I am starting this series here, because it’s where I started – not necessarily because I think it’s the best place to start.
It was through seeing posts on social media about tot-packs and preschool packs that I realized I wanted to start teaching Ezra things at home. I looked at the posts of others and said, “I could totally do that!”
Basically, a “tot-pack” (otherwise known as a “tot-book” or a “preschool pack”) is a themed preschool unit study on a certain topic that teaches the basics of letters, numbers, counting, colors, and shapes. The creators take the basic concepts and then use a common theme that preschoolers might enjoy to teach the content.
Some of the creators have their tot-packs arranged in a curriculum of weeks, such as Confessions of a Homeschooler’s “Letter of the Week” curriculum. Each week centers around a theme that begins with the letter of the week, such as A is for apple, B is for butterfly, and so on. Activities within the tot-pack might include coloring sheets, dot pages, number flash cards, shapes flash cards, pattern activities, prewriting activities, matching games, and more. They are very extensive with lot of options.
The sites listed above are the three main places that I have gotten tot-packs for Ezra. They are free to download and use as long as you don’t sell or distribute the content in anyway. I have also used the sites Teachers Pay Teachers and Teachers Notebook.
You can see Ezra and I using some of these materials in action in the following posts (some of these are just one photo within my Beauty in the Mess posts, so you might have to scroll down to find it):
Now, here’s the good and the bad about preschool packs:
1) I never followed one set curriculum and even within each pack I would pick and choose what to use and what not to use. I loved the flexibility to create my own curriculum without having to come up with the activities myself. Some activities Ezra just didn’t care for so we stuck with what he did. I also would often pick and chose from multiple sites that had packs on the same theme and put them into one unit of my own compilation, such as this one being a transportation unit:
2) These take a LOT of work. They are cute and free and oh just download and print! – but in reality I put HOURS into providing these materials for my son. By the time I browsed and got distracted by ALL. THE. TOTPACKS. and then downloaded ALL. THE. TOTPACKS. and then pulled each one up to decide what parts I wanted to print and then printed them all, then laminated them (which is not necessary but highly recommended if you want these to last a decent amount of time), then cut them all out, then organized them in some sensible fashion, I would be exhausted. And usually I spread out the process of printing two or three units over the course of a few afternoons so I would be prepared for the next 4-6 weeks. I can’t imagine doing a unit a week.
3) Contrary to what you see on popular blogs, your child might not actually enjoy doing all of the activities. I have been overwhelmed by frustration on more than one occasion when Ezra simply wouldn’t cooperate with these fabulous activities that I had poured hours of work into. Home education (especially for preschoolers) is a lot of trial and error. So when that trial and error involves a lot of work and material that goes unused or ends in a tantrum, it can be very disheartening for a mom.
4) “Free” is slightly misleading. When I was focusing a lot of time on printing tot-packs, I was going through a printer cartridge every 2 months, sometimes even more frequently than that. Ink, laminating supplies, card stock, storage materials – it adds up. I chose to look at it as an investment, because I hope to use these not just with Ezra but with any other children we have in the future. But as money was tight, making this work for me was easier said than done.
I think that preschool tot-packs are a fabulous resource and something that homeschool / preschool moms can really benefit from using. But for me, ultimately my need for time, money, and not being a frustrated mother outweighed my desire to use cute printables to educate my child. I found better, easier-for-me ways to accomplish the same objectives (which is what I’ll be sharing in the rest of the series). I still have files on my computer full of things I would love to print in the future, but I’m okay with them sitting there for a while and simply using the things I’ve already invested a lot of time into.
I hope that you have found this post to be helpful. Feel free to share other tot-pack resources in the comments.