Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oh the Things they Say...

My second year of teaching I taught Kindergarten in Oregon. Two days in, I realized how many hilarious things 5 year olds say in a day and decided to keep a diary. I saved the document on my desktop on the computer so I could easily pull it up and add to it as time allowed. This proved to be such a funny collection and helped me get through those tough teaching days.
Now that I am home with an almost 3 year old, I am reminded that I should be writing down all the hilarious things he says so I don't forget, so he can some day read it, and to help me get through those tough stay-at-home mom days. Part of me probably hasn't done this because the majority of what he says, I actually say on a daily basis and that's not so fact it's quite embarassing. But, maybe you all won't be able to decipher what I say and what he came up with on his own.
Here are a few recent ones:
*"Mom, you have Noah to help you, Daddy has Jesus to help him."
*"Hey duys (guys), don't call me Maverick, call me Mav."
*"Somepins (something's) happening in my booty." (This was when he was pooping in the bathtub, gross!)
*This is just downright rude...he says this as we are Black Friday shopping. "Hey wady (lady), stop blocking the way!" (See, I told you it's embarassing, but I promise I have not said this to a stranger)
*We are working on obedience (always!!!) and we are teaching him to answer "yes ma'am or yes sir" when we tell him to do something... Me: Take the toys in your room please. Mav: Why? Me: Say yes ma'am. Mav: Yes ma'am, why?
*"Why because?" (this is in response to "because" the first time he says why)
*He says this as we pass a blow up Santa in a helicopter in someone's yard (sidenote: apparently blow up things in your yard are SUPER popular in Tennessee. I NEVER saw this many in Oregon!) "Hey Mom, look at the Christmas man in the helicopter."
*"Mom, look at my eyes when I'm talkin." (Okay, that's a dead giveaway)
*When I first get up with him and Solomon in the morning, "Mom, your hair's all jacked!"
*Mac: Maverick don't do that.
Mav: Why?
Mac: Because I said.
Mav: No said.
*Me: Maverick, look at the horses!
Mav: I like horses. I wanna ride 'em.
Me: We can't, they aren't ours.
Mav: Jesus rides horses.
*As we are driving around the mall parking lot on Black Friday. Mav: Where are we going? Me: We are looking for a parking spot. Mav: Jesus will give us a parking spot! Me: Yes, yes He will.
*Solomon is screaming in the car because he HATES his carseat and Mav says, "Solomon doesn't wike (like) me anymore!"
**Disclaimer: I refer to Black Friday shopping, but we did NOT get out early!

Just a few for now, but I'm going to start keeping a record on my desktop.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Grab a Pencil

A crucial skill that needs developing at this age is fine motor capabilities. This includes holding a pencil, lacing, or basically anything that requires coordination of small muscle movements (ie: fingers and eye). An easy and fun way to practice this skill is to practice lacing. You can use yarn with noodles, popcorn on string (a cute Christmas decoration) or beads on string or pipe cleaners. I happened to have small beads leftover from my classroom so I pulled them out one day to see how Maverick would do with them.

He did great and actually surprised me with how focused he remained working so hard to string those beads! These activities are great for teaching pre-writing skills.

Speaking of writing, a good place to start with little ones is having them practice drawing lines (vertical and horizontal), curves (think about the curves in letters like C, D, etc) and slants (like in the letter A). Also writing with different utensils such as chunky crayons, wet sponges on chalkboards, markers, pencils, chalk, fingers, etc.
Tracing the letter Qq with his finger dipped in water.

Writing with a wet sponge (I cut a normal sized sponge into small rectangles).

Sunday, November 20, 2011


This activity was from Thursday on the lesson plans I posted last week. Since we were studying circles, I remembered a recipe I had seen on Savvy Source for mini apple pies and thought it would go perfectly with our theme. I altered the recipe a little to only make 4 little pies, since Maverick really doesn't eat food like this and I didn't want to have to help him!
What you will need: 2 small apples, or one large, cut into thin wedges; small package of refrigerated biscuits (the kind you pop out of the can and put in the oven); brown sugar and cinnamon.
Apples cut into thin wedges (obviously an adult job)
Mix 1/4 cup brown sugar with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. This part is super fun for the kiddo.

