Resume Writing

As parents, we need income to sustain our growing families. We always dream of a better income in order to afford a better quality of life for our kids, and so we are driven to apply for better jobs. To get one, it all starts with our resume.

It’s a difficult task to write a successful resume and land that interview. I’ve had my fair share of sending one in and never hearing back. Luckily, I’ve also had my fair share of landing an interview, and they say that getting the interview is halfway to getting the job! So for the resume part, that’s half the work, it’s something to be taken seriously!

And it isn’t just the resume, as you’ll see, but it’s all the communication that takes place before an interview that you need to be prepared for. Let’s get started!

Job Search

I think there are two kinds of job searches. Searching for jobs that you have the education and/or experience for, and jobs that you wish you did – in other words, you are passionate about!

These two categories sometimes interlace and that’s the job that’s golden. The job that you are likely to be a good candidate for but also the job that you are excited about and driven to learn more to obtain it. Essentially, you have some of the qualifications but not all of them, so your skills and passion for learning come into play. You can always apply to any one of these three potential jobs, but you will need to alter your resume accordingly. Let’s move on!

Email Subject Line

I never write the email first, I always tackle the resume first. However, to understand how the employer first sees you and your potential skills, let’s look at it from their perspective.

The first thing they see will be the email subject line. I kind of equate this to how you dress for an interview. The first thing the potential employer will see is you. Before you even say hello to one another, they see your wardrobe and how you present yourself, if you are on time and if you come prepared.

Likewise, the email subject line is how professional you appear before you show off your skills and knowledge. The email subject line should be professional and to the point. You certainly don’t want to waste his or her time by making them guess what the email is about. If the job description gives details about how to reference the job, like a job number, use that. If not, still try to convey exactly what the point of your email is. Good examples are below.

Application for Job No. 12345 – Marnie Christensen

Application for Sales Associate – Marnie Christensen

Potential employers are busy folks, and if your email subject line is confusing or has a spelling error, they may not even open the email. The perfect subject line will entice them to open your email.

Email Content

The next piece the potential employer will see is the email itself. With this, it’s best to still stay direct and to the point, but you should elaborate a little as to why you are the ideal candidate. Essentially, as with the email subject line, you want to encourage the employer to take the next step and open your cover letter/resume. I equate the email content to your interview introduction. They now see you are prepared and ready for an interview, and with the proper introduction, you show them you are approachable, courteous, experienced and professional.

I start my email off by directing it to who it was intended for, such as “Dear Mr. Norman.”

If there was no contact listed in the job description, I address it as such, “Dear Hiring Manager.”

I specify as to which position I am interested in and why I believe I would be the ideal candidate. I refer to specific experience or knowledge that I posses or years in which I have worked in similar roles. The detail I use correlates to a very brief summary of what I’ve incorporated into my cover letter. I don’t go beyond two or three sentences as you don’t want them to search for information that should be readily available.

Lastly, I express that I would like to be invited for an interview to discuss my qualifications further. This gives them the opening and call to action to contact you. Be as precise as possible with your contact information, giving them at least an email address and phone number. You can list a couple of numbers to reach you but it’s best to only provide your cellphone to circumvent the risk of a family member answering a home phone.

Cover Letter

The cover letter is probably the most time consuming part of the process, but I think it’s the most telling part, so it’s well worth the time. It needs to be tailored to the specific position you are applying for and have relevant examples of your qualifications. I normally include five short paragraphs within.

Within the first paragraph I detail how many years of experience or education I have that is relevant, and three responsibilities directly from the job description that I have experience with or think that I have the skills to complete exceptionally well.

Within the three body paragraphs, I reference the three responsibilities I took directly from the job description and provide relevant details on my experience or education pertaining to them. I detail not only how I completed the responsibilities but how I excelled and adapted to the positions I had previously. If I have examples of how I managed projects, aided senior staff, or developed new and innovative ways of completing tasks, I certainly elaborate on those as they are great ways to impress your potential employer. A word to the wise, these three examples (or more or less, depending on your cover letter) detailed within your cover letter are likely to be the main topics of conversation during the real interview, so ensure you are prepared to discuss them at length in a sit-down atmosphere.

Lastly, the final paragraph should incorporate a very short summary of your cover letter, along with why the position speaks to you and what experience you want to build on, if applicable. End it with your appreciation of the potential employer’s time and consideration, and contact details. Your sincere thanks speaks volumes and shows the employer you are respectful and considerate.


The main event is your resume. It may well be that your potential employer skipped right over your cover letter to get the pertinent details fast if they are in a rush or received a surplus of applications. This means that you need to have a great summary of all your skills, experience, education, work experience, accomplishments, certificates, or any volunteer work right in one easy-to-read package.

I like to do this with tables within Word. My name is in a large font, centered at the top of the page. I organize my key experience within a couple of bullets or a very brief paragraph at the top, under my name, under the header “Professional Profile Highlights.” On the left side of this key experience, I’ve placed my contact details.

I also detail my most recent or relevant education and key words along the left side of my resume, under my contact details. These pop-out action words allow my reader to get a very fast impression of what I have to offer. The headers I use for these sections are called “Education” and “Professional Skills.”

To the right of my education and professional skills, I detail my “Relevant Work Experience.” I don’t list all of my work experience as not all of it pertains to the job I’m applying for. I use the experience that is most relevant as the employer may not have time to go through my entire history.

Lastly, I add a section for “Professional Projects and Accomplishments” and detail within any relevant projects I’ve completed on my own, any team projects I’ve been part of, any volunteer work, or any certificates that may be of interest.

I’ve moved away from listing my references within my resume as it’s not the norm now. Also, it gives the potential employer a reason to contact you prior to contacting anyone on your list (and gives you time to prepare your references!).

And that should do it!

Sending the Application

Before you send your application, ensure you are honest with your qualifications. There is no harm in embellishing your talents a bit but never be untruthful. It will be obvious in the interview setting and potentially hurt your chances of future employment. Also, ensure you proofread all of the details, from the subject line to the last line in your resume! If your application is one of hundreds, a spelling or grammatical error could be the one thing that moves your resume from the interview pile to the discard pile.

Measurable Success

All in all, those are the tips and tricks I use to apply for a job! As I mentioned, not all of my applications have been successful but I’ve been particularly lucky with the call backs I do get! I do hope these tips help you land that dream job and excel your family! Leave a note if you’d like to share some of your tips or stories – I’d love to hear them!

Winter Driving

Driving impacts us all, at any time of year, in any condition; however, it’s important to be extra vigilant during rough winter conditions because of the multitude of hazards that are present. I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to have never been in a serious motor vehicle accident, and hearing stories from my friends or on the news makes me ache for those that have. Therefore, I’ve decided to compile a list of do’s and don’ts regarding winter driving in the hopes that they may prevent an event of such occurring to anyone in our KARA family!

