From My Inbox ~ Some GREAT Deals!

My inbox has been filling up with some great promotions from some companies I love.  I wanted to share these as well as answer a few common email inbox questions from readers {at the bottom}.


Little Passports

We recently ordered Little Passports and are excited for it to arrive!.  We got ours with a 10% coupon code but now they have a 20% coupon code available! 20% off code LPFF20 through Nov 16!  Great gift idea for your own kids or for other kids you buy for!

Little Passports

if you miss the 20% code, they also have a 10% off WORLD10 through Nov. 20

Tell Your Time

Long ago I read and loved Tell Your Time by Amy Andrews {who is now an IRL friend thanks to Relevant}  She has an amazing sale going on right now, $.99 with code: ONLY99.  You can buy the pdf version here on her site, or the Kindle version here on Amazon {no code needed for Amazon}!


Pick and Draw

Awhile back we reviewed and loved Pick and Draw.  Rich Davis also has an adorable blog that shares how to draw lessons that we have used!  He has a holiday promo that is wonderful for gift giving!  Pay $10 for the first game you buy and then only $8 for each additional game you purchase!  We love this simple game and this company has a wonderful story and is very focused on sharing the message of Jesus!


Here are a few recent email inbox questions I have received more than once…

About the Crayola Dry Erase Center…now that you have had it awhile, do the markers still wipe off.  I read on Amazon that they don’t.

YES, we still love it, but we ONLY use the Expo thin on it.  The markers that came with it were horrible from the start so we pitched those.  We have had NO problems with ours and use it every day.  I noticed recently that Target has a printable $5 coupon which makes the center only $10 if you can buy it at Target {I am not sure when this coupon expires}.  Amazon has 2 versions {they are the same, just come with different pages you don’t really need}.  The prices change form day to day for each version, usually anywhere from $10-15.

I am having trouble with black boxes on my files I download from your site.  I can’t get your files to load, print, etc. {many common problems are emailed weekly}.

This is the #1 question asked and I have a post all about solutions here in my FAQ section. The problem is “always” on the end of the user…I wish it was something I could easily fix, but I can’t.  Good ol’ technology.  If you are having any trouble loading or printing PDF files form my site or any other site, you should be able to find a solution in this post.  Be sure to see the added Facebook conversation link at the bottom of the list where readers shared what worked for them.

Have a wonderful weekend!

ps-yes, there are affiliate links included in this post, but you probably already knew that ;-).

Behind the Scenes ~ FAQ {printing, finding things, and more}

Behind the Scenes Lately I have been getting emails asking similar questions many times. I realized it might be a good time to answer a few of these publicly in case there are others who have them too! I used to categorize these posts as “From My Inbox” but decided to just add them into Behind the Scenes. If you want to see old posts similar to this one with random FAQ you can see a gathering here.

Here are the questions I have received most frequently and their answers…

  • I can’t get my PDF documents to print right, the text is all smudged and things are just off?
    • You need to go online and install the most recent Adobe Reader update. This is the problem 99.9% of the time! It’s that simple!
    • If you are using a MAC-the problem is usually because you are using the standard Mac PDF viewer instead of Adobe, Make sure you have updated Adobe and that your downloaded files are opening in Adobe and not the Mac viewer and things should be fine!
    • Sometimes Google Chrome can be the problem. Try opening in Firefox or possibly IE and see if that helps. I personally use and love Firefox!
    • You can see a thread on my Facebook page here offering even more troubleshooting tips!
  • I can’t find the vocabulary cards {or easy reader, or handwriting letter sheets, etc.} I see in your posts, did you make these and if so where are they located?
    • Everything you see me post about for Raising Rock Stars Preschool in my Preschool blog posts is included in one big PDF download for each letter. You just go to each letter resource page and click on the graphic of the Bible verse sheet {see below} and the entire PDF packet will download. The handwriting sheets, vocabulary cards, and everything is included in that one file.


  • Where are the links to the Raising Rock Stars Preschool lessons and are they free or just for Members?
    • They are FREE! I provide the base printable program for free and have no plans of changing that! In the Members Only section there are PowerPoint lessons and some additional printables {for example~ the review printables}, but the base program is free.
    • If you look on the main RRSP page and scroll down, you will see a blue box {see image below}. The links to the letters that are available for free are right there. Just click on the letter and you will be taken to the resource page for that letter.


