Action shot: cutting my Betty Lukens bible felt set

I just stumbled upon this picture!  I am so thrilled because I wrote a post a while back about how happy I am with my purchase of the Betty Lukens bible felt set.  I didn’t think I had a picture of the huge felt sheets that came to me in the mail — probably 10 huge sheets of felt that I cut!  (With a $30+ pair of scissors that I got for half-off at Michael’s!)  I got very motivated one week and that is literally all I did!  Very intense.

I love this picture because at one point John really wanted to help, so he is cutting with his little safety scissors — which really can’t cut anything — so after about 10 minutes of dad holding the paper just so for him, I think they both called it quits.  I’m so happy that my husband got this sweet shot <3


Though this is a very sweet Sepia photo — we have been in dire need of a decent camera.  We’ve been using my tiny 5+ year old hand-held which is just not at the level I’d like.  So…. I finally picked out a new camera, so I should be featuring much better pictures very soon!

I picked out the Sony Alpha NEX series —I bought an F3 — which are a smaller camera but have the same high-quality of a DSLR.

I will probably do a mini-review on it after I play around with it for a bit!

Teaching through literature: “I can do it!”

Lately, my son (30 months) has started to whine: “I can’t! I can’t!”  Sometimes, this is because he wants to whine, but sometimes, I can see that he really doesn’t want to try.  Every time I hear him say “I can’t!” I repeat: “I think I can!” or “I can do it!” so that his negative phrase will be countered with my more positive one.  Overall, this has been having a good  and lasting effect. These chosen phrases are from books that have taught important (and fun!) lessons to John.

from head to toe

From Head To Toe by Eric Carle is a wonderful little animal book.  The book moves from a child’s neck to his toes.  It encourages children to try to move their bodies and mimic the animals on the pages.  I like to use the phrase “I can do it!” throughout the day when John is getting frustrated.

I am a penguin and I move my head.  Can you do it?  I can do it!

I am a gorilla and I thump my chest.  Can you do it?  I can do it!


And we also have been reading the classic children’s book The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. This book tells the story of a little engine who agrees to bring the sweet little train cars filled with toys and dolls for children over the mountain.  While in the midst of the struggle, he exclaims, “I think I can!”  And when he’s done, he exclaims, “I thought I could!” Even though it was difficult, we continue to try amidst trials.

“I think I can! I think I can!”

“I thought I could! I thought I could!”


Our third book is teaching us that we can “try!”  Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss is specifically referencing food when Sam states, “You do not like them, so you say, try them, try them, and you may!”  And the cat looooves his green eggs and ham because he decides to try them!  This doesn’t need only relate to food — children can learn that trying new things can be fun and rewarding!

“Try them, try them, and you may!”

Tot School – Valentine’s Day

We put our Letter Tot School on hold this week, so that we could celebrate Valentine’s Day.  We have done so many fun activities this week and I’d love to share them with you.


I made six Valentine tot trays this week.  John loved them and we played each of them at least 3 or 4 times!

Heart Match – Up.  This was very simple to make and I thought it would be too hard, but he impressed me by doing it by himself the second time around!

IMG_6865We played Musical Hearts with this.  We put the hearts face down on the floor and danced around them, then I stopped the music and he picked one up and read the number.  By the end he was reading most of them!  He loved this simple game and asked for it the most, which I was surprised by.IMG_6781

John loves foam stickers, so we made a lot of Valentines this week.


Valentine Shapes.  I got a cute Valentine Tot Pack from 2TeachingMommies, and we matched shapes that we already had with the shapes on the cut-outs.
IMG_6778 Valentine pom-pom sort with tweezers.  John had a harder time with this, I think because the pom poms were so small.IMG_6776

And another printable from 2TeachingMommies.  We put our Unifix cubes on top of the numbers.  He loved this.


Bible verses of the week:


Found at Homeschool Creations and Totally Tots.

Mini book of the week:

A cute Heart book from 2TeachingMommies. We colored every page and he likes walking around with his little book.




I was bummed that I couldn’t make it to Michael’s to make a “GLITTERY/SHINY” Valentine’s sensory bin, so I opted for red kidney beans as a base and just put in any red and pink things I had around the house.  John ended up absolutely loving the beans, so it was a success : )

IMG_6817 IMG_6810 IMG_6806


We made a cute tissue paper heart.  John wasn’t really excited about this, so I did most of it.  He was very excited to give it to dad, though : )



We also….

Frosted and decorated heart-shaped cookies at a friend’s house (for John it was a rice cake, since they weren’t gluten free, but he doesn’t mind, he is such a little trooper).


And we made some sweet, simple Valentines out of foam paper and foam heart-shaped stickers.  John tries so hard to get the little sticky off, and he is really doing better with it!


Tot School

Montessori Monday

For the Kids Friday

How to make a simple Peter doll from The Snowy Day

I am a bit obsessed with Ezra Jack Keats.  He is, by far, my favorite children’s author.  I did a presentation on author-illustrator Ezra Jacks Keats for a  children’s literature class when I received my Masters in Elementary Education and I fell in love with Mr. Keats as soon as I started researching!

