Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tot School Re-Organization

I’ve been taking a break from Tot School posts the last few weeks, and honestly it’s felt good.  So good in fact, that I’ve been wondering if I should start them up again.  And then, I wonder what would be the point of my blog if I didn’t write about what we do in Tot School?  And then I re-read a lot of comments from previous TS posts and, well, I have to say comment-love is a powerful drug. ;) 

Do your school re-cap posts each week take you forever  to write??  I’ve saved a tremendous amount of energy and time by not writing these posts… it’s really amazing actually.   Maybe it’s just me, but one TS post will take me an entire evening to write.  All the photo editing, photo organizing, linking to other sites, blah blah blah.  If you have any tips on making this simpler, I’m all ears!  Maybe it’s just that I’m a born talker, er rambler. :)

I am in the middle of assessing and re-thinking how we spend our TS time and how I have it organized.  This post will most likely be a lot of thinking out loud and more rambling.  So, bear with me.  :) 

During my pre-Christmas blog break I created a “master list” spreadsheet of all our school items – anything we have that we use for school.  I tagged each item with a subject or skill area (or two), added notes, and a check  box to indicate whether or not it is an activity that M can do independently.  (Whether or not it’s something he enjoys doing independently is another matter altogether!)

So, here’s our new plan…

I’m going to set out 5 to 7 independent or minimal-mama-involvement activities for him each week, changing a few of them up during the week as he finishes the original ones (ie. cut and paste sheets).   Many of these will be things like his Melissa and Doug toys, fine motor skill projects, etc. 

We also re-organized his space with the shelving.  The little cupboard on the lower right houses all our games now, and we are having many fun evenings as a family because of this easy access.  There are matching games, homemade games, card games, board games, dominoes, bingo, Barrel of Monkeys… just lots of fun stuff! :)  The top of the right side holds M’s ABC book, his ABC lapbooks, all our flannelboard sets, a file folder with activities related to our current theme, and our current sensory bin (not all of this is in the pic, sorry).blog pictures 005

On the left side, on the top are all his musical instruments (guitar to the side) and our songs and poems pictures 002

Then, on the shelves below this are his current activities.  I will most likely keep the pipecleaner letters and sand tray on there all the time.  Other than that, the activities on the shelves will be featured on my weekly TS post.  However, because these are things that M will be doing on his own mostly, photos will pretty much be hit or miss.  I’ll try to take pictures of the actual activities, but catching him doing it is another pictures 004

While we are talking about taking photos I should mention that I’ve decided to always ask M’s permission to take a picture of him doing our school things.  I think the poor kid feels a little pressured sometimes, or less important than the blog, when I’m constantly snapping pictures.  I’ve thought about this and I have to say I would not want someone taking my picture all the time as I’m trying to learn something new.  It’s so easy to forget to respect the fact that kids are little people with feelings too.  So, I’m working hard on this, and you may end up seeing fewer pics of M in my posts.

I’m also going to bring back our one morning a week that we spend about 1/2 hour together “doing” school.  We both used to love this time together.  But M was asking to “do school” all the time!  Hence, the activity shelves.  Yet, it’s not fair to M to set things out on the shelves for us to do together and then not find the time (right now!) to do them; not to mention it’s creating stress for me, what with running around trying to get chores done so I can do these things with M.

The other days I’m going to focus our time together on reading, music, sensory activities, baking, free-playing, art, and our fun science experiments.  Many of these will most likely have their own post if I post about them, and I’m not sure I’ll include them in my TS posts.  It would just be one more thing to link up to. 

We continue to enjoy our calendar and Bible Story time together every morning as well as our quick “morning message”, and I want to make our Bible story activities  a priority over any other schoolwork each week.  So if I have a craft or game or whatever, planned to go along with a Bible story we’ve read, and we only have 20 minutes that week to do school together, then that’s what we’ll end up doing!

Whew.  Did I cover everything I want to do?  This is one of those posts that are mainly for me – so I can go back and read about exactly what I want to do and remember my priorities!  Thanks for hanging on to the end. :)  Any suggestions for making things simpler are always welcome!

