I remember, as a child, how difficult it was to concentrate on school during the holidays. Well, nothing’s changed; I’m still that way today. That’s just another reason I love teaching my kids at home. Come Thanksgiving, I start to tire of our normal day to day to day routine… so I change it. That’s the beauty of learning at home. Instead of having a Christmas break we take a break for Christmas. The kids and I are able to adapt our schedule so that we can focus a little more on Christmas and a little less on “school”. We never break from learning, but we do take a break from our usual routine.
We are able to accomplish this by home learning year-round. We don’t take a long summer break.
This works for us for many reasons; it helps to keep all of us in the routine of learning throughout the summer, the kids don’t get bored during the summer, Daddy (a highschool science teacher) is home to help (yay for Mommy!!!), and we get to focus more on Christmas. When family come to visit, I don’t feel stressed to “do school” since we have gotten school days in during the summer.
But holiday homeschooling isn’t just for homeschoolers. If your kids go to school you can do this routine (or pieces of it) with them during Christmas vacation. It’s fun and it keeps them in the habit of learning.
I have younger children (my oldest is nine) so I don’t stress about taking a break from our regular learning routine. I’ll take it year by year and adjust as needed. I can almost guarantee we will change it up a little during this time, no matter how old they are. Here is what our Christmas learning routine looks like this year:
Our Advent Worship
We begin our day with our Advent Worship. This helps us to jump start our day in the right directions. We are enjoying our Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas book. I highly recommend it. You can read more about our advent worship routine here.
Photo credit to Grandpa Steffen
Bible Verse Memorization
We work on whatever Bible text we have going on at the time and take turns reviewing the ones we already know. It’s amazing to me how easy memorization is for kids.
Joni Eareckson Tada has written a variety of books for kids on hymn study but she has one specifically for Christmas entitled, Christmas Carols for Kid’s Heart (Hymns for a Kid’s Heart, Vol. 3). It comes with a CD so the children are able to hear the hymn also (you-tube works great for this as well). You can go as deep as you would like into the hymn, studying the author, the time it was written, the place that it was written, etc, or you can study the hymns in less detail allowing you to expose your children to more hymns. We prefer to go deeper as a family and really get to know the hymn. Sometimes it takes us a couple of weeks to study one hymn depending on the activities we do with it and how deep we go in studying it.
Christmas Around the World
We’ve never studied Christmas Around the World before so I bought this book on Amazon to help: Christmas Around the World by Brenda Trunkhill. I’ll let you know how I like it. I plan on incorporating the usual subjects (Reading, Writing, Handwriting, History, etc.) into our Christmas around the world study, including crafts (Art) and cooking (Life-skills). I am also planning on using Galloping the Globe with CD so we can learn a little more about each country we are studying.
I found a great post written by Heidi Scovel of Mt. Hope Chronicles, entitled, “Christmas Around the World“. It was fun to read how their family learns about the holiday. I bought a couple books based on her recommendations: The Legend of the Poinsettia, Christmas in Noisy Village (Picture Puffin) and Brigid’s Cloak that I can’t wait to read.
*Updated note for Christmas 2015: I just today bought a couple more books to add to our Christmas Around the World curriculum. My mom is from Germany and she’s been telling the kids stories of her Christmas traditions, so we ordered a couple of books from our heritage. I can’t tell you how I like them yet but we ordered Christmas in Germany (Christmas around the World) and Frohliche Weihnachten: Learning Songs & Traditions in German Book & Audio CD (Teach Me) (Teach Me Series) (German Edition).
Whychristmas.com is a great free resource for studying about the different cultural Christmas traditions around the world. They even provide you with free recipes.
Reading our Christmas books
We love to read Christmas books so we read one to two (or more) depending on our day. You can read about our Christmas book tradition here.
This happens every day; rain or shine. I believe Nature to be the best science teacher. They explore, play, catch lizards, pick flowers, watch birds, make a rock museum and sometimes they draw in their sketchbooks.
Family Chapter Book Reading
In the evening, when we are all home together, Daddy reads. Right now we are reading through Laura Ingall’s Little House on the Prairie series. We love this family time together. Often times Sophia and I take this time to crochet.
Tuesdays are our cooking days. It’s fun to choose a recipe we haven’t made before, make something from our Christmas around the world study, or make cookies for someone for our act of kindness calendar. Caleb (my nine-year old) doesn’t like to cook. But I tell him that his wife will be mad at me one day if I don’t teach him and I’m hoping the more comfortable he gets with cooking, the more he will like it. Time will tell. 🙂 I love cooking days because they make using math and science fun and tangible. We often double or triple recipes which can make for some very interesting concoctions if the math isn’t done correctly.:/
We often listen to music (hymns for our hymn study or Christmas music by Nat King Cole) while we cook together, or I read to them. I find this helps keep the bickering at bay. 🙂
Andrew (age 5), peeling potatoes
We also occasionally go on field trips to the see the Nutcracker or visit a Candy Factory to see how candy is made. Often times these field trips are part of our fun-list as well.
So if you are getting a little burned out on your regular schedule, take a break from it. Remember learning comes in many forms. Take advantage of the holiday and take a break for Christmas.
I would love to hear ways your family learns during the Christmas break…