Archives for June 2011

Behind the Scenes ~ Homeschool Storage Room

Behind the Scenes

When we were blessed with the new schoolroom, we were also blessed with an amazing storage space. Problem-it was FULL of junk. It has been cleaned out bit by bit over the past year, but it was finally at the point to just take a few days and finish it. That’s just what I did last week!

Here’s a few way-before shots to give you an idea of what has been accomplished over the last 10 months. Originally it looked like this, filled wall to wall, floor to ceiling with stuff. Most of it not even belonging to us and needing to be distributed to the church-this was leftover stuff from when this house use to hold ministry activities.


1st stage last year was to get it ALL out and sort through it. This was not a fun job. Over 50% of the stuff was not ours and was distributed back to the church or to the thrift store.IMG_0538

What was left was put back in the storage room, but was still very unorganized {although this photo makes it look rather nice}IMG_0566

Every single box that was left needed to be gone through—most of them were boxes from my former Kindergarten teaching day. Boxes filled with good stuff, but also lots of stuff that we wouldn’t use. It was a tedious few days with a huge trash pile but I am finally done! Here’s a glimpse into the room…IMG_7145

This is office/school supply storage {part of it-the rest is in our actual school room} for the most part…


This is the outside station, since the door to the backyard is through this room. Setting u this area has been on my agenda for years and finally-it is complete! Each kid has their own drawer {bathing suits, goggles, hats, sunglasses}. There is a drawer for sunscreen/bug spray and also for smaller outdoor toys. On the left {shelves} there are towels, bubbles, outdoor games and a baseball box. The bottom shelf is unused and I stacked PacMan’s completed 3rd grade books there-woops! There’s a laundry basket on the other side of the room for their wet towels and used bathing suits.IMG_7030

The entire back of the room and one side is theme storage!!! I divided up seasons/holidays on large shelves and then created blue bins for my other top themes.IMG_7034


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I created all of the labels in Publisher and printed on cardstock, laminated and put on with double sided tape. Many of the images I used are just Google images {some copyright protected} so I am sorry I can’t share. The borders I used were free digital papers from here. Here’s a screen shot of one of my pages, in case you are interested in duplicating your own version!Toy Bin Labels

I also have a shelf that contains all of our larger toys and puzzles. This area is not sorted exactly the way I want it, but it will do for now, I am exhausted!


My sensory bin storage area is still the same, I just changed up the theme bins I had and made the areas bigger for my themes!

I still keep our books stored in the schoolroom, the same way they are shown in this book storage post. I just moved the seasonal books into the storage room. {no I don’t have a list of the labels I have-I get asked that a lot! Someday I will try to recreate one!}

I sure hope this new clean storage room helps with schooling this year. Having it a huge mess last year was difficult and frustrating! Portions were clean but then they would get messed up because things would overflow! I am praying it will stay organized and simple this year!

See more Behind the Scenes posts here!

4th of July Calendar Connections Cards

Free 4th of July Calendar Connections Cards ~ learn a new fact about the U.S.A every day

Recently God gave me another crazy idea that I was able to put together in a few hours!!! I was brainstorming our current calendar and thinking of making some cute themed calendar numbers when it occurred to me they could be SO much more than just cute. I could teach my kiddos 1 simple {but important} fact each day based around a certain theme. I decided on an Independence Day/America theme for July and got to work brainstorming 31 symbols and facts. I will admit the last few were a stretch but I finally got 31!
I am horrible at remembering historical facts and I do not want my kids to be like me so I hope to use this method to teach facts in an easy and simple way. Obviously these can be used over each year and many facts will also be eventually taught in their school lessons. I thought this would be a great way to introduce and reinforce at the same time {for Mommy too}. Even Ladybug will begin to soak up concepts simply by sitting with us.
This first set was created with PacMan in mind, knowing that for Krash and Ladybug-anything they soak up is just a bonus. I have big dreams of bringing this whole idea to a bigger level and am working with a friend behind the scenes on the idea! I hope to have more to share with you soon!
Below you can see what the cards themselves look like, on the left are the cards you would use for the numbers on your calendar and on the right are the concept cards that go with each card. I made them to fit my particular pocket chart calendar but you could use a poster foam board and velcro to easily create your own set up. You could also use a standard pocket chart. They seem like they would fit in this calendar on Amazon but I am not certain.
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I put mine in our calendar to show you how they look, and I plan to share more about how it goes with my kiddos when we begin. I have several ideas of games to play and fun ways to make it more than just calendar numbers too!


