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Appreciate updateOctober 25, 2016


So back in January I chose a word for the year, and that was Appreciate.
It was a word that would change my perspective.
It was a world that would push my comfort.
and it was a word that would expose that which was ugly.

Mid way through I learnt it’s the art of treasuring, the point of recognition, the mild mannered admiration… in it’s truest form it’s a gentle prompt to show love.

But right now it feels more of a harsh command, a heavy burden, a bright light showing only grime.
That push to appreciate erodes pessimism, negativity and judgement with a sandblaster.
Three big traps that I know so intimately.

I fell backwards to find this. I joined a group about raising kids in a more liberal christian way, a group whose definition of Christianity was broader and more encompassing than many I’ve found. There I found pain and sorrow, hearts broken from years of misguided indoctrination and a yearning to find a way of parenting authentically in light of their faith. It’s a beautiful group. But I also saw bucket loads of negativity, bitterness and quick judgement. I saw echos of my self righteous teen self and cringed as people tore strips off statements whose heart was not so far from their own. And as I went to unsubscribe the appreciate word hit. For in the midst of my own perspective I was just as unappreciative of that meandering faith journey as those I criticised. In the midst of their muddle and maddening words they too were struggling to place their faith in a context they had not seen it in before. Indeed this new expression of faith was a whole new culture to some, just as odd as leaving home for a new land. The signs were clear as I stared the familiar bitter walls of the trap I too had come to lay in.

To appreciate is tough. It’s a beautiful word of hope, a delightful word of gratitude, a reminder to count our luxuries, not just our scars, and a challenge to lay aside the bitterness for an exposed heart willing to be changed.

Tot-school | Week 5 | Letter EOctober 23, 2016


This week’s tot-school
…was a short burst of creativity!

This week we did 4 days of totschool. Mummy and Daddy spent Tuesday shopping for Birthday presents so weren’t about and the week ended with a special party on Saturday night in a soft play place – it was great fun. Adam received lots of gifts from friends and family and though none were totschool specific I’m sure a few will creep into our learning time.

Meanwhile, we looked at the letter ‘E’ and let our creativity shine. This week we abandoned a lot of the pieces we’d started out using and replaced them with more tactile items. It felt very creative this week and I felt like we’ve found a place between the structure and exposure where we are all have fun. With a busy week we didn’t always hit schedule and some days were much shorter sessions because they didn’t take place until evening.

This weeks read more questions:

This is the most asked question I get… and I always answer with a plain ‘no’. Totschool, for us, is about expanding Adam’s English vocabulary not as a way to teach him new words in his second language. We are very much concentrating on getting him to speak English first because once he leaves the house he’ll be in a Serbian world so we are not worried about him picking up that later.

It would be foolish to give the impression that this is all free, everything comes at a cost, but we’ve kept it really rather low. I’ve decided if I find a great whole alphabet pack I’ll consider supporting the people who make it, especially if they give some away free, even so I’ve splurged less than £20 so far. We have bought odd bits like a white board eraser and extra rice and laminating pouches, and the printer ink will probably need a top up soon too.

This often gets asked too, and for us at the moment nursery isn’t essential. I also believe that nursery isn’t necessary for kids that this age. We have 2 parents working from home, we have space to play and a good number of toys. Having worked in nurseries in the UK I’m probably more picky about who I leave my child with and the policies here are much more relaxed than UK nurseries. Nurseries here tend to have quite a long day of around 7 hours, there is no half way point, no playgroup for 3 hours or similar, and I don’t like the idea of Adam spending 35 hours a week apart from us.

Week 5 : Letter E

T5 MondayT5 MondayMonday
Monday the table was set with an elephant toy, an egg and an envelope alongside the letter tracing mat with corresponding pictures. We matched the pictures but the egg looked different so we needed to crack it first, it was a lovely tactile way of looking at the letter and Adam did really well with pen placement when we moved onto the laminated sheets.
1) Letter pages plus image in upper and lower case
2) Capital Letter tracing mat
3) Objects – egg, toy elephant and envelope

No totschool.
Extra picture from Wednesday – Mummy hadn’t finished sewing the E!
T5 Wednesday 2T5 Wednesday 2

T5 WednesdayT5 WednesdayWednesday
We tried out the 3Dinosaurs elephant puzzle that is made of nine squares, (though we had only divided it into 3) to replace the 2 piece puzzles and it was a great success. As well as completing the do-a-dot ‘search for the letter’ pages we also did some letter sorting. Using mini foam floor piece puzzles I separated the letters and had Adam replace them in the spaces, the second time round we matched the letters with the felt letters.
1) Do a dot sheets – find unbound letters on elephant + letter with elephant
2) 3 piece puzzle with guide
3) Letter sort – fill the shape, + match with the felt letter

Today’s totschool was later in the day. Adam caught me printing a silhouette game so we started with that. Onto the first craft, a elephant finger puppet and learning to paint with a big sponge. We pushed fingers and party blowers through the hole for the trunk. During the drying times we played with our Bing bunny wipe clean book which was great for pen control skills and attempted the crayon number station that went right over his head.
1) Finger puppet elephant
2) Silhouette match
3) Bing wipe clean activity book
4) Crayon number station
T5 ThursdayT5 Thursday

T5 FridayT5 FridayFriday
Using up the last of the prepared activities meant making the lower case e into an egg complete with chick popping out. We backed these pieces onto craft foam which really made the craft pop! Adam adored the googly eyes and I ended up swiftly printing a do-a-dot page so he could practice placement with them. We also did some upper and and lower letter linking using the felt letters.
1) letter ‘e’ chicken craft
2) Letter sort – felt upper and lower case
1) Do a dot page using googly eyes to fill circles

Next week: the letter F will be swimming with the fishes and more!

