Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tot School

Over the past several months, it has become apparent that B, our just-turned-two-year-old, wants very much to be part of our homeschooling experience. He has never been one to just "go play" while I do things with the others. He wants to be right in the middle of everything, which too often leads to frustration for all of us. I realized that something needed to change, but I wasn't sure how to make it all work.

Then, I came across this blog and the concept of "Tot School". When I read the description and purpose of Tot School, I knew this was exactly what B (and all of us) needed. We're still working out some kinks in our system (when aren't we doing that?), but I have already seen a real difference, even after just a short time of structuring our day to include "Learning Time for B".

Here are some of the things we have been enjoying together:

POM-POM FLIPPING. Seriously. All it takes is a plastic spoon, a bag full of fuzzy goodness purchased at the dollar store, and a willingness to find pom-poms in strange places for the next several days. The first couple of times we did this, B spent nearly an hour fully engaged in this activity. The older kids love it, too, and are into creating specific challenges to test each others' pom-pom-flipping prowess.

SHAPE COLLAGES. We started out with a bowl full of simple foam shape stickers and a hamburger bun pan (a regular or jumbo muffin tin would have worked, too). B chose a shape, said its name, and sorted it into the compartment of the pan containing matching shapes. Part two was peeling off the paper backing and sticking the shapes on a paper. (Great fine motor skills practice--bonus!) He was very verbal during this part without any prompting from me at all, saying things like, "I stick a circle . . . HERE!" or "See my oval, Mom?" He also talked a lot about the colors of the shapes.

While this was going on, my older children (7 and 5) explored their "collage box" (filled with newspapers, catalogs, magazines, junk mail, etc.) and created picture collages based on a chosen theme or organizing principle. N decided to do two different ones, with the pictures pasted in very orderly rows and each one meticulously labeled--such an organizer! K finished her first one, then wanted to do another using the foam shapes. She got really creative with using the shapes as jumping-off points for drawings--such a great imagination!

This was one of the most peaceful, productive mornings we've had in a long time!

OUTDOOR PLAY. One thing that B very obviously needs is time and space to be active. He's much more physically-oriented than my others at that age, and he needs to run, jump, throw, kick, and just move around without too many restrictions. Previously, I tried to encourage him to play in the backyard while I fed the baby or worked with the older kids on something, but this was rarely successful. He's a very social child, and dislikes playing alone.

So, I have made a commitment to set aside time each day for family play time (outdoors if weather permits), with a focus on activities he can successfully participate in. On the day pictured above, we started out tossing balls back and forth (with N and K spontaneously making a connection with our science discussion on potential and kinetic energy--bonus!). This morphed into a kick-ball like game for a while, then someone suggested bubbles. Wow. Another great success!

I have several more photos to share of other successful activities, but I think they'll have to wait. Hopefully I'll find time to create another post soon!


Natalie Linhart said...

Well done! Great activities! I am a big believer in outside play, too. We purpose every day to get some fresh air : )

Tarasine said...

It's fun to see you outside--you always look like you're having such fun together!

Debbie said...

Welcome to Tot School fun! Your tot is about a month older than mine, so I look forward to seeing more of your ideas. These are great!

Tarasine said...

Thanks, Debbie! It's fun to connect with others on a similar journey. I look forward to browsing around your blog.

Alyssa said...

Can we come to school at your house? It looks like a blast!