I printed my numbers on cardstock and laminated them before cutting them apart. I have the concept cards whole right now, but I think I will cut them. I am still deciding what will work best. I will share what we end up deciding!

iPad Apps For Education {& more}

Favorite Apps

We got an iPad {2} recently and have been scouring to find the best apps for educational purposes! 50% of why I caved and got the iPad was for school, the other 50% was to help me organize my life a bit more. I never thought an iPad was that great, until we got one-WOW it really is that cool.

We have had iPods for years now and have tons of apps, you can see a few of our favorites here on Apps for Tots/Preschoolers, Apps for Big Kids and Apps for Moms. I won’t be updating those pages anymore.

All links are affiliate links. The apps are sorted {loosely} by the ages I would recommend introducing the apps-youngest to oldest. Always give the free version a try {if there is one} and come back to purchase if your child loves it! I am not writing detailed descriptions for all, but know that I will ONLY put apps my kids and I truly enjoy on this list. Prices are obviously subject to change based on when you are reading this!



Preschool Adventure {.99 –a steal for the MANY games included}

This is one of the very first apps we bought back when we got our iPods and they have since upgraded it to include 18 games! It is wonderful and Ladybug loves it.


imageTozzle {$1.99 for full, lite is free-we have full}

Tozzle has tons of puzzles that are the drag and match type. Some are just for fun, others are focused on letters/numbers/shapes. They all improve visual discrimination skills as well as hand eye coordination.



Kids ABC Alphabet Puzzles {FREE!}

This is a wonderful free app, you can adjust the difficulty settings of the puzzles. Ladybug loves this one and chooses it a lot!


imageStarfall {$2.99}

No explanation needed I am sure! The app is an exact replica of the ABC portion of the Starfall website! Ladybug and Krash both love this one!



GoFun {lite is free, Full is $1.99 ~ we have full}

The free games are wonderful, BUT they do have ads at the bottom. We enjoyed the assortment of games enough that we bought the full version. The concept is similar to Tozzle {above} with drag and drop puzzles. There is no voice over though.


imageToca Doctor {lite is free, full is $1.99 –we have full}

Try out the free and I bet you’ll get hooked like we did, even I think this one is fun! All 3 of my children LOVE fixing whatever is wrong with the guy!


imageToca Tea Party {$1.99}

This app is fun and encourages imagination. My boys love it too! Nothing really educational as far as specifics-but the creativity is genius-we love this cute app!




Alex Toys Moody Monsters {free}

Both Krash and Ladybug LOVE this app, it is really cute!




iWriteWords {lite is free, full is $2.99 ~ we have full}

Krash has loved this for over a year now.



imageimageBob Books #1 & Bob Books #2 {$3.99 each}


We love our real Bob Books and seeing them come to life on the iPad is priceless! Krash LOVES this app, here is a post showing him in action!


imageMontessori Crossword {$2.99}

This app is wonderful for both Krash and Ladybug-but mainly Krash. He loves the little “reward” that comes after her spells a word correctly, it’s really cool!



Teach MeToddler, Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade {currently 1.99 each}

Krash really enjoys this app and plays it for “school” time a lot! He breezed through toddler and is now completing the K version.



Math BINGO {1.99}

LOVE this!!!