Have a beautiful day! :)


  1. Yup, all evening was just spent writing up the school post. I sometimes hate doing it and wonder why I do it, tellin gmyself this week I won't bother...and then I go ahead and write it!

  2. On the subject of post writing - I kind of agree with you, but I am actually trying to write parts of my wrap-up posts during the week while the events are still fresh in my memory, so it doesn't feel so much like a chore in the end of the week. It sounds like you have a good plan in place. Having more access for Anna really helped... but she still wants me to watch most of what she is doing - she is just totally a mama girl.

  3. I am having the same exact problems! It is nice to know I am not alone, maybe we can encourage each other. I have plans to write our master list of things, I just havent had a chance. I also feel that I spend too much time writing the Tot School post, but I also feel that writing it makes me work harder at being creative at school. That, in turn, makes school better for my kids (I hope). I could really type an entire blog post here about how I agree with everything in your post, but I wont. Just know that I really appreciate that you share your ideas here, you have so many great ones!

  4. Hey Lady. First and foremost, I just want to tell you I Love your Tot School posts, but no pressure, seriously. Second, when I post I rarely edit pictures, Way too time consuming so, I am not going there. Third, I usually don't write much and just let the pictures speak for themselves. Usually Drew and I don't do too many complicated things so I guess I just assume people will understand what we did from the photo. Fourth, I write all of my posts for me. Basically my online scrapbook. This helps me from getting stressed about it. Fifth, having other people read it and benefit is just the icing on the cake. When Drew and I look back on these posts I know we will mainly just look at the pictures and laugh about what we did. SO, keep posting, stop stressing, in NO WAY write posts that take all evening, it takes the fun out of it. You are putting way too much pressure on yourself. Take breaks here and there. Just remember, your blog is for your family, not us. Don't write what you think we want to see, write for you guys. We won't judge you. In the end your blog is a gift to M. We are just here for the ride and loving every minute of it. Now go and breathe and relax cause we love ya!

  5. Nice job! I know what you mean about organization. Last weekend I set up workboxes for my toddler & preschooler. Before I had stuff everywhere. I am so loving this new system - it's really working for us. Nice blog - it's time really checking it out! :)

  6. Hi Nicole

    You and I sound like we've spent our break doing the same thing. I have spent so many hours organising our resources and activities (while Troy was on holidays, I was able to get a few more hours than usual to myself while Savvy and Blakie had some time with daddy). I came up with a system where I have used different coloured folders to store our activities (different colour for thinking skill type activities, numeracy, literacy etc). I have also put most of Savvy and Blakie's toys into tubs and labelled them (now all puppets, story boards, puzzles etc are together in their own boxes). We bought a new shelf set up and each week I am going to bring out some select toys for our new shelves (Sav and Blake will of course also have access to the cupboard where the toys are stored and can choose some toys as well).

    I am going to be writing a blog post on our new set up. I found last year that we had a tub of toys out and Savvy and Blakie were not interested in anything when they had most things at their disposal every single day.

    I also take forever writing up a Tot School post (I thought I was the only one!!!) But, I love having a record of what we have done and I also really enjoy sharing our activities and ideas. This year I am going to try and pace myself with these posts. I tend to get to Saturday and try and edit pictures, find links and then write the post. I need to try and make sure I break these tasks up and do them throughout the week - I am hoping this will be more efficient.

    You have come up with a fabulous system for this year. It sure does feel refreshing to change the way you do things in an effort to be more efficient.

    I am really interested to see what your other readers say about this and see if anyone has any tips or suggestions. I love hearing about how other mums structure their days and organise their Tot School (hence why I thought I might write a post about our new set up for this year.

