Time Invested in Tot Schooling

{disclosure: this post contains affiliate links}

A common question I hear from moms who are new to the whole Tot School idea is one concerning the amount of time invested. 

“How long do you spend setting it all up?”

“How long do you spend planning?”

“How long does it take to clean up and what do you do with the work in the end?”

The short answer is…as long as you let it take!

The longer answer is below…

I invest a lot of time into our tot/preschool activities because I ENJOY IT!  I have an early childhood degree and teaching young children is my passion. I enjoy just about every moment of the planning, prep, and even figuring out how best to organize/store it all when we are done. Because it is something I truly enjoy, it doesn’t seem like work to me, so I have no clue how long it actually takes me!  I know not all of you enjoy it all and you do it as an act of love for your youngsters.  I will do my best to outline what typical planning, preparing, and organizing looks like for me.

Planning for a Theme

Step One ~ Choose a theme {or letter of the week} You do NOT have to have a theme, especially with the younger tots, but it often makes planning more fun. When Ladybug was a young tot {around 9-12 months} the theme was a simple as “bells” and we just played with bells all week! This post is more for the planning that happens when tots are a bit older, around 2 years old and up.

Step TwoCreate a Pinterest Board for that theme

Step Three ~ Start pinning ideas! Pin anything you find that you might use, knowing that you will NOT use it all.  I do Google searches, Pinterest searches and specific blog/website searches. I have many theme boards on my Pinterest site, you can use those as a starting point! If you scroll a bit down on my boards you will see that my theme section is organized alphabetically.

Step Four ~ Gather books, toys, printables that you already have {I put them all in a prep bin}.

Step Five ~ Think about what YOUR child enjoys and narrow down your ideas.  Even if you pinned tons of craft ideas, keep in mind the likes/dislikes of your child,  If your child hates crafts, just choose one.  If you child loves crafts and you do too, choose one for each day! Balance out YOUR likes as well, if it stresses you out tremendously, don’t do it {or do it only once}. Example ~ I detest painting but Ladybug LOVES it.  I balance her love with my dislike and we will usually do painting all in one sitting, only once or twice a week. Even though she would prefer every day, my stress level can’t handle that!

Step Six ~ Start Printing! Print only what you plan to use, with maybe a few extras.  I print anything consumable on fast draft, and anything to be laminated or used again on fast normal. Sort your printed stacks into one pile of papers that need more prep work {cutting, laminating, etc.} and one that is ready to go {coloring sheets, dot fun sheets, etc.}

Step Seven ~ Final Prep! Get it all prepared and put it in one place.  If you are a detailed planner {I used to be} make your plan for the week{s}.  If you are like me, just dump it all in a big bin and then select new activities each night before you go to bed and have them ready for the next day! I usually try to set up a fun display of the theme in the schoolroom the night before it begins to get my kids excited to learn!  It works and they always head straight to the theme display when they first see it!

Pond Theme in Homeschool  Bug Theme in Homeschool

Step Eight ~ Have Fun! Enjoy the theme you have planned.  We usually leave a theme for a week, but if something comes up or if it is still being enjoyed, we will go for 2 weeks. I find that my kids usually burn out from the theme within 2 weeks. I also don’t stress about not getting to everything I had ready to go. Remember, you don’t have to do it all!

Step Nine ~ All Done! Let’s Clean it Up! I do NOT keep it all, I take a photo of the set of completed work and then toss most of it. Home Preschool Letter Cc

If it can be used again, it gets stored by theme using the theme printable storage method I shared awhile back. If it was super special, I might keep it, but honestly I toss 90% of it after the photo. I put everything back where I got it from, all in one night.  Sometimes the kids help me, but mostly I like doing it alone.

Storing Theme Items


A few other helpful posts that share a bit more about aspects of this topic:

This post is #4 in my series, “Homeschooling Tots & Preschoolers,” for the iHomeschool Network Spring 2013 Hopscotch. Visit other bloggers participating here!

Hopscotch-With-iHN-Spring

 

Homeschooling-Tots-and-PreschoolersDay 1 ~ Where to Begin with Tot School eBook

Day 2 ~ You Don’t Have to Do it All!

Day 3 ~ Developmentally Appropriate Practice

Day 4 ~ Time Invested in Tot Schooling

Day 5 ~ 10 Tips for Studying Nature with Tots

Day 6 ~ Exposure vs. Mastery

Day 7 ~ Why Themes?

