianity.
  • Irish legend says that there is a small Irish fairy called the leprechaun. He wears pointed shoes, a hat and a leather apron. According to the legend, he’s very unfriendly and lives alone in the forest guarding his pots of gold. The story says that if you find a leprechaun, he will have to tell you where is gold is hidden. If you look away for even one second, the leprechaun will disappear along with all his gold.

3. Cooking

Corned beef is a traditional Irish meal eaten throughout the year, but it’s a favourite on St. Patricks day. If you have time, spend an hour or so making it from scratch with help from your children. Not only is it a lot healthier to make a homemade version compared to the processed store bought alternatives, you’re setting a good example for your children (to eat healthy) and you’re bonding over the simpler things in life rather than games and tv.

4. Shamrock math race!

We really like this simple math game for kindergarteners from Coffee Cups and Crayons.

5. Pot of Gold cocktail for parents

Serves 2
-2 tbsp fresh pear juice mix (see below)
-2 tbsp Michael Collins Irish whiskey
-Sparkling wine or Champagne of your choice
-Lemon twist for garnish

Mix the pear juice and the whiskey together in a liquid measuring cup or some other cup that has a spout, which will make it easier to pour. Divide the mixture equally between two Champagne flutes. Slowly top with bubbly, then garnish with a lemon twist. Enjoy!

For the pear juice mix:
-2 ripe d’anjou pears, peeled, cored, and diced
-4 tbsp water
-2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Place all the ingredients into a food processor and run the machine until the mixture is pureed. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times to get the mixture smooth. Place a fine mesh strainer or sieve over a non-reactive bowl, then pour the mixture in. Allow the juice to drain out, stirring the puree gently to help the process along. Serve right away!

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When To Get A Math Tutor For Your Child

All parents want to see their children succeed in school. Some children have a natural flare for certain subjects, while others need a little help. Math is one subject where a lot of children need help to understand and build their skills to reach a certain level. One of the best ways to do this is through an out-of-school tutor.

Does Your Child Need a Math Tutor?

Looking at your child’s report card is the first clue to seeing if they could do with extra help. If they are continuously getting low grades even when they are trying their hardest highlights that it may be time to think about hiring a tutor. Does your child understand maths but does not show any enthusiasm for the subject and as a result it’s affecting their grades? Finding a tutor that can bring back that enthusiasm and inject a bit of fun into the lessons so that your child isn’t bored will make a huge difference in how they respond and act in school. Talk to your child’s teacher, find out how your child is responding in class and together figure out which areas of study your child is struggling in.

Don’t wait too long!

Whether you choose to hire a tutor or provide more games and learning opportunities at home, it’s important to identify your child’s signs of needing extra help early on, particularly in math, due to its linear nature. Each math class builds on the previous class, so once your child misses one lesson or doesn’t understand a particular skill, it’s pretty hard to catch up. This can result in him or her slipping further behind, losing confidence and dropping grades.

Hiring a Tutor

By the time your child has reached second grade, it will be pretty clear whether a tutor would be helpful. Once you decide to find a tutor, take your search seriously. You want someone who is properly trained, will assess your child correctly, has a good reputation, and will provide lessons that are age appropriate. Here at Light In The Attic Learning we have partnered with a numeracy program devised by JUMP math to provide our students with cutting edge materials and an approach to learning that works alongside the Ontario curriculum. Whether basic arithmetic or trigonometry, our tutors, who are specially trained to deliver the JUMP math program, will help your child overcome any math phobia they may have and give them the foundation they need to build on.

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Family Day Activities in Toronto

family-day-2Thankfully, winter this year has been considerably kinder to us in comparison to last year’s polar vortex winter. However, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t all looking forward to an extra day off this weekend, a much welcome break during the long winter months.

Family Day is one of our favourite holidays; spending quality time with our family, having fun and being thankful for the people who are around us, what could be better. We’ve put together a list of some of the best events happening this weekend, let us know which ones you’ll be attending!

  1. Kids Fest

Running all weekend, Kids Fest features the largest indoor inflatable road show for kids. Located in Mississauga, head there this weekend for a great family outing day of fun.

  1. Ski Dagmar

Exercise and fun? If you and your family don’t often get the chance to leave the city to explore Ontario’s beautiful countryside now is the time, and it’s not even that far out of the city!

  1. Toronto’s historic sites

Maybe don’t tell your children that you’re going to look at old historic sites, it’ll sound more like a history class than a fun day out, unless they really like history class. Tell them about Fort York, where they can sample freshly baked goods made on a hearth, for example, or learn Irish dancing and listen to stories at Montgomery’s Inn.

  1. Hockey Hall of Fame

If you and your family are big hockey fans, the Hockey Hall of Fame is bound to be an interesting and informative few hours for you and your children. Why not dust off your skates and head to your local ice rink afterwards for a family game of hockey? If your family is large enough you could get into teams!

  1. Winter Stations

Five lifeguard stations along the Toronto Beaches are transformed into art installations. Chosen from among 200 different submissions, these installations will be open to the public to view and experience for six weeks, so no rush, but it could be a nice walk on Monday afternoon if it’s not too cold.

Also, how lucky are we to live in a country where we’re given a day off work to spend time with our families, just another reason why we love Canada.

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6 Alternatives To “Time-Out” Disciplining

700Over the years “time-out” has become a popular way of disciplining our children, but recent studies have shown that it is more beneficial for our children if we skip the “time-out” and other traditional punishments in favour of alternative positive treatments. These alternative scenarios give parents and children a chance to address situations with the intention of maintaining a positive, peaceful and respective relationship.

  1. Time-in

If you find your child is being disruptive or making unsafe choices like hitting a playmate, for example, take them away from the situation for 5 minutes. Find a quiet space and sit down with them and listen to what your child is saying and try to understand their feelings, then make the appropriate decision as to whether they should continue their play date or not.

  1. Second chances

Adults often make mistakes just as much as children, granted our mistakes are not along the same lines as putting glue all of the table, but have you ever felt relieved to have a second chance or a do-over? Children deserve the same treatment, so instead of taking the glue off them, ask them if they want to have some paper or would they like to do something else instead.

  1. Read a story

A great way to help children understand how to make better choices is by reading stories with characters that are making mistakes, having big feelings or needing help to make better choices. Also, reading together can be a really positive way to reconnect and direct our attention to our child.

  1. Give two choices

Let’s say your child is doing something completely unacceptable. Provide her with two alternatives that are safe, respectful and acceptable, and let her choose what she will do from there. By receiving two choices, the child can keep some control over her decisions while still learning about boundaries.

  1. Listen to a song

Sometimes taking a fun break to release some tension and connect is all that children need to return to making better choices and all that parents need to loosen up a bit and let go of some stress. Listen to a song or take a dance break!

  1. Go outside

Changing locations often gives us parents a chance to redirect behavior to something more appropriate. “I cannot let you scale the bookshelf. You CAN climb on the monkey bars. Let’s go outside and practice that instead!”

