October 18

October is Learning Disabilities Awareness Month – A Tribute to Every Student I Ever Taught!

October is learning disabilities awareness month and so it is only fitting that this blog post is a little tribute to every student I ever taught, and a trip down memeory lane of my personal journey in getting to where I am today.

As most of you know, I’ve dedicated my entire career (truth be told) most of my life actually, working with and advocating for people with disabilities. Throughout High School and University, I spent many hours volunteering at various organizations to try and find and develop my passions. Two very special placements that launched my career included volunteering at a preschool for children with developmental disabilities and also working at the Robart School for the Hearing Impaired. The cutest little 3-year-old boy with a heart conditioning, with the sunniest disposition, stole my heart. He is the reason that I took my level 1 and 2 in sign language and made me want to pursue a career working with children with special needs. Volunteering at the Robart School for the Hearing Impaired, the students there taught me more than I could have ever taught them (in fact, it’s where I was given a sign name from one of my students who was deaf – only a deaf person can assign someone a sign name). These placements opened my eyes to a deep-rooted and innate love of helping children be the best that they can be, despite any challenges they faced in their lives.

After receiving my Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Western Ontario, I transitioned to a College program, where I received a two-year diploma certificate as a Developmental Services Worker. Working at the Tamir Foundation here in Ottawa for several years while in school furthered my passion for working with people with special needs. So many of the residents who live there hold a special place in my heart and Tamir will always be a part of my extended family. Teachers college, with a focus in Special Education, was a natural next step for me where I then spent over twenty years working with students with learning disabilities. My students from my very first grade 6 class are now 33 years of age, many married with children and have careers of their own! (insert shocked face emoji – yes I’m aging myself – insert second shocked face emoji).

For most of my career, my passion has been teaching students with Dyslexia how to read. While working at MindWare Academy, a private school for students with learning disabilities, I focused my own professional growth and learning on teaching students with learning disabilities how to read and spell. In 2007, I met Peter Bowers from wordworkskingston who changed my life as an educator, as a mom and as an English speaker. He introduced me to  ‘Real Spelling’ as it was called at the time, but since changed its name to ‘Structured Word Inquiry’ or ‘SWI’. I was 35 years old at the time, a native English speaker, a self-proclaimed terrible speller, and no one had ever taught me that no English word ends in the letter <v>, one of the many reasons for the single silent <e> at the end of the word, explaining the spelling of <have>, <give>, <move> and <love> (to name a few). I was shocked, furious that no one had shared these simple facts,and was hooked forever! For the first time in my life, I started to realize that English is actually completely ordered and structured, with very few exceptions, once you learn and understand the true orthography of the written word. My mind was blown and I was committed to learning everything I could, and in turn teaching it to my students, who inherently because of their disabilities, struggled to read, write and spell. The first years of diving in were magical because I was able to learn alongside my students. These first few years diving deep into SWI with my students taught me so much about being a life long learner. My students and I were struggling, questioning, investigating, making mistakes and learning together. It was probably the most powerful and impactful years of my career.

All students, and especially students with learning disabilities, have pushed me and empowered me to be the best educator I can be. They have taught me so much about perseverance, resilience, dedication and commitment to learning, even when and especially when things are hard. When students are properly supported and we shine a light on their abilities, we end up proving that they can do and be anything. While taking a break from teaching in the classroom I opened up an educational consultancy and advocacy business called PossAbilities highlighting this exact point – when we light up abilities there are endless possibilities. Advocating with parents and empowering students to embrace their incredible strengths and accept their challenges has been so intensely rewarding. Which leads us to here and now. Being able to use all of this background, knowledge, expertise and experience at the OJCS is such an honour. Now in my third year as the director of Special Education at the OJCS, I feel grateful to be working with such a committed and talented staff who work tirelessly day in and day out to support all of our students and especially our students with learning disabilities. Thank you to all of the incredible students at the OJCS who I have the pleasure of supporting. I am so thankful for this career path that I chose (or which chose me).

To all my students who have ever touched my life – thank you for being such amazing humans. I adore you.

