Alberta, Canada


Helping people navigate the school system

Talking to Children About Cancer

Guest blog from Annika Ellis from Mesothelioma Hope

A cancer diagnosis can be very difficult for a family to navigate. It can be especially
difficult to tell your child that their loved one has terminal cancer. The thought of
explaining that a loved one has cancer can be very overwhelming and devastating.
Telling your children that their loved one is ill can be very difficult and emotional for
everyone involved. That said, there are many ways to support your children as they face
the challenge of a sick loved one.
● Be ready to answer any questions your child may have about illness and death.
● Be honest and transparent about death. Use the words “cancer” or “dying” and avoid euphemisms so your child does not get confused or blindsided by technical terms when speaking to others.
● Try to stay calm, but don’t be afraid to show emotion — it will show your children that it is okay to be sad.
● Ensure your child knows that they are not to blame for their loved one becoming ill.
● Make sure to go at your child’s pace, so as not to overwhelm them with information.

Grieving the loss of a loved one can cause a lot of sorrow and stress for your child. One
of the best ways to support your children is to promote healthy coping mechanisms.
This can help your children properly grieve while taking care of their own mental health.
There are many ways to relieve stress and provide emotional support to children who
are grieving the loss of a loved one.
It is important to give your child the coping resources they need to get through this
devastating time in their lives. Having an open, honest, and supportive conversation
about cancer can help your child understand what is happening to their loved one.
Losing a loved one to cancer can greatly affect every member of your family so it’s so
important to learn about preventing burnout through stress reduction techniques while
caring for your loved one.

Boost Your Child’s Brain Development with these Simple Activities

Guest Blog post by Samidha Raj from Planet Spark

The first five years of your child’s life are vital for their brain development. And even though you may find a lot of online advice about fancy toys and activities to boost brain development, in truth, your child is learning a lot when they play. Simple activities like building a fort, playing with a ball, and scribbling on paper are significant brain development activities for kids. They contribute to the development of thinking, motor skills, and social-emotional skills.

If you are a toddler parent wondering how you can help boost brain development for your child, here are some activities that can fuel brain development in children – 

  1. Ask Questions to Stimulate Thinking

Interact with your child by naming the things they see in their surroundings. Talk to them about the colour, shape and utility of these things. For example, if your child loves playing with a blue ball, you can tell them, “This is a ball. We play with the ball. This ball is blue. And it is round!” A few days later, point to the ball and ask your child what it is. Even if they don’t respond on the first try, this activity will prompt them to think about what they learnt and how they can say it.

  1. Introduce Books, Storytelling and Narrating Events

Introduce your child to books early. Today there are books available for children as young as two months. Books play an essential role in brain development, language skills and motor skills. If parents read to them regularly, children learn to identify colours and shapes and begin to name animals, birds, etc.

  1. Physical Activities like Music & Dance

Singing and listening to music with your child is a terrific mind-building activity. Channelize your toddler’s energy into dance by playing peppy dance-beat numbers that get them excited! Music is multifaceted and comprises melody, lyrics, musical beats etc., each facet stimulates a different part of your child’s brain.

  1. Finger Painting is Brain Development

Finger painting is a fascinating sensory experience for toddlers. They love making a beautiful mess on a sheet of paper with their colourful hands! Add to it new textures such as painting with rice or sand to make it more fun! It is also fun for them to mix two colours and create new ones.

  1. Building Event Memory, Associating Things & Situations

Associate everyday objects with events to build memory. For example, show them photographs of people they have met in the past and describe what happened. Repeated associations of people, things and situations will help your child build their memory and remember events.

  1. Logical Reasoning & Decision Making

Logic and decision-making abilities can be taught from an early age. Play games with your child that require brain activity, such as jigsaw puzzles, block puzzles, and matching games. Secondly, building decision-making abilities gives your child the opportunity to make small decisions in day-to-day things such as choosing what they’d like to wear, what they’d like to play, or eat will build decision-making abilities.

