Reviewing Your Families’ Academic Year: Will it be back to virtual school for yourself and your kids?

By J. Sparks – Redefining Traditional Project Team Member

As both a graduate student and a parent of school aged children, the beginning of summer marks the end of the school year for my whole family.  It’s a time when we all assess the academic year completed and make plans for the school year to come.  

A tablet with teaching materials on the screen, with tools like a note pad, coffee, pencils and more.

This year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, my university shifted all of it’s classes online.  My children also became engaged in online public schooling.  After a year like no other, assessing what we have done and where we will go academically – as a family – has been a challenge. Out of necessity, we have all adapted to online learning and established new ways of connecting with our schools, communities, extended family and friends.   

For over a year now, my family has lived, worked and learned all together from home.  We have made virtual learning work for ourselves and for our children.  

It has been an adjustment.  It has not been easy.  We have survived.  We have succeeded. 

Virtual Learning, Virtual Working, Virtually Unavailable

By Heather Watts

Heather standing in front of a colourful background wearing a teal long sleeve shirt, smiling to the camera.

At the start of the 2020-2021 school year, I made the decision to send my son to school in-person. I can remember some of my parent friends asking, “Aren’t you worried about his health?”. Of course. I am also trusting in the processes set forward by his small, community school to keep everyone safe; a process informed by local physicians and scientists.

Supporting Student Parent Success: Tips from Research and Practice

Authored by Victoria Fritz, PhD Candidate (Family Relations and Human Development) & Learning Specialist, University of Guelph

The university landscape in Ontario is changing, and our student body is becoming more diverse. As we see more students coming from non-traditional backgrounds (traditional being direct entry from high-school), we need to become more aware of the unique needs of our students in order to better support them as practitioners. One group, in particular, that I have had the privilege of interacting with both in my research and in my professional work, is student parents.

Beyond Thanksgiving

How educators can authentically honor and engage with Indigenous heritage and perspectives — all year long.

By Heather Watts

At Redefining Traditional we aim to share resources, stories, and experiences from a scope of virtual communities and educational spaces for student parents and supporters. This week, we’re excited to share a post by Heather Watts from Harvard’s ‘Usable Knowledge: Relevant Research for Today’s Educators’ blog series with the Graduate School of Education. We welcome you to take a look at many of the other important pieces they post at:

Share Your Story: A Can of Soup on a Halloween Eve

By Kaitlyn Corlett – Senior Project Assistant at the Innovation Hub

Our Share Your Story Series highlights individual’s stories in the Redefining Traditional community – and aims to bring in different perspectives by student parents and supporters. If you have a story you would like to share you can submit your story here!: Share Your Story Submission Form

Kaitlyn Corlett smiling at the camera

I was raised by a single mother who pursued her education throughout my childhood. Recently, I’ve been reflecting a lot on memories of when my mother was completing her Master’s degree online and we were navigating this reality in our home. Today, I share with you one memory that has always stuck with me.

Reflections on Orange Shirt Day

By Heather Watts – Design Researcher at the Innovation Hub

Last year around this time, I wrote the following post on my Facebook page: 

Icon of an orange shirt with the text 'Every Child Matters' on it.
Orange Shirt Day Logo: learn more at

A lot of feelings as I dropped Nico off this morning, sporting his orange shirt. Today is Orange Shirt Day, a day designed to educate people and promote awareness about the Indian residential school system and the impact this system had on Indigenous communities for more than a century in Canada, and still does today. 

This system was assimilation and erasure packaged and tied as ‘education’. What do we mean when we use this word? What are we teaching? What are we intentionally leaving out? What narrative are we working to maintain? 

As I walked my little love to his school here in Toronto, I reflect, what narrative continues to be the one that is upheld? What constitutes knowledge? Who is taught about and in what way are they remembered, revered, and celebrated?  

Let us not just be performative on this day, or any day for that matter. Beyond shirts. Beyond land acknowledgements. Let us be critical. Let us be systemic and institutional change agents. 

Over the past twelve months since I posted these words, I have engaged in the topic of Reconciliation on a scholarly level, as well as on a personal level. As an Indigenous woman with family members who are residential school survivors, there is a lot to consider when it comes to this journey of Reconciliation. I still very much believe that there is a dominant narrative that our institutions of learning work to maintain, and in large part, that narrative omits, marginalizes, and misrepresents Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC).  

A Fall Like Never Before: Academic Success Can Still Be Colorful!

Written by Shamim Ahmed – Design Researcher at the Innovation Hub

Academic success is so important for students, and we know it well. We often think academic success is all about studying, but if we reflect on lifestyles where academic progress seems to flourish for folks, studying is not necessarily the only thing that has helped them succeed. A little bit of planning and giving importance to the smaller but important things in life supported them to be successful in their academic journey. However, this summer was difficult for most of us. Due to COVID-19, students might have to make up for classes, continue home schooling or face financial uncertainties. Due to the pandemic, many students might not have been able to engage in summer activities, visit family, or have a summer vacation that helps us return to the Fall semester energized. It is well known how overwhelming it can be returning to school – especially now, no matter your degree or grade. It is not just applicable to new students, but also for the returning students after an uncertain summer of 2020.    

Balancing Parenting and Working from Home by Fostering Self-Help Skills in Children

Authored by University of Guelph student Megan Coghill

Words making up a light bulb that include aspects of self-help, such as "balance", "care" "active" and more.

With many parents working or completing school from home due to Covid-19 it can be challenging to avoid distractions. Fostering self-help skills in your children is especially useful while trying to balance parenting and other commitments. Furthermore, increasing independence allows your children to feel an improved sense of autonomy.

Maintain Physical Distancing, But Enjoy A Healthy, Balanced Life

Written by Shamim Ahmed The last pandemic we faced took place almost a century ago. COVID-19, a deadly disease caused by coronavirus, has emerged as a catastrophe and completely shifted our world in every way possible. It has infected millions of people and…