Our Off Week

This past week was an “Off Week” for us with Tot School – no real plans. I decided to go ahead and practice a Sabbath Schooling Schedule with our school, even though some would say there’s no need for any schedule or plans at all with this age. My type A, planner personality says otherwise, but I do try to give myself “planned breaks” or off- weeks. We do about six weeks maximum of planned Tot School Activities 4-5 days a week, then take a week off. We may take more time off for holidays and such, but we’ll still do fun, spontaneous activities during those times if we want to.

For example, this past week I had no theme or planning chart filled out. My husband was out of town with a conference with our Church, so I invited my mom (Ryce Man’s Nana) to come stay with us for a few days. Lil G still came to play, and we just had a laid-back week. We did plan a little field trip to the beach (it’s not too far from us) to complete our “Ocean Week” we had the week before. (See our Beach Post here.)

Here are some other photos from the week… 
Fun with Shaving Cream
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Cleaning Up and Fun with the Water Hose (We made it into a little sprinkler!)
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My little climber… Yes, I could tell him AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN to get down, but I’m to the point of “Why bother?” He’s good with balance and not falling, so I guess I’ll just let him climb (maybe). 
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Creating a “More-Montessori” Environment

Cubbies, shelves, bins, labels…. this is what I’m used to. At least from my preschool teaching days. So this is what I tried to do in Ryce Man’s nursery as well. I was actually in-the-process of making labels with pictures and words so it would be easier for him to put things back where they belong and be exposed to printed language around him, when I stumbled upon some Montessori articles on Pinterest.

I decided to change the way we were doing things. We have lots of good quality toys and learning materials that were hardly ever getting touched because they were tucked away in bins or put up for only “planned times”. Yes, there will be some things that will only be available with supervision (the things that can be easily torn or dangerous in some way), but I have decided to rotate toys and activities, keeping them readily available in open baskets and on trays for my little one (and his buddy, Lil G) to explore and learn.

We have a table in Ryce Man’s room, where I will supply a tray with nature items we find outside, paper for drawing and creative expression, and a holder for colored pencils and crayons.

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We have a shelf with 9 square cubbies (originally from Target I believe, but we bought ours from Dirt Cheap). I will place open trays and baskets with a small number of items in each (less to clean up).
-One shelf will hold a few books (up to five at a time).
-One to two shelves will hold soft toys (either a soft toy set like our Noah’s Ark or a stuffed animal).
-The rest of the shelves will hold fine motor activities and other sets and manipulatives.
-There will be a large, open basket on the floor for a set of blocks to be available to building and construction at all times (I will rotate the sets we have.)

Here’s the first rotation of things I’ve provided…

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From top left to right…
1. Drum
2. Tray with nesting cups
3. Melissa & Doug Yellow House Puzzle
4. a few books
5. Tray with Noah’s Ark soft toy set
6. Melissa & Doug Shape Sequence Sorting Set
7. A soft toy from mom’s childhood
8. basket with blue waffle blocks
9. tray with colorful beads and another beaded toy

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So this is the new setup for his room, but I’d like to make a few updates as soon as we have room in the budget, and I feel he is ready for it.

Here is our wishlist (for later)…
-Low pegs or hooks for him to hang his own bag and coat when the cold weather comes (I might also use the hook to hang his clothes
for the day as he begins to dress himself.)
-A basket on the floor for him to put his most-used shoes in so he can put them away himself
-A small laundry basket or bucket for a day or two maximum of his laundry so he can easily carry it himself to the laundry room and dump
it each morning
-A dresser with smaller drawers that he can open himself
-Update his crib to the toddler bed with the side rails so he can get in and out of it himself (We probably won’t do the Montessori floor bed
with him since we do already have a crib.)
-A wooden table and set of chairs for snack and meal times
—We currently have a convertible high chair, and we are using the bottom table portion for meals and snacks with the boys. The chairs
we have are from Wal-Mart that Ryce Man got for his birthday, but the boys are more-reclined in them and can’t reach the table as
much as they really need to. They also have lots of crevices that catch and hold food particles, making them more difficult to clean. We’ll
move these chairs to his room or outside for lounging.
-A small cabinet (which I already have here actually) to hold child-size dishes and utensils. I’m going to create a Practical Life area for Ryce
Man and Lil G to prepare their own snacks and clean up after themselves, complete with a small refrigerator and everything they need
to carry out this process. (15 months is the recommended age from what I read, but they aren’t quite ready yet).