Linking up with 1+1+1=1 : googly eyes week ~ Letter E {24 mos.}

Tot-school | Week 4 | Letter DOctober 16, 2016


This week’s tot-school
…we muddled through!

The great thing about tot-school is that disaster isn’t possible. Our key word the first time through the alphabet is exposure, exposure to new words, new concepts, new letters… not learning, not structure, and certainly not essential. Oh we had hopes for a lovely structured times this week, then God laughed. Amazingly we managed to do at least something each day, though by Friday it was at Adam’s request only. Some days tot-school was an afterthought and others it was thought through well in advance, and really that was totally ok with us.

I’d decided to start the week with the letter ‘D’ and choose the extra concept on Tuesday or Wednesday but that never happened so it’s just the letter this week. We are trying to be diverse rather than repetitive, when the activity is unfamiliar his inquisitive nature really kicks in. It led us to try a craft this week which was a roaring success and to move onto a different style of letter sheet too. Letter matching is still a big aim for us and the inevitable b and d confusion reigned so we tried to concentrate on the capital letter more this week.

This weeks read more questions:

Doing some structured activity daily is fun, it’s a focus to the hours spent trying to do something other than play with wooden trains and it’s good for Adam in terms of concentration and development. Adam’s vocabulary is exploding and I really think this is part of the reason why. His grasp of numbers appearing over the last few weeks is really impressive. Printing in colour has been a big yes and anything with lots of pieces is really attractive. Finding the right level between repetition and novelty is also important. Established activities are taken in quickly but hold less appeal. By starting with table-work we’ve built a foundation for instructed activities that he can spin into his creations, it’s fun to finally get onto crafts and I’m really glad we did it this way.

I don’t think I started with a plan beyond each day to do something. That said a rough plan is emerging with Monday being introduction to the letter, one day being more focused on a non-letter concept, another dominated by the paint dabbers and at least one paper free. I’m vaguely planning to run through the whole alphabet in order at least once before changing things.

Some things are clearly favourites but not what I expected. Many of the free activities emphasis pencil control and he’s just not interested, there is a lot about linking upper and lower case letters and directional work, that, while good, doesn’t suit the level he’s at. I started with the letter activities from 1+1+1=1 and letter packs from ‘This Reading Mama’. Both proved way to advanced for Adam so we only use a small selection. The ‘Back to School Preschool Centers’ from ‘In my world’ have been so successful I’ve bought the whole alphabet packet and I’m looking forward to using the bits we’ve not got to yet. This week I discovered Roaming Rosie which has some great ideas I’m hoping to add in next week. Beyond that it’s been mostly Pinterest finds. I have found myself often botching printouts like, phonics cards at 220% for puzzles, screen grabbed book pages, and putting craft templates through a graphics program to add colour.

Week 4 : Letter D

T4 MondayT4 MondayMonday
We did the standard letter plus image pages with the whiteboard pen plus the new capital letter tracing mat which we enjoyed because we could both colour inside the letter and identify the images at the base of the page. Lastly we tried out a to d of the the letterland actions book which Adam instantly adored. I got the kindle preview for the book and screen-grabbed the pages to print.
1) Letter pages plus image in upper and lower case
2) Capital Letter tracing mat
3) Letterland actions book

Tuesday wasn’t so successful. I’d just finished backing the 2 piece puzzles onto card and so decided to cut them at an angle, while he did quite well with them not being cut vertically I think horizontal would have been better than slanted. We also used the threading card with much encouragement but quite proficiently then we requested the Letterland ‘book’ before firmly quitting.
1) 2 piece puzzles
2) Threading card
3) Letterland actions book
T4 TuesdayT4 Tuesday

T4 WednesdayT4 WednesdayWednesday
We touched on the tapped upper and lower case D on the floor before make a lowercase d into a dinosaur… Adam loved this – he even dragged daddy in. Then came the rice : 2kg in a shoe box with magnetic and foam letters ‘A’ through to ‘D’ for Adam to fish out with a mini plastic trowel and fork. While the sorting letters element wore off quickly he played with that box of rice for well over an hour – the ball pit only sort of contained it!
1) Taped letters
2) ‘d’ dinosaur craft
3) Rice hunt box

Back at the table to re-conquer paperwork. There was one easy way to do this and it was with paint dabbers. We used the D for dog pages in both upper and lower case, as well as the uppercase ‘D’ and dinosaur picture then we found all the ‘d’s in the circles that covered the dog. When we’d had enough of the paint the Letterland ‘book’ was requested again and we reminded ourselves of the actions for the first 4 letters.
1) Do a dot D (+d) is for dog.
2) Do a dot D is for dinosaur
3) Find the letter do a dot page – dog
4) Letterland actions book
T4 ThursdayT4 Thursday

T4 FridayT4 FridayFriday
Friday was a disaster day in this house. Adam refused to nap, I felt terrible and everyone was tired and irritable. At one point Adam wanted to sit at the table so I gave him some of the activities to repeat. He happily remade a ‘d’ dinosaur and played with his whiteboard markers on the letter plus image pages and capital letter tracing mat.
1) ‘d’ dinosaur craft
2) Capital Letter tracing mat
1) Letter pages plus image in upper and lower case

Next week: the letter E comes stomping elephants and cracking eggs!

Linking up with 1+1+1=1 : Not quite a Disaster ~ Letter D {23 mos.}