Behind the Scenes ~ Following the Lead of the Child

I thought it might be helpful to give you a peek inside of my heart and mind as Ladybug grows and I make decisions for her educationally.  The path we are on together is much different than the path I was on with Krash at this age and I am thankful that I now have experience with 3 different toddlers of my own to compare to better share experience with my readers. image

For those of you who don’t “know me” well, I graduated college with an Early Childhood degree with a certification in Birth-Kindergarten.  While in college I completed internships with a concentration on young children and also Montessori.  After college I taught public school Kindergarten for 4.5 years.

I have been writing an eBook for years, just have never felt God nudge me to pour the hours needed into finishing it.  I have published a portion of it, on my website, which outlines what I believe about educating young children. If you have read that, you will see that I don’t mention worksheets for tots in ANY way!!!  Then why in the world do I have a Tot Time Notebook, a Tot School Printables program with many “worksheet” type of activities, and now a new Animal ABC program with a set of worksheet extras?

The answer is very simple…I am following the child’s lead.


Ladybug shows interest in these types of things and even though I do my best to direct her towards toys, hands on experiences, and what I feel are more “normal” and developmentally appropriate tot activities-she gravitates towards a writing instrument and something to write on.  It is something I resisted at first but finally followed along and I have had a MUCH happier tot since then.

Most of my Tot Packs and Preschool Packs contain items that are more hands on.  An example would be the Heads and Tails matching game included in the Brown Bear Pack.  Ladybug would NOT enjoy this.  If it looks like cards or something more hands on-she resists.  However, if I put the same idea into more of a worksheet form-she embraces it and has fun!

She boggles my mind and has given me the ultimate lesson in following the child’s lead.  I used to think that meant holding off on stuff like this until later and not PUSHING the young child.  Now I also see that it can go both ways.  It also means not holding a child back.


Do I think Ladybug is some sort of genius child? NO!  She is very advanced in a few areas, and has been since early on.  She was “professionally assessed” when she was around 20 months {back when she was struggling with her walking and they were evaluating her for services}.  You can see her specific results here, noting that she scored highest and beyond her age in both cognition and fine motor-both areas she has continued to excel in.  She is in the normal range for language and is still below for gross motor.  I am certainly not pushing her, quite the opposite actually.  I don’t want my baby girl to learn too quickly-I love this early childhood stuff!  I want this stage to last as long as possible, she is moving a bit too fast for my personal taste to be honest!

Ladybug spends more time at a table than I ever thought possible for a tot.  She BEGS and even cries to do school if she hasn’t for a few hours.  To her-doing school means sitting at my desk with me and working with me, or by herself.  IMG_9622She created the term “doing school” now it has become a common phrase and request from her.  She hates days off and I will often allow her to “do school” on off days just to make her happy!

When Krash was a tot, I wrote a post entitled, The Advanced Tot, which addressed tots who were more like Ladybug and advancing beyond what their moms expected!  Now I have one of those and it is weird!!!   There are some really great comments from moms on that post too, so if you are intrigued by this topic, be sure to scroll down and browse!

Does Ladybug still play like a normal tot?  YES!  We are on the floor engaged much more than she is ever sitting and working at a table.  She LOVES to read and be read to, way more than the boys ever did-so we spend tons of time cuddled up with our noses in a book together.  IMG_3144

She really enjoys puzzles, play dough, blocks, sensory bins, stickers, painting, drawing, and more intricate fine motor activities.  A few hands on things she really enjoys…

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This is also the little girl with 2 older brothers who she follows.  She sees them writing, so she wants to.  She sees them sitting, so she wants to.  She follows their lead and in turn I follow hers, while also trying to encourage her to stay young and enjoy the lovely things of tot-hood!IMG_6600

Part of the reason I wanted to take the time to write this post is because I used to be the mom with the wild and crazy tot who wouldn’t sit still to color, read, or anything at this age {that would be my sweet Krash}. Krash is now moving along at a very steady pace-not above or behind for his age.  I am very pleased with his progress and academic abilities! I also had a tot who wasn’t quite as wild and crazy {PacMan} but who still could have cared less about anything resembling school until well after age 3.  A tot who didn’t learn to identify letters until closer to 4, and didn’t draw a recognizable picture until almost 4 too!  PacMan wasn’t really into books, didn’t enjoy anything with a paper and pencil and much preferred the hands on world of toddlerhood.  He is now excelling in 4th grade!