 

September 30

Accommodating Students with ADHD During a Pandemic

Over the past number of years, our classrooms have made so much progress with what they physically look like. Long gone were the days of frontal teaching with students sitting at individual desks in rows. We had flexible seating, collaborative work areas, standing stations, bean bag chairs, wiggle stools and so much more. Students were moving about the classroom seeking feedback from peers and teachers while working closely with others in groups in order to think, problem-solve, question, and learn. This type of classroom environment benefited all types of learners, and especially students with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) who needed more movement and flexibility throughout their day. And yet, due to a global pandemic here we are; back to individual desks, safely spread out with the teacher primarily at the front. So how is this working for our students with ADHD? Surprisingly well! At the OJCS we continue to be forward-thinking with how we support our students. We knew that learning in this type of setting would pose increased challenges for our students who need to move their bodies. But this is true for all students, not just our students with ADHD, and so we carefully planned as a faculty, with how we could continue to make that happen. We used grant money to purchase individual resources and tools for each classroom for individual and personal use. We bought therapeutic ball chairs for students who benefit from movement, individual standing desks, bouncy bands for chairs, fidget tools to keep hands busy, wiggle cushions, noise-canceling headphones, desk dividers, and more. In addition to the added equipment, we also added daily outdoor movement time for each classroom, in addition to teachers being very creative in creating at the desk movement activities.

We know that many students with ADHD have a lot to deal with. Here is a nice visual from The Contented Child that helps to highlight some of the lagging skills associated with ADHD. Click here for the visual from TES resources. https://sharemylesson.com/partner/tes-resource-team

What about our distance learners and if more students need to pivot back to working from home in the weeks or months to come? What can parents do to set up a child with ADHD for success at home? In some ways, it may be easier as there is likely more opportunity for natural movement without the fear of safety. In other ways, it may be more difficult as your child may have difficulty paying attention while working on a computer versus paying attention while in a classroom setting. Here are some tips for setting up the home environment; whether that be for homework time, or distance learning time. These tips are great for all learners but may be especially helpful for learners with ADHD.

  1. Find a consistent work station for your child. This work station should mimic what works well for your child in the classroom. Does your child use a wiggle cushion, benefit from standing, work best with a fidget tool? These should be replicated and used at home.
  2. You should build in structured break times and encourage your child to do something active. When it says physical education or recess time on the schedule, make sure your child is running and playing outside or doing something active at home. Movement is so important to help all children focus. Before and/or after homework, your child should engage in something active.
  3. Ensure that all the materials are accessible and available and returned to their proper location after use. Having all the tools needed to accomplish tasks is an important part of setting your child up for success. Does your child have access to pencils, paper, scissors, glue, a laptop/computer or i-pad, charging cords, books, etc..? Does your child know where to find these items and where they should be returned when they are finished?
  4. Looking at the distance learning schedule or the homework expectations in advance is essential for time management and planning for a successful day. Goal setting and planning a schedule are so important in helping a child be successful when working at home. Creating a visual schedule,  to-do lists, and check off boxes often help a child follow the expectations for the day. Timers and structure are also really helpful in keeping a child on track. Teachers can help students and families set up these types of organizational tools if needed. Feel free to email me at s.reichstein@theojcs.ca for additional tips.
  5. Empowering your child to be more self-motivated and self-directed learners is an important life skill. Please read this blog post for a reminder on how to help promote these skills.
  6. Work with your child to discuss what is working and what is not. Your child will ‘buy-in’ to problem-solving when they are part of brainstorming the solution. If your child is not being successful with completing tasks at home, talk to your child about why and what they can do to improve that weakness. Eliminate power struggles, yelling, and meltdowns over schoolwork. Feel free to re-read this blog post for additional tips to eliminate the at-home battles.

As always, we are committed to working in collaboration with families to help support the needs of your child. Whether your child has ADHD or not, we are happy to connect and discuss ways to help your child be more successful with their learning journey both at home and at school. A pandemic will not stop us from being committed to accommodate individual learning needs.

