Back to School with Mystery Box Riddles (Ages 5 to 9)

Well, it’s back to school time! I’m not even going to attempt to describe what we are up against this year, but regardless of the situation, we need to put on our big girl panties (or boxers) and make it work.

I must admit I was feeling pretty defeated the first two days, but after lots of discussion, awesome support from my school administration, hard work and collaboration with colleagues, I left not only feeling ready to welcome my new students on Tuesday, but actually with a sense that some of the necessary protocols might in fact influence some of my future practises. Sometimes you have to dig deep, but in hard situations, when change is forced upon is, it might just be an opportunity to rise up and emerge stronger and better!

When we first were faced with school shutdowns in the spring, I decided to convert my Youtube channel BOWhemian WRAPsody to a kid based video series to support my own students as well as others throughout the world that might benefit and enjoy the daily Mystery Box challenges. I came up with a system for writing, shooting, editing and publishing that worked well and decided to continue to produce videos through the summer. I have now posted 138 Mystery Box Riddle videos (with another 9 scheduled to be released over the next two weeks). In addition to the Mystery Box Riddles, I had already published over 60 gift wrapping videos, so to date, my channel has 215 videos on it. It’s amazing how one’s direction can change so drastically in a moments notice. When I launched my channel at the end of June in 2019, my initial goal was to post 60 gift wrapping tutorials in the first year. I thought this seemed like a reasonable goal since I was still learning the ins and outs of using Youtube, blogging and working full time teaching Kindergarten. I honestly can’t believe that now, just over a year later, I have made more than 215 videos, most of which are riddles geared to young children! What happened there?!

Although I don’t really know the future of the channel and whether gift wrapping tutorials will emerge again or not, for now I have decided to continue with the riddles. The students seem to love them and in many cases, solving Mystery Boxes became a daily family routine. With so much still up in the air regarding school and Covid 19, I thought that I would continue for the time being.

Why Mystery Box Riddles?

This playlist was initially produced for students that were being impacted by the Covid19 outbreak and forced to learn from home. It was designed to engage early years students (5 to 9 year olds) in critical thinking, problem solving and vocabulary development….all while enhancing their listening skills. My goal was to use clues & riddles to engage students ~ hoping they would have fun trying to figure out what might be hidden in my mystery box. Our students loved them so much, that we have decided to make the riddles part of our daily routine, even though we’re back at school. The riddles can be used to promote great discussions, enhance English vocabulary, improve listening skills and develop critical thinking.

Subscribers can expect to receive a new riddle each school day through notifications! Aside from the fun in solving the riddles, the format is purposely patterned and predictable. This has sparked many students’ creativity and they in turn are writing their own riddles and some are even motivated to make their own videos. This can be done at school or as a home project because the channel is public and accessible by all!

What an awesome way to promote oral language skills!

I’m asking for your help: Please LIKE, SHARE & SUBSCRIBE.

I really believe that the riddles are a great tool for both teachers and parents. Many teachers are struggling to find new ways to teach and engage students while adhering to new regulations and many parents have opted to home school during the pandemic. We all know teachers, child care workers and parents! Please help me out by sharing this post and the link to the Mystery Box Riddle Playlist. I will be releasing new videos Monday through Friday, but you can always use the playlist to start at the beginning. The order you watch is irrelevant, but as a teacher of little ones, it makes sense to start at #1.

Again, my channel is a public channel, so it is fine to LIKE and SHARE the videos. If you wish to get regular notifications of new Mystery Box videos, I suggest SUBSCRIBING to my channel. In the mean time, please feel free to share with other teachers, child care workers and parents. Thanks for your support and have fun solving the riddles!

Communication: The Key to Avoiding Disappointment

Happy Birthday to Me! Yummy Chocolate Mousse Cake

Today I wanted to share a recent discovery I made. It’s really so simple that it seems ridiculous, but since it took me 52 years to figure it out, I thought others might find it speaks to them as well. So let me preface this by saying that I am in no way bashing my husband and kids. I love and appreciate them very much! I know some are going to read this and judge me for posting this, as it may not reflect too well on me, but as I get older I realize there is great freedom in being honest and real. So like it or not…here goes.

