We all want of our kids to do well in school, even if we define success differently.
For some families, success means top marks and glowing report cards, for other families it means a happy child who enjoys going to school. However you define it, school is a huge part of your child’s life and it's important that kids be provided with the best possible experience there, to keep their love of learning alive.
As you are gearing up for the new school year, what’s one thing you can do to give your student a great start? You can get their vision and hearing checked by a certified Doctor of Optometry and an Audiologist.
For the past few years, I have been the special education expert in my school, meaning that my colleagues came to me with any Special Education related concerns. One of my duties was to help assess students that teachers felt were “at risk” of behavioural or learning concerns and to make a plan to address those concerns. Invariably, my first recommendation was to have thorough vision and hearing tests done.
I can’t tell you the number of times something that looked like a learning problem (inattention, lag in reading skills, inability to complete assignments independently, avoiding seat work, underperforming) turned out to be due to a vision concern.
But doesn’t the school check students’ vision?
Yes, many schools do. However, these are not complete eye exams like the ones performed by a Doctor of Optometry. The vision screening provided at schools is just that, a screening. It may catch a basic vision concern and then recommend you follow up with a Doctor of Optometry, but these screenings also miss many specific problems that go beyond simple 20/20 vision. The only way to really determine what is going on with your child is for him or her to have a complete eye exam.
Watch this video for more info on the benefits of a comprehensive eye exam over the screenings done at school:
Sometimes parents will know if their child is having difficulty seeing, but more often than not, they won’t. Children are used to seeing the world the way they see it. If things are blurry, a child will just assume that is the way things look to everyone.
My nephew recently had an eye exam and his mom took him in thinking there was no way he’d have any difficulty, it was just a routine exam. Guess who wears glasses now? He didn’t complain of headaches, he didn’t have trouble with coordination. Some of the symptoms that the Doctor of Optometry pointed out were just things my sister-in-law chalked up to being a nine-year-old boy: he tired quickly when reading and seldom finished a book, after some time on the computer he’d become distracted, and he avoided reading anything that was “too long.”
The symptoms of vision problems are easy to miss, or are often attributed to another cause.
A Doctor of Optometry doesn’t merely check your child’s vision. He or she will also look at eye health and muscle control as it relates to vision. Problems in these two areas often have no symptoms, but if left untreated, they can have very detrimental effects on your child’s vision. As with so many health concerns, early detection of eye problems gives the greatest possibility of treatment.
Convinced? Here are the steps you now need to take:
Check out the Doctors of Optometry website to find a doctor near you, then call and book an appointment. In many provinces, annual eye exams for kids are covered, so it may not even cost you. Click this link to find out if your child’s eye exam is covered in your province.
Let your children know that they will be looking at some pictures or letters and that the doctor will shine some light in their eyes. Assure them that it will not hurt and you will be with them the whole time. If your children are anything like the kids in my family, you may want to mention that a Doctor of Optometry doesn’t give needles — that should make the appointment a little more enticing.
On the day of the appointment, be sure you have your child’s health card. You may want to bring along a comforting toy, snack, or other distraction to keep any waiting time light and cheery. And that’s all there is to it. Such a simple step that could have such a big impact.
I highly recommend getting your child’s eye exam done before school starts, or at least close to the beginning of the school year. Starting a new school year can be tough on kids — there’s anxiety about new expectations, new teachers, and harder schoolwork. If you can eliminate or correct a potential problem right off the bat, why wouldn’t you?
Keep those eyes healthy so your children can keep enjoying their journey!
Whether your little one is starting school for the very first time, attending to a new school or a new division this year, or just getting ready for a different teacher, the beginning of the school year can be filled with anxiety. Change can be scary — for you and for him. Worries about unfamiliar routines, new teachers, unknown expectations and making friends can have kids dreading their first day back.
