Intro to Tot School: Themes & Schedule

Monday, June 25, 2018
The idea of Tot School derived from Mrs. Plemons' Kindergarten and her AMAZING tot school curriculum! Jessica has designed the best and most creative curriculum for toddlers, preschoolers and now, infants with her baby bins!

To get started with Tot School, there are some tips and tricks you can do now to prepare your curriculum, material storage, organization and planning ways to be creative and flexible when plans don't go as "planned."

Stages of Tot School
  1.  Baby Bins: Infant - Toddler (12 mon-2 yrs)
  2.  Tot School: Toddler - Preschooler (2-3 yrs)
  3.  Preschool: 3 yrs+
The stage you choose for your child should be based not only on his/her chronological age, but also their developmental age. If they are able to perform certain tasks without getting frustrated or discouraged, then they are ready for that stage. Remember, tot school is supposed to be FUN! πŸŽ‰

Tot School Concepts
The areas that are covered in Tot School are the following:

  1. Sensory Development
  2. Print Concepts/Literacy
  3. Math
  4. Science/Discovery
  5. Fine Motor Skills
  6. Gross Motor Skills
  7. Nutrition and more
We learn through play and do lots of fun activities indoors and outdoors. When we began our Tot School, Aria was about 14 months old and we started working with the Baby Bins focusing on one color a week. We are still working on the Baby Bins given that she is now 20 months old and in August/September, we will begin the Tot School stage! I am so excited to see all the new themes she will be learning about and exploring while having fun! 😍

Here is a calendar of the themes we hope to learn about this upcoming year of Tot School:
Click on the picture to grab your copy of this year's themes! 
There is a scope and sequence with the themes because as your child grows, the content and curriculum become more challenging and engaging. 

Our Schedule
So, we all know that life throws us curve balls and sometimes we are unable to accomplish what we would like. With that said, you can use your daily routines to drive your schedule. Below is an example of our weekly schedule. 
*PLEASE NOTE: We do travel throughout the year quite often and there may be weeks where we take our schooling on the road and others where we will just take a break and enjoy life!*
As previously stated, we may or may not follow this schedule everyday but Aria does really well with a schedule and routines. Therefore, we try to stick to it, or the time frames (more or less) each week. I teach VIPKID in the mornings anytime from 6:30 or 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM. Aria usually wakes up around 8:30 or 9:00 AM (I know, I'm so blessed! πŸ’•) and my husband will get her or she will simply wait in her crib quietly until I go pick her up. Our morning routines consist of waking up, diaper change, cuddling, watching morning cartoons or reading a book, eating breakfast and drinking milk. 

Then, we'll begin our Tot School in the morning because she has her energy but is not tired as opposed to if I were to teach her in the afternoons. After our homeschooling sessions, we have lunch and she takes her nap. During her nap time, I will blog, plan/film/edit my YouTube videos for VIPKID or my SAHM adventures, and continue writing new content for you guys! πŸ€—

When she wakes up, we usually go for a walk or play in our yard and have snack time. Then, I cook dinner while my hubby watches her and/or plays with her. We'll have dinner and family time together, take a shower and start our nighttime routines. I will write a blog post about our nighttime routines and how I sleep trained my daughter at 7 weeks, soon! When 7:30 PM comes around, it's bedtime and I kiss my little sweetie goodnight and off to sleep she goes!

Theme Lesson Plans
Want to see a sneak peek of one of our Theme Lesson Plans? Click on the picture to grab your copy! 
Each theme will have the components you see here: Books, Sensory Bins, Fine Motor, Gross Motor and Food/Snacks. It will be organized by day of the week and you can get creative with the materials and content and make it your own!

Check out my post on Tot School Organization for more inspo and ideas on how to get your bins, materials, supplies and lesson plans organized and ready to go!
Most of my supplies were from my previous years in the classroom and some were purchased on Amazon, Walmart or Target. You'll see in future posts where each item is from and where you can get the best deals on each item! I am a minimalistic person so I like to have only what I need and repurpose many materials so that they can be used more than once and in many different ways.

