Organizing and preparing for homeschool

I have not been doing very good at doing school with my kids, which is totally ok since they are 2 years and 5 months old.  They really don’t need school right now, but I want to be doing it.  I know they would enjoy each getting some focused time with mommy where I have a fun activity planned for them.  I also enjoy it.  Mingli is also almost 3, which means that he would be starting preschool this year, so I really want to start building good school habits.  Because of that I have been doing a lot of planning.  Well, I was doing a lot of planning, then I packed up my stuff and am just now unpacking it.  I wanted more structure in my planning, so I found developmental guidelines for both kids up through kindergarten.  I found ones that are separated by category instead of by age group.  This was important to me so I can help my kids move at their own pace.  So, for example, instead of just telling me what a 2 year old should do, it says that a child will progress from cooing, to babbling, to single words, to 2-3 word phrases, to short, simple sentences, to longer and more complex sentences.  That way when my kids learn a skill I can move onto the next one.  I have printed off a set for each kid and I am working on crossing off everything that I am sure they can already do.  After that I will pick skills that I want to work on and find activities that help with those skills.  Then I made a lesson plan sheet for each child.  I have a weekly overview that is basically a table with the subjects for each child down the side and the days of the week across the top.  They will not do each subject every day, but having it all in a table helps me make sure each subject is getting covered every week.  For Iella every day I am going to read a book to her, then do one activity from the other subjects.  Her subjects are fine motor (small muscles), gross motor (large muscles), cognitive, language, social/emotional, and sensory.  I am aiming to spend about 15 minutes a day on her school.  With Mingli I am of course doing a little more.  His school will start with a music time.  After that will will move onto Gospel study.  I actually started Gospel study this week and will post about it at the end of the week.  After Gospel we will read a book together and do an activity that goes along with the book.  I am ordering Before Five in a Row to help with this, but I am also going to come up with stuff on my own.  After the literature activity we will do a short letter activity, then 2-3 other subjects.  His subjects are fine motor, gross motor, cognitive, language, social/emotional, sensory, general knowledge, creative, and cooking.  I am aiming for his school to take about 45 minutes each day.  They will each also have independent learning activities that are left out in our school area (part of the dining room) that will be switched out once a week.  These will be things like puzzles and texture cards.  I want to have about 6 for Mingli and 3 for Iella (Iella is scooting pretty well, so she can get to them independently).  I also have daily school sheets that give a little more details about the activities for that day.

I also decided to make a homeschooling mission statement.  I have read about these a lot and thought it would be helpful.  Kaanas says that what I wrote is not really a mission statement, that those are usually written differently, but I don’t really care, it serves that purpose I was wanting.  Kaanas and I both sat down together and decided what was important to us with the kids schooling, and now I have a direction and when I am trying to make decisions about what I should do I can go back to this and base my decision off of it.  Reading other people’s mission statements helped a lot for me, so I will put mine here in case it helps someone else.

I believe as parents it is our responsibility and privilege to teach our children and that the home is the best place for our children to get the kind of education I want them to have.  I believe that the most important thing for our children to learn is the gospel and gospel values, including how the gospel relates to their lives and other academic subjects.

I want our children to have a well rounded education, including learning about science, history, world events, government, other cultures, geography, math, english, literature, physical education, and exposure to other languages.  I want to educate the whole child instead of just focusing on academics. I want to help develop our children mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and creatively.

I want learning to be a way of life in our house.  I want to develop a love of learning in our children by nurturing their curiosity, hands on learning, and exploration.  I want to help our children become lifelong, independent learners by teaching them to ask questions, follow their interests, and develop their talents.  I want them to become confident in their abilities to learn and grow.

I want to teach our children more than just the facts.  I want them to truly understand what they are learning, including the why, how, and process.  I want our children to develop good problem solving skills. I want our children to be open minded and to be able to consider and think about new ideas then form their own opinions.

I want to teach our children practical skills.  I want to prepare them for the real world by raising them in the real world.  I want to teach them to be good, productive citizens and to work hard.”

There will also be nature study, library story time, and other outings.  I am hoping to start all of this in the next couple of weeks, but we will see how it all goes.


