What are your best tips for homeschooling in December? What Christmas resources have helped you most both as a homeschooler and as a Christian family? What is your favourite Christmas tradition? What are you most looking forward to doing or focusing on this Christmas? Are you trying any new traditions this year?
Generally we don’t homeschool in December as the season is too busy and stressful, but this year, thanks to the suggestion of a friend, we’re going to adopt a country (Germany), and study and do their Christmas traditions so that we can tie school in. We’re learning about Martin Luther as he was the one who started a lot of the German traditions. We’re also reading "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, as well as a Dickens biography.
Here are some resources and traditions that my family has enjoyed during Advent.
Reading together -- "Jotham's Journey" by Arnold Ytreeide is a fictional story set at the time of Jesus birth which is meant to be read one short chapter a night during Advent. "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens is a good family read, probably for grade 4 or 5 and up. While not a story about the birth of Jesus, it is a story about values and priorities. "The Family Under the Bridge" is a great read for younger children (I think it is in the Sonlight grade 1 read aloud list). It is about a homeless family in Paris.
Advent Wreath -- We always make an advent wreath. Every Sunday we light another candle and have a family devotional.
Singing -- We sing carols every evening that we can. We have a selection of Christmas song books with beautiful Christmas art pictures. The children learn a new carol to play on the piano while we sing.
Nativity Scene -- We put a nativity scene on the mantle piece. One year we didn't set the whole scene up at the beginning of advent but added the figures as it was appropriate over the course of advent. Now the life of the shepherds down the mantle from the manger and, especially, the movement of the Wise Men as they travel from afar, is a favourite Advent activity of the kids. Last year Jerusalem was created on our living room window seat, along with a large throne room for Herod to great the wisemen from. My aunt brought some carved lions from Africa and last Christmas the shepherds were often seen fighting off the lions.
Christmas eve dinner and Christmas Breakfast -- We go to church on Christmas eve and I leave a table set in the dinning room and a tortier in the oven on the timer so we can sit down as soon as we get home to a lovely dinner. (well OK, I didn't set the timer correctly last Christmas and the oven didn't come on). The reason for the table in the living room is that we set the Christmas table on the afternoon of the 24th. I buy special poppyseed and almond bread rolls from a Jewish bakery near our church and we eat an easy to prepare, but special, once a year breakfast in front of the fire.
Church -- Our church has a wonderful children's Christmas eve service which the children participate in. It is a wonderful evangelistic event where the gospel, as well as the Christmas story, is portrayed. Last year Christmas was on Sunday so we went to the morning service and I think Christmas morning service will become a tradition.
Gifts -- The children make presents for each other. (Which causes lots of mysterious activities in the weeks leading up to Christmas)
Something I have started in the past couple years is to collect nativity sets – not expensive or fancy ones, and usually I buy them in the Boxing Day sales so there is less selection. We are working towards setting up nativity scenes in every room of our house so that we are reminded of the focus of the season wherever we go. I even found a little one that fits in our small bathroom! Most of them are pretty sturdy, which means the kids have been allowed to touch most of them so I will often walk into a room and find the pieces rearranged, especially the animals!
Doing some sort of Jesse Tree is rapidly becoming one of our favourite traditions. We're going to try and focus this year not just on the family tree of Jesus but how each character or story was a type of the Christ to come. I think that it will throw a thoughtful spin on the ordinary stories that we've heard over and over.
The family tradition we have with my husband's family is to have our gift opening on Christmas Eve. We have a finger-food dinner, put on some Christmas music and then open the gifts (in a relatively orderly fashion). With my family, our "new" tradition is to find a restaurant (one that is reasonable) and have a nice luncheon out. We usually put together a catch-all gift bag for each person and drop a small gift in each. Both traditions are a lot of fun.
Here are a few of the things we like to do at Christmas...
1. We always have fresh warm cinnamon buns on Christmas morning.
2. I wrap all the presents but don't put names on them. I secretly select a number (say 43) and put that on one child's present. I try to disguise the presents by wrapping them strangely and adding weight. The kids go crazy trying to figure out which number they are.
My family and I have many favourite Christmas traditions. We love to put up the Christmas tree and decorations. We bake quite a bit as well. I think the most favourite is waking up Christmas morning with the kids all excited to see what Santa left for them.
I would like to focus more on the meaning of Christmas this year. What I mean is that I would like to be 'hit' more significantly of the meaning of Jesus' birth; the joy, hope, and peace that we have because of Him; and how that translates into real, meaningful action.
Well, we only have a couple of “traditions”. Our first started when our oldest was 1 or 2 and we've never missed a year yet. Just before Advent begins we head down to a greenhouse with a nice gift store and the kids each pick out one ornament and then we end our outing with hot chocolate. The kids are getting quite a collection of decorations and decorating the tree yesterday was made extra special as the kids shared their memories of each ornament. Our second "tradition" involves trying to be inclusive and hospitable. The last few years we open our home to whoever needs/wants a place to go and we share in a big Christmas pot-luck and we've often hosted a Christmas open house for our church family.
From the December 2008 and December 2010 NLHS newsletter
"Clip art from PicGifs.com"