I hope the answers to some of these FAQ will help someone!

From My Inbox

from my inboxHere’s the latest batch of questions from my inbox!!! If you want to browse through past From My Inbox posts, you can find them all here!

Where did you purchase the bookshelf that display the trays?

  • Target…they still have them I think! It’s a 9-square shelf.
Do the trays stay out the whole day? And are they at the kid’s level ( for them to take at will) ? Or not?
  • The trays are in our schoolroom and available to Krash during “school time.” Although sometimes I am more slack and if he asks me later in the day if he can go do Tot School, I grin and say yes!!! I think everyone has to find out what works best for you, your home and your kids!
How much involved during Tot School is Pac-Man? I read that sometimes he participates (more like a secondary player) and sometimes he’s off somewhere else (doing his own work, something else, etc.)

  • He would love to be involved the entire time, and sometimes this is a battle. I remind him almost daily that he is not in Tot School, and he has 2nd grade work to do! But, I do let him participate whenever I can…when he is caught up on his own work and having a lovely attitude. Mostly he is sitting at the school table doing his work while I am on the floor with Krash for about 30 minutes a day. The other times they are together or I am just with Pac Man.
It’s hard to find the time to devote an hour to him (19 mo. tot) during school time…. How do you manage this in your case? Do you do tot school every day? I think you do now, but back when Krash was younger did you do it everyday or just a few days a week?

  • When K was younger (we began Tot School around age 22 mos), I did it just a few days per week. It was harder back then to find the time to devote to just him.
  • Now we do TS every day, and it has become a part of our routine, he is 3 1/2 now though so it is much easier, also with Pac Man being 7 1/2 that makes it easier too.
  • I will begin the TS journey again with Ladybug who is 6 1/2 months right now…stay tuned this spring to see me go through the process all over again with her!

My first question is: what kind of things do you do with your youngest to work with her?

  • Ladybug is just 6 1/2 months and I do nothing (out of the ordinary baby stuff) to work with her and don’t plan to until she reaches about a year. Even then, it will just be intentional playtime with her, which is all Tot School is, especially at that young of an age. Ladybug soaks in so much just being around us all day long!

Can you recommend a few options? I took a look at your Tot Trays and I feel a bit overwhelmed as I’m not very creative?

How do you schedule in time to make these games? Do you set a goal to do one a week? How long does it normally take for each activity you create on average? I am just trying to figure out how much time I should schedule and trying not to overwhelm my self with great ideas!

  • I make things randomly. I like doing it, so it is not a burden for me. Sometimes I get on a big kick and make tons of stuff at once, sometimes I just make only what we need when we need it.

Question…. where do you store all this stuff? Is your school in the basement or at the kitchen table…. I am really wondering how to begin and where to “set up”. 🙂

  • Our schoolroom is a small room off the back of our house. We live in a very old row-home in the city. I store almost everything in the schoolroom and we do school in there too. Sometimes we do use the kitchen table and the living room floor ;).

Do you still have Pac in the cyber charter school?

  • Yes, it continues to work for us. I get asked a lot about this and how we get Calvert for FREE ;). You have to Google (I guess) to see if your state is one of the 13 or so that offer free cyber charter schooling. If your state is one of them, you then need to find a list of the specific cyber charter schools and then check each one out to see if it might work for you. The state I am in has several and I have heard bad things about some of them. The one we use is AWESOME (very flexible and supportive of how I do things with Pac Man). Basically cyber schools are NOT all created equal!!!
  • As for Krash, I am not sure what I am going to do for him. Pac Man enrolled for Pre K, and with Krash I am not sure at this point what I am going to do, although I am leaning towards enrolling him and then adapting the curriculum to fit his needs, like I did with Pac Man.

Do you have a separate blog about the things you do with your older son? I love your ideas, but my son is closer in age to your older son.

  • No I do not, this is my only homeschooling blog. I write more about my tot because that is my area of “expertise” since I am actually educated as an early childhood-K teacher! I feel I have more to share in this area. I do write about Pac Man some, you can see all posts about him here.