Stay Home on Really Rough Days

In Alberta, we see some of the roughest winter conditions in Canada. This is because our province is open to the north artic weather systems, allowing weather to change dramatically and suddenly. Alberta is also home to some of the most mindful safety policies, which stem from our economy and energy sector. To live in a province that often values safety above all else is very favourable, especially for families. Therefore, if weather conditions are judged to be too bad to drive, I caution you to only venture out when necessary and to judge the risks accordingly! The province of Alberta has developed a geographical mapping and alert system to allow you to get a good idea of the conditions before venturing out – check it out here or call 511 to get all the details you’ll need to assess the risks. Likewise, social media and your local news station will also provide you with critical information.

Know Your Vehicle

In bad driving conditions, I caution you to only drive a vehicle you are familiar with. Jumping behind the wheel of a large truck when you are only accustomed to a small car is not a great idea during hazardous conditions. The safest mode of transportation will be a vehicle you know and are comfortable with. You will be more accurate in judgements when you’re familiar with the vehicle, including proper braking and where to find window wipers and headlights.


Don’t rely on your daytime running lights as these don’t allow drivers behind you to see your taillights. Use your headlights even during the day.

Match your Speed to the Conditions

A friend of mine recently received a ticket – for driving the speed limit! Privately, I agreed with the law enforcement on this one. It’s true that she was obeying the limit set forth by engineers when designing the road, but those limits are for optimal conditions! When the weather is poor, roads are icy, and visibility reduced, you certainly cannot expect that matching the speed limit is a safe choice, no matter how good a driver you are! Rather, try matching the conditions of the road, and reduce your speed to accommodate the poor conditions. You will certainly be safer and avoid a ticket – haha!

Increase Your Distance

When driving in optimal conditions, the rule is to allow 2 to 3 seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you. This means that when the vehicle in front passes an object on the side of the road, at least 2 seconds should be complete before you pass it. In winter when conditions are icy, increase this time to 5 to 6 seconds. This will allow for more space between the two vehicles and more time for you to stop. This also applies to when you’re changing lanes – allow for extra time by putting your signal on a couple of seconds earlier.

Icy Pitfalls

In addition to increasing your distance, there are other tips to avoid icy pitfalls. These are to never use your cruise control, avoid speeding up or stopping on a hill, and avoid accelerating when coming up to a turn. Cruise control is meant for iceless conditions only. This is because your car cannot read the roads like you can. When cruise control is activated, it doesn’t maintain a perfect speed but rather slows and accelerates to maintain an average speed. If your car accelerates at the wrong time, like when on a hill or curve, you could easily spin out. By knowing your braking system and how it reacts to ice, you will be able to react in time to prevent this. Instead of speeding up on a hill, lightly speed up as you approach the hill and then maintain a speed when on it. Avoid stopping as your vehicle has the potential to slide backwards. Slow down when you come to a curve, maintain a speed, and proceed with caution.

Reduce Fog

Science is pretty neat and fog is no exception. The air all around us contains water in the form of a gas (moisture). Sometimes, the moisture can be released from the air and condense on items. What is needed for this to happen is a very specific temperature, a temperature known as the dew point. When the dew point for the amount of moisture in the air is reached, the moisture condenses – and condenses on anything! The mirror in your bathroom after a hot shower, grassy slopes or your front garden, and even particles in the air (clouds). It’s a wondrous thing!

But in winter conditions, when it’s fog inside your car that makes hazardous driving more hazardous, science can be dangerous. What has happened here is that humid air inside your car (likely from your erratic panting resulting from the disbelief of living in such a place) has come in contact with the cold windows, forming condensate on the glass. How to fix this? You have to remove one of the two conditions. You can reduce the amount of water in the air or heat up your windows. To reduce the moisture, turn on your climate control system (air flow). The dry air from outside will replace the moist air inside, even if doors and windows are closed. Secret vents within your car allow for this. When your climate control system eventually warms up, it will also produce warm air to warm the windows, working doubly in its efforts to keep you safe!

Be Prepared

Even for short trips, it’s always advisable to pack extra warm blankets, a first aid kit, a glass scraper, a flashlight, and a cell phone charger. You may also want to heed the advice of many and never travel on less than half a tank of gas. Having extra gas will allow you to run your car for short periods of time to keep you and your family warm while help is on the way. You can also charge your phone to contact emergency services for help. If you don’t have a phone, I’ve also been told that an old deactivated cellphone still has access to 911.

If you do get stuck in the snow, it’s important to remember these three things: stay with your vehicle, make yourself visible, and clear your exhaust pipe. Don’t ever venture away from your vehicle, it is your only source of protection in very cold conditions and it’s easier for emergency services to spot a vehicle than a person. Make the vehicle very visible by tying brightly coloured objects to the antenna. Lastly, and certainly most importantly, clear your exhaust pipe if it too got covered in snow. Deadly carbon monoxide can build up in the cab of the vehicle if the exhaust pipe is not clear.


In conclusion, I do hope this information will help you and your family reduce winter driving risks and prevent serious occurrences. For more solutions to winter driving challenges, check out the Government of Alberta website on winter driving guidance here.

Please be safe and stay warm out there!

New Year’s Resolutions for Families

Before starting a family (or when I had an extraordinarily young family), I used to practice New Year’s resolution trends like many younger and older adults! My resolutions were focused on myself of course, and always fixated on healthy or financially beneficial ideas. Now that my munchkins are older though, I’ve become accustomed to including them in my new resolution musings. When I decide to eat healthier, spend more time outside, exercise, or keep my life more organized, I inadvertently increase the benefits to them as well. A family shares the welfares of one another it seems!

This year though, my family is going to start a new resolution that was always meant to incorporate the whole! We did brainstorm together what the resolution would entail and many ideas cropped up during our family briefing: helping each other keep our rooms clean, going on more family outings, eating more chocolate (Polar Bear’s idea), and watching more dinosaur movies (Grizzly Bear) each made the list. We finally settled on a splendid idea that made everyone happy – Family Game Night!

And here’s why:

Quality Time

It’s true that quality time trumps quantity. With the busy life that twins parenthood, making time to spend together as a whole is very difficult. We are often multitasking when we do get together: my older son tells me about his day while I make supper, my younger son and I put a puzzle together while I keep scanning my emails on my phone, and my husband and I try to do things together but often do them apart, like walking the dog or going to the store (for the sake of convenience). Much of our time is eaten up with responsibilities – but fear not! Research has shown that quality time is much more beneficial to family life than the quantity!

Putting in a few hours of undivided, positive, and passionate time with your children has the greater potential to benefit them in their later years. A study published by the Journal of Marriage and Family indicated a very feeble connection exists between the amount of time parents spend with their children and their children’s emotional, academic, and behavioural development. Shockingly, the greater the time spent with children had little impact on them, and even affected them negatively if the parent was anxious, sleep-deprived, or stressed. However, the connection between quality time and positive development was very strong, indicating that children may flourish developmentally when the interactive parent is truly there (mind and body) with a positive and encouraging attitude. To check it out for yourself, click here.