Our first nature study

I have not been doing school with Mingli lately, and I want to start again.  I have been busy planning so I can have everything ready when we move, hopefully in the next couple of weeks, and we can start (I will post more about my planning soon).  One thing I have wanted to start with Mingli is a nature study.  I have never done this before and felt like I needed some guidance, so I started looking up toddler/preschool nature study curriculums.  I wanted something simple that included a lot of exploration, and I found something that is just perfect!  We are going to be using the Charlotte Mason nature study.  Basically, all you do is take your kid into nature once a week and let them explore.  You can bring things like magnifying glasses and stuff like that if you want to, and you can take things home for further examination, but the child is supposed to be able to spend the time exploring however they want.  It is so simple, I don’t know why I thought I had to have lesson plans and all that every week for our nature study.

Even though I am not starting school again until we move, we had our first nature study today.  My mom wanted to go to a local national park, so I decided that it would be a good time to test out our nature study.  The place we went had an interactive visitor center that was were most of my family stayed, but I took Mingli to the trail that was just beside that.  He went a few feet down the trail, then got interested in the leaves.  We spent probably half an hour in one spot as Mingli played with the leaves.  I kept wanting to try and get him interested in something else, point out the moss, the trees, something beside the leaves that he had been exploring forever, but I didn’t, because it was his time to explore and when he had learned everything he wanted to about the leaves I knew he would move on to something else.  Instead I sat on a log nearby and did some nature study with Iella.  I picked up a pinecone and let her touch and look at it.  I held it in my hand so she didn’t stick it in her mouth, but I made sure it was within reach so she could explore it.  This kept her attention for a very long time.

Mingli did eventually move on to looking at sticks, for about two minutes, then he went back to the leaves.  He had such a good time, and even though I wanted to get him exploring more thing, I am glad I let him lead.  Sometimes I could see him pick up a leaf that looked different from the other leaves and concentrating on it so hard.  There will be plenty of time for him to explore other things, but it will be when he wants to.

Tot school

For tot school today we read Oh My, Oh My, Oh Dinosaurs.  After I took Mingli’s dinosaur costume from Halloween and we danced around the kitchen listening the the song We Are The Dinosaurs.  This wasn’t planned, but it wasn’t good weather so we couldn’t do our planned activity.  It was a gross motor activity, so I decided last minute that dancing was a good substitute.

Next was a counting activity found here.  I wrote a number and the corresponding number of circles on each card.  We used a cookie sheet and some magnets to put on each of the circles.  Mingli counted as we did this and identified some of the numbers.  As we were starting this activity Ebo came and joined us.  After doing some counting we let the two kids just play with the magnets, which they had a lot of fun doing.


After that we did another gross motor activity.  Mingli got a bunch of balls for his 2nd birthday and I got them and helped the kids practice throwing the balls into a basket.  They loved this, and after a while we started throwing the balls to each other, then they just started playing with them.

Tot school-Oh My, Oh My, Oh Dinosaurs

This morning our tot school theme was Oh My, Oh My, Oh Dinosaurs.

Since it is a book mostly about opposites, I decided to start off with a big and small sorting.  Mingli and I have talked about big and small a little, mostly at the part.  Some we will find big and small sticks and he likes that, but I have never asked him to figure out if something was big or small, he would just find a stick and I would say “you found a big stick” or something like that.  Since this is the first time we have formally worked with this concept I wanted to have all the items be mostly the same.  I thought about going to the store and buying something to sort, but I was tired, so I decided to pull out my Russian nesting dolls.  I was nervous about this, because I actually got them in Russia and they are special to me, but it was what I thought would work best, and I thought if I was watching him it would be ok.  I had 5 dolls, and I decided to just use the 2 biggest and 2 smallest from each doll so there is more of a difference in size.  I helped Mingli sort the first couple, then he did the rest my himself.  He seemed to get it pretty quickly and actually enjoy it.

He had even more fun when he realized that the dolls could be opened, put back together, and would fit inside each other.  He figured this out all by himself and this activity lasted much longer than the sorting.  He was concentrating so much on it and learning a lot.  He had to get the angle right to get the dolls to fit back together, he tried to put bigger ones inside of smaller ones, and he tried to put pieces together that didn’t fit.  I could see the wheels turning in his brain as he figured out how these dolls worked.  I think I want to get him his own nesting dolls that he can play with whenever he wants without me having to worry about him messing up my special ones.