August 4

Preparing for Going ‘Forward’ to School

Back to school or in our case (going ‘forward’ to school) on any given year can often feel overwhelming for some students. Butterflies flutter in stomachs, sometimes from nerves, often from the unknown, or perhaps due to sheer anticipation of what the year to come has in store. This will certainly be a year like no other. Teachers and administrators are working hard to understand, shape, and create a ‘go forward’ to the OJCS environment that will be exciting, rich, engaging, and most importantly safe. It will not be perfect but it will be perfectly imperfect because at the OJCS we learn better together and we promote a culture of critique. All of us – students, parents, teachers, admin staff – all of us feel some degree of nervousness and uncertainty this year. We would not be human if we pretended not to feel all the different emotions that come along with this particular going forward to school. It brings with it some important reminders. We will not all agree with everything but we all need to remember that we are all trying our best. When fuelled by anxiety, we sometimes forget to look at another’s perspective. Remember that all of us at the OJCS share common goals and common language guided by our North Stars. We must keep lines of communication open and transparent, and to voice our worries and concerns with respect, understanding, and appreciation.

Preparing your child at home now will be an important step in working together in ensuring a smooth forward to school.  My social media feeds have been peppered with great advice, suggestions, and ideas which I’d like to highlight and share here. One post that struck me as helpful comes from Kate Gryp from her friend Rich Johnston. See full post here.

The main message is to encourage parents to understand and think about how different school will look in the fall and practice these new social etiquettes now. Don’t attach negative feelings to the practice, simply address them as factual statements of what will be in September.

  1. Teach how to put on and take off a mask safely;
  2. Practice wearing a mask for incrementally longer periods of time;
  3. Label all masks and send labeled spares in a ziplock or closed bags;
  4. Teach and practice where to put the mask when it’s removed;
  5. Teach and practice public washroom protocols – in and out – no playing or lingering;
  6. Teach and practice how to properly wash hands with soap;
  7. Practice hand sanitizing before and after eating (and several times a day);
  8. Supply a tea towel to place on the table before eating;
  9. Cut up food into small pieces and practice eating with utensils, not fingers;
  10. Practice tieing shoes, zipping up zippers, buttoning tricky buttons – promoting independence is always a good thing;

Talking openly with children, answering questions, and addressing concerns honestly is the best way to reduce anxiety. Trying not to let your own fears and anxieties (if you have any) show through to your child(ren) is important. Here is another incredible resource that some of you may be interested in using. Social stories are a way to help children visually understand a new situation and a way to reduce anxiety and fears when faced with something unknown or new. These social stories were created by Tara Tuchel who is a Speech and Language Pathologist who primarily works with children with autism and she has generously posted these stories to share for free. Although social stories are specifically designed to help children with autism, any child experiencing anxiety or trepidations about what going forward to school will feel like during a pandemic will likely benefit from this gem of a resource. Click here for a full list of resources from Tara.

As always, if you have questions, comments, or concerns about going forward to school, please don’t hesitate to be in touch. For now, practice these new routines and safety measures at home in a comfortable, loving, and relaxed environment. We are all in this together!

June 29

Summer – Friend of Foe?

For some of you, the beautiful sound of summer evokes a feeling of pure joy and bliss, like reuniting with a dear friend you haven’t seen for ages. It’s a time to unplug, be free from the confines of schedules and routines, and embrace the freedom that it brings. For others, the beginning of summer, especially this particular summer, elicits feelings of fear, dread, and sorrow at the thought of no routine or predictable structure, much like bumping into an old foe who stirs up all kinds of uncomfortable feelings. Whether you are viewing summer as friend or foe, it will no doubt be a summer like no other.

