Monday, December 05, 2016

Winterproofing Your Horse

by Dr. Melissa McKee of  McKee-Pownall Equine Services

Winterproofing Your Horse
The cold and icy conditions of our winter season bring their own set of challenges for horses and horse owners. The key to weathering these months is anticipation of potential problems and preparation to deal with any that may occur. Winter is hard on everybody, especially on those that have lameness problems, are geriatric, underweight, and suffer from other health issues. These are amongst the many factors to consider when planning ahead for your horse as the days get shorter.

While we often blame bitting issues on bad teeth, a healthy comfortable mouth with normal grinding surfaces and proper alignment is also essential for your horse to properly chew their hay and grain. This is particularly important in older horses and those that have difficulty maintaining their weight. Winter is often the toughest season to maintain weight on a hard keeper, so fall is the ideal time to have a thorough oral examination and dental float performed to ensure their teeth are in tip-top shape.

In the winter time there is a lack of succulent, easy to chew, highly digestible grasses that are a valuable supplement to the summertime diet. Without this backup, you may have to increase the amount of hay and grain fed to less hardy individuals. With the drought we faced this summer, hay is scarce and the nutritional quality of what is available is often less than ideal. You may have to resort to alternatives such as hay cubes, beet pulp, and added fats to make up their needs. In preparation for this, it would be a good idea to have your winter hay shipment tested for protein and carbohydrate levels so you know how much additional support you may require. With the hard keepers, get a weight tape estimate of their weight and visually assess their body condition now so you have a baseline to track them with through the winter. Shaggy winter coats can be very deceiving, so the tape measure can be a big asset as well as careful hand palpation of fat deposit sites. 

Foot Care
Ice and snow provide unique traction challenges. Most horses that are going to be laid off over the winter do quite well if left barefoot with regular trims. This helps to prevent the build-up of snow in the feet, which lead to fetlock, pastern, and foot trauma as the horse awkwardly slips off the ball. If shoes are required, your farrier can apply special pads that pop out the snow as it packs in around the shoe. Shod horses also benefit from additional traction in the form of studs or borium. Your farrier can suggest the most appropriate choice for your situation. Remember that hoof wall growth slows in the winter time so you can drop down to a longer shoeing cycle.

Fall and early spring are stressful seasons for pasture due to the variable climate and cold nights. This causes the grass to accumulate fructan, which is a particularly dangerous carbohydrate for laminitis-prone individuals. In addition, ACTH levels are naturally elevated in the fall, which also seems to predispose this group to laminar inflammation. High-risk animals include ponies, and those suffering from insulin resistance. Restricting pasture access during these periods can help to prevent a flare-up

Weather conditions mean that horses are locked up in the barn and exposed to higher levels of dust, mold, and ammonia than in the summer months. This is a tough time for those who suffer from allergic and reactive airway disease (heaves). There are several management strategies that, when combined with judicious use of medication under veterinary guidance, can dramatically reduce coughing and mucus production. It is far easier to prevent a respiratory condition from worsening than to manage an established crisis, so it is definitely worth the effort to provide dust-free bedding, good air flow, time outdoors, and well soaked (not just rinsed) hay. Remember that everybody in the barn is breathing the same air, so it is no use working hard to keep one stall dust-free if the rest of the group is still bedded on straw and eating dusty hay. You should also consider the indoor arena conditions, which can also be remarkably dusty if not managed properly. Finally, any horse with a respiratory condition should never be fed from a round bale.

Horses with arthritis suffer during the winter months due to cold, damp, and decreased activity. You can help them with oral joint supplements and there are now forms of NSAIDs that are much easier on the stomach than bute if you need long-term use. If your horse has a more serious lameness problem, be alert for signs that the situation is deteriorating. This includes weight loss, elevated heart rate, poor appetite, depression, and not lying down (because they are too painful to get up again).