Mr. Keats (his given name was Jacob Ezra Katz and he went by “Jack”) was a great Jewish man (his parents were Holocaust survivors and he served in the Army as well).  He was the first author to put a child of color on the cover of an in-color children’s book.  He realized that young black children did not have a hero in print that they could look up to.  He wrote The Snowy Day and it received the Caldecott Medal, the most prestigious children’s book award, for the year of 1963.  Then Mr. Keats wrote several other books about the same character, Peter, all of which have a unique distinction because of his choice of illustrations; he used paints, textiles, magazines, newspapers, fabric, etc. to illustrate his works of art.  Oh, I just love him!  He passed in 1983; in his lifetime he wrote and illustrated 24 children’s books and illustrated 85 more books with different authors.  I am slowly collecting all of them (so if you see a sale, let me know!)


I want this book to remain special in my son’s mind, so I made a fun project for his Snowy Day Sensory Bin.  He is about 4 inches tall and oh so cute!  I can’t wait to give him to John, but will have to wait another week!


I found an adorable Peter Doll at By Heart Books.  I didn’t want to spend $30, so I thought I would try my hand at making one!  Hot glue guns can do anything, you know!  I printed off this picture, then I assembled my supplies:

  • Hot glue gun
  • Red felt
  • Small circle brown felt
  • Small piece of black yarn
  • Scissors
  • Black Sharpie marker
  • 3-6 cotton balls

Then I cut out two red snowsuits for Peter, using the cut-out picture as a template.  I stuffed a couple of cotton balls between the two, and carefully “hot-glue-gunned” him together!


Next, I made a cute Peter face with the brown circle, black yarn, and marker.  I glued this to my red, stuffed snowsuit.


I can’t wait to put him in a Snow Sensory bin for my son!  Here is the picture of Peter for a cutting template.


“Then he went out into the deep, deep snow.”

The case against praise

While studying for my Masters in Elementary Education, I researched educator Alfie Kohn.  His work emphasizes to parents and educators that praise can be detrimental.  All of those “good jobs” don’t do a child a lick of good.  I scoffed at this notion, children need to be loved and taught that they are wonderful; well, of course, but he brings in practical reasons as to why praise should be so much more.

Here are some notes I wrote in my substitute lesson plans during my time as a Kindergarten teacher, based on Kohn’s article “Five Reasons to Stop Saying Good Job”:

  •  Focus praise of students to encourage and support their intellectual work and their self-confidence. I want the students to have motivation to learn and not simply depend on your response to their work.
  •  For example, during Language Arts, Centers, or Writer’s Workshop, students will want to show you their work, instead of just saying, “nice job,” focus praise to specific reasons why you think his/her work/writing is improved or can be improved.
  •  Instead of “good,” say “I like how you….” or “You remembered….”
  •  While circulating, do not say anything at all. Sometimes a walk around the room to check on the students’ work suffices for students to know you care, but you value their responses and their ideas.  Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all.
  •  While circulating, ask questions about the students’ work, such as, “How did you know?” and “Where did you get that idea?” to support the students’ autonomy and asking what he/she thinks of their work, rather than telling him/her what you think.

I just came upon this chart from Teach Preschool’s Facebook group which sums all of this up very nicely:

The New York Times published an article on this topic entitled “The Power (and Peril) of Praising Your Kids”.

Living Montessori Now, also, posted the “A Montessori Approach to Praise” which lists reasons why children need us to be constructive in both our words and our actions.

What do you think? What are your experiences and/or thinking?  Are they aligned with this view of praise?

Tot School – Letter F

During F week, we focused on F is for Foot, Front End Loader, Feather, Fish, and Frogs.  Lots of F things : )


This schedule keeps things ordered. I’ve type-written in what I want to do as far as language, and I make sure that I also fit in at least an additional sensory and practical life activity per week. I use Homeschool Creations’ great Preschool Schedule.



Every week, I put out six tot trays out for the week and I try to be intentional with activities that correlate with each of the four Montessori learning categories: Language, Sensory, Mathematics, Practical Life. Our Tot Trays are out on our shelf all week. John can play with them at any time, but sometimes I’ll take one out intentionally for us to play together.


John had a blast with this piece of styrofoam (I am beginning to save everything — there are so many uses for simple throw-away objects!)  I hot-glue-gunned (that is a technical term) together two sets of laminated body part vocabulary from 1+1+1=1’s Tot School ABCs from the Letter F.  And I put a toothpick in the middle, so he could poke holes in the styrofoam.  He loved this.


Here is a magnet board with a review of the Letters A B C D E F.  I got this out when we watched LeapFrog Letter Factory for the first time.  He loved it!



I printed this snowman puzzle from 2TeachingMommies.  He had a difficult time with this one, but I helped him a bit and he got the jist of where the strips were supposed to go.


A pink sensory bowl.  We put a cloth on the top and guess what we are touching!


Our Lauri Pegs letter F.


And a fish sort from Confessions of a Homeschooler.



