Behind the Scenes ~ Book Storage

Behind the Scenes ~ Book Storage

I recently got asked how I store all of our children’s books. This was a very simple answer so I thought I would put it in a Behind the Scenes post! This issue haunted me at first as I had TONS of children’s books even before I began homeschooling. I used to teach Kindergarten and had kept all of the books I purchased myself over the years. Finally I came up with a solution!

I bought cardboard magazine boxes, made labels for them and sorted the books by the general themes or concepts. Specifically I have these boxes from Ikea, and I used my printer to make the labels, you could use a label making machine or just hand write them!

This makes it so much easier for me to find what we are studying at a particular time, or just to find books we want to read! As for my categories of books, I made them based on the books we had, trying to divide as much as I could to make it more simple to find things.I also keep our holiday/seasonal books like this so I can easily pull them down. I usually keep these in a special basket at the bottom of the bookshelf during that particular time so we can read them. I don’t have a photo of it, but at the bottom of this bookshelf there is a shelf with no boxes-it is for Krash’s books. Mostly board books, baby books, and stuff like that. Obviously those are on the bottom so he can easily get to them when he wants.

We also have books all over the house, I just keep our main storage here (it’s in our living room). I rotate out books for the boys in their rooms from here. Pac Man is also old enough to find what he is looking for and also help me put books back in the correct boxes- it’s awesome!

Behind the Scenes ~ Tot Trays

What Are Tot Trays

I know most of you probably read my Tot School post from this past Sunday, but if you didn’t read it first, then you’ll know what I am talking about ~ Tot Trays :).
Now, I will answer any questions I could think of that readers might ask :) and if I don’t answer yours, put it below in the comments and I will!

First, WHY Trays?

  • Let me begin by saying that I am in NO way saying that my beliefs are right, they are just MY beliefs. I share openly about what I believe when it comes to educating young children, and yes I do have a college degree, but that in no way makes me any smarter than others out there. I just share what I believe!
  • The TRAY itself: I believe the tray itself provides a sense of space for a young child. When all items are contained on a tray (or a mat, or something similar), it is easier for the child to visualize all involved with the activity and also how to CLEAN it up! Cleaning up is a huge part of this method for me.
  • The ACTIVITIES: I believe in providing simple, yet engaging activities that sometimes expose a skill and sometimes are just fun! I love the discussion times these trays provide. I love the concentration required. I love that Krash is developing perseverance, focus, and determination to accomplish tasks. I love the vocabulary alone that stems from the tray activities, it really is endless. I love that I can change up the activities easily without a ton of work each evening. I love that most of the items on the trays aren’t *toys* so they are refreshing for Krash and engaging.
  • The ENVIRONMENT: Trays provide a more neat and orderly environment for a tot, it is easy to see where the activities are, what is involved, how to clean up, and where to put the tray back. These types of activities also (usually) stimulate a quieter environment as many of the activities require much focus from the tot! In a world of LOUD chaos (at least with MY tot), I enjoy the difference in these types of activities.
  • WHEN: Krash only uses these trays during SCHOOL time. They are not toys, they are not free-play items. My idea behind this is to keep them special and engaging. When a child sees them over and over again, anytime, they become just like the rest of his toys. Sometimes this is hard to manage but that is the goal. We have only recently gone back to this method and he will get used to it more and more as we go on.

Tell me about your shopping spree you spoke of in your Tot School post…

Here’s where I went, with items linked up if I could find them online. Many of these items were pictured in my Tot School post (or will be soon :) )

AC Moore:

  • round paint tray
  • pom poms (bought 3 bags, of the colors we didn’t have already)
  • Valentines Day items for our seasonal collection (2-$1 tins, 1-1$ plastic heart jar, heart cookie cutters)
  • pipe cleaners (we just happened to be almost out!)
  • Cookie cutters-with a spring/Easter theme

Dollar Tree:

  • heart sticks
  • heart shaped ice cube tray
  • skinny long colored spoon assortment
  • cookie cutters assortment
  • foam beads in a box
  • pack of 4 colored clips

Ikea: (I am SO sorry for those of you who don’t live near an Ikea, that have the best stuff for trays!)

~edited to add… the trays themselves are from Oriental TradingI wrote a post sharing alternatives here.

I did not spend a ton of money, and many of these items will be used over and over again. These were just some things I wanted to get at this point, to go along with what we already had. And yes, I do have an educational supply shopping addiction (so my husband says).

