Monday, January 23, 2017

Confessions from Toddler School: Penguins!

Man, these past couple of weeks have been rough! First, we had a crazy snowpocalypse that left us snowed in for over a week! And let me tell you, being snowed in with a very active toddler is not for the faint of heart! The snow finally melted just in time for Cohen to start getting his 2 year molars (waaaaaay early) and now he has a cold. I haven't slept more than an hour or 2 each night for a week. I feel like I deserve some sort of award here. 😪💤
Never a dull moment. #parenthood #whereami #canisleepyet

Thank goodness I had so many fun penguin activities planned to keep us entertained! And the snow actually added a lot to the fun!

Here's what we did this week:

You can get my blank thematic planner here!

Feed the Penguin: This was probably one of Cohen's favorites! He pulls it off the shelf several times a day! I made this little penguin out of an old frosting container and some construction paper (and then covered it with packing tape to protect it)! He did have a 3-D nose but someone got hungry. 😂 The fish are part of my Penguin Toddler Unit! I laminated them for durability and bent the tails up so they were easier to pick up!

We started with just red and slowly added in other colors for
color recognition practice.

Alphabet Flip Game: This game was definitely over Cohen's head (especially the taking turns part) but it was still fun. I chose a handful of letters to start. We would take turns flip over all the cards and say the letter names as we went. You can also get these alphabet cards in my Penguin Toddler Unit.

Real Snow Sensory Table: This is where all that snow came in handy! We brought some indoors to use in our sensory table with our penguins! If you aren't as lucky as we were to get real snow, you can use this fake snow.

Bonus: You don't have to wear clothes to play with snow indoors! win-win! 

Painting Igloos: I actually stumbled upon this activity while on IG one day and it fit perfectly with what we were doing! The idea comes from Mrs. Plemons Kindergarten! You take those little fruit cups (that we had in our sensory bin above) and freeze water in them. Then use water colors to paint them while they melt! Mrs. Plemon's is a genius! You should definitely check out her stuff!

Penguin Launch: Cohen gets all the credit for this game! He got a Hot Wheels Launcher for Christmas and found that he could also use it to launch his penguins. We had so much fun with this! You can't see it but I put colored landing pads at the end for some color practice. But you could also do letters, numbers, spell out child's name... The possibilities are endless!

Torn Paper Penguin Art: This is another activity in my Penguin Toddler Unit but you can easily do it without! Just draw a penguin body on a white paper and you're ready to go! My son helped tear the black paper pieces and glue them on. 

We then traced his hands (I can't believe he cooperated with that) and then I added the face. It turned out super cute!

Excuse the black background, someone had serious
 mom brain and didn't think that one through...

Painting Snow: As you can see we ditched the paint brushes and used our hands. And due to being snowed in (and out of food coloring) our color options were limited but it was still fun and it kept him entertained forever!

Penguin Pom Push: This is one of my favorites! I have done this before with different themes/images and Cohen absolutely loves it! It's such a great quiet time activity and is amazing fine motor practice. He's a pro now! 

You can find this penguin image in my Penguin Toddler Unit. It fits any standard shoe box. I didn't have any shoe boxes (looks like I need to go shoe shopping!😍) so I made one out of a cereal box. I will be posting that DIY soon!

Outings this week:

Children's museum - We were able to get out after the snow finally cleared and boy were we ready! The Children's Museum had a penguin snow globe room which fit our theme perfectly! They had little penguin hats, igloos and white loofahs everywhere! He had so much fun. Just look at that smile! 💓

Sledding - We took advantage of the snow and did some sledding! We happen to live on a really steep hill so we went out and practiced our penguin belly sliding! 

📙📘📗 Our favorite books this week 📗📘📙
If you follow this blog or my IG you know that Cohen is obsessed with books! As a teacher, that makes me so happy! Here are some of our favorites from the week:

Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton
Penguin in Love by Salina yoon
My Life in the Wild: Penguin by Meredith Costain

(although reading them 500 times a day can be a bit much) 

So there you have it! Our first OFFICIAL toddler school unit! I'm so excited to be starting this new adventure and I can't wait to see where it takes me! Leave me some comments! I'd love to get some feedback 🙂

Up next week: Cars! 🚗

Friday, January 20, 2017

My 5 W's of Toddler School

People often ask me how I come up with all the fun activities I do with my son and how I find the time to incorporate these activities into our daily schedule. The answer? It kind of happened on accident!

