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Tot School in the Box

Tot School
~Eliana is 26 months~

Here is our first week of  trying out The Workbox System for Tot School. I was thrilled to find out about this system because I really wanted to incorporate Tot Trays  into our Tot School, but could not find the trays locally. Eliana shares a cart with my preschooler, Malachi. Her boxes are the bottom 6.

I showed her that the bottom two rows are for her for Tot School. I let her pick which box to use, but she had to put it away before getting another box out.  She was good about putting the box back until she was done - I had to ask her to return the last box.  Then later in the day, she would bring me a box and say, "Do Tot School!"

Here are some of the activities we did:

Cut It!

Eliana loves to cut, so I tied (you can also tape) various yarns and string around a box so they are taut. This made it easy for her to cut. She loves to cut and could have cut all day! So, I held the yarn for her and helped her cut them into smaller pieces for a collage. 

Mix & Match


 This reminds me of an "I spy" game, except you have to spy out matches.  You can read more about it in my Tot Tool post here. She loves this game!

Foil Wrapping

I had Elli wrap aluminum foil around cardboard shapes, blocks, and tin cans, etc. She pressed, pinched and discovered foil's unique gripping characteristics! She loves to wrap things and give them as a surprise.  "Close your eyes, hold [out] your hands!" So this was fun for her!

Scribble It!

What toddler doesn't like to scribble? I made Eliana a scribble book with each page a different kind of paper for stimulation. I used various scraps of materials such as printer paper, wax paper, foam, brown bag, construction paper, newspaper, etc.  I gave her homemade scribble cookie crayons to use. You can be creative with scribbling materials and can vary the scribbling tools and where they can scribble.  This week, I will make her a special scribble place on the wall, since she loves to scribble on the wall!

Sticky Collage

This is a really simple collage made with contact paper and various collage materials.  I peeled the contact paper for her and let her stick on peices of yard, cotton, feathers, etc.

First Rubbings

Crayon rubbings with an easy approach. I put a variety of objects in the box (tape them down to prevent them from slipping), taped a piece of paper over the rubbing items and put some crayons (we used oil pastels) in the box for scribbling. You could also wrap paper around flat items such as a cheese grater, cooling rack, etc.


I gave her regular tongs and scissor tongs and she loved the scissor tongs! (It may be because she loves to cut). This was a challenge for her, but she loved the scissor tongs, so was happy to play. She had to help the cotton ball into the tongs at first, but she gained in proficiency as she played!

Small Spaces
She loved this! She wanted the pasta to fit in the smaller container so she could shut the lid, so she broke them to make them fit. She pulled this box out twice that day. 
Spooning mung beans into small containers with measuring spoons proved to be challenging, but she was excited to try it! 

Pour & Explore

I gave her a container full of amaranth, some empty bottles and a funnel. She thought this was great! Next time, I will spread out an old sheet to mark the exploring space and to catch the extra grain. 

I added a new book to my early learning picks: First Art : Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos. I get many great ideas from this book! Many ideas in this post came from this book. 

Along with the Tot Boxes, she read books with Mali and I for preschool and daddy reads to her at night before bed.  I love to do literature based themed units, so I am thinking that I will alternate the Tot Boxes with Tot-Books/activity packs like the ones I want to do here and here!

Tot Tool - Mix and Match

Tools for Tots

Carissa over at 1+1+1=1 hosts Tools for Tots where you can find ideas for homemade learning tools. I am all for homemade! There are many wonderful ideas out there, so it is not often that I come up with one of my own. . . not even this time! This one is from my mother-in-law. I asked for her help in saving containers for tot tray activities and explained what I was trying to do. And she came up with a neat idea she calls Mix & Match.

Each container is mixed with 2 of everything in it and the tot task is to match them up. It reminds me of an "I Spy" type of challenge. For young tots, they can simply make matches. For older tots or preschoolers, you can set a timer for one minute to see how many matches they can make. Then, mix them up and try again and see if you can get more the next time. All of my children loved this! So, I made a second game that is more challenging (the one on bottom). It would even be fun to make one with all blue things, bead things, metal things, etc. It would also work great as a hide-and-seek game with pasta, grain, etc. for more of a challenge.