Day 8 ~ Teaching Tots in a Large Family

Day 9 ~ Our Favorite Learning Tools for Tots

Day 10 ~ Early Childhood Theme Printables A-E



Developmentally Appropriate Practice & Homeschooling

About a year ago I wrote a post entitled, “Following the Lead of the Child” and put a request out for other early childhood educators to help me with a post on Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Homeschool. I am excited to share a guest post with you today from Becky {This Reading Mama}. I asked Becky to collaborate with me for this post and am grateful to have another voice here on my blog sharing wisdom about this topic, I hope you find it helpful!Developmentally Appropriate Practice and Homeschoolers


When working with young children, the term "developmentally appropriate" comes to mind quite a bit. The National Association for the Education of Young Children {NAEYC} is the driving force behind the terminology and research. Anyone trained in early childhood education or working in the early childhood field certainly knows this term and is familiar with the NAEYC.

But what about homeschoolers? What about moms who are not trained and have never worked in this environment, but are now teaching their own young children at home? Well, this post is for YOU! I was introduced to the developmental approach while teaching at a Christian preschool. The new director at the time submerged me in all things Montessori. I devoured books, articles, videos, and toured Montessori schools with her. I was amazed at the things I saw and learned. The few years spent getting my M.Ed. in Elementary Reading further fueled my passion towards teaching with a developmental approach. Currently, I’m a homeschooling mom of four, and although no longer in the preschool or elementary classroom, teaching in a developmentally appropriate way drives my instruction at home.


What is Developmentally Appropriate Practice?

"As NAEYC defines it, developmentally appropriate practice (DAP} is a framework of principles and guidelines for best practice in the care and education of young children, birth through age 8. It is grounded both in the research on how young children develop and learn and in what is known about education effectiveness. The principles and guidelines outline practice that promotes young children’s optimal learning and development."

Broken down further, here’s an excerpt from the Key Messages of the DAP Position Statement:

  • Developmentally appropriate practice requires both meeting children where they are–which means that teachers must get to know them well–and enabling them to reach goals that are both challenging and achievable.
  • All teaching practices should be appropriate to children’s age and developmental status, attuned to them as unique individuals, and responsive to the social and cultural contexts in which they live.
  • Developmentally appropriate practice does now mean making things easier for children. Rather, it means ensuring that goals and experiences are suited to their learning and development and challenging enough to promote their progress and interest.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children holds the copyright for the quoted material above. 


Developmentally Appropriate Practice at Home

The NAEYC focuses on teaching children in a group setting, but how does this look at home? How do you know that you are teaching your young child{ren} in developmentally appropriate ways?

Here are a few of my thoughts about DAP in the home:

1. Follow the bent and interests of your child. Does your child crave structure and predictability? Does your child prefer using his own creativity as a springboard for learning? Maybe he wants to play all day long, but don’t miss the fact that play is rich with learning. What kinds of books or toys does he naturally gravitate towards? What kinds of questions does he ask you? These will show you what he is interested in learning. Research shows that if a subject is of high interest, the child will be naturally motivated to learn and accept challenges, with your support.

iPadmathgame

Recently, NJoy {4.5 years old} asked to play a math addition game on our iPad. At first I dismissed the thought, thinking that this game would be too hard for him. But he was extremely persistent, asking me to help him solve these problems {high interest}. I gave him some of our Learning Resources family counters, provided a make-shift addition "mat", and modeled it a couple of times. The look on his face was priceless as he got one after another correct. Any mom with multiple children knows that they are all very different creatures. What works like a charm for one child may be totally rejected by another. The ability to adapt for each child is key! In other words, one size does not fit all.

2. Your child can change from month to month and year to year. What was meaningful and worked one day may not the next. Again, flexibility is important. My daughter {currently 34 months} can be wishy-washy from one moment to the next! Some days, she wants nothing to do with the activities I have planned. But if I become her student in those moments, I am amazed at the things I learn from her. Most days, she wants to do everything her older brothers do; including worksheets or pocket chart games.

3. Your child shows you he is developmentally ready when he uses it, but confuses it. When a child uses a certain concept, but not in the conventional way, it’s HUGE clue that he’s ready to learn about it with your support. Not too long ago, I noticed my daughter was ready to begin learning letter sounds. How? "Mommy, cat starts with M. See mommy? /m/ /m/ cat. See it starts with M. Just like my name." She did this on several occasions with different letters.

LetterM

So I began working on some letter M activities, emphasizing the letter sound {I’m sure the marshmallows helped: /m/-/m/ marshmallows!}. My son showed me he was ready to do some rhyming activities when he announced in the van one day, "Mommy! Sun rhymes with run and snake." Use, but confuse.