My advice, whether summer feels like friend or foe,  is to try and find a comfortable new normal for you and your family. We often feel most out of sorts when we don’t feel like we have control, and when we can’t predict what is about to happen. These suggestions are designed to empower children to gain some control in a world that feels out of control right now and to be able to ‘see’ and predict how their summer will unfold. Work together as a family to come up with a functional and manageable routine. Allow for children’s voices and collaborate with them to make a plan. The more your child/ren feel empowered and feel part of the decision-making process, the more buy-in you will get during implementation. Document the planning and visually write/draw all the ideas. Use post-it notes, pictures or lists, but allow the child/ren to “see” and engage with the process. You can choose to use a calendar to mark which weeks you will do what. Maybe they are scheduled for a brief camp experience, or a visit to the cottage, or a week with grandparents. Make sure you visually show when those will be taking place. Then it’s time to brainstorm together what you will do on the weeks that are free. Themed ideas are always fun. Some at-home “mommy camp”  themes I created with my kids when they were little, included Mitzvah Camp, Science Camp, Cooking Camp, Games Camp, Water Fun Camp, just to name a few. Each week we would brainstorm a list of activities to do for each theme. We made sure to list ideas that could be done independently, that we could do as a family, or that I could prep ahead and then let the kids do themselves.  Before the Passover Break, in response to requests from families for support, I posted a “Tips for Passover Break” blog which offers the same kind of advice I’m suggesting now.

There are so many wonderful ideas circulating on how to create fun and meaningful activities for the family to do together. A friend of mine shared this calendar from Action for Happiness (click here) which I think is a brilliant way to focus on something positive every day for the month of July. What would be super fun, is if your child/ren created their own version of this for August. If they do, feel free to share it with me and I will pass it around to others.

Another easy idea is to create scavenger hunts and better yet, have your child/ren create scavenger hunts for each other. Here are a few I found from Natural Beach Living.  Free Printable: Gratitude Scavenger Hunt for Kids from Natural Beach Living.

If you are looking to keep up with academic skills and continue enhancing the learning all summer, feel free to reengage with the distance learning schedules (found on the OJCS blogosphere), and fill in any activities or assignments your child did not have the opportunity to complete synchronously. Don’t forget there are art lessons available from Morah Shira, gym lessons posted from our Gym teachers, music lessons shared from Mr. G, and read alouds from Brigitte, all found on the distance learning schedules and also on those teachers’ blogs! Everything will continue to be accessible all summer long. You can email me over the summer if you or your child is struggling to keep busy and we can brainstorm ideas together. Hopefully. you will all find a friend in summer this year.

 

 

 

June 7

Hitting the Brick Wall

We have three more weeks of school and we are acutely aware that some students are hitting the brick wall! We’ve been “in school” virtually for the past 11 weeks and we have learned so much and have done our best to adjust and tweak to meet the needs of all our families. Despite all of this, we know some students continue to struggle in this context. So what now? Here are some tips and resources that will hopefully help steer the train around the corner and away from the wall as we head towards summer.

Some reminders that may help reduce the pressures.

  1. Our schedules are designed (on purpose) to be asynchronous for students who need it. Build a schedule (visually) with your child that works for them. Be sure to include what Google meets they should attend, what they should watch later, when they should take breaks, snacks etc… You can use the grade level schedule as the guide and then adjust accordingly to help your child feel successful.
  2. Our teachers are prioritizing the assignments into Must Do, Should Do, Could Do. If your child is struggling to complete their work or stay motivated, encourage them to tackle their tasks in order of importance.
  3. Get creative, be open-minded and think outside the constraints of the schedules. We are encouraging students to ‘Own their Own Learning’ and please remember that all at-home learning counts as learning, even when it is not a task or activity on the schedule. For example, if you know your child is focusing on rounding numbers in Math, then if they round house numbers while on a family walk, that counts! If your child is intrigued by the news and is passionate about being an activist, creating a poem, writing a letter, researching ways to help our society – this all counts as learning.  If your child is an expert with building with LEGO, videoing a tutorial on how to build a tower is learning. Have an avid reader at home? Encourage your child to suggest a book club with some classmates who also love to read. Is there a budding chef in your house with a keen palate? Have them create a recipe to share with the class. You get the idea, capture and highlight and celebrate all the ways your child is learning, share those moments with your child’s teacher and celebrate their successes and love of learning.