Mother’s Day and my birthday both land in May. Over the past few years, I have found that I am often left feeling a bit disappointed on both occasions. I found myself really battling these feelings, believing it was super selfish. I would literally fight this “edge” in my mood all day on both occasions. I didn’t really know or understand why, but for some reason I always felt like my family didn’t really understand what was important to me. I never really stopped to ponder it much, but just knew neither were highlights for me. Anyway, this year a friend alluded to the fact that she too dreaded Mother’s Day and we discovered our experiences/feelings to be much the same. In our conversation, she shared that her new strategy for creating a better experience was to simply tell her family exactly what she wanted/needed to make her Mother’s Day great (or at least better). It seemed so simple and yet a bit radical at the same time. It really got me to thinking. Here are a few observations I made about my own feelings and situation:

  • My mom passed away before we had children, so my kids have never seen me honour my own Mom. We all know how powerful role modelling is and they have not seen that modelled in any way.
  • My husband worked nights and weekends for most of our marriage and thus was literally never around on Sundays. When I really stopped to consider this, I realized that my husband never had the opportunity to dedicate this day to me, just as I had never done for him. Now don’t get me wrong, we always acknowledged the day, but it was often with a card, perhaps a gift and a very quick dinner between him getting up at 5 and leaving for work at 6 pm.
  • When the kids were younger, I created my own Mother’s Day tradition which basically involved attending a beautiful Mother’s Day service at church. Tim would be sleeping all day in preparation for work, so it was just a given that I would have the kids and it would basically be a typical day in every way other than perhaps a “Happy Mother’s Day!”, exchange of cards and sometimes gifts. I was okay with this because that was just the life and schedule we had, but perhaps always felt a bit slighted.
  • Last year (2019) was probably the first Mother’s Day that Tim was off and it never really dawned on me that we had no Mother’s Day and Father’s Day traditions. We had never really established a pattern for celebrating and I think that I somehow expected more and was thus left disappointed.

My Revelation:

As a teacher, it is my job to teach the lesson, explain the assignment and set the criteria. As I got to thinking about my disappointment and bad attitude, I realized how impossible it would be for my family to meet my expectations and avoid disappointing me, if they really had no idea what I expected/wanted. So, with my friend’s strategy in mind, I decided that I was going to test this out two weeks later when my May 24th birthday arrived.

I know I have shared about The Five Love Languages before, but it really warrants mentioning again. I think what every person really wants/needs is to be and feel loved. The problem is that not everyone experiences/feels love in the same way. When we speak different love languages it can feel a bit like communicating in a foreign language….full of misunderstandings, confusion and hurt. One can feeling like they are pouring their heart into someone and it seem to always fall short….it is all too common we speak different languages of love. According Gary Chapman, there are 5 basic love languages:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Quality Time
  4. Giving Gifts
  5. Physical Touch

Although we all have varying degrees of each of these, there are generally one or two languages that you primarily communicate with. So for example, Acts of Service is my number one love language. If I want to show someone I love/care for them, I am most likely going to step up and do something for them…..bake their favourite cookies, iron their shirt, help clean their room, etc. I show I love them by serving them in some way. Likewise, this is how I feel most loved. This doesn’t mean that I don’t love and appreciate a beautifully wrapped gift because I do, it just isn’t my primary love language. My family can best communicate their love by doing a job for me, spending quality time with me (doing something that I LOVE) or offering words of affirmation. For me, these three are stronger modes of communication. (To figure out someone’s love language, simply watch to see how they demonstrate love for others. This is always your best indicator.) So what was happening for me was that my family was giving me gifts and/or cards, but what I really needed was an act of service or a sign that they really understood me.

So, with all of this new understanding of why I was feeling disappointed, I made a declaration. A few days before my birthday, I told my husband and kids exactly what I wanted for my birthday. At first it felt a bit weird to be dictating exactly how I wanted my birthday to go down, so I kind of made a game out it. I also explained my discovery and how unfair it was for me to judge them if they had no idea what my expectations even were.

