Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Tot School

          School time has arrived at our home! Okay, so it is not really "school," but simply ways to keep my young toddler busy. (I've learned that a bored toddler is a destructive toddler. yikes!). But for a mama who intends to homeschool, it's fun to go ahead in jumping on the bandwagon by calling our activities and time together "tot school." Nonetheless, the focus will be less on structured schooling and more on purposeful play. (I've written before on why I feel it important to incorporate purposeful play into my children's day. You can read more on that here.)

      I will have pre-planned activities & we'll have a designated time each day to do them. The plans aren't critical and will likely be adapted each day as need arises. However, having something written down & supplies collected is just the best way for me ensure that we're taking time each day for purposeful play, as well as for quality one on one time.

    My goal is for us to have this intentional time together without overwhelming either of us. Therefore, I'm only planning one activity per day to be completed in a 30 minute timeframe. Mondays will likely be shorter in time spent on designated activities since there's only one. Each day we'll do that day's activity plus the previous day's. By Friday we should be able to utilize the full time. We'll certainly work our way to more activities and time before we reach preschool material. For now, though, my little man is only 19 months, and I think one a day is sufficient.

    I'm also planning to create a busy bag each week. I like the idea of busy bags and he having a few activities that will go with him anytime he needs to be quiet and still (restaurants, Dr offices, church etc). Pairing creation of "school" activities and busy bag activities ensures that both are prepped and completed.
  
Schedule
     I'm intending to do two weeks of activities, one week off, repeat the two planned weeks and then start another set. I chose only two at a time so that I didn't get to overwhelmed with the planning and preparing aspects. The two weeks will consist of a book-based week and then a theme-based week. For instance, we'll be doing the book Corduroy in September as well as an "apple theme." The "off" week will be an opportunity for him to be fully self-directed, and he may choose any activity from the previous weeks or none at all. I will use that week to plan and prepare the next set of activities. The two weeks after that point will be the exact repeat activities and schedule from the activity set just completed. The purpose is for the concepts and skills to be reinforced and materials thoroughly enjoyed. It also allows me the opportunity to complete preparations and gather materials for the next activities set.

     I built in time for "tot school" in our morning schedule. So far, we have breakfast together. Tennyson then plays in the pack n' play for about 10 minutes while I tidy the kitchen and dining room back up. He then free plays for another 10 minutes while I get out our "school" material for the day. We then sit together at the kitchen table to read the chosen book and activity. (For book weeks, we read the same story each day. For theme weeks, I'll check out at least five books on that theme from the public library, and we'll read one new book each day). 

Resources
     Our main guide will be Pinterest and the book Story S-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-r-s® for Infants, Toddlers, and Twos: Experiences, Activities, and Games for Popular Children's Books (affiliate link). This book includes story-based ideas for infants through toddlers. I really like how there are activities for all of the early years, which allows us to begin now instead of later (most "tot school" and literature based activities are designed for ages 2+). It also allows me to be able to include both of my children in some of the activities. We'll probably alternate between books and activities appropriate for infants and those appropriate for one year olds, so that they both can participate (or, at least she be exposed to language at an appropriate level.). The Story Stretchers book only provides three activities per book. I'll supplement the rest with something simple found on the internet (hello, Pinterest!).

     For our theme weeks, I'll utilize Pinterest and the public library for ideas. 

    A couple of other great resources are Let's Tot School and the letter curriculum from Moms Have Questions Too. Each offers a plethora of fantastic ideas. There are so many, in fact, that following along closely would be rather overwhelming to me at this time. We may, however, use some of the ideas on occasion.

Our "school bins" located on the bottom shelf of our bookshelf pantry. We moved pantry items up as Tennyson became more mobile and gave him the bottom shelf for playing while we worked in the kitchen. Space is limited in our home and I couldn't imagine adding any more pieces (shelf, cart etc) to organize our activities. So, this bottom shelf became our "school shelf." It's not ideal, and won't work forever but it works for now. Always trying to find ways to be content with the home God has given us!

     I hope to share some of our activities from time to time. We're a few weeks into our "school" and having so much fun already. I'm looking forward to continuing and adding some seasonal activities soon! Later this month, we'll be extending our activities fun by hosting a "baby book club" in which we'll gather with many of his friends to all read the chosen book and do a few activities. Should be a lot of fun! :)


*Note: This post contains an affiliate link to Amazon.com. I am a personal affiliate with Amazon.com, and as such receive a small compensation for each product purchased through the link provided. (Thank you!).

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