Friend Makin’ Monday ~ Little Tips for Life

I want to start participating in a few weekly memes that I have found that I really like. The first on this list is this great one, Friend Makin Monday. I hope some of you will join up with this also (if you don’t already), as making friends and sharing about ourselves is such a great part of blogging.

little tips for life

Today’s task is to share as few or as many everyday, little tips that you use to make your lives easier. You know- all those special tricks you might have to cook, clean, raise kids, work in the yard, and on and on!

  • I use a Daily Docket, inspired by Simple Mom. She has one to download, but I made my own personalized to what I needed (considering I am not the cook in our family). This has REALLY helped me keep track of the MANY different categories of my life. I have a daily page and then master category pages also to help keep everything in one place. I also keep a one sheet monthly calendar clipped to the back of these too. I try to look at them and update each night and each morning to be sure I am not forgetting anything (although I always forget something). edited: find my Daily Docket to download here!
  • I use snack baskets for my kids, you can see them here. They help a lot with independence for both boys (age 3 and 7).
  • I sort all of my emails upon their arrival. I have a folder for each of my blogs, including folders for need to reply, replied, etc. This does help me but it has not solved my problems yet! Since I write so many blogs, I have lots of emails to answer and don’t always do a great job with that-sorry if you’re one who hasn’t been replied to yet!!!
  • I have a basket in my laundry room for outgrown clothes. When I notice something in the laundry that was a bit too small when last worn, I throw it in the basket. Later on I sort through this basket for give-away, save for next kid, etc. Having this basket helps me not have to do the big sorting job right away.

Confession Time

A photo on a blog is a split second in time with NO soundIt occurs to me every now and then that this blog makes me appear WAY better than I actually am in real life :). As I look back through photos posted here I sometimes laugh at how much they DON’T show. A picture is a split second in time…with NO sound. My Tot School weekly reports are so cute of Krash, I love looking back at them, but often think, “man I wish it was as good as it appears to be!”

We’re having a rough time around here. Ladybug is 5 weeks old and is a dream baby-seriously, she is the perfect example of a perfect baby–sooooo easy. The boys on the other hand-NOT SO EASY-to put it mildly. And me as a mom? Let’s just say I am not so easy right now either. I am easily frustrated with them, big time, and I find myself longing for the next time Ladybug needs to nurse so I can just sit quietly.

I just had to get this small bit of info out there for you all so that my blog doesn’t *lie to you.* I am real, I am struggling to get my act together as a mom, I am praying for the day I feel 100% physically better (cuz I still don’t). I am longing for normal, thought we had it, but realized it’s not quite here yet. I’ll let you know when I find it (if ever).

Behind the Scenes ~ Transitioning from Tot School

Behind the Scenes ~ Transitioning from Tot School to Preschool

Krash has recently turned 3, which means it is time to begin the slow transition from child-led Tot School to Mommy-led school. This is not an easy transition and one I struggled greatly with when homeschooling my oldest son during Pre K. Let me begin this post by saying that every idea I present in this post might fail!!! I have not managed this transition successfully in the past and Krash will be the first child I will have completely Tot-Schooled at home and then brought up into PreK. Pac Man attended a 2 day per week pre-school when he was 3 and that accounted for much of our problem with Pre K. Most of it was him missing “Going School” as he called it. So, as you read, please know that these are just my ideas, not my stories of success!

My long term plans for Krash…

  • Krash turned 3 in May 2009. I plan to begin a more formal Pre K program with him in the fall of 2010, when he is about 4 1/2. This is when Pac Man began Pre K and we moved at his pace, I plan to do the same with Krash. I do not push my kids, however I love that homeschooling allows them to move at their own academic pace.

My plan for the next year leading up to Pre K…

  • My plan is to slowly transition Krash from being the leader of school into being more of the teacher-led student. I do not un-school (I personally think it’s neat I just could never handle it myself!), therefore I believe we need to make this transition.
  • I say SLOWLY as I do not want to squash his love for school and learning.
  • If you read my FAQ page about tot school, you will see a long version of what I believe about educating young children. I will still believe this as he goes through this next year and even in the next couple of years, but there will be more teacher-led learning along the way!
My beliefs behind the transition period and how I plan to do it…
  • I am one of those “pick your battle” type of moms. I will fight the big battles in discipline and I will win. I love the quote from Dr. Dobson’s book, The New Dare to Discipline… “when you are defiantly challenged, win decisively.” Basically that we don’t have to engage in every disciplinary battle but when we do choose to engage, we, the parent, MUST win the battle. If we do not-it begins a path of destruction to the child’s idea of who is really in charge. I firmly believe that God is in control of my life and He has placed me as the earthly parent of his children. Although I do not fully understand God’s ways and probably will always fail-I am always trying to be the type of parent God desires me to be. They are after all, HIS children.
  • All that said, I believe this applies with the transition I speak of. I will slowly introduce me as the lead teacher(and decision maker) in small ways.