The Birthday Experiment

Of course, everyone’s version would be different, but I thought I’d like to give this concept of setting the criteria a whirl and see how it turned out. Below pretty much sums up exactly what I told them in the days leading up to my birthday experiment.

  1. I wanted everyone up and out of bed for online church without moans, groans or arguments. Why? Because it’s important to me and “It’s my birthday!”
  2. Think about something that I LOVE and invite me to participate. “I know you don’t love board games, but I DO and you love me, so just maybe you are going to ask me to play a board game with you! Why? Because IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!” How about a walk? A bike ride? It’s not about you and what you feel like doing… it’s all about me because “It’s my birthday!”
  3. What kind of job can you do for me without being asked? The best way you can show me how much you care is by doing something for me. Of course, I gave them some examples of this as well… make me a cup of tea/coffee, make a meal, unload the dish washer, literally any job that needed to get done….show me the love!
  4. Going out this year wasn’t a great option, so I told them what I wanted for dinner as well.
  5. Finally….I announced that I would be making my own cake. I think my husband was a bit caught off guard by this one, but here’s what I said. I don’t like or want store bought cake. I LOVE homemade cake, but I never, ever get a homemade cake on my birthday. It is always bought. I would much rather bake my own cake. I love dessert/birthday cake and if I’m going to consume those calories, it is my birthday and I want to choose how to spend them! And just like that….I got the exact cake I wanted.

So, in a very fun loving, yet direct way, I told my family exactly what my expectations were for my birthday and guess what…..BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!! Everyone got up for online church without complaint…yay!! I got some hugs and happy birthdays as well as a few cards with wonderful sentiments written inside. Tim prepared a wonderful breakfast of bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, toast and coffee without even asking me what I wanted…he just went for it. After a lovely breakfast, my dad and I played a few games. Later, Tim asked me to go for a walk. (More quality time!) Just before dinner, Shay came and asked me if I wanted to play a game or two…YES!! Tim picked up a few groceries, did some needed yard work and together we prepped dinner. (More acts of service.) I didn’t mind helping one little bit because my love tank was full! After dinner, my dad and I played a few more games while we waited for Eden to get home from work. She arrived home and we had the homemade cake I made with no Happy Birthday song…also my request. We ended the evening with a family game of Rummoli! I went to bed feeling like I had hit the jackpot. You may be thinking that didn’t sound so amazing….that’s because our needs are all unique, but my point is that I truly discovered that the key to avoiding disappointment is simple…..clearly communicate what your wants and needs are. (You may or may not have noticed I didn’t actually receive any gifts which was totally fine because it is not my primary love language. However, both my husband and kids did in fact give me gifts that arrived after the date…and both were super thoughtful….a book from one of my favourite authors (that I didn’t ask for) and a special hand painted coffee mug with my dog Hershey on it!)

As a mom, I feel like I always try to practise this for everyone else’s birthdays already…by asking questions…What do you want for dinner? What gifts would you like? What kind of cake shall I make? and so on, but after having such an amazing day, I also told my kids and husband to think about what would really make them feel special on their birthdays and to communicate it. Maybe I too was missing the mark. Why do we often make things so complicated? I can’t believe it took me 52 years to figure this out, but it did. I think we just want the people we love to figure the answers out, but why risk hurt feelings and disappointment. It just seems so much easier to set the stage in a loving and respectful way.

I want my kids to know how to honour others. Someday they will be married and they need to know how to show that love, honour and respect to their spouses. If it hasn’t been modelled and/or taught, how is a person supposed to know what to do. So to all you moms out there who go out of your way to make everyone else feel special…how about letting your loved ones know what they can do to make your birthday and/or Mother’s Day even better. Good luck!

I would love to hear from you. Maybe I’m one of few that feel this way about Mother’s Day and birthdays or just maybe this post speaks to you. For me, it was so freeing to finally stop pretending and truly enjoy my day – selfish or not! Tell me your story!