When I was parenting the boys as tots, mostly Krash, I would read blogs of moms who had tots more like Ladybug and get a pinch of jealousy.  I never want anyone to read my posts about what Ladybug is doing and think that this is what I believe is correct, normal, or preferred for children her age.  When I wrote about Krash at this stage he fit right in the crowd, but now, I imagine I have a few readers who wonder if something is wrong with their own toddler who won’t go near a pencil and paper!  I assure you there is nothing wrong with your child-not simply because they aren’t interested in anything resembling what you would consider school!  Most tots prefer to be active, loud, and totally hands on.  Most tots learn best that way.  There are a few out there like Ladybug-some even way beyond her.  Those few prefer a different learning path and we just follow them.  It is a delicate balance to follow along while not pushing or holding back.  I pray that’s what I am doing for all 3 of my children and now especially Ladybug at this young age.

I know in this land online it is even more difficult than before to NOT COMPARE OUR CHILDREN, but really-don’t do it!  There is healthy comparison-just to make sure everything is OK, and then there is the type of comparison that makes you feel badly.  That’s the type I encourage you to stay far, far away from!  Let your own tot guide your path for Tot School in your home.  Gather ideas from others but don’t force them upon your tot.  There will be plenty of time in the future when your child will need to do undesirable school assignments!  It just isn’t that time yet at this tender age.

As homeschoolers, we are more able to follow the child’s lead.  In a classroom setting you follow the lead of the class as a whole and focus on what is developmentally appropriate for the age range you are working with.  At home, it is much different and this has been a difficult adjustment for me as a former early childhood educator.  I am so used to the “norm” and with Krash he followed that norm.  Ladybug is not the norm so following her lead is more of a challenge.  As you plan for your own tot, please remember to follow the lead of your own child.  Most important-have fun!

See more Behind the Scenes Posts here!

I have a post in the works going deep into Developmentally Appropriate Practice and what this looks like for us as homeschoolers!  Stay tuned if this sort of thing interests you!

If you are a certified/trained early childhood teacher with classroom experience AND homeschooling mom who is teaching or has taught your own young child{ren}, would you please email me?  I would love to get your thoughts on my upcoming post about DAP and homeschooling, and also ask you some questions!

Educational iPad Apps ~ Part 2

Favorite Homeschool Apps

We have had an iPad 2 for over 6 months now and continue to love using it for school.  I have shared our favorite apps for education and will be adding more of our favorite apps here in this post!

See more of our favorite educational iPad apps here!!!


All links are affiliate links, so if you purchase any apps using these links, I will get a tiny percentage-thank you!  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!


imageThe ABC’s of God 



imageAlien Buddies  image

Monkey Preschool

imageMonkey  Math image
Kids   Builder
imageWord  Wizard imageHundred Board
Addition Charts
imageMotion Math Hungry Fish imageMotion Math Zoom


Scribblenauts Remix

  • The ABC’s of God {1.99}  This is our most recent purchase and a new family favorite.  I learned after I purchased it that the creator is in training to be a missionary also {along with his family}.  The app is so wonderful, I highly recommend it for ages Ladybug on up.  Pac at age 9 even likes it!
  • Junior BINGO {.99}  We LOVE Word BINGO and Math BINGO but they were too advanced for Ladybug, she can play this one now and loves it.  Krash plays it too. Junior works on number ID, letter ID, colors and shapes.
  • Alien Buddies {1.99, we got it for free so keep an eye out for price drops}  Ladybug loves this game.  It is simple and educational at the same time.
  • Monkey Preschool {.99}  Ladybug and Krash love this game.  It is well worth the low price tag!
  • Monkey Math {.99}  Ladybug and Krash love this game, which is the math version of Monkey Preschool above.  It is well worth the low price tag!
  • Kids Builder {.99}  Ladybug loves this game featuring shapes, she chooses it a LOT!
  • Word Wizard {2.99}  This is more for use with the child, on its own it is boring for Krash.  I use this along with our All About Reading program for word practice.  It is an awesome teacher-tool.
  • A Montessori Approach to Math ~ Hundred Board {lite: free, full: 2.99}  Simple and wonderful app, using the hundred board.  Krash LOVES this more than I ever thought he would!
  • A Montessori Approach to Math ~ Addition Charts {lite: free, full: 2.99}  Simple and wonderful app, using the hundred board to work on addition facts.  Krash LOVES this more than I ever thought he would, same as the above app!
  • Motion Math Hungry Fish {lite-free, in app option for full: 2.99}  Wonderful app to work on number combinations.  The fish eats his number, but you have to drag bubbles together to make that number {2+1 = a bubble with 3 he can eat it}.  We have the free version for now.
  • Motion Math Zoom {lite-free, in app option for full: 3.99}  This app is awesome, Pac is begging me to buy the full version.  You have to try it yourself for free to see what it is and how cool it is.  It works on place value in an incredibly unique way.  I may have to spring for the full soon!
  • Scribblenauts Remix {.99 currently, regular price is higher}  We have this game for PacMan’s DS and he loves it.  When I saw it on sale for .99 I bought it for him.  I have played it myself for hours!!!  Definitely a family favorite amongst the older crowd.

