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Month: June 2017

Product Review: Wantu App

Product Review: Wantu App

As you know, I’m always, always on the look out for great products that are pitched at families dealing with young kids. In my house right now, Ella is the Queen of art and craft. She is forever searching for activities to do that are creative and involve her imagination. Even though I am a Primary Teacher, I find it hard to find just the right activities to keep her happy and engaged. Sometimes they involve me, and some times they don’t. So when I came across Wantu, I was hooked. Much like we all struggle to think of what to cook each night, we also struggle to think of activities for our children. There are so many apps that help us to find great recipes that are quick and healthy for our families. Wantu is a mobile app designed to help parents find customised ideas for fun and interactive activities to do together with their 2 to 7 year olds. Whether you have just 15 or 30 minutes to spare, they’ve got your back!

Wantu is currently in free-beta, which means you can be the first to check it out, give feedback and be a part of their process to launch a more awesome app to keep helping parents find fun, learning centric activities to do with their kids.

For busy parents, this app is a must have that not only helps our brains, but also helps us spend quality time with our kids.

The idea is simple:

  1. you create a profile for each of your children,
  2. select whether you want a quick activity, or one that lasts a little longer
  3. select whether it is an indoor our outdoor activity
  4. select a few possibilities from a generated list, to help the app understand your child’s interests
  5. BAM! Do the activity!

Today, Ella and I created snowflakes from a simple piece of paper…

 

You can add each child as a profile to the app!
The Wantu app selected ‘Snowwflakes as our activity’
Step by step instructions…
Having fun together!!

With the school holidays coming up, you are sure to want something simple and fun to turn to, to help keep your little ones happy!

Download the app here and enjoy the endless fun. Best of all…its FREE!!! To find out more…check out the video below!

#sponsored #ad

Prepped for Prep: Schools these days

Prepped for Prep: Schools these days

Schools are not the same places they used to be. For many, school has not been a place that they have visited since they left school. That may well be thirty years ago.  Since those times, the world has changed dramatically. Advances in technology, communication, transportation, medicine. Education is no different. Education has, in most schools, changed in a number of ways over the last couple of decades. It can come as a shock to parents who, when sending their first child to school, expect to see and experience a classroom similar to what they remember, but are actually faced with a system that resembles nothing that they recall. In my conversations with parents who have children starting school, their first impressions are of surprise and wonder. They can’t believe how different Primary Schools are. In small ways and in big ones. This post today is dedicated to revealing the top tens ways in which (most) Primary schools these days, are different to years gone by.

Education is personalised: not one size fits all.

In the past, children received a one size fits all curriculum. We would all move to a new grade, all be given the same worksheet, same page number, same text book, same test. Everyone was taught (but didn’t necessarily learn) the same thing. The teachers essentially taught ‘the class’  and focussed solely on the curriculum for that year level. The problem is, kids..are not the same. If you yourself have more than one child, then you would know that brothers and sisters are often polars apart. Mine are basically unrelated. So it would make sense then to understand that children learn in different ways, at different rates. Children are not robots who can be programmed to behave and learn in the same way.  Some children learn by doing. Others learn by reading. Others by watching, listening, drawing, modelling, dancing and so on. Much like a road map, there are different ways to get to the same destination. Some routes take longer. Some are shorter. Some involve pit stops. However if we all take our own road, we will get there in the end. A teacher’s role in schools these days is to facilitate learning in a way that helps children learn best. Teachers personalise learning based on a child’s need. Often children are grouped together in like abilities, and other times they are in mixed abilities. Teachers create learning opportunities that fit a variety of needs in their class. You’ll see different children dong different things and different times.

Often there is up to eight years of range in a classroom, so teachers need to understand the curriculum not only at their level, but around it. Every class of children can be plotted on a bell curve, and education ‘needs’ to reflect that.