Games for Preschoolers

So now that we’ve settled on a New Year’s resolution that has obvious benefits, what kinds of games are suitable for young children that can’t read? We were certainly not about to pull out Scrabble! But we did come up with some very promising games through a little more research and our own childhood reminiscing! Here are a couple of game ideas we came up with to get us started for our weekly game nights as a family:

· Twister – A game that’s extraordinarily active and full of funny positions is sure to make it to the top of the preschooler pile of fun nights! We received this game as a gift over the holidays and our boys just love it! It also gives them a chance to be in charge and increase their confidence as they can take a turn spinning the wheel and directing others! We played with all kids and adults alike and it was a hoot!

· Operation – A game of silly skills as you take turns playing doctor! This game is also a giant boost in the fine motor skills department as little ones are encouraged to pick up small objects with tweezers! This game is currently on the way to our house and I know it will bring all kinds of laughs!

· Jenga – Another unbeatable game when it comes to problem solving and fine motor skills! Jenga has all the pieces to give the family a laugh and I bet our kids will love it when we bust this one out later this year!

· Guess Who – This game involves some critical thinking as your child tries to guess which character card you are pretending to be! I believe this will be perfect for my older son as he tries to detect his way towards winning! We will also add this game to our weekly rotation when we get it!

· Bingo – My extended family introduced my children to this game a few weeks ago and they both love it! My older son is quite good at reading individual letters and numbers now and we hand-make personalized bingo cards (printed from Word) to help him maintain his skills. My younger son adores the bingo dabber and enjoys playing in teams so that he can continue to develop his skills as well! We also personalize his card with shapes to give him the winning edge!

· Perfection – We’ve had Perfection in the home for a little while now and it’s undoubtedly my younger son’s favourite game! It’s a more advanced and intricate shape sorter than baby toys and adds the fun as we all try to race time before it pops all the pieces back out at us! A great game for any budding child and devoted parent!

· Snakes and Ladders – Lastly, a final classic that is sure to be the first board game in any home. This timeless game of trying to race your opponents to the top helps kids learn to count and complete simple math while using dice. My older son loves this game and he is quite the little teacher as he tries to help his younger brother count too, leading by example when we show him! It’s a very inspiring evening when we play this game.

All of these games are sure to make our family quality time the best and most beneficial weekly activity we undertake for our young children and I hope these ideas benefit your families as well!

As Always, With You in Mind

I hope these game ideas inspire you and your family as they have mine. Please feel free to chime in with your favourite family games or New Year’s resolution! We can all use good ideas to keep our families happy and healthy!

And most of all, Happy New Year to you and yours!

Holiday Safety

Around this time of year, there’s plenty going on so it’s difficult to remember the importance of safety. With all the cheer being spread, the family coming to visit, and the little ones hopped-up on sweets, keeping safety safely in the back of your mind is vitally important for the sake of every family member. Here are a few scenarios that you may find yourself in this holiday season, and some important information you might find useful!

Stringing Holiday Lights

This holiday classic is sure to be on many families’ agendas around this time of year and it’s a particularly tricky one to master. It’s best to use an Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) approved ladder. To find the right type of ladder for the job and how to use it properly, click here.

Never string holiday lights while intoxicated. This can lead to some pretty serious falls and even worse consequences. Also, it’s best to work in pairs or have multiple hands around to help. You never know when you’ll need them!


This is an interesting and not so well-known fact about these pretty decorations – many of them are filled with antifreeze. This isn’t a problem if the globe is used properly, but if dropped and the glass breaks, not only are the glass shards dangerous, but the antifreeze wafts a tantalizing odour towards your pets. Indeed, antifreeze smells sweet to cats and dogs, and they will happily lumber over to lap it up but this chemical can have disastrous consequences. So please remember to keep both pets and children away if you find yourself part of a snowglobe cleanup crew!

Visiting Family Members

When family comes calling over the holidays, or you go visit other homes, be wary of the unknown. This could come in the form of baby gates, trick steps, cupboards of chemicals, or even off-limit areas. Everyone knows the hazards in their own homes but are less knowledgeable about the hazards in those of others’. To skip this hurdle, it’s best to show your guests around your house and make them aware of any unsuspecting dangers. Remind them that you have little ones and that certain areas are off-limits or certain precautions need to be addressed by everyone – like closing the baby gate!

Likewise, if going to someone else’s home, ask for the grand tour! Make sure to ask about exterior doors that can be opened by curious tots or chemicals that are easy to reach. Keep an eye on those loved ones!

Fire Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Around this colder time of year, we tend to increase the heat in our homes, running a furnace that has been out of action for some time. Carbon monoxide detectors help us identify this odourless, colourless gas and emit a high frequency noise to alert us in the event our furnaces aren’t operating properly.

Likewise, fire departments see an increase in home fires this time of year. These fires are often related to holiday lights, candles, and burning food! To avoid any fire-related mishaps this season, be certain to turn off stringed lights when not in use and blow out candles if not attended. As for burning your holiday feast, a truly unfortunate misfortune, you can keep a fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen (away from little fingers). As a last line of defense, and certainly an important one, ensure your fire alarms are working properly and change any batteries that need it!

Be certain that you have carbon monoxide detectors in all sleeping areas and a fire alarm on every level of your home, and that you test them to ensure they are working properly. If you don’t have them, or need help checking them, The City of Edmonton Fire Rescue Services provides and/or installs smoke alarms free of charge to homeowners in specific residential communities around the city. To learn more, click here.

Tree Decorating

This timeless tradition is a lovely addition to any holiday gathering! Be wary though, it can come with it’s own challenges as the glass ornaments can break if dropped or held too hard. My youngest son, Polar Bear, has a knack for choosing the most breakable objects to use for a game of toss. To prevent any mishaps this season, I put the classically delicate ornaments near the top of the tree and the stuffed-animal ones on the bottom half! Always a step ahead!

As if falling from a great height or igniting your home wasn’t enough, even the lights on a tree can pose problems – shocking ones! To prevent any electrical shocks associated with tree decorating, use strands of lights that are in good condition. Check for frays or shorted out cords and discard them. Never use more plugs than your outlet is approved for and never lay cords across doorways, stairs, or high-traffic areas. To avoid these dangers, I always put my tree in a corner next to an outlet and I only use one socket to prevent the octopus look that can be so dangerous.

And for added precaution, I also tie my tree to a banister or other stationary object to prevent it tipping over and landing on anyone (like the dog while she’s taking a midnight drink!).

Food Safety

Around the holidays, I tend to make too much food. My family has always quoted that it’s better to have too much food for guests than too little – and I’m afraid I’ve fallen into the trap of not having enough room in the fridge for leftovers! This can quickly spiral out of control and end with someone eating something that’s no longer safe to eat. To prevent this, I label any bags or containers that make their way into the fridge during the holidays. The label should always include the date the food was prepared or thawed. Always consume food within 4 days (2 days for ground beef) and discard any foods that have been in the fridge for longer. No one likes getting sick during the holidays and it can be quite dangerous for little ones or pregnant women.