  1. Arrange a Scavenger Hunt

Children love to explore their surroundings, and finding out more with the investigation will give them a sense of accomplishment. Think of simple things for them to look for in the house. For example, “Let’s find something that is a circle!” or “Let’s find something that is red in colour!”

  1. Multi-Sensory Learning

Engaging multiple senses in learning helps in quicker understanding and better retention. Practising counting while jumping rope or cold-cooking with different fruits to learn their names are examples of multi-sensory learning exercises. These exercises help children connect the concepts they learn with an experience.

  1. Nutrition

Last but not least, good nutrition is essential to a child’s brain development. Good food improves your child’s mood and aids development. Include green vegetables, eggs, lentils, and milk products in your child’s diet to ensure balanced nutrition. A healthy body nurtures a healthy mind.

Choose from the list above or come up with your own fun brain development activities for kids! A good blend of activities that help develop the mind, body, and concentration will go a long way for your toddler.

Author Bio:

Samidha Raj works as part of the content marketing team at Planet Spark, a platform that provides online classes to K8 learners on “New Age Skills” like, English Communication, Public Speaking, Grammar, Creative Writing, Debating, etc. She is passionate about empowering the youth by educating parents about the importance of 21st-century skills. In her free time, you can find her watching documentaries or animated movies and organizing game nights (board games are her thing)!


Using Game-Based Learning To Enhance Your Child’s Education

Guest Blog post by Jenna Sherman from Parent-Leaders

Image via Pixels

As classrooms modernize, one of the most important questions is how technology can be used to engage and educate children. Game-based learning may offer a solution that parents and educators have been seeking. Understanding games as learning tools can help with everything from math to hand-eye coordination to helping navigate the school system.

Demystifying Education wants your child to have everything necessary for the best possible learning experience, so read on! 

How Game-Based Learning Works

Using games as educational tools is often thought of as a modern trend for the computer age. However, it is significantly older. For example, chess has been used to teach and practice strategic thinking for centuries and go, a Chinese strategy game, is even older. Similarly, the concept of kindergarten arose around the idea that play can be a learning experience.

The idea behind game-based learning is that players can learn through repetition, achieving goals and experiencing failure in a safe space. Games already use this concept and other techniques to teach players. In a sense, every game is an educational experience. Game-based learning focuses on using the educational power of games to teach the classroom curriculum.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Games To Learn

Game-based learning can offer students a lot of advantages. The following are a few reasons you should give serious consideration to this valuable tool:

  • Engagement: Perhaps the most significant benefit of game-based learning is increased engagement. Games are fun and players are typically more focused and interested compared to traditional educational methods such as lecturing.
  • Enhanced Retention: This increased engagement along with the repetitive practice inherent in games leads to greater retention. One study found that games involving risk could improve information retention significantly, leading to better test scores by students.
  • Multi-Faceted Learning: Many games teach multiple topics at once. For example, many strategy games include both strategic thinking and math (among other skills). Games also frequently teach hand-eye coordination, as Unyte-iLs explains.
  • Contextual Learning: Games apply educational concepts within context. For example, a player may need to use math to calculate the resources he or she needs to expand a base. This is teaching the same skills as a classroom lecture but making them more concrete. Teach & Kids Learn notes evidence suggests that contextual learning can greatly improve educational outcomes.

Of course, game-based learning is not without its drawbacks. Like any other learning tool, it must be used carefully and as part of a cumulative strategy. These are a few key disadvantages:

  • Potential Distraction: Perhaps the most significant drawback of game-based learning is the potential to distract students from other learning activities. The engagement of games may make learners more interested in them compared to conventional methods.
  • More Research Required: The state of research on learning games is still in its infancy. Many studies have shown that there are plenty of reasons to be excited about educational games. However, there is a lot more to learn about how and when they work best.

Examples of Educational Games

As mentioned above, examples of educational games date back centuries. However, they have grown more advanced and in-depth with the advent of video games. One highly popular option is the educational version of Minecraft. This version of the well-known sandbox game teaches players STEM skills by letting them explore their creativity and build masterful contraptions. 