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Tips On How to Encourage Your Teens to Apply for College Scholarships

education-graduation-scholarshipSports, homework, jobs, social lives, and college visits… Teens these days are busier than ever and high school students are especially busy as college approaches and they reach the peaks of their high school careers. As busy as students are, their parents are equally as busy worrying about how to come up with the thousands of dollars necessary to afford college tuition and all the extra fees associated with the university experience. What’s a parent to do when they expect their students to apply for college scholarships and these busy teens declare they have no time? Here are three encouraging tips to sway teens to jump on the scholarship bandwagon and get applying:

1. Figure out the cost per hour for each scholarship won. If a scholarship award is $1000 and a student spends four hours working on the application and essay, he or she has just made $250/hour. To a student making minimum wage, numbers like that speak volumes!

2. Ask for 15 minutes a day spent working on scholarships, setting a timer if needed. Even the busiest student can’t say no to 15 minutes. Once they have settled in and are committed to the 15 minutes, you will be amazed at how that time will be voluntarily increased as students realize that applying for college scholarships is not as daunting as they thought it was. For example, essays can be used for multiple applications (mind word count and adjust, if necessary) and one scholarship resume can fulfill the task of repeatedly listing extracurricular activities.

3. Partner with teens in the scholarship process and assure them they are not alone. Parents can play a huge role in helping students apply for college scholarships, from finding and printing each application, to keeping track of letters of recommendation needed and deadlines to follow. Organizing the process is a way to allow teens to apply for many more scholarships, as this keeps them on track and focused.
If the college scholarship searching and applying process is started early, students will be able to apply for more awards and have a much greater chance of winning scholarship money.

I suggest starting as early as freshman year, but don’t lose hope if you have a high school senior or even a current college student. Start NOW where you are and use these three tips to encourage your teen to apply for as many scholarships as they possibly can. The money IS out there and the most persistent students and parents will find it!


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3 Reasons Why We Are Grateful To Be Educators

Like many others, we see our role as teachers as something more than a day-to-day job, we’re educators, we help shape the future generation. It’s a profession which excites and makes us thankful for the small triumphs in the classroom and the bigger achievements at the end of each schooling year. We’re thankful that we’re able to do what we do and we do it with pride. Here are our 3 reasons why we are grateful to be educators, what are yours?

1. Technology. The technology of communication has made it so it is easy to connect to like minded teachers across the world and we’re able to find resources that enhance our students classroom experience. Connecting with teachers from across with world whether it be on Twitter or on an education blog, their opinions and ideas influence our day-to-day activities. Finding out how other educators teach is interesting, productive and fun.

2. New teachers. Each generation of educators brings a new light to our profession, it’s exciting to hear what ideas new teachers have. Our students are ever changing and so should we, talking to and working with new teachers is as rewarding for us as it is for them.

3. Freedom of ideas. Deciding how to teach a subject each week and allowing our students to form their own opinions on certain topics makes interesting lessons for students and teachers alike.

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Our Favourite Family Board Games

We love playing board games, especially over the holidays. It’s a fun way of spending time and interacting with our children that doesn’t involve putting on the television or firing up the games console. We’ve put a list of our favourite games that are fun for both children and adults!

KOT1. King of Tokyo: Hands down, this game is the best to gift to new board gamers. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone personally say that they did not have a great time with this, kids and adults alike.

dinohunt2. Dino Hunt Dice: This is a very simple game that even young kids can play. It’s great to take with you if you are waiting at the airport or at a restaurant. And, you know, dinosaurs!


3. Zombie Dice: This isDino Hunt Dice‘s big brother, with very similar rules: you roll dice and collect brains, but don’t get shot! Again, it’s simple, but involves a little strategy. There are also a couple expansion packs available to add even more fun to the mix.

shinobi4. Shinobi Wat-AAH!: Practice your ninja skills! Again, simple rules, and there are two levels of play–one with just cards, where you build clans, and another with a board that is slightly more complicated but still is a lot of fun. We love the art work in this game.

castellan-e1418930915841-626x4705. Castellan: A game of competitive engineering. You draw cards that tell you which pieces you can use, and build pieces onto a castle. When You enclose an area, it’s yours! At the end, you count up how many towers are in your enclosures. Whoever has the most, wins!

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Top 5 Christmas books to read to your children!

reading-to-kids-on-christmas1. Elf on the shelf

Ages: 2-6

 The Elf on the Shelf is a special scout elf sent from the North Pole to help Santa Claus manage his naughty and nice lists. When a family adopt’s an elf and gives it a name, the elf receives its Christmas magic and can fly to the North Pole each night to tell Santa Claus about all of the day’s adventures. Each morning, the elf returns to its family and perches in a different place to watch the fun. Children love to wake up and race around the house looking for their elf each morning.

This book may not be overly educational but it’s a nice story especially in the lead up to Christmas!

 2. Pop-up Peekaboo: Christmas Board book

Ages: 0-2

This is one of the best books for Christmas for younger children. A little taster of what’s in store at Christmas time.

The latest addition to DK’s Peekaboo series, this Christmas book features big, bold pop-ups that jump from the pages when babies and toddlers lift the flaps. As young children explore the spreads, they’ll learn to recognise, name, and describe different objects, providing a perfect early learning opportunity and fun way to build book-handling skills.

What will pop out of the Christmas stocking? Who will come out of the chimney? What’s hiding behind the Christmas tree? Babies and toddlers will delight in the surprises in this Christmas-themed pop-up book.

3. Wombat Divine

Ages: 3-5

There isn’t a Mem Fox book we don’t love! Also appropriate with children performing in the Christmas play at school or preschool. This is one of our favourite Christmas books.

Wombat loved Christmas. He loved the carols and the candles, the presents and the pudding, but most of all he loved the Nativity Play. Wombat loves the Nativity Play so much that he tries out for every part, but he doesn’t seem to be right for any of them. Luckily, wise Emu knows the perfect role for a sleepy wombat, and it’s the best Nativity Play ever.

4. The Jolly Christmas Postman

Ages: 3-5

What children don’t enjoy opening the little envelopes on each page of the Ahlberg’s picture books.

It’s almost a preparation for opening all the cards that arrive in the letterbox at this time of year. Children can take each colourful gift out of its envelope and discover for themselves what well-known fairy-tale characters are sending to one another for Christmas! Your children will want to write letters of their own by the end of the book!

5. The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas

Ages: 3-5

This is an adaptation of the old favourite; 12 days of Christmas with a real Aussie slant.

It’s December in Australia and the days are getting warmer. When a young woman receives a kookaburra up a gum tree from her true love, it’s a sign that Christmas is on the way.

A lovely book to teach your children about a different culture.

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Cyber bullying tips for teens

cyberbullyingThis blog post follows on from our last blog post, tips on how to deal with the school bully, but this time focusing on cyber bullying. After talking to many children and parents we realised that the most common form of bullying now takes place online, it has become too prevalent especially if you are a teenager who is online. Last week we sat down and discussed different ways which teenagers can deal with this form of harassment, so that they can put it behind them.