How do you organize ALL OF THE STUFF?

  • I decided this FIRST, as I knew if I just brought home a bunch of stuff and mixed it in with the rest of our supplies, I would become overwhelmed with the whole idea and give up. So, when I went shopping, that was my very first priority and I knew I was not coming home until I had the solution! Here it is…The drawers are long, which is really nice for things like pipe cleaners, spoons, etc. Below is a photo of our bottle top collection…
  • I got a closet shoe hanging thing, that has drawer/box things to go inside. I didn’t have any floor space to put a new shelf or drawers or anything so when I saw this-the light bulb went off! We hang ours inside of our guest room/office “closet” area.
  • I made labels for all of the drawers and now that I am home, I plan to get one more red thing and set of boxes, just to not run out of storage-it’s worth it to me. I hung the labels on with key ring things I got at an educational supply store.
  • I also added a set of plastic drawers that I already had, knowing I would need larger spaces for some things. The main idea for this is the items I am collecting from the house (plastic bottles-my favorite is our coffee creamer bottles with the label torn off, TP tubes, PT tubes, and other bigger items we are now saving).
  • I am using a couple of the shelves in the *closet* to store some of the bigger items also, I still need to work on this area.
  • I am not entirely done with the space as I write this, but it will continue to be a work in progress, as all things storage and school related are!

How do you organize your IDEAS in your head when it comes to planning for these types of activities?

I think in the way of tray-themes, then change up within those. Here’s my *theme list* so far:

  • Transferring
  • Pouring
  • Beading
  • Spooning
  • Pasta Fun
  • Sorting
  • Counting
  • Matching
  • Small Spaces
  • Cutting
  • Gluing
  • Stickers
  • Simple Art/Crafts
  • Fine Motor-Muscle Skills

By keeping to these themes, I can wrap my brain around it easier and come up with simple ways to make it fun! I can also list out new ideas under a category-or add a new category!

Speaking of NEW IDEAS, I always find tons of ideas while blog-surfing but have a hard time implementing them (or remembering them), how do you manage this?

  • I struggled with this also, and finally made myself a sheet to keep next to my computer. I will give you the link for it at the end of this post. I jot down the name of the idea, and where I found it. THEN I add it to a folder in my Internet bookmarks so I can come back to it when I am ready to see it again.
  • If it is something I plan to make right away, I will just jot down my materials list and put in our current school plans!
  • I plan to come up with an even better way to sort new ideas as we get going, but this is my start!

What ages would you recommend these activities for?

  • I must tell you I am not a big age-range-suggester. WHY? Because I firmly believe that every child is unique and different and you must take the time to truly know your own child. I always post Krash’s age in my Tot School posts to give readers an idea, but kids are different!
  • I recommend starting simple, with the easiest of ideas and just see how your tot does! If an activity is frustrating for your tot (or you), then put it on the “later on” list!
  • Many of the tray activities are even enjoyed by my oldest son (age 6 1/2), that’s the cool thing about trays-they are simple but fun.


I made a new webpage all about Tot Trays! There’s ideas already there and I have tried to go into as much detail as possible to help you out if you’re looking to add this type of learning to your home. I plan to continually update this page, with ideas, photos, etc. so be sure to bookmark it if you are interested! On this page you will find:

  • The link to the New Ideas sheet
  • Items to Collect sheet, and Shopping Ideas (stores, lists, etc.)
  • Each *tray theme* outlined (with photos if I have them already)
  • More info about storage
  • My Labels (either for you to use exactly or to gather ideas to make your own)

As I said above, if you have any other questions about Tot Trays, please leave them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them there. I will also add more to the webpage itself as I get new photos and ideas!

Behind the Scenes ~ Routines, Schedules and Planning


I have gotten lots of emails and comments lately asking about my daily school routine/schedule and/or planning routine. I will do my best to give you a Behind the Scenes look into this area of our life, but I must warn you, the answers may surprise you!

I think I tend to *look* rather organized and in control on my blog(s) but in real life I am a bit all over the place. So I will be very transparent here for you all, and you will see I am not the super-mom some of you think I am!

Here are some of the most common questions I have gotten…

What is your daily schedule?

  • Honestly…I am a daily schedule drop-out. I tried, even made a lovely schedule to hang up on the wall and we followed it for awhile. Then I realized that it just didn’t jive with us. So we have switched to more of a general routine, with no set schedule. For those of you interested in seeing how we began, and my lovely intentions of having a schedule, here ya go…

So here goes the next question…

What does your general daily routine look like?

