Tag Archives: school

Separate Classrooms

twin girls in different outfits holding handsAs the mother of twins, I made the decision during pregnancy that my children would have separate identities. This is easier when the twins are boy/girl. Since my twins are both girls this has been an ongoing effort on my part. Thankfully, my girls have embraced their uniqueness and are finding their own interests, taste in clothing, etc.

They started kindergarten this year and I really debated over placing them in the same classroom or separating them. It is easier to have them together for many reasons. My girls are very shy and have a tendency to cling to each other when other children are around, which is a reason for separating them in school. I thought separating them would help them find their own way and it is working well.

The transition from being in the same class to separate classes wasn’t easy. Pack Rat was very unhappy that she was going to be in a different classroom than her sister. When she saw that the wall between their classrooms had a permanent open doorway she was able to relax a little. Copy Cat was happy she was going to be in a class without her sister and has never looked back.

I can now fully appreciate the hectic schedule of my friends with two children of differing ages. Until now my life has been fairly easy because I have been able to schedule both of my kids for the same activities. With the two classrooms, I have to split my volunteer hours as equitably as possible. It is share week this week and I had two activities to attend, not just one. Next week is the Fall party. Both of my daughters’ parties are at the same time. Thank goodness for that open doorway between their classrooms so I can easily move between the two parties.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about their upcoming birthday and how they decided they want a party. With two classrooms the list is fairly long. Copy Cat has decided she wants to invite every girl in her class except one. We’ll I’m not cool with leaving one girl out so she is invited too. Pack Rat tends to create closer more intimate relationships with her friends so she is only inviting five girls from her class. We have a few family friends and neighborhood kids we are inviting too.

We have only had one play date so far and it was with a common friend. I asked another woman if we could schedule a play date and she was not open to Pack Rat joining Copy Cat and her daughter. I get that. It will give me a chance to spend some quality time one-on-one with the other daughter when only one is invited to a play date.

If I had to do it all over again, I would make the same decision. It is more work and time on my part, no doubt. But in the long run I think it will be better for my daughters that they had the opportunity to be an individual, make their own friends and have different classroom experiences.

by Kelly Damron


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Photo graciously provided by Oude School, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

The Plagiarism Temptation

don't cheat written on parchment paperI’m writing this blog post in an effort to help other parents help their kids.  I am also painfully aware that this will be shared through my social channels, and that several of my kids teachers and principals may read this as well.  While I am concerned about the effect this might have as a result, I am more concerned that keeping such things secret makes it easier to pretend these things never happen.  If we don’t hold ourselves and our own kids accountable, do we really help make it any better?  On the other hand, if I discuss it, will this follow them forever?  Will it make the guilty kid as suspect as the innocent kid?

Like many households across the country, we’re finishing up those summer reading projects.  It’s editing week here, and on review of part of one child’s work, it became obvious that some of it didn’t sound right.  The initial confrontation about it yielded some denial, and then some response about losing the initial file with the work, so a short cut was employed.  Needless to say, I had to drag out the old parental chestnuts including:

-Cheaters never prosper

-If Freddy jumped off the bridge, would you do it too?

-Do you really think you could get away with this?

-Do you not trust yourself enough to do your own work?

-We only learn by trying and doing our best. If we use other people’s best, we can never be proud of ourselves and we never learn anything, either.

-For goodness sake- it’s summer reading- how much pressure are you under, really?

The irony here, of course, is that I am in the process of writing a book myself.  Making sure I credit sources, reference appropriately and the like is what I am doing every day.  So to find out a kid succumbed to the temptation of cut and paste is appalling on every level.  Everyone got a lecture today, whether guilty or not, about honesty and integrity, things I thought I had covered daily in my parenting, but things that clearly bear repeating.

In the end, I think this day and the discovery of the bait and switch have made a really big impression on everyone here.

