Friday, November 16, 2012

Our experience with multilingualkids.ca

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  • Subject: Foreign language classes for kids
  • Discount offer: Save $10 each when referring a friend or being referred the first time. Let me be your first friend that refers you to this program.
  • Rating: highly recommended

OUR EXPERIENCE:
We signed up for fall 2012 French classes, that we’re still attending at the time I’m writing this. Our older daughter is three, so she belongs to the Chats (Kittens) class.

THE CLASSES
Our lessons take place in the basement of Type book store on Queen St W, across from the Trinity Bellwoods Park. The environment is cozy – they put a carpet on the floor just for this, kids take of their shoes and sit around the teacher. The teacher takes out different toys and games and speaks French to kids right of the bat. Parents can join the kids on the floor or sit on chairs next to walls.

I can honestly say that everything is great about this class. The classes happen once a week, for 45 minutes. In terms of the material covered, for our age group, kids do numbers, colours, animals, saying their name and age, and similar stuff. From what I can tell, all the kids seem to enjoy the little games they do. Each task never lasts too long for them to get bored. Learning is integrated with fun songs and games. The teacher insists on every kid repeating the word so that it sticks. I must admit she has patience made of steel and a very sweet smile, no matter what the kids do. And the class size is just right (4-5 kids currently in our class).

The only slight inconvenience I can think of is the payment method. You cannot do it online (I presume for safety purposes) and they require a cheque to be mailed to the company’s address (although they also offer some e-method which I have not figured out yet). Payments to the bookstore people are not accepted. And our biggest problem is making sure our daughter is up on time and we get there before 10:40 am when the classes are scheduled to start. (I love the convenience of 10 min after half-hour – if we target it for 10:30, and we’re always a few minutes late, we get to be right on time!)

THE RESULTS
The most amazing to me is that, within just a few lessons (that’s in less than a month) I could see my daughter picking up French. Not in terms that she could speak it, but definitely that she can understand some of it and respond. For instance, I may ask her a few words here and there, like ‘ou est le cochon rose’ and she would point to the pink pig. Or we play cache-cache in French and hide some animals or do letter/colour recognition. I love that she thinks it’s fun and gets something out of it, too.

THE DEAL
So, if you are interested, here is the deal:
The classes normally cost $240. However, if an existing customer brings a new one, then the existing customer gets a $20 credit. I came up with a better deal and got approval from the program director – if I refer a friend, we can both share the $20 credit when signing up. That means each paying $10 less, i.e. $230. That is good enough for me, as I am interested in my daughter continuously attending French classes with this company. They tell me that the program is always modified and expanded, so that it’s never the same, even within the same age group.

CONTACT ME
If interested or have any questions about our experience, email me. If you are looking to sign up your 0-8 year old for these classes, here is your chance to save $10. You can choose any language or location. When ready to enroll, we  can agree the details. We can share our names, notify the program director and send them a cheque for a reduced amount. Registration is on first-come first served basis, so make sure you act in time.

There are lots of other locations and foreign languages Multilingual kids teaches throughout Toronto, so go and check what’s available on www.multilingualkids.ca

Monday, November 5, 2012

DIY bed canopy for children’s bedroom – under $20

Inspiration: Pottery Barn Kids canopy



I have always admired them – but not their steep price ($60-$140). I have now come up with a way of making one, just as effective, for less than $20.

Note I have not made one as yet, because there is a note on IKEA’s website that the nets are not suitable for children under seven (then how is Pottery Barn Kids selling them…for kids?). My oldest is three, so just to be safe, I’ll wait another year or two before I make one and hang it over her bed. This is how I would do it (will do it), though:

1)      Buy this BRYNNE net at IKEA for $9.99:


Product dimensions: Length: 90 1/2 " or 230 cm Diameter: 22 " or 55 cm
Note PB Kids’ canopy is made of tulle, and IKEA’s one is made of polyester. You would need a lot of tulle for the canopy, so your total might add up…IKEA’s should be good enough: it’s precut, transparent and long enough to do the job. 

2. Sew a wide bias tape or a ribbon in colour of your choice along the vertical opening. If you are using this for a canopy over a child’s table and chair, then you  will need another opening. Cut it as vertically as you can and then sew the ribbon along the vertical edges. 

The ribbon sells for about 50c-1$ a yard, so this should cost another $5-6.  If you don’t have a ribbon, you can easily make one from strips cut from the fabric that you like. Almost any fabric would do, but cotton or silk would be the best for a girl’s bedroom.


3)      Decorate the ‘roof’.  Those flower petals on PB Kids’ canopies look great. It’s possible to make them using felt, but my experience is that felt is expensive ($6 a yard and you need 3-4 yards for this easily). My choice is to purchase inexpensive fake but realistic-looking flowers. Dollarama sells a bunch of beautiful peonies for a dollar. Buy few bunches for $4-5. Sew them over the roof, tightly next to each other, so that the background cannot be seen.