  7. Oy, the Tot School posts. Yep, they take me ALL evening, sometimes longer. As you know, my TS posts are long (what can I say, I like to talk) and I've thought about shortening them or posting about our activities throughout the week, but then I decided I had other things I wanted to post about. Tot School is just my Sunday thing. My blog isn't just about TS. Anyway, I'm sorry I don't have suggestions for how to streamline the process... I think it's just the nature of the beast. I really enjoy TS posts (specially yours!) and I think they're worth the time and effort to prepare.
    I've had to restructure how we spend our days, too. I recently created a new "classroom" for James so he has access to different, independent activites at any given time. This has been great, but it results in me missing pictures.
    And just one last comment on taking pictures - I too have been asking James' permission (he always says yes). It dawned on me a few weeks ago that he must feel like he's being followed around by the paparazzi! I LOVE posting lots of pictures, but I think I'll be cutting back on it out of respect for James.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts - I think it helps us moms to ask ourselves some of these questions, too!

  8. I *love* reading about all the activities you do with M, whether they're categorized as "tot school" or not, but you're such a great mom and do so many different things that I can well imagine that the weekly wrap-up posts must take forever!

    How about this - maybe you could keep posting little quickies (like you already do, sometimes) that just cover one or two things, and then, once a week, pick one of those posts to put the "tot school" logo on? That way it would still be easy for people to find your blog from the tot-school page, and anyone who liked what they saw in the mini-post would easily be able to keep reading the rest of your blog. Would that be less trouble for you? You could make it even easier for readers by putting the "tot school" label on all your tot-activity posts, whether or not they had the official tot-school logo and were linked up to the main tot-school MckLinky.

    Thanks, either way, for a fantastic blog! I really appreciate all the trouble you take to tell us about what you guys get up to.

  9. Oh yes, yes, yes! Such a great post and such great comments, too (and yes, comment-love IS powerful stuff, huh?!).

    First of all, obviously you aren't alone in the posts taking FOREVER. Mike will now sigh and find something to watch on TV when I announce that I'm going to write my TS post. I don't know. I've tried so many different strategies, but what works now is that I do it in pieces. I'll upload the pictures when Maddie is resting, I'll write captions when Mike's giving her a bath and then I'll create links (the most time consuming part for me!) when, well... Whenever there's time.

    I've also REALLY been debating whether or not to continue taking "action shots." I don't think she LIKES me taking pictures while she's working or thinking, and who could blame her, right? That's why I always take a pic of the tray set up and ready to go, so if I don't take an action shot, at least I documented the activity. In fact, that happened SEVERAL times this week because she really needed my attention and I didn't feel at all right getting out the camera.

    Okay, enough of the novel. :) But yes, you're not alone!!

  10. For me it's a week by week thing as to whether or not the posts take forever.
    Things that have helped me streamline it:
    1. If I posted about the activity earlier in the week, just putting a picture and linking back to it rather than doing a long write-up.
    2. I'm with the other people about the most photo editing I do is the occasional crop of the picture. Partially because it takes much longer, partially because when I edit the pictures it moves where it is in my folder and that messes up my stream of thought. Yes, I am very ADD.
    3. If I'm not up to posting that week I don't post it. I enjoy posting the preschool corner (I kind of decided not to write two separate posts of preschool and totschool, so just do preschool) when I have the time, but I don't have the time every week.
    4. I set time limits. If I don't get it done in the time I give myself, then I wrap it up and post what I've finished. Otherwise, I've found that blogging will consume my time.

  11. I have to totally agree with the last comment. I do my TS posts in pieces. For example, one evening I will upload all of the pictures in the order I want them in. This takes some time so while those are uploading I will work on something else I need to do. Then another evening I will write the captions and do the links. I get most of my ideas from other blogs and so I make it easy on myself and let people go to the other blog to see how something is done. As for pictures I take a before and after picture of the product or whatever. I actually rarely take pictures during because my daughter wants me to be there sitting next to her. So anyway, I hope that gives you some ideas of how to make it easier. Good luck!