Word BINGO {1.99}

LOVE this!!!!



imageUnited States Puzzle Map {$1.99}IMG_5572

Pac and I are competing for the best time, so far he is beating me! This is a perfect partner with my USA Geography PowerPoint show!


imageStack the States {.99}

We are loving this on the iPad {and have used it on our iPod for awhile now-it’s definitely a favorite of Pac Man’s!}. We have Stack the Countries but it is a bit too hard for him so he doesn’t really like it!



Montessori Geography ~ USA {1.99}

Another great USA game.




Math Drills {$1.99}

This is a great math facts app, PacMan uses it for school and Krash will begin using it this year. You can program it for facts they are working on.




Mathmateer {.99}

This is one of PacMan’s apps, but Krash loves to watch him play!


See more of our favorite apps in the posts below!




Tot School ~ Letter Kk

~Ladybug is currently 26 months old~


Tot School Printables K is for Key

Letter: Kk

Object: Keys

Vocabulary Development Theme: Household Objects

You can find the printables for this unit here on the Tot School Printables webpage.

See Part Two of Letter K is for Key here!  We took two weeks to do this letter!

It has been an unusual week this week at our house! Both of my boys are gone, and Ladybug is an only child!!!! The boys will be visiting with grandparents for 2 weeks {one week with each set} so I have my weeks scheduled out. This past week I did house projects {to be shared soon-one was the school storage room}, and this coming week I am planning our summer school themes and getting as far ahead into fall planning as I can.

In the meantime I am trying to keep Ladybug busy and my little schoolgirl has been carrying on! We didn’t do a lot of formal school, I just spent time with her in between cleaning spurts! She is in LOVE with her new lap tray-purchased at Michaels for less than $4!!! The boys each got one too at that price-thanks to all who helped me with shopping advice!


She is also LOVING her Crayola Dry Erase Center, check out the Kk’s she wrote-I was amazed!!IMG_6866

Dot painting letter Kk {from COAH}…IMG_6876

Dot painting Kk’s on the keys…IMG_6881

Coloring her household objects accordion book…IMG_6883

We didn’t get to everything, so we will extend our Kk week into next week!

Letter Kk printables here!

Fun Books & Toys for this unit here!Tot School Printables Toys and Books Letter K


Stickers on the face…


Pegs in the Twister CurvesIMG_6848

My little artist…IMG_6889

Her first person!!!! She is my earliest person drawer!!IMG_6924

This young lady is obsessed with Hex Bugs. The boys have them and she found them recently and now has her own pink one and claims they all belong to her as well.IMG_6900

Putting them night-night…IMG_6906

Hex Bugs in the cup…IMG_6981

Sharing Hex Bugs with Pop Pop {my husband’s Dad}IMG_6986

This phone was in our thrift store pile and wouldn’t you know, she dug it out and has played with it every day!IMG_6937

We got new Ikea shelves {photos soon}, Ladybug got the box…IMG_6960IMG_6970

Learning time with Pop Pop, she was showing him her shapes/color skills with the puzzle and her vocabulary skills with the flashcards

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Techy-Tot_thumb2_thumbWe continue to try out new iPad games, especially ones with free lite versions! This is a simple counting 1-10 app with a Montessori style…!IMG_6849


My little bookworm, curled up in her bean bag reading to herself—a daily occurrence!IMG_6833


Wild fun with Daddy…

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Montessori Minute ~ Sensory Activities

Montessori Sensory Activities at Home

Maria Montessori developed the Sensorial Materials to help 2-6 year old children educate and refine their senses to recognize similarities and differences, and make decisions based on sensory characteristics. She based her materials on objects used at that time in research on human perception. The Sensorial materials include the Cylinder Blocks, Pink Tower, Red Rods, Broad Stair, Geometric Solids, Color Boxes, Smell and Sound cylinders, Baric Tablets, Constructive Triangle Boxes, Fabric Box, Thermal Cylinders, and others found in virtually all Montessori preschools.