4)      Optional: Dollarama sells a number of cute decorations like birds or butterflies with their own little wires that you can pierce through the netting and tie (no sewing required). Scatter them around the canopy body.

5)      Hang it and admire it!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Free Pampers and Huggies Points

Do you collect points with Pampers or Huggies? There are great sources on the web where you can get free points. I have recently uploaded codes worth about 200 points which has allowed me finally order those baby leg warmers I've been waiting for a while. :).

Try these threads on smartcanucks.ca for the latest on points:

Pampers:




Huggies:

Finally, below is a great summary of  baby-related freebies for all those expectant/new mothers...

Monday, October 22, 2012

French or English Public School, That is the Question

My husband and I have been discussing long and hard what kind of school works the best for our children.

We have eliminated private schools (prohibitive costs and our principle of not paying for what should be our free right; plus both my husband and I are public school kids albeit from a socialist system) and public catholic (we don't agree with the religious emphasis of the schooling, despite everyone telling us most of these schools are reportedly really good.)

So, we are down to just the Ontario public school system, but even there, we have plenty of choice: go regular or find an alternative school whose concept we might support, English-only, French-only or a mix of the two (French Immersion).

So far, our dilemma is among the following choices all located not too far from us downtowners:

- an alternative school with a Waldorf education concept (great teaching approach, but located just far enough that it could be difficult to bring our child there, considering the times we start work, and school bus is not provided for alternative schools)
- a Toronto Island school (great nature once you're there - a countryside in the middle of the city - but it might be difficult to cross the lake in winter just to get to the school, also meaning additional stress to be on time for our daughter who is still hard to get out of the door sometimes.)
- a French public (amazing records, transportation provided, but 100% French - can we handle that?)
- a French immersion (not a great location, but kids are exposed to both English and French and the school bus is provided).
- an English pubic across the street where we belong but can't find anything spectacular about it.

So you see our dilemmas. :)

My husband really believes that we should get our kids into a French-speaking school. Just to note that he doesn't speak French and that I do. But he is convinced, and I see his point, that exposure to a language different then English will help actually our kids maintain appreciation of our own language, which is neither English nor French. If we do that, I am concerned about our kids learning proper English, although everyone is convincing me that it is impossible not to learn English while living in Toronto. My common sense tells me the same, but I cannot help but wonder if we are setting them up for a proverbial less royal road to learning.

This is not to say that we are automatically granted access to any of the aforementioned schools, except for the English one.

Do you have or know someone who is not of English-speaking or French-speaking background, and has kids in a French-only school? I would love to hear about your experience with this! 

Picking a Public School for Your Child

Kids do grow fast...how often are you reminded of that? One recent reminder for us was the fact that our older daughter N, who is three now, will start JK next year.

We are not interested in private schooling or public Catholic - not that there is anything wrong with them, just a matter of our principles. Therefore, we are only looking into the Ontario public school system, where, we figure, we still have many options to choose from. Like English-only schol, French-only, French Immersion or alternative public.

I have known for a long time that Tdsb will include school rankings for grades 3 and 6 on web pages related to specific schools, but I have have only recently discovered that there are ways to compare various schools directly or get the lists of the best schools and work from there.

Just go to the links below, find your schools of interest and compare rankings by the Frasier Institute:


or

A third tab is supposed to help you locate good schools in your area based on the Google maps, but I couldn't get that feature to work. If you managed to do it, let me know.
http://ontario.compareschoolrankings.org/elementary/SchoolsByAreaMap.aspx  

Alternatively, you can read the entire report and locate your schools of interest here:

I was happy to notice that one of the French schools on our list did extremely well.

Note though that some schools, like two on our list one of which is alternative public, were not included in the ratings - perhaps not enough information was gathered about them or they did not have enough history to show.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Children's Tylenol Coupons

Our pediatrician suggested the only children's medicine we should keep in our cabinet or take on our travels is the children's or infant's Tylenol. Since then, I have been buying them regularly around the time of their expiry dates, usually not using them fully. It's good to have them as a resource in case my kids develop a fever.


I have never paid a full price on it. Traditionally, I would resort to printed coupons that can be found regularly in the Today's Parent (our doctor would always have a copy in his wait room), but now I have come across this online source:

http://www.livingwell.ca/coupons  - click Coupons on the left and choose the product you need.

The coupons are for $3 off on any Children's or Infant's Tylenol (expiry Jun 30 2013) and $2 off the same at Shoppers Drugmart Only (expiry date Dec 31, 2012).

I've already used the $3 one at a downtown Rexall pharmacy and it was accepted - on top of a $2 in-store discount that was already applied. My total price was $5.99, about 50% off the regular price.

