Behind the Scenes ~ Lapbooking

Behind the Scenes ~ Lapbooking

I am by no means a super-lapbooker, there are many out there and I have learned a TON from them! But I do get a lot of questions regarding lapbooking so I thought I would do my best to put what I have learned all into one post for anyone who is interested!

How do you incorporate, choose, plan, and prepare?

  • We use lapbooking as a supplemental part of our learning.
  • We began lapbooking at the beginning of Pac Man’s K year.
  • We focus our lapbooking topics mostly around science, social studies, and special holidays.
  • Pac Man (currently age 6 1/2) chooses his own lapbook topic about 99% of the time, that way I can be sure he will be interested in it!
  • I search for a free lapbook first, and then if I can’t find one already pre-made , then I search online at different printable sites for pieces to incorporate into the lapbook. If I can’t find exactly what I am looking for, I will make my own templates, using Microsoft Publisher. If I make anything, I always share it in PDF form, on our lapbooking webpage.
  • We usually only have one lapbook going at a time now. When he was in K, we usually had 2 going at one time because his core work was so easy for him. Now that regular schooling is at his level, we usually only work on one supplemental lapbook at a time.
  • We *do* the lapbook in various ways, but mostly Pac will complete one mini item for the lapbook each day and then when we have exhausted the topic, we will put it all together as a summary. There are many ways of thinking about this though.

Where do you find free lapbooks, helpful tutorials, or other bloggers who show their labooks?

What supplies do you keep on hand to make lapbookng easier to manage?

That about covers the basic questions I have received. If you have any others, leave them in the comments below and I will add the answers (if I know) there so others can see them too. If I personally think of anything else, I will edit the original post and add to it! A huge thanks to those who have shared and taught me along the way!

Behind the Scenes ~ Photography

Behind the Scenes ~ Photography


So, this isn’t really a homeschooling post but I get a lot of emails about photography so I thought I would try to address the FAQ here too! I am no longer a pro photographer but was at one point years ago!

What is your photography background, how did you learn?

  • I have always had a passion for photography but never did anything with it until after I graduated from college(where I was a Birth-Kindergarten Child Development major). My roommate in college was actually a photography major and I remember always secretly wishing I was doing that!
  • While teaching Kindergarten I decided to take a photography course at our local community college, my best friend joined me and we had a blast. We took another class, learning all of the basics together (this was before either of us had children).
  • After completing our courses we realized we were on to something and we jumped into starting a children’s photography business together. We began with a darkroom and used all BW film, printing all of our own photos. We switched to digital awhile later and then began a HUGE self-taught learning curve.
  • We ran our business together for about 4 years, until I moved to become a missionary in 2004.

What kind of camera do you use, what did you start with?

  • I currently use a Canon 40D
  • I started with a film version of the Canon Rebel back in the day but if I were to begin today I would start out with something from the Canon Rebel Line.

What about lenses?

  • My favorite lens is my Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 IIwhich is also my cheapest lens! I LOVE this lens because of the f/1.8, that’s what gives you the ability to shoot in lower light without a flash and also gives you the nice blurry background when shooting portraits. It is NOT a good lens for everyday use because it is fixed lens (meaning it can’t zoom to anything other than 50mm).
  • For everyday use, I currently have the Canon EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USMon my camera. This is a fine lens for everyday use, and it was what I could afford at the time. I wouldn’t use this lens for professional use but it works fine for what I need on an everyday basis.
  • I used to use the Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM but now my old business partner has this lens (we used to share lenses when we ran the business together). We also used our Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USMfor photo sessions this is also a *fixed lens* like the 50mm I currently have. The 85mm is great for close up portraits.
  •  Edited: I was given this lens as a gift from my Daddy! he saw what I wrote on this post and surprised me! If my wildest dreams would come true I would have the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM which as you can see costs more than my camera body alone!!! Why you ask? Because it has a fixed aperture of 2.8 which is a BIG deal with a zoom lens. Most lenses have a range like my f/3.5-5.6. If that makes no sense to you, then you’ll probably enjoy my next set of answers below so you can learn the photography language!