The first thing we would suggest is to block the bullies. If anyone is writing mean things about you or anyone else, block or unfriend them immediately. Even if their animosity isn’t aimed at you, you don’t know when or if they will turn their attention to you.

Document the bullying! If someone is bullying you online, take screen shots of it, you never know if you will need proof, especially if the situation escalates and you have to get the authorities involved. You don’t want it to be your word against theirs and run the risk of them avoiding punishment.

Once you have taken the screen shots of the cyber bullying incidents, delete/hide/block them so that you can’t see them. When someone has been that horrible to you or a friend, the last thing you want is a constant reminder of the unkind words and images. It’s important to remember that most bullies pick on people because they have issues or problems and are just projecting them on to other people, so delete the content from your computer and forget about it.

If you feel the cyber bullying is getting out of control and you feel it’s something you can’t deal with on your own, get an adult involved. The adult can listen to your concerns, give advice and step in to put a stop to the bulling.

Spend less time on the internet! It’s often easy to forget that not everything we do has to be online, spend time away from social networks and spend more time with friends and family. Remember you can’t be cyber bullied if you’re not online.

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Tips on how to deal with the school bully

bulliesSadly bullying is still a major problem in many schools, despite worldwide anti bullying campaigns and school run initiatives. Although it’s impossible to eradicate bullying in its entirety, there are many “bullying prevention skills” which can protect and help kids from certain types of bullying. Increasing your child’s confidence and helping them to develop positive peer relationships are two steps will hell help ensure their well being at school.    

If you find out that your child is being bullied, the first thing you should do is to assure them that they are not to blame. Kids often internalize things, believing they somehow provoked or deserved it. They need to know that you will work with them to make the situation stop, not make it worse, it’s often a kid’s fear that the parent is going to go knocking on the bully’s front door. However this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk to your child’s teacher, you’ll want the teacher to keep an eye on the situation and to reprimand the bully if needed. 

Explain that countering bullying with retaliation is never effective; it only serves to amplify conflict. Many parents want to teach their kid to ‘stand up’ to a bully, but we know this doesn’t help.

Tell your child to appear unruffled, even though they will feel it inside. The lesson here is to not let the bully engage you or get your goat, instead, practice peaceful, non-engagement tactics.

Bullying tends to happen when the target child is isolated, so be strategic encourage you child to take friends with them when they go to the washroom, walk between classes in a group and eat with friends.

No matter how angry you are at the bully for tormenting your child, it’s important to feel empathy and understanding towards to bully as well. You don’t know the bully’s situation: they may have troubles at home, suffer from an illness or are bullied themselves. It’s an important trait to teach your little ones: greater awareness of others’ feelings not only allows kids to treat each other with respect and kindness, it also makes them more likely to intervene when necessary. Kids with good perspective-taking skills are less likely to be physically, verbally, and indirectly aggressive to peers because they are better able to manage social situations and make the right decisions about their behavior. Empathic concern toward peers makes bystanders more likely to intervene to stop bullying, and those with perspective-taking skills are more likely to offer emotional support to others.

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Guy Fawkes Night: A History Lesson

Guy Fawkes NightGuy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire Night and Fireworks Night, is an annual celebration which takes place on November 5, primarily in UK. The history of Guy Fawkes Night is incredibly interesting and if your children do not seem to show that much interest in history class, this is one history lesson that will capture their attention.

Its history begins with the events of 5 November 1605, when a member of the Gunpowder Plot, Guy Fawkes, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords in London. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London, and months later the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day.

Encourage your children to research the event, there are a great selection of books from Horrible Histories which explain historic events in a fun, colourful and easy to read manner, including the Gunpowder Plot.

There are many beaches in Toronto that allow bonfires, so what better way to teach your kids about an important historic event than to reenact it! Bonfire, sprinklers, fireworks (if permitted) and hot chocolate will make it a really fun evening for the whole family.

Guy Fawkes Night isn’t just for children, it’s an event that captures the interest of kids, teenagers and adults alike. Once the kids are in bed why not watch V for Vendetta which is based (loosely) on Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. This film made the Guy Fawkes mask an icon of popular culture.

Although Guy Fawkes Night isn’t really celebrated in Canada, it’s an excuse to organise family time! It’s also a good way to educate your children about British history without them knowing!

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Halloween in Toronto 2014

PumpkinsHalloween is one of the most exciting times of the year for kids. From halloween costumes and jack o’ lanterns to haunted houses, it is a day that fuels kids’ imaginations. Although it is primarily a day of fun for the family, as it should be, it doesn’t hurt to capitalize on you kids interest with these educational activities.

What better time to read stories to your younger children, or to suggest a novel or two to your teenagers. Everyone enjoys a ghost story, monster tale or horror novel around halloween, these are our recommended books for the entire family which are guaranteed to be halloween hits.

  • The Witches by Roald Dahl
  • The Legend of West Fork by J.T Lewis
  • The Raven and Other Poems by Edgar Allen Poe
  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • The Host by Stephanie Meyer

There are some really fun (educational/cultural) events happening around Toronto this weekend that will be a fun day out for the whole family:

Boo at Toronto Zoo!

Up to two kids in costume (12 and under) get in free when accompanied by an adult. All kids are eligible to take part in the “Critters and Costumes Parade” at 11:40 am and 2:40 pm daily, departing from the Waterside Theatre. Also on hand for the Boo fun is My Little Pony who will be at the Zoo’s Courtyard Stage. Kids can also drop by the Play-Doh Play Centre next to the Courtyard Stage to create their very own Zoo animal or Halloween creation. Check out Zoo animals receiving festive pumpkins throughout the day.

Symphonic Spooks – Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Delight in hair-raising, spine-chilling classical music, as creatures of all kinds come to haunt the concert hall. Perfect for trick-or-treaters of all ages, well-known spooky works, including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera Overture, selections from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Symphony fantastique will be heard echoing throughout the hall.

The Haunted Walk of Toronto

From the old military town of York to the metropolitan city of today, discover Toronto’s ghost stories and darker history.  Hear of the city’s  haunted theatres, public hangings and the terrifying encounters at Mackenzie House.  Definitely not for young children!

We hope you have a lovely halloween week, let us know what you get up to! We’d love to see pictures of everyone dressed up! 

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World Food Day 2014 Activites for Children

foodDid you know that 842 million people are estimated to be suffering from under-nourishment and chronic hunger? This is a staggering figure considering that the world has never produced so much food.

If the world is producing more than enough food why are so many people suffering? Food production relates to a variety of topics including politics, human rights and climate change and the problems that arise can be easily explored at home.

So this week, to mark yesterday’s World Food Day (16 October 2014), we’ve put together a range of resources about the challenges of feeding an ever-growing population which you can discuss with your children.

This year the focus of World Food Day is on the significant role that smallholder farmers play in feeding the world. In the poorest parts of Africa and Asia, around 500 million small family farms are responsible for 80%of all food production. This game from Oxfam will help your children learn more about the global food system and the impact it has on family farmers.

