11 Great Tips to Get Your Kids Ready for School

September is just around the corner and — whether this news makes you want to weep or dance — the kids will soon be back in school. Making the transition from sandals to sandwiches can be challenging for children — and parents! We’ve got some ideas to help your family get ready for a new school year.

1. Celebrate Change

Make a special plan with your family to say farewell to summer. A special outing or a gathering of friends or family are memorable ways to celebrate the season and bring it to a close in a positive way.

2. Take Time to Look Back

On the first day of school, kids can expect to be asked some form of the question: “What did you do this summer?” Help them get ready by taking time to look back and recall highlights of the summer. Kids could make a ‘Summer Gifts’ list of what they are thankful for. Enjoy looking at photos you’ve captured. It could even be an opportunity to make a scrapbook of their memories.

3. A Place to Do Homework

Even kindergarteners get homework these days, and older grade-schoolers definitely need a quiet place where they can do their homework. Your homework area can be the kitchen table, counter, or a desk in your child’s room. What matters most is that it is a quiet place your child can count on to do their work each day.

4. School Supplies

Time to dust off the backpack and lunch containers, test the markers, and stock up on all the school supplies you’ll need. Making a list together before you shop can help ensure you have everything, and that you will stick to only the items you need.

5. Learn Something New

No need for summer brain drain! We don’t need to wait for school to begin in order to keep learning. The library is full of wonders to discover, and so are nearby walking trails. Is it time to try a new recipe with your child? How about trying an outdoor science experiment?

6. Bedtime Routine

Ensuring your child gets enough sleep is essential for their success at school. Experts say school-age children need roughly ten hours of sleep. If your current routine needs a shift, try making a gradual transition to the new schedule by backing up bedtimes by 15 minutes each night. Staying off screens at least an hour before bedtime can help children fall asleep and stay asleep. Bedtime is a wonderful opportunity to cuddle up and read together. Whatever you do, keep consistent rituals at bedtime so your child can move easily through the routines towards sleep.

7. Address Anxieties

Naturally, a new school year comes with unknowns. Is your child anxious about the coming year? It helps some children to know who their teacher will be, and whether a good friend will be in their class. Other children need to know that it’s okay to tell their new teacher if something is hard for them. Most schools are open the week before classes begin and staff may be able to answer questions about busing, classes, or any other questions your child may have. If fears persist, encourage your child to draw pictures or journal about their hopes for the coming year.

8. Schedule Your Priorities

Figure out priorities for after-school activities, homework, chores, TV time, and video games before the first day of school. This will allow you to agree on a schedule and avoid confrontation later on.

9. Love Your Lunches 

Do your children sigh at the thought of returning to sandwiches? Try brainstorming new ideas for lunches that everyone can look forward to. Research online together if you need to — creative and healthy lunch ideas abound!

10. Daily Reading

They may be learning to read now, but soon they will be reading to learn for a lifetime. Even if your child is old enough to read on their own, reading together every day is an excellent way for you to spend time together. When you share a book, you are building a love of reading in your child that will carry into adolescence and beyond.

11. Picture Routines

Wondering when your child will become more independent with morning and after-school routines? To avoid becoming the ‘routine police,’ try a visual daily routine chart for your child. Better yet, create one with your child! You just might be amazed how well they can learn to manage before-school, after-school, and bedtime routines when they have a chart or list with pictures to guide them.

Routine1Routine2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our family listed our daily routines, and then crafted our own wall hangings — one for before and one for after school. Or if you’re crafty, you can try this version — you can change the order of your tasks as needed: https://listeninginthelitany.wordpress.com/tag/chore-chart-for-kids/

You can also search the internet for free “printable daily routine charts” to find one that will work for your family. For example: free printable daily routine chart

 

In Celebration of our Volunteers

National Volunteer Week

vol2

“Why are you doing this when you’re not getting paid?”

It was the same question our volunteer tutor had heard the three weeks previous, as he settled in for another math session at the local coffee shop. The adult learner he was working with couldn’t believe he would show up week after week purely to help him reach his employment goals, without asking for anything in return.

“What motivates you to volunteer with us?”

It’s a question I too like to ask our volunteers. It’s inspiring to hear the passion in their voices as they talk about making a difference, giving back, their desire to see individuals and families succeed. They also speak about the deep satisfaction they receive from helping others to reach their goals—whether that’s helping a parent to gain new skills as their child’s first teacher, understanding the letters coming home from their child’s school, passing their driver’s test, deciphering a medicine label, or simply gaining the confidence and skills to fill in important forms for themselves.