Lastly, check over your horse’s housing conditions, with particular attention to hazards such as puddles in entrance ways, which can freeze and become very treacherous as you step outside. Ensure that your pipes are well insulated and that there is a source of non-frozen water outside if they are spending more than a few hours at a time out of doors. Horses tend to drink less than they need in cold weather so you have to be sure that water is easily accessible and appealing. You don't want the first indication of frozen pipes and dysfunctional water trough heaters to be a barnful of impaction colic cases! Take a moment to check that sliding door and window tracks are clear so you don’t get stuck with one frozen in the open or closed position.

There are lots of details to consider when preparing your horse and barn for the winter months, but it is worth the effort when you can sail through the season in good health and without mishap.

McKee-Pownall Equine Services is comprised of a group of veterinarians, technicians, and support staff who work with you to continually improve the health and welfare of our equine companions. We employ 11 veterinarians and over 35 staff across Campbellville, Newmarket, Caledon Equestrian Park (during the show season) and Caledon.
At every location we offer both farm call and in-clinic services for your convenience. Every location offers preventative health care, dentistry, emergency services, and advanced lameness diagnostics and the Campbellville (Rockwood) location includes the only standing MRI system in Canada.

Dr. McKee grew up in the local horse industry. As well as coaching, training horses, and competing in many disciplines, she also worked in a saddlery and apprenticed with a local farrier. She competed to advanced level in 3-day eventing throughout the United States prior to attending veterinary school.
After graduating, she traveled to New Jersey to work in a large equine referral hospital that provided surgical care, lameness, medicine, emergency, and ambulatory practice, and also worked in equine practice in Alberta before returning to Ontario. Dr. McKee’s interests include lameness, diagnostic imaging, MRI, chiropractic, racehorse practice, and writing on veterinary topics.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Travels In A Suitcase: Celebrating Barbados' 50th Anniversary of Independence

by Dale Ho

Some time ago I developed a program entitled Travels in a Suitcase, a program designed for use within schools, daycares, after school programs and more, the intent was and still is to bring the rich history, culture and the arts from around the world to children everywhere, to create a mutual respect, understanding and appreciation for our global neighbors, from time to time I will highlight some of these 'travels' on the blog… 

Today's Travels In A Suitcase takes us to Barbados. Measuring 166 square miles, this small island in the Caribbean celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence on November 30, 2016.  After being settled in 1627 Barbados remained a British colony until it achieved independence on the 30th of November, 1966.  Independence Day is a national holiday and is celebrated as such each year with community events, fairs, food and more!

Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo courtesy of G.Kirton
Communities and local schools come together as a nation and join hands around the island each year, many others enjoy the special light displays around town which quickly become a favourite family tradition and let's not forget 'conkies', a traditional cornmeal based delicacy made with sweet potatoes, coconut, pumpkin and cornmeal and steamed to perfection in banana leaves, conkies are especially enjoyed during the month long celebrations in November.

To find out more about Travels in a Suitcase please contact me at

Friday, October 28, 2016

Halloween Pumpkin Craft

This is a such an easy craft idea, inexpensive and ideal for all ages and capabilities.

You'll need several sheets of tissue paper -purple, orange and green (cut the green tissue paper into strips)- toilet paper rolls (one roll per pumpkin) and optionally some Halloween themed accessories to decorate.

Place the sheet of tissue paper down flat, center one roll of toilet paper on top.  Start tucking the tissue paper into the roll.  Finally, roll the green tissue paper up and tuck it into the top of your toilet paper roll, this is the stem of the pumpkin.

There is the option to decorate the pumpkin once complete, we used Halloween themed stickers.

Happy Crafting!

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Early Years: Creating A Culture Of Literacy

By Dale Ho

How do we create that culture of literacy? I believe it takes a village; The community, the school and home all working together to educate and support our children and youth and it all starts from as early as birth. 

Experts all agree that the early years are the most formative years of a child's life. Educating parents as early as during pregnancy on the importance of literacy and the early years is a starting point and providing that continuity of care thereafter is vital.

When creating that culture of literacy there's the obvious, creating a print rich environment, this is merely one piece of the puzzle.