Ladybug also has a few books she enjoys and chooses often: Once Upon a Potty, Elmer and Rose, and Dr. Seuss ABC. I am hoping to build up our digital book collection over time!

If you like purchasing apps from your device but still want to support by using an affiliate link, the best thing to do is purchase a gift card and load it into your account, then you can make your purchases from your balance!  That’s what we do!

Apple iTunes

Since writing the first post, we have switched cases.  The first case I chose was with MOMMY in mind and it didn’t hold up to 3 kids and daily use.  We now have a Trident Kraken II case and love it.  It isn’t beautiful by Mommy-standards, but it keeps the gadget safe so I love it.


You can read my SquareTrade Warranty review here, since unfortunately we had to use it.  In a nutshell, it was an easy process and I highly recommend SquareTrade. {yes that is an affiliate link, so I thank you in advance if you buy one through my link!!!}

We use AppShopper to keep up with price drops on apps, you can read more about that here!


Don’t have an Apple product?  Be sure to search my recommended apps in Amazon’s Android App Market. My husband has the Kindle Fire now and it is wonderful but a bit difficult for Ladybug and Krash to use, I like the iPad much better for them.  Pac likes either.image

OK, your turn!!!     Please leave the names of any apps your kids love in the comments section below!

Tot School ~ Animal ABCs Letter A

~Ladybug is currently 32.5 months old~


Ladybug has a new Tot School set up!  I switched the  home school room around a bit before Christmas break and had it all ready for our start back in January.  I wanted her to have a desk, so she got K’s old desk {which also used to be Pac’s-it’s from Ikea years ago}.  I moved it up near her Tot Trays and made a little corner for her.  You can see our pocket chart hanging behind her desk so I have a place to display her items, as well as her All About Reading poster on the wall.  So far, this set up has worked beautifully.


We have 2 brand new things we are doing for school now, All About Reading Level Pre 1 and Animal ABCs.


Animal ABCs

Here is her desk set up for letter A.  I purchased the Scholastic Alpha Tales book set, which is where the letter Aa book you see is from.  The items in the pocket chart are all available for free here on the Animal ABCs webpage.  I added a tiny alligator we had from a Little People set too.  IMG_9455

We also had a few alligator books off to the side in her pink basket.  Here are some alligator ideas for you…

As you will see, my tot LOVES to write.  She honestly blows me away with her desire to trace, color, draw, and write.  Neither of my boys were like this.  The “extras” were developed because of her intense love of writing and tracing.  Because her Tot Time Notebook was such a hit, I decided to go with a similar plan for her Animal ABC work.  The pages for the current unit are all in a 1/2” 3 ring binder, inside of sheet protectors.  She uses her click markers and eraser to work through her pages whenever she wants to!  This past week she did each page at least 4 times, probably more!

Here are a few action shots…

IMG_9467  IMG_9479



The coloring page is pulled out and we worked on a few alligators per day.  She usually likes to do this as team work, which is fine!IMG_9550

She worked with me to make the letter craft, which is basically an open ended project that you can do whatever you want with!  We chose to watercolor the letter A, and then glue down the alligators.  She helped me cut on the thick gray lines and then I trimmed out the rest of the alligators while she painted.

IMG_9518  IMG_9519

We let the A dry and then I cut it out.  She helped me glue the alligators on and then we glued the big letter onto blue paper.  She absolutely LOVED the finished product and wanted to hold it for a very long time!

IMG_9531  IMG_9535

See more ideas for using the letter crafts!