Classrooms are no longer four walls

Classrooms are now often called learning spaces. Spaces that can move beyond the traditional four walled classroom. Because, well learning does indeed happen outside school, and our learning spaces need to reflect that. Spaces can be open and closed depending on the school, and depending on the environment. You may hear the term ‘open plan’. These spaces are flexible and provide children with a variety of nooks and break out spaces where they can work in smaller groups or on their own.

Children may have more than one teacher

In many schools, teachers have shared responsibility of the children in that year level. Your child may or may not have more than one teacher, but they will certainly encounter more than one teacher throughout their learning. The saying that ‘may hands make light work’ can also be applied to teaching. They still may have a ‘home’ teacher, but together, with combined knowledge and skill, teams of teachers can work to help your children grow and thrive by planning for the specific needs of a variety of children.

Children no longer sit in rows of desks facing the front

In years gone by, children sat at desks facing the front. At the front stood the teacher. The teacher was the all ending source of knowledge. Except teachers actually DONT know everything. No one does. In this day and age children are invited in to the learning process beside the teachers. Teachers can be experts, but so can children. Teachers facilitate and help children to learn and find the answers together. It is important that teachers model making mistakes, and the process of finding solutions to problems, even if they too don’t know what they are! Classrooms are often now organised in groups of tables to help children learn how to work together. Children often now choose where they want to sit, and when, depending on the task. The days of sitting in the same spot for a term are long gone!

Image courtesy of http://www.indesignlive.com/projects/Learning-Centre-at-Marian-College#axzz1raZS28u


Children set their own goals

Your children are the ones learning, and they too are often the ones setting learning goals for themselves! Sure the teachers are involved, but it’s important that our children know and understand where they have been, where they are and where they are going. For themselves and their own learning!

Parents are an essential part of the learning process

I often hear parents making comments like – ‘when my kids are at school things will be easier’. In some ways yes, but on other ways no. The fact is that parents need to be part of the learning process. Whether helping their children at home to read each night, or helping in the classroom (if they can), or being experts in a field of work to help kids learn about how the world works. Be prepare to be a part of your child’s learning. Even if you just read with them at home, each and every night. YOU are their first teacher, and nothing will change!

Access to learning is anywhere, any time

Schools are becoming more and more like google. You can access learning in any space, place and at any time. Often children are using online learning management systems like Google Apps that allow them to access their learning on any device. This means that if they are away from school for various reasons, they can still participate in the learning.

Homework is often a waste of time

Yep. The verdict is in. Research states that homework in it’s current form is a waste of time in Primary School. Aside from reading each night, homework has little benefit. Schools are refining their homework policies to reflect the needs of their individual communities. The fact is that schools cannot control what happens at home. Many children do not have parental support to help them do their homework, and thus are being set up for failure. Children need time to play, rest and be with their families. Yes, there are important aspects of revision including reading and number work, but often the pressures of homework do more harm than good in Primary school. Just be open minded to the fact that children do in fact learn from activities they access at home, and simple things like household chores and being outdoors can be the best classroom of all.

You don’t just get two reports a year

Learning is also shared with parents in a variety of ways. Your child’s school may use an app like SeeSaw or Story Park to share samples of learning and track growth. Parents should also be in constant contact with their child’s teacher, whether in person or via email. Reporting will be ongoing and in time.

Education is much more than the three R’s

The most important skill we all need in the work place is the ability to work with others. The ability to work interdependently. The Victorian Curriculum in this state, reflects this importance. Education these days values the foundations of literacy and numeracy, but also other important skills relating to dispositions and skills needed in real life. Heaven knows that our children need to learn to manage themselves, their tantrums and their tears!  It is also important that schools value all aspects of learning including the arts, physical education, science, media etc etc. The world needs a variety of people with a variety of skills. Schools are a place that help children find what they are passionate about. We should help our children flourish and feel good about themselves. Sure, it is important that they can read, write and count, but it is vital that they know how to problem solve, be resilient, talk to others, bounce back when they make mistakes and think flexibly. Code is also fast becoming King. Many of the jobs that our children will have in the future have not been ‘invented’ yet. Vocations including ‘social media manager’ were not around twenty years ago. Schools need to equip our children with the skills they will need for their future. A future that is open to vast opportunities, many of which, we can’t even predict!

