Tag Archives: au pair

Social Distancing: Free Virtual Escape Rooms

Libraries may be closed due to COVID-19, but many librarians are coming up with creative ideas to keep people entertained and promote literacy. One of those creative ideas is free virtual escape rooms. With a variety of themes, some may be fun to do on your own, others as activities with the kids.

Sydney Krawiec, Youth Services Librarian at Peters Township Public Library in McMurray, PA created this Hogwarts Virtual Escape Room. She shared this tutorial on how to create your own virtual escape room, which seemed to spark the creativity of many other librarians.

Some amazing librarians all over the country have been busy creating virtual escape rooms with a variety of themes.

Special thanks to the Humboldt County Library in Winnemucca, Nevada for gathering info on many of these escape rooms. Follow them on Facebook for their storytimes and weekly Facebook Live Science Time on Fridays.

Image: Canva.com

Social Distancing: 10 Things You CAN Do Right Now

Social distancing is important right now to help slow the spread of coronavirus. This means avoiding places where you come in contact with lots of people (schools, movies, restaurants, museums, concerts, parties, etc.)  I am sure you keep hearing a lot about the things you should not do.

It’s also important to have ideas of things you can do. There are plenty of activities you can do at home and away from crowds.

While we can’t control many things going on right now in the world, we can choose how we deal with it.

“She turned her can’ts into cans
and her dreams into plans.” 
– Kobi Yamada

 

Here are 10 things you CAN do right now:

  • Stay connected with your friends and family via social media, texting, and Skype.
  • Go for a walk or run on your own. As long as you don’t go to a populated place, it’s fine to go out for some exercise.
  • Enjoy nature. That could be sitting outside in your backyard on a nice day or walking on a nature trail.
  • Read a book or listen to an audiobook or podcast. Getting lost in a story is a great way to take your mind off of things. Or if you pick a non-fiction book or podcast you may learn something new. You could even create an online book club or podcast discussion group with friends.
  • Do yoga. Yoga can be a great way to relieve stress and maintain your fitness. There are many free yoga videos on Youtube. Sign up here to receive daily emails for 30 Days of Yoga.
  • Take virtual tours of museums online.*
  • Make memories in the kitchen.* Cooking recipes from your home country is a great way to share your culture with your host family and give yourself a taste of home. Cooking classic American recipes is a way to continue your cultural exchange. You can find lots of recipes online. Also, you will be able to share that taste of America with your own family by cooking some of these recipes after you return home at the end of your program.
  • Have an online watch party with friends. When you watch a movie alone do you miss talking to a friend about what’s happening? Pick a time and a movie and from your individual homes you each stream the movie on Netflix at the same time. You can text or do a group chat during the movie.
  • Make top 10 lists of your favorite things like movies, foods, songs and more. Share and compare lists with your friends. You may find out some things you didn’t know about each other and get some ideas for new things to try.
  • Research and plan trips to places you want to visit while in the U.S.* This time of social distancing won’t last forever. Use this time to do some research online and make plans. This will help you make the most of those trips when you get to take them a few months from now. It will also give you something to look forward to.

*Future blog posts in this series will have more detailed information on these topics.

 

Dealing with Social Distancing

The coronavirus has caused lots of temporary changes to our daily routines. Right now, we are being asked to practice “social distancing” to reduce the spread of the virus.

What is social distancing?
Social distancing is a way to keep people from interacting as closely or frequently enough to spread the virus. Schools, sporting events and concerts are being canceled. People are being asked to stay at home more to avoid being in contact with a large number of people.

What are some ways to take care of yourself?
Some people may feel anxious, lonely or frustrated and that is totally normal. It can be very helpful to talk with friends and family about those feelings. It helps to know that others are going through these same emotions. Reach out to your community counselor if you need support during this time.

It is very important to practice good self-care. Connect with people you love via Skype and text, maintain a healthy diet, stay active, make plans for things you want to do once things get back to normal. Staying out of crowds doesn’t have to mean just staying in the home. You can go for walks and enjoy nature. Both exercise and spending time in nature are beneficial for your mental health.

Where can you get practical tips for dealing with social distancing?
We recognize that some of these changes will require patience and resourcefulness. During this time, we will be doing a series of blog posts with resources to assist you with two specific aspects of this situation:

  • Ideas for keeping the kids occupied (while they are home from school)
  • Ways to continue your cultural exchange from home

Photo: Meg Willis  

Making Thanksgiving Memories Together

Thanksgiving is a public holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November every year in the United States. It started as a harvest festival and has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789.  The most important part of Thanksgiving for American families is to spend family time together.

Martin Cathrae

 “My favorite holiday was Thanksgiving. Firstly, it was my first holiday with the whole family in America. Secondly, the whole family came together. All aunts and uncles and their kids came to grandma’s. We played football with all of them, including grandma and grandpa. It was the first time I played it and it was so much fun for all. We had a great dinner with all the typical things you can imagine … it was deeeelicious! It was so great to be with such a big family and I really enjoyed that day. I will remember it my whole life, I hope.” – Swantje from Germany

Here are a few tips to help you have a terrific Thanksgiving experience.

Host Parents
Please plan to include your au pair in your Thanksgiving celebration, if at all possible. If you are traveling or will not be able to invite your au pair to join you for Thanksgiving, give her plenty of notice and help her make alternate plans. You don’t want to leave your au pair alone over the holiday.

Au Pairs
If you are invited to attend dinner, please let your family know within 5 days of the invitation, whether you are planning to attend, so they may make plans. If your host family is unable to include you in their Thanksgiving plans, please let me know if you have trouble making other plans, so I can assist.

Make sure to discuss time off during this holiday weekend. Many host families work the Friday after Thanksgiving so do not assume you have this day off or the entire weekend. Talk to your host family, BEFORE you make any plans.

Bonus Tip for the Kids
If you are looking for a fun recipe to make with your au pair, check out these turkey cookies. Find more fun activities and recipes on the Au Pair in America Fall Holidays pinboard.

 

Amazing Cluster Meeting at US Capitol

More than 700 Au Pair in America au pairs from 30 DC/Maryland/Virginia area clusters came together on Saturday, March 9 to tour the US Capitol. We were joined by Au Pair in America director, Ruth Ferry. We had a wonderful time and an amazing photo.

Au Pair in America au pairs from the DC/MD/VA area, their Community Counselors and APIA director, Ruth Ferry

Touring the US Capitol is a highlight of any visit to Washington, DC. The Visitor Center offers free online tickets and a limited number of same-day tickets. The tour starts off with a brief and engaging video with some history on the Capitol Building and the US in general. The tour guides are knowledgeable and will take you to some of the building’s most iconic locations.

Touring the US Capitol is a highlight for our cluster every year.

Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

Adapted from an earlier post by Christine Connally

This time of year, it’s easy to get distracted, and when you’re distracted you’re at a greater risk for holiday crime.

Here are some important tips that are always a good idea, but especially during the holiday shopping season.

  • Always pay attention to your surroundings.  Avoid distractions like using cell phone or listening to music when you are coming and going from stores.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.  Take just the amount you need or use debit or credit cards.
  • Keep your money in your front pocket.  Pay close attention to your wallet when you are in crowded places like buses, metro, and elevators.
  • Be careful not to lay your purse or bags down on the floor or out of your sight at the mall.
  • Save your most expensive purchases for the end of your shopping trip, so you aren’t carrying them with you for long periods of time.
  • Whenever possible, shop during daylight hours and if you must shop after dark, go with a friend.
  • If you’re not driving yourself to go shopping, use the Metro Trip Planner before going out to minimize time waiting at the bus stop or metro station.  Never accept a ride from a stranger.
  • Be aware of strangers approaching you for any reason. Criminals will use different methods to distract you and steal your belongings.
  • Look around the parking area when you are leaving.
  • Do not approach your car alone if there are suspicious people in the area.  Return to the store and ask security to walk out with you or wait for a family or other group of people to walk out at the same time with you.
  • Trust your instincts, If something seems suspicious or unsafe, you are probably right.
  • Remember the saying, “Better Safe Than Sorry.”

Five Thanksgiving Tips for Host Parents and Au Pairs

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November each year. Based on the Pilgrims’ harvest meal in 1621, Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln during the 1860s. You can learn more about the holiday here.

Even though a few other countries also celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s still considered a uniquely American holiday ~ one that the au pairs look forward to experiencing.

I really enjoyed Thanksgiving with my host family. It was as I imagined! So much food to try. Everyone got dressed up and shared what they were thankful for. It was so warm and special. The next day we began to prepare for Christmas. It was magical.” – Selina from Germany

Here are some tips to help you have a terrific Thanksgiving experience: 

Host Parents

1.  Please plan to include your au pair in your Thanksgiving celebration, if at all possible. Thanksgiving with an au pair offers an opportunity to consider the relevance of the history and meaning of Thanksgiving as you compare the hospitality offered by the Native Americans to the recently arrived Pilgrims and the hospitality you offer your au pair.

2.  If you are traveling or will not be able to invite your au pair to join you for Thanksgiving, give her plenty of notice and help her make alternate plans. You don’t want to leave your au pair alone over the holiday.

Au Pairs

3.  If you are invited to attend dinner, please let your family know within 5 days of the invitation, whether you are planning to attend. It is considered rude in America to accept the invitation for dinner and then change your mind later in the month. Please be thoughtful.

4.  Make sure to discuss time off during this holiday weekend. Many host families work the Friday after Thanksgiving so do not assume you have this day off or the entire weekend. Talk to your host family BEFORE you make any plans.

5.  If your host family is unable to include you in their Thanksgiving plans, please let me know if you have trouble making other plans. You may be able to join a friend and their host family for the holiday dinner.

Bonus Tip for the Kids

Click on this infographic to see a larger version.

If you are looking for a fun recipe to make with your au pair, check out these turkey cupcakes.

Find more fun activities and recipes on the Au Pair in America Fall Holidays pinboard.

It’s Cold Out There! A 2018 Guide to DC Winter Weather

Reality Bites

When I moved to DC from the warm South Carolina coast for graduate school, I refused to believe that winter weather would actually arrive and (even worse) stick around for several months.

In September, I was confused by the empty hooks hanging in the back of all of the classrooms. I couldn’t imagine that in a few short months each hook would be holding a winter coat.

In October, I ignored the racks of coats and stacks of sweaters displayed in all of the stores. My lightweight jacket and jeans seemed to work just fine.

In November, I dashed to and from the car, grateful for the warmth and heat inside my house and university.  “It’s just a cold snap,” I told myself.

And then it snowed.

I watched my neighbors shovel their sidewalks and head off to work. I checked the university website and was shocked that classes hadn’t been canceled. December had arrived and I was living in DC without a hat, gloves, scarf, or boots. I slipped and slid my way to my car, carefully drove to Nordstroms (marveling at the snow plows clearing the roads), and bought the only pair of snow boots left in the store.

Photo credit: Catherine McEaddy Holmes

Embrace Your Experience

Two decades later, my closet is fully stocked with coats and everything else necessary to live, work, and play in the winter. Because that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned about living in a city with winter weather- unless we have a blizzard, people go outside in the cold weather. In fact, they even have fun outdoors.

Children love to play in the snow- and they need the exercise. Staying cooped up inside only leads to grumpiness and fights. It’s much more fun to stay outside and build a snowman. Au pairs need to be prepared to join in the excitement.

For those of you not used to this weather, I understand your dismay. However, I encourage you to take advantage of this unique experience. Embrace the cold weather months as a chance to wear sweaters, try out a pair of gorgeous boots, and experience the snow. The au pair year is over very quickly, and before you know it, you’ll be home again showing your friends and families pictures of the first snowman you ever built.

Photo credit: Catherine McEaddy Holmes

Important Tips*

Dress in Layers – Consider buying sweaters, jackets and long underwear.  If you wear several layers, you can take off things to be comfortable. For example, when it might be too warm for a heavy jacket, but too cold for just a sweater, you can combine different pieces of clothing.

Set a Good Example – Host parents will expect you set the example for your kids by wearing a coat when it’s cold outside. You should have a winter coat, hats, gloves, boots, and scarves.  Your host kids will fight wearing a coat if you don’t wear one. Think of yourself as a celebrity and everyone wants to look like you — especially your kids.

Check the “Emergency Change of Clothes” – With young children, we often keep an emergency change of clothes in the car, diaper bag or at their school. If you haven’t already switched out the shorts and t-shirt for something warmer, now is the time to do it.

Buy Cold Weather Clothing Now – Many stores have sales this time of year. Target, T J Maxx, WalMart, and Macy’s have lots of outdoor gear in their stores. DSW has tons of warm and stylish boots and has many DC-area locations, including Columbia Heights, Friendship Heights, and Georgetown. Lands End and Amazon are great online alternatives. An even more affordable option would be to go to a thrift shop. There are many in the area and you can often find a very warm jacket for a small price compared to buying one new.

Monitor School Closings and Delays– DC doesn’t get as much snow as other cold-weather places, and school is often canceled or delayed when it snows just a little. Au pairs from Germany, Poland, and other cold-weather countries will laugh at the DC area’s dysfunction in the winter ice and snow. Talk with your host family now, so you can all understand the plan for these inevitable schedule changes.

Fashionably Winterized

It’s possible to look great and still be warm. Here are a few articles to inspire you:

(*Important Tips includes information first posted on Christine Connally’s Au Pair Chatter blog. )

2018 Options for Those Last Few Education Hours

Do you know how many total classroom hours you need to complete in your first year?

Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)

Au pairs are required to earn at least six academic credits during their year by completing classes/courses at accredited US post-secondary colleges and universities.

6 academic credits = approximately 8 CEUs = approximately 80 classroom hours 

(The absolute minimum accepted is 72 hours.)

Certain combinations of classes can leave you just a few hours short of the requirement. Here are several options for completing those last few hours. Information listed is correct as of February 28, 2018, and is subject to change. Consult the university websites for full information.

Virginia International University Saturday Museum Classes

Students spend 5 hours participating in an interactive, themed museum tour facilitated by ESL instructors.

  • Credits: 5 hours (.5 CEUs)
  • Cost: $40 (+$20 for new VIU students)
  • Schedule: Held almost every Saturday morning (10:30 am or 11:30 am)
  • Location: DC-area museums

Virginia International University Grammar Tune-Up

Grammar Tune-Up is a special weekend course for au pairs and is designed to target common errors made by intermediate to advanced-level English learners. Students will gain confidence facing their trouble spots in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.

  • Credits: 15 hours (1.5 CEUs)
  • Cost: $120 (+$20 for new VIU students)
  • Schedule: April 7 and 14 from 9 am – 3 pm
  • Location: Fairfax, VA campus (4401 Village Drive)

University of Virgin Islands Experience America through Art Galleries & Museums

Students self-guide through a local museum over a 3 hour period and complete an outside assignment where they create a detailed pictorial report of the visit, due within 7 days of the course.

  • Credits: 5 hours (.5 CEUs)
  • Cost: $50
  • Schedule: Held on a Saturday (10 am or 1:30pm) in DC-area museums

Looking for longer classes that offer more credits? For a complete list of classes approved for your DC-area cluster, click on this link.

Valentine’s Day Activities

Image: JWI_ValentinesOwl

Valentine’s Day is a time of love, friendship, giving, and caring. Americans use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to tell friends and family how much they care.  Celebrated on February 14th, children usually exchange cards at school on that day or one close to the holiday. 

Au Pair in America’s Valentine’s Day Pinterest Pinboard has lots of ideas for fun crafts and activities:

APIA’s Valentine’s Day Pinterest Board

Have a happy Valentine’s Day!