But it’s also made me realize as we start this new school year, constant vigilance about the temptation of short cuts is going to be more important than ever.  Each kid, regardless of age or grade will be subject to review and scrutiny.  The problem here in part is that the internet makes it almost too easy to take short cuts, and unless kids realize why it’s bad on a moral level, on an ethical level, the temptation may be too great to take the short cut to get by, especially when things are stressed and time management is not always every kid’s strength.

To make it easier for all of you, including all the teachers out there, here are a few plagiarism checking site links to help you keep yourselves and your kinds honest:

Dustball Plagiarism Checker- analyzes text and provides possible links to suspicious passages.

Article Checker-best for news and academic articles, not as good for essays

PlagarismChecker.com- useful for teachers, authors and parents.  A brief check of an obvious plagiarized passage actually showed the same sentence coming up numerous times across the web, showing that the cut and paste mentality is alive and well.

Check for Plagiarism.net- This site is most useful in that it also has detailed explanations of the law and why plagiarism is wrong, and how it can ruin the reputation of people for years.  Using this material helped us hammer home how wrong these “short cuts” are, and how self-destructive this can be for people at any level of work.

by Whitney Hoffman

Photo graciously provided by quinn.anya, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

TV: Unplugged!

an electric socket emptyYes, folks, it’s the start of another term, and here at Chez Sheppard we (okay, *I*, the mean and unreasonable parent) have unplugged the TV for the duration of the school term.

O, the gnashing of teeth and wailing and rubbing ashes in hair!

So when the boys came home from school yesterday, they walked into the living room, sighed at the tasteful throw with which I have camouflaged the TV… and then we played cards, cooked, drew and coloured, talked about our days, and had a really nice evening.

We only got the TV a few months ago, and it really changed our lives. I found that the kids were less demanding, and I had more time for doing my stuff. When they looked for me, I said “Mmhmm, coming in a minute,” and at the end of the minute they had forgotten what they wanted me for and were watching ‘Top Gear’. We played together less. The boys played less board games. They also played outdoors MUCH less, and bickered more, and not just about what channel to watch!

I have to break the habit of going off into my room whenever they were watching TV. I have to give up my TV shows. I have to set an example by NOT being on the laptop when they are home. I have to entertain them, a little, until they detox from their TV-induced boredom. But now that they are back at school, they are going to be so busy most days that I don’t think this will be too much of a problem!

But so far, no TV = more play. I can live with that.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

by Nan Sheppard


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Photo graciously provided by Jake Mates, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

Bittersweet: The Holidays Are Over

a hand holding a pen writing in a bookI never thought I’d say this, but I might be overjoyed for the boys to be back at school.

Usually, we love our holidays. We skyve off school whenever possible during term time. We homeschooled for the better part of a year before we moved, and loved it.

Maybe it’s because the boys are getting older and more independent. Maybe the move means that we need new holiday traditions. Maybe having a TV for the first time has made us less inventive and more lazy. Maybe being responsible for my granny messed with my spontaneity, having to make sure she was taking her pills every day and worrying if I was away from home. Maybe I’m looking forward to getting back into MY life, my stuff. Child-free.

Maybe it’s a little of everything.

Part of me feels that we wasted the second half of the holiday. Part of me says, “Don’t be silly! Look at all the visitors you had, the stuff you did!” It WAS fun.

I AM sad that it’s over. I love to be with my kids. I will miss them, especially the older boys who have reached a new phase of independence and busy-ness.

I guess this is good practice for when they all leave home!

by Nan Sheppard


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Healthy Lunchboxes

bento box for lunch _ salad and veggie pattiesLunch boxes! Oh I know, they can be a bore! It’s easy to just throw some junk in there, anything your child will eat without complaining. But during term time, lunch box meals take up quite a chunk of your child’s overall food intake, so it’s best if they have healthy ones. And with some planning and creative shopping, you can put a balanced couple of snacks together.

