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The bell has rung. School is back in. And while parents couldn’t have been happier in the morning yesterday, by afternoon reality had a chance to kick in. It is time for back to routines, back to extracurriculars, and back to homework. All that free time you just envisioned got sucked up into the hoopla of the rat race. Welcome back!

How do you keep ahead of the daily grind? Are you a scheduler, with a desk planner highlighted in multi-colours for every person in your household? Do you do your best by freezing meals when you can in anticipation of the kid’s practice nights? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants kind of organizer, never sure what day of the week it is, let alone what is for dinner tonight? How about a few tips to make the transition back to school and routine easier for everyone involved.

Time for some “Time Management” in your Routine!

  • Dedicate a time for homework: Whether it be right after school, following a small snack, after dinner or before bed, ensure that there is enough time to complete any assignments due, and that your child is at their peak productivity for best performance possible when they tackle their homework.
  • Dedicate a space for homework: When homework takes place in a dedicated space, it can be organized accordingly.  Whether that be at the kitchen table while dinner is being made, so a parent can help, at a desk with easy access to a flat surface to write on and computer as necessary, or at a shared space where necessary supplies are handy for everyone, if homework happens at the same place every day you’ll have one less hurdle in getting it done.
  • A scheduler is the best way to keep up with your busy life

    Organize schedules: This might sound self-explanatory, but when activities don’t get properly organized, time management flies out the window. There are plenty of desk blotters out there that have space for everyone’s activities over the week or month. Day planners allow you to see what is scheduled when and where, thus reducing surprises that might throw an already busy schedule off-kilter. Smart phones have plenty of apps available to them that make scheduling a breeze in this electronic age. Even a simple calendar can give you a little structure to make sure that everyone gets to their activities on time, every time. However works best for you, take the time to write it down, so that you know what is going on when in your busy life.

  • Plan meals: Meal planning is not often easy when you have to fly out the door to football practice, swimming lessons or karate, but a little pre-planning goes a long way. If you have people going in multiple directions at once, it might seem crazy or downright impossible to try to coördinate a family meal every night. A little forethought in meal planning goes a long way. Instead of eating at the drive-thru, try freezing individual-sized portioned meals for those on the go. Pull out your crock pot for meals ready when you are at the end of the day. Draw up your meal plan for the week, to eliminate the “what am I going to make for dinner tonight?” dilemma at 4pm. It doesn’t hurt to ask for feedback from the rest of the family too. Fit in everyone’s favourites every night of the week!
  • Fit in some downtime: When we get going at top speed, life can sometimes get the better of us. Homework and extracurricular activities are important for success and to build well-rounded individuals, but a little downtime is important too in order to recharge our personal batteries. Kids need time to be kids. Whether that looks like some quiet time to read, half an hour of TV time, an hour to play outside with friends, or a day with nothing scheduled at all, those breaks from routine are necessary to keep everyone happy and healthy. Don’t forget to breathe people!
  • Family Time is important, so schedule it in!

    Dedicate a time for family time: This time is one of your most important, but often gets overlooked in the hustle and bustle of extracurricular activities, school, homework and life’s other responsibilities. Taking the time to reconnect, whether it is over dinner every night, at bedtime when you read stories, or a once in a week movie/game night, family time ensures that when things get rough, we are all open and there for each other. A united family is a stronger family.

Do you have any other tips that help your family stay organized?

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Less than three weeks left of school. The last of the assignments are getting marked. Desks are getting emptied. Field trips and fun days are taking over the hours, and kids are itching to be free from the school’s clutches for the summer. As much as kids can’t wait for summer to officially begin (bet there are a few teachers counting down the minutes too), there are more than a few parents who are stressing over that fact. With children home from school, the beginning of the “I’m bored” and “There’s nothing to do” statements will begin shortly. For those of you who work Monday to Friday, there is also the little matter of not necessarily being able to stay home to tend to your youngsters, even if you wanted to laze the summer away beside the pool. So what do you do? What multitudes of parents have discovered as the best summer sanity saver – summer camp!

North America’s only fully accessible high ropes course

There is a very special summer camp on the western edge of London that not a lot of people know about. It is situated on 106 treed acres, hosts kids aged 8-18 years for 10 days (overnight), has a 1:1 staff to child ratio, and some of the finest state of the art facilities designed especially for the campers. I am talking about the Easter Seals Camp Woodeden and its amazing summer camp for disabled children. With its giant swing (self-released, 70′ high), high ropes course (North America’s only fully accessible course), accessible rock wall, nightly campfires, sledge hockey court, indoor and outdoor basketball, and accessible swimming pool, this camp is any child’s dream. There is also an outdoor amphitheatre, an archery range, an accessible kitchen where campers are encouraged to try their hand at culinary creations, plus a quiet tree house where you can find a little peace and tranquility on the banks of the Thames River.