Early childhood is about laying the foundation, setting skills for life and when equipped with the appropriate resources such as trained staff, materials, community professionals and quality programming, daycare centers can play a key role in the development of these early literacy skills. 

The early years is also a time where intervention is key. Identifying needs as they arise and providing the proper treatment plan moving forward can avoid complications in the future.

By investing in the early years we are investing in the future of our children.  Our goal should be to provide the best possible start in life for every child.

Over the years Dale has worked in the field of education in varying capacities. She is a published author and continues to contribute articles from parenting to education for both print and online publications. Dale has successfully developed and facilitated several literacy based programs that have served families and businesses alike within the community. Dale can also be found working away as a Freelance Consultant as it pertains to the field of Education and The Early Years.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

How To Combat The Mid-Way Summer Slump

by Amber Chandler

As so many well-meaning moms and dads do, I think I over-scheduled my kiddos this summer. I had thought that if I scheduled their mornings, then their afternoons would be filled with wonder and freedom. Unfortunately, it has turned into lounging, epic Minecraft battles between my kids, and a general blah. Then, a couple of times a week I’m trying to drag them to karate too. The problem, of course, was that I hadn’t considered that it would be impossible for me and my lackadaisical parenting style to get my kids to bed before ten o’clock (or eleven. . . or even later…) when there was so much “summer” out there. Concerts, ice cream, birthday parties, picnics, outdoor movies, swimming at sunset--when you live in Buffalo, NY, where for about 7 months it is cold, and about 4 of those months it is frigid, you suck in the “summer” no matter how late it gets. It was a complete accident, of course, but I’m feeling it right now. We’ve hit the “mid-way slump.” As a public school teacher, my summer break mirrors my own kids, and yesterday marked the 1 month mark. This basically is the half-way for us, and we need a reboot.

What’s a girl to do? I’m not going to abandon their Passion Projects (Zoey’s turned into a poetry writing obsession and a deep desire to be published--I don’t know where she gets it! Oliver’s project has turned into a Minecraft DIY handbook, which he has explained justified his hours of “research.”) However, I’m going to allow more spontaneity into our summer routine; rather, I’m going to capitalize on the spontaneity that I already have in search of more “summer” experiences. Instead of shape the experiences, I’m going to let the experiences shape what they learn.

For example, next Friday we are going to see Zootopia (again) at an outdoor movie event at the beach. We saw Star Wars there last month, but ended up leaving because we were freezing and the breeze was too much. This is Buffalo, afterall. Anyway, next week as we are preparing, I’m going to ask my kids some leading questions that they’ll research, and we can talk about. What will the temperature be at 9:00 pm when the movie starts? What is the difference between the hottest point of the day and the coolest point? Is this difference like other places in the country or do you think we have bigger swings in temperature? How much will the wind matter? How do they measure wind? Can you have windchill in the summer? Does the windchill impact the lake water? Does it matter if the lake froze or not this past year? You get the point. There’s so much to learn in the things we do everyday, so I don’t need to formalize so much.

For older kiddos, another angle for an event like this is to use the movie as a jumping off point about the world around them. Having the benefit of seeing Zootopia before, I’m planning on raising their awareness to the level of social commentary. They already know the plot, so I’m going to encourage them to look at the movie through a different lens. I think I’ll have them read this review, which delves into the social commentary. I also like the ideas in this review that can be directly linked to the disturbing unrest in our country, as well as some great lessons on the complexity of stereotypes.

In the end, I love the projects that are still happening in my household, but I want to also suggest that the midway slump can be alleviated by a little more serendipitous learning experiences that might lead to some of the social emotional learning that is important as well. Let me know some of the “teachable moments” that you’ve found this summer--I’m always looking for new ideas, and I have 41 days left, but who’s counting?