A Word of Advice
If there is anything I've learned from teaching, being a mom and business owner, it's that you have to learn to be FLEXIBLE! Things will happen, plans will fail, children may not react as you expected... you get the message. Get creative and make it exciting but don't overdo yourself to meet a certain type of expectation. Simply BE YOURSELF, do the best you can and HAVE FUN! The most amazing feeling is seeing the world through your child's eyes and seeing the magic in their eyes as they light up when they've learned something new or really enjoyed something that day. With that said, my friends, enjoy teaching and learning from your children because we all know, we learn more from them that they do from us! πŸ˜‰

Stay tuned for more of our Tot School adventures!


Great Outdoors Classroom Theme Ideas!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Ask, and you shall receive!! πŸŽ‰
For all you camping lovers out there, here is some great inspiration and a list of ideas for your Great Outdoors classroom theme! πŸ• Other amazing themes that are related to the Great Outdoors are Camping, Woodlands, Forest, and s'more!

Bulletin Board Headings
  • S'more Great Work!
  • Ready for S'more Learning
  • Camping Out in ___ (Grade)
  • The S'more You Read, The S'more You Learn!
  • Getting Nutty With Books
  • Jugando en el bosque
  • Vamos a acampar con libros
  • LeΓ©mos en el campamento
  • El campamento de ____ (Grado/Nivel)
  • Aprendemos en el bosque

Center Names

  • Reading Trail
  • Woodsy Books
  • Math Hike
  • Computer Camp
  • Bosque de EspaΓ±ol
  • Woodsy Words (Word Wall)

The decor can vary so much but the main components of this theme can include trees, mushrooms, camping tent, woodland animals, campfire, bugs, plants, logs and s'mores. You can also add number accents, headings and bulletin board borders that have any of these images next to them or as a background.

Color Scheme
Your color scheme can be anything you like but the main colors for this theme are brown, green, red, blue, yellow, orange and other earthy tones. If you teach the primary grades like I did, you could also incorporate the primary or pastel colors into your decorations to make it more inviting and welcoming for your students. 

Class Signs and Miscellaneous
  • S'more Manipulatives
  • Camp Out With Us!
  • Woodsy Projects
  • Reading/Learning at the Campfire
  • Table numbers can be mushrooms, logs, bugs, other animal cutouts, trees, campfires or waterfalls.
Here are some great pics from other teachers that have these themes in their classrooms!
Source: Anonymous
Source: Anonymous
Pinterest your heart out and have fun finding more inspo on your upcoming classroom theme!
Drop a comment below on what themes you would like for me to feature next! πŸ™Œ


Tot School: Red/Rojo 🍎

Monday, June 18, 2018
*Here you'll find affiliate links for your convenience. πŸ€—

We had so much fun learning through play our first week of Tot School! πŸŽ‰
We explored the color red, searched for red objects on our outdoor walks, played with red tomatoes and apples, and so much more. I mostly speak to Aria in Spanish so we learned "rojo" first and after a while, I began introducing the word "red" to her and she was able to recognize some objects when I said it in English or Spanish.

πŸ”…Read our themed books:
Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney and Box of Colors "Red" Book by Pantone
πŸ”…Ate red fruits and veggies
πŸ”…Played with our red sensory bin:
Red Mega Bloks, balls, slotted spoons, food items and other red toys from around the house
πŸ”…Pointed to all the red objects on our walks
πŸ”…Paint-in-a-bag red apple
 .  .   
πŸ”…Sensory development
πŸ”…Print concepts with books
πŸ”…Color, number and shape recognition
πŸ”…Fine motor development

Aria really enjoyed this week's activities! What theme did you do with your tot this week? Share or drop any question you may have below. Coming next... Orange/Anaranjado🍊


2018 Best Classroom Themes & *Special Announcement*

Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Welcome to this edition of "Classroom Themes!" πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰ In researching the latest trends in classroom themes and new ideas for the upcoming school year, I've split the themes into 2 categories:

  • Classic
  • Trendy
There are 3 themes in each category. Feel free to explore and comment below what theme you'll be using in your classroom next school year! 😍