High-flying fun

Self-Confidence boosting at its best

This camp is the antidote to lots of things for the lucky families who get to use their services. Not only do the children get to be plain old kids in an environment that is specifically designed for them, but their families get the peace of mind of knowing that there is nursing staff on hand, all meals are fully catered, and ultimately they get that time as a much-needed week of respite from a schedule that is often filled with medical appointments, procedures and other interventions. While that is certainly kept in mind and accounted for by the staff and facilities at Camp Woodeden, the bigger focus is on treating the campers as normal children and pushing them to do and be their very best. Their diagnoses of ‘Muscular Dystrophy’, ‘Cerebral Palsy’, ‘Spina Bifida’, or whatever else might define them elsewhere is left at the door, as these kids get to challenge themselves, play and enjoy a week off from everyday life. To say that a stay at Camp Woodeden helps to build these kids’ confidence is an understatement.

Of course summer camp always comes at a cost, and Camp Woodeden is no different. A 10-day stay costs $2000. Easter Seals offers financial assistance to families in need, but they first must have that money to give. Fundraising initiatives throughout the year help to raise money for Easter Seals programs and we have some right here in London. Downtown London hosts the Annual Easter Seals Power Play, which is a huge local help on the fundraising front. This year is the 13th season for it and it will be held on Friday, September 13th, 2013 (13-13-13 spooky or a good luck sign?!). If you are daring, you can also participate in Drop Zone London. Easter Seals takes over One London Place and offers the chance for you to rappel 26 stories down in the name of fund-raising and daredevil-may-care-fun. This year’s Drop Zone is taking place on September 12th, from 8 am – 5 pm.

And as a special treat, this spring they were lucky enough to be picked by the Ontario Commercial Arborists Association (OCAA) for their Annual Day of Service. Four crews of arborists donated a day to do work on the grounds at Camp Woodeden. They cut some trees here, pruned some trees there, and by the end of the day had done enough work to equal the cost of 10-15 children going to camp. Add to that the bonus of having safer buildings, pathways and activity centres, and that sunny day was extraordinary all the way around. Four cheers to the men at Chatham, Arbortech, Norm’s, and CLC Tree Services. That certainly helps the Easter Seals coffers. And in turn will help a few more kids experience the joy of summer camp.

What are your favourite summer camp memories?

Are you looking for good food, live music, great deals and a venue that is kid-friendly in London, Ontario this weekend? You are in luck, as this weekend Victoria Park plays host to the 17th annual Kids Expo! Head downtown and follow your ears to the noise of children squealing in delight as they gobble up treats, spin on rides and wander around with armfuls of prizes that they have won in the games area. Or maybe that is the sound of Mom and Dad squealing as they discover fabulous deals at some of the many vendors plying their wares. Regardless of the source, you know the whole family is going to have fun at this event.

Ohbijou performing in London, Ontario during L...

Live Music at Victoria Park Bandshell

It just wouldn’t be summer in London without all of the festivals that go on here. The Kids Expo leads off the entertainment, taking the title of the first major outdoor festival of the summer. It promises to again bring loads of  fun to Victoria Park and London and area families. This year’s festival will be held June 15-17, 2012 with activities running from 11am-9pm. This year, there will be a craft area, karaoke tent, ride-on toys, live entertainment in the bandshell, and 40 food booths (note that all London festivals are eco-friendly, and encourage you to either bring your own plates & cutlery or use the provided compostable or recyclable packaging). There is also a mix of family retail and home exhibits, several shaded areas to rest in, and of course the mini-midway where the kids test their mettle on the rides. And the best part; did I happen to mention that admittance to the park is free? How is that for entertainment at its finest!

Of course, not everyone has kids or wants to drag themselves downtown into a throng of people. Some of you might rather hide out at home lazing by the backyard pool. I certainly can’t blame you there, but maybe I will just remind you that the clematis needs staking and if you haven’t got your tomato cages on by now, you might just miss out on the chance! Oh, and the grass could use cutting when you are done fiddling in the garden. Plus, maybe you should change the washer on that leaky hose while you are at it too. Now where is that Honey-do list, anyway?

Psst, if you need a break from all those house and home projects, remember that the London Fringe Festival is still on, but will be wrapping up this weekend. There are still lots of shows to catch, but it will be done before you know it! Plus there is a Dragon Boat Festival out at Fanshawe Lake on Saturday June 16th, or Carving a Chunk Outta Cancer at Boler Mountain from June 13-17 to check out. And don’t forget Dad on Sunday! He will need his special Father’s Day loving and pampering all day long!  So let go of your to-do list. You know the laundry will always be there waiting for you, so get out and enjoy some summer fun in your neighbourhood this weekend.

Life is for living, so go out and live it!

Welcome to In Your Neighbourhood!

Allow me to introduce myself. The name is Jim. You want to know more? Well, check out my "About Me" page! Don't forget to take a peek at my "Local London Listings" while you are here too! I update it regularly. Enjoy your visit and drop me a line to let me know you were in the neighbourhood!

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