Every child is different. Some kids will sit down and eat everything in one go, others tend to graze. By the time he starts school, you will know your child’s eating style and can produce a yummy lunchbox to suit him perfectly. (Though naturally, if you’ve got more than one child, they will like completely different things in their lunchbox. This is one of the sad facts of a parent’s life.)

In my … let me see … over NINE YEARS of packing lunchboxes, oh my goodness! I have pretty much become an expert. I know that sandwiches made the night before can become dry and yucky, but salads made the night before are fine. I know that sliced tomatoes in a sandwich get all soggy. I’ve learned that in hot weather, a frozen juice pack keeps everything cool and defrosts at exactly the right time for lunch in a lunchbox. And, I can pack a good one, fast.

Here are my family’s fave packed lunches:

*Sandwiches are still the hands-down, most convenient, most liked lunchbox food. Crusts on, crusts off, whole wheat, wrapped in a tortilla, stuffed in a pita, and a million different ingredients make these my personal saviours in the morning rush. Be sure that your sandwich contains some kind of protein, such as cheese or meat, or peanut butter if your school allows. Protein will keep a child going through the long afternoon, while carbohydrates on their own will fuel a crash-and-burn. I often use deli meats, which are high in unhealthy ingredients, but my youngest son Max loves them and his diet is generally healthy otherwise so I’ve decided it’s okay. If I roast a whole chicken, Max loves chicken sandwiches with mayonnaise and he’ll eat that for three days straight. Roast beef, which I cook in the slow-cooker, is also really popular in a cold sandwich the next day.

*Dips! Max loves the tiny packets of cream cheese, which turn a boring and not-very-nutritious pack of multigrain crisps into a treat. Many kids who shun vegetables will happily eat carrot sticks and cucumber with dip. You can make a simple nut-free hummus, using a blender and a can of chick peas with olive oil and added seasoning: a very healthy vegetarian alternative.

*Soup is a wonderfully warming treat when the weather gets colder. In a thermos, soup will stay hot all day. Again, blending the ingredients up will make a popular creamy feast. Use orange vegetables and yellow split peas to make a bright orange blended soup that will convince your kids that veggies are fun!

*Fruit is so convenient, and many kids love it. An apple, orange or container of grapes (or cherry tomatoes!) will fit easily into a lunchbox and there’s one of your important five-a-day!

*A handy snack: some schools allow kids to run outside at playtime with a snack in their hand. If your child is a grazer, make sure he’s got something that he can grab and go with. Easily eaten fruits like bananas are great, and cheeses such as string cheese. Your child will be more interested in playing than eating at this point, so it’s got to be quick and easy.

*One of my older kids loves hard-boiled eggs. I packed them with shells intact and he would peel them and eat them with gusto, sprinkling a pinch of salt from a tiny container. Now that he is out of primary school and he buys his lunch, he still likes to put a few hot hard-boiled eggs into his pockets, to warm his hands on the way to school on wintry mornings! Then he can eat them before class.

*Many kids love salads: ranging from the leafy variety to a simple pasta or potato mayo with tuna and sweetcorn, these can be made the night before and popped in the next morning. Don’t forget a spoon!

*Juice and/or water is vitally important. Even in cold weather, kids can be dehydrated by the end of the day. There may be water fountains at school, but if there’s a line many kids will not bother to drink there.

Some kids like to have the same things every day… others prefer variety. If you have been packing the same popular lunch for a while and suddenly it’s coming home uneaten, try changing things a little. And, while you are packing a healthy snack for your kids, why not make one for yourself too? If you’re working, you can take it with you, and if you’re at home you’ll have a healthy, quick and easy lunch ready to munch. Your kids will be thrilled that their snack is good enough for you… and, you’ll be setting a good, healthy-eating example. Win-win!

I bet you’ve got ideas too! Share what works for you in the ‘Comments’ section… we’re always happy for snack inspiration here!

by Nan Sheppard


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Photo graciously provided by aJ GAZMEN ツ GucciBeaR, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved