Tag Archives: washington dc

St. Patrick’s Day 2018

DCC Au Pairs having St. Patrick’s Day fun! (Photo: Scott Montgomery)

St. Patrick’s Day is on March 17th and has been celebrated in the US since 1737. St. Patrick is said to have given a sermon from a hilltop that drove all the snakes from Ireland. Traditional icons of the day are the shamrock, leprechaun, the color green and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Celebration Ideas

Washington, DC commemorates St. Patrick’s Day every year with a variety of festivals and parades held in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Here are some ways you can celebrate:

  • Celebrate the season at a one of the St. Patrick’s Day parades in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
  • Ireland on the Wharf: Celebrate the beauty and tradition of the Emerald Isle with bagpipers, Irish dancers, live music, and plenty of family-friendly activities on March 10 at DC’s Southwest Waterfront
  • Au Pair in America’s St. Patrick’s Day pinboard has lots of creative suggestions for crafts, baking, and other fun ideas.
  • Take your picture in front of a green fountain! The White House was designed by Irish architect James Hoban. Traditionally, the White House fountain has been dyed green on March 17th in celebration of the holiday.

    On March 15, 2018, the fountain on the South Lawn of the White House turned green in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

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.

2017 Winter Vacation Battle Plan

Photo: m01229 (Flickr)

Photo: m01229 (Flickr)

During the last weeks of December, many host kids will have between ten days to two weeks off from school for winter vacation. The thought of having the kids home for multiple days during the winter can send even the most seasoned childcare giver into a panic. Cold weather, shorter days, extra sugar, later bedtimes, and visiting relatives can be a challenge, but with some pre-planning, you can provide your host kids with a vacation to remember.

Tip #1: Plan Ahead

Tip #2: Dress the Part

Winter has finally arrived in DC. It’s important to dress for cold weather and to make sure that your host children are dressed warmly too. If this is your first experience with really cold weather, ask your host parents for advice on staying warm. For more info, read this blog post from October: It’s Cold Out There! A 2017 Guide to DC Winter Weather.

Tip #3: Plan a Cozy Day Indoors

  • Staying home for the day? APIA’s Pinterest boards have loads of winter fun and holiday crafts and activities.
  • Help the kids organize their toys and rooms with these suggestions. With mom and dad’s permission, perhaps your host kids can donate some of the toys they have outgrown. This will create more room for the new toys from Santa.
  • Looking for a fun baking activity? Gingerbread is a delicious way to celebrate the season!

Tip #4: Make a Date

Playdates can be a great way for kids to socialize and work on the important skills necessary to being a good friend. Talk with your host family about planning a playdate over winter vacation. With their permission, you can use our cluster list to find an au pair who lives near you and has host kids who are compatible ages with your host kids. If hosting doesn’t work, you can also make plans to meet up at the library for a free story hour or crafting session.

Winter Fun for DC Kids (2017-2018)

Brr! In need of some ideas to keep the kids entertained this winter? Here’s a roundup of several great local blogs full of suggestions for spending the day exploring DC both before and after the holidays. Continue reading

Christmas 2017

We have host families from a wide variety of backgrounds and faiths; some of our host families celebrate Christmas, some celebrate Hanukkah, some celebrate Kwanzaa, and some celebrate more than one holiday or none at all. If you’re an au pair living with a host family who celebrates Christmas and you do not, I encourage you to take part and experience it with them. This can be a great opportunity for learning and culture sharing. I also encourage host families to ask their au pairs to share their holiday traditions and customs. 



Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion.

Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)

Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)

In the United States, popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870. (Source: History.com)

Christmas Traditions in the US

Infographic: History.com

Infographic: History.com

In the US, Americans celebrate Christmas with traditions that have been introduced from different cultures as well as some uniquely American celebrations.

  • The period of time in the US from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is called “the holidays.”
  • Decorated Christmas trees begin lighting up windows in homes, and shops and outdoor plazas shortly after Thanksgiving.
  • Christmas tree ornaments can be found in almost every store, but many families have boxes of treasured ornaments made by children out of paper and other crafts which are lovingly hung year after year.
  • Christmas lights decorate trees indoors as well as the front lawns and porches of houses. Many parks have special holiday light displays.
  • Children write letters to Santa Claus requesting gifts. Shopping malls, parties, churches, and some schools host events where children can have their photo taken with Santa Claus and ask him for gifts in-person.
  • Christians remember the birth of Christ with nativity scenes displayed on church lawns, Christmas pageants performed by children in churches and some schools, and delicate, often handcrafted manger scenes set out among the Christmas decor at home.
  • On December 24, Christmas Eve, many families have special traditions and often attend Christmas Eve church services. Children hang Christmas stockings, leave cookies and milk for Santa Claus, and try their best to fall asleep so Santa can deliver their presents.
  • On December 25, Christmas Day, children wake up early to see the gifts Santa Claus left them. Families exchange gifts, which have been wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree.
  • Americans mail Christmas and holiday cards (often with photos of the family) throughout the holiday season. In 2010, Americans mailed 1.5 billion holiday cards.
  • Source: Moo.com

    Source: Moo.com

    Many Americans view the same beloved Christmas movies year after year. Some classic favorites include, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Christmas Story,” “Home Alone,” “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “Elf” and “A Miracle on 34th Street.”

Photo: www.GlynLowe.com (Flickr)

Photo: www.GlynLowe.com (Flickr)

Celebrating Christmas in Washington, DC

A very Merry Christmas to all!

Hanukkah 2017

You can visit the world's largest menorah on the Ellipse in Washington, DC. Photo: Ted Eytan (Flickr)

You can visit the world’s largest menorah on the Ellipse in Washington, DC. Photo: Ted Eytan (Flickr)

We have host families from a wide variety of backgrounds and faiths; some host families celebrate Hanukkah, some celebrate Christmas, some celebrate Kwanzaa, and some celebrate more than one holiday or none at all. If you’re an au pair living with a host family who celebrates Hanukkah and you do not, I encourage you to take part and experience it with them. This can be a great opportunity for learning and culture sharing. I also encourage host families to ask their au pairs to share their holiday traditions and customs. 

Hanukkah is the Jewish Feast of Lights or Feast of Dedication. The Hebrew word Hanukkah means dedication. The holiday begins on the eve of the 25th day of the Hebrew Month of Kislev and lasts eight days. Hanukkah usually falls in the month of December, but occasionally can start in November. This year Hanukkah begins at sundown on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, and ends the evening of Wednesday, December 20, 2017. 

How Do You Spell Hanukkah?

According to Judaism 101, the process of writing Hebrew words in the Roman (English) alphabet is known as transliteration. Transliteration is more an art than a science, and opinions on the correct way to transliterate words vary widely. This is why the Jewish festival of lights (in Hebrew, Cheit-Nun-Kaf-Hei) is spelled Chanukah, Chanukkah, Hanuka, and many other interesting ways. Each spelling has a legitimate phonetic and orthographic basis; none is right or wrong.


The books of the Maccabees tell the story of Hanukkah which occurred in 165 B.C. After three years of struggle, the Jews in Judea defeated the Syrian tyrant Antiochus. The Jewish people held festivities in the Temple of Jerusalem and rededicated it to God. After removing all Syrian idols from the Temple, the Jews found only one small pot of oil to light their holy lamps. Miraculously, the small pot provided oil for eight days. Judas Maccabaeus, the Jewish leader, then proclaimed a festival to be observed by Jewish people. (Source: www.apples4theteacher.com)

Hanukkah Traditions (Source: www.bhg.com)

  • The Menorah

The centerpiece of the Hanukkah celebration is the Hanukkah or menorah, a candelabra that holds nine candles. Eight candles symbolize the number of days that the Temple lantern blazed; the ninth, the shamash, is a helper candle used to light the others. Families light one candle on the first day, two on the second (and so on) after sundown during the eight days of Hanukkah while reciting prayers and singing songs. The menorah — either store-bought or homemade and crafted of metal, wood, papier-mache, or clay — is filled from right to left, but lit left to right so each new candle is lit first. (Source: www.bhg.com)

  • Singing Songs

Hanukkah — one of the most family-oriented of Jewish holidays — comes with its own set of carols sung around the glowing menorah. These celebrate everything from the glory of God and the ancient Temple of the Jews (“Maoz Tzur”) to the simplicity of a dreidel (see below), as in “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel/I made it out of clay/And when it’s dry and ready/Dreidel I shall play.”

  • Yummy Treats
Photo of Sufganiyot (Donuts): Avital Pinnick (Flickr)

Photo of Sufganiyot (Donuts): Avital Pinnick (Flickr)

There’s nothing low-fat about Hanukkah – many of the traditional foods of the holiday are deep-fried. In honor of the oil-y miracle people celebrating Hannukah like to eat foods that are fried in oil like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts) and different fried breads.  Want to have a go at making something?  There are lots of recipes for yummy treats here.

  • Spinning Tops 

    Photo: Marina Shemesh (Flickr)

    Photo: Marina Shemesh (Flickr)

It’s customary to play with dreidels (spinning tops) during the holiday, even wage gambling games in which players guess which side of the top will fall face up. Legend has it that during the Greek-Syrian dictatorship in Israel of yore, Jews got around the ban on reading the Torah by bringing spinning tops to study sessions so their oppressors would think they were just playing around. The Hebrew characters carved into the four sides of today’s dreidels are the first letters of “Ness Gadol Haya Po/Sham,” which roughly translates to “Great Miracle Happened Here/There” (depending on whether you’re in Israel or not).

Directions to play the Dreidel game

More fun and educational Hanukkah activities for children

Celebrating Hanukkah in Washington, DC

The lighting of this menorah – the world’s largest – is attended by thousands every year and seen via media by tens of millions across the nation and around the world. Along with the lighting, there will be live entertainment and menorah kits and dreidels to take home. Tickets are free but must be ordered in advance.

A very Happy Hanukkah to all!

Veterans Day 2017

Each year, we recognize our Veterans on November 11th, the day that World War I ended in 1918. Today, there are over 19 million Veterans in the United States. We all have a family member, friend, neighbor, or host parent who has served or is currently serving in the military. Continue reading

2019 Au Pair Education Options

Photo: William Warby (Flickr)

Photo: William Warby (Flickr)

  • APs are required 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 (72 classroom hours is absolute minimum allowed).
  • For a summary of State Department education requirements, click on this link.
  • Before you sign up for a class, remember to talk with your HF to make sure that the class will fit with your work schedule.
  • If the class is remote (out of town), HFs pay for the class and what is included. APs pay for transportation, food, & lodging.
  • Most courses require homework to receive class credit.


Georgetown University Evening and Weekend English

  • Details: Conversational English courses (weeknights), ESL Business English courses (weeknights), and Advanced TOEFL Test Prep course (Saturdays)
  • Credits: 3.2 CEUs for 8-week summer course; 3.6 CEUs for 9-week fall and spring course
  • Cost: $480 for summer course; $540 for fall & spring courses (10% Early Enrollment Discount)
  • Placement: Mandatory placement test
  • Location: Georgetown, DC (Take shuttle from Dupont Circle Metro)

International Language Institute (ILI) English Programs and other foreign languages

  • ESL and TOEFL Prep Au Pair Promotion- $500 Tuition for 72-75 hours
    • Day Classes (Monday-Friday 9 am-2:10 pm; earn 75 hours in 3 weeks)
    • Evening Classes (Tuesday-Thursday 6:40-8:45 pm; earn 75 hours in 10 weeks)
    • Saturday Classes (Saturday 9 am-1:05 pm; earn 72 hours in 16 weeks)
  • Other foreign languages (Click here for 10% au pair discount)
  • Cost: $75 one-time application fee + tuition (usually offers 10% discount for Au Pairs)
  • Schedule: Weekday, evening, and weekend courses offered year-round; foreign language classes begin 4 times per year
  • Placement: Testing offered daily
  • Location: Dupont Circle (Dupont and Farragut North Metro)

LADO International Institute English courses

  • Details: Intensive, Semi-intensive, TOEFL Prep, and TEFL Prep classes
  • Credits: 7.6 or 7.2 CEUs for Intensive 4-week program; 7.2 CEUs for Semi-intensive 8-week program, 3.6 CEUs for 8-week Saturday program
  • Cost: $85 one-time registration fee + tuition (10% APIA tuition discount usually offered)
  • Schedule: Weekday, evening, and weekend courses offered year-round
  • Placement: Testing offered daily
  • Locations: DC (Archives, Gallery Place, Metro Center), Arlington (Rosslyn Metro), Silver Spring (Silver Spring Metro)

Mentora College Intensive ESL Program

  • Details: Intensive 4-week program (ask about a 30% APIA scholarship discount)
  • Location: DC (McPherson Square and Metro Center)

Virginia International University (VIU) Non-Intensive ESL Program and Saturday Museum Classes

  • Details: Non-Intensive ESL courses (include Business English, Grammar and Conversation, TOEFL Prep, and more), Saturday Museum classes (interactive one-day museum classes and tours taught by an ESL instructor), and Weekend classes (Grammar Tune-Up and others).
  • Credits:  0.5 for Museum Class; 1.5 – 3.0 CEUs for other courses
  • Cost: $20 one-time application fee + tuition ($40 per museum class; varies for other courses)
  • Schedule: Museum classes =  Saturdays year-round; schedule varies for other courses
  • Placement: No placement test required for museum classes
  • Location: DC-area museums and Fairfax, VA campus


