The Preschool Years ~ Turning Mommy Guilt into Mommy Grace

Us moms are tough.  Tough on ourselves and tough on one another.

May I invite you to remove all forms of mommy guilt and shame over whatever educational choice you have made for your young child and transform that guilt into grace?  Grace for yourself and grace for others who may be making a different choice.

From Mommy Guilt to Mommy Grace



That’s me and PacMan many years ago when he was only 2. It takes me back to being that young momma who struggled with guilt over my choices. Guilt over sending him to preschool and then guilt over keeping him home.  You see, I did both with him.  He went to preschool for one year and we did the following year at home. I remember doubting myself and struggling with guilt on both sides.  I felt most of my guilt on the home side, feeling as if I might be taking something away from him by NOT sending him to preschool.

Yes, my blog is homeschool focused, but I believe in each family making educational choices with freedom and grace.  I am not a do or die homeschooler and believe the Lord leads us in different directions. For us, homeschool was/is the direction.  This post is mainly to encourage those of you who are embarking on this home preschool journey and struggling a bit with that choice. Struggling the way I did when we first became homeschoolers.

 

So, you are homeschooling PreK, now what?

I get questions surrounding the first year of homeschooling a LOT.  Most of these are people with children ages 3-5 who have officially made the decision not to send their child to PreK or Kindergarten.

That was me 8 years ago.  We even sent our oldest to a 2 day a week program when he was 3.  Then we pulled him home for the following year when he was 4.  That was our first homeschooling year, PreK.

I have an early childhood degree and taught Kindergarten, you’d think I would feel confident in teaching my own child at home.  Oh no, let me assure you, I struggled big time.  I struggled with many of the things I know moms out there are struggling with because they share with me via comments and email. I know many of you struggle because I know I struggled.  And honestly, we aren’t all that different.  It’s amazing how many struggles we all share, whether we speak them aloud or not.

 

You are not alone.

Do you worry that you won’t meet the educational goals and somehow totally miss something, even during PreK and K?  I did.

Do you fear that your child won’t know how to make friends with kids his/her own age and somehow be a social outcast?  I did.

Do you think you might not be a good enough mommy to be with your kids 24/7?  Not enough patience, grace, calmness, joy, etc?  I did.

Do you fret over the loss of ME time?  Then struggle with feeling selfish for thinking that way?  I did.

Do you cower at times when people ask your child what school s/he goes to?  Not wanting the question to even come up?  I did.

Do you feel completely overwhelmed with all of the curriculums, options, printables, blogs, and ideas?  I did.

Do you wonder how in the world you will juggle homeschooling with your current children and future children all together?  Or even manage it with housekeeping, cooking, maintaining adult friendships, or maybe even your job, etc.? I did.

Do you feel alone?  Even with all of the great blogs and maybe even a friend or two who homeschools, or at least supports your decision?  I did.

 

Where Am I Now?

I no longer worry about missing educational goals!  Why?  I slowly realized that I grew up forgetting much of what I learned in school anyway!  Life is learning and my kids will soak in knowledge, and actually more of it, through homeschooling! My oldest is entering 7th grade, the grade I used to fear.  I am totally at peace with it and relearning alongside of him, joyfully.

Socialization…NOT a problem, at all. I didn’t struggle a lot with this fear years ago, but the thought was in the back of my mind. It no longer even enters my mind.

I am not a good enough Mommy and I never will be.  But, I am enough. Period.  Enough for the babies God gave to me. This is still a struggle but I have come so far.

I served outside the home at our church full time when we began homeschooling and I struggled big time with losing this part of myself. It took years, but now I embrace my role at home and the way God has called me to serve our family.

Go ahead, ask my kids where they go to school!  If you want to talk about it, I will be more than happy to.  No shame at all, I don’t even jerk a little bit when people ask. I invite the conversation, questions, and even doubts.

I am pretty sure I contribute to overwhelming you.  Just look at my blog.  Sorry for that, but also not sorry.  I know it is hard to wade through the choices, I struggle too.  Pinterest makes this worse and the sea of early childhood blogs is WAY bigger than when I jumped on the blogging scene 7 years ago!  Just breathe, remember the word SIMPLE, and find what works for you – not for someone else.

When I began homeschooling Pac, Krash was a baby and we had a teenager we were guardians for. I struggled with balance and worried a bit how it would work if we had more kids. Somehow it all works out.  Every family is different and many families with WAY more kids than I have make it work. With each new season of life, we adjust and homeschooling is flexible for these adjustments.