Last year, 237 Centre for Family Literacy volunteers invested over 9,300 hours in our work to build, develop and improve literacy with families in Edmonton. Their behind-the-scenes commitments included board and committee work, assisting with Family Literacy programs, facilitating Adult Literacy Classes, tutoring one-on-one, office support and fundraising events. Their collective impact was extraordinary!

April 10 to 16 is National Volunteer Week, a time to celebrate and thank Canada’s 12.7 million volunteers. We would like to take this moment to express our gratitude especially to our volunteers with the Centre for Family Literacy. Whether they’ve just joined our volunteer team, or served with us over twenty years, together we are working to foster a healthy, literate society where we are all able to contribute and succeed.

Volunteer Canada put it beautifully: “Volunteers are the roots of strong communities. Just like roots are essential for trees to bloom, volunteers are essential for communities to boom. Thanks to volunteers, our communities grow strong and resilient. Even the tiniest volunteer effort leaves a profound and lasting trace in a community, much like tree rings that appear over time.”

Why are you doing this?”

If you want to be inspired, put this question to a volunteer. Then watch them light up. Better yet, find that niche in the community where your passion and skills will enhance the lives of others while also enriching yours, and volunteer! www.govolunteer.ca

11 Tips To Help Your Kids Get Ready for Back-to-School

September is just around the corner and — whether this news makes you want to weep or dance a jig — the kids will soon be back in school. Making the transition from sandals to sandwiches can be challenging for children — and parents! We’ve got some ideas to help your family get ready for a new school year.

Celebrate Change

Make a special plan with your family to say farewell to summer. A special outing or a gathering of friends or family are memorable ways to celebrate the season and bring it to a close in a positive way.

Take Time to Look Back

On the first day of school, kids can expect to be asked some form of the question: “What did you do this summer?” Help them get ready by taking time to look back and recall highlights of the summer. Kids could make a ‘Summer Gifts’ list of what they are thankful for. Enjoy looking at photos you’ve captured. It could even be an opportunity to make a scrapbook of their memories.

A Place to Do Homework

Even kindergarteners get homework these days, and older grade-schoolers definitely need a quiet place to where they can do their homework. Your homework area can be the kitchen table, counter, or a desk in your child’s room. What matters most is that it is a quiet place your child can count on to do their work each day.

School Supplies

Time to dust off the backpack and lunch containers, test the markers, and stock up on all the school supplies you’ll need. Making a list together before you shop can help ensure you have everything, and that you will stick to the items you need.

Learn Something New

No need for summer brain drain! We don’t need to wait for school to begin in order to keep learning. The library is full of wonders to discover, and so are nearby walking trails. Is it time to try a new recipe with your child? How about trying an outdoor science experiment?

Bedtime Routine

Ensuring your child gets enough sleep is essential for their success at school. Experts say school-age children need roughly ten hours of sleep. If your current routine needs a shift, try making a gradual transition to the new schedule by backing up bedtimes by 15 minutes each night. Staying off screens at least an hour before bedtime can help children fall asleep and stay asleep. Bedtime is a wonderful opportunity to cuddle up and read together. Whatever you do, keep consistent rituals at bedtime so your child can move easily through routines towards sleep.

Address Anxieties

Naturally, a new school year comes with unknowns. Is your child anxious about the coming year? It helps some children to know who their teacher will be, and whether a good friend will be in their class. Other children need to know that it’s okay to tell their new teacher if something is hard for them. Most schools are open the week before classes begin and staff may be able to answer questions about busing, classes, or any other questions your child may have. If fears persist, encourage your child to draw pictures or journal about their hopes for the coming year.

Schedule Your Priorities

Figure out priorities for after-school activities, homework, chores, TV time, and video games before the first day of school. This will allow you to agree on a schedule and avoid confrontation later on.

Love Your Lunches

Do your children sigh at the thought of returning to sandwiches? Try brainstorming new ideas for lunches that everyone can look forward to. Research online together if you need to — creative and healthy lunch ideas abound!

Daily Reading

They may be learning to read now, but soon they will be reading to learn for a lifetime. Even if your child is old enough to read on their own, reading together every day is an excellent way for you to spend time together. When you share a book, you are building a love of reading in your child that will carry into adolescence and beyond.

Picture Routines

Wondering when your child will become more independent with morning and after-school routines? To avoid becoming the ‘routine police,’ try a visual daily routine chart for your child. Better yet, create one with your child! You just might be amazed how well they can learn to manage before-school, after-school, and bedtime routines when they have a chart or list with pictures to guide them.