Some of these things I feel would be wasteful at this point, as the boys (Ryce Man and his buddy Lil G that comes over) haven’t learned the concept of “order” yet. The shoe baskets would get dumped, and shoes would be tasted and carried all around the room. I’m planning ahead for when I feel they are ready.

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I do want to consistently practice working on various practical life skills with the boys such as drinking from an open cup, pouring with our sensory bins, so they’ll be ready to do the “real thing” when the time comes. I’m also working with Ryce Man in particular with a few chores, which we’ll call “Service Opportunities”… taking his laundry to dump, wiping his tray or table where he eats, and using the Swiffer Sweeper, which he LOVES! Many of the things on this list are things that are also on my list of goals. 

Please comment with any additional ideas you have. I would love to hear them!

An Open-Minded Puzzle Time

Over the weekend, I spent some time with my little man playing in his room with his toys as we often do. Nothing was planned. I wasn’t doing “Tot School” with him, just letting him play and following his lead. I just wanted to share a little tidbit with you about a period of time Ryce Man spent with one of his puzzles. He probably worked with the same puzzle for at least 8-10 minutes. I just watched as he thought and learned and invented new ways to play and figure it all out.

The puzzle he was working with was Melissa & Doug’s Pet Sounds Puzzle. It makes the animal sounds of each of the pets, and I think it works by a motion sensor. He loved to take the pieces out. Sometimes he actually was able to put the pieces in the correct slots, which I was pretty amazed by…. He couldn’t care less 😉 I must be really close-minded when it comes to puzzles. He, however, is very open-minded in his play. Here I thought puzzles were only for taking the pieces out and putting them back in. That’s it. Or so I thought.

Not only did he take pieces out and put them back in (over and over again) – He turned his drum upside down and put all the pieces in it. He shook it to make noise. He dumped it to empty the pieces out. He took each piece, one at a time, and banged them on the drum to make music. He then put them in the puzzle again. He picked up the puzzle and shook it to empty the pieces. So many things to do with one simple puzzle.

You might not think any of this has any meaning at all, but I am just so impressed with how inventive he is and with the length of his attention span with something he is interested in. I love that he isn’t close-minded to only do the task at hand the exact way it’s meant to be done. I want him to be creative, and he is doing just that.

Tot School: Ocean Theme

Ryce Man is 12.5 months old & Lil G is 13 months old.  🙂
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This week we are learning about the ocean and the beach. Ryce Man’s “Auncy” (his grandmother) has a thing for sharks so we borrowed some of her collection for the week. I also created a new Ocean Floor Sensory Bin, that I was pretty proud of at the beginning of the week. I took the time to dye the rice blue and shop for things to go in the bin. I added water because an ocean is full of water, right? Then, we started to notice a foul smell, so I had to dump the rice and wash the ocean items and begin again. No one told me you couldn’t add water to the rice bin 🙂

I organize our weekly plans with work boxes. I got my inspiration from Monica at Happy and Blessed Home. I don’t worry about filling every work box in our cart each week, but here are some of the things we have in our boxes this week…