Amber Chandler is a mama, teacher, and education writer. She believes in student-centered, Project Based Learning, as well as integrating technology at every turn. Her book, The Flexible ELA Classroom: Differentiation for Grades 4-8 will be available this fall. She’s launching, a website companion to the book, but also a space for teachers of all kinds to share their resources. Please submit your best ideas to her to appear on the website, as she’d like to highlight the work of the homeschool crowd. Follow her on Twitter at @MsAmberChandler and visit her website for lots of resources that you are welcome to use.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Minecraft 101

By John Miller

Minecraft is much more than a game. I’ve been using it as a teacher and player for the past five years and I’ve come to the realization that playing it is something to be experienced, especially with others.

When first logging into the game, players are “spawned” into a unique world, full of biomes like deserts, jungles, tundra, and grasslands where they will find useful objects around like cactus and trees, and animals such as chickens, rabbits, and horses.

There are two common modes to play in. In survival, players begin with nothing and must fend for themselves. They mine items like stone and cut down trees. Following strict recipes, they use these resources to craft items they need to survive, like tools and weapons. At night monsters (aka mobs) come out and attack unsheltered players.

In creative mode, players have unlimited access to all the blocks in the game and are free to fly around and cannot be hurt. This is the mode teams of players use to create astonishing projects found all over the internet. If you can dream it, you can probably build it in Minecraft.

Teachers are using the game to teach such topics as citizenship, math, science, history, and literacy. It’s also being used to teach computer science, art, and architecture and has been implemented in classes from kindergarten to university. It’s a brilliant tool for visualization of concepts and storytelling.

At home, informal lessons occur all the time. Kids are debating each other, developing original designs, learning geography and mapping skills, and are solving problems dealing with things like food shortages, climate, and electrical circuitry – known as redstone in the game.

Minecraft can be utterly confounding to parents, a world complete with its own vocabulary, a focused level of intensity, and legions of unbridled, enthusiastic supporters. It also is compulsive by nature. One of the game’s mottos after all is “just one more block.” As with any activity, we need to safeguard against excessive use and as parents, provide limits. 

In order to see what this is all about, I suggest that you see this as an opportunity to join your child in an activity they clearly love and ask a Minecraft player in your life to teach you the game.
Here are a couple of activities to get you started with Minecraft at home with your kids: 
  1. Survival mode challenge – have your child set up a survival world for you to play in. You’ll need to work together quickly to build a shelter and craft tools to survive that first night. Play together for an hour, save the game and return the following week. Play once a week over summer and experience the adventure of exploring and conquering a new world together. 
  2. Collaborative build – team up with other parents and their kids to complete a creative challenge together on a hot summer afternoon. Cooperate in the same world to build something original. How about a pirate base, a fleet of giant airships, or a zoo complete with Minecraft animals?
A Minecraft license is required for the version of the game you are playing. Your kids can likely help you get your username, or visit for help.

If you would like to explore more ideas and projects you can complete with your kids both in and outside of Minecraft, order a copy of my book, Unofficial Minecraft Lab for Kids.

John has been a middle school teacher in King City, California for over 20 years. He has experience teaching grades 6-8 in every content area. He was awarded an MA in Educational Technology and loves to dive deep into instructional design.
In April of 2016,  John (@johnmillerEDU) was recognized as Teacher of the Year for Monterey County. He is a Google Innovator and an internationally recognized leader in the Minecraft in Education community. John spends his free time with Audrey, his wife of nearly 30 years, rock climbing and traveling the world.
John is coauthor of the book, Unofficial Minecraft Lab for Kids (2016) from Quarry Books and is a contributor to An Educator’s Guide to Using Minecraft in the Classroom (2014) from Peachpit Press. He blogs about his classroom lessons at

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Not All Learning Happens Between The Pages Of A Book

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Passion Based Learning, also referred to as Passion Projects. You will always find a wealth of information here on the topic...just a short while ago Ms. Amber Chandler shared more on this; Thinking About What To Think About: Summer Passion Projects.

Last summer my two youngest completed their very own passion projects and this year is no different. 

Right here on the blog you'll notice that I created a page some time ago entitled 'My Equine World'...during the summer months my daughter writes about her passion; The Equine! And this year she's got a head start, we started looking into something that had interested her for some time; Music therapy for the equine. Please feel free to follow her passion project during the summer months at My Equine World. I will also be posting alongside her here and via my other social media networks on the learning outcomes and experiences each week. 