Classic Themes
Great Outdoors
Also known as Camping, Woodlands, or Forest theme. Many teachers are opting for the cool theme with decorations including woodland animals, camping tents and s'more!
Ah, the beautiful display of color EVERYWHERE! Who doesn't love a bright neon, pastel or simply colorful classroom? It's incredibly visually appealing and the kiddos feel so welcome and invited in a fun class.
Under the Sea
Different variations of this theme could be Nautical, Ocean, Beach, Sailing, or Sea Animals. You can really get creative with this theme, so cruise on over to Pinterest for more inspo!

Trendy Themes

The highlights of this theme are chic pineapples, fun flamingos, tropical palm trees and gold accents. You may even opt to do a luau-themed classroom and add in some Hawaiian flair!
Hot Air Balloons/Travel
Soar into a class with hot air balloons or air planes on bulletin boards and centers around you. This theme is so versatile and can be changed to a travel theme by incorporating luggages, passports and different forms of transportation, too!
One of the trendiest this year is the watercolor theme. It's great because it can be combined with any theme you choose such as any of the ones listed above. They make signs pop out, add a colorful touch to the class and are relatively easy to make if you're a DIY super teacher! πŸ’₯
Now for the *Special Announcement*...
In the next post, I will be featuring ONE of these amazing classroom themes with ideas on:
  • Bulletin Board headings
  • Center names
  • Decor
  • Color Scheme
  • Class signs and more!
Stay tuned for this awesome reveal and make sure you participate by taking the poll on my IG stories this week @vipkidchanty! πŸ˜‰πŸ‘


Intro to Tot School: Set-Up & Organization

Monday, June 11, 2018
Ever since I can remember, I've loved teaching... but, I also wanted to be a mom. I am so incredibly blessed to say I am now both. πŸ’•

In this ever-changing journey of motherhood, I have learned many things. One of my favorite philosophers, motivational speakers and authors once said, "treat children as though they have already achieved their own greatness. Do it enough, and they will actually be all that they dreamed of becoming." -Dr. Wayne Dyer

One day while I was thinking of ways to make our time at home more exciting and still be able to teach Aria, I decided I would begin Tot School with my daughter. It's a way to keep us both active, learn through interrelated curriculum content areas, and have fun!

The idea stemmed from Mrs. Plemons' Kindergarten and her AMAZING tot school curriculum! Jessica has designed the best and most creative curriculum for toddlers, preschoolers and now, infants with her baby bins!
Basically, the content that is covered in Tot School is the following:
  • Sensory Development
  • Print Concepts/Literacy
  • Math
  • Science/Discovery
  • Fine Motor Skills
  • Gross Motor Skills
  • Nutrition and more
We learn through play and do lots of fun activities indoors and outdoors. When we began our Tot School, Aria was about 14 months old and we started working with the Baby Bins focusing on one color a week. I will be sharing more about these bins in upcoming posts. I just wanted to share with you how I organize all of our materials and how to get started with Tot School. 

As you can see in the picture above, I separated each unit by bin and store all of our unit books, materials and unit-specific props in each bin. In the bottom of our bookcase, I have bins labeled "Tot School Supplies" which is where I store all of the extra-curricular materials that can be used to supplement any unit: play dough, card stock, construction paper, cotton, washable paint, tongs, pom poms, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, etc.

To get started, you simply need to determine which stage your child would begin learning in: Baby Bins, Tot School or Preschool. Then, you gather your materials, storage system, plan a schedule, use/enhance the curriculum and have fun with your child/student! Jessica has more information in her blog about Getting Started with Tot School. Given that I taught the primary grades and my specialty is early childhood education, I have gathered some of the ideas and inspiration from Jessica's Tot School and made it my own. 😊

Stay tuned for more of our Tot School adventures!