Character – We’re reading a short bible story every day from First Bible Stories for Boys. I have a few other children’s bibles we’ll read from when we finish this, and then we’ll begin a character or bible study lesson geared towards toddlers when I feel they are ready for it. I would like to start introducing vocabulary from the Fruits of the Spirit like “Let’s be kind.”
Language – I’m always making sure to name foods, toys, and the things around us to expose the little ones to different vocabulary. I also want to expose them to written words. I’ve used flashcards of common words we use daily, and I’ve added those flashcards to a photo album to flip through. We’ve also got a word wall for our review time each morning and throughout the day. Ryce Man has a lot of eye-level wall space in his room for this. I also introduced Montessori Nomenclature this week.
An Article on Helping Children Develop a Good Vocabulary
Movement & Music – Start a Beginners’ Walking Program for Toddlers based on some research I’ve done with Glenn Doman’s Physical Intelligence theory.
Small Objects – Ice Tray & Spikey Rubber Balls (Transferring Sea Urchins), Nesting Cups, Baby Food Jar Lids and Empty Wipes Container (Homemade for Fine Motor Skills)
Spatial: Melissa & Doug’s Fishbowl Puzzle, Triangle Puzzle from a set we have, Pasting “shark teeth” (triangles) onto a collage, Melissa & Doug 3 Peg Shape Stacker
Senses – Sensory Sand Box (Moon Sand, Shells, Small Pail, Drink Umbrellas, and a Toy Crab); Ocean Floor Sensory Bin (Blue Rice, Sponges from Arts & Craft Section at Wal-Mart, Spikey Rubber Balls (Sea Urchins), and an Ocean Creatures Set from the Dollar Store)
Writing/Art- Daily Writing Journals (Free Art & Creative Expression), Paper Plate Seahorse, Paper Plate Jellyfish, Hand and Footprint Lobster
Math – Sorting Colors Activities
Reading – My goal is to read at least 3 books to the children each day. It’s a small, attainable goal. We point to pictures in the books we read, and this week we’ll especially be on the lookout for things we see that are circles or the color red.
Books We’re Reading this week-
Little Cloud, Brown Bear Brown Bear, What do you See?, What is Black & White?, This Little Baby, Is this a House for Hermit Crab?, Mr. Shaw’s Shipshape Shoe Shop, Underwater Life, The Marvelous Catch of Old Hanninbal, Boats
Order – Fold blankets after nap; Clean up after play; Wipe the tray after meals and snack.
Toileting – Hand washing after meals & diaper changes.

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Love how he sticks his tongue out when he’s concentrating! He was trying to figure out how to work these, but I think he’s still a little young for them right now.

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Transferring Sea Urchins (A Theme-based Montessori Practical Life Activity)

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Ryce Man has an awesome pincher grasp!

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Checking out the Ocean Floor Sensory Bin

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I introduced Montessori Ocean Nomenclature this week, but the boys didn’t really know what to do with this yet.

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Lil G looked at me when he put that one on like “Did you see me do that?” They always look to me for approval. 🙂

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There’s that tongue again 😉


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Yes, he still puts things in his mouth.

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New favorite toy… if only he knew how to use it!


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Next week is our Off Week for Tot School, as I am practicing Sabbath Schooling with this little tots (Six weeks on, 1 week off). I may post some pictures and a recap of what we do, but I’ve made absolutely no plans!

I’m linking up at Tot School Gathering Place.

Friday’s Favorites (Baby Toys)

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My little one just turned O-N-E so I’m thinking back on this one to tell you about our favorite baby toys.

Sophie-the-Giraffe
You may think a $20+ teether is overrated, but our family loved Sophie! We found that the price we paid was well-worth it, and we believe all of the good things said about Sophie in this video.

Play Gyms/Play Mats/Activity Mats
The one we had is Taggies Bug and Hug Play Gym, but I really think any play gym at all would be great for baby. Since this is the one we have, I’ll give my review on it.
The play gym is where our little one learned how to play independently by himself. We would lay him on the little mat under all of the dangly things and go cook dinner, pay bills, you name it. He loved to stare at all of the links and bugs that hung above him. Soon, he learned to swat and kick them to make them move. The caterpillar also plays music, and it’s not the annoying lullabies you always hear. 🙂 It’s more playful, hip music that brings happiness to a mom’s ears, especially when baby loves it too and plays happily with it to free you up for a bit. Our little one also loved the little taggies on our play gym when he started to roll over and could touch and feel them. Because of the independent play time that the play gym gave our baby, he can now play in his room by himself with his toys safely for up to an hour (although I can’t stand to be away from him that long when he’s awake so I usually go and play with him).