I no longer feel alone in this homeschooling thing.  It gest easier and homeschooling is growing more than ever.  Even if you are the only one you know now, I assure you, it won’t be that way for long.

Preschool Away from Home?

Did you know that even though I home educate, I fully support your decision to send your child to preschool {or any grade of school really} if that’s what you feel called to do? I don’t think there’s a one size fits all plan for early childhood education and believe many children thrive in a group setting. I want all of you to know that you don’t have to worry one bit about judgment coming from me. Many families feel guilty about this, especially if they have homeschooled or even homeschool older children. Please don’t feel ashamed or guilty about this decision; we all must do what’s best for our own child, other children, and entire family during different seasons of life.

May we release all guilt that we place upon ourselves and others.  May grace fill our hearts and bring us peace, both personally and in our relationships.

Tot School Ideas for Ages 18-24 Months

Tot School Ideas Ages 18-24 Months



Tot School is simply playing with your tot!  The name came from my son many years ago, but don’t let the term “school” fool you, it most certainly is not school in the traditional form.  It is simply exposing early learning skills through focused play with your tot, something parents have been doing for many, many years!  I am a firm believer in developmentally appropriate practice and letting kids grow and develop at their pace, not pushing education too soon.  However, it is usually the MOM who needs an actual plan, idea list, or even a program to follow. For those of you who love to gather ideas for playing with your tot, I am sharing several posts in a series, broken down by ages. Many have asked for this, and finally I am taking the time to do it!

Many of the ideas presented in former posts are also great ideas for this age group. Some are duplicated here, but many are not. Be sure to look back if you haven’t yet!

See our other posts in this series…

Tot School Ideas for 9-12 Months

Tot School Ideas for 12-18 Months

Tiny Tot School Ideas for Ages 9-12 Months  Tot School Ideas Ages 12-18 Months[1] 

All ideas are presented with the understanding that you are playing WITH your baby, these are not all independent activities as some of the items are choking hazards. Please only use ideas that you feel comfortable with and feel you can ensure your tot’s safety.

 

1. Foam ABC Puzzle

This ABC puzzle has been a long time favorite in our house.  We have the upper and lowercase version, and Krash especially LOVED this puzzle.  We used it almost daily, mostly for hammering letters into.  It is foam and durable.  See the post this photo is featured in here.  He is 23 months old in this photo.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Foam ABC Puzzle from www.1plus1plus1equals1

 

2. Blokus

Blokus is one of our favorite games to use not as intended!  The pieces are great fine motor work for little tot hands and Ladybug especially loved creating with this.  She is 22 months old in this photo.  See our Tot School post that featured this activity!

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Blokus from www.1plus1plus1equals1

 

3. Straws

Straws and empty containers {Parmesan Cheese shown below} always provided hours of entertainment. Ladybug was 21 months in this photo, see the rest of the Tot School post here.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Straws

 

4. Felt Play

We have many felt sets, most are Betty Lukens, since we reviewed them years ago.  This one is Creatology from Michaels. She loved designing felt scenes at this age.  See the Tot School post this photo was featured in, she was 22 months.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Felt Play

 

5. Dress Up Play

My tots began to love dress up play during this stage and I LOVED seeing them dress up! Krash is on the right at 22 months, the post is here.  Ladybug is on the left at 22 months, the post is here!

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Dress Up from www.1plus1plus1equals1

 

6. Matching Favorites

Our theme based printable packs are great for fun matching activities.  Tots love matching their favorite characters to cards with the images.  Shown below are cards from our Cars Preschool Pack, she matched the real cars to her cards. See this Tot School post here, she was 22 months.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Matching Favorites  from www.1plus1plus1equals1

 

7. Foam Blocks

Foam blocks are such a great tool for tots of all ages.  One of our very favorites for many stages.  She was 21 months in this photo. See this post here.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Foam Blocks

 

8. Cutting Food

Cutting food is a great toy for tots!   Krash was 22 months in this photo, see the post here.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Cutting Food from www.1plus1plus1equals1

 