Inappropriate Toys

Lastly, watch what your child(ren) receive over the holidays. You may have plenty of visitors and well-wishers come to your door and dote on your little ones – but not all people know the developmental stage your child is at. Watch for toys that have button batteries, are made of little parts, aren’t age appropriate, or are exceedingly delicate. My four year old son has asked, and asked, and asked Santa for a toy Nerf gun this year. Even though I’ve written to Santa numerous times on my child’s behalf to regretfully decline his request, Santa has approved this toy and I now wait in distress (my internal mental dilemma of wanting my child to be happy, yet safe). Therefore, I have conceded and am now prepping my child with talks on the dangers of guns and how this toy, approved for my four year old, must be kept well away from my two year old, whom it is not age appropriate. *Sigh*

Last Tidbits

 I do hope this short list of precautions helps you and your family prepare for the wondrous holiday season this year! Remember, it is always practical to be safe and take the extra time and thought to do things the safe way!

If you have any tips on holiday safety, please share them with your friendly KARA staff or neighbours. You never know who it could save!

Holidays in Edmonton

Now that the holiday season is well under way in Edmonton, I thought I’d share some ideas for family fun around the city. There are plenty of activities for little ones and grownups alike! I’ve included family entertainment from far and wide, as well as free activities you can choose closer to home. I like to think there’s a little bit of holiday spirit in each! I know my family and I have been looking forward to some of these all year long!

December 6 to December 29 – Festival of Lights

Prepare yourselves for an extraordinary light show this season with Zoominescence’s Festival of Lights at the Edmonton Valley Zoo! Artistic light installations within the unique setting of the Valley Zoo are sure to bring out the child in everyone who gets a glimpse! You’ll be so pleasantly surprised and spirited by the skating rink, maze, fire dancers, ice, light exhibits and 11 artist installations that you won’t be able to tear your eyes away! Enjoy this family event Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays from December 6 to 29, from 5 to 9 pm nightly! At only $8.50 for adults and $6 for children, it will be a dazzling deal and an event they’ll be talking about all winter long! My family and I can’t wait for this one! Check out more details here.

Saturday, December 14 – Old Fashioned Hay Rides

Did you miss your chance to see Santa in Old Strathcona? Have no fear! You’ll still be able to meet him and tell him how good you’ve been all year at the Marketplace at Callingwood! And this time, from 11 am to 3 pm on December 14, get your chance to enjoy a free horse-drawn wagon ride for the whole family! The Marketplace at Callingwood is a summer farmer’s market that will be reopening for this one-day special event in honour of Santa, so they ask you bring a non-perishable food donation to be kind to others as well! Check out more details here.

December Weekends – Numerous Holiday Adventures

If you wish to expand the holiday adventure, you should check out more hayrides, cookie decorating, holiday stories, petting zoo, choir carols, holiday crafts, and unique shopping at Heritage Park! It will be open Saturdays & Sundays, November 23 to December 22 from 9:30 am to 4 pm. Ticket prices range from $5.75 to $11, depending on the ages of attendees. I’ve visited Heritage Park with KARA a few times during the summer months and know how beautiful it is, so it’s sure to be even more glorious when glittering with snow! Check it out here.

Month of December – Festive Window Contest

I’ve always dreamed of a fun date night downtown on Christmas Eve like you see in the movies. And now’s my chance! Nearly 30 shops from 95 street to 111 street and 97 avenue to 105 avenue have dressed up their windows with lights, décor, trees, and candles to celebrate the season! I’ll be sure to put this date night idea on my wish list! Find out more here.

December through January – Enchanted Forests

I’ve recently learned there are a few elegantly decorated forests within Edmonton and surrounding communities that families can go see at no cost. A few sponsors have graciously decorated a few spots to highlight the holidays, check them out:

  • Dow Centennial Centre – 8700 84 Street
  • Shell Theatre – 8700 84 Street
  • City Hall – 10005 102 Street
  • Fort Saskatchewan Public Library – 10011 102 Street

I do believe my friends and family will get a kick out of touring them this season! Learn more here.

All Season Long – Tobogganing

Certainly one of the best holiday past-times and my family’s favourite holiday activity; tobogganing! The City of Edmonton has created a list of what I believe are the best and safest tobogganing hills in the Edmonton area. They’ve also done their best to give families tips on how to make tobaggning as safe as possible. Enjoy this activity with your loved ones all winter long, as it’s one of the best ways to spend a cool, sunny day! Find the best hills here.

Continuing through the Winter – Ice Castles

The ultimate winter wonderland, the ice castles of Hawrelak Park, is certainly one of the most astonishing activities on our family holiday list of things to do this season. I know my boys won’t recall the last time we visited these extraordinary sights but I’m sure they will this year! Additionally, if your child (or you) is a fan of the Narnia Chronicles, I believe this will be the inspiration of the castles this year! I hope you and your family get to enjoy them too! Presale tickets are roughly $15 and children 3 and under are free! Check out the details here.

That’s All Folks!

Well, I hope my family’s list of holiday activities has given yours some ideas for the upcoming season! As always, please share your adventures with me and ideas with the KARA family! We would love to find more holiday escapades and enjoy the season together!

Little Haircuts

I’ve always been a whiz at cutting hair. I’ve cut my own hair and both of my sisters’ since before I can remember. But it was always long hair which I’d practiced with! As I became the mom of two kids with short hair preferences, I had to learn some new tricks! I do consider myself pretty proficient at both types of styles now, so I’d like to share some tips with you!

The Gadgets

You really don’t need much in the way of supplies when cutting kids hair. Sure, if you have a very sophisticated child or chic little one, you might spring for fancy hair products or high-quality trimmers, but I find I can get away with very little, which helps with my family budget! When I cut long hair, I usually only need a spray bottle with water, a brush, a comb, clips, and a pair of hair-cutting scissors. For short hair, I really only need the same gadgets but also a trimmer thrown in.

A little on the trimmer – my husband has a massive trimmer that plugs into the wall. It’s heavy and, when turned on, I can barely hold on to it. For the littler men in the house, I purchased (and prefer) a pint sized beard and mustache trimmer. It’s much smaller, and less powerful, making hair cutting a lot easier and safer! Walmart sells these small trimmers for less than $20!

Setup For Success

As with anything to do with munchkins, it’s best to be prepared beforehand. I do this by leading my child up to the process. For older ones used to the practice, this isn’t really necessary, but for those little ones with big curiosities, this really helps make everything run smooth (well, smoother!).

Do this by letting your child help with setup and explain what you’re going to do before you do it. Let them get the towel that will be wrapped around their neck, and the spray bottle that will be used to dampen the hair. Don’t let them handle the scissors or trimmer though!

For little-little ones, a big plate of food in front of them also helps alleviate stress and keep them sitting still (well, stiller!).

When all is prepped and ready, invite your child to sit on a stool (or sideways on a chair) and wrap a towel around their neck to protect their clothing. I use a hairclip to secure the towel so it can be easily removed if needed. If you are completing any haircutting on a carpeted surface, I suggest also laying a towel on the floor. Haircutting is my forte, vacuuming is my nemesis.