BMCC Learning Across America

  • Details: BMCC offers au pairs two ways to earn educational credits:
    1. Learning Local: Attend class at Trinity University in DC and then take a study trip to the destination (usually Niagara Falls or Amish Country).
    2. Learning Express:  Study, explore and earn educational credits all in the same long weekend in an amazing destination like Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.
  • Credits: 40 hours/4 CEUs, 36 hours/ 3.6 CEUS, or 32 hours/3.2 CEUs
  • Cost: Varies by class (check for additional housing and transportation costs)
  • Schedule: Learning Local classes meet on Saturdays and Sundays. Study trip dates vary and may include weekdays. Learning Express classes meet over one long weekend on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Carefully check class descriptions dates and times.
  • BMCC continues to add new courses to its Learning Across America program so make sure to check the schedule regularly!

George Washington University School of Business Women’s Business Leadership

  • Details: GWU’s School of Business Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence Women’s Leadership Seminar series
    • WBL 101: Intro to Women’s Business Leadership (Fall- Nov 2 and 3, 2019)
    • WBL 102: Personal Leadership Journey (Spring- March 7 and 8, 2020)
  • Credits: 3 credits/ 36 hours
  • Cost: $360 early registration; $385 regular registration + $25 for workbook
  • Schedule: TBA (also pre and post-class assignments)
  • Location: George Washington University (Foggy Bottom Metro)

Stratford University Event Survey Course

  • Details: Explore the world of event management including theme development, food, design, tourism, and more.
  • Credits: 3 CEUs/ 30 hours
  • Cost: $460
  • Schedule: 10 am-2 pm on Thursdays Sept 12-Oct 17
  • Location: Stratford University’s Alexandria Campus (Eisenhower Ave Metro)

University of DC Community College Au Pair Weekend Class

  • Details: Learn important skills for dealing with the cultural and personal challenges that international visitors in the U.S. often face and also learn about Washington, DC.  
  • Credits: Receive up to 45 hours for a 3-day weekend class 
  • Cost: Varies by course (housing not provided)
  • Location: 801 N Capitol St NE (near Union Station)

University of the Virgin Islands International Program (based in DC and other locations)

  • Details: Courses that meet for multiple times for several weeks, weekends, or months (include Accent Reduction, ESL Small Talk, Sign Language, art classes, business classes, and more).
  • Credits: Between 20-40 hours (2-4 CEUs) and varies by course
  • Cost: Varies by course; create student account to register and pay
  • Locations: Throughout DC Metro and other locations

Other Classes located at Universities all over the US, including California, New York, Florida, Virginia, Hawaii and others. Click here for more information.


UCLA Extension American Studies

  • Details: Click here for detailed class description and a sample of the required English level
  • Credits: 6 credits
  • Cost: $500
  • Schedule: September 23, 2019 – February 3, 2020. Course #364702. (Use this link to register and pay for the course. Registration can be tricky. Use this guide for tips on how to register.) Registration opens July 29, 2019.
  • Location: Online (Note: This is the only online class approved by the State Department and is only available to APIA Au Pairs.)


Below is a list of accredited DC-area schools you may wish to research for class options. However, they tend to be more expensive and do not have special programs designed to fit into an au pair’s typical schedule.

American University Nondegree Student (over $1000 per credit)

Corcoran Arts Continuing Education classes (around $1000 per credit)

Georgetown University Visiting Non-Degree Student (over $1500 per credit)

Montgomery College Work Force Development & Continuing Education (must pay non-resident fee)

Prince George’s Community College classes (must pay out-of-state tuition)

This blog post was last updated on 07/13/2019.

Celebrate Labor Day 2017!

This year, we will celebrate Labor Day on Monday, September 4th. Labor Day Weekend is a new holiday for many au pairs. Here is a brief history of this American holiday (from Holiday Insights), ideas of ways to celebrate with your host children, and DC-area events.

Continue reading

DC’s Eventful Summer (2017)

Lorenzo Tlacaelel (Flikr)

From paddling down the Potomac to tasting the world’s best barbecue, take full advantage of the many, many great happenings in DC this summer.

Know of any other fun events or activities in DC this summer? Share below in the comments!  Continue reading