9.  Lacing on a Firm Stick

Lacing is difficult for tots this age when using a flimsy string.  We use firm sticks to lace on at this stage.  Below she is using a heart on a stick bought at a craft store, not even sure what they are called officially, I think they go in plants maybe? The idea is something thin and firm to lace bigger beads on.  Once this is mastered, you can move on to lacing on a pipe cleaner. She was 21 months in this photo, the Tot School post is here.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Lacing on a Firm Stick from www.1plus1plus1equals1

 

10. Spooning

A spoon, a container to spoon into, and small items to spoon are all you need for this simple activity! She was 21 months in this photo, the Tot School post is here.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Spooning from www.1plus1plus1equals1

 

11. Basic Pattern Block Puzzles

These basic pattern puzzles are a great toy for tots this age.  Just challenging enough for most, but not too overwhelming.  Both kids loved these at this age.  Krash was months in this photo, the Tot School post is here.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Shape Puzzles from www.1plus1plus1equals1

 

12. ABC Fishing

We have loved this magnetic fishing ABC set for years. It is great hand-eye work for this stage, as well as a fun way to work on letter names!  She was 18 months in this photo. See this post here.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- ABC Fishing from www.1plus1plus1equals1

 

13. Shape Sorter

Any shape sorter will do, and you probably have one or two, they are popular!   She was 23 months in this photo, see the post here.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Shape Sorter

 

14. Stickers

Stickers are great fine motor skill work for tots!  Krash was 22 months in this photo, see the post here.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Stickers

15. Tossing

Ladybug had some gross motor delays during this stage so we tossed a lot to help her muscle development.  We often used a laundry basket and any indoor toy or ball that could be safely tossed!  See the Tot School post this photo was featured in, she was 21 months.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Tossing from www.1plus1plus1equals1

 

16. Sidewalk Chalk

Many tots love the freedom of sidewalk chalk, mine did! See the Tot School post this photo was featured in, he was 22 months.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Sidewalk Chalk from www.1plus1plus1equals1

17. Poking Pasta

An old cereal box with small holes poked by you in advance and some uncooked noodles make for a great activity for tots during this stage.  I remember Krash playing with this a lot!  See the Tot School post this photo was featured in, he was 23 months.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Poking Pasta in a Cereal Box from www.1plus1plus1equals1

18. Water Painting

I did it when I was a kid and you probably did to!  A bucket of water and a grown up paint brush. Much fun for tots and big kids!  See the Tot School post this photo was featured in, he was 23 months.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Water Painting

19. Instruments

Our instrument collection has always been a favorite of all.  Tots this age love to make noise and explore instruments of all kinds!!  See the Tot School post this photo was featured in, he was 21 months.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Instruments

20. Chunky Puzzles

Chunky wooden puzzles are great for young tots, consignment sales and thrift stores are great places to find them!  See the Tot School post this photo was featured in {puzzle is here}, he was 24 months.

Tot School Ideas 18-24 Months -- Chunky Puzzles


I created a simple PDF file featuring all of the images from this post on one page.  Back when we were Tot Schooling, I loved to have lists I could refer back to.

You can download the Tot School ideas for Ages 18-24 months here!

I also went back and added PDF files like this to the 9-12 month ideas post and the 12-18 month ideas post!

Tot School Baby Play Ideas Ages 18-24 Months

See our Tot School Ideas for Ages 18-24 Months Pinterest Board here! If you are a blogger and have specific posts for this age group, leave a link in the comments to share with others!


Looking for more ideas, be sure to grab our Where to Begin with Tot School eBook for free here! In the eBook you will find pages with different ages and ideas for that age group!

Tot-School-Ideas-By-Ages_thumb111


~ Coming Soon ~

Tot School Ideas for 24-30 Months

Tot School Ideas for 30-36 Months

Tot School Ideas for 3-4 Years

In the meantime, you can visit our Tot School Ideas by Ages!

Homeschooling Tots and Preschoolers

Homeschooling Tots and Preschoolers

Awhile ago I wrote a 10 Day series entitled, Homeschooling Tots and Preschoolers, which shared ten posts all about early learning at home. 

Below you will find links to the 10 posts from that series, as well as any other I felt might help you if you are on this amazing journey of homeschooling little ones!

First, I shared our Where to Begin with Tot School™ eBook, which is a free bonus for all newsletter subscribers!

Where to Begin with Tot School eBook 

 

Next, I reminded moms {me included} that we don’t have to do it all!

You Don't Have To Do It All

 

My friend Becky from This Reading Mama shared a guest post with us about Developmentally Appropriate Practice for Homeschoolers.

