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Tot-school | Week 1 | Letter A & RedSeptember 25, 2016

This week we started totschool
…and we are loving it!

With Adam’s name beginning with the first letter of the Alphabet we just had to start with the letter A, and teamed it up with the classic apple image and red colour.

Overall we really had a great first week with Adam really taking to the table work and engaging for a decent time most days plus requesting more later in the day. White board markers and the ‘colouring’ was the most requested activity while button placement was probably the one that gripped his attention the most. Making the tactile felt letters was probably my favourite alongside the peg letters, both turned out so bright and inviting.

Originally the term meant structured play with a parent introducing simple educational concepts such as shapes, patterns, letters and vocabulary. For us totschool is table work centred on a single letter and accompanying concept each week. The structured play part comes into most of our play anyway.

In many ways yes and yet no. This is an informal introduction of concepts to make them familiar, if he doesn’t take it in that’s just fine by us. We are also limiting new things to just one or two a day so I suspect the activities will become more varied as the weeks go on.

No. The things we use are freely available online. We’ve bought a pack from a totschool resource site, but mostly to support them. There is no schedule or curriculum as such.

2 or 3 times a week we would get out the ‘teach my toddler’ blue box. It was flashcard based and just didn’t suit us very well.. Now summer travels have ended it’s a good time to introduce new routines. (For other mummies reference Adam hits 23 months this week)

Totschool happens at the big table. Sometimes Adam climbs up to see in the mornings but new activities come after his sleep / quiet time. We carry on for as long as he’s interested and often come back to the activities again later in the day at his request. Presently we plan on doing totschool each weekday.


Week 1 : Letter – A + Concept – Red

(UC – upper case, LC – lower case)

T1 MondayT1 MondayMonday (control skill : white board markers)
Today we kicked off. Adam loved the whiteboard markers and while he identified the objects and letter there was no control to his drawing. We did, however, manage to link one of the the capital and lowercase horizontal lines. We put a real apple on the table to talk about too.
a) Connect apples to form the letter – UC + LC
b) Letter plus image – UC + LC
c) Linking images, horizontal lines.
d) object discussion, apple

Tuesday (control skill : buttons)
Adam was straight for the pens to do ‘colouring’ though he wanted the blank sides of laminate. We found lots of red buttons and tried using the do-a-dot pages to put them on the letter and apple. The buttons were a big hit, especially the one green one for the leaf.
e) General colouring
f) Button placement – – UC + LC plus image
repeat c
T1 TuesdayT1 Tuesday

T1 WednesdayT1 WednesdayWednesday (control skill : paint)
Trying to be more tactile today so we played with our threading apple toy and matched colours on our peg letter ‘a’ paint pallet (not able to open pegs yet), Mummy had even sewn Adam a felt letter a to play with. The best activity was pulling out the paint dabbers, even if Mummy accidentally picked up orange before red!
g) threading
h) pegging letters
i) dot painting – LC plus image
j) felt letters
repeat e + f

Thursday (control skill : image recognition)
Working from the phonics card there were three pictures made into 2 piece puzzles all with things starting with an ‘a’. After Adam requested the buttons, so we introduced a new image of a tree and counted the button apples as they went on.
k) 2 piece puzzles for the letter a
l) button placement tree image (pictured above)
repeat e, h, i and j.
T1 ThursdayT1 Thursday

T1 FridayT1 FridayFriday (control skill : sequencing)
Friday everything fell apart. We started too early and the rhythm of the house was out. Today was less about ‘A’ while we worked on the colour red. The new tasks were about sequencing, but Adam confused it with matching, I think it was just a bit ambitious so we abandoned it. We just let him play with whatever materials from the week he requested and he did return to the table briefly later. The camera also broke so no action shots but here are all the materials we used this week.
m) 123, eating an apple
n) Red and green apple shapes
o) Velcro dot sticks

Next week: We’ve decided to follow the alphabet the first time through so we’ll be playing with bouncing balls and blue balloons!