Since we were reading a dinosaur book we of course had to get back out Mingli’s dinosaur play set and play pretend.  We had fun making the dinos drink, eat, go down the slide, and play peek-a-boo.  I know for some thing may not seem like school, but learning to play pretend is an important cognitive skill, so I figured why not take the time to encourage it.

Last we took the dinosaurs and did dino painting.  I made some paint out of flour, water, and food coloring then let Mingli dip the dino feet in the paint and use the dinosaurs to make prints on the paper.  Mingli LOVED this.  His eyes just lit up when I demonstrated how to do it.  This was the first time I have done painting at the table instead of the bathtub, but it actually didn’t get too messy.  I mean, he was covered in paint, and so was the table, but the paint was only on his arms and there was none on the floor, so I thought it was good for painting with a toddler, especially since I didn’t want to restrict him too much.


Of course he didn’t want to stick to just putting the dinosaur’s feet in the paint.

And in the end it turned into finger painting.

When he tried to dump out the paint onto the table I decided the activity was done.  I was really happy to have a day where Mingli finally liked all the activities I had planned and prepared.  Sometimes he is not quite ready for the things I think he is, but today the activities were just right for him.

Tot school the last few weeks

So, for the last few weeks tot school, or at least formal tot school, has been nonexistent.  I just haven’t felt well enough to actually plan out, setup, and carry out tot school.  We have done some simple, informal tot school, though.

The biggest thing we have been doing is learning the alphabet.  Mingli was given an alphabet puzzle from his great grandmother, and he just loves it.  As he plays with it I will sometimes name some of the letters he is putting in, and he has picked right up on that.  He knows A(kind of, sometimes he gets it mixed up with R), E, M, R, S, T, V, X, and W.  He mixes up M and W, actually he seems to think that they are two names for the same letter, and he also thinks that N and Z are M/W as well.  I think for someone who is not even 2 yet it is incredibly good.  I am not pushing the letters, he is way to young for me to be worrying about him learning his letters, but he is interested, so I go with that.  I was asked if I am teaching him which words start with which letters, and I was like “definitely not, he is not even 2 and doesn’t know that the  letters make sounds yet.”  We have also tried to find the letters he knows on boxes or in books.  The books are harder, because he only knows the uppercase letters, but many boxes have words written entirely in uppercase letters.  He gets so excited when he finds a letter that he knows.

We have done a few color hunts.  It started because Mingli really wanted me to play with him one evening, but I was too sick to get off the couch.  He was getting really upset, and I was trying to come up with something to calm him down, so without really thinking about it I told him to go find me blue.  He thought about that for a second, then ran off and came back with a blue toy.  We then went through all the colors (except grey, at the time he didn’t know grey yet).  Some of the things he brought me were really creative and smart of him.  When I asked for brown he brought me his blue rubber duck.  I was sure he knew brown, so I asked him where brown was, and he proudly pointed to the duck’s brown bill.  For black he brought me a box that had tiny black writing on it.  I was pretty impressed with the details he was finding.  We have done that a few more times, and it is great because he is getting my attention, but I am able to lay done on the couch and not make myself sick.

He found a shapes puzzle for him and have been working on the shapes a little as he does the puzzle.  He is better with his alphabet than he is with his shapes, but he does his alphabet puzzle more, so that is understandable.

We are also working on animal sounds, which he thinks is one of the funnest games ever.  His favorite sounds are the elephant, the crocodile (he makes his hands go “snap”), and the wolf (he loves throwing his head back and howling).  He knows a lot of the more traditional ones as well, like cat, dog, and sheep, but the others are just more fun.

Well, that is what I can think of that we have done for tot school lately.  Like I said, not much, but I am not stressing about it, because he is still young and doesn’t really need formal schooling yet, we just have fun doing it.  When I am feeling better we will go back to it, but until then we will just do what works for us.

Tot school

So, tot school only happened for part of the week, again.  Someday I am going to post saying that we actually did tot school every day and everyone following this blog will be amazed.  Anyways, on Tuesday we colored a picture of a dinosaur, and Wednesday we went to library story time.  It was about our bodies, and Mingli continues to be amazed by it.  He doesn’t really participate much, just stares in wonder and the songs and activities.