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Black, White, & Red Books (Inside pictured below)
The soft books that have lots of black, white, and red colors are very stimulating for an infant’s eyes as they are learning to focus. The first book like this that we got was actually a photo album (linked above) so we could actually add pictures of Mommy and Daddy and other family members as well when he was ready for it. We used these books for “Reading Time” several times a day when our little man was a baby. With tummy time, we’d set a book up in front of him for him to look at or beside him if he was on his back. Later as he sat up in his Bumbo, he could hold the book himself and stare at it.

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O-ball with Rainstick (Pictured above)
This ball is perfect for little fingers to grasp and hold on to. I remember the first time Ryce Man kicked his ball, and I think I actually have it on video. The ball doubles as a rattle because of the rainstick feature, which we loved.

Nuby Teether
This was another of our favorite teethers. It has a handle that our little man could hold himself while he chewed on the other end. The actual teether part has bristles kind of like a toothbrush. This teether also came with a case so it’s great for travel and not getting icky germs all over it.

Links
Links were a great toy for  baby to grasp and move around. I also added some to our play gym and his car seat as well.

Intentional Parenting

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One of my biggest goals of being a parent is that I do everything intentionally and with purpose. I don’t want to accidentally raise my child or wonder why he turned out a certain way. I want to think through every single action I take as a parent. I want to be on the same page with my husband in raising him and do it in a godly way.

With that being said, I also want to be a “yes” mom. When he asks if we can go outside or do this or that, I want to be available to say yes as often as I can. I know that saying no is also very necessary at times, and I’m not afraid to use that word. However, sometimes we get busy and aren’t as available for our children as we could be so we end up saying no a great deal more. We’ve already noticed this in our first year of parenting. If I’m busy working on something, the little man seems to get into more trouble. He needs me to spend time with him, and he craves the attention I give him. I try to plan my work and projects around him. Spend intentional time with him first, and he’ll be satisfied for a little while so I can be productive while he plays happily or let Daddy entertain him while I’m busy.

“Write these commandments that I’ve given you on your hearts. Get them inside of you, and get them inside of your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.” Deuteronomy 6:7 (The Message Translation)

I love this because I’ve always thought of my job of teaching my children as a job that would take place 24/7. When my children are awake, I will be teaching them. I will teach them at home and when we go out. There are learning opportunities everywhere, and there are examples of God’s love everywhere too.

Intentional Parents.com says, “Parents, we are on assignment from God! We are called to develop deliberate relationships with the children He has entrusted to us. Those relationships form the bridge for effectively imparting wisdom and preparing our children to be godly adults.”

Here are some areas in when I would like to be an intentional parent…

The Bible
I want my children not only to love reading, but love reading God’s word. I want to teach them how to study and watch them learn and grow in their Christianity as they progress from me teaching them what God’s word says to them independently studying and receiving their own rhema words from God and obeying Him in his commands to them.

Academics
I want my children to develop a love for learning and knowledge. I want them to be curious and ask questions. I want to answer as many of those questions that I can and find answers for the things I do not know.

Enjoyable Pastimes
I want to encourage my children to pursue what they love. I want our homeschool to be well-rounded focusing on more than just academics. Whether it’s ballet, photography, sports, art, or something else I want them to pursue and excel in what they choose to do and find a way to use it for God’s glory.

Character
I want to set a high standard for my children that they always strive to do and be their very best.  However, there is a fine line between striving for personal excellence and striving for perfection. I want them to learn the difference in these and just teach them to be like Jesus, using the fruits of the spirit. I want them to know that it’s okay to fail, and we’ll be right here to help them up and encourage them to try again, just like God always has been for us.

Home Skills
I want my children to be good helpers when it comes to keeping our house in order and getting things done. I don’t think this should be a one-person job but a team effort for the entire family. I love how Habits of a Healthy Home puts it when she calls daily chores “Service Opportunities”, because that’s exactly what they are – an opportunity to help someone who really needs your help. I also want my children to be well-rounded in this area as they grow up and start to leave the nest.