Long Hair

I’ve been cutting long hair for well over a decade. I cut my own, plus any family member that feels brave enough to let me have a go. I’ve made mistakes but have learned from them. I also have some unconventional habits that could make any professional hairdresser cringe with shock! But each hairdo I’ve mastered in the last decade is now a work of art and I’m proud of each one! I’m also particularly proud of choosing the right style for the right hair type. For instance, if your child has fine hair, I would suggest the straight across look. The blunt cut contrast with fine hair is a real showstopper. If the hair is thicker, I like the layered look to pull the weight off and give it more bounce. So here we go!

Long Hair – Straight Across

Many parents prefer this elegant and timeless cut for their children, and I do too! It’s very classy and innocent, not to mention – easy to do!

What you will need for this haircut is a lot of water. It actually helps to have the hair wet to completely soaked. You will then part the hair in the middle and brush it until it’s tangle-free. Bring all the hair to the back and ask your child to sit-up straight so that the hair is hanging as freely as possible and not curved over the shoulders. You can then assess the shortest hair and use that as a guide to cut the hair straight across, or, you may want to pick a shorter length than what’s already there. Throughout the cutting process, the hair will move and the duller your scissors are, the more it will move. Fix this by constantly brushing the hair straight and reassessing.

Once the hair looks to be all one length from the back, part the hair in the middle down your child’s head to the neck, and bring equal portions to the front. As hair growing in the front, near your child’s face was cut to the length of the hair growing in the back, it will now appear longer when brought to the front. Fix this by brushing your child’s front hair over the eyes (not the nose!) and make it as free-falling as possible. Cut straight across using the hair from the back (which is the shortest now) as a guide. This guide helps you attain as straight a haircut as possible!

Long Hair – Layered

This cut is simply chic and carefree looking! I have always completed this haircut on myself, and, as a result of no proper training or guide, have come up with my own tricks for attaining natural-looking layered hair. I do hope there are no hairdressers reading this as I’m sure it’s not the recommended way!

What I do, and I’m sure it’s to be hummed and hawed about, is I cut this style while dry. I do not use any water to hold the hair in place. I find it’s harder to see what the style will look like when wet, so I get a carefree look with a carefree method! Good grief?

Part the dry hair in the middle or on the side, and brush it all to the back. I find where the hair is naturally parted works best. Now, you will section the hair and cut the longest layer first, and the shortest layer last. Put the would-be shorter hair up in a clip on top of your child’s head. The bottommost layer should be ready for cutting. I like to start in the middle but it’s just a preference. I do this to get more of a waterfall look, starting with the longest cut first. Take a small section of the hair and cut it in a slightly slanted (angular-to-triangular) shape – I’m certain real hairdressers’ eyes are popping out of their heads as they read this! Continue with each section, making the hair appear naturally layered with uneven cuts throughout. Be sure not to go too deep with any of the cuts as the natural look will be lost. Once a section is complete, take another down and cut in the same fashion until all of the sections are done. Each section of the hair should be cut just slightly shorter than the one underneath. Again, any major differences in length will take away from the natural look. The haircut should be as blended looking as possible.

Lastly, bring the hair to the front and angular-to-triangular cut the front pieces to the desired length. I like to cut them to just past the jawline to give the face a sweetheart shape. Voila!

Short Hair

Now, cutting short hair has been new to me, and I’ve since had to learn two different cuts. As every face shape looks different in the same cut, I had two different cuts to master, because I have two differently shaped kids! I’ve always found the short sides with the long top (crew cut) looked good on long-faced men, while a blended one looked great on round-faced men. I have had 4 years of practice with the crew cut and 2 years with the blended. I am by no means a master, and the barber has always done a better job. However, the more I practice, the better my kids look! Not to mention, I also save money and have these memories to share and cherish with my kids!

Short Hair – Crew Cut

The easier cut of the two, the crew cut is striking and manly. It gives your child the appearance of being older and hip. I’ve found kids particularly like the crew cuts with a deep side part, like my Grizzly Bear, or a razor cut down the side to give them an edge on the precarious playground. Watch out for these cool youngsters!

Contrary to cutting long hair, short hair is best started with the shortest layer. This is where the trimmer comes into play. I like to start off with the most medium length attachment and work my way from one sideburn around the back to the other sideburn, staying as close to the nape of the neck as possible. I do this to avoid diving in, cutting off too much too soon, as once the hair is cut, you can’t turn back time. Not to mention, with short hair, nothing can be hidden. So, if I’m happy with the length and my child is comfortable, I continue to use the trimmer up the sides, switching to the longest attachment nearer to the top. Do not use the trimmer past the portion of the head where sides turn to top. If you imagine a square, the sides of the square should be trimmed, while the surface of the square should be left for the scissors (longest hair). It also helps to wet the hair on the top of the head and brush it to the front, over your child’s face, out of the way.

Once this initial step is complete, I use the shortest attachment of the trimmer to clean up the areas where the hair should be shortest. A barber would likely razor these portions away, like the neck and around the ears. As my kids are small and unpredictable, I stick to the trimmer.

The trimmer can be stored away now. Use the spray bottle to rewet the hair and brush it down onto the forehead. Use the scissors to cut a straight line through the bangs in the middle of the forehead. It does not have to be perfect as this is not where the hair will sit when styled. Then, starting at the back, take sections of the hair with your fingers and, using two or three finger widths from the child’s head to the scissors, cut the hair in rough motions (rough as in carefree, not rough for your child to sit through!). Continue until you reach the front (which should be minimal to cut as it’s already been cut from the forehead guide).

Lastly, I like to style my child’s hair with my personal mommy products, like mouse or styling balm. My Grizzly Bear feels very special when I do this and always takes a running leap to check himself out in the mirror!

Short Hair – Blended Cut

The blended cut is your more traditional cut with a fuller, more voluminous look. It sparks a more natural look, yet it’s eye-catching. The blended cut was the trickier of the two short styles to master, and here’s why: I needed to perfect my use with a comb. My youngest son, Polar Bear, has a round head, and this style looks simply marvelous on him, but it took quite a bit of practice as I barely use a comb on my long hair.

Start out with the trimmer as you would with the crew cut. Make your way around the head and the nape of the neck with the most medium sized attachment. Now, rather than going straight up with the trimmer (as you would with the sides of a square), instead, switch to the comb. If your child’s hair is particularly grown out, use the longest attachment to get rid of some of the weight but try to leave it long enough to pull a comb through it. Take all attachments off of the trimmer and use the comb as the guide. The comb is now a manual attachment for the trimmer, and you are selecting the length based on the area of the head you are trimming. I like to make the hair shorter near my child’s face and longest on top of his head. You are using the comb now as a means to keep the hair long enough to make it appear blended from the top to the base (much more like a circle now than a square). I still use the scissors to do the top of the head where the hair is longest. However, if you are feeling particularly skilled, you can use the comb to do this too, just pull it out to the length you want!

I also clean up some areas with the shortest attachment and style using mommy products! It makes him giggle and feel like a big boy!


The final act is the cleanup. If completed with towels in place, it’s fairly easy to through them into the wash. Otherwise, ask your little ones, with their cool hairdos and big smiles to give you a hand! Although, this may prove more of a mess than it was a minute beforehand. It’s the parenthood way though!