My tot is 26 months old and she has caught on and loves it! My preschooler, who is 4, loves to play with the timer. He can get about 5, 6, or 7 matches successively. . . it was fun, but a challenge, so yay!

Workbox Warmup

I have been waiting (very patiently, I think) for the book, Sue Patrick's Workbox System, to get here! Meanwhile, I have been (unofficially) trying the system out. I have five children that I do school with from ages 2 - 13. My Totschooler (age 2) and my Preschooler (age 4) share one cart, so they each have 6 boxes.  My three older boys each have their own cart with 12 boxes each.  Since I have not read the book and my printer is out of ink (from all those lapbooks!) I have not implemented the whole system, however, I can say it has been a fun challenge filling the boxes! And it has already been a blessing to be so much more organized!

The first night I was up to midnight filling the boxes, but it was great to see the kids get so excited over the boxes! They told me they liked it the first day. They loved having school laid out before their eyes - they are visual like me!  They liked knowing what they had to do and it motivated them to keep working, knowing that something fun was coming up.  I told them the system incorporated breaks, playtime, etc. so they are really excited for that.  I love it that our day went so much smoother because I was prepared!  I also liked that I was more creative in coming up with ideas of "what to put in the box."  Here is my first time filling the boxes. (I didn't fill all 12 boxes . . . yet!)

So what's in the boxes?
  • Bible and notebook to journal what they read or learned 
  • Memory verse copywork/lyrics to Sing the Word cd
  • Activity and supplies for a Homonyms, Synonyms and Antonym book they are working on
  • Grammar songs activity or Easy Grammar worksheet/assignment
  • Minit books for a lapbook they are working on
  • Learning to Read series leveled reader
  • Free reading choice
  • Explode the Code book
  • Notebooking page for science
  • Geography lesson on Antarctica - map work and reading
  • Italic handwriting books
  • Writing Strands lesson and journal to write in
  • Math workbook
When I first saw this idea, I thought there was no way it would work for 5 children.  I didn't think we had room for more stuff.  Carissa's post here, led me to many wonderful blogs showing how the system is working for them (including lots of ideas of what to put in the boxes). It was great to see so many ideas and links to even more sites! Leslie's post here (then scroll down) gave me a great idea of how they could work for us.  Seeing the boxes set up in her dining room made me think that we could make this work!

Here are the boys assembling the carts and a pic of the box for people like me (Leslie had posted a pic of the box on her blog and I was grateful to remember it when I was looking for it at Target).

I will share more about what I put in the box for my Preschooler and Totschooler in upcoming posts. I'm off to fill some boxes!

