Monthly Archives: September 2013

Bible Curriculum for 2 Year Olds

I know a couple of you have been waiting to see what we chose for a curriculum. The study guide we chose is put out by Joy of Living Bible Studies. I was hoping to get a promo code for you but, alas, there are no promotions available at this time. However, if you decide to purchase the curriculum for yourself you can feel good about where your money is going. From the Joy of Living site:

“Joy of Living Bible Studies is an evangelical, interdenominational, nonprofit organization, dedicated to increasing the study and teaching of God’s Word.

All money not used for printing and office costs is used to develop new Bible study courses and to provide materials free of charge to prisoners and others unable to pay for them.”

The particular study I chose for Kent is Bible Basics for Little Ones. Joy of Living offers other preschool studies but the Bible Basics is specifically designed to be simple enough for 2 year olds. It includes 33 lessons. The lesson plans are brief and geared towards Sunday School or nursery school classes that meet once a week. However, I am finding it very easy to adapt the plans for a homeschool environment. It is easy to come up with supplemental activities that tie in to each week’s lesson (and I’ll be posting my ideas here as we go if you need inspiration!). I knew this was the right study for us as soon as I found it.

Here are some of the reasons I like it so much:

  • There is a page in the beginning titled “Considerations in Teaching Two-Year-Olds”. Every parent should read this! It is a great reminder that it is NORMAL to have many challenges at this age but that our young children have great potential to begin learning about the Lord. The opportunity to help them establish a relationship with Him early should not be missed!
  • The music is included and scheduled in the curriculum! Using relevant songs really helps to draw interest from little minds and drive home each week’s lesson. Plus, the CDs are reproducible and the company actually suggests you share copies! This is intended for church classes but in our case I can make a CD for the car and and Grandma’s house.
  • Overarching unit themes are scheduled for 2-9 weeks at a time with different stories or lessons being focused on each week. This works perfectly with our new plan to leave our trays out longer. I can set up trays that fit the unit theme and leave them out for several weeks in a row.
  • The schedule is flexible. Keeping the unit themes together is nice and should be easy to do but, really, there isn’t a lot that carries over from week to week so most lessons can easily stand alone. Three lessons pertain to Christmas and two to Easter. The rest would work at any time of the year.
  • The topics are relevant to a small child’s interests. For example, this week we are learning that God made day and God made night. This is perfect for a toddler who has noticed the sun, moon, and stars and is fascinated with them!
  • It doesn’t require the parent or teacher to be a Bible scholar. I am still learning the basics myself so I wanted a study that lays things out in a simple, clear manner. This one fits the bill perfectly.
  • It includes suggestions for gross motor activities. They are very simple and repetitive but that is what 2 year olds like! Having the ideas right there saves me from over-complicating things and then failing to offer anything at all.
  • It was very affordable! Even with shipping I only paid $32 and some change. That’s less than $1 per lesson, and don’t forget you can make extra CDs!
  • The study guide is available as a downloadable pdf, a CD of the pdf, or printed on loose leaf paper. I opted to download the pdf and print the study myself because we have a laser printer and I was excited to get it as soon as possible. I took it to OfficeMax and had it spiral bound with a protective front and back for less than $4. This allows me to easily open up to the pages I need for the week, and making photocopies is a breeze.

    The music is available on 2 CDs or as a digital mp3 download. The sound is nice quality. Fingerplay and activity song motions are described in a special appendix of the study guide. I opted to have the CDs mailed to me. They came in a sturdy plastic case and included a printed list of the songs included. There are 131 song all together: 78 Bible songs and 53 activity songs. Most of them are very short, again perfect for the youngest learners.

    I suggest calling directly to place your order or ask questions. The actual charges were a bit different than the website said because of the formats I chose so it worked well for me to call. I couldn’t be happier with the customer service. Everyone I dealt with was fabulous.

    You can view a sample of the study, see the details, and find ordering information on the Joy of Living website. If you think of it, please mention that you heard about it here. I am not getting any compensation from them or anything but I think it would be nice if they knew how much we are enjoying the material.