What photography blogs/sites do you recommend to help me learn to take better photos?

  • The online forum I used as a HUGE learning tool when I first began is: This is a GREAT community online and you can learn a TON. You might even see some of my old posts from years ago (around 2002/3), online over there I am "Little Moments" which was our business name. Be careful, this site will suck up your time if you are really interested in trying to learn photography!!!
  • Pioneer Woman has an awesome photography section on her blog with great tips and tutorials.
  •  i heart faces is a fabulous photography blog

How do you edit your photos, what software do you use?

  • edited 6/2010…I am now using Adobe Lightroom for my editing, I like it better than Photoshop for what I need-it saves me tons of time!
  • I use Adobe Photoshop 7.0, but that’s only because I won’t upgrade for the cost. If I were still working professionally today I would use Adobe Photoshop CS4.
  • Learning to use photo editing software was actually MUCH HARDER than learning the basics of photography itself! I felt like I was going back to college and I was self taught on Photoshop. The ilovephotography forums help a lot with the learning. It is a VERY long process and one you have to be committed to.
  • If I were beginning, I would use Adobe Photoshop Elements. It is a great and cost-effective way to begin learning PS. But even with Elements, you need to be dedicated to learning-it is in NO WAY easy!!!! I have heard Elements is much easier than PS, but I wouldn’t know as I began right away with PS7 since I got it as a gift way back when!

How about printing your photos, storing online, etc. What do you use and/or recommend?

  • I use Phanfare for all of my online photo storage needs. I absolutely love this software.
  • I use WHCC for all of my photo printing, for portrait type prints. For regular snapshots that I print, I use Winkflash, but I wouldn’t say they are necessarily any better than the competition in their category (Kodak, Shutterfly, etc.) It’s just what I have grown accustomed to.

Behind the Scenes ~ Tot School Tools


For the first in this series I am going to address the collection, storage, and usage of the many Tot School items we have and use at our house. Questions about these Tot-School related issues are definitely the ones I receive the most via email and comments!

Where and how did you get all of your Tot School items?

  • ASK! Seriously I just asked. I let both sets of grandparents, and anyone else who buys gifts for our tot that we would love school related items! I suggest Melissa and Doug items since they are easy to find. Thankfully in our great family, they even ask me for ideas a lot , we are very blessed and have received many of our purchased toys as gifts. We own almost all of the things featured here in our Tools for Tots store, thanks to the generosity of family and friends!!!
  • MAKE! Use the Tools for Tots webpage for inspiration and begin making tools for your tot! If you do this, be sure to share anything new you come up with so I can add it to the site!
  • LOOK! Look around your own house for what can be re-created into a Tot School tool, or what can be gathered together to make a cool tool. You can find many of those ideas on blogs, especially Montessori style blogs. Here is one example of a tool we use quite often (scroll to the bottom to see our straws, sticks, bottle activity).
  • SHOP! Keep your eyes open for bargains while out shopping, I have found awesome Tot-Tools in the dollar section at Target, at the Dollar Store, and just shopping in general.

How do you store all of the toys/tools once you start accumulating them, they seem to overtake my house and I often feel frazzled that I can’t find what I am looking for when I really need something quickly to engage my tot?

  • This is a problem I had for a LONG time, until I solved it recently. I had our toys/tools in various places and even though we had a lot, I found myself feeling at a loss on any given day(especially the days when K was being impatient). I began realizing my problem and decided to go with a master list, hoping this would give me something to spur my brain in those brain-dead moments. The list was great but it still wasn’t all I needed. Finally, I decided to store ALL of our tools (the ones I could) the same way and in the same place. I got gallon Ziploc bags and even some larger ones and I took every Tot toy/tool I had and placed each one in a baggie and sealed it. I then took all of the baggies and put them in one central place, for us it is in the wagon which is stored in our schoolroom. Yes it looks messy, but it makes sense to me :).Getting rid of the bulky boxes and such really helped me because I could get to and clean up a tool much easier. Plus, it solved the mixing of bought and home-made tools. I still have to store some of the bigger items in their boxes up on a shelf, like our ABC floor mat or bigger puzzles, but most of our tools are now stored using this baggie method.