Lemons to Lemonade

 When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. I love that saying as I especially love lemons (with salt) and lemonade. Jennifer at My Two Happy Homeschoolers, thought of me with a blogger "award,"Lemons to Lemonade, an award for showing great attitude or gratitude.  Well, I am especially grateful that she thought of me, because it couldn't have come at a better time! 
This past week or so my "new" digital camera (Nikon Coolpix) turned out to be a lemon.  I thought, "how can I do school without a camera?!" I am a scrapbooker, and my philosophy tends to be that "if I didn't photograph it, it didn't happen." I carried my camera everywhere I went. I have gone through phases where I simply stop photographing and start living, but thankfully, those times have been short lived!  This was my first digital camera ( I am slow to go digital because it was my dream to have my own darkroom someday and I love my camera).  So, I dusted off the case of my Canon Rebel G2 and started shooting. I took far less pictures of course, and it will take much longer to go through a roll of film. . . but here is the lemonade part: my cannon photo printer has a negative scanner and a photo scanner, so I will get to learn to use it now! I have never taken this long to learn how to use a new product (I really did not want a new one), but it was an arduous process just to get it "hooked up" to print wirelessly to my macbook.  After I managed that, I thought I would be happy with that for awhile. 
The digital camera is on its way to Nikon Factory Service, and I am grateful that it is still covered under warranty (it was only 4 months old).  If they fix it, I will use that as my travel camera (road trips, bike rides, etc) and keep the one I bought yesterday for use at home. 
Blogging is so much more fun with a digital camera! And guess what? Homeschool is so much more fun with a digital camera, too! I love photographing our journey. It gives us something to look back on and see what we did, that otherwise may not have been recorded. 
So, what did we do all last week?  We started our study on Antarctica (which I will blog about in more detail later), learned about the physical geography of Antarctica, and listened to the unabridged version of  The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, by Caroline Alexander.  We will learn more about other explorers to Antarctica, do some hands on activities, and complete a lapbook on Antarctica this week and next.   We also began our next Prepare and Pray lesson, read the next chapter in Swiss Family Robinson, started a lapbook on fishing - we wrote a bible verse that had fish or fishing in it on a piece of paper and folded it to look like a fish, and started reading our next lesson in Zoology 2, which is also about fish! We were excited that they related, and found lots of great resources for a fishing lapbook. We also started a book called Homonyms, Synonyms & Antonyms, that I got from Barker Creek. I am having Nathan and Dylan work on this together and I think it will be fun. I will share more about that in another post. 
I also took some time to research The Workbox System, by Sue Patrick. Carissa's post here led me to several blogs and it was great to see how this system works for families with several children.  At first, I thought there would be no way I could make it work for 5 children, but I think it just may be what we need.  I will share more about that later, including the blog that really inspired me.  I stopped at Target on our way home yesterday to pick up supplies (Target is 125+ miles away, otherwise I would have been there sooner!) and I can't wait to get started! And I really hope it works for us!
I love my new camera, btw!  And thanks again, Jennifer for thinking of me.  I think God used that to prepare me for what was about to happen and it was a good reminder that when life give you lemons, make lemonade! 

Created for Work

In Created for Work: Practical Insights for Young Men, Bob Schultz "applies his engaging homespun wisdom with stories from real life to teach young men (and boys) what it means to be good workers."

"In the education of boys today we've lost the importance of work as a most effective tutor. What is the good of knowing how to read or write if a young man doesn't have the heart to work, to produce, and to create?"

This concept is apparent in the very first chapter, entitled "Art in Your Heart." "God puts His heart into His work" and commands us to do the same. "And whatsoever you do, do it heartily as unto the LORD." Colossians 3:23. God's creativity is without measure and we can make what would seem like drugery into something colorful and full of life.

Questions at the end of each chapter made for excellent discussion and motivation to put what we learned into action. At the end of the first chapter, my boys were challenged to think of the chores they have to do each day and think of how they could add color to one of them. So, now when my boys are bored with a chore, I ask them how they can put "art in their heart."

God desires a higher standard for our boys. In Created for Work, Bob Schultz inspires boys to act differently — to get their hands dirty, follow directions, think creatively, and respect authority. He inspires young men and offers the tools and encouragement they need to embrace God’s ways and always give an honest day’s work.

We have been reading this for lifeskills and just finished the last chapter today. And honestly, I could read it all over again! So, I am excited to read Boyhood and Beyond: Practical Wisdom for Becoming a Man next.

R is for Rainbow

~Malachi is 4 years ~
ABC Book:
Rainbow R's

Memory Verse:
From Sing the Word A-Z
Remember the Sabbath Day. 
By keeping it holy I say.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
but the 7th day is the Sabbath, to the Lord your God.
Remember the Sabbath Day.
By keeping it holy I say.
Exodus twenty verse eight nine and ten,
The 7th day is the Sabbath to the Lord your God. . .