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Your 2-6 year old child’s brain is where the action is! Early childhood is all about opening new brain nerve pathways and developing the best possible brain architecture. Your child’s senses send electrical impulses racing to his brain, where they open nerve pathways and are interpreted as sensations of touch, smell, sight, taste, and sound. When a young child uses Montessori and other sensory activities, she experiences the relative sensory characteristics of objects. She focuses her attention and makes comparisons and decisions based on sensory information. These purposeful mental activities develop the efficient, powerful brain architecture your child will use the rest of her life. They are why children in Montessori preschools learn to read, write, use mathematics, and develop critical thinking skills at young ages in a very natural, unforced way. These skills are the byproducts of strong brain development and learning to focus attention. For young children, it’s all about the brain.

Starting your home Sensory activities is easy – turn a plastic storage box into a Sensory Bin. These are versatile and allow free exploration.

Fall Sensory Bin IMG_9244 IMG_3297

A nice first bin can hold a couple of inches of multicolored rice and various spoons, cups, jars with lids, and a funnel. Other items like beans, cotton balls, paper from the shredder, foam pom poms and shapes, plastic Easter eggs, squeezable rubber objects, plastic animals, loose jingle bells, marbles, and perhaps some fragrant orange peels, lemon rinds, or even spices, can be added as desired. Use fine sand one time, un-popped popcorn the next, and marbles another time. Provide wooden, ceramic, and sturdy glass containers that create interesting sounds as materials are poured in and out. Hide interesting objects in the pile and let your child find them. Make picture cards of these objects for your child to match her discoveries to.

Sensory Bins can be filled with objects related to a theme, like a walk in the woods in the fall (river rocks, pine cones, meadow grass, a jar of river water, Thanksgiving (gourds, split peas, leaves turning color), Christmas, or a trip to the beach. Another time, clear out a bin and put in blobs of shaving cream. Add different food coloring to each blob and let your child mix them up.

Sensory Books are another easy home activity. Gather various objects from around the house or from a walk in the park: aluminum foil, a cotton ball, a small rock, string, a walnut, tree bark, grass, leaves, a flower, smooth fabric – objects with distinctive textures. Make a book by folding and stapling sheets of construction paper. Let your child glue the objects onto the pages. In lower case block letters, write the name of each object below it, along with a word or two describing how the object feels. This is a good time to help your child in the gradual transition to abstract thought by including photos from the internet of hard, soft, long, short, large, small, and other objects. Display these proudly and read them often with your child. With practice, he can start to read his sensory books!

Montessori Sensory activities are easy to create at home!


First, buy a blindfold or make one by taping over the eye holes of a costume mask. A handkerchief tiedaround the head works, too. Have your child wear it when comparing objects by senses other than sight. This helps your child focus on his other senses. Make sure you also try it!

Sample paint color cards from the hardware store can be used to teach color names and match colors. Get the best examples you can of the Primary Colors – red, yellow, & blue; and the Secondary Colors orange, green, purple (violet), and also brown, gray, pink, black, and white. Your child can match these up and learn the names of the colors using a Three Step Lesson. Watch for a detailed post for directions on this coming soon!


Sample cards with various shades of a single color make a great color grading material to organize colors from darkest to lightest. First ask, “Can you find the darkest color?” and have your child set it to the left. Now ask, “Can you find the darkest one of those that are left over here?” and repeat, setting the next one to the right of the first. Repeat until your child has made a line going left to right (sets up a visual pattern for reading) and darkest to lightest.


Small plastic food containers made up in matching pairs containing materials like salt, unpopped popcorn, beans, rice, paper clips, coffee, etc. make a great sound matching material.


The blindfold helps your child focus in on the sounds when your child shakes each container next to her ear to find the ones that match – “Do they sound the same, or different?” use materials that sound very different at first so your child has early success with the material. This always increases interest and motivation – young children love to succeed at things! Let your child listen as you hand him sound containers and he gradually matches them up.

If your child is just a bit young for this and cannot recognize the sound similarities and differences, focus instead on filling the containers 1/3 full and putting the lids on tight. Encourage and praise your child when she does well at this. In the near future she will be ready to match the sounds and will have a positive feeling about this material.