Why not try the “Flying the Kite for Food” activity, it is great for introducing younger children to the idea of food injustice. Let your children explore the reasons why some people in the world are hungry before making a kite to which they attach their wishes for a world without hunger.

Another idea is to test your children’s knowledge of different fruits and vegetables from across the world. Try creating authentic meals from the countries you have discussed!

Explore the themes of World Food Day 2014 further with this toolkit from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. There is a family-friendly leaflet, poster and Powerpoint presentation that can be used at home after school.  As a written exercise, can your children explain why family farmers are described as “an important part of the solution for a world free from poverty and hunger”?

In a society where we often take food for granted, it’s important that we show and discuss with our children that 842 million people worldwide aren’t as fortunate.

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Get your children involved with World Space Week – October 4-10

World Space WeekWhat better way to encourage your children to listen and play an active role in science class than with World Space Week! World Space Week is an international celebration of science and technology, and their contribution to the betterment of the human condition.

World Space Week starts on October 4 and runs though to the 10th. These dates are significant: On October 4, 1957, the first human-made Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, launched into space thus opening the way for space exploration. On October 10, 1967, the signing of the Treaty on

Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies took place. How impressed will the science teacher be if your child can remember the full name of the Treaty!!!

World Space Week consists of space education and outreach events held by space agencies, aerospace companies, schools, planetaria, museums, and astronomy clubs around the world in a common timeframe.

This year London Ontario is hosting one of two World Space Week events in Canada. The Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration in Western University has put together a free special event.  MIT Professor Sara Seager, Exoplanet Hunter, will share her research and experiences searching for planets like Earth in other solar systems, and the search for life in the Universe.

The goal of World Space Week is to excite young people about science, technology, engineering and math, but you don’t need to wait until World Space Week to encourage your children to take an interest in these subjects. There are plenty of fun space related activities you can do with your kids at home, our favourites are on the NASA website:

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Encourge your children to learn a second language

You don’t have to be bilingual to teach your children another language, you can start them off with the basics at a very young age before enrolling them in classes when they are older.

At the age of two or three, children are increasing their vocabulary and are starting to recognize speech patterns, this is prime time to start introducing a second language as it will be much easier for your child to pick up its unique sounds.

According to Francois Thibaut, director of the Language Workshop for Children in New York, the ability to hear different phonetic pronunciations is sharpest before age 3, and we lose the capacity to hear and produce certain sounds if we aren’t exposed to them early on. So just hearing a television show, listening to music, or learning a few words in a second language will give your child essential tools for appreciating it now and learning to speak it later.

The best way for your children to learn to understand a new language is for them to hear people speaking it fluently, as they will pick up on the sounds – young children love to mimic what they hear!

Teach a word at a time. If you don’t want to do formal lessons, you can introduce bilingual basics by pointing out to your child that objects can have two names — one in each language. As your child learns new words, tell him what they’re called in a second language too.

Of course, a children won’t learn to speak another language fluently from hearing words, watching videos, or singing songs. But simply being exposed to a language will help them understand phrases when they hear them.

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Discipline Tactics for your Children

There are many ways to discipline your children but it’s important to remember that yelling and grounding your kids isn’t necessarily always the answer. Here are some alternative happier options which could (hopefully) result in smiles rather than arguments:

Children crave recognition from their parents, so they are often likely to “act up” if that’s the main source of attention. Next time your kid is misbehaving try and see their behaviour as a cry for attention, talk to them and hug them in an attempt to put them in a better mood. Give them plenty of praise when you’re pleased with their actions, even if it’s something very small like picking a toy up off the floor.

Most young children aren’t able to remember rules, so distraction is key. If your kid is playing with your iPhone wire, distract them with building blocks. Don’t overly use the word “no” as they will associate it with items and places out of reach – they will always indulge their natural curiosity and attempt to do the opposite of what you want them to do. Explain to them why you’re moving the wire without encouraging them to play with it again in the future.

Set up a schedule! Do you find your kids have the biggest meltdowns at bedtime? With consistent routines, children are more likely to feel they have control over what happens to them which can reduce outbursts and provide a sense of security.

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How to create an educational ‘Roald Dahl day’ with your kids!

Roald DahlDo you wish you could encourage your children to spend time less time playing computer games and more time reading or playing outside?

The key is to set out a specific time when they can play the Playstation, treat it almost as reward for completing homework or for reading a few pages of a book. It definitely shouldn’t be the first thing they do when they get home from school!

In order to combat computer addiction we recommend planning a themed day based on a popular novel, it will make for a fun and educational Sunday afternoon!

As it’s Roald Dahl’s birthday this month, we thought it might be a fun idea (and a trip down memory lane for parents who read his books as kids too!) if you set aside a couple of hours with your children to pay tribute to some of his work. Pick a book a week, like Matilda, read it with your children, watch the film with them, then create some enjoyable educational (don’t tell the kids that) activities like the ones we’ve put together below:

1. Matilda visits the library regularly to find new books to read. Visit your local library and see what services it offers. Why not make poster to advertise the library?

2. Matilda reads ‘The Secret Garden’, ‘Great Expectations’ and many other famous books. Ask your kids to find out more about these stories and their authors.

3. Matilda’s friend, Fred, has a pet parrot which he lends to her. Encourage your kids to make a ‘guide’ to teach people how to look after a parrot (or another pet), a good idea if you’re thinking about getting a family pet too!

4. Can they write about their favourite teacher (like Miss Honey)?

5. Matilda reads a limerick out loud to her class. Find out how about limericks, explore different examples and try to write one with your children.

6. Ask your kids to write out a recipe for the chocolate cake that Bruce Bogtrotter was forced to eat in front of the school. Then make it!

7. Nigel uses a mnemonic to remind him how to spell ‘difficulty’. Can you think of other tricks to help you spell complicated words that you could teach your kids?

8. In the chapter ‘Miss Honey’s Cottage’, there are lots of complicated words (e.g., mysterious, phenomenon, precocious, self-consciousness). Encourage your children to look them up in the dictionary as you’re reading the book with them.

9. Encourage your children to listen to the audiobook version of the story. Can they retell the story to you?

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Top TIFF Films for Kids

It’s the middle of TIFF mania, you’ve attended late night films with friends and evening parties with coworkers, but have you thought about taking your kids to a showing? This year TIFF has shown many great films suitable for children and some of them could even be educational! Even if you’ve missed the last showing, or it’s sold out, it’s worth checking them out when they hit the cinemas.

African Safari (directed by Ben Sassen)

Following animal behaviourist Kevin Richardson (a.k.a. “The Lion Whisperer”) and Kenyan film producer Mara Douglas-Hamilton as they travel on land and by hot-air balloon from the Namibian desert to Mt. Kilimanjaro, African Safari captures the incredible beauty of the African landscape and unforgettable views of animals in their natural habitat.

Animals check. Geography lesson check.

