The month or months leading up to Christmas can be a busy time of year for a family and there can be a tension between finishing our homeschooling and our to-do list. There is a way we can merge the two and make the most of this season of family life for learning opportunities.
In primary / elementary school especially every activity that you are involved in as a family has a learning opportunity for your child. This changes slightly as the children get older and move into highschool – but by that stage they are predominately independent and you have the opportunity to work on family Christmas stuff while they work at their studies.
The first thing we must remember is that we cannot do it all. We must be realistic in the goals that we set for ourselves, and for our kids. If we want Christ to be the center of our Christmas we must keep our focus, and our expectations, to be on our hearts and our children’s hearts.
When our kids were young we would take the whole month of December to focus on the coming of our Lord Jesus – Christmas and our celebrations. Some of these preparations were:
- Spiritual – as we learn more of Jesus
- Physical – as we decorate the house, prepare food and gifts for family and friends
- Moral – as we deal with the self centered character responses that emerge at this time
- Academic – as we read, talk and write about all things Christmas – both in formal lessons and in family life.
Everything that we do, in our preparation for Christmas provides a learning opportunity for our children.
Family Activities that provide learning opportunities
I set aside the month of December (and sometimes, if we were crazy busy, even some of November) to prepare for Christmas – and to make the most of learning opportunities. This meant that I had to intentionally look at the activities that we were doing and what my kids were either learning or practising that was beneficial to them. Here are some examples:
- When we read our family devotions, we continue to practice our reading, listening, and discussion skills. We may research topics and possibly write or journal about what we have learnt.
- When we read Christmas inspired stories we are exposed to ideas about God’s plan for mankind, the preciousness of others, the faith of others gone before us, we are reminded about Jesus, we learn about different countries and how they have added to our Christmas traditions.
- As the kids have grown older they also appreciate different literary techniques that authors have used to tell a story that is familiar to us all.
- When we become involved in community service, we are learning to see and serve the needs of others, we are learning to value life, and give of ourselves.
- When we decorate the house we learn to spend money wisely, to be creative, to follow instructions as we make things.
- When we prepare gifts for friends we practice our measuring and following instructions as we follow patterns, we practice keeping to a budget, we experience being a consumer and have exposure to service staff.
- When we prepare food we have to consider the likes and needs of our guests, our budget, our time constraints and cooking abilities. We also have the opportunity to cook foods that may not be everyday fair.
- When we invite people to a party we have the opportunity to plan and organize a party and all that that involves – from invites, to food, to space, to decorations, to budget, to food preparation, to tidying the house etc. Most of all we learn to be hospitable and available to people.
- When we put together a family Christmas newsletter we practice our writing skills, or we get creative with technology and make a digital presentation (movie, slide show, or whatever is the latest/greatest app!!)
As a family lives life together there is so much to learn. Once you can see these learning opportunities in your family activities, you can choose which ones are important for each of your children and include those on your homeschool plan/record keeping.
A few things changed as my kids moved into highschool:
- The older ones would teach and / or help the younger ones. This is a skill in and of itself – plus whenever you teach something it is consolidated in your own thinking.
- The complexities of their projects, or gifts, or activites would increase – we moved to DVDs with Bible based content to learn instead of picture books, they used more complex technology and the gifts they made required more skill.
- They would often participate in our family activities and then spend some time in their studies (their study time was reduced because we still gave learning value to what they were doing as a family.
- Sometimes they would only join in for the Bible study time as they started to put priorities on different things (which is a season of life based approach).
In primary/elementary years it is beneficial for the kids to write every day. But it is far better if there is a purpose to their writing. Christmas celebrations provide so many real purposes:
- Prepare a family newsletter (or at least write a paragraph to represent their own year)
- Write invites to Christmas party, write RSVP on any invites you have received
- Write poems or copy poems, sentimental sayings or scripture to put into cards
- Send cards/letters to cousins, and friends living out of town
- Write thank you letters to people who have served them during the year (tutors, co-op teachers, librarians)
- Write thank you letters/notes after receiving a gift
- Write menu cards, place setting cards for either the Family Dinner Table or the Celebration Dinner Table on Christmas Day (these can include personal verses and encouragement)
- Create e-cards to send to friends and family
- Scrapbook your family Christmas celebrations – including journaling
- Write a poem or drama to perform at a family or church gathering
- Write a song
- Create vouchers as gifts
- Write shopping lists, or to do lists, as each child gets ready for Christmas
- Journal / Notebook after Family Devotion time
- Prepare a devotional to share with the family
- Journal / Notebook after a Read Aloud time
My homeschool goals where always written with family seasons in mind. The months of December was put aside for preparing for Christmas which included Bible study and read alouds (reading, listening, speaking, thinking), gift making (art and technology), cooking and decorating (home ec), and volunteering (charity). Learning was still happening at the level each child needed – it was just shaped by what we were doing as a family.
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