    If you have older children check out their other preschool and youth studies. Kathy from Joy of Living shared with me in an e-mail:

    …we offer studies for Youth as well. They were originally developed for homeschooled children where the mothers were doing the adult study together at a church group. The Youth studies (as well as the Preschool studies) are reproducible, so a group of mothers that do it together could purchase one copy and use it for all. In addition, our adult studies are currently being used by a homeschool co-op of middle-schoolers.

    I hope this helps if you’re interested in teaching your little one about God in a more formal way. Please let me know if you have any specific questions about the curriculum. I’ll be sharing how we use it throughout the year so be sure to check back for ideas.


    First Day of 2 Year Old Tot School!

    Kent was 26 months old.

    Yay! Finally, time to kick things off with our new plan.

    Inspired by 1+1+1=1, I made this cute sign for Kent to hold.  This is how he wanted to take the picture…

    IMG_6118…but I kind of wanted one that didn’t cut off his head so I tried again while tickling his toes…

    IMG_6131…and still just got a look of “really, Mom?” instead of a true smile.  sigh

    I didn’t think we would be able to start Tot School on schedule but the guys were able to help me rearrange the house at the last minute last night.  They took our play kitchen up to the attic for storage, brought in our new shelf, and took a couple things out of our office so there is more room for storing materials.  I want to give you a whole tour in a separate post but for now here is a sneak peek of the shelf.

    IMG_6117I moved our old tot trays shelf over by the recliner so it can house part of our book collection.  We didn’t get to start school right away in the morning but Kent was very excited to have so many books at his disposal.  He spend a lot of time with books spread out on the floor, “reading” them.  Here he is standing on the windowsill because there is a picture of a ladybug in that book and he wanted to show it to the real ladybug that lives up there.


    We started with song time.  He was surprisingly apprehensive and very quiet, more like I would have expected if it was his first time in a new group or something.  He usually loves songs but since these were new he just watched while I  sang along and tried to get him to dance.  Then I told him it was time for a special Bible story.  This week we are learning about how God made day and night.  I read him the blurb from the curriculum, trying to spark his interest along the way by asking him questions about stars and the moon.  He was excited to talk about them but still kept saying, “Mama done reading, do more song time!” until the story was over.  I started playing the activity songs, which he will probably long once he learns them, but since they were new he wasn’t catching on.  He started getting a little too wild: harassing the cat, stepping on my feet, etc.  So, we took a break for lunch.

    After lunch I introduced him to cutting with scissors.  He had spied the scissors on my desk earlier and was VERY excited about learning to use them.  He absolutely loved it!  I really did not think he would have enough hand strength or coordination yet, I just wanted to see how far off he was.  It took a few tries with me demonstrating how to hold the scissors and paper but then he took off with it.  He was so enthralled with the tray that I was able to get up and get the camera and still take this picture.

    IMG_6132He was so focused!

    IMG_6134And yes, those were baby feet a couple pictures up.  Little brother was supervising.


    Eventually I moved the tray to his desk for him.  He settled in there for another 5-10 minutes or so.  I was so thrilled to see him bent over his task, concentrating so hard and in his own little world.  Moments like that… they are the best!

    Montessori Resources

    This one is for Jenn @ MrLittleMan.  She’s doing all sorts of cool things with her son’s tot school so check it out!  Awhile ago she inquired about some of our Montessori inspired work.

    Here are my favorite resources.


    • Montessori Primary Guide: great ideas for many basic activities.
    • MontessoriMom: a list of early practical life skills.
    • Montessori for Everyone: a list of essentials for a toddler classroom.
    • NAMC Curriculum: I haven’t purchased anything but if you click on the link under each picture you can see the table of contents for each manual.  That alone is very inspiring.
    • Deb at LivingMontessoriNow is an amazing resource for everything Montessori.  I’ve had a few questions already and she has been a big help to me.