Thursday was the first day this week we did real tot school, and our theme was snowmen.  It didn’t go as well as I was hoping, but that was ok.

Our first activity was found here.  It was different colored snowmen that he was supposed to build.  I expected it to be a little difficult for Mingli, and that maybe he wouldn’t put the snowman parts in the correct order, but he just didn’t like this activity much.  He had fun for a few seconds pointing at the different colors, then he just wanted to crumple up the paper, so I decided to put the activity away to maybe do when he is older.

Both of my next activities I got from the tot pack here.  The first was a counting activity with different parts of the snowman.  Mingli is getting into counting, so I thought he would like this.  He did, for like 2 minutes.  He helped me count, saying some of the numbers and pointing to the pictures, but he got bored with it fast, so we put it away.

The next activity was different snowmen that were all supposed to be colored different colors.  At the bottom they had colored words, so you just matched the color to the words.  Mingli loves markers so much that I expected him to really like this.  He did ok with it, but it took a LOT of guidance from me.  He would choose a color of marker, then I would give him two different snowmen and show him the colors at the bottom and let him try and figure out which one matched.  He did this for a couple of minutes, and for the most part was able to do it.  If you look closely you can see that a couple of the snowmen have more than one color, but most are just one color.  It only lasted a couple of minutes, though, before Mingli started putting the markers back in the box.

Our whole tot school lasted about 15 minutes.  Looking back at my activities as I am writing this I can see that they were much less child led than a lot of the activities I usually do.  I don’t think Mingli was ready for quite this much teacher led activities.  Well, now I know what to do differently!



Tot school on Friday went so much better.  Our theme was water, and Mingli had a blast.  I did realize that it would have been so much better in the summer, but we will probably redo some of the activities when it is warmer outside.

Our first activity was from here.  It was a ocean sensory bin that we made with fish tank pebbles and some of Mingli’s bath toys.  Mingli loved this activity.  We did have to cut it short because Mingli started dumping the rocks onto the floor.  I gave him a couple of warnings, but when he kept doing it I put them away.  I plan to get them out again soon, and we will just have to keep working on the rules until he is doing better with them.

I put containers in the bathtub for Mingli to fill and dumb, and this was the activity that lasted the longest.  Mingli loved using all the smaller containers to dump water into the big pitcher.  Then trying to get the bowl to sink.  He was so engaged with this, and I could tell his little mind was working and he experimented with the water and containers.


Our other activity was inspired by this post.  I used sponges instead of the pad because it was cheaper, and with just Mingli I didn’t need as much space around it.  I put a little bit of water in the container, just enough for the sponges to soak up and get all wet, then I put soap on the sponges.  I squeezed the sponges a bit until they just began getting soapy, then gave Mingli the container.  I was going to do this activity in his bedroom, but I quickly moved it to the bathtub because Mingli wanted to squeeze the sponges over the carpet, and I didn’t want everything getting all wet.  I think the best word to describe this activity would be JOY.  I don’t like posting pictures of faces on my blog, but I almost did just so everyone could see the joy on his face.  He laughed through this whole activity.  Wonderful, squealing, joyous laughter.  A bonus of using the sponges instead of the pad from the post was that Mingli could pick up the sponges and squeeze them, which seemed to be his favorite part.  Sponges are definitely going to be part of his tot school in the future, because he just loved this activity SO much.


Last, we read a book about sea lions.  In the book the mommy sea lion gave the baby sea lion a kiss.  Mingli loves giving kisses, and when I told him the mommy was giving the baby a kiss he had to give the baby a kiss, too, on every single page after that.  It was so cute.


For more tot school idea, visit the Tot School Gathering Place.

Tot school, Mother Goose and body parts

I’m going to try and start including some pictures in my tot school posts to make them more interesting, so we’ll see how it goes.



Our theme for Monday was Mother Goose.  Kaanas was home, so he joined us and read Mingli some rhymes out of our book.

One of the rhymes we read was The Eensy Weensy Spider.  I saw an idea to make a spider puppet here, then went ahead and made rain and a sun as well.  Mingli didn’t love this activity, but I think we will try it again when he is a little older.

