I stumble upon the "Tot School" concept when I was looking for some structure for my eldest child (who was just over two at the time). He was pretty much non-verbal to about 20-22 months of age. He loved reading books with Mom and Baby Einstein videos. When he started talking, I found that he he could count and identify numbers 1-10, identify color, shapes,animals, musical instruments and almost had his ABC's down pat. I wanted to encourage him in his learning, but absolutely did not want any kind of "curriculum" because of his age. That's when I found Tot School at 1+1+1=1.
The woman who started this concept, introduced child-led learning through play and had all sorts of ideas. It also introduced me to the idea of hands-on learning/play that helps children develop their fine motor skills; which in turn will help with their writing later (not to mention household chores!). This was an aspect of early education that I really did not know a lot about.
Tot School is not only for my children but for myself and our relationship together. It has helped provide some structure to our day. Instead of the kids watching TV or playing with their toys by themselves, it keeps me accountable to interact directly with them during play. That is essentially the most important thing about tot school.
If you are thinking about trying a "tot school" format in your house, please check out 1+1+1=1, it has all sorts of ideas and lots of other moms link up with their ideas. You can also check out this page about how to begin or this faq page.
Things we do during Tot School:
Play with certain types of toys: (these are the type of toys that if left in the living room unattended get dumped on the floor and scattered everywhere). We have pattern blocks, shape sorters, puzzles, duplo blocks, stackers, etc. These toys really benefit from you "playing" alongside a child instead of the child playing with them alone.
Do fine motor skill activities: These are Montessori type activities that you can do with your child from household "equipment". Involves pouring, transferring, clipping, stacking, measuring, sorting. This is where the resource of other moms on the 1+1+1=1 can give you lots of ideas. These can be fun for kids to do and help them develop their muscles not to mention introducing color,shapes, numbers and letters.
Work on Printables- these are sheets that introduce children to colors, letters, shapes,numbers etc. Involves coloring, tracing, doing matching & sorting games, lacing,etc. There are e a lot of of good free resources out there for these (usually arranged around a theme) My favorites: Tot Printables from 1+1+1=1, Letter of the Week from Confessions of a Homeschooler, Unit Printables from 2 Teaching Mommies, and Preschool Pacs from Homeschool Creations. (Tot Printables are made for children around 2, the others are for a bit older, though all have activities you can use for younger ones).
Arts and Crafts: We do coloring with crayons, markers, chalk, etc. Painting (finger and w/brushes), cutting (well trying) and pasting.
Reading: We read all day long, but during tot school, we read books that go with our theme for the week. These are also usually library books. So I having them were the kids can't get at them unsupervised is great.
Music: We also listen to music all day. During tot school we have a specific music theme and do activities while listening: conducting, playing instruments, dancing, clapping etc.
The important thing to remember about Tot School- is that it is meant to be fun and engaging for the child, build interactions b/w the child and parent and lastly expose them to skills and facts. No drilling or forcing or trying to "complete" something (although I sometimes "complete" their craft afterwards when they're not around -guilty secret is out).