A couple months ago I found myself in a Tot School rut. I needed to find a way to keep myself motivated to change the bins but also a way to provide me a direction to accomplish our education goals.
I am a stationary nerd and for some reason fresh labels completely revitalized our workboxes. It was the change I needed. Simple and easy but it works for me!
I discovered that I had stuck us in a corner by designating one activity for a particular day. I was fighting with myself on what bin we were going to do. For example if we had a physical activity planned for Tuesday then that’s what my brain said we needed to do. If the kids were already being rowdy or I wasn’t feeling great than we just skipped the activity all together. If the kids saw our planned craft and wanted to do it before the day I picked I was bothered and made up a reason we couldn’t do it that day. To say this wasn’t working for us was an understatement.
I changed our categories from days to “subjects.” We could do any bin we wanted or even multiple bins a day without my eye starting to twitch. It was such a relief! We now often repeat bins throughout the week. The best part about that is after I teach them what is expected they can play more independently and with confidence. They know what to do and what is expected. I have moments of freedom throughout the day, no longer feeling pressured to entertain the kids or constantly be by their side.
I spent a lot of time reading about different “subjects/topics” and why they are taught and at what stages or ages. I wanted to keep things simple with the 3 R’s but that sounded too basic and boring to me. Reading, “riting” and “rithmetic” are definitely the foundations of a solid education but where is the fun. The exploring. I needed the variety.
Our categories ended up being:
Some of these are self explanatory but I have adapted them to suit our needs.
Creative Arts can be used for anything that helps the kids think outside of the box or develops skills. Often this includes a craft but not always. Some alternative examples to crafts are instruments, music for dancing, puppets for story telling, imagination play or simply a game. The sky is the limit.
Math. I was never a math person in school but I love numbers because of this I want math to be enjoyable for my kids. I also want them to see and understand how math fits with many aspects of daily life. Since my kid are still toddlers we mostly focus on counting and number recognition. In order to mix things up and stay out of workbooks we use lots of manipulatives, fun pictures, patterns, games and some writing. I am not anti-workbooks, I think that there is a time and place for them but we are not there quite yet.
Language gets a little tricky to label because there are many skills that are involved. Speech, letter recognition, pre-writing, reading, writing, spelling, etc. I very easily could have split this bin into two but I thought it would be better to provide a few more activities for the kids to choose from. I may split this into more bins later on, when we are doing more grammar, reading and writing in our studies. Only time will tell.
Science so far has been about exploring and introducing new concepts. We have been using this bin to explore with our five senses. Often in the form of a sensory bin. As my kids grow we will eventually follow a curriculum and participate in more and more experiments. We are going to have so much fun!
Our World. There are many curriculum’s that teach history and geography. With my kids being so young I wanted a category that combined those two but also provided us the freedom to specifically learn about things found in our world. An area to focus on what catches my babes interests and passions. I chose a lot of our topics currently but I try and listen to what my kids are enjoying. It’s tricky but we always find something to learn about. Our world is also the perfect category for studying holidays and special occasions.
Foundations is intended to begin our learning on a daily basis. The things that we have deemed most important and what we would like the kids to use regularly. The majority of the time this bin doesn’t change a lot. I have included our religious study material, early readers, flashcards, journal, nursery rhymes, a read-a-loud book and coloring books. I placed this bin as the last bin because I wanted the babes to be able to utilize everything inside whenever they want. Easy access for little arms.
We are loving this small but significant change. It has taken so much pressure and stress off of me. I am much more confident in my ability to provide my babes with a well rounded education. I don’t feel like I am always forgetting something. We can and we will learn what we need to while at the same time enjoying the journey.