How do you decide which tools to bring out each day?

  • This honestly depends on my mood…
  • TRAYS-Most days I set out 4-5 trays and dump a different tool into each tray and let K choose that way.
  • FREE CHOICE-Some days I tell K to go in and select his own tool out of the wagon, although we don’t do this very often.
  • MY CHOICE-Some days I just pick one tool at a time (mostly the days when I haven’t had time to really set up with thought) and hope it engages K!

How do you plan/prepare for Tot School each week?

  • Honestly I don’t much. I did at first but I realized that my planning brain did not jive well with my short-attention-span, opinionated tot. So, I dropped the planning mindset and went more with the *what works for today* outlook.
  • I do have spreadsheets that I record data on so I can help guide K’s exposure to early learning skills. I never call it *teaching* him, I personally do not believe in teaching a tot, just playing to expose early learning skills in a fun, engaging way.
  • When recording skills that have been exposed and mastered, I fill in the dates each time he shows knowledge of the skill (in case it was a fluke the first time). By the 3rd time, I consider the skill mastered. For example, let’s say on Monday 4/12/08 he recognized and identified a triangle with no help, I would fill in that date under the #1 section. Then a few days later, if he recognized it again, I would add that date to #2, and so on. I am not always on top of these sheets as I should be, but they do help in keeping me focused from time to time and are also nice to show Daddy when he has mastered a certain skill!
  • Here is my Tot School Goals Spreadsheet… (it includes the goals that are listed on the Tot School main page)
  • Here is my Letter ID sheet…
  • I make my forms like this in Microsoft Excel.

What is a normal day for you like? My tot seems to have no attention span!!!

  • GO HERE!!!! Read my minute-by-minute Tot School time and you will see that our house is probably much more similar to your house than you thought! Some days K loves everything I bring out, some days he hates it all. We have been officially Tot Schooling since he was about 22 months old and he is now almost 32 months old. His attention span and attitude still varies from day to day and I have learned to not let it stress me as much as it used to!
  • If you are feeling stressed about *teaching* your tot, go here and read my goals and beliefs about educating a young child. Hopefully you will see that educating a tot should just be about exposing early learning skills in a fun play-centered way (at least that’s what I believe 😉 ).

If you have any more questions for me under this topic, leave them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them there so all can see the answers!

Behind the Scenes ~ Introduction


I have decided to jump into a new blog writing series over here at 1+1+1=1! You all have inspired this with your many questions for me via email. I get many emails from my awesome readers, asking me various questions about everything from homeschool, ministry/missionary life, to photography. I am often asked similar questions many times and although I don’t feel like I am any kind of *expert* at anything, I realized I might be storing some info up in this brain of mine that someone might find useful! The questions asked are often about the behind the scenes type of stuff that I don’t actually write about here on the blog. Thus the name of the series! I hope to share with you and answer some of your questions about how things work (or don’t work) around here!

I currently have a few posts in the works, as I am trying to spend significant time on them to try to address as many ?s in that topic that have come up. The posts in the works are about:

  • Tot School Tools…how I acquired all of our toys/tools, how I store them, and how we use them on a daily basis.
  • Photography…my background, camera/lens choices, sites I recommend for learning, etc.
  • Lapbooking
  • Schedules/Routines/Planning
  • Our Missionary Life

As I plan for this series, and use past emails as a guide for FAQ, I want to be sure to open it up to any of you who have questions in these topics or maybe in another topic. Please leave a comment below if you have a question, or you can email me if you feel more comfortable asking privately. (remember you can always private comment me too, just ask me to delete the comment after I read it)

Again, please know that I am so incredibly humbled that anyone would even ask my opinion about any of these things, I am a constant learner right along with the rest of you. I would love it if some of you would begin *Behind the Scenes* posts as I would love to pick your brains about a few things!