Various spices in small open cups are used for smell matching, again wearing the blindfold. Good spices for this include ground cinnamon, minced garlic, cumin seed, ground thyme,vanilla bean, & Mrs. Dash.


Just pour a bit of each spice into a clear cup and have you child put on the blindfold. Let him smell a spice, then a second spice, and tell you if they are the same or different. If he says “Different”, and there are two cups there when he lifts the blindfold, he was right! If he says “The Same” and there is only one cup, that means he smelled the same spice twice and is correct again. Now you put on the blindfold.

Different numbers of coins placed in your child’s outstretched hands can be felt to determine if they are the same or different in weight “Which hand is heavier now?” Counting the coins to compare introduces math. All kinds of fabrics can be cut into pairs of 5-6” squares and used – again with a blindfold – for matching by feel.


Pour different temperatures of lukewarm to pretty hot water into small glass cups, add a couple you have cooled in the frig for different lengths of time beforehand, and let your child put them in a line from warmest to coolest going left to right (again encouraging a visual pattern for reading), wearing the blindfold, to exercise your child’s thermal (temperature) sense. Place a thermometer in each and write down their temperatures. Unsweetened chocolate, salt, sugar, and a lemon can be used to help your child distinguish the four basic tastes.


Of course, you have a whole world of music and art experiences you can introduce to your child; and a kitchen chock full of wonderful tastes and smells! Use all kinds of new language during these activities – smallest, largest, color names, louder, softer, sweet, sour, salty, longest, shortest, etc. – to create new language experiences. You can do fabulous Montessori sensory activities right at home and have a lot of fun – try wearing the blindfold yourself and let your child hand you the objects!

Once your child has developed a proper writing grasp,

imagetracing objects is an excellent sensory activity that also prepares a child for writing. Arts & crafts stores have many wooden shapes in addition to the traditional circles, rectangles, and triangles. You can also use bottle lids, shallow boxes, cookie cutters, all kinds of objects. Print out basic geometric shapes onto card stock and cut them out for your child to trace.

Like all Montessori materials, involve your child in obtaining the materials and making them, then place each in its own attractive bowl, basket, box, or bag, and give each one a special, consistent place on low shelves in your child’s room. This encourages independent use of the materials. You can add a Montessori Pink Tower, Red Rods (or make your own from straws or wooden doweling), Cylinder Blocks #1 & 3, a Mystery Bag Set, Constructive Triangles, and the Binomial and Trinomial Cubes to your home preschool for about $175 over a 1-2 year period. When your child is finished with these, they are a quick sell on Ebay, recovering probably half your investment.


Photos from Montessori Outlet at


Display your Montessori and other home early learning materials in consistent spots on low shelves in your child’s room or the room you homeschool in. Leave a little space between each for dramatic effect. Keep them clean, organized, and readyfor use. Switch materials out as your child’s interests and needs change.

Photo Credit: Chasing Cheerios

The Montessori Sensory activities, together with the Everyday Life (also called Independence or Practical Life) activities, set the stage for everything that follows. 2-4 year old children who use these activities have a much easier time learning to read and master math and science. They also develop a positive self-image as confident, competent people.

A word of advice: a computer, other internet device, or the TV should not beyour child’s primary sensory stimulators. Computers and TV provide valuable visual and auditory experiences; but they are not a substitute for active, movement based, hands on, varied sensorial experience. Computers should be introduced early to children because they are an integral part of their lives now; but children need hands on experience with all their senses, movement, and a variety of interpersonal relationships to fully develop. In your child’s early years, try not to let the computer take center stage, but instead be a great tool to reinforce and expand on your young child’s real life activities.Montessori Minute

John Bowman is the author of Montessori At Home! and Help Your Preschooler Build a Better Brain

My thanks to John for writing this extensive article for us here at 1+1+1=1! I invite you to ask him any questions you may have in the comments below and he can hopefully answer them for you.