Video & Post Schedule

Saturday, June 9, 2018
Just wanted to take a moment to thank you ALL for your continuous support and encouragement. It means the world to me and I am so excited to be on this learning journey with you guys and share my experiences with you! πŸ’–

Here is my tentative video and blog post schedule... it is "tentative" because life may have other plans for me on some weeks. With that said, I may or may not post on some days but I will do my best to post all things 

  • Mommyhood on Mondays
  • Teaching on Wednesdays
  • VIPKID on Fridays

Feel free to subscribe with your email (See "FOLLOW" πŸ‘‰) so you are notified every time I write a new post or upload a new video on YouTube. Don't worry, I won't spam you... I promise. πŸ˜‰

Stay tuned as I make special announcements from time to time! :)


Classroom Organization

Thursday, June 7, 2018
If you follow me on IG, then you already know this topic was requested by so many teachers. It's no surprise that we all need a little motivation around the summer time to feel geared up and ready to take on the new school year in August!

In my previous schools, I had quite the reputation of being the "organized" and "simple" teacher who had everything she needed but maintained the classroom in somewhat of a fun yet neat environment all day long & all year long. Of course, when the super fun activities come around every so often, the class can get a bit messy but I always taught my students that an "organized space" was a "happy space." πŸ˜‰
Teacher Binder
Every teacher has a binder, planner, clipboard, or other way of keeping track of all of the important events in school, field trips memos, lesson plans, etc. I had my Teacher Binder organized by topic as seen above in the 1st and 2nd picture:
  • Lesson Plans
  • Pacing Guides
  • CCSS/NGSSS (Common Core State Standards & Next Generation Science Standards)
  • ELL Strategies
  • Miscellaneous Information
The teachers in my school were asked to maintain all of these components visible at your desk for observation and lesson planning purposes. Given that you have to refer to the standards for various content areas, it is very helpful to have them already in your binder when you're planning. Additionally, in the "Misc. Info" section, I kept a copy of the school calendar, parent permission slips, media release forms, allergy information, and other important things to note throughout the school year. 

Teacher Portfolio/Inspo
So, this is one of my favorite organization tips for the classroom. We, as teachers, can spend so much time and effort on our students, classrooms, with the parents and administration and we often need a reminder as to why we are in the class in the first place. One of my amazing mentors suggested to me (before my career began) that I maintain an *INSPIRATION* binder. I would later refer to it during the school year to see all the beautiful comments my students and parents had made to me, worthy quotes, drawings of the kiddos and I, and class photos we had taken on special occasions or just because. This really motivated me and kept me going all year long with my amazing students! πŸ’

Table Caddies
These table caddies are EVERYTHING!! I've used them to store all classroom supplies in my small group table, independent center tables, art area, library (library cards or bookmarks), and student group desks, as well (link attached to picture - Amazon). They are very durable, come in all bright primary/secondary colors, and can fit so many materials neatly while being accessible to all students simultaneously.

Student Desks
Question of the day: How many different ways can you display student desks?
Answer: SOOO MANY!
While an excellent layout of student desks can be visually appealing, it also makes the room look neat and organized and it can provide an ease of traffic flow throughout the various parts of the classroom. In my former school, I taught departmentalized classes which means I taught 3 content areas to 2 groups each day and the students would switch classes with my partner at midday. Given that I had 2 groups of students coming in and out of my class each day, I had to figure out a way to store their textbooks so that they would not get mixed up with another student's, stay clean and in good condition AND have them readily available and accessible to my kiddos each day.

Therefore, I decided to teach my students to place their textbooks, workbooks and journals in the following manner inside their desks:
  • AM class: on the left
  • PM class: on the right
My students LOVED this system and were so responsible with their belongings because they now had a sense of pride and ownership for their materials. 😍

I will be writing a more in-depth blog post about creating the ideal and *PERFECT* classroom library soon but I wanted to give you an idea on how to keep it organized throughout the entire year. I implemented these rules each year with my students (that's right... WITH them because some of these were their ideas, too πŸ˜‰).
  1. Place shoes on the bin next to the carpet
  2. Be gentle and kind with our books and bins
  3. Return pillows to the corner when you finish using them
Among other rules we had in place, these were the main ones that caught their attention as well as all of our visitors (we had observation windows and in-class visits frequently). Our guests really enjoyed seeing the children read quietly, share books and laugh all the while the library was very neat and well kept.