Here are a few tips to help you help your anxious kids as the school bells begin to ring:
Check that the essentials are looked after. Nobody copes well if he or she is tired, hungry, thirsty, or under exercised. Encourage predictable bedtime routines that provide your child with enough sleep. Be sure your kids are eating well, including nutritious snacks throughout the day. Always have a water bottle handy for kids to hydrate. Get your kids outside, riding bikes, chasing friends, swimming, playing sports — all that good healthy summertime fun. Trust me, winter will be here before you know it — remember the Polar Vortex?
A healthy, rested, well-fed kid will be better prepared to manage his or her anxiety.
Talk about school and try to get your children to articulate how they are feeling. Reassure them that many kids feel worried — and their feelings are totally normal. Point out the positives you see about the upcoming school year: you already have a friend in your class, the school is close to home, you play in the school park all the time, so-and-so’s mom tells me you have a great teacher, fourth grade is one of the best years. It's important to notice the good, especially if your child is doing a great job at picking out the not-so-good.
See if your child can tell you a specific fear that you can deal with (I have no one to sit with at lunch, what if I miss the bus, I might get lost). Listen to the worry, then find out the school routine for managing the situation (the class sits together, a teacher will help you get to the bus on time, you will get a tour of the school on the first day).
If you feel your child’s worries might significantly impact their adjustment to school, set up a time to talk to the school or teacher before the first day. Technically, in my board, we don’t have to be there until the first day, but I personally don’t know of a single teacher who doesn't put in some serious classroom time before Labour Day. The school office will be open the last week of August, so they can help you set up a time with the teacher. Be sure to highlight any learning concerns, behavioural needs or social issues your child might have. Together with the teacher, you can make a plan to ease your child’s transition to the class.
Ah, glorious summer. Later bedtimes, evening BBQs, lazy mornings - life is grand. However, an abrupt snap back to routine won’t do anyone any favours. Start the adjustment early by putting the school routine back in place a week or so before the kids return. Explain that the whole family needs to adjust to the new regime, so your child doesn’t feel alone. For older children (oh glorious adolescence) who may have trouble getting up, have them practice setting and actually answering to their alarm. Placing it far across the room from the bed can be helpful in motivating even the surliest of morning sloths, and can reduce late night texting, if your creature is using a phone for their wake-up call.
Take a trial run before the first school morning. Show your student where the bus stop is or reinforce the safest route to reach the school. If you know it, show them where the class will line up, point out their classroom through the window (sometimes schools do not reveal the students’ classes until the first day, but you can still check out the playground where they’ll find their teacher).
If you know a family in the area that has a student attending the same school, or if your child already knows a friend or two in their class, arrange a playdate. Let the kids hang out together so your son or daughter will see a friendly, familiar face on day one. Maybe there is a neighbour who will be walking the same route or taking the bus with your little one. Using the buddy system can go a long way in reducing anxiety.
You know how you feel great when you’ve bought the perfect outfit? Let your kids help pick out their new backpacks and school clothes. Give them a say in planning the school lunches. Strutting their cool new runners and swinging their awesome lunch box could be just the confidence booster they need - even if those items are an affront to your sense of fashion.
Get as much organized as possible the night before, to avoid a morning rush. Have clothes laid out, lunches made and a healthy breakfast planned. Set alarms for five minutes earlier than you think, and resist the snooze button, so everyone can be up and out the door as calmly as possible.
If your scholar is still young enough to appreciate your company, go with them on the first morning. Walk them to school and help them find their right line or entrance. Introduce yourself and your child to some other parents and to the classroom teacher. Kids can be shy to make the first contact, so help them along the way.
Don’t inundate the teacher with endless questions at this time. Not only will it raise your child’s anxiety, but will probably upset the teacher’s early morning routine that he or she is working hard to establish. You’ll no doubt be getting a slew of forms and information at the end of the day that will answer any of your questions.
If you have an older child who is in the mom-don’t-embarrass-me stage, let the little birdie fly solo. Even is he or she is anxious, your presence will probably only worsen the problem. Spying on them from the bushes is allowed, but only if you are sure you are undetected.
