With our travels and the need to settle back into a routine, we’ve taken our lessons a bit easy this week. I have needed time, too, to gear up for our next major unit: China and the Chinese New Year. I am super super super duper excited about this unit—the only issue for me is reigning it in!—and all the interdisciplinary directions we will explore. I am not sure I’ve been this pumped up about a unit since our Apple a Day unit earlier this year!

We’ll be starting our China unit this week, but in the meantime, here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to:

On the heels of some serious ocean time in Hawaii, Katie asked, “How do we get salt?” So we set up a simple salt solution lab earlier this week. We talked about what it means to make a “solution” and about key terms such as “evaporation.” She came downstairs to one of her trays one morning, and she made a salt solution as well as made some notes about it in her science notebook.

What surprised me was how adamant Eric was about wanting to join in. He let his desires be known, and he’s a fairly mellow guy otherwise. Vocal, he also climbed up by himself into the chair and started reaching for the materials. I decided to give him his own glass and the same instructions I gave to Katie (I do not believe in “babying things down” when it comes to teaching my kiddos). I told him, “Fill your glass up halfway with water.” He took the water jar and filled it up halfway and set down the water, all as he had just watched his sister do—probably a coincidence, but I’m going with it. I mean, he is Bill’s child, so it’s possible. 😉 Then Eric poured in his own salt, and stirred it himself. Okay. Like I said, I’m going with it—and I am planning to include him in all of our China activities. Yes, Katie will get some reading supplements and probably a bit more discussion of the history, but I am making duplicates of everything else.

We set the glasses on the counter, and we’ve been watching them all week.

It turns out that the salt solution/evaporation lab will coincide perfectly with our China unit. The Chinese were among the first known peoples to harvest salt from a salt lake, Lake Yuncheng. We’ll be talking about that more as the unit progresses.

We also tried a new birdfeeder-making method. After enjoying all the tropical birds, we wanted to reconnect to our local bird friends and invite them back into our yard. We adore birdwatching during breakfast—one of the hobbies the kiddos truly share.

We found this recipe/craft on Design Dazzle. Oh, Pinterest, you never-ending wealth of craft links! Basically, you mix dissolved Knox gelatine with birdseed and press the concoction into cookie cutters with a loop of twine and let them dry overnight. Pop them out the next day, and hang up in your trees. Super easy.

Our ornaments, drying…

Ready to hang up our new treats for our birds

One of our birdseed hearts

Finally, we made progress on making our kitchen more kiddo friendly. Taking a tip from numerous Montessori sites, we cleaned out a bottom cabinet (this had the domino effect of cleaning and out and having to rearrange several cabinets). We stocked it with placemats, kid-friendly cutlery, a basket of napkins, cups, bowls, plates, and spoons (later, we’ll add knives and forks—Katie can reach those in our drawer anyway). The kiddos now have a refrigerated shelf, a pantry shelf, and this cabinet which they can access. Although they still need to ask permission to have a snack, they are given the freedom to prepare it themselves.

Part of the Montessori method is to teach self-reliance and independence and to equip the children with confidence through building practical skills.  We have altered the cabinet lock so that the kiddos can open the door easily. Katie prepared her first on-her-own snack yesterday and was quite proud of herself. I believe strongly that the layout and structure of a home should communicate to children that learning and skill-building are the chief priorities of that home. The kid-friendly kitchen is something I have been meaning to do since school started this year, and I am relieved and thankful that it is done. I cannot wait to see how this new modification unfolds.

I am so excited to begin our China unit this week!!