It’s a Red Plate Kinda Day!

I want to dedicate this post to our daughter Eden! She has really had to fight through a lot of crap during the past 5 years, but her perseverance and stamina to push through and never give up are truly admirable. She has been completely depression free since May! Her spark and confidence have returned and she is ready to take on the world.

The Red Plate

The Red Plate is the perfect way to acknowledge a family member’s special triumphs…celebrate a birthday…praise a job well done…reward a goal achieved…or simply say “You Are Special Today.” When the Red Plate is used, any meal becomes a celebration honoring that special person, event or deed. We encourage those who purchase a plate or celebrate this tradition to share YOUR story.

Red Plate Store

We received our red plate as a gift from a friend several years ago. The cool thing about the plate is that it comes with a special permanent marker that you use to record the “event” on the back of the plate. It is so fun to look back and remember all of the occasions in which the red plate was used. I had actually forgot about ours for a while, but came across it when going through my china cabinet this summer. I think it is a super cool idea and makes a wonderful gift! The plates are available through the Red Plate Store and Amazon.

What Made Today a Red Plate Day?

I got up this morning to take Eden for a bit of last minute practise before attempting her 5th road test. The first time she went she was super nervous and made it through the parallel parking and most of the test. She was basically on her way back and made a “critical error” which resulted in an immediate fail. Of course, she was disappointed and this seemed to compound her anxiety for future tests. On her second attempt, she had an almost immediate fail for a critical error before she even made it to the parking test! That was the end of the critical errors, but the third time she didn’t pass the parrallel parking and the fourth she had too many points deducted. Each time she left feeling disappointed, but we tried to encourage her and tell her how important it was to be ready for the road.

To me road tests are like swimming lessons …..please whatever you do, DO NOT pass my child if they are not ready. I was always amazed at parents who would complain when their child had to repeat a swimming level, especially when they were small and in the beginner levels. For me swimming was not an activity, it was a LIFE SKILL! My kids were forced to take lessons whether they wanted to or not. I didn’t want them to ever be in a situation where they couldn’t save themselves or help someone else because they didn’t have this basic life skill. It struck me as so odd, when one particular instructor took the time to explain every detail of the swimming report and why one of the kids hadn’t passed. I politely stopped him and thanked him for holding them back. It was comical because he couldn’t let it go, he kept trying to justify his decision. I told him I completely supported his judgement and that I would never want them to move on if they weren’t ready. He told me he’d never encountered that before as most parents argue, trying to get their child the “badge” they haven’t yet earned. I was literally dumbfounded.

The same is of course true with driving. I’m not sure about you, but I wouldn’t want my daughter on the road behind the wheel of a car, if she were not qualified or ready. Why would any parent? I always prayed with her for a pass, but was so thankful for each failed attempt, knowing that it gave her more time to grow, mature and gain confidence. I strongly believe checks and balances are a blessing! I knew that she’d pass when she was ready and was quite confident today would be the day. She has healed so much in the past few months and she went in knowing in her own heart that she was ready.

Getting your driver’s licence is one of those milestones that mark a turning point in one’s adolescence, but I didn’t bring out the red plate because she finally passed! Today was a Red Plate Kinda Day because the true measure of success is when a person is willing to put themselves out there over and over again, failing as many times as it takes to finally reach their goal! For me, today represented so much more that finally getting her driver’s licence. Today we celebrated her resilience, her willingness to never give up, her perseverance and understanding that all things work out for good, for those who believe and never give up. One can only truly fail, if they stop trying or never take the risk to try in the first place.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

Way to go Eden, so proud of you!

*This post was written on Saturday, September 7th, but I just got my kiddo’s stamp of approval to post it publicly.

Upcycled Homework Caddy

Ever since Eden started grade 7 and homework became a daily event in our life, it seems like she is constantly “borrowing” my supplies and not returning them and leaving scads of tools around the house. I decided to build her a homework caddy stocked with everything she’d need to complete her assignments. The caddy can easily be transported, so she can choose to do her homework in her room or at the table ~ whatever suits her best. This project was all about the 4 R’s ~ Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and of course, Repurpose.

Here’s What I Used:

The basis for this design came from these items that I had in my project bin. (Remember to click on the images to enlarge them.)

Of course, as I began to brainstorm and pull my ideas together, I needed additional items such as burlap, string, saw, drill and screws, wood glue, magnets and paint.

Here’s What I Did:

1. I removed the cord from the broken lamp and cut the shaft to create a nice pedestal-like base.

2. I attached the pedestal, circular “lazy susan” wooden base and the center post from the mug stand together with a long screw. homework caddy

3. I spray primed and painted the structure.

4. I then took the clean cans (of varying sizes) and wrapped burlap or string around them to give them a bit of a finished look.

5. I then wrapped some string around the center post as well.

6. I used a nail to punch holes in the bottom of each can near the center. I then screwed each to the wooden base.

7. Finally, I glued on a couple of strong magnets to hold paper clips and a mini-stapler.

8. The top pegs from the mug stand act as handles for the caddy.

Eden’s homework caddy contains an assortment of pencils, pens, markers, pencil crayons, scissors, a pencil sharpener, an eraser, a ruler, a stapler and a few paper clips ~ everything she needs, all in one place! Generally, my daughter prefers to do her homework in her own room, but when she needs help, she likes to work at the kitchen or dining room table. The caddy allows her to bring everything she needs with her.

If making something like this seems like too much work, don’t sweat it….pick-up a plastic caddy or something made out of wood or metal with dividers already in it….maybe something like a cutlery storage caddy. You can find many different styles and at a wide range of prices depending on the look you are going for.  The important thing is to have everything in one place and make it easy to transport.  Here are some of the options I found available:

Have You Fallen Prey to the Homework Beast??

Is homework taking over your life? Is it causing arguments and meltdowns that are driving a wedge between you and your kids?

homeworkIf the answer is “yes”, you’re not alone. Homework is an important part of growing-up and I believe that it not only helps children develop a good work ethic, but also teaches them to how to take responsibility for their own success. Despite the positives, I know I’m not alone when I say that it sometimes feels like homework is destroying our family time.  It seems like there is always homework to be done and when it’s not spread out across the table, we are giving reminders and removing privileges to pay penance for the incomplete work. The homework load, coupled with a few chores as well as sports and other activities seems to be enough to put the whole family on edge.

My daughter started grade seven this fall and the change in expectations has hit our family like a wild storm. Between teen hormones and the workload, there have been more than a few meltdowns at our house. Our daughter had extremely limited experience with homework, quizzes or tests, so let’s just say it’s put quite a strain on the entire family. She is a great student, but that didn’t help the fact that she had no experience with time management, juggling due dates and the pressures of homework. For the first six weeks of the school year, we tried to work on helping her establish good work habits by teaching her strategies to make the work load manageable.  Here are some of the things we tried to teacher Eden to assist her in coping with the changes and increased demands of grade seven.

1. Write down the due dates/test dates on a calendar. I actually found printable calendar templates and then printed 4 pages on one sheet, so my daughter could see the entire term at a glance. This allowed her to look ahead to projects that weren’t due for a while and still plug-in closer due dates as new projects came up. She didn’t use this for homework that was due the following day, more so for assigned projects, homework and tests.

2. Do not focus on everything that needs to get done. Pick one assignment at a time. Generally speaking, I’ve taught my daughter to work on those things that are the most pressing. So in other words, work chronologically with those items that are due first.

3. When there is more than one item due the same day, it can easily become overwhelming. In such cases, there are basically two plans of attack. One option is to work on the biggest/hardest project first to get it out-of-the-way. The second is to do all the small easy jobs first, so you don’t feel like there are so many things to do. Sometimes the sheer number of assignments/tests can be overwhelming, so completing the easy jobs means you can completely remove them from your mind and thus feel less pressure.