So let’s shift the conversation to why students are hitting the brick wall and what can we do about it. We know that many children are stressed, worried and wildly disappointed about all the things they’ve lost in their used to be fairly predictable world. All of that has been yanked from under them and it’s no wonder that stamina, persistence, willingness to comply is waning. I follow many educational sites on social media that focus on mental health, anxiety, and coping with stress. GoZen! is one I particularly like and during the pandemic, they are sending out free resources to anyone who signs up. Check it out here https://gozen.com/

One of the free resources I received is a feelings journal Feelings Mini-Journal Here. This is a nice way to help your child name and address the uncomfortable feelings they may be having at this time and how to work through them.

Niki Green from the Contented Child is another expert I really enjoy following. She is based in the UK and offers an abundance of resources and also holds parenting workshops and webinars (for a fee – prices are listed in euros) on various different topics. Feel free to check her out here https://thecontentedchild.co.uk/webinars/ if you are interested. One of the resources I recently received from her is called How Big is Your Worry.  This is helpful for children who tend to have a very large reaction (yell, cry, scream, stomp, punch, kick, throw) to a small or medium problem or worry. It helps to teach children to label the worry/problem from 1-5 and then label their reaction from 1-5 to help them understand that their reaction may not have equalled the worry.

Let me know if you want a copy of it and I can send it to you. If you have a child who is struggling feel free to make an appointment with me to discuss further. I have lots of strategies and ideas on how to help families steer away from the brick wall. We know that for some of you this is super hard and we hear you and see you. Summer is coming, and although it will definitely not be the summer we were all hoping for, hopefully, it will allow everyone time to recharge, reset and find some joy and relaxation. Be in touch if you need support.

May 7

Promoting Independence and Self-Directed Learners

The OJCS North Stars continue to help us navigate our journey through Distance Learning. ‘We Learn Better Together’ has never been more apparent than during this pandemic. The collaboration we are seeing between teachers, with administrators, with and between students and with parents is truly inspiring. One of our main objectives continues to be to promote independent and self-directed learners. In some ways, this is very challenging to do through distance learning, and in other ways, it becomes easier to do in this format. One of the biggest barriers and frustrations we are hearing from parents is that their child is not independent and struggling to navigate this platform without parental support.  Together, we are working collaboratively to address this very real concern.

Over the past few weeks, we have been putting many resources together to help students become even more self-sufficient (We Own our Own Learning). Kindergarten students are learning how to log onto a Google Meet independently by clicking their Morah’s picture. Grade 1 and 2 teachers have added visual posters and checklists to their weekly schedules. Grades 3-8 teachers have added “To-Do Lists” to their weekly plan and are highlighting priorities of what should be worked on first. All teachers are doing their best to pre-record or live record their lessons so that students can watch them at a more convenient time, or watch them again as they begin their work. All of these added features have been in response to the feedback we have and will continue to collect from parents and students. So thank you for continuing to share what is working and what is not.

Here are some posters to help students become more independent and take even more ownership of their learning. Feel free to print these and hang them in your child’s workspace to help empower them to “own their own learning.”

Some additional tips for parents to continue to promote independence:

  1. Believe in your child and tell them that you do. Empower them to work through struggles on their own and help them learn from their mistakes. Encourage them to ask for help from their teachers once they have tried themselves.
  2. Help with organizational skills and planning so that your child has the tools they need to be successful. Print sheets they may need ahead of time, help them practice logging into their drive and blogs to find all the files they will need for their day and then encourage them to follow their daily schedules. Have folders available to help students organize their work, and/or help create folders in their Google Drive to keep their work in order.
  3. Set timers and expectations (and encourage your child to learn how to do that themselves) for times they need to be working on tasks.
  4. Remove distractions and help your child recognize distractions so they can remove them themselves. A quiet working station is ideal if that’s possible in your home.
  5. Keep lines of communication open so that the teachers and the school can know if students are struggling.
April 28

Getting Comfortable with the New Reality

Welcome to the new reality. Distance Learning is no longer looking like a short term solution, but rather we will likely be engaged with it for the duration of the school year. So what now? This post is about how to shift the mindset from a short term “survival mode” to a long term sustainable plan for parents who are struggling to support their child’s learning from home.