Ideas for Using ABC Letter Crafts

Special Note: PLEASE remember that most tots will not enjoy this type of work.  Ladybug is unique in her desire to do these types of things.  When Krash was this age, he would barely sit at a table for a few minutes, let alone do tracing worksheets!  I only do this type of thing with Ladybug because she practically begs for it.  It is “her thing” and I just follow her lead.  All children are different, just have fun and follow your child’s lead at this stage!

We are taking our All About Reading Pre Level 1 lessons slowly.  I introduced Ziggy the Zebra and she really liked him but didn’t want to touch him!  Krash enjoyed playing the rhyming game in lesson 1 with us and it was a great bonding time for the 2 kids as Ladybug absorbed information from watching Krash, and Krash got an excellent review.

Ladybug asked for Ziggy a lot and wanted him to color her letter A activity with her.  Pac snapped these pics of Ladybug and I working together.IMG_9481


For now we will be moving our All About Reading lessons along with our Animal ABC v  units.  I have no letter of the week plan, just plan to switch letters when she is ready-meaning when she gets “bored” with a certain letter’s activities.  This week she stayed interested in letter A all week long so we stuck with it!  All About Reading Pre Level 1 goes through the upper case alphabet first and then the lower case.  We are following with their plan.

Learning-Toys_thumb2_thumbLadybug got the Scrabble Alphabet Soup game for Christmas and LOVES it!  Of course, we modified the rules a lot but have our own unique tot game.  We take turns scooping and then taking our letters out one by one and naming them, “I got a P!”  I got a G”!”  She loves it!IMG_9520

Our Design and Drill Center is a BIG hit, BUT our drill broke after one day.  I am so sad and have sent an email to Educational Insights to ask for a replacement.  Hopefully their customer service will be good!  I really love this toy, if the drill works!IMG_9458

One of my mom’s friends gave us this adorable moon balancing toy {used}.  I couldn’t find the exact one online for sale, but did find this beautiful item on etsy, while browsing for a link to share here.  All 3 kids are loving this simple toy!IMG_9580

The Play House {linked to Amazon, but don’t buy it there!  I saw it at Kohl’s for less than $20} was a BIG hit for Ladybug for several days, and still is.  She has colored and played so much!

IMG_9558 IMG_9563

Techy Tot

Oh how we love the iPad, and our bean bags.  What a great combo. I remembered to snap a few shots of L-bug in action with the pad this week.IMG_9494

In these shots she was playing Starfall, Candy Count {we only have the free version}, and Shape Builder. These are 3 of her very favorites, she chooses them a lot!  See more iPad apps we love here!

IMG_9489  IMG_9568


The face on the left is her “no picher” face, I love it!!  She was working on her Tot Time Notebook and wanted me to leave her alone!

IMG_9544  IMG_9543


Winter Theme Printables & More

Winter Theme Collection


I am gathering a wide collection of free printables within certain themes. In order to better organize these online, I have created theme blog posts for the themes I have created many printables for!  Links to these pages in the top navigational bar labeled “Theme Printables” so you can jump to them easily.


In this post, I will direct you to the page where the file is hosted on my website or blog, since they are in various places! I hope this helps you find things within themes! I will try to gather anything I have done, created, or posted about surrounding this theme. Slowly I am adding more blog posts like this to help you find everything for the major themes we have done and will do.

The Arctic & Antarctica Calendar Connections



Let’s Explore The Arctic & Antarctica Bundle


Winter Sensory Bin


Hibernation Songs


P is for Penguin Color by Number


Winter Tot Pack


Letter Crafts {from Totally Tots}

image image

Penguin Lapbook


Winter Snacks {from Totally Tots}

image  image

Winter Bible Verse


Raising Rock Stars Family Night ~ Snowflake Theme


“The Hat” Story Props & More


“The Mitten” Story Props & More


 Snow Painted Snowmen

Snow Painted Snowmen

Use white glue, and white shaving cream to make puffy “snow” paint!


Winter Books & More…


Are you on Pinterest?


You can check out my Winter Finds here!

Looking for More?

Ocean Printables & More

Bug Printables & More

Pond Life Printables & More

Rainforest Printables & More

Camping Printables & More

Pirate Printables & More

Apple Printables & More

Fall Printables & More

Pumpkin Printables & More

Monster Printables & More

Thanksgiving Printables & More

Christmas Printables & More

Merry CHRISTmas…

Christmas Card 2011

Tot School Linky will be up tomorrow afternoon!  I am off to sleep after a busy few days!  Merry CHRISTmas to all!!!