"Not all learning happens between the pages of a book."

- Dale

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Behavioral Responses Of a Horse To Music

By Victoria (My Equine World)

This topic has interested me for many years and now I finally get the chance to research it!

Some things I'm going to look at are: What are a horses' response to music, do they differ? How and why are they so in tune to music? And can music be used as therapy for horses?

Here is what I learnt...

When a horse is stressed does music help calm him down?
Yes, music can calm a stressed horse for example, a loud thunderstorm can cause a horse to stress. Certain music and sounds can mask the sounds and calm them down.

Can music be used as therapy for a horse?  How does it heal them?
Yes. It calms the horse in a stressful situation.  Some examples where a horse can get stressed and music can be used for therapy are: Vet visits, recovery from injury and trailer transport.

What are a horses' response to music, are they different?
All horses will have different responses to music, one can have a positive response and the other can have a negative response.
I proved this by carrying out my own experiments with the help of a couple of friends.  Watch the video of 'The Behavioural Responses of The Horse To Music', we used different genres of music.

Is there a certain genre of music horses respond to more?
"...classical or country music played at a low volume will have a positive effect and help calm horses while they're resting, eating and being groomed in the barn." - Janet Marlow.
Watch the video and see if you can identify any differences in their reactions to different genres.

Why are horses so in tune to music?
Because it is a language they use to communicate.

It was VERY interesting to see all the horses response to music. I learnt a lot and had tons of fun!!! I'll definitely continue research on this topic for the summer!

Thanks Carrie and Leroy!

- My Equine World

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Healthy Eating: Where to Start? 3 Simple Rules to Healthier Eating

By Deb Lowther

So you’ve decided to make some changes and eat healthier, but you just don’t know where to start. It can be confusing trying to weed through all the exaggerated marketing and fad diets to understand the facts about health and nutrition.

There are some simple rules that can make healthy eating a bit easier without the need for a strict diet, calorie counting or a degree in nutrition.

Rule No 1 – Limit Packaged Food
You can guarantee most prepared items you purchase – especially if packaged - will include added fat for flavour and sodium and preservatives to maintain its shelf life. Even the best sounding salad at the drive thru is hiding crazy amounts of unhealthy fats in the dressing. When you make it yourself, you can control what gets added and what doesn’t.
Try swapping your usual purchases for healthier versions of the same food – natural peanut butter vs regular, greek yogurt vs. regular and chedder cheese vs processed slices. 
If you have the option of fresh or canned – go for fresh (ie peaches in a can vs fresh peaches)
If you can make it yourself, you should – even a few nights a week will help. This goes for everything from lasagna to soup to salad dressings. Find a few easy recipes and make ahead meals or make batches to freeze and re-heat on busy weeknights. 
Bake not Buy – try to bake muffins, cookies, dessert breads and kids granola bars. Bake in batches and store in the freezer for easy school morning lunch making.

Rule No 2 – Balance Your Plate
An easy way to determine if a meal is on the healthier side is to ensure it has variety of foods and includes at least 4 of these 5 key components. Get away from the meat and potatoes mentality and think in terms of a balanced plate for all 3 meals of the day.

  1. Protein – lean meats baked or grilled, eggs, beans, fish, chicken
  2. Vegetable – salad greens like spinach, all root vegetables, beans, broccoli, eggplant. The list is endless.
  3. Fruit – in its true form (not a can or container) – berries, apples, grapes, bananas, melons.
  4. Calcium – include calcium at breakfast and lunch by including yogurt, milk, cheese, tofu.
  5. Fibre – include whole grains at every meal whether in the cereal at breakfast, home made muffins or baked oatmeal at snack to the whole grain bread at lunch and whole grain pasta, brown rice or quinoa at dinner.