Story Time:
A Rainbow of My Own, by Don Freeman
Rainbow (Wonders of Nature), Dana Meachen Rau
The Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Phister
Planting a Rainbow, by Lois Ehlert
The Beginners Bible - Noah's Ark


Beautiful Rainbow's Came One day the sun was shining bright (hold up right hand like blocking sunlight) But some clouds came along and it became black as night (Hold up left hand for the clouds) Then the rain began to sprinkle onto the ground (wiggle fingers for the rain coming down) And soon it was raining all over the town. But when the clouds had passed on by (move both hands to one side) A big beautiful rainbow stretched across the sky (make a rainbow arc with your hands)

Arc of Colors By Marquerite Chase McCue I'm red, orange, yellow curving hues, With strips of ribbon green and blue. I'm a blending band of indigo, My violet stripe is last to show. Arc of colors, what am I? I'm a Rainbow in the sky!

Roy G. Biv Roy G. Biv is an odd name for a fellow. But what his name means is Red - Orange - Yellow The G is for Green which as you may know, Comes right in the middle of every rainbow. Next, Blue and Indigo, more pale than dark. Then V for Violet - And that completes the arc!

The Rainbow Song (Tune: Jesus Loves Me) Red, orange, green, and blue Shiny yellow, purple, too. All the colors that you know Show up in the Rainbow.

Get Ready for the Code Activities:
Tracing the letter r with his finger.

Vocabulary words introduced in this lesson include: radio, rain, rake, ring, rope, rocket and rainbow.  But, we focused mainly on rainbow.  This is the last letter of book A. We will move on to book B - Get Set for the Code next. 

Fun Activities:
Making Rainbow Pasta
For dinner one night, we made rainbow shells and cheese.
Meringue drop cookies look like clouds!
We have made a version of this recipe called Chocolate Chip Forgotten cookies, so we added white chocolate chips for the raindrops.

Art: Color Mixing
We took the 3 primary colors, red, yellow and blue, and mixed them to make the secondary colors. Then I gave Malachi the primary colors and a cookie cutter R to make rainbow R's.  The three colors mixed to make a rainbow of colored R's!

Rainbow R's 

Rainbow Crayons
We all got in on this project!

We peeled the wrappers off of broken red, yellow and blue crayons and melted them to make recycled crayons. I thought the primary colors would mix more to make a rainbow of colors, but the mixing was only slight. 

We ended up making more with many different colors and they came out so pretty!

They stacked up so nicely when they were done and made for some fun crayons.  
Rainbow Glue

We colored bottles of glue with the colors of a rainbow (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Violet, Indigo, Blue) using food coloring and Mali used it to make a rainbow sprinkled with glitter.

Making Rainbow's
On a sunny day, we placed a small mirror in a glass bowl of water so that the mirror rested against the side of the bowl. We set the bowl in direct sunlight and made pretty rainbows! (I was really impressed with how well this worked). 

Lapbook Activities: 

Rainbow Shape Book

I learned how to make a shape book from Lapbook Lessons.

I used this rainbow as my cover and stapled the top before I cut it. I also stapled the paper on the edges so the layers would be even and it would be easier to cut out.

Then, we used the Color Matching Cards from Our Homeschool Creations to fill the pages with pictures that match the color and Mali colored the colors of the rainbow. We used purple for indigo and violet, which reminds me - I had a fun time explaining to Mali the difference between indigo and violet - they both looked purple to him. :-)

I used the same cards and laminated them for Eliana, who is two. Here she is playing with them. Mali is helping.

 I then decided to tuck them into library pockets that I cut out of cardstock and then glued in a file folder.  I thought this would be a great way to store them and also for Eliana to work on a couple colors at a time - they were a little overwhelming all at once!

RoyGBiv mini book. (Link below)

The finished Rainbow lapbook!

Delightful Links:
Everything Preschool Rainbow Theme Teaching Hearts Rainbow Unit

Writing Strands: Sentence and Paragraph Control

We are working our way through the Writing Strands curriculum.

In this lesson, we learned how to:

1. Include more than one piece of information in a sentence
2. Understand the relationship between main and supporting ideas
3. Write a paragraph so that it will include all the information you want it to and do so in an organized way. 