Once your child is safely under the care of the teacher, allow yourself to feel some relief. They made it! Even if it was a tearful goodbye, trust that your little one will be ok. In my experience, the tears usually cease once you are out of sight and most teachers distract the kids with a fun welcoming activity right off the bat. Tonight you will congratulate your superstar on their bravery and ask them the three most exciting things about their school day. But for now, go get yourself a ridiculously high-calorie coffee and put your feet up. You already took the day off work, you bravely said goodbye to your precious wee one and now it’s time for some mummy care!
Transitioning to a new class or a new school is just one of the endless adventures your children will navigate as they grow — show them how to embrace change and enjoy the journey!
Photo adapted from Public Domain, by George Hodan
There’s no doubt about it — our kids are growing up in the digital age. From toddlers mastering iPads to teens creating multimedia presentations, our kids are surpassing our technological skills at a break neck speed. As a teacher, I’m always on the lookout for ways to infuse my lessons with technology. One thing I know for sure — most kids love computers! And when students get to engage with something they love, the learning is much more effective and meaningful.
Excited learners are successful learners.
Schools are struggling to keep pace with the quickly advancing digital world. School boards across the country are making grand promises about outfitting schools with Wifi and providing computers and tablets to their pupils. However, the reality doesn’t live up to those promises — many schools are limping along with malfunctioning, out dated equipment and frustratingly slow connectivity.
The discrepancy between the curriculum expectations and the actual equipment available in school means one thing: pretty soon, probably sooner than you expect, your student is going to need a laptop. Certainly, by high school, a laptop is number one on many back-to-school shopping lists.
I was thrilled to receive an Acer C710 Chromebook 11.6 from Canada’s leading electronics-focused e-retailer Newegg.ca to try out. It gave me a chance to see how this nifty little machine would stack up against the demands of the 21st century classroom.
If you will be buying a laptop for your child, how can you properly equip them and how will you do it without breaking the bank? Here’s what to look for when setting up your student with a laptop:
Let’s be honest. Kids are kids. Sometimes they drop things. Sometimes they leave lockers unlocked. Sometimes they loan things to friends who then forget said things in the school cafeteria. You want to look for a computer that will provide all the features you need without the crazy price tag. The Acer C710 Chromebook 11.6 is $199.99 which is a great value!
The number one complaint from students using the school’s outdated computers is that they are seriously slow. A slow computer frustrates the user and completely negates that whole engaged, excited learner bit. Be sure the computer has a decent processor speed and is fast for web browsing.
Think back to high school...remember the size of that physics textbook, the weight of the history textbook, and the volume of your binder? Book bags get heavy. Even if your students take all their notes using their shiny new laptops, they still need to lug around handouts, textbooks, old lunches, gym shoes, maybe a skateboard or two, and just imagine if the poor kids play the tuba! Give their shoulders a break and find a computer that doesn’t weigh them down.
Yours won’t be the only student using a laptop, and they can’t all sit near the outlet in class. Ensure there’s a long enough battery life on the computer so that it doesn’t fizzle out just as they are putting the finishing touches on their essay or jotting down that vital exam prep question.
Ok. I’m not naïve enough to think that kids won’t be using the computer to watch a few YouTube videos and check out the latest pranks online. But good visuals are also helpful for schoolwork. It’ll reduce eyestrain and computer-induced fatigue. Plus, a nice big screen helps us teachers check out what the kids are up to and keep them on task!
Kids have enough to think about in school. Look for a computer that is easy to use and quick to set up. Find something that uses an operating system such as Chrome, so they are familiar with it. The interface on the Acer Chromebook is similar to Google and will make accessing various functions very intuitive.
The Acer C710 Chromebook 11.6 is a small, inexpensive, quick laptop that has all these features and more!
The digital world moves fast. Help your children keep pace and don’t forget to enjoy the journey.