If you have tips and tricks for hairstyles (or feel the need to scold my unprofessional haircutting habits), please feel free to leave a note! I’d love to hear about what worked and what didn’t, or trade secrets of the haircutting business!

Spooky Halloween Crafts

How to have a great All Hallows’ Eve on a budget! This year, I’ve learned my two boys are starting to really get into the spirits’ spirit and asking for ever more creepy decorations around the house! I’ve done the usual paper plate and cotton ball decorations but want to really up my game on decorating the front porch. How can this be done on a budget? And with little time (as I seem to lack this too)!

Those inflatable creatures and light shows on my neighbours’ lawns are simply amazing! But, if I want to afford Christmas this year, I had to get creative with help from my family! And I’d love to share my spooky trash upcycling secrets with you!

The Halloween Pom-poms

This one was a craft I stumbled upon many months ago when I was prepping for my sister’s wedding. In order to decorate my house to be fit for a bride, I found white tissue paper pom-poms made my house look elegant and striking. For Halloween, I made the same pom-poms but using black and orange tissue paper – and it looked ghastly!

Here’s how:

  • Take five pieces of tissue paper, stacked one on top of the other, and fold them over like a fan or accordion.
  • Wrap wire around the centre of the fan, tying it tight (I used floral wire because of the abundance I currently find around the house now but you can also use pipe cleaner).
  • Gently pull the tissue away from the tips and into the centre, in all directions, until it looks like a large tissue ball.
  • Hang it from the trees outside – this is a great part to do with your kids!

The Ghastly Ghosts

As I stopped at the store last weekend, I was shocked that there were no pumpkins left to be carved! The shortage wasn’t going to slow me down though, I thought, so I grabbed a couple of 4 litre jugs of milk instead.

Why? To make a few ghoulie ghosts for my own front steps. Here’s how:

  • Empty the jugs into another refrigerable container and store for breakfast cereal.
  • Wash out the containers and cut a small hole in the bottom of each.
  • Let your kids draw some spooky or silly faces on the milk jugs with black sharpies – don’t forget to colour them in!
  • Plug in a strand of Christmas lights, preferably white, and creep them down your front steps, bunching them up in the spots the ghosts will sit.
  • Put the ghosts on top of the bunched up lights, ensuring the lights are within the holes cut in the bottom.
  • Alternatively, if you’ve got a good ladder and kids that listen remarkably well, you can also hang the lights and use tape to keep the lights within the ghosts so that they are actually flying.

The Sinister Spider

This one might give grandma palpitations – it’s not for the faint hearted – but my kids loved it!

For my sister’s wedding, I strung up a ton of wedding bells in the centre of my room (this was where the bridesmaids were doing hair and makeup morning of). Then I strung streamers from the centre of the ceiling to the walls. To all the ladies, it looked beautiful, but to my four-year old son, it “looks like a spider web.”

Which gave me an idea.

  • Fill one black garbage bag with leaves or anything else soft and filling. Tie it shut.
  • Tape or tie the garbage bag slightly off-centre so that there is a large section, which will be the abdomen, and a small section, which is the head.
  • Take a second black garbage bag and cut it lengthwise into eight pieces so that you have eight long legs.
  • Tape or tie the spider together and then to the front porch banisters or to a tree.
  • Use white streamers to make a web around the spider.
  • You can also add eyes using construction paper – my son found that red was the creepiest.

The Eerie Witch

This is a craft my parents have done a few times in their front yard. It helps if you have a creepy large cauldron full of candy. One year, my brother hid in the cauldron and jumped out when approached. He nearly froze his toes off so I don’t recommend that part.

But do try this eerie, faceless balloon witch! She’s (nearly) priceless! Here’s how:

  • Blow up a green balloon and tie it closed.
  • Get a black garbage bag and slit it on one side so you could wear it like a cape.
  • Put it over the balloon like a hood and tie or tape it to the tied part of the balloon. The green balloon should look like a face with a black hood and a black, flowy cloak.
  • Make a witch’s hat out of construction paper by making a cone out of black construction paper and stapling or taping it together. Take a second piece of black construction paper and cut out a large circle (don’t cut out the inside circle where a normal head would fit because our balloon witch can’t hold on to her hat if the wind picks up). Instead, just tape the cone to the centre of the circle, and the centre of the circle to the witch’s head.
  • Hang the witch up using fishing line or another type of string and tying her to an overhanging tree branch or soffit.
  • Watch her sway unnervingly in the breeze.

The Haunting Howls

Lastly, the most effective and least costly idea – sounds to accompany the sights.

I like to play fun Halloween songs in the house for the kids, namely The Monster Mash, The Purple People Eater, and I Put a Spell on You, among others. It gives the spirit of Halloween an extra kooky theme with dancing and sing-along fun! My siblings and I loved all of these songs growing up and now, so do my kids!

However, if you are looking to really spook some older kids or want an extra unearthly edge over your neighbours’ Halloween displays, nothing compares to werewolf sound effects! Just ensure your neighbours don’t mind the hair-raising vocalizations!

Happy Halloween!

As always, I hope you and your family have a safe and fun holiday! Don’t forget to dress everyone in extra winter gear to stay warm and wear reflective garments to be seen in the dark. If you need reminders or tips on how to stay safe, please check out last year’s Halloween blog here!

Have a FANGTASTIC Halloween!

Beauty Tips for Rushed Moms

As I write this blog on rushed parenthood, I am even now multitasking. Halfway between sentences and thoughts, I am busily trying to eat a meal before it gets cold and helping my child remember the words to his favourite Christmas jingle.

As I’m sure you would agree, the early years of parenthood have sparse moments for a hot shower. Where does one find time to make themselves presentable for company or for work each day? After a few years of the practiced art of making myself smell more like a flower and less like a diaper, I am ready to share a few hot tips, most of which, conveniently enough, fit easily into my bathroom cupboard!

Tip One – Showering Timeline

Shower the night before. For those of us with longer, thicker hair, blow drying is not an option anymore. That super amazing windswept, voluminous hair is still achievable, but not in the time department. Instead, after doing your do to your slept-on hair, use hair spray and run your finger through your hair to give it that tousled look. This works best if you lift your hair in sections, spray each section in a fluid motion, then flip your lid upside down to let it dry. You may want to brush the ends with a soft brush after though, but let your roots remain bouncy with just adjustments from your fingers.

Tip Two – Three Day Hair

If you do find yourself with enough time to shower and blow-dry the day of, use dry shampoo right after the hair is set. I noticed this when my sister used dry shampoo as a hair thickener when practicing for her wedding. Once she had curled the hair, she used the dry shampoo to give it bounce. I did the same and was amazed that my style lasted for days longer than when I use dry shampoo on dirty hair. It basically kept my hair in perfect condition for three days without needing to reapply.

Tip Three – Multi-use Products

I’m not sure how many moms are as resourceful as I am (or as plucky), but I did end up trying to use baby wipes as make-up remover – and it worked! I was cringing, waiting for my eyes to hurt or for my face to break out days later, but it didn’t! If you find yourself budgeting, use baby wipes in lieu of expensive makeup remover pads. They’ll save you time and money!