4. With large projects, it is really important to read through the entire assignment first, even if you aren’t ready to begin. Sometimes it is more daunting, when you haven’t taken the time to read over the assignment. Once you read it over, it sometimes helps to see the “big picture” and gives a better understanding of the expectations. In some cases, this can relieve some stress. The “unknown” coupled with deliberate avoidance (procrastination) can often cause more anxiety than the assignment itself. I’ve noticed that once Eden takes the time to read a larger assignment through, she’s sometimes able to see how she can break the project down into smaller manageable sections that don’t seem as overwhelming.

5. It is also important to read through an entire assignment right before beginning, so that specific expectations are very clear.  Most teachers include a rubric with assignments/projects.  A rubric is a step by step guide on how to achieve the best marks possible. When you begin without reading through the rubric first, it is easy to make very simple avoidable mistakes. My daughter learned this the hard way when she spent hours doing an assignment and then when she referred to the rubric near the end, she realized that her visual map was to be organized in chronological order. Although this was only worth a mark, it was an easy mark to guarantee just by following the rubric set out by the teacher. Don’t begin an assignment before reading over the entire rubric first! devices Turn off the devices! Believe me when I say that 20 minutes of homework can easily take over an hour if your iPod or phone are turned on. Those little interruptions to find a good song or answer a text are killing the homework. They are a huge distraction and absolutely need to be removed. Spend good quality, uninterrupted time on assignments and they will be completed much faster.

We are now almost at the end of October and I think Eden has gotten a better handle on how to approach her homework successfully on her own. As a parent, I want so much for her to be successful, but it is difficult to know when to help and when to step back. I will never do homework for my daughter because that serves no one. She needs to develop the skills to be successful and can learn this best by experiencing both the highs and the lows. She needs to know what happens when she leaves an assignment until the last-minute and does poorly. She needs to know how it feels when her name is called out because she didn’t hand something in on time. As parents we always want to run to the rescue, but it is often at the expense of our children. In life, they will have ups and downs, and sometimes the best way to learn how to make it through the difficult times is to learn from your own person experience. We need to give children the opportunity to do just that….fail. They need to know what it feels like, how to process it and how to move beyond their mistakes and failures, so they can learn from them. In life, we won’t always be there to rescue them or pull their weight at a future job ~ therefore,  they must learn to manage more independently.

homeworkDo not complete assignments for your kids. It is simply ridiculous. Do you honestly think the teacher doesn’t know you did the science project for your kid? Believe me….teachers know. In fact, they may even have your name in their books of marks! Don’t do your kids homework for them, but rather take the time to teach them strategies that will help them be successful and feel good about their accomplishments. Like my husband says, what’s the worst that can happen? She’ll bomb an assignment or a test. Hopefully, if there is a failure, your child will learn from it and do a much better job next time. If you bail them out by doing their work for them, believe me, they’ll never complete an assignment at school again…why would they? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out: “If I do my work at school, I have to do it, but if I take it home, my mom will do it for me!” Don’t fall into this trap!

If Eden has started an assignment and isn’t understanding something or needs me to proofread a finished report, by all means, but I will not do the work for her. Assist and teach as needed, but do not do the work. Hopefully, the worst is behind us and we have instilled some essentials techniques and skills that will help her to become more independent and achieve great success in grade seven without the entire family falling victim to the homework beast.


Schools Back and So are the Head Lice!

After teaching in an early years classroom for more than 20 years and being the mom of two, I consider myself pretty lucky that I’ve never had a personal encounter with head lice. That’s not to say I don’t deal with it in my job periodically. School has just begun and already the little critters have made themselves known. Yuck!

An article in the Washington Post states:

In a typical infestation, there are more nits than bugs since an adult louse will lay an average of five to 10 eggs a day and a newborn female needs only 10 days to become a mom. So the family tree grows quickly.

Although lice are no respecter of persons, school age children are most prone to them because they are more likely to be involved in activities in which transmission may occur.