There are numerous games for learning about math. Some of these involve solving math problems to advance through the game. Others take a more subtle approach by having players solve puzzles that require mathematical deduction. 

Another option is Civilization V, which is historical in nature. Kids learn about strategy and diplomacy while also getting information about famous leaders of the past. 

Set Your Child Up for Success

To get the most benefit from game-based learning, it helps to provide your child with the right equipment. This should include an up-to-date, speedy computer and a sufficiently powerful internet connection such as fiber optics to allow for smoother gameplay and faster downloads—which is also important for streaming educational videos

Engaging kids with electronics is easy, so it makes sense to put those gadgets to work in their education. The right choices along with children’s interest in the medium can be a perfect combination for youngsters to blossom.

Discover more about game-based learning and helping navigate the school system with Demystifying Education’s resources. With the right games and resources, you can set your child up for lasting success.

Back to School?

It’s hard to believe it has been months since Covid-19 started and our world got turned upside down! This year has been very challenging for so many people for a lot of different reasons.

In Canada, homeschool support centers and boards have received hundreds of phone calls about switching to home education. A few things spurred these calls: 1) the announcement by provincial governments that school would return in an almost normal form. This created anxiety among parents who are concerned about transmission of the virus to their children or their family members. People expressed concerns that the government was not doing enough to prevent that. 2) the announcement by our government that actually, kids would have to wear masks at school. Parents envisioned their little children sitting at a desk, not able to move around much, in a mask and absolutely not having fun at all in addition to being stuck all day in an institution that is already seen to be quite constrictive and prison-like. Not to mention that some parents fundamentally disagree with mask use and have read things contrary to the somewhat conflicting advice given to us by public health officials who first said that masks were not safe. 3) the announcement by some schools that their at-home learning program is going to have mandatory computer time from 8:30am-3:15pm. Parents reacted viscerally to the idea that their young children would be sitting in front of a computer all day and wouldn’t be allowed to leave.

One of the things I noticed during conversations with other parents, is that their perception of school is changing. I kept hearing about how they noticed that their children are happier since March even though their lives have changed so much. They attribute it to their child’s school experience and hadn’t realized the pressure their kids were under in the education system. They also noticed that siblings started to get along and this was surprising to some who had assumed that so much together time would lead to more conflict. Parents were also surprised by just how little kids were doing all day at school. There have been questions about time spent in home schools, new homeschooling parents have asked if it’s true that the education in school can be accomplished in as little as an hour and a half a day at the elementary school level (the answer is yes) at home. Some of those parents who have called me have decided to switch indefinitely to parent-led homeschooling and this is a powerful choice. When we take over responsibility for our children’s education and do not allow as much interference from a school/provincial authority, we start to tailor the experience and the learning to the child instead of following an arbitrary program set up by strangers who don’t know our children. I have found my own child’s confidence in academics soared and he became willing to try new things as soon as the fear of failure and humiliation disappeared.

That being said, I realize that school serves an economic function in our society and some parents cannot, because they need to work, home-school their children. It’s time consuming, expensive and we have built a society where most couples both have to work in order to pay the bills. To those who have no choice, I understand. Either way it’s a tough choice to home-school, do teacher-led home education or send your children to school.

Those in the home-school world are a little thrilled with the sudden interest in their chosen path. They are finally, after being looked down upon by some members of society, being valued for the choice they have made all along. Most long time home educators are getting calls and messages asking for help in choosing learning materials and home-school-friendly school boards. They are helping people write their education plans for the year and discussing home education philosophies with a greater and more receptive audience. To those moms and dads out there that have been working hard to provide this support to other parents, I think you are amazing.

I know everyone is going to have a challenging year but I also think we will discover things about ourselves and about learning that we didn’t know existed. I think there will be more good moments than bad. When you start to question your path remember that there is no wrong choice, your children are resilient, and they are going to learn things this year regardless of the choices you make in ‘curriculum’. Children (well…people in general) are curious and love to learn. They especially love to learn if what they are exploring is something they chose and are interested in. So let them have some choice in their learning path and see where it takes you!