Anyway….I am struggling with organizing a set ‘calendar time’ for my kindergartner. I have limited space and honestly don’t want the huge obnoxious calendar I used as a ps teacher to be in my house. I have seriously thought about using a tri-fold foam project board for all our calendar stuff, but am just having trouble visualizing it and putting it all together. I’m very curious to see what you do for your calendar time. The biggest challenge I’m having is figuring out how my sons can see the date written each day. What do you do?

  • Ooooh I have your answer coming very soon! I have an entire homeschool calendar webpage that is almost done…videos, printables and all! I plan to post the link to the page in just a few days!!!

My question is do you keep an inventory of all of your tot tools and supplies? I am trying to make some kind of inventory sheet that lists activities, games, and supplies I own that I can use in workboxes, etc. I find that I forget about things I have! I would love to hear how you do it, and if you have a sheet or something to share, I would love to have that, too!:)

  • I tried to do this and it was overwhelming for me so I stopped. I have a pretty good mind about the stuff we have and try to organize it well. I do *forget* about things sometimes though-it’s hard!

If I missed your question, and haven’t replied to you in an email, please feel free to email me again! I try my best, but I am a scatter brain sometimes with too much going on!!! I hope these answers help those of you who sent the emails and anyone else who might have had the same ?s!

Again, thanks to all of you who read here, and send me kind comments and emails, I really appreciate your thoughts and SO wish I had the time to reply to each and every one of you.

From my Inbox…

My inbox has filled up again since my last From My Inbox post, and I figured it was time to do another one!!! Some of you have hit me while I am sitting at my computer and in that case you have usually received an instant answer (especially if it was a simple answer). These are what’s left, which required more thought on my part! I have copied and pasted direct questions from emails I have received and I will give my best answers! Questions are in bold (key topic of the ? is red), my answers are underneath.

My question is do you have pages that are age specific for ideas? Also we have a tight budget and I mean REALLY tight budget. What kind of things would you get to start with and are there alternatives that I can find?

  • NO I do not have pages of ideas recommended for specific ages of tots. I am not a big fan of specific age recommendations because tots are all different, even if they are the exact same age. You can look at other blogs with children similar in age to your tot to get ideas, and then just adjust to meet the needs of your tot. You will fail sometimes, by providing activities that are either too advanced or too easy for your tot, that’s OK. Just learn from your mistakes and adjust accordingly.
  • As for budget Tot School, I thought this was a fabulous question! I am currently working on a project and will address this very question in depth. For now, I recommend going to our Tools For Tots page to see some of the free tools out there that you can make.

I noticed the Best Behavior Card in the background. Do you do accountable kids?

  • Yes we do! I have been meaning to write a post about this and it has slipped down the list!!! It is coming though In a nutshell, we love the program! For those of you wondering what it is, you can find info here!

Since I will be doing this with a group would it be better to break the kids up into groups of 2-4 and give them a choice of a tray or two, or should they all work on one tray together?

  • I do not have experience working with trays with a group. I would probably do individuals or small teams of children. 1 tray all together would probably get crazy!!! Try a few ways and make adjustments!

I have a 7 year-old daughter who is doing Awana this year. She needs to take a Bible with her. She has a King James version (the precious moments Bible), but has a hard time reading it. I would like to find her one that is much easier to read. I was wondering if you could recommend one.

Do you use a laser printer for all your printing? we have been using an inkjet and it is really costing a lot..I do try to do a lot in just black and let them color but I am trying to find out weather or not it is more cost efficient to go with the laser printer? Also for your laminator you use, I have been wanting one for some time, what is the brand? and have you compared it with others?

  • I have an inkjet printer and yes it does get costly. I print as much as I can on “fast draft” and just do the best I can. Ink is an expense of homeschooling for us so we have it budgeted.
  • This is the laminator we own: Scotch TL901 Thermal Laminator and yes I really like it and recommend it. We have used it for over a year. I have not compared it with other home models, I haven’t needed to-it works great! I use both their brand and other brands of pouches with it and all have worked fine.

I wanted to know how you teach your children (oldest so far) to read. My son is 3.5 and is very much wanting to learn to read. I think he is ready too. I do own the book, ‘Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons.’ It was given to me and we just don’t have the money to spend on any curriculum right now. If I did I think I would buy Sing Spell Read and Write but you are the master at ‘create it yourself.’ So I thought I’d ask you. How did you do it? What would you recommend?