We learned how to write a core sentence and then add five pieces of information to it.  We had to write five sentences adding one new piece of information to each sentence:

Core sentence: The boy found the dog.

1. The boy was nine years old when he found the dog.
2. The nine year old boy found a brown and white dog.
3. The nine year old boy found a brown and white beagle.
4. The nine year old boy used a rope to tie the brown and white beagle.
5. The nine year old boy was at the park when he found the brown and white beagle then he used a rope to tie on.
(by Dylan, age 8)

The next step was to write a paragraph. We decided on a subject and what information we wanted to give.  We focused on 5 main points which would each be turned into a sentence.  We listed the points and wrote three thing about each point.  We then wrote a topic sentence. 

Jordan did this assignment when he was 11 1/2 - about 1 1/2 years ago.  Here is what his journal looks like;

Step 1: The idea of my paragraph: An old stuffed toy that had been hiding under my matress.

Step 2: My list of descriptive points:
1) The kind of animal it was
a) small blue eyes
b) fluffy grey and black head
c) stuffed kitten

2) The condition of its fur
a) course fur
b) stringy gray and black fur
c) tattered

3) Missing Stuffing
a) stuffing missing in the ears
b) stuffing spilling out tail
c) no stuffing in the middle

4) The holes and worn spots
a) one tiny hole
b) lots of worn flattened spots
c) flat med. tail, worn eyes

5) How dirty it was
a) really dirty black spots
b) stained whiskers
c) clay on its ear

Tense: Past
Person: 1st

Step 3: Topic sentence

Here is Jordan's paragraph:

I had been told to clean my bed and when my mom came to check it she saw that stuff had fallen in the cracks, so she took off the matress and out of the corner of my eye I noticed a very familiar face looking up at me.  I recognized a fluffy grey and black head with small blue eyes and saw it was my little stuffed kitten.  It had been under there for so long its grey and black fur felt stringy and coarse as I picked up the tattered cat.  My hands sunk into the middle where all the stuffing was missing and I noticed there was stuffing spilling out of the ears and tail.  As I was holding it I poked my finger through a little hole and ruffled up the worn spots and flattened out its big worn ears.  As I was rubbing out its ears I rubbed out a piece of clay and noticed its black dirty spots and decided he needed a bath.

Nathan, who is 10, is finishing up his paragraph today. He is doing the same assignment, but at a younger age than when Jordan wrote his. He is writing about Ralfie. Here is his rough draft:

I have had many Ralfies, but the one I have now is my favorit since the first one I had. Ralfie is a small white stuffed polar bear. He is worn and tattered, but still a soft cuddly bear. He has blue marble eyes and a very sparkling face but a blue stane on his nose. He's cuddly, but has worn spots and holes on his nose. And he is pretty clean but dirty on his foot and piece of tape on his foot. I better keep my Ralfie clean so my mom doesn't throw it away like my other Ralfies. 

A note: This one has only been through the washer a couple times, so he still has some life in him yet. :-) His first Ralfie was his beloved Ralfie (hence why they all have been named Ralfie), except Ralfie liked to play in the sand box with him. 

So, now we will correct the grammar and misspelled words and write them on a spelling list. We then do a record of progress sheet, where we pick out the best sentence we wrote, a mistake we made this week, the sentence with the mistake and the sentence rewritten showing how we fixed the mistake. 

Nathan and Dylan are working on Writing Strands 3, which was written for ages 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12. Jordan finished level 3 and is just starting level 4 which is for ages 13-14 or after completing Writing Strands 3.   We use WS as a systematic way to learn how to write.  The author recommends working on WS for a week and then taking a week off ot read and discuss ideas. We do lots of other writing in notebooking, journaling, etc. so this works well for us!

Here is a review by Donna Young that I found today if you are interested in learning more.