Don't get me wrong, being able to be home with my son has been such an amazing experience that not everyone gets to have and I feel so lucky. But man can it be tedious! I was bored. One can only read the same book or play the same peek-a-boo game so many times before you start to go a little crazy! I found myself fantasizing about being back in the classroom and getting to plan all the fun activities I used to do when I was teaching and then it hit me:

Why not plan these same kinds of activities for Cohen!?

If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed that Cohen has a car in his hand in every. single. photo. He is a tad obsessed. So I started out with a little car unit to follow his interests. I swear, nothing else exists when cars do! 

I immediately jumped on Pinterest and I instantly felt my creative teacher juices flowing! I got so much positive feedback from my other mom friends and from Cohen that I knew I needed to start this new adventure! 

So what are the 5 W's of Toddler School?

Who: Well that's obvious! But you can't have the 5 W's without it :)

What: I see some posts out there about toddler school with the perfect weekly plan complete with coordinated themed snacks every day, the picture perfect toddler in every photo cooperating with every activity (and not trying to eat the playdough or take everything out of the sensory table and putting it on the floor..) and I'm not going to lie it can be very intimidating! 

Let me just tell you, that's not how we roll! Some days are a hot mess. Some days all he wants to do is destroy everything in his path. It happens. So I try to focus on 1-2 small activities a day depending on interest. Our themes sometimes last a few days and sometimes they last a few weeks. But that's parenthood. We just roll with it! It's all about having fun and introducing learning opportunities!

When: Finding time can be the most difficult thing for parents. Between jobs, chores, children's schedules and just needing a minute to shower it can be tricky. But I have found that many of these activities take less that 30 minutes because let's be honest, what toddler can focus for longer than that anyways?

We are down to a single nap each day so I try to incorporate 1 activity in the morning and 1 in the afternoon. And it really does help the days go by! 

As for planning, my husband has Fridays off and I like to use some of this time to plan! I use this time to go to a coffee shop, drink some hot chocolate, stalk Pinterest and have some much needed me time! I actually look forward to this every week and it takes less than an hour! You can get my planner below by clicking on the image!

Where: Most activities take place in our home. I created a little area for all of our themed stuff and it is really easy to rotate out. We have a little DIY sensory table (more info on that below), a book display and we put any art projects on the wall as we go!

Here's a little peek with our penguin stuff!

I have also found a lot of resources out of the house for little field trips! I like to try and get out of the house at least once a day just to keep everyone from going stir crazy. Outings aren't always fun and theme related. Errands have to get run sometime! But a few times a week I like to take Cohen somewhere to run around and I try to coordinate it to the theme!

Below are some of the kinds of places we like to visit in our city! But you can easily google toddler friendly attractions and see what your city has to offer!

Some ideas:
children's museums (we have a science specific one here and it is amazing)
nature walks/parks
children's theaters
local festivals/events
toddler playgrounds (we have a lot of indoor ones here)
car shows (from our car theme)

Why: I mentioned before that boredom was a large motivator for us starting toddler school but another big reason is language development. Cohen has always been very smart and alert and he loves to engage and interact with his surroundings. He developed very early in many ways but he has shown zero interest in talking. I mean, he babbles non stop. Literally, NON STOP. But he will say a word for a week (mastering it and it's use) and then never say it again. I really wanted to do something to encourage him to use his words and hopefully spark his desire to talk! 

Fingers crossed!

How: To start out, Fridays we go to the library to pick out new books for our new theme! We usually grab 6-10 books. I like to try and find ones with a repetitive pattern because Cohen seems to like those the best. Cohen loves the library SO much that it can be difficult to choose books with him there. So I usually try to request books to be put on hold a week ahead of time so that they are ready for me when I get there and I can spend the time with Cohen reading books/playing!

There are 2 things that I couldn't do without:

Book Display: We got our amazing book display on Amazon for $12! The price has since gone up but it is still totally worth it! This bad boy is made from a thick cardboard and has withstood my son being in it! So that's a pretty solid endorsement! 