Good luck, everyone!

Where’s the Re-set?

When COVID-19 crisis started it was immediately apparent that it was two sided, on one side was the chaos and on the other was opportunity. In the last two weeks I have seen people in the system of education doing everything they can to make sense of what has happened, do what they think is best and struggle with new and big ideas. I wish that everyone could see the opportunity side of what is happening right now but I understand that they are trying to make sense of the chaos by imposing the old order that has been working for them.

I was listening to a newscast yesterday and a 10 year old child on there was talking about what he thought the world would look like after the crisis was over. He said he thought the world would be changed but that he wouldn’t be sad if school was gone. It struck me as I was listening to him that most kids are HAPPY that school is closed right now. What does that say about our school system? Kids think learning is boring, that school has little value, that it’s a good thing when it’s closed. It’s like having a bad job for 12 years for them. Isn’t that awful? Does that make you pause and re-think ANYTHING we are doing? I hope it does.

For those educators who are still giving a multitude of assignments to their students (also known as busy work) in order to “meet curricular outcomes”. Please stop. To those who are saying things like “well we can’t give credits to students who don’t finish the assignments and meet all the provincial outcomes”, please stop. To those focused on the minutia of the curriculum instead of broad essential outcomes that students can actually use, please stop. To those who are worried more about whether or not students would cheat on a test than if they would learn something from taking said test, please just stop it. Here is what the leaders of change educational are saying: “We should be focused on essential outcomes, real learning, and not the minutia of curriculum”. They are talking about how learning is important, not assignments or assessments. They are encouraging parents (who are going to be stressed out as they are thrown into a situation that no one anticipated or prepared for) to PLAY with their children, to connect with them and to put the schoolish learning aside if they need to. THAT’S what we should be doing right now.

I get it. The world is in chaos and your impulse is to try and find order in it so you are falling back onto old ideas of what that should look like (I am also aware that ‘old ideas’ were in place just two weeks ago). Order in schools is having kids in desks for a large part of the day, writing in notebooks and worksheets. Order in schools is having a schedule of bells and 15 minute lunch times with structured ‘play’ in small chunks of time. Order in the system is having provincial achievement tests and Grade 12 diploma exams and having everyone learning everything at exactly the same time in the same way in the same place. I would like to think that “What is the purpose of education, and what are the conditions required for young people to achieve their full potential? ” (quote taken from this blog)

We have an opportunity to question all of that right now while the world is in chaos and we are forced into new ways of doing business and life and school. If they can cancel all the achievement tests and year end exams and still be fairly confident that our children have achieved outcomes that will prepare them for life why do we need those tests to begin with? If we can announce that learning for students should be no more than 5 hours a week for elementary, 10 hours a week for junior high students and 3 hours a week for each course in high school, then why the heck are we compelling them to have 7 hours a day in school? If kids learn better by playing games with their family and watching videos and NOT doing worksheets and busy work, why are we doing all that in school? (there’s a great article about that here) If you are one of the teachers that are connecting with your students in different ways on a camera, why can’t you do that in every school day? I saw a story online about a teacher who was teaching her students and she did something silly and embarrassing. Her students laughed and ‘got off track’. I hope that teacher saw that being more human, making human mistakes, and being silly makes you a better teacher. People connect better with someone who makes mistakes and is comfortable at admitting it. Also, people learn better with someone who they can connect with and who are relatable.

I hope parents are realizing that despite the extremely stressful and traumatic time we are all going through at the moment, that kids are better off waking up on their own schedule, having a relaxed schedule everyday, taking more time to eat lunch and playing for a larger part of the day. I hope they see that learning takes many forms and the least effective of those is worksheets. I hope teachers who see that connection to their students are far better ways to reach them than discipline carry that into their working lives after this is over. The attention being paid to the divide between the haves and the have-nots (which in the case of distance learning is who has computers and wifi at their house and who does not) is great. I hope we don’t forget this when we all go back.

