We’ve been experimenting with dual Montessori trays for our 4.5 year old and our 20 month old. I set them up the night before, and I try to use Montessori trays 2-3 times a week as a start to our morning.

Eric (20 months) is doing very well with the trays, proving that starting the trays at a younger age than we did with Katie is definitely a good idea for him. He is excited when he sees the trays set up, and so far, he has risen to the level of dexterity required for each task.

In this dual tray set-up, Eric started with the “matching-lids-to-jars” tray and Katie worked on a  water transfer with two glass milk bottles, water, and a baster. Eric LOVED his first tray, and he put the lids on and off several times. We took the natural opportunity to work on the words “off” and “on” and we also arranged the lids by size and worked on our comparative words.

After a time, the kiddos switched trays. It has worked out so far that I start Eric on the easier tray first and Katie on the more challenging tray. I believe that Eric benefits from watching his sister work on the more challenging tray, before he has his turn.

Today’s trays included a station to make bubbles with dish soap, water, and a whisk. This tray required water pouring skills, also, as well as pumping skills. The second tray made use of an old parmesan cheese container and q-tips. The object was to insert the q-tips through the little holes in the top.

Eric understood what to do right away.

Katie whisks her bubbles.

Working in parallel

Switch!

This morning we also officially started our “Monsters and Imagination” unit.

After the Montessori trays, the kiddos had breakfast while I introduced them to our guiding questions (yes, I will always be a high school English teacher at heart) for our unit: 1) What is good about having an imagination? What is not so good?; 2) What is the difference between having fun and making mischief? 3) How do you know the difference between real and make-believe? I got the idea for the last two from some wording I ran into online, but I cannot remember the source…Our main text for this unit is Where the Wild Things Are, and we’re also focusing on The Monster at the End of this Book (thanks Tom and Delynn for guiding me toward this one!), There’s a Nightmare in my Closet and Berenstain Bears in the Dark. We’ll use some other sources as well, as well as clips from Sesame Street (new and old) and Monsters, Inc. and Nightmare Before Christmas.

Then we filled in our two-sided chart with ideas for 1) Things monsters do… (verbs) and 2) Words to describe monsters… (adjectives)

Then we had a great discussion! We brainstormed as many “famous” monsters and kinds of monsters (zombies, swamp, etc) we could think of. About the time that Katie brought up Voldemort as a kind of monster (we read all of Harry Potter together last year), we started probing more deeply about what makes a monster a monster. Are they human? We wondered. Or are monsters always slightly removed in some way from being human? (Dead, a wizard who has split apart his soul, made from slugs and bugs, even an alien–Katie brought up Jabba the Hut). I also asked her about “good” monsters (she named all the Sesame Street monsters that came to mind) and also Sully and Mike, as well as the monster from There’s a Nightmare in my Closet. This last one led to my question, “How does the author let us know that that monster is actually good?” (He cries). We talked about how crying is a distinctive human feature, where our tear ducts are, and all the reasons why we might cry, most importantly, out of empathy. “Do  bad monsters feel empathy?” The discussion got thoughtful and deep fairly quickly.

While I cleaned up breakfast, Eric colored the letter “E” and Katie did three pages of work involving the counting of pennies and nickels.

Then we blew the train whistle for circle time, went into the living room, and sat by our new calendar system. We LOVE IT. Such structure, such a visual. It is already improving our homeschool experience and our understanding of the way time passes. We started our “Thought of the Week” yesterday and today we worked more on memorizing it. Our “Question of the Day” focused on money: how do we get it? what do we use it for?” Good discussion there, too. Both kiddos helped to change our weather card and moon phase (waxing crescent) card today.

Then we sang some monster songs that I found online. Their favorite was to the tune of “Johnny Comes Marching Home”: “The monsters stomp around the house/Boom, boom! Boom, boom!” etc. We started making up our own verses, including a chase and tickle verse that got the kiddos (and me) moving all over the downstairs. Fun time!

We also played “The Monster Mash” (a favorite from October this year) and read some books.

That was it for our morning session, because we had an errand to do. After lunch and nap and a bathroom clean, Katie and I had our second session. We used this quiet time to work exclusively on reading. A little everyday (or most everyday) has really been helping. I was also able to make dinner off and on while I set her small word family exercises in between reading practice.

A great day of homeschool!

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