Next, smash one side of a biscuit on a cookie sheet, place apples on top, sprinkle on brown sugar/cinnamon mix then top with the other side of the biscuit (squished).
Here is what it looks like with all the ingredients, just missing the top
Make sure to poke holes in the top biscuit before placing in the oven. Follow baking instructions on the package of biscuits. oven does NOT get hot on the outside

Doesn't this look delicious?
Cooking is a great way to practice following steps, which is a great pre-writing skill even though there is no writing involved! Also, I tell him what size measuring cup we are using even though he has no clue what it means. The more they are exposed to this vocabulary and use these measuring tools, the better equipped they will be when they actually learn the mathematics behind it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lesson Plans

Today I'm going to include an example of a week's (VERY lofty goal) lesson plans. I have been an over planner since my first year of teaching in the inner-city of Los Angeles. You simply cannot "wing" it with those kids (really with any kids, but even more so with those) or they will TAKE YOU DOWN! So, I over plan which can sometimes be a good thing, but sometimes a frustrating thing when you feel like it takes forever to accomplish a week's worth of plans. However, tot school is about the tot, so we move at his pace!
These plans did not take us a week, in fact we stretched them over two weeks! We had several busy days in there, and ended up doing only one activity a day, instead of the two it shows on the plans.

You will notice the plans sort of go by themes. The shape he learned was circle, so I chose letters that use a circle (Q, O) and numbers that also use circles (8 and 6). I want to provide support so he can make connections between everything we are learning. Also, these lessons give me opportunities to point out and explain how they are connected.
Over the next few posts, I will break down each activity with pictures and descriptions.
The first one I want to show you is the circle lesson (Tuesday). Supplies: White construction paper, crayons or markers, various objects that include a circle as part of their shape for tracing (ie: cylinders).
Random things I used to trace circles.
I started by reading him a shape book, "Shapes that Roll," but really you could read any book that talks about shapes. Throughout the book I continually drew attention to the circles. He pointed them out after reading, and we "drew" circles in the air.
The book we read.
Next, I showed him the items I had collected and pointed out the circle part. I took his finger and traced the circle part of each piece. I then helped him trace the circles on a piece of paper. (This kind of tracing was pretty difficult) I let him color them and we counted and numbered them. I tried to get him to think of things that were circular, but that was WAY too difficult. Far too abstract for his little brain, so I drew a pizza and a smiley face to show him.
The finished product.
This will go in his room on his "work wall" so he can constantly have a reminder of what he has learned.
(Click here for lesson plans)

Monday, November 14, 2011


Remember I said I would write on here about my successes AND failures? Well, today was one of those failures. If you remember from my schedule post, Mondays are clean the house Mondays. Maverick had been helping me a little, but mostly just playing in the same room, or in his own room. I had to go feed the baby (because Solomon is on a nursing strike, I have to feed him in the dark nursery, rocking in the rocking chair...extremely convenient when you have a 2 and a half year old running around unsupervised!) and told Maverick he was to go in his room for "room time."
It was VERY quiet the whole time I was feeding Solomon which I found a bit strange, but delightful at the same time. I came out to discover Maverick with gobs of hair wax in his hair, on his forehead, and on his shirt. He had gotten into one of our drawers in our bathroom and helped himself to some hair product. He has never been one to get into things, so I was really shocked (I know I'm naive). I threw him in the tub and tried to wash it out, but wax doesn't come out!!!! This is what he looked like AFTER clean up...
This was DRY!!! Can we say greasy? Ewwww. I ended up having to shave his head.
All of his hair :(

The hair is all clumped together in one pile because there was SO.MUCH.WAX! Here is his after shot...

It's still pretty messed up because no matter how many times I wash it, that wax will not come out.
You know, there are some days that are just hard and I feel like I fail at everything I try to do. But, I try to remember to be present. (Sheila Thompson spoke about this at our church's last Mom good!) Don't wish the days away, because they already go way too fast on their own. So, I will choose to enjoy these mishaps...well, maybe not enjoy them, but learn from them and hopefully both of us will come out more disciplined in the end. :)

P.S. Tomorrow I will be posting LESSON PLANS!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I am a very schedule oriented person, thus my children forcibly willingly are as well (one can hope). There are several schedule samples for tot school all over the Internet, but here is what works for our family...

Monday is clean the house Monday. I found that it's way easier for me to spend most of one day cleaning the house, rather than trying to do a little bit each day. At the end of a Monday I feel such a sense of accomplishment looking at a completely clean (for 5 seconds) house. Maverick helps me with cleaning on these days as part of school. He vacuums with a little handheld vacuum cleaner (BEST purchase ever), sweeps with a small brush, and helps me wash the dishes.

These chores teach him responsibility, following directions, completion of a task and how to make a great husband someday (haha). (Side note: Laundry is not included in Monday's tasks as that literally takes ALL.STINKIN.DAY!) I also let him color, paint (with watercolors), play with playdough, etc. to keep him busy while I clean.