Swimming Creatures Lesson 5: Primeval Reptiles

In this lesson, we discussed 4 kinds of large sea reptiles: nothasaurs, mosasaurs, icthyosaurs, and plesiosaurs. For our notebooking activites, we drew a picture of each and labeled them. On the back, they wrote a few facts about each of the giant marine reptiles. Usually, I read the lesson to the boys, but this time each boy read the lesson independently. Here is Dylan showing me that an ichthyosaur had the biggest eyes in creation - 12 inches across or as big as a dinner plate! Then, he is showing me how many bones he has in his finger, comparing it to a plesiosaur who had up to 24.
We discussed the fossil evidence of primeval reptiles as evidence of a world wide flood. Why else would we find fossils of giant marine reptiles even where there is no water today (such as in the middle of a continent?). Often times they were caught in giant mudslides that quickly encased them. When the waters covered the earth during the flood spoken of in Genesis 6-8, the reptiles could have gone anywhere.
We also discussed that it is rare for an icthyosaur to become fossilized because they have pockets of air in them that make them float and they often get eaten before they can become fossilized. We know that an animal needs to be trapped beneath layers of sediment to become a fossil, so they must have been buried quickly after they died. 37 articulated shonisaurs (a type of icthyosaur) were found in the state of Nevada. Most of them were articulated (a new word we learned meaning the bones were found in their proper place as if they were still attached) - meaning they were not moved around by currents, plus they had to be covered quickly and compeletly, so they would not be eaten by scavengers. "What kind of catastrophe could have moved that much mud quickly?" asks author Jeanie Fulbright. We know!
Delightful Links:

Chicka Chicka 123

Tot School
~Eliana is 25 months ~
~Malachi is 48 mo. ~

We have been having fun with Chicka Chicka 123! It took a few times reading the book to convince both my 2 and 4 year old that the tree in this book is an apple tree and not a coconut tree! So, we had fun doing apple and number activities and even made a lapbook with my Totschooler and Preschooler. So, once again this is a combined post!

I couldn't help posting this video of Eliana reading Chicka Chicka 123 on her own. She is catching on to those ABC's! This video warms my heart and she loves watching it herself.

One of our first activities was to make apple juice!

Elli's turn to go first.

 Now, Mali's turn.
We love making fresh juice!

Next Eliana made apple prints.

I read this number rhyme to Mali and we worked on an apple number book.

Number Rhyme
0 Around, around, around you go. That’s the way to make zero!
1 A straight line down is lots of fun, thats because it's number one
2 Around and back on a railroad track. TWO! TWO!
3 Around a tree and around a tree, that's the way to make a three
4 Down and over and down some more, that's the way we make a four
5 Make a nice straight back then a big fat tummy. Put on a hat, a 5 looks funny.
6 Slant the line down, then go around. It's the number six we've found.
7 Across the sky, slant down from heaven that's the way to make a seven.
8 Make an ‘S’ but do not wait. Go back to the top, it's the number eight.
9 Make a oval and then a line. That's a fine number nine.

 My Numbers Book

On each page we stamped the correct number of apples, and I helped Mali draw the stem and a leaf so they look like apples.

Here are the templates for the book:
Here we are painting apples on the Dot Apple Tree and making fingerprint apples on the Counting Apples Mini Book.

Mali is adding number stickers to the lapbook and playing with the Apple Pattern Strips and Apple Match File Folder Game.

The finished lapbook!
The front and back covers:

The stickers came with the book (from Costco). I am excited about using the 100's chart with Mali. I showed him how all the numbers line up and make a pattern.

The inside:

Eliana working on matching the apples on the file folder game.

Delightful Links:

Four Red Apples
Apple Pattern Strips
Apple Match File Folder Game
Counting Apples Mini Book
Apple Fractions
Apple Math
Favorite Apple Color Graph
Dot Apple Tree
Apple Sequencing

(Note: If one of my links is not working it is because I linked to the original file and HSS is redirecting to the home page. Please see the Apple Pie Tree lapbook or the Johnny Apple Seed lapbook at Homeschool Share for apple resources).