  • I was taught to teach children to read using a whole language method primarily with phonics as a supplement. I taught Kindergarten this way for 4 1/2 years and have taught Pac Man and am now teaching Krash the same way. Basically this means that I expose them to print as much as possible, We read a LOT, we talk about words everywhere, we have fun with letters and sounds. I weave learning to read into everyday life.
  • As for the phonics part, every child is different. Some will pick it up from the whole language approach, some will need more direct instruction. Pac Man was a mix. I used Phonics easy readers, I used word families (rhyming words), and my very favorite DVD series: LeapFrog – Letter Factory!!!
  • We did use Calvert as our main curriculum, but Pac Man did not learn to read from this program, he learned from everything we did. I am a Kindergarten teacher at heart and trained to teach young kids to read, so maybe it just comes naturally for me. I know for some it doesn’t, so a program to follow would be nice in that case.
  • Here’s a post I wrote a long time ago when Pac was in K and learning to read. Here’s one showing the word family lapbooks we made too.
  • Here’s a little slideshow I put together with some of my favorite early reader books and dvds. We did not personally use the Bob books, but I have seen them and like them, they are very similar to the phonics/word family readers that we got with our Calvert K program.

I really enjoy your blogs…what sort of missions are you involved in?

  • We are inner city missionaries. We moved to the north east from the south almost 5 years ago. My husband works with addicts and leads the recovery ministry at our church. I work with children. Our church is non-denominational, if I had to label it would be evangelical, Bible-based. We spread the message of hope through Jesus Christ throughout our extremely diverse inner city neighborhood where we live and work. We are faith based missionaries, we raise support from individuals, not from a missions organization.

Could you clarify for me what exactly is a tot book and lap book and maybe what the steps are to making one? Don’t mean to ask such a basic question, but this is all new to me and I would love to make some with the kids, just a little unclear of how to go about it.

Do you already have the curriculum that you use before you begin? Or do you get it as you go along? I have downloaded several free unit studies from CurrClick in the past couple of years. I had planned on using them during summer breaks. Could we use these as part of our curriculum? How do you teach Pac-Man the reading, writing, math and all the other subjects that he does? Do you do it throughout your “school year” or do you work on one subject once a week, twice a week, once a month, etc? {Man, I hope that I am making sense.} I guess what I am really asking is that
if we decide to homeschool, could you give us any advice how to prepare everything that we need before we begin?

  • We use Calvert, you can read all about it here and here. We follow the basic outline Calvert gives us and then I add the other things we do right in with it. We use Workboxes, so it makes it very easy.
  • As for how to get ready to homeschool, I recommend going to a homeschool conference, finding another homeschooler in your local area (my best friend was my #1 resource when I first began, thanks Shannon!!!), and searching around on the internet.

I am wondering how I can navigate around your site to find age appropriate activities for my 16 month old? I see where you have other moms post their ideas for the age children, but i can’t find it. I tried to go back in your archive some where you did things with Krash when he was younger, but didn’t have much luck there either. Can you point me the right direction? I’d really appreciate it.

  • If you look in the MckLinky for the weekly Tot School post, that’s where you will see the other moms who have their child’s ages listed in ( ). That is my best recommendation to gather ideas. Go to their blogs and see what they are doing with their tots!!!

I want to get into Tot-School more and I want it to be a fun thing, but HOW do I stop my 2yo throwing everything everywhere the minute he loses interest, or the second one of my other children wants a glimmer of attention.

  • Hmmm, I am not sure without knowing your child and your home life!!! Krash was a thrower for awhile, and eventually it stopped. I honestly don’t know what to tell you, I am really sorry!!!

So today we went out and bought a bunch of art/craft supplies and it didn’t seem to go so good. Perhaps newly tuned 2 is a bit young? Or I am not all that creative.
My biggest question is do you have specific toys/crafts that you only play with during tot school time? I am confused as I play with her all day long with whatever toy she wants so to hide a toy and bring it out and hope that she likes it then seems odd to me? Or do you have a list of activities that you want to work on… and then find toys to fit that theme? We don’t really have a structured day. Unless it is during the school year and she goes to ECFE once a week and then Music class once a week, but other than that we just play with whatever? Thanks for any tips on getting me started.

