For the month of December** we focus our study time on all things Christmas. Over the years I have collected various picture books that tell not only the Biblical story of the nativity but stories that have simple but profound truths that remind us of God and his involvement in our lives.
When it comes time to putting lesson plans together I really just think through discussion prompts – and as I share those prompts I hope they will inspire you to take the simple idea of discussion and dig into various topics as you read beautiful books to your children this season. I love picture books – and I have found that a well written picture book will draw my older children in just as quickly as they draw in the younger ones. A good story will touch the heart regardless of your age.
During any read aloud session my children will add comment, ask questions, discuss a thought – it seems to be our habit to talk through a book. This may drive some families nuts but it is our family way. When we are finished a story the conversation continues. The younger ones will be asked to give a narration* and then I invite the older ones to add anything to our conversation. I start with the youngest so they have an opportunity to say something the family can build on therefore allowing the younger ones to be involved in the family conversation. There are times when the younger ones are excused from an older conversation topic but most times they remain and listen and learn from others.
Conversations such as these are central to the idea of discipling / mentoring your children. Conversations give you a window into your child’s heart – we must speak into it when we get that opportunity. Because these stories are touching our hearts we find ourselves reflecting on them throughout the day. We refer to both the story and the truth as we find ourselves in various situations. In our homeschooling, or rather, in our parenting, we want to pursue wisdom, not just knowledge. I define wisdom as practical application of knowing Jesus
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My Christmas Book List
There are so many lovely stories that can both prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus as well as remind us of the nativity story itself and all the hope and promise that it brings. This list is made up of our favourites:
- A Christmas Journey, by Susie Poole
- The Tale of Three Trees, retold by Angela Elwell Hunt
- An Angel’s Story, by Max Lucado
- The Legend of the Candy Cane, by Helen Haidle
- Jacob’s Gift, by Max Lucado
- Tell me the Story, by Max Lucado
- The Crippled Lamb, by Max Lucado
- The Gift of the Magi, by Penelope J Stockes
As our family have grown older we have still enjoyed many of the picture book titles, but we have added a few other resources that allow us to dig deeper
- The Case for Christmas, by Lee Strobel
- The Nativity (DVD)
- DVD Series
(I plan to add more discussion notes as time goes on but these are our top favourite and enough to show how we do our lesson time.)
Discussion looking for Wisdom
The titles with live links will take you to my lesson plans / discussion notes. These notes are simply the topics and opportunities that I see in each book that we could talk over with our children. I expect there to be the occasional academic study – Where is Bethlehem? Who was Herod? How long did their journey take? Etc. Mostly though, I am after wisdom ideas – How does this truth affect my life, and the life of my children?
I have purposefully not given whole lesson plans as I have found the most significant and life giving lessons I have with my children are the ones where I put in the heart-study first and then talk things over with my kids. I must prepare my heart with the things God has for me to teach my children, to be prepared for the teaching moments that come our way. Curriculum and other lesson plans work well at times, but I have found nothing replaces a lesson taught from a parent’s heart. So take these notes, read the story, and ponder and pray and see what God reveals to you to teach to your family.
In our family, we use discussions as the starting point for writing lessons. Writing is just the words we say on paper. So often children need to get the thoughts by talking and then they can go and write it out. In our family we have people at different points in their writing abilities so we call the whole process “notebooking”. One child may narrate a sentence or two to me, they may be disjointed, or they may include extra thoughts, either way their thoughts/words are valid so I write them down as their Notebook page. Another student may well go and research a thought and type a whole page, or two, based on their research, thoughts and insights. Both extremes are encouraged: both styles and all inbetween are Notebooking.
My goal for December** is to read to my children something from our Christmas book collection and to discuss it and for them to Notebook it every week day. At the end of December each child will have completed a mini-notebook full of memories of great stories and yet more importantly they will have a record of the important things of the heart that we spoke about. It is these heart journeys that are important – the pursuit of wisdom.
*Narration: this is a concept taught by Charlotte Mason that a child hears and then retells. I have found this to be central to our learning from books.
**goal for December: this blog post was written some time ago when my children were young. I’m reviving it now because I believe the content is helpful for families with primary/elementary age children.
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