Sensory Table: Awhile back I stumbled upon this DIY PVC sensory table on Pinterest and knew I just had to make it. You can find that post here! It was so easy to make! And if you ask the people at the hardware store they will cut the PVC down for you so that all you have to do is assemble when you get home! We love our sensory table! It has been so much fun for us!

As you can see we reinforced ours with duct tape for durability (and so my son couldn't take it apart). It was cute watching him take it apart and try to put it back together until he decided to do it one day while it was full of water and now we have warped floors...So duct tape.

And that's all folks!

You now have my beginners guide to start doing toddler school yourself! It really is a lot of fun and I promise it's not as much work as you think it is. If you are still feeling hesitant, I would love to share resources and help out in any way I can! Cohen has loved all the fun activities and I look forward to having a plan everyday. It has gotten us out of our boredom rut! 

Happy Toddler Schooling! 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Embracing Change!


It has been a loooong time since I've blogged, created or even had a minute to myself for that matter! Many of you know that a year and a half ago I had my first child after years of struggling with infertility. It has been really difficult redefining myself in this new role. I wouldn't change it for the world, but it has definitely taken some adjusting! The hardest thing for me was giving up teaching. Yes, I know it's temporary. I know I can always go back. I know my son is only this little once. I know I won't regret being home with him. 

And I don't. Would you just look at that face!?

But it still felt like a big part of me was missing and I struggle with that every single day. Now that he is older and more capable I have found that many of my favorite teacher activities can be tailored to his level. I get to tap into my old teacher/creative self and Cohen gets to play AND learn.

 That's a win-win-win folks! 

I have gotten so many questions/compliments about all the fun activities I do with my son that I realized THAT is what I needed to be creating! SO I'm embracing my new role as stay at home mama and creating toddler friendly resources with these activities! 


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Adjusting to Life as a SAHM

My son is almost 1! I can't even believe it. Just saying that out loud gives me ✨all kinds of feels✨

This year has been quite the roller coaster (and not just adjusting to having a new baby). Between hospital stays, family drama and my husbands business struggling, it has been hard to know which way is up.

Personally I have been having a hard time finding myself in this new mom role. I haven't quite found the balance between my mom self, teacher self, wife self and my self self. It's a work in progress and I get a little closer every day!

One thing that has really emphasized this new identity crisis is the fact that I am a SAHM (at least for this school year). It has been a great experience to be here for my sons first year, but it has also been a struggle not contributing financially to the family. 

I don't know what the future holds as far as work goes. Ideally I would love to teach part time but those jobs are rare. So we will see! 

In the meantime....

Guess what!?

While I'm still figuring this all out I have found a way to contribute financially AND tap in to my teacher/creative side! I've launched an Etsy store for teacher clothing products! My husband already has the shirts, the vinyl and the press! It just made sense. 

And within 2 days I made my first sale!! 

You should check out my store: Teacher Confessions 

So far I have these 4 designs up but more designs to come! Stay tuned 😁👏👍

How do you mamas balance work life/mom life?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

What a Year! {Updates and a Photo Challenge}

I can't believe it has been over a year since my last post! It has been a roller coaster of a year, that's for sure! 


As many of you may know, the last couple of years have been especially difficult for my husband and I. Back in 2013 we were diagnosed with infertility. We went through several rounds of treatment, experienced multiple losses and struggled to stay positive. Last November we found out that we were having our miracle baby! 

After a rough few years, and a difficult pregnancy, this past July I gave birth to the most amazing and beautiful baby boy, Cohen. He was born 7/18 at 7:18pm. How cool is that!? He was definitely worth the wait!

He's now 8 months! (When did that happen!?) He is so silly and has SO much personality. Always laughing and smiling. We are so in love! 💙

In just a few short months this little guy has changed everything I thought I knew about myself and the world! 

I swore up and down that I would never be a stay at home mom. "It's just not me" I would say. I ignored the typical "everything will change once you hold him" and felt so strongly that I knew myself and that would never happen. Boy, was I wrong! I can't imagine being away from him all day long! 

I have been so lucky to have the school year off to be with this little guy and soak up as much of it as I can! Everyone at my school has been so wonderful and supportive. 

That being said, I miss teaching (and myself) SO much!! Being a mom has been an amazing experience but I do feel as though I got lost in all of it. Now that he's more independent I feel like I can start focusing on myself and my wants/needs again!

