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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