For those who prefer children's Advil, here is the link to their coupons:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

DIY Upholster a Chair

Here is my chair - plain and boring. I got a bit tired of it, but I am not planning to get a new one for the moment. So I decided to dress it - not much, just to cover the seat.


I chose IKEA's GURINE fabric for the job. We have open concept dining/living room and our living room already has some green, so this fabric would tie things nicely. I purchased 1.5m and still had some leftovers. The whole thing cost me $9 in total for four chairs.



Here is how I did it:

First, make a pattern, using a newspaper cut along the line, but remember to add seams when you cut the actual fabric.


This is what I want to make - a little skirt for each chair, with pleats on the front left and right corners.

Lay the pattern on the fabric and cut (with seams):

This is how I did the pleats (optional):

Back:


Front:

and the seat (the top):



Note that I decided not to do the bottom, because I already had soft cushions from before and just placed them underneath this piece.

As a final step, I have attached velcro to hold the skirt at the back.

Finished chair:



DIY Conversion Adult to Toddler Cardigan

Inspiration: Title page photo of the book "Sewing Bits & Pieces" by Sandi Henderson



The conversion material: An old cardigan of mine, good quality (wool) and great condition.





Pattern: use an existing pattern or make your own from a cardigan or jacket your child already has. Copy over the sleeves and front and back pieces. Put on the clothing and cut.




Stitch sides leaving the opening for the sleeves.




At first I thought I would keep cardigan a little bit longer, so at this point it was still too long. I changed my mind and I cut it shorter, as I decided to do the ruffle on the bottom. I also attached sleeves by reversing the body and inserting the right side of the sleeves into the armhole.


Finally, I have cut a long strip from a cotton fabric - I needed something to make this cardigan more fun. The strip was about 1/2 times longer than the entire bottom hem. I basted it on my machine and gathered by hand to make my ruffle. 

I also replaced buttons (by hand) and attached new matching ones (red, blue etc. - one in each colour (not shown on the picture).)

And there is our new (old) little cardigan! :)







Tuesday, September 4, 2012

DIY Fall/Winter Toddler Dress

Inspiration - a dress found online:

Materials required (for a 3-4 year old):
- about 0.5m by 1m

Pattern:
The hardest thing by far is trying to make your own pattern. I suggest you start with a shirt or jacket or another dress that you like. All you're interested in is the size of the shoulders, the back, overall length, etc. I cut my pieces from a jacket, then extended them to fit the model above.

Note: The frontal piece (far left) and the back (far right) are to be put on fold and cut once. The remaining pieces in the middle are to be cut twice each.



Sewing:
Here is what you get once you cut your fabric. The front is on the left (a wider neck line) and the back is on the right.  Make sure the neckline is large enough so that the child can stick their head through. This is especially important if you are not doing any zippers or button on the back. (I can afford to do that, because my fabric stretches enough.) (A sharp eye may even notice an error on the two pieces flanking the back. I had to redo them after I noticed I cut them too narrow at the bottom. They needed to be the same width as the side pieces for the front.)



Start by making the bow. The picture below shows one finished side (the top) and one unfinished. Make each piece by putting the right sides of the top and the lining together. Stitch along the three sides leaving the wider side (on the left below) open.


Reverse and sew one more time along the same three sides. This will give the bow a nice finished look.


Sew all three pieces for the front and three for the back.



You now need to give opening for head and arms a nicer, finished look. Whichever shape for the opening you chose, make another one the same way, about 2 cm wide. Sew with the right sides together, flip over and stitch again just along the neckline.



Stitch once more, this time about 1.5cm away from the neck area, to hold the neckline together.



Do the same for the neck line on the back...


...and for the sleeves opening:


Now you can proceed with sewing left and right sides. Your dress is finally in a single piece!


And here it is, front and back views:

Front
Back
After while I have added ribbons for a fun effect:
Front



Back


DIY Simple Cushion or Pillow Case



For a novice sewer, a simple pillow case is usually the first thing they need to master. Soon it will become your favourite thing. Since I've learned how to do it, I've made dozens of new pillows and cushions. My husband is just thrilled. :)


Material required:
- two pieces of fabric 50x50 cm or 45x45 cm or 40x40 are the usual measurements. To be sure, measure your pillow (cushion) and add some seam allowance.
- zipper, somewhat shorter than the length of the fabric.



First, stitch the zipper on one side. The right sides of the zipper and fabric are facing each other. Hold with pins and remove them one by one as you sew. (You need to use the zipper foot for this).



Do the same on the other side of the zipper and the other piece of fabric. Now the zipper is holding
 two sides of your cushion together.



Now the right sides of two pieces of fabric are facing each other. Leave the zipper half open. Sew the remaining three sides. Going...



....still going...

 Your cushion is done. Reverse it through the zipper opening. Insert the pillow inside, close the zipper.