Some practical ideas for the transition…

    • Already I have begun to expect Krash to complete a puzzle when he begins one. He often likes to do half and I used to let him. Now, I am expecting him to complete what he starts. He battles with me at times, but I remain firm-he always finishes the puzzles now-even if it is with my hand guiding his and him screaming at me :). Below are 2 examples of puzzles he did not choose and did not want to complete…at first. After I convinced him they were fun, he became engaged. He did NOT want to complete the ABC puzzle, but I required him to. Afterwards he felt a great sense of success as we high-fived!!!

  • If he is doing a tray activity, I require him to clean up the tray. I do NOT require him to stay with the tray long-if he’s not interested after a few seconds, that’s fine. I AM requiring him to clean it up. We have always worked on cleaning up, but now it is being enforced all the more.
  • If an activity has a clear ending point, I will begin to enforce following through until it is completed.


What are some ways I am NOT transitioning yet…

  • Activities like bead stringing, lacing, drawing, Play-Doh, and others that don’t have a definitive ending point, I am still letting him be the leader with. An example is pictured below. When he said he was done with the stickers, he was done and that’s fine with me!
  • I am not transitioning in the area of choosing activities yet, I am still letting him choose from the activities being offered on his shelf. On the shelf below, I really wanted him to work with the abc beanbags, he did not choose them yet and it has been over a week. I took them off for this week and will try again later!I will sometimes ask if he wants to do a particular thing and show him how, but I will back off if he’s not interested.
  • Gradually as the year progresses this will change.

YOUR tot…

We are all at differing stages of tot-hood, as the age range I suggest- 12-47 months- is a very wide one. It is also a wide developmental range. Please keep this in mind as you read through the ideas of others. I have asked Tot School participants to put their tot’s current age in ( ) after their post on the Linky-I hope this helps you when you are surfing for ideas. Also, please remember that even though specific ages are often given, ALL tots are different. Here’s some general thoughts about Tot-Schooling during this period.

  • The 12 month tots…you are transitioning into Tot School, very slowly. It is basically what you’ve been doing ALL along-playing with your baby. Your own mind just becomes more intentional as you make sure you play each and every day with a variety of toys. This transition will gradually become more and more focused as the year goes on. Keep two words in mind-FOCUS and FUN. Just become more focused while having fun with your young tot.
  • The 24 month tots…this is the heart of tot school time in my opinion. It is the true child-led portion for most tots. This is the stage we have been in the past year and I have posted the most about.
  • The 36 month tots… This is the stage I am writing about in this post-the tots who are spending their year preparing for Pre K. Some tots will need longer than a year to be ready for a more formal Pre K, some will be ready before they are 4. My beliefs regarding readiness are very simple. The child must be ready both academically and emotionally. I believe Krash will be ready academically long before he is ready emotionally. With Pac Man it was the opposite. Every child is different and that’s the glory of homeschooling, we can meet our kids where they are at!

I know my own personal beliefs may not jive with yours, we all have them and they are rarely the exact same! I share my thoughts in case someone can glean some insight from them. Again, I am not saying my way is right, or even works…it’s just the route I plan to take! I will keep you updated as we continue on our journey!

Then-I will begin all over again as my little girl will be turning 1 right when Krash is turning 4! Tot School is no where near over for us!


How Do I Do It?

Moms are All DifferentI have gotten a few comments and emails lately, especially after Ladybug’s birth, asking me how I do it all. By *it all* I believe they mean…homeschooling, blogging, maintaining my website, and normal mom, wife, woman stuff. First I have to say I do not do it all and we are ALL DIFFERENT!!! We all have differing abilities, talents, gifts, passions, etc. We also all have differing circumstances that allow us to do different things during different seasons of our lives. If you read nothing else in this post read that! Don’t look at what I do and think it is better than what you do…it’s just different.