Can we just re-set what we are doing and start rethinking what happens in schools? I know it’s the worst time to ask people to do that. It’s hard to think through new ideas when the world got thrown into chaos and your response is trauma informed. But it’s the right time to start asking question about these things as we have an opportunity now to see it in action. What if we stopped teaching curricular expectations and started teaching kids? What if we stopped giving worksheets and focusing on what they need to know for the test and offered up real life learning opportunities instead? What if we allowed kids to play for a large part of the day? Sleep in? Have lunch when they are hungry? Stopped the bell system and let kids finish when they finish? We may just come out of this with better adjusted kids who want to learn instead of being forced to learn in an artificial setting that is not connected to real life.


I was thrilled, honoured, (and shocked!) to be asked to interview for a podcast by someone I’ve been following and listening to for quite awhile. Robyn Robertson from Honey, I’m Homeschooling the Kids asked for an interview from me a few months ago. I think the podcast went well with a lot of thoughtful questions. I would be grateful if you could listen to it when it is published and give some feedback, rate it five stars, or whatever you do to promote and support podcasts (maybe visit Robyn’s patreon page!).

We talked about the state of education, the beliefs within the school system that might not be entirely accurate and research that is not well received or well known in the system of education. I think we can all agree that most people within the system have the best intentions and really believe that they are doing the right thing but maybe are not aware of how some practices can be harmful to the learning of people.

We went over the ideas of standardized testing and what is wrong with it as well as the stated reason for the practice in provinces and states. We talked about single parenthood and the challenges of being a working-from-home homeschooling mother.

I hope you listen to it! Give us some feedback! Let me know what you think in the comments below!


This page is a culmination of a few years of research and experience in the world of homeschooling, unschooling and alternative forms of education for children. I started off as a teacher and a principal, believing public education was the best thing for children and ended up here as an unschooling mother to an 11 year old son and a home school coordinator for a public school division. I could tell my story here but I’ll do that in the ‘about’ section. For this page I wanted to talk about purpose. My purpose of creating this blog and this website was to share my expertise with homeschooling families. I noticed early on in my new career as a home school coordinator and facilitator that when families decided to home school, teachers and admin would sometimes make them feel incompetent and stupid by using the specialized language that teachers are taught in teachers college in their Bachelor of Education programs. That irritates me because the last thing an educator should want is a family to feel a lack of confidence going in to educate their children!

So this page, the book and the Udemy course (coming soon!) is to demystify all that vocabulary, the attitudes and beliefs and philosophies of those who work in education, and to provide support for families who have decided to home school their children.

To educators who find this page I want to say this: Parents who decide to home school are not making a light decision. It has taken weeks, months or years for them to decide to pull their kids from school. It is often a financial sacrifice as one parent stays home to home school the children. When they call me for advice and help getting started, they are scared and are NOT feeling confident. I think that if you ever run into someone like that, find some time to build them up not tear them down. Research has shown that kids that are home schooled do not fare worse in post secondary and in their careers than kids that are public or private schooled. In fact they often do better! There is also absolutely no correlation between a parent’s education and abilities and a child’s success later on. None! You can find the research I did on this here: You can also find research by the Fraser Institute on this subject here: Everyone in education always has stories for me about that one family whose child ‘didn’t learn anything’ and they are shocked that they finish at year 12 of school and don’t know how to write an essay or some other such measure of ‘success’. I always say to that particular argument that they are judging home schooled kids unfairly. There are plenty of students that graduate from our schools that don’t know how to read very well, can’t write and have difficulty with math (I was the last one…grade 6 math level when I graduated). I argue that the measure of success shouldn’t be those skills. I want you to start questioning what success in life is and how do you know when you have achieved it? You likely know how to write an essay if you are a teacher so is that the measure of success? Do you use the ability to do trigonometry as your yardstick (if that’s the case then I failed!). Happiness? A good paying job? I assure you that people can be happy if they have home schooled and they certainly can get a good paying job.

I hope you enjoy the page as much as I enjoyed writing it.