The 2 big pieces of my life prior to baby were teaching and exercise. I'm trying to get those back!

So in the spirit of reconnecting to the world and getting myself back, I am starting an Instagram photo challenge! It's my first time hosting something like this. I can't wait to see what happens! 😁

Those of you who know me, know I've been TERRIBLE about these in the past but I'm going to try my darnedest this time! 

Just grab the photo below and use the #confessionsphotochallenge! 

P.S. Can anyone tell me if the Google Friend Connect widget is working?!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Currently December AKA Insanity

Yes I have lost my mind. That's totally normal for December right!?

I am taking a break from the hustle and bustle that is December to link up with the hilariously talented Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade for my favorite linky of all time! I don't know what I would do without this linky. It literally brightens up my day!

Listening: I am watching Oregon seek revenge on Arizona! Those of you who know me, know that I am a HUGE football fan. And this game is for all the marbles in all the universes. If, I mean when, we win we move on to the playoffs and then the championship! My husband and I have tickets to both of those games and I am so so so excited! GO DUCKS!

Loving: Every December I whip out the ol' Reindeer Cam for my kiddos. I have it set up so that it's on the screen when they first come in each morning. They absolutely love it! If you haven't checked it out you totally should. It is really cute and the kids get so excited! Santa even pops out every once in awhile to feed the reindeer and say hello!

Thinking: I've lost my mind. I mean, what else is new? I am at the stage of exhaustion where I become delirious and more crazy than usual. For the past hour I have been singing everything I say/do including this entire post. Narrated in song. You're welcome. My poor husband. But he knew what this was when he married me. 

Wanting: Peppermint. Anything and everything. Tis' the season!

Needing: My to do list this weekend is terrifying. Like impossibly terrifying. On top of readying our house for my mother in law to move in, I also have a million errands to run, a hair appt, I have to bake 8 dozen cookies for my mom's annual cookie bake, finish report cards, create sub plans for next week while I'm out for a math training, etc. etc. etc. A clone would seriously help right now.

Giving: I wanted to take a moment to give a shout out to all of the amazing teachers I have met throughout this blogging experience. I have made some great online friends who I feel like I have known my entire life. You all inspire me so much and I am so grateful to be a part of this amazing community. 

I especially want to give a shout out to a really good friend that I have made in the teaching community. Her name is Allison and you should totally follow her on Instagram (allison_dean). This beautiful lady has been such a huge support system for me while I have been undergoing infertility treatment and I don't know what I would do without her! 

Well, I should probably go to sleep before I get any crazier! But go link up your December currently. 
"Better late than never, but never late is better" or at least that's what Drake told me. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Increasing Students Blending Fluency: Slinky Style!

Is it winter break yet!? 

Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but I am just feeling so scattered impatient blah. It has been a whirlwind lately with home and work and I feel like I'm just barely treading water in both areas. I just need to recharge.

This eCard about sums it up.

This year the reading scores in my classroom are very drastically polarized. I have kids already way above a 1st grade level at a DRA 24+ and then kids way below 1st grade reading level at a DRA level 1. No one in the middle. As you can imagine this makes differentiation difficult at times. 

I have been really struggling with my low reading group. I meet with them every day for about 20 minutes and we work on blending, blending and more blending. We've played games, we've done worksheets, we've done name it, I've probably tried it. It's just not clicking. 

A lot of my kids are doing the "/k/ /a/ /t/. Top." I'm sure you're familiar with this. They're not even close and it is so frustrating! The sounds are all there, but they are unable to successful put them together.  

So I decided to get a little creative. I went to the store (and by store I mean Amazon...) and bought some slinkies! My thought process was that they would be able to visualize the stretching out of the sounds better with a visual/tangible tool.

I downloaded these *FREE* large letter cards from Rulin' the Roost and gave it a go!

Oh. My. Gosh. I literally saw the light bulb go on for some of my students, both metaphorically and literally. They physically lit up once they realized they were finally getting it after struggling for so long! I was SO proud (minus that Seahawks jersey....).

This may be the best purchase I've ever made for my classroom. 

But now I have a question for you: 
How do you structure your guided reading? I really want to revamp my guided reading instruction over the break so I would love any and all insights!