Routine1Routine2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our family listed our daily routines, and then crafted our own wall hangings — one for before and one for after school. Or if you’re crafty, you can try this version — you can change the order of your tasks as needed: https://listeninginthelitany.wordpress.com/tag/chore-chart-for-kids/

You can also search the internet for free “printable daily routine charts” to find one that will work for your family. For example: free printable daily routine chart

Family Day – Unplugged

FamilyDay

Family Day falls on Monday, February 16 this year. Don’t have plans yet? Let us inspire you with some fun ideas for the whole family. Whatever you do on Family Day, try to stay unplugged. Better yet, stay plugged in to each other!

  1. Get outside and have some fun! How about skating, tobogganing, skiing or snowshoeing? Try making snow angels or a family-sized snow fort. Put food colouring in spray bottles and make snow art! And remember, chilly outings are best followed by hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies. (Have we mentioned that following a recipe together is a great family literacy activity?)
  2. Don’t like the cold? Play a board game or make a craft together. Sculpt snowflakes out of paper to hang in the window, or sprinkle salt on a watercolour painting!
  3. Family can extend to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even friends. Have the kids help with a card, letter or email to someone who can’t be with you on Family Day.
  4. Does your community offer special public events on Family Day? Many art galleries, museums and family-friendly places offer a reduced price or free entry.
  5. National Heritage Day falls on the same date as Family Day in Alberta. It’s a great reason to explore your family history. Pull out the old photo albums or research your family’s geneology. To focus on more recent history, create a scrapbook together of the past year or update your child’s school memory album. Be sure to include pictures, artwork, and your child’s writing!
  6. Turn up the volume. Look up the lyrics to your favourite songs. Print them and have a family sing-off! Not up for singing? Try turning one of your family’s favourite stories into a play or puppet show.
  7. Quiet down to connect. If you need some calm later in the day, try working on a puzzle together. If you’re an artistic bunch – or even if you’re not – you might get a kick out of family art time. Give everyone paper and a pencil to draw a favourite family memory or try sketching the same scene at the same time. You’ll be surprised at the unique perspectives each of you will bring. Be sure to put them on display afterwards!
  8. Want to grow your financial goals as a family? Create money jars. Decorate three jars and label them: ‘Give’, ‘Save’, and ‘Spend’. Write out your family’s plans for the money that will go in each jar.
  9. Take a trip to the library. Seek out a classic or discover a new family favourite. Have an absolute favourite family book? Write a letter to the author together, and then send it by mail or email.
  10. Share a little love with another family. Put some books or clothes you no longer use in a gift bag. Pass them on to another family, with a note, of course!

Whatever you plan to do this Family Day, we invite you to disconnect from technology in order to better reconnect with your family, friends and community.

Happy Family Day!

Family Literacy Day

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Board_game

Family Literacy Day — created by ABC Life Literacy Canada and held annually on January 27 — highlights the “importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family.”

Literacy is the foundation for learning, and it begins at home. Family Literacy takes place during daily routines in life as parents, children, and family members use literacy at home and in their community.

Research tells us that we can set kids up for success as learners when we engage them in conversations, read together regularly, provide meaningful writing experiences, and let them see us reading and learning too. Positive parent-child interaction every day is key at every stage of a child’s language and literacy development.

As a parent, grandparent, or caregiver, you’re likely already engaging the children in your life in meaningful family literacy activities. Looking for fresh ideas?

Inspired by ABC Life Literacy, here are 10 ways to engage your family in literacy and learning on Family Literacy Day, and every day:

  1. Start the day with a story. It beats the morning grumps every time.
  2. Write a note for another family member. Leave it somewhere you know they’ll find it – in their favourite box of cereal, their sock drawer or lunch box. (We know a mom who writes on bananas: “Have a great day! Now eat me.”)
  3. Search online for fun things to do. Plan your next family day.
  4. Hunt in the newspaper together for a “good news story,” enjoy the comics, or see how your favourite sports team is doing.
  5. Start a family communication book. Leave a blank notebook out in a common area where anyone can leave a message for other family members. Messages can range from “Thanks for tidying the play room” to “Remember to buy cheese!” In the short term, it can help with communication and increase family connectedness. In the long run, it might just become a family heirloom.
  6. Create a story with your family around the dinner table. Take turns writing one sentence at a time, then read the whole story aloud when you’re done. If you illustrate it, even the youngest can help.
  7. Older kids?  Have a laugh with mad-libs. Use a published book or create your own!
  8. Driving? Try the alphabet game. Work together to find the letters of the alphabet — in order — on signs and license plates.
  9. Play a board game together.
  10. End the day with a new book or an old favourite.