Now that I can answer, we do have one of those ;). I will give you the long drawn out details the best I can for a *normal* day at home right now. Keep in mind I am pregnant, my husband works odd hours (we are missionaries), and this is not EVERY day!

  • 8:00-8:30 Daddy feeds boys breakfast and I have “me” time (mostly computer, and getting ready)
  • 8:30-9:00-no real plans, Daddy leaves at 9, so sometimes this is just transition time.
  • 9:00-10:30ish-I focus on Krash and Tot School. During this time Pac-Man will do a few independent school work items, then play with us some. Pac Man will also have some free time during this time frame too (depends on my stress level of handling him being a part of Tot School-sometimes the fighting is just too much for me).
  • 10:30ish-11:30ish-I am usually worn out by this time and will put in a movie for Krash, or he will play on his own, depends on how difficult he is being that day.
  • 11:30-I begin preparing lunch, the kids just play
  • 12:00ish-we eat lunch.
  • after lunch: Krash goes down for a nap.
  • While I am putting Krash down, Pac-Man does his silent reading time.
  • 1:00ish-3:00ish Pac-Man’s focused school time with me. We do not go in any particular subject order, we just get done what we need to get done and tyr our best to enjoy our couple of hours alone together!

I hope that helps. Here’s a bit more info about us…YES my kids do watch tv, yes they play video games, yes they drive me nuts, yes I look like a horrible mom some days, yes I just tell them to leave me alone for awhile sometimes, yes I LOVE THEM DEARLY and wouldn’t want life any other way than this way-homeschooling! Oh and yes we spend some days out of the house. Krash takes a gym class at the Y on Tues and Thurs, and Pac plays soccer for the Y too. Daddy also takes them out a lot when he can. We also go to fun children’s places when I have the energy (which isn’t much lately).

How do you plan for Krash? (Tot School, age 33 mos)

  • I didn’t plan much until recently. I kept all of my ideas on a list and my tools/toys in one area and just chose activities. I have now begun to plan more to be a bit more focused. I plan to do an extensive post on this soon.

How do you plan for Pac-Man? (currently ending 1st grade in a few weeks)

  • I usually plan weekly for Pac Man, and have used many different planning sheets. I have added them to my site (blanks of course) in case they could be of help to any of you. Currently I use the weekly planning sheet found in the Old School House Planner.

    I could make it on my own, and honestly don’t know why I am sticking with this one, but I am, I like it.

  • I fill out our weekly plans for the week on Sat or Sunday, and pull all worksheets necessary.
  • Each morning, I get out the materials for the day and decide what Pac could do independently. We usually go over this in the morning. So if I say, “go complete something,” he knows what his options are.

As I said above, I have another Behind the Scenes post in the works detailing Tot School planning, and hope to have it done in a few weeks at least! If you have any questions you hope I address in that, leave them below or email me! Any other routine/schedule questions, leave them in the comments so I can answer them directly in the comments section of this post so others can see!

Behind the Scenes ~ Lapbooking

Behind the Scenes ~ Lapbooking

I am by no means a super-lapbooker, there are many out there and I have learned a TON from them! But I do get a lot of questions regarding lapbooking so I thought I would do my best to put what I have learned all into one post for anyone who is interested!

How do you incorporate, choose, plan, and prepare?

  • We use lapbooking as a supplemental part of our learning.
  • We began lapbooking at the beginning of Pac Man’s K year.
  • We focus our lapbooking topics mostly around science, social studies, and special holidays.
  • Pac Man (currently age 6 1/2) chooses his own lapbook topic about 99% of the time, that way I can be sure he will be interested in it!
  • I search for a free lapbook first, and then if I can’t find one already pre-made , then I search online at different printable sites for pieces to incorporate into the lapbook. If I can’t find exactly what I am looking for, I will make my own templates, using Microsoft Publisher. If I make anything, I always share it in PDF form, on our lapbooking webpage.
  • We usually only have one lapbook going at a time now. When he was in K, we usually had 2 going at one time because his core work was so easy for him. Now that regular schooling is at his level, we usually only work on one supplemental lapbook at a time.
  • We *do* the lapbook in various ways, but mostly Pac will complete one mini item for the lapbook each day and then when we have exhausted the topic, we will put it all together as a summary. There are many ways of thinking about this though.

Where do you find free lapbooks, helpful tutorials, or other bloggers who show their labooks?