At the OJCS, we are acutely aware that this new normal is anything but normal and that parents are not designed to play the role of teacher, so please don’t. I read an article this week which likely resonates with many of you, but we hope that what is happening at the OJCS shifts this narrative and that our parents feel supported. Obviously, we do not have control over what the Government’s plan is in terms of child care, school and camp, but what we hope stands out from this article is that OJCS students are continuing to go ‘to school’ even while the building is closed.

The goal of our school is to help families make learning at home as stress-free and independent for the child as possible. We know that many parents are working. We know that many parents have multiple children at home of various ages and we certainly know and understand that our younger students will have a harder time navigating this type of learning independently.

Why is no one talking about how unsustainable this is for working parents?

What does the school want and expect?

  1. Partnership. When we work together we can accomplish anything. All we need to know from you is what is working, what is not and we will work with you to come up with a plan that is more manageable. We need to work together and we need to collaborate. We can’t be in your homes and your child can’t be in our building, but we are certainly available and willing to help your child succeed and succeed as independently as possible while ‘at school’.
  2. Flexibility. We want parents to know that everything is flexible. The schedule is flexible and designed to be asynchronous if and when needed. Some teachers are starting to list assignments in order of importance and priority for students who are unable to manage it all. The assignments themselves are flexible in terms of handing them in and how to accomplish them. Students can do it orally, do it by video, do it in writing, do it using assistive technology, do it next week, everything is negotiable as long as it is discussed with teachers.  The only thing we are asking is for everyone to do their very best.
  3. Communication. We are listening to feedback and addressing individual concerns. Just like in school, what is good for one, is not good for another. Compromise, trial and error and adjustments are all allowed and expected. We need to give each other permission to be honest and to communicate openly. If one family wants a more rigorous schedule, they can have it. If one family needs a reduced load, and they can have it. This is not an indication that one child is thriving and succeeding while another is not. Each circumstance is different and we need to be honest about it looks like on a case by case basis. The only way we are able to help is if communication is open and honest.
  4. Realistic Expectations. We are interested in setting up students for success and meeting students where they are at in their learning. We want to help families set up realistic expectations that are sustainable. We are interested in shifting the mindset from survival mode to sustainable mode. Let’s work together to achieve the right balance.

Our building is closed but the OJCS is open and fully operational. Our goal is to ease the burden for working parents, not add to the stress. Our goal is to help students become self-directed, independent, confident, resilient, and thriving learners. We know there will be struggles, we know there will be tears, we know there will be meltdowns and frustrations, but the best thing we can do in those moments is support, validate and reassure. We also know there will be successes, achievements, innovation, and creativity- celebrate those moments together. If your child is struggling there is a skill to be taught. Empower your child to seek help from their teachers and find ways to problem-solve while they are “at school”.  Taking a break, calming the brain, doing some exercise, walking away can all help reduce stress. Teaching these strategies to a child who is upset is empowering.

We thank you for your partnership, we thank you for your trust and we applaud you for your efforts in helping to make this work. We know, understand, and appreciate how challenging it is to be living through a pandemic.

March 29

Tips for the Passover Break

We are halfway through Phase 1 and have been doing “distance learning” for a total of 8 days! I know that for many it seems like months, but the reality is, it’s been 8 days. (A new 8-day miracle in my view….aren’t all our teachers true heroes and superstars?) We couldn’t be prouder of what they have launched in such a short period of time and I know for certainty they are ready and excited for a much-deserved break!

As we head into Passover, some families will be so relieved for the break, the downtime, and much-needed rest. While for other families, the lack of routine, consistency, and structure will be challenging. For those of you who were not able to attend the PTA virtual conversation last Wednesday, you can watch and listen here: https://youtu.be/B7ECq049xoU (There was a question about what to do over longer Shabbat weekends and breaks)

For those families who are looking for some more structure here are some tips:

  1. Involve the children in creating a Passover Plan
  2. Include their voice in including activities, games, topics they are excited about
  3. Brainstorm a list of “what to do during quiet time” ideas
  4. Create some structure, predictability and routine
  5. Have fun, laugh, relax and regroup and make meaningful memories as a family!