Small Group/DI Centers
This is one of the storage caddies I utilized in my kidney table to store my DI center/small group materials (link attached to picture - Amazon). In the drawers, I stored writing utensils, paper, art materials, leveled reader books, whiteboards, and more. My DI center never seemed too crowded with extra supplies or messy because I also had a bin that stored the students' work after it was completed as well as file folder games and manipulatives.

Filing Cabinet (AKA "The Unknown")
How many of us have a different name for the infamous "Filing Cabinet?" 🀣We sure do love it, though.. when it's clean! I recommend getting some small storage bins from a dollar store and grouping objects in these bins in any order you'd like. It is by far the simplest method to tackle this monster! I usually place the curriculum guides any other heavy boxes in the lower shelves so I can simply drag them out without busting an eye or hitting my knee hurting myself.

Teacher's Desk
On my teacher's desk, I had a paper sorter (you can use any kind) that had laminated file folders with the days of the week covers. I would sort any books, flashcards, worksheets or sub plans in these folders the Friday before each new week began so that I was ready to begin my Monday mornings without rushing. I also had an additional paper sorter that contained the following stacks:
  • Grade
  • File
  • Copy
  • Later
These were very helpful because I knew exactly where everything needed to go, it helped me prioritize tasks (Teacher Ninja here πŸ’₯) and there were never any messes or stacks of paper laying on my desk. Remember, an "organized space" is a "happy space." πŸ˜‰

Feel free to share your class organization tips below or drop any questions you may have!


Real Mom Life

Monday, June 4, 2018
Parenting... let's get REAL.

I've been noticing for a while now how everyone is so judgmental these days. I'm sure things were the same in the past, but in the 21st century, we're still being so petty with the same s***?

Here's what really gets to me. Why are some people who are not parents always saying things like:

"When I have a child, they're not going to be on tablets and phones all day.
My children are going to go outside and be normal.
My kids are not going to be antisocial.
My kids better behave when they're in public.
I'll just give them the 'look' and they'll know better.
I'm never going to give my kid a pacifier because it'll mess up their teeth.
I'm not going to drink in front of my kids because it'll set a bad example for them.
I'll never breastfeed in public because who wants to see that?
My kid is not going to watch TV all day.
I'm going to watch them ALL the time and never leave them without supervision."

You get the memo. The list can literally go on and on, and on, and on... Don't get me wrong, not everyone says these things. Obviously, we all have family and friends that are extremely supportive and for that, THANK YOU! We love you!! 😘

Personally, I am so tired of hearing other people talk about having kids like they have any clue what it's really like when your toddler throws a tantrum because they're hungry or tired in public. They don't know the stress we have on our bodies, mentally and emotionally, to have to breastfeed even though it hurts (but it's what's "best" for our children) and you have to feed them wherever you are because who is going to stay at home ALL DAY because you can't feed them in public?

Listen, at the end of the day, FED is BEST. I'm sorry but I don't care HOW you feed your children. You should be so incredibly proud of yourself for getting up every day and being able to care for a newborn/infant as best as you possibly can!

If parents have their kids on iPads or phones, it's probably for a reason or to help YOU enjoy your time in public and not ruin it for others (they're actually considering you're feelings!). Of course, anything in excess is not healthy so we know there are parents out there who simply put them on these devices to keep them busy but just think about what their day might have been like for one moment.

If your child is antisocial, they may have an underlying disorder that can be treated with help. If a parent gives a child a pacifier, it's probably just to soothe them. Again, don't jump to conclusions with their teeth (you're not paying their dental bills). If a mom wants to have a drink, she'll probably pump & dump if she's breastfeeding or if she just needs a drink, let her drink, people! Let the mama do what she wants! 🍹

SO PLEASE, if you don't have children, don't spend your time bashing moms or other parents simply because you don't agree with their parenting (at the moment). Let's try to support one another and be the friend they just might need. You never know what others are going through and like my momma always says, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." ✌πŸ’œ

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