    In Print:

    If anyone has specific information let me know, I have too many resources listed in Evernote to post them all here! 🙂

    Reassessing Tot School: No More Tot Trays

    I’m a nerd.  The displays of pencils and binders at Wal-mart make me giddy.  The abundance of recent back-to-school blog posts has left me starry eyed.  This time of year is more exciting than the actual New Year.  Oh, the possibilities: the things to be learned, the fun to be had!  I am so happy to finally start planning for this next year.  While everyone else has been planning I’ve been busy canning.  I still have loads of food piled in my entryway but I can’t wait any longer to get Kent’s stuff together.

    Kent is only two.  I get that!  I’m not busting out a stack of workbooks for him or anything like that.  However, he’s definitely old enough to get something out of our planned “school” time.  I want to make the most of it.

    We’ll be using a first real curriculum to study the Bible, and we’ll be focusing on practical life and sensory activities using Montessori principles.  I have the big stuff figured out but I am reassessing what we’ll actually do on a day-to-day basis and how we’ll set it all up.

    Looking back on our last year there are some things that Kent really enjoyed and wanted to do again and again:

    • pouring and transferring activities
    • messy art and sensory play
    • water play/scrubbing activities
    • food prep (slicing, chopping, spreading)
    • our obstacle course and other gross motor activities
    • circle/song time
    • small world play
    • bath painting and other bath fun
    • reading, reading, and more reading!
    • playdough
    • learning and using sign language

    There were a fair amount of things that he really wasn’t interested in and would do only once or twice, or not at all:

    • most of our tot trays!
    • stringing/threading
    • sorting
    • matching two printables (versus matching an object to a printable, which he doesn’t mind)
    • clipping
    • piano (he loves music but wasn’t interested in playing on the keyboard)

    I definitely want to incorporate more of the things he loves, but occasionally try some of the other activities again.  I also want to add a calendar/circle time board, and start using our felt and magnet board more often.  I always have good ideas for the felt board but in the rush to get school set up on Sunday night they never get implemented.

    He favorite activities were the things that got taken to the kitchen: either art at the big table, sensory bins and water play done on the floor, or food prep/pouring/transferring activities done at his table.  A lot of times I would plan a one time activity like that but would still feel the need to find an activity for the tray that could stay on the tray and be accessible all week.  For example, we might slice strawberries (practical life) but I would still have a practical life tray out with something like sock sorting.   Slicing strawberries every day would be less work for me, and less to plan, and he would be happier.

    My Tot School planning for the past several months centered largely on the Tot Trays.  I tried to have one tray each for sensory, fine motor, cognitive, practical life, language and literacy, and color review.  I put out new trays almost every week.  Being honest, though, I think the trays are his least favorite part of Tot School.  He might like one or two trays each week but many go unnoticed.

    So, I may take a cue from common Montessori practice yet again and start leaving some of the same trays out for longer and only occasionally introducing new material.  Really, the things he plays with most on a daily basis are his cylinder blocks, his horses toob, and his sea animals toob – and those are out all the time.  Maybe leaving more materials out all the time will spark his interest.  Leaving the same materials out for a few weeks or more will take a lot of the stress off of me, too, and free up more time for playing and having fun.

    I also want to rearrange some of the shelving in our house and start using something else to hold the trays.  The shelf that we have has worked great but the trays go in short side first so it is harder for him to carry heavy ones without spilling.  If he could grab both short sides it would be better.

    We’ll still be doing trays but with all these changes I won’t consider them “tot trays” anymore.  They will be more like real, big kid trays.  Since, you know, Kent is so big now!  whimper

    Sorry if I’m rambling.  This is me brainstorming! 🙂

    A Birthday to Remember

    I turned 27 on the 9th.  Where does time go!?

    IMG_6024We celebrated with a picnic at the park.

    IMG_6022We were approaching another financial milestone and things worked out just right us to hit it on my birthday.

    IMG_6091By the grace of God we transferred the last few dollars and now have a FULLY FUNDED emergency fund!  Hallelujah!!

    We are still a long way from true financial peace (because of the farm) but this is a big step to have completed.  It feels good!

    You can read the rest of our money story here.


    Tot School: What’s Next?

    Our Tot School journey started with lots of lots of research. We kicked off with color themes when he was 12 months old. We had more fun with our St. Patrick’s Day theme than with any other to date. We took a break from colors to welcome Spring and celebrate Easter. We ended our color unit with Gray week. Then we had our most educational week where we learned all about Chicks. After that it was on to shapes!