Linking up with 1+1+1=1 : Lets begin ~ Letter A {23 mos.}

Christianeese scarsMay 21, 2016

The question comes and my mind blurts out the glib answer, full of theological undertones that reassures my own particular way of living Christianity. Inside I squirm at my inability to break free from the words as I speak / type them. I wish I was the only one but I know I’m not.

My mind skims back over countless church encounters that moulded my responses, their wealth reduced down to glibness – because knowing the answer isn’t always best. No more acute is this need than when you encounter a belief system, one with nuance and gaps whose existence should shape us rather than be skimmed over.

I recognise those with similar scars. The struggle to explain grace without turning it into an acronym, the hollow “I’ll pray for you” that is (occasionally) followed by a failure to utter another word on the matter, when the sound-bite betrays their hurt and struggles into christianese vagueness. They speak in language that makes me shudder, everything becomes the mountain’s steepness or waters swell, if not phrases lifted from ‘encouragement cards’, their depth as flimsy as the paper they are lifted from.

These are not scars caused by pain but self-flagellation, from those little bible inserts and bouts of religiosity. They are not born of depth of desire nor study, they are as hard won as politicians sombre faces practised before the mirror. Over-thought and crafted words that reflect little glory to their maker and their maker in turn.

When life is tough and the mountain really does loom they have their place, but when life is good, when the doors are open and the plain lush before us, then we need to put aside the flimsy scaffold and start to work in stone. We need to put in the work to carve answers to those questions that are deep and solid, where we agonise over the cracks and pour our devotion into the decoration.

I pause, apologise and start again, delete that text, wrangle a little over the question.

The big screenFebruary 20, 2016

It’s not extravagant

but we didn’t need it

but people think we are strange for not having one

but we have other things we use instead

but alternatives do have their limitations

but our bank account is, in part at least, filled by donations

but it would be nice…

and it’s not extravagant

That’s the conversation that circled my head for months, ney years. It’s a conversation that I’m sure many whose lives are funded, even in part, by generosity rather than companies have had millions of times. It’s the uncertainty between funding items you need and items you want. It’s why church leaders with expensive cars set alarm bells off in our heads, it’s the thin line between provide and squander.

We’d looked and dreamed and placed our dreams away again so many times.

Did we always need to agonise like this? Where is the line drawn, how do you mark the sand and feel confident the wind will not shift it into unacceptability? How do you separate the reward for your work, your tent-making and you mission? How do you deem something an ordinary need rather than an unnecessary splurge?

For us the conversation rotated round one item, an object that you will find in almost any house you enter, a television. When we first married we lived in a borrowed flat with a TV, since moving out, approaching 4 years ago, we’ve made do with tv through Zeljko’s computer, using catch-up and streaming services. Apart from the news and international sports events, it almost became a boast that there wasn’t one in our house. Time was not squandered channel hopping and wasted hours carved of advert breaks were not part of our lives. Then Adam ended up watching his beloved ‘Bing Bunny’ on my little tablet because Zeljko was working, and touch screens and toddlers…need I say more. So, with a wall bracket at shoulder level the new tv sits on the wall. The voice that told me it wasn’t extravagant won.

As mission turns from temporary into permanent your needs evolve, it’s a natural but challenging experience. Many people on mission live knowing there is an end date in sight, it flavours their friendships, peppers their conversations and fuels their drive forwards.

Living in a state of temporary is unhealthy for so many reasons, and yet we passivly, if not actively, encourage our oversees volunteers to do just that.

While having an end date can be useful it can also be really harmful, especially when it comes to building a home. We berate missionaries who indulge luxuries, pennies must be accounted for and generous blessings eked out as far as possible. For short-term-ers this is logical, why would they invest in objects they can’t bring back, why can’t they do without and bask in the luxury of homes normality when they return. But long-term-ers know the return is so far away, if it’s ever coming. They need the ordinary ‘luxuries’ to build their present ‘home reality’, just as much anyone else needs theirs. Shouldn’t keeping them in check, at a relevant level for the community you are in, and generally being frugal be all that’s should be demanded?