Another multi-use item I actually found before my mommy experiences is baby powder as a hair product. Because dry shampoo can run in the pricier range at the local store, and since we are all in the baby section at one point or another anyway, you can use baby powder as dry shampoo! Baby powder will work the same way as dry shampoo – it gives you volume and wicks away moisture. It’s also vastly cheaper. The only downside is that you and your child will now smell like you bathed together!

Tip Four – Bathroom Breakfast

This one was scary the first time I tried it but I haven’t turned back! Set up a breakfast table in your bathroom. Your kids can dine while you beautify! I grabbed one of those little plastic table and chair combos off Kijiji and set up a little nook for the kids. They usually watch me while I get pretty and I can keep an eye on who is trying to feed the dog avocado.

This even helps me in the food department because I can usually whip around and finish their leftovers before running out the door, saving food and money as I don’t have to grab take-out on my way to work anymore!

Tip Five – Waterproof Ways

Get waterproof mascara and eyeliner. I used to hate waterproof makeup because it didn’t come off easily. Now, I find the longer it lasts, the more time I have for other things. Plus, my purse is just too full of toys and extra pull-ups to be karting around my makeup bag anymore. Makeup that doesn’t run also helps us moms look like we got the sleep we so badly need, hiding any bags and puffy lids.

Tip Six – Moisturizing Regiment

Use coconut oil before bed. I use this on my kids and myself. It helps keep skin moisturized and hair soft. I usually do a deep cleanse on a weekend night as I have to wash it out of my hair the next day but it keeps the body looking young and smelling great!

Tip Seven – The Timeless Updos

Master an elegant or professional updo. Some days, no matter how nice you are to it, your hair just won’t cooperate. I’ve mastered two different styles to help with this unfortunate, but common scenario. I usually try the low, elegant bun first to give myself a young-beauty appearance. For this, try giving yourself a deep side part, swooping your hair into a ball at the base of your neck, and then pulling slightly on pieces to give it more volume.

If I’ve slept in a funny position and my hair just won’t heed my warnings of threatened scissor action, I then try a professional topknot. This is always easiest when using a hair donut, which can even be found at the dollar store. Put your hair in a high ponytail, then pull the tail through the donut, then swoop and pin the tail into place around it. This style nearly always works, especially if you’ve got a stylish headband to hold back any strays.

Tip Eight – Dental Dedication

Never forgo the dentist. I always have trouble finding the will to make a dental appointment. Luckily, I’ve found a dentist that will do it for me! She took my phone number (rather too willingly), and has proceeded to remind me every couple of months or so of when I’ll need to rebook. I know she has my family’s best interest at heart too because she always accommodates a full family appointment. My sons get their checkups and fluoride applications and I get a regular cleaning. I know it should be more about dental health than a beauty regiment, but I just can’t help grinning when I look in the mirror after a dental trip.

Tip Nine – Posture Makes Perfect

Practice good posture. I work in an office, sitting in one position all day. I have put myself through extensive ergonomic training, which has helped me stay healthy but it’s also helped my appearance as well. Nothing looks better or more professional than someone confident, and with confidence comes posture.

Tip Ten – Embrace Yourself

Probably my biggest money-saving and time-reducing tip is embracing your natural look. It took me years to accomplish this (and I’m still getting the hang of it). I used to always dye my hair and buy makeup that would make me look like I was a natural… well anything but red. Lately, since becoming a Mom, I’ve grown out my red hair. To my surprise (although I’m still not a fan of the colour), I’ve grown to really like the soft texture that accompanies natural hair. Embracing a part of myself that usually takes a thousand bucks a year to cover up really made a difference in my routine and personal nature. Not to mention I enjoy the cost savings!

The Skinny on Beauty Tips

Now that I’ve tried many beautifying tips for Moms on the go, even unconventional ones, I’m glad I was able to share the ones that worked! Beauty tips can be little things that you found saved the day at least once or monumental epiphanies about your own lifestyle; they all help give us the confidence boost while simultaneously being there for our families. So, you do you, and let me know your tips – because I can always use more too!

Magical Music

I’ve always known that I wanted musical children. I always dreamed of learning a few instruments myself. So when the day came that I was bringing my son to his first piano lesson, I was a little crushed when he wasn’t ready for the program.

I contacted the music teacher and asked if she would take on a 4 year old. She was very hesitant to say yes over the phone and instead, suggested an interview. We made an appointment, arrived on time, and proceeded to answer questions about our knowledge and understanding of music. My son was a superstar throughout the interview – he answered all of the questions spectacularly and his personality shone bright as he exuded confidence and understanding. Unfortunately, he didn’t answer one question right; what letter “E” was when it was drawn on the piano key. From that, the pianist let me know that he was going to be an extraordinary musician, but not for a few months yet. She gave me some homework to do with my son and let me know to come back when we were ready.

The Importance of Music

The research shows that music is an extremely beneficial skill to pick up as a child as it helps with childhood development in ways not fully understood and are still being uncovered. A study done by the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California indicated that early music instruction accelerates brain development in the areas associated with processing sound, language development, speech perception, and reading skills. The study was five years in length, starting to 2012, and looked at children ages 6 and 7 just learning to play the violin. The neuroscientists used MRI scans to monitor changes within the brain, EEGs to track electrical activity in the brain, and behavioural tests. They compared the violin students to groups of kids playing soccer or not participating in any extracurricular activity. Within two years, the results started to show that the auditory systems, the system responsible for the development of language and reading, was greatly accelerated in the children learning to play the violin in comparison to others. To read more on this study, click here.

If that wasn’t enough, could you imagine the added benefit of dancing to music? Gross motor skills and social skills built during dancing also play into the mix! According to the North Vancouver Recreation Centre, dancing, in combination with music, engages the brain through patterns, helps cultivate communication skills, boosts self-esteem and physical skills, and promotes creativity (see here). So there’s a lot to be said for having a musician in the family!

Adopting Music into Your Home

After all of those benefits, it’s easy to see why music should be in the lives of all budding families. But how do we incorporate it into our routines?

As a new Mom, music and dancing were more instinctual for me than they are now. When I had a cranky baby, I would bounce them along in a little dance while I hummed my favourite tune. I also started singing songs that my parents sang to me. This would be my way of calming my children, but now that they no longer need to be bounced to sleep, I seem to have moved away from the music, and ushered in the age of sports and science.

Music is everywhere though. Theatre, movies, holidays, religion, celebrations, and even in books, music can be found. However, if you are finding it hard to find it, or want more musical activities for your young children, try these out! I’ve also included ideas for those looking to increase musical toys in the home!

Infants and Melodies

Infants can recognize the melody of a song, even if they don’t know the words. They enjoy simple, calm music and especially those sung by close family members. I sang songs about getting dressed, changing a diaper, eating yummy green food, or going to grandma’s house to my children to soothe them. It also helped reiterate positive emotions for good behaviours – particularly eating green food! Avoid loud music and music with harsh rhythm.