    Color themes are pretty standard. I was inspired to do shape themes by Kaysha at Memorizing the Moments. After that, though, it seems like most tot schoolers move on to letter of the week themes. I am not interested in introducing the alphabet this year. We spend a lot of time reading with Kent so he does have a lot of exposure to letters. He understands the concept of print. For example, he will point to a road sign in a book and say “slow” because we’ve moved his finger along the letters while pronouncing the word and he remembers. We often started our color and shape weeks with me printing the theme name on his magnadoodle and sounding it out for him. I’ve been introducing him to the ASL alphabet and eventually I’d like to see him sign a letter to indicate which grandparent he is referring to (Grandma _). So why not focus on letters this year?

    Mostly I don’t want us to be bored later. I feel like I would have to repeat letter themes in order for him to fully grasp the concept. We’ll be going over letters and words and phonics for years, why start now!? Also, I want more time to decide exactly how to introduce the letters. Montessori suggests a few different orders depending on who you ask, or of course we could go alphabetically. There is also some debate over introducing lowercase or uppercase first, or both at the same time. Right now I’m in the lowercase first camp but I may change my mind. Plus, if we wait another year Kent will have better fine motor skills and we can work on some letter formation at the same time.

    So, what are we going to do for the next year? We’ll be focusing on two major areas.

    On the Montessori side we will be doing a lot of sensory and practical life work. I have added many things to our kitchen setup this summer and Kent has gained a lot of food prep skills. I’d like to work our way around the house, focusing on one area of the home at a time. We already purchased cylinder blocks for him (oops I need to post about that!). The brown stair and pink tower should come next.

    Our other topic, the one we’ll be basing our themes and the bulk of our work around, is the Bible. I purchased our first real curriculum to help me teach it. Even though Brian and I are both firm in our faith we are still immature when it comes to our knowledge of the Bible and how to apply it in daily life. I don’t feel comfortable teaching it without some guidance from a plan, even at this basic level. The program we’re using emphasizes the very simplest truths about God without any of the in depth and overwhelming details that can confuse even us adults. I’ll share more about it in an upcoming post.

    So, Bible and more Montessori work is where we’re headed. Thank you for following along and encouraging us through out the past year. I didn’t realize how many wonderful things we did until I looked back through the posts tonight. I hope the next year is just as much fun!

    Summer of Shapes: Oval & Rectangle

    Kent was 25 months old.

    Since we fell so far behind I started covering two shapes every week.

    We learned the ASL signs for oval, rectangle, and purple.

    I don’t have many pictures related to our theme. We used our “A Rectangle Can Be…” cards, the Lauri toys rectangle and stacking pegs, and a beginning pattern block puzzle with rectangles and ovals. I added rectangle and oval buttons to his playdough bin. I didn’t get to it but thought of adding a deodorant dispenser top to the bin for pressing oval shapes in to the dough.

    He decorated printouts for our shape display. I couldn’t find shapes with the names printed inside of them so I made my own. That way we can cut them out and still have them labeled. If you want my templates let me know and I’ll e-mail them to you.


    I gave him this sheet from Memorizing the Moments in a page protector so he could erase and redo it.


    The week was mostly filled with random activities of his choice.

    He made a "horse" out of a pretzel.

    He made a “horse” out of a pretzel.

    He played with this toy.  It sits out in our living room all the time.  Lately, he has really been drawn to it.

    He played with this toy. It sits out in our living room all the time. Lately, he has really been drawn to it.

    He practiced making himself a PB&J.

    He practiced making himself a PB&J.

    He made tall towers of blocks!

    He made tall towers of blocks!

    He mastered stickers this week and had fun putting them all on the birthday card they came with.  Prior to this he would get frustrated and stop after one or two stickers.

    He mastered stickers this week and had fun putting them all on the birthday card they came with. Prior to this he would get frustrated and stop after one or two stickers.

    We’ve been visiting the library all along but I guess I’ve been forgetting to photograph our favorites.