Facts and Common Misconceptions Regarding Head Lice:

  • Lice can’t jump or fly. They crawl from one host to another and are generally passed via head to head contact or sharing of items such as hats, hair brushes, pillows, bedding, etc.
  • Lice thrive in hair. They do not care if the hair is long or short, blond or brunette, clean or dirty. They live on blood from the scalp and hair makes a great hiding place.  (I get creeped out just thinking about it!)
  • Lice lay eggs called nits which are sticky and attach themselves to hair follicles. Regular shampoo will not kill or remove nits or lice.
  • Lice can live up to 2 days without a host/source of food.
  • Lice can only be eliminated through the use of an effective hair treatment, combing out the nits and a thorough cleaning of all items that the “source” may have had contact with.
  • Although an itchy scalp is a symptom, there can be other reasons for an itchy scalp. Likewise, some people can have a full infestation and not have an itchy scalp!
  • Both nits and lice can be seen by the naked eye.

Dealing with Contamination:

  1. Treat the “hosts” hair by either purchasing commercial products or using a natural treatment. Continue to check for lice and nits daily until no more are found. You may need several treatments depending on the effectiveness of the product you are using.
  2. You must comb the nits out of the hair section by section with a lice comb. This can be a very time consuming process depending on the length and thickness of the hair.
  3. Vacuum all areas the “host” has come into contact with (including the car seat).
  4. Wash bedding, towels and clothing in HOT water and dry in a HOT dryer.

One of the concerns regarding treatment is that some lice are now developing an immunity to some of the pesticides/chemicals used in treatment shampoos and are rendering some ineffective. There are many different suggestions for products and remedies online ~ both natural and more chemically based. Whichever remedy you opt for, be very cautious and thorough in doing daily checks to ensure the treatment has worked. A lice problem can quickly get out of control when someone feels they have cleaned and treated properly, but then stop doing regular checks.

Although I’ve never personally encountered the little pests, I have tea tree oil in my medicine cabinet at home. It is a recommended home remedy for treating lice and I bought it as a precaution when there was an infestation in my classroom a few years back. I didn’t know this, but a student’s mom recently suggested adding a few drops of tea tree oil to your regular shampoo as a great way to help prevent lice. Like any product, some people may have an allergic reaction to the oil and many “medical” sites suggest that there is not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of this treatment. Besides this essential oil remedy, I also found some articles suggesting that lice are repelled by peppermint.

I’m certainly not a doctor, but I can’t imagine the chemical treatments are really that great for anyone. The bottom line is that no one wants to be saddled with an infestation of lice. Perhaps being proactive and adding a few drops of tea tree oil each time you shampoo your child’s hair might be a great option, especially if you know there are cases in your child’s classroom.  The oil has a wicked smell and I did not enjoy using it, the one and only time I did a preventative treatment, but a few drops may even go unnoticed. As for the application of tea tree oil as a treatment, there are several different recommendations for how to apply it and how long to leave it on. I think I applied it right to my scalp (I don’t really remember). Others suggest using it is as one ingredient in a “natural concoction” which may in fact dilute the potency, if someone is already playing “host” to the pests. I’m not really sure? The same mom also said that someone suggested spraying mouthwash on their hair before school. I wasn’t sure why that would work, but after reading about the peppermint, perhaps it is the peppermint flavoured mouthwash that would help to repel them?

It seems like the jury is still out on this issue, but at the very least I would be diligently checking my child’s hair until the issue is resolved. I’m not sure about the policy in other school divisions, but in our school we are required to send a note home to all families to inform them if there is a case of lice in the classroom. Out of respect for all of the other children and families, please make sure you tell the school office (as well as family/friends), if you find your child has lice. By informing the school, we can help to ensure other families are checking their children as well and hopefully prevent the spread.

The video at the top of the page is from Kelly the Kitchen Kop. She has two great posts about lice and shares her personal experience with a home remedy treatment. She had good success with a Neem oil shampoo, but for the full story, check out her posts.  She recommends placing combs and brushes in the hot dishwasher for cleaning and also suggests using a high heat setting on the blow dryer ~ lice hate heat. Great ideas Kelli!