With that said, I will do my best to help you understand me a little bit better :)

First, I think it’s important to note the ages of my children…7, 3 (in 2 weeks) and newborn. That is MUCH different than 3 under 3, 4, or 5. Although my 7 year old is dramatic and draining at times, he is still 7, which is much more independent and responsible than 3 or 4. My 3 year old is wild and crazy but much different than a 1 or 2 year old. AND, my newborn is pretty easy…so far. With several years between each child, it has made my life easier. I am NOT one of those moms who wanted kids close together and thankfully God agreed ;). Those of you who are raising/homeschooling 2, 3, 4 or more kids who are all young –I don’t know how you even survive one day, let alone get anything productive done!!!!!

Next, blogging is my hobby, my down time, my personal time. I love to do it. It is not a chore for me as I love to design, write, take and edit photos, etc. Everything I do on my blogs and website is enjoyable to me, if they weren’t I wouldn’t do it. Blogging is never a chore for me, that’s what makes it so great. I love to do it, it’s such an outlet for me…and others seem to like that I do it! I know for some blogging can feel like a chore, and the thought of maintaining 4 blogs (my private family blog, this one, Totally Tots, and Lil Ladybug) plus a website (not to mention I oversee our church website too) seems daunting. For me it is NOT. Like I said, blogging is relaxing for me. I love learning how to do different things (like adjusting html on my blog), love sharing ideas, love writing, etc.

Homeschooling is my priority during the day. It is why I stepped down from working full time in ministry (which I did when Pac was little and the only). If I am not homeschooling to the best of my ability, I might as well go back to ministry life and send my kiddos to school. I don’t do things half way, and homeschooling is at the top of that list for me.

Finally, it is very important to remember how really sick I was during my pregnancy with Ladybug. I spent weeks 5-13 with Hypermesis, confined pretty much to my bed and bathroom during that entire time. It was miserable. Then around 24 weeks my severe physical pain set in and lasted through week 37 when I delivered her (2 weeks ago). Yes I had a c section, and yes it hurt to recover, but recovery has been NOTHING like the pain I endured for months. Seriously I could barely walk. Also, my husband got and recovered from cancer during the middle of it all (from about week 14-20 of my pregnancy). Our lives have been SO out of whack for the entire pregnancy…I couldn’t wait to get back to my role as a woman, wife, Mommy, and teacher.

I got back to “normal” on Monday and things went well. I haven’t done laundry, dishes, cleaning, etc. for months and I took back over all of my duties and it feels great (wonder how long that feeling will last). I haven’t put my boys to bed in months, and I could finally read to them, bathe them, and snuggle with them in bed. I wasn’t able to discipline Krash with the effectiveness he needs, and finally I can.

I think I am a better mom of 3 than I am of 2, and I was better with 2 than I was with 1. The busier I am, the better I am. When I get focused on myself for too long, I get annoyed when a child needs me. With 3, one is needing me all of the time. I don’t have time to waste until they go to bed and by then I am tired too!

I also want to say that even though I may seem to have it all together, I am still a sinner saved by grace. I make mistakes constantly. I yell at my kids, and I get frustrated over little things when I should offer grace. I speak harshly to my children or husband when I should be gentle and calm. I overlook chores or household duties at times, just because. I don’t answer the phone (and often frustrate people) because I don’t want to be interrupted. I get stressed out over simple things, and my anxiety has a tendency to run high when it shouldn’t. The list could go on and on, but those are a few for ya!

I have come a long way in my selfishness as a human being, and overcoming some of that selfishness is mostly what allows me to do what I do daily. The things I do are for my family, for the Lord. When I felt called to step down from ministry leadership, I knew I was stepping into another ministry role for the Lord-my role as the mother of this family, and as the wife, and WOMAN. From that moment on (about 2 years ago), I began to take it seriously and haven’t looked back. Before that time, I mothered halfway, I homeschooled half way, I cleaned half way, I took care of myself halfway, etc. I wasn’t the woman, wife, mother, or teacher I should be

I am still NOT, and nor will I ever be but that doesn’t stop me from trying each and every day.