Learning can happen at any time. “Practicing literacy together every day has tremendous benefits for both children and parents.” The possibilities are endless. Why not add one or two new ideas to what you’re already doing as a family?

Happy Family Literacy Day!

 

 

 

National Volunteer Week

The Centre for Family Literacy is grateful for our incredibly generous and gifted volunteers who commit their time to help us build, develop and improve literacy with families and communities.

It’s National Volunteer Week April 6-12 – a week set aside not only to thank and honour the people who donate time, talent, and energy to their fellow citizens, but also to increase public awareness of the powerful social investment volunteers make in and to our communities and to the Canadian society as a whole (Volunteer Alberta).

In the past year, 260 volunteers gave a collective total of 14,972 hours to contribute to the work of the Centre.

We’d like to take a moment to thank each one:

Thank you to our 45 board and committee members, who together invested a total of 2,040 hours to serve on one of our six committees or our governing board.

Thank you to the 86 tutors who gave a collective 11,655 hours to work one-one-one with adult learners to help others achieve their goals in reading, writing and math.

Thank you to our 9 group class facilitators who invested 440 hours and together offered 11 classes including Literacy, GED, Financial Literacy and Book Clubs.

Thank you to the 8 family literacy volunteers who gave their time to our family literacy programs, research, or assisted us directly here at the Centre, giving a collective 216 hours.

Lastly, thank you to the 112 special events volunteers who assisted us with five special events last year, giving 620 hours to help us reach our fundraising goals to ensure we can all continue to do all that we do.

On behalf of the staff of the Centre for Family Literacy, I would like to thank you for truly making a difference in our community through your efforts. Our organization can only make the impact we do through the support and contribution of our wonderful volunteers.

We hope that through your involvement in our organization, you have developed new skills, made new connections and become more engaged in your community. We wish you all the best in the year ahead and look forward to continuing to partner with you in our vision of a healthy, literate society where all are able to contribute and succeed.

Monica Doherty, Volunteer Coordinator

Success Stories from our Adult Tutor Program

Three months ago, I was privileged to become part of the Centre for Family Literacy team as Coordinator of the Volunteer Program. In my role, I have the pleasure of getting to know some of the most generous people I know – people who make space in their often busy lives to give of themselves to make a difference in someone else’s life. Many of our volunteers have committed to work with us as tutors, meeting weekly with an adult learner who is eager to improve their reading, writing or math skills.

In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve already encountered more success stories than I can recount here. For example, the learner from China who had made up her mind to return to her home country when her children got older. But through her work with one of our tutors, her love grew for English and for Canadians and she decided instead to stay. Or the learner who dropped out of high school to work, but was discouraged when he discovered he could not read and write well enough to get a good job. While he worked with his tutor he began to enjoy books, read the newspaper with comprehension, and believe in himself. Now he is studying at NAIT.

Many of our learners are no longer coming to the Centre because they have achieved their goals: entering the workforce, passing difficult exams, or reading with ease to their children and grandchildren. Thanks to their tutors, they have each grown not only in skill but also in confidence. Perhaps one of the most rewarding transitions I’ve observed is seeing adults who came to us as learners and are now volunteering as tutors themselves. What a beautiful picture of ‘giving back.’

Several of our tutors have nominated their students for a Lois Hole Award. These awards recognize an outstanding individual who has shown a commitment to his or her own learning. Here is how one of our nominated learners is described by her tutor:

“She is one of the bravest people I know. Her long-term goal is to go to NAIT to take banking and business to improve her employment prospects. In order to enhance her English skills, she is working in a Dollar Store as well as supervising grade five students on their lunch break. She often endures harassment from the customers in the Dollar Store when she cannot understand quickly enough or is unsure of how to handle a situation. Yet her determination to reach her goal is undiminished. She goes to the store for each of her shifts and does her best, hoping to improve her English sufficiently to be accepted at NAIT.

She is always smiling and she never hesitates to give me a warm welcome when I arrive. She is usually at the Centre before I am, and I will find her working on homework for either our class or another one that she is taking. She is willing to try new approaches to learning and often asks me to help with work she does not understand in other classes.

She has made a great deal of progress in speaking, reading, and writing English since our first lesson. Her determination to learn more, her high intelligence and her unflagging optimism should enable her to meet her goals.”

We recently published a collection of similar success stories from our Adult Tutor program.  If, like me, you can never hear too many of these stories, feel free to request your own copy of Life Changing Stories from the Centre for Family Literacy here:  volunteer_coordinator@famlit.ca