Final Words of Wisdom:

Many years ago, one of the classrooms in our school had a lice out break. Like most parents, everyone was a bit paranoid and wanted to avoid infestation at all costs. One particular child arrived at school with her mom, who was in a flap about the lice. As a preventative measure, she had cut off a pair of panty hose and pulled them over her daughter’s head like a hat. She insisted her child wear this “contraption” until the “scare” passed. Luckily, the students were young enough that the kids just took the odd-looking hat in stride and really didn’t make a big deal out of it. For the adults in the building, it was a bit of a “tongue in cheek” situation…if you know what I mean. I think the stigma of wearing your mother’s cut-off pantyhose draped over your head far out weighs the stigma of getting lice….but that’s just my opinion. I must say, it is one of those stories you just won’t ever forget. Too funny!!

Remember contracting lice is not indicative of your family hygiene. Anyone can become infected!

Conversational Math with frogs

I want to thank Kelli Stewart for another great post. Being a kindergarten teacher, this one really strikes a chord with me. When parents ask me how best to prepare their kids for school my first answer is talk to them. Give your children plenty of time to play with real toys (not devices), use their imagination, explore and problem solve through everyday experiences and their own play. Take time to talk about their discoveries and the world around them. Don’t solve their problems for them. Let them figure out the challenges they face during play (eg Why won’t this tower stand-up?). Language skills are the foundation of learning and being comfortable with language concepts is the first step in developing literacy and numeracy skills. Finally, never speak “ill” of math. So many parents will say things like “I wasn’t good at math either. He/she is just like me.” Please don’t plant the seed of doubt or fear of math in your child before they ever start. Math is actually based on patterns and relationships between numbers. It is a system that really makes sense when you get it, but can feel like learning a foreign language when you don’t. Set your child up for success by speaking positively and making math a part of their world. Great work, Kelli!


What a fun and easy way to help your kid learn math? I suggest getting the help of a bucket full of leaping amphibians.

Emily's Favourite Math Teacher

Emily’s Favourite Math Teacher

Froghoppers from VikingToys is a fun game where you press the back of a frog to make it jump into a bucket. It is a lot of fun for the whole family for under ten bucks. I love it for that alone, but I have to say, that it has made teaching math words way more exciting!

Left Out of the Conversation

When my son was in preschool, we went to our first parent teacher interview. When we asked if there was anything we should be working on with him, she said that he could improve in his math skills. Aside from practicing counting, she said that one way we could help him advance was to be really mindful of using conversational math to describe the world around him.

“I’m sure you do this already… You know, counting stairs, dividing objects into equal groups, talking about adding or subtracting two more fruit in your basket as you’re shopping, that sort of thing. Even playing dice games.” she said confidently. That was the moment I realized I do not describe my world in mathematical terms EVER. Nathan and I would climb stairs to the beat of a song. We split things so they were fair. Fruit quantities were described more like this: a banana, a couple of bananas, a bunch of bananas. And could we play a math game? Sorry, no dice. To be honest, we had more Megatheriums come up more in conversation than Math.

With Emily, I knew I had to make a conscious effort from the beginning to talk math. Knowing myself, I knew that wasn’t going to happen naturally. That’s when the frogs came in.

Our favourite frog game

With the help of dice (we steal the dice from another great math game: Double Shudder!), we roll a couple times to find out how many frogs to add to the frog family (adding) and then roll again to see how many are leaving (subtracting). Smiles and subtraction seem to go hand in hand. As we “Minus one, two three…”, the frogs go flying! I’m not too worried about Emily actually learning her addition and subtraction, but it is a great way to introduce the words “plus” and “minus” while having some fun.

We even cut out lily pads and divide the frogs into equal groups. Emily is super social, so she is very content to put the frogs into groups (her ideal). The frogs are also great for counting, making patterns, sorting into colour groups, and are exceptionally good for launching across the living room!

Who would think that a frog would be such a good teacher?