Bahar in Wonderland (Directed by Behrooz Karamizade)

Young Bahar is surrounded by danger as she and her father try to make their way from Syria to Germany, but she believes she has found her own unique way to defend herself and fight her fears. 

Not for a young child but it’s a good film to highlight the conditions and situations which people from other countries experience.

Better Together

Whether facing a challenge, playing a game or dreaming up a new invention, two heads are always better than one! This collection of short films shows how cooperation, creativity and fun are the keys to successful teamwork.

Themes: Teamwork, friendship, creativity, cooperation

The Famous 5

Our favourite crime-foiling quintet tries to beat a gang of crooks to a long-lost pirate treasure in this heart-pounding new adventure.

Once they’ve seen the films then encourage them to read the books before bed!

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Back To School Tips For Teens

Back to schoolIt only seems like yesterday that the final school bell rang for the last day of term. Students racing out through the classrooms eager to begin their much awaited break, a break that seems like such a long period of time that it couldn’t possibly come to an end. Alas the time has come to prepare for another school year, but don’t worry it’s not all doom and gloom there’s a lot to look forward to, like catching up with old friends, making new friends and making plans for the year ahead.

However school isn’t alllllllll about socializing, follow our tips to make sure you have a successful school year in the classroom too!

1. Try your best

Not everyone can get all A’s, there are some subjects that not every student can excel in. The most important thing is that you’re trying your best, whatever you do don’t give up! If you feel like you do need some extra help in a particular subject, have a look at out of school programs like Light in the Attic Learning – talk to your teachers and parents about it.

2. That leads us on to… don’t sleep in class

What more can we say? Never a good idea. You’re definitely not trying your best if you’re sleeping at the back of the class! Try and get anything from 7 – 10 hours of sleep a night, this is definitely doable if you’re not playing your playstation late at night or talking on the phone!

3. Don’t backchat the teacher

Remember, the teachers are there to help you succeed, to make sure that you do the best you possibly can in your studies. They are not your enemies! Having a good relationship with your teacher will bode well for later on in the schooling year, will you need a reference from them in order to get into college?

4. Get to class on time

You never know what vital exam related information you’re missing by turning up half way through the lesson.

5. Be nice

Treat your fellow students and teachers how you would like to be treated. Just be yourself and be nice to the people in your class, not only will you be happier but you’ll notice that the people around you will enjoy your company too.

6. Stay organized

School can get frustrating especially when the homework is piling on from various classes. The most important thing is not to stress and to stay organized. Keep a diary that highlights when homework is due and keep a separate binder for each class so that your notes don’t get mixed up!

7. If you’re absent from school

Sometimes it simply can’t be helped. Make sure you catch up on the work you missed, and no that doesn’t mean copying the notes your friend made (which could have numerous mistakes), it means asking the teacher (remember that good relationship you’re meant to have with your teacher?!).

8. No drama

Don’t let yourself become dragged into arguments, especially if they don’t involve you personally. When there’s an awkward atmosphere at school, you’ll dread going, which is not a good start to the day.  When you’re worrying about a situation or person, it will be the only thing you’ll be able focus on throughout the day and it will take your attention away from your work.

9. Do your homework

Enough said.

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Back to school preparation for parents

Back to schoolThe beginning of September can be a stressful time for parents, whether it’s your child’s first day of school or if they’re returning students, making sure that they are fully prepared for the term ahead takes organization.

Children take their cue from their parents so it’s important to plan ahead, not only for your own piece of mind but to set an example for your children too. Stay calm, reassure your children if they’re feeling nervous and offer support. You want your children to look forward to the term ahead, not dread it!

Here are some tips to make sure your children are prepared for the first day of term:

1. Shop in advance

Last minute shopping is stressful at any time, remember last year’s panic Christmas shopping dash? Don’t make the same mistake when it come to shopping for school supplies, especially with uniform or any other dress code that the school requires your children to abide by. Children want to fit in, so if you can’t get them the correct material and clothing on time, it will only add to their first day worries.

2. Visit the school

Is your child attending a new school? If they are, try to visit the school before term starts. This way your child will become familiar with the layout of the school including classrooms and important offices. When your child arrives on the first day a new school will seem daunting, especially with hundreds of other students there. By visiting the school a week in advance your child won’t have to worry about getting lost or feeling too overwhelmed by the general size of the school.

3. Buddy system

Do you know any other parents who are sending their child to the same school? If you do organize a system where the children can travel to school together or meet outside the gates for the first week. It will make the transition into a new school much easier, know that someone else is doing it with them, plus your child will have a new friend.

4. Become an active parent

Get to know your child’s teachers before term starts, show your interest in the school and join the PTA. By becoming an active member in the school’s community, you can help to make the schooling environment the best it can be.

5. Routine

If your child does not have a regular bed time or an organized routine, the first few weeks of school are going to be rough. Ideally you should try and encourage your child to go to sleep at the same time every night (around 10pm) and to wake up in time to get ready for school (around 7.30am), a couple of weeks before term starts. Remember cranky tired children means they won’t focus in class!

6. Safety

Make sure your children know their name, their address, telephone number and your name. Always see your children safely to the school gate or school bus, you don’t need to wave them off if it will embarrass them, just make sure they arrive safely from a distance.

7. Talk

Talk to your children about how they’re feeling and how their first few days of school are going. Anything they are unhappy about? Anything they love? Are the feeling nervous about attending school? Why? Encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings with you without embarrassing them or forcing your opinions on them.

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Applying to university doesn’t have to be stressful with our 4 step guide

UniIf you want to attend university next year, now is the time to start thinking about applying. It may seem early, but you’ll thank us later down the road when everyone is panic applying and scrambling to get together all of the relevant information. However, even if you apply extremely early, the process is always a little stressful. Follow our tips for an easy application process!!

1. Research

There are a lot of things to consider when trying to decide which university attend. When you’ve decided on a few locations research the Universities or Colleges in that area by reading resource books, ordering prospectus’ and searching their websites. Remember the universities your friends apply to may not be the right options for you. Some questions to ask yourself when looking at various campus’:

Do they offer a course that interests you?

Are you able to get the grades in order to be accepted?

What’s the atmosphere like there?

Do you like the location?

Is financial support available? Or are you able to afford the fees?

Write down pros and cons for each university, you’ll be able whittle your list down quite quickly.

2. Preparation

Once you have decided on the schools you wish to apply to, create a chart to keep on top of the process. On this chart note application due dates, requirements (grade scores), essay requirements (with topics and work counts) and open days (when you can visit the school). Know in advance how much time you’ll need and over what time scale.

3. Submit before the due dates

Chances are everyone applying to school will be applying right before the deadline. As most applications are now done online, there is always a possibility that the website might crash, especially if thousands of prospective students are all applying at once. Bear this is mind and apply a week early! 

4. Over sharing

Don’t feel like you have to tell anyone about your applications other than your family. It may be tempting to say or post on social media that you’re applying to an Ivy League University, but you’re setting yourself up further pressure. People like to discuss who’s going where and who didn’t get in to their top choice. In reality you may be suited to a different school.