We read the rhyme I’m Just a Puppy.  I found some free dog coloring pages online, put them into a word document, shrunk them, then printed them out and colored them in four different colors to make a color sorting activity.  Mingli loved this one.  His favorite color was the orange one.  He dug all through the pile of unsorted puppies to find all the orange puppies first.  He could find pink, blue, and orange when we asked him to, but couldn’t get the green.  Colors are something I plan to keep working on a lot.

The last rhyme we focused on was Mary Had a Little Lamb.  Mingli loves cotton balls right now, so I decided to use that love in an activity.  You can find this activity here.  Mingli also loved this activity.  He put the cottons balls on, then took them off and started tearing them apart.  As he started putting them back on I starting counting the ones he had on.  Mingli was super focused as I was doing this, then he pointed to the cotton balls and said “one, two, three.”!  I had never really done numbers with him, so this was super exciting.  We spent the next couple minutes counting cotton balls, and Mingli was really interested.  Looks like I will have to have a number day in the near future.



Tuesday was a great day.  Our theme for Tuesday was body part.  Mingli loves body parts, and he already knows eyes, nose, mouth, hair, chin, cheek, forehead, hands, legs, tummy, chest, and feet.  This was our longest ever tot school, and it could have gone on longer, Mingli cried when it was over, but he wasn’t following the rules with the markers, so we had to stop.

Our first activity was some nesting blocks from the Teach My Baby kit we got on sale a few months ago.  This was a huge hit, and Mingli played with them for a long time.  He didn’t really want to stack them, instead he wanted to put them inside each other.  This lead to great problem solving, because he would put a small one inside a much bigger one, then try and put a medium one inside the big one on top of the small one.  I could tell he was thinking so hard.  He also loved the mirrors that were on these blocks.


After that we pulled out a face puzzle I found here.  Mingli didn’t play with this for long, but he did enjoy it.  Mainly he just picked up the pieces, handed them to me, and named them.  He also tried to put the eye over my eye.


Next we sung head, shoulders, knees, and toes.  I didn’t take pictures of this, but Mingli enjoyed it.  I sung it a few times by myself to show him, then we did it very slowly and he joined in with the motions.  Toes were his favorite and he kept trying to grab them instead of the body part we were naming, but that was ok.  When I could see that he was starting to get overwhelmed with this we moved on to the next activity, coloring our hands.  I helped him trace his hand on a piece of paper, then gave him the markers and just let him color.  He really enjoyed this, and this activity lasted longer than any of the others.  I used markers this time, because I thought those would be easier for him, and they really were.  He has used crayons and colored pencils before, but he has trouble making the color show up well on the paper and quickly gets bored.  The markers were great, really easy for him to use, and he had almost as much fun taking the lids off and putting them back on as he did actually coloring.  He was also very deliberate about his coloring.  He would take the lid off a marker, then have it hover over the paper in different spots trying to decide where he wanted to color.  Every once in a while I would ask him where a certain color was and he would pick up the marker in that color.  He was able to get all the colors I had out for him (pink, orange, yellow, blue, and green), but he called all the colors blue.  By the end he would say pink if I pointed to the pink marker and said pink, but then the next time he picked it up he would hold it up and say blue.  This activity ended way before Mingli wanted it to.  I told him that we only color on the paper.  He tried coloring both on the floor and on himself.  With both I carefully pointed to the place he had colored, said its name, and told him no coloring there, then I pointed to the paper, said paper, and told him that we color on the paper.  I could tell that he understood, especially because at the beginning he had been coloring really close to the edge of the paper and sometimes accidentally going onto the carpet, but then when I talked to him about it he was very careful to not get close to the edge.  I could tell even more that he understood by the way he looked at me when he deliberately colored on himself again.  At that point I knew he was testing me to see what I would do, and I knew that I had to enforce the rules I had set up, so we put the markers away.  He cried, but we are really working with him lately to try and teach him rules.  I will have to use markers more often.


That was the end of my nice, organized, planned out tot school for the week.  Wednesday tot school was library story time, which Mingli loved.  It was about buses, and was very active.  Thursday and Friday we did a lot of informal, unplanned activities (that I didn’t get pictures of), like talking about colors as we built with blocks, and reading counting books.  Mingli also helped me cook for the first time, but it didn’t work out as well as I was hoping because Mingli kept trying to use the spoon that we were mixing the cake batter with to eat the cake batter, then crying when he couldn’t put it in his mouth.  Oh well, we will keep trying.


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