 

So….are you ready for school? They, in all of their forms are glorious places. Just keep an open mind knowing that every school and system is different, but they all house teachers who are passionate about helping our children grow and learn!

Next week I will share a blog post that explores the basic skills your children will need before they start school! Got a question you need answering? Feel free to email me at happyellaafter@gmail.com! In the mean time, if you want to watch something that will help you make sense of why schools need to ensure that they innovate and strive to cater for our children’s needs then watch this video by Sir Ken Robinson. A TED talk focussing on ‘The Learning Revolution’. Happy Watching!

Prepped for Prep – Preparing parents for school, again.

Prepped for Prep – Preparing parents for school, again.

Parenting. It is the hardest job in the world. Whilst it can bring us endless amounts of joy and happiness, it can also bring out the crazy side. Sometimes we can lose ourselves in the exhaustion. In the confusion, the frustration and the worry. The endless worry that sometimes brings out the inner alter ego who we ALL try to keep hidden. That side that we know can rear its head at any time, but desperately hope it doesn’t. We never want to be THAT parent. That parent who loses it at the supermarket whilst their child has an epic tantrum on the floor. The parent who loses it on the phone because they have been on hold for 30 minutes whilst trying to occupy small children from spilling Coco Pops, all over the floor. The parent who cries when they get to work because they haven’t slept all night.

Nothing brings out THAT side of parenting than the adventure that next year, we are about to tackle for the first time. School. Next year our daughter Ella, starts prep. It’s exciting, its nerve wracking, it’s scary, and it’s amazing. However, school is not new for me. I’ve been a Primary Teacher for 14 years. For the last eight, I’ve actually managed our Prep Transition and worked  our new parents to help them navigate the ups and downs of preparing for school. Preparing for school, for their children and for themselves.

However this time they are experiencing school from a different angle. Many parents have not stepped foot inside a school for decades. Many, since they too left school. Primary School education has changed a lot in recent decades. It is actually very different from when we went to school in the 80s. It’s amazing. It’s innovative. It’s inspiring. It’s a place of endless knowledge and potential, where our children can find and discover parts of themselves that both they, and we never knew existed. School is not the four walled classroom with one teacher that we all knew. It know often consists of open planned classrooms, often with more than one teacher. It’s not the ‘one size fits all’ delivery of curriculum that we experiences. Often there is NOT rows of desks, but rather occasional furniture where children can choose where and when to sit, or stand, together in groups or on their own – depending on what they need for their learning, and when. Schools now personalise curriculum for their students. It’s incredibly detailed and dynamic.

Whether it’s the focus on how curriculum caters for your child, or the uniform they need to wear, or the expecations on ‘what they need to know before they start’, school transition can be very daunting for parents. From my own experience, it’s not only children who need help transitioning to school. Parents too need to be prepped for Prep too.

Ella’s first day of Kinder at Daycare last year.

My first day of Prep in 1985

My last day of school in 1997. My Dad always shook our hands.
Starting school can be a time of mixed emotions. It can be exciting and extruciatinly stressful at the same time. Everyone has varying expectations and experiences, and no one person is the same. Nor should we expect them to be. To some degree, everyone feels that they ‘know about school’ because they have an experience with it. Being a parent however, is very different from being a student. Being a student is very different from being a teacher. As parents, we bring our own memories of school to the table. If you loved school, then you want your child to have the same experience. If you hated school then you want to do everything you can to protect them and help them to have the complete opposite. Sometimes though, we have to stop, take a deep breath and remember that they are in good hands.  I know that with the right support, everyone can be fine.