Good luck with the applications!

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How Louis Armstrong can help educate your kids

louis-armstrongAt the beginning of August every year we love to celebrate the birthday of one of our favourite American jazz musicians, Louis Armstrong. We try and attend a live jazz show, listen to old records and watch old videos of Louis Armstrong on YouTube with the family.

You may ask us why have we picked this one artist when there are thousands of musicians out there? We purposely picked Louis for many reasons: we like his music, we can educate our kids at the same time and he’s a good role model. 

As one of the main influences in jazz in the 1920s his music encouraged solo performances rather than traditional collection improvisation, he popularized scat singing and he was the first truly popular African American performer across the whole American class system. What’s not to admire?

Playing prominent artists like Louis Armstrong to your kids is an easy and beneficial way to promote healthy child development. Music can influence your child’s cognitive, physical growth and social growth in many ways as well as help them deal with any emotional issues they may be having. On top of that looking back at the lives of these artists also has the educational plus of reviewing the era in which they are from.

For older children encouraging them to listen to different genres of music other than current pop and rap music may be easier than you think:

Why not play a little Louis Armstrong around the house, then encourage them to write a biography of his life for history or music class if homework is required. You’ll be surprised how much they will learn about the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s just from researching his life.

Take the family out to a blues/jazz/folk festival, your children may be more accepting of the music if they see other kids there of a similar age. Or they may just be totally moved by the music… you never know!

You don’t have to be a musician to give your children the benefits of music, simply playing it from a speaker and discussing it will help motivate them, just make sure it’s age appropriate! Encourage them to express how it sounds through basic music vocabulary such as:

Pitch – how high or low does the music sound?

Dynamics – how loud or soft?

Tempo – how fast is the music?

If nothing else, this will a least impress the teacher!

We find that playing music that you personally like will result in greater enthusiasm from your children as they will want to enjoy it as much as you do.

With younger children it may be more helpful to find music in every day sounds first before playing “adult” music. Songs like Hickory Dickory Dock encourages children to identify everyday sounds within music, which then helps them to become active listeners.

Once your children become too old for nursery rhymes move on to the adult music. It’s important that you don’t just focus on one genre, not every kid has to listen to classical music in order to achieve in later life!

You will notice quite quickly if your children enjoy and show aptitude to learning about different forms of music. If they do you can introduce them to a musical instrument of their choice, you may have the next Louis Armstrong on your hands!

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Nelson Mandela Day, a global movement that all families should be aware of.

nelson-mandela-dayOn July 18 more than 100 countries are set to join South Africa in its commemoration of Nelson Mandela International Day. The day was launched in recognition of Mandela’s birthday via unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly.

The day was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made in 2008, for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that “it is in your hands now”. 

Our children are this next generation, and educating and celebrating his life and legacy will hopefully have a positive effect on the youth of today. This global movement not only honours his life’s work but it encourages adults and children alike to act to change the world for the better. 

This year marks the first time the day has been celebrated without the icon, however more than 1000 worldwide events are set to be held this year, more than any other year. 

In recognition of his legacy and of this day, the City of Toronto is planning to honour Nelson Mandela with a dedication of a city street, which is yet to be announced. Also, back in June the president of the Toronto Raptors, Masai Ujiri, organized and event to honour Nelson Mandela. Joined by a number of celebrities and business leaders the event raised significant funds for Giants of Africa and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. 

There are many small simple things we can do as families that doesn’t involve donating large sums of money but the gesture means just as much: 

Why not ask your child to donate a toy? Explaining that there are many children who aren’t lucky enough to have the same privileges. 

What about encouraging your children to ride their bikes more? Then sign up for a cycle challenge and raise some money for charity. 

Or what about using your shoppers points to buy a gift card and giving it to someone who cannot afford to buy food? 

As Nelson Mandela said: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”


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World Population Day!

World Population DayWorld Population Day occurs every year on June 11. It is an event that marks the significant of trends and issues throughout the world.

It originally began when interest grew in anticipation of when the World’s population would reach 5 billion, which was recorded on July 11, 1987. Now over 20 years later, the World’s population has surpassed 7 billion.  

World Population Day now aims at engaging people to spur commitment and spark actions related to the opportunities and challenges presented by a world of 7 billions people. 

Every year UNFPA launches a campaign based on a specific topic in an attempt to bring awareness and change to current and future challenges. Last year the focus was on adolescent pregnancy, which is a topic that all parents should discuss with their teenagers. 

Did you know what 16 million girls under the age of 18 give birth each year? Another 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions. For many of these girls pregnancy has little to do with an informed choice but is a consequence of rights violations, inadequate education and discrimination. 

Last year World Population Day successfully raised awareness of this issue in the “hopes of delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.”

The theme for this year hasn’t been released yet, but check back in a couple of days to see what important message UNFPA are sending. 


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Turn your little couch potato into a happy active kid!

ActiveAs you probably already know, we often give tips to help children succeed in school, but in order for that to be achieved your children need a solid base of healthy food and daily exercise.

If your children don’t get enough nutrients and constantly snack on processed food they are likely to lack in energy and fall asleep during class. Combine that with a void of exercise and they could develop a weight problem. 

Roughly one-third of children in the US are overweight which puts them at risk for numerous medical problems, including asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer, not to mention low self-esteem and low self-confidence.

As a parent there are many things you can do to encourage your kids to lead an active lifestyle and  to help them to make the most of their youth.

Alternative sports

Not every kid is into organized sports like hockey and football, look for other activities that your children will enjoy. Solo sports like track or tennis might invoke more enthusiasm.

Taking the family on a long walk or a hike is an activity everyone will appreciate. Set goals so that your children look forward to reaching their destination: “If we walk this far we’ll reach a beach where you can build sand castles!”

What about riding a bike or rollerblading on local trails?

Limit screen time

Did you know that the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that kids get no more than one to two hours of screen time a day? That includes watching TVTV, surfing the internet and playing computer games. 

This can be difficult especially if you’re busy during the week with work, so you could suggest that they play some simple games like shooting hoops in the garden or playing tag with a friend. Alternatively if you have a dog you should walk it together in the evenings and head to the park.


It’s important to remember not to reward your children with unhealthy/artificial foods once they have exercised, consider giving them natural snacks such as nuts and kale crisps. If you feel they’ve worked extremely hard over a period of time, think about items that help with their fitness quest or new favourite sport like fitness shoes, a baseball glove or music player.

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 How your children can benefit from the FIFA World Cup mayhem

Picture source:  South China Morning Post

Picture source: South China Morning Post

The football World Cup is the most exciting sporting tournament for most football fans. Though like other competitive sports it has faced much criticism and scrutiny, but that doesn’t meant that children shouldn’t enjoy The Beautiful Game.

If you put to one side the controversy surrounding FIFA and the often aggressive fans, the basic game of football is a wonderful sport to teach young children. It’s a team sport, it is great for exercise as it involves a lot of running and it requires determination to learn the required skills.  