4. Your child displays boredom or frustration. If you’ve stepped out of the "zone" of developmentally appropriate, your young child will let you know! If he seems bored with the activity, it may be because it’s too easy for him. If she is frustrated and gives up, chances are you’re asking her to do something too hard for her. Children operating in their "zone" {also known as their instructional level or ZPD} are typically engaged and active participants in their own learning. Teaching in the "zone" means 1- the child has a basic understanding and interest in the activity and 2-it is just enough of a challenge for the child that he cannot do it by himself, but can do it with your help.

For example, my son knew all his letter sounds by 42 months. He asked to do schoolwork, like his big brother. So I developed a PreK reading curriculum for him called Reading the Alphabet that we’re working through this school year.

InitialSoundGame ColorbySightword

Anything on a Kindergarten level would have been too fast-paced and frustrating, but reviewing letters and their sounds for another year would have been dry and dull {for him and for me}. I created something to take him a step deeper, into his "zone".

5. The age {or grade level} of your child is not the only predictor of what is developmentally appropriate for him. While the age of your child can help you make general predictions about what he should learn, his own development has to be taken into consideration. It reminds me of a 3rd grader I knew confused her b’s and d’s when she wrote. The mom had been told by a well-meaning friend that her daughter should not be doing this anymore because, after all, she was in the 3rd grade. When I asked the mom a few questions, I discovered her daughter was reading and writing at a 1st grade level. Letter reversals are still very common in the 1st grade; so developmentally speaking, the child was doing exactly what writers do in that stage. Was it still an area of concern? Of course! But acknowledging the child’s developmental stage in regards to literacy was vital because it revealed more about her than age or grade level alone.

6. Developmentally Appropriate Practice goes well beyond academics. Anything {brushing teeth, riding a bike, getting dressed, etc.}, if taught outside of your child’s developmental zone, can be a source of frustration for you and your child. One of the practices I learned from developmental teaching is gradually releasing responsibility to the child. This means modeling and teaching in the zone {see #4} with lots of support; then gradually "releasing" the child to do it independently, with less support as she goes.  


What are Some Next Steps Moms Can Take?

  • Pray. Ask God to help you see your child as He does. God knows your child better than you. Ask him for wisdom in teaching this gift He has given you.
  • Humble yourself. Sometimes, it’s easy to get wrapped up in pride {ask me how I know}. When that lovely printable I’ve created is rejected by my son or daughter, it stings. When Suzy’s daughter is younger than mine, yet can already read; I begin to compare myself as a mother. Don’t go there.
  • Play. Take time to simply be your child’s mom instead of "teacher". Enjoy spending time with your child without a pre-planned agenda. You’ll be surprised at the things your child will teach you! Some of my favorite teaching ideas have come from playing with my children.

Developmentally appropriate practice is attainable for homeschooling moms of young children, even without formal training and experience. Many times, it’s as simple as becoming students of our children to see the whole picture. Instead of asking them to get into our neat, little prepackaged "box" of teaching, we need to unwrap their "box" to find the true treasures…their interests, their bent, and their zone. It’s what developmentally appropriate practice is all about.


Headshot-150Becky Spence is a homeschooling mama to four little blessings. She is passionate about teaching, specifically literacy. She is the author of This Reading Mama, where she shares reading and writing activities as well as free literacy curricula and printables. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.


This post is #3 in my series, “Homeschooling Tots & Preschoolers,” for the iHomeschool Network Spring 2013 Hopscotch.  Visit other bloggers participating here!

Hopscotch-With-iHN-Spring

 

Homeschooling-Tots-and-Preschoolers_Day 1 ~ Where to Begin with Tot School eBook

Day 2 ~ You Don’t Have to Do it All!

Day 3 ~ Developmentally Appropriate Practice

Day 4 ~ Time Invested in Tot Schooling

Day 5 ~ 10 Tips for Studying Nature with Tots

Day 6 ~ Exposure vs. Mastery

Day 7 ~ Why Themes?

Day 8 ~ Teaching Tots in a Large Family

Day 9 ~ Our Favorite Learning Tools for Tots

Day 10 ~ Early Childhood Theme Printables A-E



You Don’t Have to Do it All!

Pinterest has been both a blessing and a stumbling block for me.  I am blessed to have every homeschool idea imaginable all in one place and also to have a place to record and organize those ideas.  On the other hand, it gets a bit overwhelming, with all of the homeschool activities available. I imagine if I feel this way at times, perhaps many of you do also.

