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!

Behind the Scenes with a Sensory Bin

Behind the ScenesI have had many moms ask me to video tape some time showing a sensory bin in action. I finally remembered to do that and captured 2 videos of Ladybug and I working together. Obviously these aren’t the best quality and only a few minutes of our approximately 30 minutes together {on this particular day}. The videos do show a lot of what we do with a bin and ways for a tot to explore.

I do allow Ladybug to explore on her own with out me {although I am always nearby watching when choking hazards are involved}, and I also spend time with her like you see in these videos. You can see another video of a sensory bin in action here {scroll down, it is the last one on that particular webpage}.

In the following videos, each just a couple of minutes long, you can see us working on…

  • Vocabulary: Full/Empty
  • Sensory play with sounds {different items in the eggs}
  • Vocabulary: in {put them IN my cup}
  • Vocabulary: shiny, cold, hot,cool, smooth {with the rocks}
  • Body parts {put the rock on your ears, forehead, nose…}
  • Counting 1-2 cups

You’ll notice that when she says NO to an idea of mine, I allow that and move on. I believe this is key in working with younger tots. I believe that in order to keep the learning playful and fun, we must follow their lead.

Here are some photos from this same bin time together, showing even more concepts we worked on together…

Spooning rice into the cups…IMG_8457

As we were putting different items into the eggs together…IMG_8463

Testing out the sounds…IMG_8469

Snuggling with the bug fleece that I got out for this bin {my mom had some leftover fleece and I sorted it by theme to use with the bins}!IMG_8484

The following photos are from the day I introduced the Bug Sensory Bin to Krash and Ladybug…

They were both absolutely in LOVE with this bin and everything about it, including the hats {from Target}IMG_8381

Magnifying glasses {Target} were a BIG hit!!!

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Matching bugs to flashcards with real bug photos {thank you $1 section Target}IMG_8398

We have also played with the bin on several days when the camera didn’t come out!

I hope this helps some of you who have emailed me to see the endless possibilities that a bin full of *stuff* can provide!

PS-if you are wondering where PacMan was-he was away at camp. Krash was at a church Kids Club in the photos/videos showing just Ladybug. I work with her a lot on the evenings when I have just her at home. I try my best to take advantage of any 1:1 time I get with any of my kiddos when I can!

If you haven’t read the Montessori Minute post about sensory play, be sure to read that to see why these bins are so wonderful for kids!

Use this button to jump to all of my Sensory Bin posts anytime. Sensory-Bins6222[4]

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!

Behind the Scenes ~ Storing Sensory Bin Items

Behind the ScenesI have gotten a few questions wondering where our Sensory Bin items end up when not in use!  I put off on sharing for awhile because it was honestly all a big unorganized mess for a long time!  I finally put my system in place and can share now!!!  It isn’t perfect and I still lose stuff and wonder where I put something, but overall it works for us!

Sensory Bins


Here’s my main sensory Bin storage area, which is located in my storage room {the one I gained when we renovated and added the new schoolroom}.  This storage room is as big of a blessing as the actual schoolroom itself!  The bottom green bin is not sensory bin items, but is where I am now keeping printable theme units when we are finished.IMG_0882

Here’s how it is all broken down…


I had these colored drawers in my basement unused and they seemed like the perfect place to store items by color.  I often pick a base color for my bins so I keep the colored items sorted this way and an get to them easily for bins or even other activities regarding colors.

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In the white drawers, I keep extra random supplies for the bins and for other Tot Tray activities.  I often will pull these out in the middle of the week to add an activity to the bin.

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Each season has a drawer or a bin {I didn’t want to spend any money on matching bins so I used what I had that was empty!}.  Things that would ONLY be used during that season are placed in these bins/drawers.

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I have 1 big bin and in that bin each theme {pets, space, farm, bugs, sports, etc.} has a gallon sized ziploc bag to store the items.  I have this bin on top so I can easily place new items for upcoming themes in side the baggies.  My mom often sends us a box of bin items and this way I can easily sort any new theme items quickly and not forget what I have!

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Multiple use Items

Some things are used for various bins, but aren’t a particular color.  Those items are bagged up and placed in a bin labeled “Sensory Bin Items.”  As you can see it is currently a mess and overflowing!  I need to get a bigger bin and redo this part of my system!IMG_0886

The Next Bin{s}

I have several of the same bin ready for rotation {also an unused item in my basement from an old train table we used to have!}.  I try to stay at least 1 bin ahead, sometimes 2.  I begin to gather contents and go ahead and place them in the upcoming bin.  Then the night before it goes out, I open it all and get it all pretty ;-). IMG_0882

I do use other items in sensory bins, that aren’t stored in these places, and I do my best to remember these things!

Counting Coconuts has a great post about this exact same topic and she goes deep into other FAQ about Sensory Bins, be sure to jump over there and check it out!

See more Behind the Scenes Posts here!

Behind the Scenes ~ Daily Routine 2011

Behind the ScenesAs our family has changed, our daily routine has changed also.  I must be honest, I struggle with routine and I struggle without it.  I love routine and I hate it…I am really mentally a mess when it comes to schedules and routines.  But, over the years, I have learned that without a basic routine, I will flop as a homeschooling mom.  We have horrible, chaotic days and I am the ring leader for a house full of stress.