So what do I mean by involving the children in a Passover Plan? Explain that there is a 2-week school pause to celebrate Pesach and take some time to brainstorm what that will mean for your family. Children thrive on predictability and having control, so if you can build the Passover Plan together and share it with each other everyone will likely feel calmer. What can a Passover Plan look like? (Obviously, this is just an example – build one that suits your family’s needs). This is also a good opportunity to “catch up” on school work teachers have posted during the soft launch and during Phase 1 that some have not gotten to yet.

7:00-9:00 Rise and shine – breakfast and get ready for the day

9:00-10:00 – “School like” activities round 1- read, math, science, art, social studies, French, Hebrew (there are so many resources available now that it would be easy to sneak in some really fun learning for this one hour – GIVE LOTS OF CHOICES and let them choose a different subject each day.

10:00-10:15 – Healthy Snack

10:15-11:00- Body Break – Gym, dance, yoga, walks, obstacle courses, bikes, scooters, outside fun!

11:00- 12:00 – Free choice – games, puzzles, computer fun, cards, building, toys, imaginative play

12:00-1:00 – Lunchtime – help with the cooking

1:00-2:00 – “School Like” activities round 2 – read, math, science, art, social studies, French, Hebrew (there are so many resources available now that it would be easy to sneak in some really fun learning for this one hour – GIVE LOTS OF CHOICES and let them pick a different subject each day.

2:00 – 3:00 – Learn something new time – brainstorm something each one wants to learn – art, science, music, knitting, building, baking, creative writing, poetry, learn a new language, take a virtual field trip – whatever it is that you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had time!

3:00-3:15 – Healthy Snack

3:15-4:00 – Quiet time (alone time) – find something quiet to do – screens off!

4:00-5:00 Body Break – Gym, dance, yoga, walks, obstacle courses, bikes, scooters, outside fun!

5:00-6:00 Dinnertime – help with the cooking

6:00 – bedtime – Family time! Choose family fun activities to do together

Here are a few resources that you may be interested in exploring (and again, there are a million ideas online as well – this is just to get you started…)

Virtual Field Trips

34 Best Virtual Classes

50 Enrichment and Hands-on activities

From Ed-Helper – lots of different activities

Some Judaics/Hebrew links and ideas

French shows to watch

As always, let me know if you have any questions about any of this. I wish you and your family a Chag Sameach!

March 24

Help! My kid won’t listen – I’m not a teacher…

Hello OJCS families,

The title of this blog post is something I’m guessing some of you are feeling right now….

Parenting at the best of times can be challenging and exhausting….parenting at the worst of times (and let’s face it, this is pretty awful..) while your child is ‘at school’ but at home – well that brings a whole new dimension that none of us ever thought we would find ourselves in…. and yet here we are.

I know that many parents are finding this ‘new normal’ very challenging – juggling your own work stresses while simultaneously trying to support your child/ren with their distance learning. We know it’s been tough and we know that you are doing your best and we know that you are likely screaming…. Help! My kid(s) won’t listen – I’m not a teacher!

My advice is to step back and take a deep breath. You are doing great and you can only do what you can do. None of the teachers are expecting you to be the teachers. We know that many of your children are not feeling independent or confident YET, but it’s because it is new and we are all learning. We are making mistakes, we are collecting feedback, we are tweaking and tweaking again and together we will come up with better plans and better schedules and improved ideas. The best thing you can do for your child is to support them and love them. Do NOT engage in battles and power struggles. When (not if) but when your child is struggling and stressed and perhaps even yelling… your best weapon is to stay calm. Your job is to encourage, validate, listen and support. You do not have to feel obligated to swoop in and fix anything and you certainly don’t have to make it perfect. Learning is supposed to be challenging and designed to let kids struggle. We know you are not your child’s teacher and we don’t want you to be. Just like when you do your best to support with homework, you do your best to support with distance learning. When your child runs into difficulty, of course, you can try and help, but the second it turns ugly, you are allowed and encouraged to put it away for later and ask for help from the teacher.