Developmentally Appropriate Practice and Homeschoolers 

 

Next, I share the time I invest in planning for Tot School or Preschool, and how I do it.

Planning for a Theme

 

My friend Maureen from Spell Outloud shared tips for studying nature with tots.

Studying Nature with Tots

 

Next I shared the difference between Exposure and Mastery with young children.

What is Tot School

 

Next I share my heart behind using themes in early childhood.

Why Themes

 

Maureen came back and shared about homeschooling tots in a large family.

teachingtoddlers

 

Our VERY favorite learning toys for tots was next!

Favorite Learning Toys 

 

Finally, I launched a new series sharing theme based printables from around the web.  This series is now complete and you can see links to other letters in that post too.Theme Printables A through E

 

If you are homeschooling your young children at home, here are the top posts from my site that I recommend reading {in no particular order}! I am a visual person so I opted for graphics rather than a list.

Alphabet Idea Collection  Colored pattern with letters of alphabet

Hands on the Alphabet  How to Plan Using Themes  I Spy Color Hunt

Tot Trays for Tot School  Minute by Minute Tot School  Tot School Printables A to Z

Homeschooling Preschool  Tot Trays Tot School Preschool Work Trays 2

Tot School Gathering Place  Tot Time Notebook  Animal ABCs 300

Printable Theme Packs Storing Theme Printables Following the Lead of the Child All By Myself Preschool Quiet Time Boxes

Home Preschool A to Z from www.1plus1plus1equals1.net  Following the Lead of Your Preschooler at Home  Learning with Ladybug Preschool

Tot School Printables A-Z  Tiny Tot School Ideas for Ages 9-12 Months  Tot School Ideas Ages 12-18 Months

 

Here’s a list of a couple of early childhood Pinterest boards you may want to follow. You can see them all here, they are at the top of my boards {themes sorted alphabetically are below my early childhood boards}.

Number Coloring Printables

Free Number Coloring Printables 1-10



We have a new set of number coloring printables in our All 123s section!  This set could be used in a variety of ways.  Your child could color the number and the animals, practicing number identification, number writing and 1:1 correspondence while counting. Get out play dough and make the number and then roll dots for each animal for a hands on way to practice counting. Scale the pdf file down and use them as smaller flashcards. Print full size and use as posters when your child is learning each number.

Click here to download

{look for this graphic on the page and click on it for the PDF file}Number Mats 1-10

 

Looking for more number based printables? You can find all of these on our All 123s webpage!Free Math Printables from www.1plus1plus1equals1.net

Tot School Ideas for 12-18 Months

Tot School Ideas Ages 12-18 Months

Tot School is simply playing with your tot!  The name came from my son many years ago, but don’t let the term “school” fool you, it most certainly is not school in the traditional form.  It is simply exposing early learning skills through focused play with your tot, something parents have been doing for many, many years!  I am a firm believer in developmentally appropriate practice and letting kids grow and develop at their pace, not pushing education too soon.  However, it is usually the MOM who needs an actual plan, idea list, or even a program to follow. For those of you who love to gather ideas for playing with your tot, I am sharing several posts in a series, broken down by ages. Many have asked for this, and finally I am taking the time to do it!

See our first post in this series…

Tot School Ideas for 9-12 Months

Tiny Tot School Ideas for Ages 9-12 Months

All ideas are presented with the understanding that you are playing WITH your baby, these are not all independent activities as some of the items are choking hazards. Please only use ideas that you feel comfortable with and feel you can ensure your tot’s safety.

{disclaimer ~ affiliate links are used}

1. Board Books on a Low Shelf

The shelf you see in this photo is actually a photo ledge from Ikea.  When she was this age, I rotated her board books on this shelf in her room.  She spent many hours reading in this spot and other in the house like this. See the Tot School post this photo was featured in, she was 14 months.

Tot School Board Books on a Low Shelf 12-18 Months

 

2. Exploring Bubble Wrap

One of the best free sensory experiences for kids is bubble wrap!  I gave it to Ladybug for the first time when she was about 13 months old and every time it came in a package I let her explore {always with me close by}.  See our Tot School post that featured this photo!

Tot School Bubble Wrap 12-18 Months

 

3. Stirring Sticks

A package of simple colored stirring sticks {we got ours at Target} is a great and inexpensive addition to your Tot School supply list.  Here you can see her trying to get them into an empty food container. We used these sticks all the time, for many fun and simple activities. Ladybug was 13 months in this photo, see the rest of the Tot School post here.