I will leave you with a couple of life guiding verses, that seem to put it all in perspective for me…

A Time for Everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Colossians 3:17
17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Behind the Scenes ~ Workboxes in Our House

Behind the Scenes ~ Workboxes

It has been a week since we began using the Workboxes and I must be honest, this is probably the best thing we have added to our homeschooling life! I am still a bit skeptical to see if our joy will last, but so far, so GREAT!!! Here’s what I like about it…

Pac Man’s Homeschooling *Issues*
  • Whining over how much is left…”Mom, when will we be done, how much more?”
  • Whining over what the type of work is….”Mom, is there anything FUN on the schedule today?”
  • Working independently
  • Working at a reasonable pace-(he can get VERY distracted and slow )
  • Asking for help when he doesn’t really need it–I am just right there so he asks as a first resort, instead of really thinking.

How the Workboxes have helped…

    • He can clearly see how much work he has for the day-and WHAT it is.

  • He has a very clear schedule to follow each day, and he can see when things are coming up (like snack breaks). He has to follow the schedule in order each day, removing each card as the task is completed. I made a little basket for him to put them in. This is a bit different than the book recommends, but we make it work for our schoolroom. Here is his new work station, the basket on the left is for completed work, the blue basket is for completed schedule cards.
  • He can see if something FUN is coming up in a certain box that day, which motivates him to get through the boxes that come before it.
  • The boxes are clearly labeled if they are “Work with Mom” boxes, or independent boxes.


  • If it is an independent work box, he has 3 HELP cards per day he can turn in to get some help. This causes him to have to not use Mom-Help as a first resort, but more as a tool if it’s really needed.
  • He is working MUCH faster, and doing MUCH more-this is the most amazing part to me, he is so much more self-motivated.


A few comments he has made that let me know it’s working…

  • To a friend of mine who leads a program he is in at church, “Trish, we started these new boxes for school and I am not even doing Calvert anymore, they are SO fun!” Obviously this one was hilarious to me because he KNOWS he is still using Calvert-he’s just doing more fun stuff too so he completely forgets!
  • To me last night as I told him that his boxes were all ready for the morning and he could begin before I got up if he wanted, his reply…”YES” imagine a total dramatic, excited answer!

FUN things Pac has done during the first week that I wouldn’t have made time for without the boxes…

Final thoughts (for now)…

Yes you could implement this method without buying the book, BUT I do recommend buying the book if you plan on using this. I read through it quickly and her story and philosophy behind the method are very inspiring. Being a former teacher, I could really relate to tons of what she was writing. I could instantly see how this method could solve many of Pac Man’s issues. Another reason I recommend buying the book, is because it supports another homeschooling mom! Sure I will tell you a lot about it here and I will point you in the direction of other blogs that also share info, but you won’t have a full understanding unless you get it yourself. There are definitely some features to the method that need to be explained by the book.

If you order the E Book or the book, you will gain access to her downloads, which include the schedule cards and such. You will need clear boxes (I got mine at Target for $1 each), velcro, a shelf to put them on, and a laminator to make it all really work. Yes, I did make our own schedule cards and numbers, etc. You all know by now that I am a creating-mess :), so of course I had to control HOW everything looked for us! Plus Pac Man’s favorite color is green so I knew he would be excited if all of his numbers were green!

If you order the book yourself, read it, and then have ?s for me, I will be happy to share. I don’t really feel comfortable answering very specific ?s if you don’t purchase the book, only because this is NOT my original idea-I hope you can understand. I just want to respect the wonderful author! Although if you have general ?s that would help you decide if this method might work for you, I will be happy to share my thoughts! I will also be happy to share anything I have made myself for our boxes, if anyone gets going and wants to use my labels and such (I bet you don’t want the Work with Mom label with my photo though ;) ).

Finally-another wonderful thing that has come out of this first week-I can’t remember the last time our Wii or XBox was on! Pac is not a video game addict, but he does play a lot and loves it. I think he just turns to it sometimes because it is easy. This past week, he has naturally turned to more playing and creative activities. He has played tons with his K’Nex, done lots of free-art projects, and just kept himself busy playing instead of in front of a screen. I don’t know if this result is because of the workboxes, but I think it might be. I am hoping it lasts!

Here is another wonderful mom-blogger who shares her thoughts about Workboxes, my online buddy-Ami! Look on her right sidebar and you will see her “Wonderful Workboxes” links!

edited to add (11/2009): Visit our webapge all about Workboxes here!