We know that when stress levels are high, emotions run higher than normal. It’s important to model calmness. It’s important to model taking a break, getting fresh air and exercise. It’s important to model forgiveness and patience. I would also encourage having lots of healthy snacks ready for the day. They can be prepared ahead of time and be accessible in little containers or baggies for easy access. Hangry kids are the last thing you need right now! And of course, getting a good night’s sleep is so important, so sticking with your regular school bedtime routine is advisable. Most importantly, after the kiddos are in bed try really hard to find some ‘you’ time – whatever that means for you!

So to recap…

  1. Don’t engage in power struggles – pick your battles and let go of things that are not so important
  2. Seek support and help from the teachers if your child seems frustrated with their work
  3. Struggling through new material is the way we learn – it’s not always a bad thing
  4. Keep a consistent routine and try and promote independence where possible
  5. Print the schedule – or make a visual schedule to keep order and structure and predictability through the day
  6. Stay calm, use a quiet voice, validate, love and support (even when they are yelling)
  7. Model good habits – breaks, exercise, eating well, sleeping well
  8. Find some ‘you’ time
  9. You got this – you are not their teacher
  10. But you are one incredible parent, living through a very trying time – give yourself some slack and celebrate your successes!

Tomorrow is a new day 🙂

Hope to ‘see’ you tomorrow night at the OJCS PTA – Parenting with Social Distancing evening.

To join the meeting click here “Parenting With Social Distance

Stay home, stay safe, stay healthy!

March 18

Distance Learning – Supporting Students

Good morning to all!

What an exciting, nerve-wracking, emotion-filled time. We are doing our best to offer a new school “normal” at a time when the world is anything but normal.

To start off, give yourself permission to do your best and recognize that doing your best may not be what you hope or expect or want right now. Allow yourself to feel excited, nervous, flexible, unsure, and confused. We are learning and we are all in this together.

The Special Education department is paying close attention to everybody’s needs and we are here to support you through this challenging time.

Here are a few quick tips that may help you along:

  1. Set up a consistent routine (as best you can) for the week.
  2. Make a visual schedule of what that routine will look like for your family. (I’ll try and insert some examples below of what that could look like)
  3. Encourage your child to stay connected to their teacher. After each live session – make sure your child knows they can still connect to their teacher by email, or google hangout. Encourage as much independence as possible.
  4. Adhere to breaks, exercise and lots of fun, giggles and laughter!
  5. You can substitute tasks to make things work for you and your family. We are all allowing for flexibility and creativity, just communicate with your child’s teacher
  6. Document your child’s learning when possible and send it in. Everything counts as learning. Cooking, building, art, board games, card games, learning a new magic trick, going on a virtual field trip, going for a run outside, writing a song, playing an instrument, doing a science experiment.
  7. Reduce your own pressure and allow everyone to do their best – these are stressful times.
  8. Use and encourage your child to use the supports that they need to be successful.  They are allowed and encouraged to have their work scribed if they need that, to use voice to text software, to use google read and write, to use graphic organizers, to have text to speech software read them the material.
  9. Ask for help when you need it.
  10. Celebrate your child’s success all along the way!

Reach out if you need support. s.reichstein@theojcs.ca or send me a google hangout!

Image result for visual schedule for at home learning elementary school

It doesn’t have to be fancy – it can be drawn out on paper or a whiteboard – just something to help kids follow along.

Image result for visual schedule for at home learning elementary school

This one includes incentives to work toward a prize or a break… nice way to motivate and some students love earning stars or stickers.

visual schedule

I like this idea as well because it shows what still needs to be complete. This might be a different checklist to create. Not the schedule per se, but a task completion checklist!

I’ll keep posting and sharing! Stay healthy, stay happy, stay calm.