Whilst I’m confident and sure of my ability as a teacher to help parents through the experience of starting school, the problem is, that next year I will be one of those parents, and I’m petrified. I’m petrified of myself.  Of the Mother and parent, that may rear its crazy head. Perhaps not publicly, but certainly privately. I don’t want to be that parent who:

  • stresses too much.
  • worries too much.
  • thinks too much.

The problem is, when it is your child, all sanity, rationality and common sense can go out the window. Sometimes you just lose it, and often unintentionally can make things worse. It may not be openly towards other people, but it may be inside your own head as your anxiety escalates. Next year Ella is starting school at what we already know is a caring and nurturing place. She won’t know anyone however, and being very sensitive (like her Mum), I know she will struggle a little. So in my efforts to try to not be THAT parent, and listen to my own professional advice (ie. struggling can actually be a good thing to build resilience), I’m going to write a new series of blog posts. Advice to myself, and parents like me. Those who worry too much about what people think. Those who know that everything will be ok, but they just can’t seem to stop stressing. Those parents who have gone a little crazy going back to school again.

So I need a little favour from you. As a teacher, I know what parents need to know from a school perspective. However on the flip side, what things do YOU want to know. As someone on both sides of the fence, I would really love to know what aspects about transition and schooling that stress you the most. It also may be something that you wish you had have known years ago, before your child starts school.

Either leave a comment below on this post, leave a comment on FB , email me at happyellaafter@gmail.com or leave a DM on my Instagram account.

I want this series of blog posts to make a difference to us all. To help us all be prepped for Prep.

So what advice to you need as a parent to be Prepped for Prep?

Product Review: Kingdom of You from Lostmy.name

Product Review: Kingdom of You from Lostmy.name

Chances are, that if you are a parent of small children then you read a lot of books. There IS nothing better than spending time with your children, and reading magical books.  In fact, it is recommended that all children read 1000 books before they start school. If you are like me, then you are always on the look out for beautiful, vibrant and engaging picture books that you know your children will adore. There are so many classics that we all love and cherish, and then, every now and then, a new one comes along that just captures your imagination.

You may have come across my previous reviews of the LostMy.Name series of personalised books. Ella and Hudson have both adored seeing themselves immersed in stories of wonder and awe. Previously, Ella was lucky enough to have her own story of adventure, finding the letters to her name as she met some curious and creative creatures along the way. Hudson has found himself lost in space, trying to find his way back home to Melbourne. Both stories are personalised with not only their name, but loved facets of their life.

Their new offering is Kingdom of You.  Literally creating a kingdom that reveals their most loved possessions and treats.. This story is more than simply personalising it with their name. The Kingdom of You is a unique story built around a child’s favourite things. Whether they love dinosaurs and pizza, or princesses and pasta, each young reader is thrown into their own fantasy kingdom packed with whatever they love the most.  Everything in their dream-kingdom is named after them and it becomes their personal quest to clean it up after an unforgettable adventure. The story begins with a frustrated little girl (or boy if you choose) who is ‘fed up’ with grown ups telling her what to do. Escaping to a world of her own, she quickly finds herself in a world of decadence and wonder, until that it is, it all goes slightly wrong. Trying to get back home to her real world, and realising that sometimes it is better to just be happy with what you have. My Ella found herself the Queen of her kingdom, where Princesses helped her solve the problems of the day.  An ice cream monster becomes her arch nemeses as she tries to use wishes granted to her by a ‘laundry genie’ to help her get back home.

A beautiful story brought to life with amazing illustrations make this book a nightly favourite in our household…

Kingdom of You Lost my Name

This book is one of those gifts that will last a life time. Whether they are 5 or 10, they will cherish this story over and over. I simply love the entire range of LostMy.Name books, and have personally given so many as gifts, I’ve lost count! Priced at $39.95 with FREE SHIPPING, their turn around is super fast. Perfect if you’ve left it late! This is one of those reviews that I’m truly thrilled to share as it really is a quality product that families will adore.

To learn more head to their website where you can start creating your very own adventure!