Rule No 3 – Read Nutrition Facts
When you do have to buy packaged food, don’t depend on the front of the box or packaging to give you the straight facts – “low in fat’ hides that it contains artificial flavours, sugar and added sodium to enhance the flavour, “contains real fruit” is code for a tiny amount of added dried or pureed fruit is there in addition to the sugar, oil, salt and artificial colurs and flavours.  The nutrition facts are on the back –know what to look for when label reading.

When reading the nutrition facts look for the following:
  • Proteinprotein plays an important role in controlling hunger and increasing muscle and recovering from exercise – go for protein over empty calories every time. At least 10 grams of protein in snacks and 20 grams from meals is a good guideline.
  • Fiber – Go for fibre!  At least 3 grams is considered good, but more is great.
  • Fat – Healthy fats can be good for you but those are usually not found in packaged foods. Try for 0 g trans fat and no more than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving.
  • Sugar – when buying cereal, granola bars, crackers, cookies or muffins (which you should limit - see Rule #1!!)  look for those high in fibre and low in sugar. Less than 8 grams of sugar per serving is a good rule to live by.

Even making one small change is a change in the right direction. Try limiting morning muffins and go for a protein smoothie to hold you over until lunch. Have salad with chicken and home made dressing at lunch rather than take out and limit afternoon snacking on packaged foods.

Eating healthier just means eating more real food and ensuring you are getting enough fibre and protein to keep you full longer and avoid unnecessary snacking.


Deb Lowther is a writer, runner, wife and mom of 3. When not running after the kids, Deb is running in the trails and ensuring her own family has fun while eating healthy & staying active together. After selling their first company in 2015, the Lowthers' launched Element Nutrition and are now focused on creating nutritional products for the Boomer generation with Boomer Nutrition and healthier kids Snack Bars with IronKidsNutrition. Deb inspires healthy families through numerous articles in print and online, encouraging others to enjoy a healthy diet, stay active and not be afraid to try new things.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Thinking About What to Think About: Summer Passion Projects

by Amber Chandler
You’ve probably heard of Genius Hour, an idea born at Google, where employees are given 20% of their work time to explore pet projects and essentially dabble in their interests. I take this similar approach with my own kids.  During the school year, I am an ELA teacher in a Project Based Learning classroom to 8th graders; for better or worse, I’m kinda addicted to that type of learning, so my own kiddos--Zoey, 11 and Oliver, 8 spend their summers doing a Passion Project. In my view, it is their job to just “be” in the summer and relax, play outside, hang out, sleep in, play Mario Brothers (with the volume off--I just can’t deal with that frenetic music), go to Regal’s dollar movies, Karate lessons, and birthday parties. However, as an educator, I’m acutely aware that disruptions to the normal schedule for holidays and summer vacation can be overwhelming to all parties.  Summer reading loss is real. September and October are a review. Sadly, that is inevitable as a public school teacher; however, for the homeschool crowd, I suggest a Passion Project to avoid the summer slide.

            I assign Passion Projects to my middle school students in the spring. Feel free to use the one on my website as a guide, which is exactly what I plan to do with my own kids this summer for their 20% time. I’m going to help them come up with what I call the “burning question” that they are just dying to know the answer to and are willing to spend their summer exploring. Once we’ve arrived at that question, they will each need to read 100 pages (either one book or several totally 100 pages) about their topic. The goal is to chase down the answer to their question and then create a website sharing their learning. If this sounds too teacherly, I assure you, this is one teacher who wants to place the responsibility squarely on their shoulders since A) I just finished helping 134 students create a website and B) my own kids are used to me. I may or may not have “made” Zoey do a PowerPoint for her project the summer before 2nd grade.

            While they’re at it, it’s a good time for you to join in the fun and lead by example. Last summer my daughter’s burning question was “Why do animals become extinct?” She chose this because she’s what I’ll affectionately call a “people pleaser,” and she thought this would be scholarly and impressive to the 5th grade teacher who she’d show it to later. We went to the local science museum, read articles, and she was bored pretty quickly. She switched her topic to “What makes a good play?” since she loves acting. Additionally, my husband freelances as an arts and entertainment reviewer, so she was able to attend several plays with him and mimic his style, essentially using his writing as a mentor text. This was a cool experience for him to show her the ropes and spend some quality time together.