Routines and schedules need to evolve so much when you have babies and young tots, and this always troubled me.  I don’t really like change so each time a routine didn’t work anymore I would get frustrated and then go without one for awhile—frustrating the home even worse.

With Ladybug at a different stage ~ a more predictable stage ~ and with no new baby plans at all, I think we are at a place where our current routine just might work out for more than 2 weeks!  Sure, we have disruptions and it isn’t always smooth, but it is working. 

Here is our basic school day routine…



Each boy also has his own routine hanging by his desk for reference…

krash   Pacman routine

Here’s a bit more detail about what is going on during each time frame…


  • PacMan gets his daily school folder and heads upstairs to do any independent work he can do.  I allow him to choose the order, and he is really good at this now.  He is very familiar with which items can be done independently and knows to just hold off on anything he needs my help for.  He is NOT allowed to interrupt me for help during this time frame, he knows it is “Ladybug’s school time” and he respects that for the most part!  This took a lot of training but we are at a good point now.
  • Krash has 6 workboxes still, and in them I load the 1st 3 with items that don’t need much guidance from me, he finishes those while I work with Ladybug for Tot School and also go to him some.  My focus is Ladybug, but usually he can do some of his work during this time too.  He also gets to help Ladybug and be the Tot School assistant, which he loves.
  • Ladybug starts at the desk in her hook on high chair and we do some of her Tot School Printables work.  When she is “done” we get down and I follow her lead.  We read books, play with her learning toys, and just simply interact together.  Some days she wants to spend 30 minutes at the table, some only 5.  It’s up to her and I follow her lead.


  • Each child has a very small snack and I sometimes will turn on an educational show for Ladybug and if the boys want to watch with her I allow them to all sit together.  Shows I usually choose: Word World, Super Why, Team UmiZoomi, Leapfrog Letter Factory.  The key is that I choose the show and it is not free tv time, it is a relaxing snack time and also a time where I get a bit of a break from the chaos {I need this or I will go NUTS}.  I usually do some cleaning during this time.
  • After the show or snack, the kids are free until lunch.  So am I!!!  This is my mid day break which gives me a bit of time to do what I need to do.  Sometimes it’s laundry, sometimes cleaning, sometimes computer stuff, sometimes playing with the kids! If it is nice the boys go outside {I have to be with them if Ladybug goes}, if not-they choose where in the house they want to play.


  • Lunch-the kids all eat together, but Ladybug usually is done first so I take her upstairs and leave the boys to finish.  I lay Lbug down for her nap and while I am with her the boys finish their lunch and then go straight to reading time.  They know they can read together or alone, but the rule is they have to be reading!  This took much training, as they would find ways to play with the books and not read them ;-).  Usually their reading looks something like this when I come back downstairs.  99% of the time they are in the bean bag chairs! IMG_0589


  • This is our group time {just the boys}.  We do calendar, watch a PowerPoint {usually USA Geography, sometimes Solar System}, read a book, or play a game.  I leave the details open, but “require” myself to spend this 30 minutes with both of them together.


  • Krash is with me for his Kindergarten time.  This is when we do his last 3 workboxes and spend the time together he needs 1 on 1 for school.
  • PacMan goes upstairs for 30 more minutes of independent school time. If he completes all of his independent school work he is allowed to choose one of his card activities {the school one is the choice to get ahead on the next day’s work}Slide2


  • PacMan is with me for his 1 hour of with Mom school time.  This is when I do any 1 on 1 teaching with him for the day.  
  • Krash is still in the training process for this time period but he is doing better.  I made him these cards that show his choices.Slide1It helps eliminate what he cannot do during this time period and helps with the sighs and groans a bit.  He still gives me trouble sometimes but he is learning the routine.  The goal is for him to be basically independent during this hour so I can focus on Pac.


  • PacMan uses this hour to finish up any remaining schoolwork, and then completes a daily afternoon chore {rotates between swiffering the floors, dusting, & emptying trash}.  After he completes this he is free for the day!
  • Krash is still playing independently although I switch things up at 2 and allow him to play his DS or non learning games on my iPod.  Most of the time he chooses just to play.


  • This is our end of school time goal time, also when Daddy comes home for the afternoon.  Daddy works most nights too in ministry, so he spends from 3-5 with the kids each day.  This 2 hours is when I walk on the treadmill, shower, and do some of my computer time.  Some days I have to run errands during this time though.  It’s such a blessing to have him home fairly consistently during this time period.
  • The boys are allowed to watch a tv show, play Wii, play their DS, play outside, or anywhere in the house-mostly choosing to hang out with Daddy.  Ladybug is usually awake by this time so the “shhhhhing” is done. 

I want to mention also, that there are MANY days when the schedule is thrown out the window because someone is sick, or something else is a major disruption.  I do not try to follow the routine on those days-we just kick into survival mode.  Dr. Jen {our sponsor this month} has a great blog post about this which reminds me that whether we are a stay at home mom or a working mom,  interruptions in our normal routine are always difficult.  Bottom line-our kids come first and we do what we need to do to get by. 

I am thankful for the routine, and even more thankful that I have found a routine that is really working for this season of life.  We had a few other routines that lasted for a little while.  Here is one routine we had, and here is another one.

I admire those of you who can make a detailed school schedule and stick to it day after day, I am hoping I am at least going to stick to my loose routine for awhile!!!

See more Behind the Scenes posts!