Tot School Stirring Sticks 12-18 Months

 

4. Spoons and Bowls

Ladybug played with all sorts of metal and plastic bowls from the kitchen.  She loved our kitchen spoons too.  One of her favorites at this age was to pretend to cook and stir our wooden food pieces.  See the Tot School post this photo was featured in, she was 14 months.

Tot School Spoons and Bowls 12-18 Months

 

5. Instruments

Our instrument collection was a big favorite when Ladybug was this age.  She would dig and play in this box a lot.  Her favorite was when we all explored together with our instruments.  See this Tot School post here, she was 13 months.

Tot School Instruments 12-18 Months

 

6. Stacking

This was about the time she got really into the stacking toys we had.  The one shown below was from Target, and is similar to this one. She loved all of our stacking toys. See this Tot School post here, she was 15 months.

Tot School Stacking 12-18 Months

 

7. Straws

Such a simple addition to your Tot School collection, straws!  We did all sorts of things with straws, but this was her favorite.  An empty container to put them in!  She was 17 months in this photo. See this post here.

Tot School Straws 12-18 Months

 

8. Recycled Containers & Trays

The tray below was an empty frozen baby food tray, she was putting large bumpy beads from this set into the openings.  We used all sorts of ice cube trays, egg cartons, and similar containers to allow her to move objects like this. She was 15 months in this photo, see the post here.

Tot School Recycled Containers 12-18 Months

9. Counting Bears

When she was younger all we had was the bears.  We now have various counters {family, ocean, and more}.  They are still a VERY favorite at age 4, and I even use them to teach certain math skills beyond this! She was 17 months in this photo, the Tot School post is here.

Tot School Counting Bears 12-18 Months

10. Magneatos

Magneatos have been a favorite toy of all of my children for years.  Ladybug began really enjoying them when she was this age.  She is sitting on top of a magnetic dry erase board which they stuck to also, she loved this! She was 17 months in this photo, the Tot School post is here.

Tot School Magneatos 12-18 Months

 

11. Stacking Cups

Stacking cups are a wonderful toy for tots.  So much you can do with a colorful set like this.  All of my kids loved their stacking cups and they still play with them! She was 17 months in this photo, the Tot School post is here.

Tot School Stacking Cups 12-18 Months

12. Easel

Coloring on an easel is a great activity for tots.  It requires them to stand and develop their fine motor skills vertically. This particular easel is from Ikea. She was 17 months in this photo. See this post here.

Tot School Easel 12-18 Months

13. Magnets

When Ladybug was this age I rotated different magnet sets {the one shown is our Leapfrog set} on our dishwasher often for her.  Since she was a slow stander/walker so this gave her motivation to try and stand and play.  You can see her holding a metal bowl also, she loved using this with our magnets also. She was 14 months in this photo, see the post here.

Tot School Magnets 12-18 Months

14. Push Through Activities

Shown below is an empty baby food container with a hole cut in the plastic lid.  She is pushing Zoobs through the opening.  She also used pom poms a lot for this.  Push through activities are great for tots this age! She was 15 months in this photo, see the post here.

Tot School Push Through 12-18 Months

15. Tubes

Doesn’t get much cheaper than empty paper towel and toilet paper tubes!  In this photo she is shoving spools into them but you can offer your tot all sorts of things to enjoy along with tubes.  Pom Poms, bouncy balls, ping pong balls, bells, straws, and so much more! See the Tot School post this photo was featured in, she was 14 months.

Tot School Tubes 12-18 Months


I created a simple PDF file featuring all of the images from this post on one page.  Back when we were Tot Schooling, I loved to have lists I could refer back to.

You can download the Tot School ideas for Ages 12-18 months here!

 

More ideas for this age group from around the web ~


Looking for more ideas, be sure to grab our Where to Begin with Tot School eBook for free here! In the eBook you will find pages with different ages and ideas for that age group!

Tot School Ideas By Ages_thumb[11]


~ Coming Soon ~

Tot School Ideas for 18-24 Months

Tot School Ideas for 24-30 Months

Tot School Ideas for 30-36 Months

Tot School Ideas for 3-4 Years

In the meantime, you can visit our Tot School Ideas by Ages!