            Oliver, my then 7 year old, had no problem deciding what he wanted to do all summer. He wanted to know why so many people love Lego. (Incidentally, there is no such thing as Legos, no “s” as the plural is simply Lego--one of the many facts he taught us). His project was perfect because it was already his passion. He spent time at the library Lego club, “interviewing” the librarian about why they had the club, and reading every book he could on the topic. I bet he read more than Zoey and I combined. To his delight, “A Lego Brickumentary” came out in July and we actually bought it on demand the night it was released. He had the unique experience of being the most informed person in the room, which is hard to do when you have an older sister, a teacher mom, and a writer dad. It was actually fascinating, and I highly recommend it.

            I mentioned “Passion Projects” and the idea to add a website this summer and both of my kiddos were excited. My favorite part though is that they weren’t so ready to commit to a topic. They recognized the value of the 20% time, and, as Oliver said, “You’ve got to be careful what you have to think about all summer.” Yep, you sure do.

Amber Chandler is a mama, teacher, and education writer. She believes in student-centered, Project Based Learning, as well as integrating technology at every turn. Her book, The Flexible ELA Classroom: Differentiation for Grades 4-8 will be available this fall. She’s launching, a website companion to the book, but also a space for teachers of all kinds to share their resources. Please submit your best ideas to her to appear on the website, as she’d like to highlight the work of the homeschool crowd. Follow her on Twitter at @MsAmberChandler and visit her website for lots of resources that you are welcome to use.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What Happens When You Upcycle Paint Chips...

You can teach anything from math skills to literacy and the arts.  Paint chips are not only versatile but it's easy to get your hands on stacks of them, head on down to your local hardware store and stop by the paint department and just ask an associate for any discontinued paint chips you could have.

Today I'll show you a few examples of ways you can use them to introduce, reinforce and practice literacy and math skills for kids of ALL ages. Here are some of my favourites:

Use them to teach....

Skip Counting/Number Patterns


Word Families


Ordering numbers from least to greatest and vice versa

Practicing two/three step equations, fractions, learn how to develop detailed sentences, procedural writing and oh WOW...the list grows!!!

Get creative when thinking up new ways to introduce new skills and if you're looking for additional inspiration, I'm sure if you scour the web you'll find the possibilities are endless. 

Have fun!


Wednesday, April 06, 2016

You Reap What You Sow: Starting a home garden

by Dale Ho, Hon. RECE

Amidst the intermittent snowfalls we've been having, there are the subtle signs of spring if you look close enough, and right about now we start thinking about planting. 

You reap what you sow: 

The benefits of starting your own home garden are endless, it saves you money, it's a great stress reliever, all family members can get involved, it's sustainable and my has endless learning opportunities.  You can use these teachable moments to talk about where food comes from, health and nutrition, science, math, literacy, learn about composting or have kids start a garden journal...its hands on learning!

I asked my friends over at The Royal Botanical Gardens if they could offer us some suggestions for a successful spring planting...

"As far as spring gardening goes, Peas, Spinach, Kale, Cabbage, Broccoli, Leeks, Onion, Beets, Carrots and Radish can all be planted into gardens in April in the Golden Horseshoe area if the soil has had a chance to warm and dry out a bit so that it isn’t waterlogged. 
For younger kids, bigger seeds like peas are easier to handle. Radish, spinach and lettuce grow really quickly so they help maintain interest. Small raised beds are a great way to garden with young kids  - they can reach across the bed to get to the plants without stepping on the soil and compacting it (or stepping on the plants). You can also buy floating row covers that can fit over a small raised bed, like a little greenhouse – that will warm the soil sooner, and protect young seedlings from frost. And, building a raised bed is a great way to practice math skills and work with simple tools.  
Letting kids have their own small bed to cultivate is important – the sense of ownership, responsibility and accomplishment when they’re successful with their own little garden is a wonderful growth experience for them.  
Most of the earliest garden blooms are bulbs that need to be planted the fall prior, but pansies can be transplanted out any time now, and calendula seed can be sown now. The blooms of both are edible if they have been grown without pesticides. Marigolds grow quickly from seed, as do nasturtiums, but they need warmer weather (their flowers are both edible too)." -Barbara McKean, Head of Education, Royal Botanical Gardens.