Know a little baby that could use some music in their life? Try this beaded raindrop toy. It’s great for gross motor skills and problem-solving too! Find it here.

Toddlers and Tunes

My boys, after learning to moves around a bit more, loved to dance! Their “moves” certainly weren’t graceful or nimble, but they could memorize and repeat motions. They could also try toy instruments like drums and shakers. Find fun songs with a little bounce in them, like “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “The Ants Go Marching,” or my sons’ ultimate favourite, “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” and let your child play an instrument or clap along throughout.

My toddler absolutely loves his Fisher Price cassette player! It comes with lots of music on both sides of the cassette and we can even record and playback our own tunes! Click here.

Preschoolers and Notes

My preschoolers is an enthusiastic musician. He can dance, sing, and has acquired a sensible side of confidence. He is eager to learn new songs and pick up new instruments. Although not ready for the professional level quite yet, I can tell he is going to knock ‘em out at those future Christmas recitals. To help stimulate his love of music, I now incorporate dance routines, funny songs, finger plays, and nonsense rhymes into songs he already knows to mix things up. For instance, I will sing a song he loves, but instead of singing the correct words, I will add something funny, like “Old MacDonald had a spider.” He catches on really quick and it keeps his brain moving. We can also now do Patty Cake with the hand movements and add snapping our fingers to cool songs.

I am getting him a giant floor piano mat for Christmas to help him learn the names of the piano keys easier and with a dash of fun. If you feel the impulse to get this for your child, the piano instructor we saw advised us to get one that looks like a piano and has the keys in the correct spots, like this one.

Kindergarteners and Chords

Have a little one in school already? These not so tiny tots are ready for the big leagues with musical education, real instruments, and intricate sing-alongs. Try incorporating songs into everyday teachings and everyday teachings into songs. Like counting, spelling, and recalling sequences of stories. Kids this age may also start expressing their likes and dislikes in musical taste, and may prefer to play or sing certain genres. Keep informed of your child’s progress in music class and practice their homework with them. They love to play for parents!

When my munchkins get to this stage, I hope they will tell me which instrument they want to pick up! I do pray it’s the beautiful and melodic piano but one can only hope!

More on Music

If you’re interested in introducing or increasing the music exposure outside the home, try KARA’s Rhymes That Bind program or, coincidently, the Castledowns Public Library also holds Baby Laptime and Family Story Time that also incorporate music into the mix!

In the words of Beethoven, music can change the world. So get out there!

Kindergarten Hunting

As another school year starts, I’ve come to the exciting realization that my eldest is due to start kindergarten next year! I was able to determine his age appropriateness by referring to the Edmonton Public Schools’ website and check out their Kindergarten Registration page here.

So, this week I thought I’d talk about my experiences so far in finding the right school for my children! First off, there are three (and maybe more) choices: private schools, charter schools, and public schools. Then there are the different kinds of each of those! You can register your children in immersion schools, where they learn different languages; you can look at different extracurricular activities or advanced programs; there are separate schools, where classes are all girls or all boys; and you have the choice of different religions or no religion schools. On top of that, as if it wasn’t confusing enough, you can decide on how much time they spend away from home from boarding schools to homeschooled – the choice is yours – and it’s a big one!

Here is a little breakdown of the three main kinds and those that are most easily available:

Private Schools – There are around 180 private schools in Alberta. Most private schools are not funded by the Ministry of Education and parents are required to pay for their child’s education. The reviews of private schools and education foundations are outstanding. The price per year for a child in a private school can run between $7,000 and $18,000 (during my searches). Find more information here and look up schools here.

Charter Schools – Alberta has 13 charter schools, most of which reside in Edmonton and Calgary. Charter schools sit in the middle of private and public. They are non-profit schools, meaning that they are like public schools, and are tuition-free, and they provide high-quality education. The catch with charter schools is that they are hard to enrol in. They rely mostly on a lottery system where you register and hope they pick your name. Additionally, if one of your children is chosen, it isn’t a guarantee that the other will be. To find more information, click here and look up schools here.

Public Schools – All public schools are funded by the Ministry of Education (taxes). They usually only require an administration fee, transportation fee, and school supplies. When I looked at the difference between daycare costs and these types of schools, my piggy bank did a happy dance! However, depending on where you live, class sizes of public schools can be very large and the facilities may be run-down from overuse and lack of adequate financing. Another downside is that you can’t simply “choose” your school if living in a large community. Chances are, there will be districts (based on addresses) and, depending on your district, your child may have no choices in the public school they attend. You will need proof of where you live (driver’s licence will suffice) to enrol your child. Find your designated school here.

In addition to these resources, I’ve also been relying a lot on school rankings by grades from the Fraser Institute. This is a nice way to check that the school you’ve fallen in love with consistently achieves high rankings in comparison to others. Check it out here.

Decisions about where your child goes to school are sometimes very personal and can be difficult. It’s common and normal for parents to feel anxious about getting this decision right. These decisions depend on where you live, your personal values, your child’s needs, school-specific factors, religion, and more. When you’re choosing an elementary school (like me), it’s also important to consider things like before-school and after-school care, and proximity to the day-home for any younger children still requiring care.

For some parents, the decision isn’t simple. Mine certainly wasn’t!

My husband and I have determined that the public school system will be a feasible, and still wonderful, option. As we have two children, charter schools were not for us, as we wanted them to stick together. Private schools are not feasible for us (unless I’m holding the winning lottery ticket).

But which public school? Going through our current interests and requirements helped us further determine which one was for us. Our youngest will still be attending the dayhome full-time, so proximity and commute are important factors. There’s nothing like the whirlwind that is our current morning schedule, and minimizing any further stress is very important. Both my husband and I attended immersion schools, me in French and he in Aboriginal, so that was a key interest of ours. We also have two very active youngsters that enjoy the outdoors and sports, so after-school extracurriculars were important too. We also needed to fixate on drop-off and pick-up times as we are both working. To accommodate this, you might consider sharing the load with your spouse. For example, many parents take the morning shift while the other spouse goes to work. The other spouse can then leave work early to pick up the kids and handle the afternoon shift. Many companies are becoming more flexible to accommodate two working parents and this option is very economical and stress-relieving.

So, to what we decided! We are very much looking at a French immersion daycare that is accredited as a public school kindergarten. I am uneasy splitting my youngsters up and when I found this co-preschool-kindergarten option, I was very relieved! As both kids will be in the same building, in different classes, the pick-up/drop-off will be easier, plus both will be with youngsters of their own ages and be learning the approved Alberta curriculum. The costs of daycares exceeded our reach in the past, but because this is a publicly funded school, the costs for my kinder-aged child are low. As it is a daycare, and not a public school, districts are not an issue at the moment (although this daycare is right around the corner too!). We believe that, after the months of research, our efforts have paid off with finding this gem!

We hope you and your family have success in finding the right educational fit for your family too! Whether it’s homeschool, public, charter, private or other (boarding schools sound the best during rough mornings!). Please feel free to share your inputs or other resources with the KARA online family!

Happy School Hunting!