  12. You still use Windows Live Writer right? If so, just upload a few pics ever night or two and write about them in the post, then add more to your post every couple days. Come sunday when its time to actually post it on my blog, i usually have very little, if any at all, left to do, other than clicking publish. Just make sure everytime you write more in your post, you hit 'save draft' so it saves it. It will keep it saved on the right side. Its helped me a ton!

  13. ya know, I didnt really think about how my son must be feeling everytime I try to snap a shot of him.. sometimes it does seem to annoy him but I'm so busy taking the picture that I actually don't put two and two together to figure it out.
    Sometimes though he is so proud of his work that he himself goes and takes a picture, hehe

    For me, its not just tot school posts that take really long(although I dont do them regularly), ALL my posts seem to take forever and that is honestly due to pictures, resizing, editing, brightening if they are too dark, uploading it, etc... it takes really long... but hey I guess the comments make up for it and realising that someone on the other end really does appreciate seeing them and getting ideas.

    I love every single post of yours, you always share something new with me and give me new ideas. For me, i'm a visual person so seeing it really helps...
    thanks a bunch!

  14. Oh yeah, the posts take forever! That's why I generally post only once a week. I can't let it take over my life. Knowing that I want to link to Preschool Corner on Friday does motivate me and help me finish my list of lessons for the week by then though! It makes me try to be a bit creative too, because I know others will be reading it. But mostly I agree with what Cindy says - my blog is for me, and for Crumpet some day. You can turn it into a book at and I think that's a really neat idea.
    As for pictures, Crumpet has gone through phases where he asked me not to do it, so I don't. Mostly I just take one quick one of each activity and then put the camera away. I definitely don't edit anything.
    Crumpet asks to do school all the time too, but I think he's figured out that if I'm not in the mood to play, he can always convince me to do school. I want to encourage that excitement about learning in him. Last night though, "school" meant playing cars. So he's really just conning me!
    Anyway, I LOVE your blog and your fantastic ideas, but totally understand that it becomes way too much. I see so many people posting several times a day on here, and can't figure out how they manage. Of course, I find time to read them all, and that has to stop... Crumpet is in front of the t.v. right now - oops! Great mom, right here, everyone!!

  15. Wow... you guys amaze me. Can I just say you are all the best, and I'm so thankful to have such great bloggy-friends. I appreciate all the comments and the wonderful advice. There are a lot of good suggestions here... as far as editing pics, usually I just do a quick crop in Live Writer, so I guess that's not such a biggie. Organizing them is another issue, but one that can be done a little at a time as the week goes. I do like the idea of writing a bit each evening; the only thing is that if I get computer time other evenings, it's usually spent writing other posts. Hm, I'll have to work on this! I do think I'll limit what I'm writing - no one needs to know every single activity, maybe I'll just highlight the ones worth mentioning, and if it all doesn't get written, then so be it (thanks, Ticia). And I do need to remember what the blog is all about and stop stressing about silly things like this (thanks Cindy!). LOL, I thrive on stress and worry, I'm just one of *those* people. :) You are all so wonderful and great and I appreciate you all so much!!!

  16. This is why I love reading your blog! I've been thinking the same things.

    One idea I had is if someone wanted to host a link up for "Tot School drop-outs". Ok, maybe it wouldn't be called that! People could link up their favorite school-y post from the past week (or write a quick post about the favorite thing they did). Posts would be shorter and less time consuming, and it would be great to read the "this is what I really want to share" and not just "this is everything and anything related to school." I do like Tot School posts for the opportunity to check out other blogs and get feedback, but it can just be too much. I think it can also push me to get away from the independent, creative, not easily documented type of activities and focus too much on the "this would be great to blog about". Ugh!

  17. I agree weekly wrap ups take ages but I have tried to look at them differently. I'm not doing them just to link up to Tot School, (or Preschool Corner or whatever). They are a record of our week, our journey.

    I do try to upload and edit my photo's daily so at the end of the week I only have to fill in the blanks. I also try to limit my word count where you know we can all get easily carried away.

  18. You bring up some great points. The time factor is what has kept me from ever joining Tot School. I will just continue posting when I can and not stress about it.


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