What supplies do you keep on hand to make lapbookng easier to manage?

That about covers the basic questions I have received. If you have any others, leave them in the comments below and I will add the answers (if I know) there so others can see them too. If I personally think of anything else, I will edit the original post and add to it! A huge thanks to those who have shared and taught me along the way!

Behind the Scenes ~ Photography

Behind the Scenes ~ Photography


So, this isn’t really a homeschooling post but I get a lot of emails about photography so I thought I would try to address the FAQ here too! I am no longer a pro photographer but was at one point years ago!

What is your photography background, how did you learn?

  • I have always had a passion for photography but never did anything with it until after I graduated from college(where I was a Birth-Kindergarten Child Development major). My roommate in college was actually a photography major and I remember always secretly wishing I was doing that!
  • While teaching Kindergarten I decided to take a photography course at our local community college, my best friend joined me and we had a blast. We took another class, learning all of the basics together (this was before either of us had children).
  • After completing our courses we realized we were on to something and we jumped into starting a children’s photography business together. We began with a darkroom and used all BW film, printing all of our own photos. We switched to digital awhile later and then began a HUGE self-taught learning curve.
  • We ran our business together for about 4 years, until I moved to become a missionary in 2004.

What kind of camera do you use, what did you start with?

  • I currently use a Canon 40D
  • I started with a film version of the Canon Rebel back in the day but if I were to begin today I would start out with something from the Canon Rebel Line.

What about lenses?

  • My favorite lens is my Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 IIwhich is also my cheapest lens! I LOVE this lens because of the f/1.8, that’s what gives you the ability to shoot in lower light without a flash and also gives you the nice blurry background when shooting portraits. It is NOT a good lens for everyday use because it is fixed lens (meaning it can’t zoom to anything other than 50mm).
  • For everyday use, I currently have the Canon EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USMon my camera. This is a fine lens for everyday use, and it was what I could afford at the time. I wouldn’t use this lens for professional use but it works fine for what I need on an everyday basis.
  • I used to use the Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM but now my old business partner has this lens (we used to share lenses when we ran the business together). We also used our Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USMfor photo sessions this is also a *fixed lens* like the 50mm I currently have. The 85mm is great for close up portraits.
  •  Edited: I was given this lens as a gift from my Daddy! he saw what I wrote on this post and surprised me! If my wildest dreams would come true I would have the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM which as you can see costs more than my camera body alone!!! Why you ask? Because it has a fixed aperture of 2.8 which is a BIG deal with a zoom lens. Most lenses have a range like my f/3.5-5.6. If that makes no sense to you, then you’ll probably enjoy my next set of answers below so you can learn the photography language!

What photography blogs/sites do you recommend to help me learn to take better photos?

  • The online forum I used as a HUGE learning tool when I first began is: This is a GREAT community online and you can learn a TON. You might even see some of my old posts from years ago (around 2002/3), online over there I am "Little Moments" which was our business name. Be careful, this site will suck up your time if you are really interested in trying to learn photography!!!
  • Pioneer Woman has an awesome photography section on her blog with great tips and tutorials.
  •  i heart faces is a fabulous photography blog

How do you edit your photos, what software do you use?

  • edited 6/2010…I am now using Adobe Lightroom for my editing, I like it better than Photoshop for what I need-it saves me tons of time!
  • I use Adobe Photoshop 7.0, but that’s only because I won’t upgrade for the cost. If I were still working professionally today I would use Adobe Photoshop CS4.
  • Learning to use photo editing software was actually MUCH HARDER than learning the basics of photography itself! I felt like I was going back to college and I was self taught on Photoshop. The ilovephotography forums help a lot with the learning. It is a VERY long process and one you have to be committed to.
  • If I were beginning, I would use Adobe Photoshop Elements. It is a great and cost-effective way to begin learning PS. But even with Elements, you need to be dedicated to learning-it is in NO WAY easy!!!! I have heard Elements is much easier than PS, but I wouldn’t know as I began right away with PS7 since I got it as a gift way back when!

How about printing your photos, storing online, etc. What do you use and/or recommend?

  • I use Phanfare for all of my online photo storage needs. I absolutely love this software.
  • I use WHCC for all of my photo printing, for portrait type prints. For regular snapshots that I print, I use Winkflash, but I wouldn’t say they are necessarily any better than the competition in their category (Kodak, Shutterfly, etc.) It’s just what I have grown accustomed to.