  • Newly turned 2 is often a bit young for crafts. Krash didn’t start liking crafts until recently and he is 3 1/2.
  • Yes we have specific Tot School toys, you can see how we organize things in various Tot School posts. That’s just what works for us, it may not work for you. I know several Tot-Schooling moms who don’t have it separated out like that. Just do what works for you!!!

Whew ~ I think that’s it for now! If I missed your ? and you really want it answered, please email me again, I have a hard time remembering sometimes. I hope this post helps some of you!

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From my Inbox…

So, my inbox is full, and has been for awhile and as I sat down today to try to reply to some of you I realized that many of you had similar questions so I am gonna answer a few here for ya, just in case others have the same ones too!!! I have directly copied some of them from the actual emails and paraphrased a few that were very similar from several people.

And please accept my sincere apologies, as some of you have lingered in my inbox for many months now, I promise once I get caught up, I will stay on top of emails better (as long as no one in my house gets pregnant again!!!)

Here we go (in no particular order)…

Where did you get your trays from that you use for your Tot Trays?

How do you manage discipline in your home with the kids?

  • We used a Biblical approach all the way. I will try to write a Behind the Scenes post in depth about this soon.

Any advice you could give me about homeschooling a 4 year old would be greatly appreciated.

  • I think it depends on how you want to do things. A few programs I have heard good things about are Itty Bitty Bookworm (I will be reviewing this soon), and Sonlight. I am not an expert in homeschooling pre k by any means, I don’t really follow a formal program much ;). If you want to wait for my IBB mini-review, it will probably be a couple of weeks. They are also donating 1 year of curriculum for our 1000 Subscribers Celebration give aways!!!

How do you decide what to do each week and where do you store all the activities not out on trays for the week?

How do you decide on a certain theme and/or letter for the week?

  • I am not a big theme gal at this stage (although I wish I was-I am just not that focused right now). I do use the themes at Totally Tots, we did the pond one and are going to do the ocean theme next…as we still haven’t finished the pond. 😉
  • As for letters, I do not choose a letter of the week, or anything like that. I am more of a whole learning approach when it comes to teaching letter id and phonetics.
  • We use our ABC notebook, and I went in the order of letters that Krash preferred, and then onto the letters in his name-we still have yet to complete this-we take our time.
  • We are currently going through an artsy letter project in alphabetical order, so that determines what letter we work on. I got most of our ideas from the posts over at Totally Tots. We will add these to our ABC notebook too.
  • After we finish this set of art projects I will choose another way to expand on abcs.

Regarding Tot School…can you give me a few suggestions of how to begin this program? How do I direct her into this more structured way of “teaching” that I know she will largely benefit from? I think she will love it, I just feel like a tiny ant with a huge mountain of information and ideas dumped on top of me!! Where should I start activity-wise?

  • I am going to also write a Behind the Scenes post about this topic as I literally have almost this exact same question from at least 5 different people right now!!!! I will begin this post asap-I promise!!!

How often do you change out your tray activities?

  • If I am having a good night, I will rotate out the ones he seems to not be interested in any longer. If it’s a bad night or two I will just leave them. I never leave the same ones out more than a week though. I try to change out at least every night or every other night.

Do you have tray time for a set amount of time? Meaning, do you say “tray school” is going to be an hourish, however many trays he does is fine?

  • My goal for this is about 30 minutes-1 hour each day, I try to do it in the morning but that doesn’t always happen. We’re still working on finding the schedule that works for us now that Ladybug is here. I am being very flexible this summer and hoping to have a better routine in the fall.
  • Yes, he determines how many trays we work on, although now that he is 3 I make him finish closed activities (meaning there is an end to it, like a puzzle), you can read more about that here.

Do you know of any good resources for teaching a 2 year old about emotions and feelings?

  • I am getting ready to review and host a give away for a company called Kimochis that is all about teaching proper ways to express emotions. I am excited about this, so stay tuned, it looks really neat!

OK, I think that cleans out the inbox for now…if I missed your question-shoot me another email and I will get a new Inbox post going or reply directly to you!!!!