Happy Planting!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Learning Through The Arts

Roald Dahl's, Matilda the Musical - Toronto is going to be quite the show!

Theatrical productions such as these can be an amazing experience, see them as windows of opportunity for learning. 

For example, if the play is based on a novel take the time prior to screening to introduce the story and author, read the book together.

After you've seen the play encourage ongoing discussion, did the production portray the novel in its entirety? What did they like most about it? Who was their favourite character and their least favourite?

Children WILL learn through their own experiences.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Taking Risks Are All Part of Growth

Taking risks means trying new things and learning as you go along.

But taking risks is never easy, when we hear the word alone negativity takes over us and the uncertainty breeds fear. 

It requires a certain amount vulnerability; you're putting yourself out there.

There's also a level of resiliency, the ability to get back up in the face of adversity, see it as a learning curve and try again.  

And then there's TRUST.  

It's hard to ignore the mixed messages we send kids on a daily basis...Take more risks! Don't take the risk! 

Truth be told, children and youth should be given the opportunity to take the appropriate risk in order to practice and properly develop the necessary risk-assessment skills needed throughout their life.

Take for example during a typical day at school, we encourage students to take academic risks, emotional and intellectual risks. But are we creating a safe environment to do so?

Here's an example, for those students we've unduly labeled as the 'quiet' ones, we ask that they make every attempt to actively participate in group and class discussions, easier said than done, right?! We administer tests, assessments, evaluations and quizzes all in an effort to measure student performance and intelligence throughout the school year. All quite nerve wracking.

And for most these are met with either a failing grade or snickers and whispers amongst peers. 

Is this the reward for risk taking? It's as though we set them up for failure.

So how can we create safe spaces for children to take risk both at home and school?

- Make it VERY clear that all efforts will not go unnoticed, no matter how small. 

- Recognize these as part of the process. Every effort leads to improvement.

- Model risk taking behavior yourself, be willing to try something new and be willing to fail.

And guide them...while you applaud all efforts; the big and the small, make it clear that you have all confidence in their ability to achieve mastery, be there to guide them should they falter and celebrate the courage it takes them to take these risks.


Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Making The Grade

As end of term marks cards come filtering in so do the anxieties, here are my thoughts...

Skip the comparisons, move past the judgement and use this as a time to reflect. 

Focus on the teacher comments together, get their feedback about these, ask...what are they most proud of? What would they like to improve on? What can we do different? And how can WE achieve this? Goal set together and move forward. 

Throughout the school year follow up on these by 'checking in' from time to time with both the teaching staff and your child.

"A successful learning environment connects the community, home and school." -Dale Ho, Hon. RECE

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Somebody Say Road Trip?!

Most parents are starting to think about and plan March break activities for the family. You've got your day trips, play dates, special about road trips, I love road trips!

The planning, the packing and then there's the whole plotting of places to see and things to do along the way and once you get there.

Some may be tempted to call it a case of the crazies with a family of six but there's so much to explore, learn and do.  Here's some ideas:

Explore the History: 
During the weeks and days leading up to your trip take the kids to visit your local library and find out more about where you plan to visit or have them do their research via the internet. Gives them a sense of the journey.

Read A Map:
While you're researching the history look up any landmarks you might find along the way and map it out together.  Have them map your entire trip! Use both a paper map and an app such as Google Maps. 

Get Inspired, Be Creative:
It's interesting to see the world through their eyes; from a child's perspective. Get them a disposable camera and whilst there have them take tons of photos of things that appeal to them.

Once you return encourage them to create a written or photo journal as a keepsake containing all they saw and experienced. 

Road trips can be many things; exhilarating, exciting, crazy, a game of survival, educational, the end of the day you're making memories!!!