Aside from having a kick around in your local park there are many educational activities you can introduce to your children during the World Cup that will help them with their studies:

1. Geography

Draw out/print pictures of all of the flags for the teams in the World Cup. Help your children remember which flag belongs which country and where that country is located.

2. Languages

Why not teach your children a few basic words in the language of one or two of their favourite teams? 

3. Maths

Keep a score sheet of the points each team has won, every night encourage your children to add up the points of the teams to see who’s winning each group. 

4. Culture

Research the host country, Brazil, what is their main religion? What is their main language? How big is the population? Famous landmarks? Show your children lots of pictures and ask them to repeat your answers. 

5. History

Did you know that the World Cup has taken place every 4 years since 1930 (except for a few years during WWII)? Research the history of the World Cup with your children, how is has changed and developed over the years. Where has it been held? What did those countries look like then compared to now? 

Let us know what team you’re supporting and if you’ve tried out any of these activities with your children. Sadly Canada didn’t make it through but there are numerous great teams playing who we will be supporting including England and France! 


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Make Dad proud this Fathers Day with thoughtful gifts and fun events

A simple but nice idea is to make a “Jar Full Of Love” for Dad. Encourage your little ones to write down a bunch of messages that tells their Dad just how much he means to them. Not only is it extremely thoughtful but it will help with your child’s writing skills!

Why not take Dad to a ball game? What we love about baseball is that it’s an extremely sociable sport. Enjoy some nachos and let Dad explain the rules, plus it’s a team sport so you can show your children way being a part of a team is often important.

Another cute crafty idea is to make notepad that Dad can take to work. Wrap a rubber band around a notepad cube and using a large felt tip pen help your children to write messages on the sides. Remove band and tie with a ribbon! 

Dads + Cars = A good day out. The Yorkville exotic car show takes place from 12-5 on Father’s Day, where you can see over 12 examples of classic and exotic cars. Fun game: see how many types of cars your children can remember.

Let us know what you guys get up to this Father’s Day and we hope you have fun!


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10 alternative activities to do in Toronto this summer

It’s always nice to do something a little different with your family, especially in the beautiful weather. We’ve researched a bunch of “out of the norm” activities for you to do during June and these were our favourite.

Camp without leaving the city

Have you ever wanted to go camping but you don’t have the time to travel a long distance. Or have you ever wanted just one night to sleep under the stars instead of in your condo? Toronto’s only camping spot, the Glen Rouge Campground, is easy to reach from highways and is on the banks of the Rouge River. With hiking trails and beaches near by, you don’t even need to leave the city for that one moment of tranquility. 

Music Festival

The free Waterfront Blues Festival this year promises to be fun for the whole family. There will be a kids fun zone so that you can enjoy a glass of wine while watching the Juno and Grammy awarded artists!

Gourmet picnic

Enjoy food from different parts of the city with the Culinary Adventure Co. They organise gourmet picnics on The Island and food walking tours around the different neighbourhoods!


Take your family to a restaurant that you normally wouldn’t go to with Summerlicious. Expensive and exclusive restaurants will offer prix fixes at a low cost for 2 weeks this summer. 

Make homemade popsicles

Did you know that most popsicles contain high fructose corn syrup laden with red and blue dyes? Definitely not a healthy treat for your children, we suggest making them from scratch with fresh fruit! If you’ve never made them before here is a great article to get you started. 

Go for a bike ride in the Don Valley

There are some beautiful paths that run through the Don Valley which are great for all levels of ability. 

Cherry Beach

Cherry Beach is a popular beach linking the Outer Harbour to Toronto’s Portlands. It can get super busy here but if you’re able to go during the week it’s definitely worth a visit, especially if you have a dog! 

Go fishin’

Did you know you could go fishing in Toronto? Check out Ashbridges Bay Park and Rouge Park

Spend a night on a boat

What could be better than a boat bread and breakfast?! The Making Wave Boatel is open from May until September and offers a great family vacation or a romantic weekend away while the kids are at camp!


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Tips for parents to improve their child’s spelling

Learning to spell

When it comes to your child’s education your role as the parent is pivotal in helping them achieve success. Alongside after school tutoring and study groups, here are some handy tips to help your child with spelling.

  • When reading to your little ones point out the patterns in words. For example if there’s double “oo” in word, make the sound and encourage them to look for other words that sound and look the same. 
  • When your child asks how to spell a word, encourage them to spell the word first. Only when they spell it wrong should you slowing spell the word out for them, they’re more likely to remember the spelling this way.
  • Point out words that are related to each other and have similar meanings. For example the words tragic and tragically don’t sound that alike but their spellings are. Once your child can spell tragic then encourage them to spell tragically!
  • Break up longer words so that they are easier for children to memorize. You can break them up in to sounds or in to smaller words depending on the word. 
  • For younger children associating words that rhyme with each other is a very effective way of helping them to spell. If they know how to spell tend, ask them how to spell bend.

Good luck! Let us know if any of these tips help or if you have any to add to the list!


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Healthy brain power foods for kids

Easter and Christmas are the two times in the year where the entire family enjoys ample amounts of chocolate. By now, the kids must’ve polished off the last of the easter eggs but they will continue to crave sugary snacks. Why not substitute them with one of these healthy alternatives? They are proven to boost brain power too!

1. Eggs

Choline is a nutrient necessary for brain development and function which can be found in large quantities in eggs. What kid doesn’t love egg soldiers? 

2. Berries

Berries contain antioxidants which are essential for memory power, plus they also contain vitamin c which will keep your child’s immune system healthy. Mix a few in with the cereal in the mornings! 

3. Whole grains

If your kid lacks in energy and doesn’t seem to have a very long attention span, it could mean that they aren’t getting enough whole grains. Whole grains will help your kids sustain an even glucose level throughout the day. Say goodbye to white bread and semolina pasta.

4. Fish

Essential fatty acids are not made by the body and must be obtained through diet. They are essential for healthy brain function especially when they are obtained through natural sources like oily fish. Salmon and mackerel are two that don’t break the bank at the supermarket.

5. Seeds

Seeds, especially pumpkin seeds, are a great snack to have during the day. Not only because they will fill up your kids but because they contain zinc which is vital for enhancing memory. 

6. Broccoli 

It may contain a vitamin that you’ve never heard of – vitamin k, but it is known to improve brainpower, an excellent addition to the traditional sunday dinner. 


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9 simple tips for stress free exam revision.

Stay focused while studyingExam season is definitely going to come round quicker than expected, with only 6 weeks to go, it’s looming on the horizon. Now is the time to sit down and plan your exam preparation for the coming weeks. We’ve put together a few pointers to help you:

1. Organize your study space, do you have enough room? Are all distractions out of the way? Is your chair comfortable? Focus is key!

2. Give yourself enough time to study, leaving it to the last minute is not the best approach. Set out a timetable for your study, write down how many exams you have and the days on which you have to sit them. Then organize your study accordingly, some topics may need more study time than others, so find a balance that works for you.