Tuesday is special project day. I try to do some kind of learning art project on this day. Wednesday is cooking day where he helps me cook or bake something that has to do with that week's theme. Thursday is another day to learn math, reading, science skills, etc. And Friday is our field trip day. On these days we go to the park, the library, some kind of play place, meet friends for play dates, etc.

Playing at "Shipwrecked," a local play place.
Now, as I said in an earlier post, things don't always go as planned and I don't always get to adhere to this schedule, but it helps me plan better and feel more organized. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Name Recognition

One of the first things I wanted to work on with Maverick was recognizing his name. I had already spent quite a bit of time pointing out the first letter in his name, the sound, other things that start with M, etc.

Here are the supplies we used for this activity: white construction paper (printer paper is probably too thin for this activity), liquid glue, a marker, and "o" cereal.
First, I went through and pointed to each letter in his name, said it out loud and had him repeat me (later that day I made up a little song for Mav to learn to spell his name). We then glued O cereal on an outline of the letters in his name. Of course he LOVED using the liquid glue all by himself (can we say messy?).

I had done this project with my kindergartners last year at school and they were able to do their whole name, however, Maverick is much too young for that so we started with the first letter. After the first letter, I asked him if he wanted to do another letter, and he did, so I let him choose which one. That was about all he had the attention span for. Since this project involves food, I had told him before we started that he could eat some cereal after the project. Of course, you could eat at any point in the project, but I used separate cereal since I didn't want him eating glue.
This is a really great hands-on project that keeps them quite focused for a while...especially when they get to eat as part of the project!
Another fun name recognition activity is what I call "The Secret Message" project. We used water color paints, white construction paper and a white crayon. I had written his name in white crayon on the paper beforehand.

I told Maverick I had written him a secret message and he needed to paint the paper to see what the message said.
With a 2 year old, the watercolors get all mixed up in the little paint pods, but I realized I needed to get over this because he could care less and water colors are super easy to clean up!
The hidden message revealed!
Once he had finished, I asked him what he saw and he said, "it says Maverick James Madedaden," which is how he pronounces his whole name (SO cute but I reminded him it was just his first name of course).
I make sure to write his name on EVERYTHING we do and let him know that's what I'm writing. Sometimes he asks to write his name, which is just a line, but these are all important pre-writing and pre-reading skills.

Friday, November 4, 2011

First things first

There are several "rules" with teaching a tot.
1. Things don't always go as planned.
2. Lessons range from 5 to 30 minutes, are focused on the child and are over when the toddler loses interest.
3. Toddlers learn best from hands on experiences and opportunities to explore.
4. Things don't always go as planned...

Here is an example of losing interest...
Before I started formal school time with Maverick, I wanted to see what he already knew. These assessments on this awesome tot school blog I found were a great place to start. I asked him very casually, one on one when he wasn't doing anything else and knew I could hold his attention for longer than half a millisecond. He actually kind of thought it was a game and kept asking, "what next?"
I was quite shocked at how much he already knew since I had not formally "planned" what I was teaching him yet. It's amazing what "Super Why", singing ABC's and counting EVERYTHING can teach a child! Once I had a clear picture of what he already knew, I looked at what he still needed to learn and designed my lessons around that.
I also thought about the most important things for him to learn now, that will help him succeed later on with more "formal" education. Name recognition, letters/sounds (developmentally appropriate sounds), colors, shapes, gross motor (jumping, running, skipping, etc) and fine motor skills (holding a pencil, lacing, etc), counting and character education were the most important to me. However, every child is different and starts out in a different place. Especially if a child is younger and his language skills are just now developing, the focus will probably be more on colors, motor skills, shapes, and exposing him to the other "stuff" as much as possible.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why I decided on "Tot School"

They say a picture says a thousand words...
THIS is one reason I decided to start "school" with Maverick. This picture was taken by my sister, a very talented photographer who is excellent at capturing moments that otherwise might go unnoticed, several weeks after giving birth to my second son. He was obviously bored, needing some structure and routine in his life once again.
I have learned and do believe that toddlers and preschoolers are sponges that soak up EVERYTHING around them, so why not capitalize on this and give them an opportunity to learn?
I first heard about tot school from my friend Beth, whose sister in law does it with her little girl. I did some of my own research and found great blogs all over the place with ideas galore. I decided to chronicle my own effort for several reasons. First, I have a REALLY bad memory and this is a great way to remember these important years. Secondly, I have lots of friends who are in a similar stage of life who have expressed an interest, so why not?! Oh, and third I have no plenty of spare time.
I would love your comments and feedback and to hear what YOU try and how it works... or doesn't.