Bible verse of the week:

A friend loves at all times. Proverbs 17:17

We use the ABC bible verse songs from Songs for Saplings. These songs are so catchy, beautiful, not “children’s music annoying,” and I find myself singing and learning and memorizing the bible verses along with John. Carisa at 1plus1plus1equals1 has made coordinating ABC Bible Verses posters which have really helped with his memorization as well.

Letter of the week: Ff

Our curriculum consists of 1plus1plus1equals1‘s Tot School ABC’s.

We put up our bible verse, a Ff small poster from Tot School, a Ff sign from my Kindergarten teaching days, and these wonderful Montessori sandpaper letters.  We put these up on the wall so he could feel the letter every morning and trace his fingers on the Ff. His little Mr. Potato Head feet are in his school bin.


Do-A-Dot markers on his F for Foot pages. He loved blue again this week : )




And making F’s with the Do-A-Dots.


Here we are coloring with some fun crayons called Twistables.  John looooves these right now, and only wants to use blue! He loved coloring his F is for Front Loader pages (I made these, but they are very, very simple you can get them here).


Stamping Fs on the foot.


Here we are using dry erase markers on heavy duty sheet protectors.  We have these thin tipped markers.  We are practicing colored feet!


F is for Firetruck magnet pages from Making Learning Fun with our pom pom magnets.


We put his work on the clothesline above his bed, between two windows!


Book of the week:

The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss!


We read our book of the week at least once a day. The Five in a Row curriculum‘s premise is that you should read the same children’s book to your child for five days in a row, all week. We have Before Five in a Row, and are reading through some of the books in there and also picking books according to our season, theme, or interest.  The Foot Book is not in the curriculum, but it was perfect for our F is for Foot theme!   (Homeschool Creations and Homeschool Share have many printable resources for the Five in a Row series.) We read Green Eggs and Ham and John loved it.

We read this every day, did our styrofoam body parts, and made our fun family feet!

John loved tracing his feet and his baby sister’s too; he insisted that we trace “cow’s” feet (his inseparable companion):


We measured and discovered that Daddy’s feet are biggest and May’s are the smallest!


Mini book of the week:

Our mini book is an adorable FOOTball book from Cassie at 3dinosaurs.  We printed a lot of her Tot Football Pack, which John enjoyed last week for the Superbowl and this week for Foot week!



We traced all of our feet and John had to put them in order from  smallest to largest.  This was such a fun family activity for the letter F!

Counting and sequencing 1, 2, 3!
The feet our touching in these pictures, close, closer, touching!  So we practiced.
Here is our Front Loader size sort. (I printed them twice, once “fit page” and once not).  He loves these and sleeps with them!


We played with his playdough mat with his gluten-free play dough on 1plus1plus1equals1′s awesome Animal ABC Playdough Mats!


John’s alphabet abacus.  I was so proud of him, singing his ABCs and pointing to the correct letters!


Our Ff collection on our refrigerator.



Peeling foam stickers and putting them onto foam paper.  He loved this; he kept asking for help, but I made him do it!

IMG_6416 IMG_6415

Spicing.  (With two empty spice jars, a tray, and some other tools — I put oregano and salt in his spice jars.)

IMG_6491 IMG_6490 IMG_6489 IMG_6486

Putting measuring spoons in order.



Opening the butter package.



I found this cute and simple snowman craft at Confessions of a Homeschooler.  He loved it!


We also made a cute hand-fish in a fish tank from Arts and Crafts for 2s from Abeka.


Tot School

Montessori Monday
For the Kids Friday
Shibley Smiles

Easy and child-safe multi-purpose cleaner

I don’t like having chemicals in the house.  Before I was pregnant, while being pregnant, and now with kids.

When my son started to crawl and move around everywhere, I really wanted to ensure he wasn’t coming in contact with gross germs that come into the house from shoes (thus the no shoes rule in our house), and I also didn’t want him to injest chemicals.  Dirt, no problem.  But chemicals produced in a factory, that is a big problem.  And I can control that aspect in the house — especially because there are many other “natural” cleaners that, if digested, wouldn’t kill you.

This cleaner recipe is easy, cheap, and gets things clean — which, lets face it, a lot of “natural” products just don’t do as well as the chemical filled ones.  This can be used as an all-purpose surface cleaner, and I also use this recipe for mopping my kitchen floor, as well.

Simple Recipe:

Equal parts of the following (or you can do 200 ml each, no need to be exact):

  • white vinegar 
  • rubbing alcohol
  • water
  • and a few squirts of dish soap


And put it all in an empty squirt bottle you already have, or I found one at the hardware store for $.99 : )


Happy cleaning!
Organic Aspirations

How to color rice for sensory time

Coloring rice is easy-peasy.  Put your rice in a bowl, dump some hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol (a little goes a long way) and put a couple drops of food coloring in.  Mix until you have your desired color!


Let dry for an hour or so (just to be safe!) and make a cute sensory bin!  No need to be fancy.  Just add some cups, funnels, spoons, etc, and let your child explore the fun texture!