3. Revise topics rather than questions and make sure that you understand the material you’re revising — we can only remember what we understand!

4. Hiring a private tutor or joining an after school program can really help if you’re struggling to get to grip with a topic.

5. Tests have shown that you can remember what you write up to 5 times more as compared to what you read, so make sure you write down notes as you’re revising.

6. Visual aids can be really helpful when revising, so consider using flow charts and diagrams. At the start of a topic, challenge yourself to write down everything you already know about a topic – and then highlight where the gaps lie. Closer to the exam, condense your revision notes into one-page diagrams. Getting your ideas down in this brief format can then help you to quickly recall everything you need to know during the exam.

7. One of the most effective ways to prepare for exams is to practice taking past versions. This helps you get used to the format of the questions, and – if you time yourself – can also be good practice for making sure you spend the right amount of time on each section.

8. Keep away from junk food! You may feel like you deserve a treat, or that you don’t have time to cook, but what you eat can really have an impact on energy levels and focus. Keep your body and brain well-fuelled by choosing nutritious foods that have been proven to aid concentration and memory, such as fish, nuts, seeds, yogurt and blueberries. The same applies on exam day – eat a good meal before the test, based on foods that will provide a slow release of energy throughout. Sugar may seem appealing, but it won’t help when your energy levels crash an hour or so later.

9. Finally, drink plenty of water. Being well hydrated is essential for your brain to work at its best.


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Earth Day 2014

April 22 is one of the most important days in the calendar year, Earth Day. Celebrated every year in Canada since 1990, it is the largest environmental event in the world. Did you know that according to Earth Day Canada more than six million Canadians participate in Earth Day activities in their communities each year? This includes nearly every school-aged child throughout the country. 

Toronto is a great city for getting involved with Earth Day events, and each year the council organizes “the city’s annual spring clean-up.” Friends, families, co-workers and classmates are encouraged to clean a park, lane way or any space that needs a bit of TLC. The ultimate goal of the clean up is to eliminate litter, stop graffiti vandalism and just to, in general, keep Toronto clean and green. Events are scheduled from April 22 – 27, but the community clean up days are scheduled on the 26 and 27. Thousands of families throughout Toronto will do their part to keep their neighbourhoods clean and green, including Light in the Attic Learning. You can register an area near you here, it’s a great opportunity to teach your children about the importance of looking after one’s environment. 

Discussing and showing your children ways they can help the environment from a young age will hopefully impact their behaviour as adults for the better. If you find that your children get bored easily and you’re struggling to educate them about Earth Day, there’s a super fun website called where your children can play informative games. These educational activities delve into topics such as wildlife, energy, climate change and waste.

Last year NASA released a video for Earth Month in an effort to raise awareness of the agency’s Earth observation programs. As most children love space related shows and activities, it may be a fun to research NASA’s programs over the last few years. This video for example, features a variety of big-picture imagery, including true-colour satellite photos, data visualizations, computer models and time-lapse footage from the International Space Station.

There are many events happening around the city next week from clothing swaps to discovery walks. It promises to be a jam packed informative week for the whole family, something which will hopefully continue indefinitely.  


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What do your children know about Easter?

For many people, Easter is all about the long weekend but what many families forget is that Easter is the most important festival in the Christian calendar. It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, three days after he was executed. Even if your family are not of the Christian faith, it’s important to educated children on the beliefs of others.

The week leading up to the Easter weekend is known as Holy Week. The sunday before Easter Sunday is called Palm Sunday and it is the first day of Holy Week. It is believed that this is when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Often small crosses made from palm leaves will be given out as a reminder of Jesus’ entrance in Jerusalem and his death on the cross. 

The Thursday before the Easter weekend is commonly known as Maundy Thursday. This is when Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples, also called the Last Supper. Christians remember this every Sunday during Mass where they share bread and wine. 

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Sunday. It commemorates the execution of Jesus by crucifixion. In some countries, there are special Good Friday processions, or re-enactments of the Crucifixion.

Easter Sunday marks Jesus’ resurrection. Christians believe that Jesus overcame death and sin, and if they follow his teachings they too will have eternal life in heaven. 

There are many ways to celebrate and learn about Easter in Toronto over the next couple of weeks. Families can buy or make chocolate Easter eggs and give them as gifts to one another. It is a nice gesture as traditionally they are a symbol of new life. 

There are various events being held throughout Toronto over the next couple of weeks, including Easter egg hunts, which will be fun for the little ones! One thing that shouldn’t be missed is the Toronto Beaches Lions Annual Easter Parade which has been held every year since 1966. 

You can educate your children further about Easter with some of these fun activities curtsy of ABC Teach

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National Autism Awareness Month

April…April, what is April known for? April Fool’s Day, spring and April showers? When someone thinks of the month April, autism isn’t necessary the first thing that springs to mind. We hope that soon it will be because of the continued efforts of National Autism Awareness Month (NAAM).

The Autism Society started celebrating National Autism Awareness Month in the 1970s as a way to highlight the growing concern and awareness about autism in USA. It is a month where educators are given the opportunity to teach the public about autism and the issues within the autism community. 

However, supporters of the cause still need to push forward for further worldwide recognition. There are many things we can do, as shown on the Autism Society website:

1.Place the NAAM logo badge on your blog, Facebook profile, Twitter page or other social media site! Customize it to include your logo too!

2. Download a toolkit of visual and content resources to help you celebrate National Autism Awareness Month!

3. Create your own National Autism Awareness Month event!

4. Sign up for e-newsletter Autism Matters to continue sharing ideas on how to make a better world for autism here.

5. Put on the Puzzle! The Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon is the most recognized symbol of the autism community in the world. Autism prevalence is now one in every 68 children in America. Show your support for people with autism by wearing the Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon – as a pin on your shirt, a magnet on your car, a badge on your blog, or even your Facebook profile picture – and educate folks on the potential of people with autism! To purchase the Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon for your shirt, car, locker or refrigerator, click here.

6. Connect with your neighbourhood. Many Autism Society local affiliates hold special events in their communities throughout the month of April. But if you can’t find an event that suits you just right, create your own!

Light in the Attic Learning is a tutoring company based in Canada, a country which proudly supports autism awareness. On October 23, 2012, a bill was passed making each and every April 2 officially recognized as World Autism Awareness Day in Canada. Not only that but Canada has joined in the “Light It Up Blue” initiative – on April 2 many iconic landmarks, hotels, sporting venues, concert halls, museums, bridges and retail stores are lit blue to raise autism awareness. Here are a few pictures of famous landmarks in Canada that turned blue this week: CN Tower BC Place Niagara Falls













Here at Light in the Attic Learning, we understand that many teachers aren’t fully prepared to successfully educate children with autism. We are. We can cater, develop and produce after school learning programs ensure that every child, with or without autism, is able to reach their full potential in and out of school. Please feel free to get in contact if you have any questions!

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