I just released my Where to Begin with Tot School eBook yesterday and it is full of links, photos, ideas and words! Now I am here to tell you to be sure you noticed the part about keeping it simple.  I am here to say…

You Don't Have To Do It All

Even I forget this at times and I am sure many of you who read my blog may think I do it all. I most certainly do not, I just take lots and lots of pictures of what we do.  One of my biggest concerns is that my blog gives off an unrealistic view of what our life is really like.  We are normal, I struggle a LOT, and Pinterest overwhelms me too sometimes.

When Pac was a tot/preschooler, I planned virtually NOTHING for him.  We did things naturally, but it was not a thing like what I have done with Krash and Ladybug. Guess what, Pac loves to learn, is overall a very well rounded and well behaved kid, and I don’t think he suffered one bit from my lack of planning activities when he was younger. Much of what I chose to do with my youngest 2 was for ME.  I enjoy planning early childhood stuff and once I began being more intentional, I was happier and so were my kids.

I know many of you have already read the eBook I shared yesterday and are filled with ideas and ready to begin.  I encourage you to remember to keep it simple, focus on giving your child the best YOU before the best activity.  I have to remind myself of this daily.  My kids would rather have a gentle, grace-filled, peaceful, loving mother than a fabulous craft or activity and a stressed out mom. Unfortunately I fail often, but I pick myself up again and continue the journey. I pray for you, and for myself, that we may focus on being the moms God desires us to be for the precious lives entrusted to our care.

Give your Child YOU

 


This post is #2 in my series, “Homeschooling Tots & Preschoolers,” for the iHomeschool Network Spring 2013 Hopscotch. Visit other bloggers participating here!

Hopscotch-With-iHN-Spring[4]

 

Homeschooling Tots and PreschoolersDay 1 ~ Where to Begin with Tot School eBook

Day 2 ~ You Don’t Have to Do it All!

Day 3 ~ Developmentally Appropriate Practice

Day 4 ~ Time Invested in Tot Schooling

Day 5 ~ 10 Tips for Studying Nature with Tots

Day 6 ~ Exposure vs. Mastery

Day 7 ~ Why Themes?

Day 8 ~ Teaching Tots in a Large Family

Day 9 ~ Our Favorite Learning Tools for Tots

Day 10 ~ Early Childhood Theme Printables A-E



Where to Begin with Tot School eBook

Where to Begin with Tot School eBook

A few years ago I wrote a blog post entitled, Where to Begin with Tot School.  It continues to be my highest read post and I still get the most feedback on this post than any other! Over a year ago I began turning this post into an eBook, which took the content of the post and expanded on it to create what I am offering you today! Where to Begin with Tot School eBook ~ Free to Newsletter Subscribers! It is a 27 page eBook filled with info to get you started with Tot School and to help you understand what Tot School is! There are MANY links within the book, tons of photographs and even a section with specific ideas for each age group {something I am asked for a lot}! Each idea shared has a hyper link which will direct you to my blog post about that item and how we used it! Here is a sample page from that section…

Where to Begin with Tot School eBook Ideas by Age Section

I am not selling this eBook, nor do I plan to, but to control the circulation of it a bit I am offering it FREE to my newsletter subscribers!

If you are already subscribed to the newsletter {not the same as the blog post RSS email} you should have received a newsletter within the past day entitled “Where to Begin with Tot School eBook,” if you didn’t see it yet, do a search in your email to find it.

For those of you who are not yet subscribed to my newsletter, you can do that here!

1plus1plus1 Email Newsletter

Just type in your email address and then wait for the confirmation email to come to your inbox {or possibly spam-be sure to check there}.  Click to confirm your subscription and then you will receive this and 2 other emails within the first hour.  One is a Welcome email and the other is another set of subscriber freebies!

I hope this eBook blesses many of you!


This post is #1 in my series, “Homeschooling Tots & Preschoolers,” for the iHomeschool Network Spring 2013 Hopscotch.  Visit other bloggers participating here!

Hopscotch-With-iHN-Spring

 

Homeschooling-Tots-and-Preschoolers_Day 1 ~ Where to Begin with Tot School eBook

Day 2 ~ You Don’t Have to Do it All!

Day 3 ~ Developmentally Appropriate Practice

Day 4 ~ Time Invested in Tot Schooling

Day 5 ~ 10 Tips for Studying Nature with Tots

Day 6 ~ Exposure vs. Mastery

Day 7 ~ Why Themes?

Day 8 ~ Teaching Tots in a Large Family

Day 9 ~ Our Favorite Learning Tools for Tots

Day 10 ~ Early Childhood Theme Printables A-E