A Simply Delightful Christmas Homeschool
A simply delightful Christmas homeschool starts with intention and ends with the atmosphere. It is not baubles or new Christmas unit studies (although those can be delightful and perfect in different seasons!). For our homeschool this year, having a simply delightful Christmas homeschool looks like changing up our morning time to reflect the season, adding a new book about the names of Jesus, reading rich stories, and picking a few activities and traditions to enjoy while still doing math.
To create a simply delightful Christmas atmosphere in your homeschool, here are some questions to inspire you and set the intention:
1. What is God laying on my heart to focus on this season?
2. What do we want our family to remember about this Christmas season? Don't forget to schedule that!
3. Do we need a break from school or to be consistent?
4. When do we want to start our festivities or celebrating? December 1st? Or the last two weeks in December? Or the last week?
I hope these questions help you clarify what this seasons looks like for your homeschool. If you start to feel overwhelmed, please take a break and just go over the first question. If we are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, we are putting emphasis on the wrong things. After all, Charlotte Mason states "education is an atmosphere" and as Moms we are the controllers of the atmosphere of our home. If we are frazzled and overwhelmed, our homeschool will follow. Give these feelings to Christ and move on with your focus on Him!
Christmas unit studies are popping up all over social media right now and I need all my appendages to count the ones I saw minutes ago scrolling through my feed. I think that is WONDERFUL! What an amazing time we live in that there is so much need for interesting and intentional yet diverse Christmas units and that we are able to post about it on public forums.
However, I want to encourage you, especially if you're in a tight season, that a simply delightful Christmas homeschool doesn't need to cost anything. You don't need to buy a Christmas unit. Simply reading your bible to your kids, listening to Christmas hymns, and borrowing books from the library will not only suffice but will still provide a lovely and refreshing time, a simply delightful time.
We did one of those Christmas units last year. There were parts of it that were particularly fun and unique. Christmas charades, anyone? Count me in! However, over all, the unit felt like it was actually more work for our family (note: it could be different for your family depending on the season you are in). In fact, for our family, that Christmas unit became dreaded "busy" work. Gasp, the homeschool B-word!
Maybe you're saying right now, "Mary, that is downright awful. Christmas is not busy work."
I agree. I whole-heartedly agree!
Hence, why we are doing something a little different this year.
And a little more refined... which is a fancy Nancy word for simple. Let's keep it simple, Mary.
First off a note from the educational Ebenezer Scrooge here, I still require my children to do math and language arts in December. On the other hand, I do believe in starting daily with delight and for our family that looks like Morning Time. This concept of "Morning Time" was introduced to me by Sarah MacKenzie in her book Teaching From Rest when my now 5th grader was in preschool. We have tried and tweaked this concept off and on for years but I felt we really refined it this year, partially in thanks to Pam Barnhill's book Better Together which inspired me this summer that gathering together and reading rich stories is my favorite part of homeschool (though closely followed by spending time in nature) and I wanted to make that more of a priority. Here is my simple morning time that reflects the Christmas season.
A Simply Delightful Christmas Morning Time:
1. Start with Christmas Hymn(s) & Prayer
2. Read from our Children's Bible (we are reading through The Complete Illustrated Bible this year)
3. Read from Unwrapping the Names of Jesus & discuss
4. Read our December Chapter Book/Readaloud*
Then we part for individual math and language arts.
4 things. It really is that simple. If you're in a busy season of life or a major life change, I want you to know we don't have to get fussy or extreme with our homeschool. I would say if you can't fathom doing 4 things, do one and I already know which one. Listen to Christmas Hymns. Worship is one, important way we can prepare our hearts for Him.
If you can do two things, I'd say read and worship. Listen to Christmas Hymns and pick a read aloud. Either read from a pile of picture books with the theme of Christmas or pick a chapter book for the month. Read it in the morning or read it at bedtime. There is no set time you have to do this. If Mom needs a break, then buy or rent an audio version and listen to it at lunch.
Also, I would encourage you to read the story of Jesus's birth a couple days before or on Christmas. After all, He is the reason for the season and all seasons.
Why I am adding Unwrapping the Names of Jesus to our Morning Time this December:
1. Puts a spotlight on who Jesus is - who is after all who we are celebrating. My sister shared this title with me after we were contemplating some of the Christmas unit studies. We finished I AM devotional recently about the different names of God and this seemed an ideal follow-up. I wanted something we could do in our morning time that was intentional and simple. Something that told us MORE of who our Savior was and is.
2. Meant to be read 5 days a week (not an every single day advent which I always fall behind on). I'm impressed with the moms who can stick with everyday advents through thick and thin. Unwrapping the Names of Jesus is meant to be read five days (plus the advent lighting if you are doing that) and is ideal for our morning time.
3. Doesn't add busy work but encourages time in the word and good discussions. It starts with a verse then has one to two small pages of reading. At the end of each day, there are additional verses to read. I will probably tag-team this with my daughter. We will each choose one to two verses to look up and read aloud.
4. Also there are challenges to do everyday. From what I've seen these are mostly inward challenges and provide good, thought-provoking discussion. There are also suggested activities once a week that focus on Hope, Preparation, Love, and Joy. From that list or at the very least inspired by it, we plan to choose one activity.
As for advent calendars, I love all the cute ornaments I saw on Pinterest and heavily contemplated making those but again simplicity triumphed. We have a large chalkboard that we will write each name as we read it. That's it. No calendar for us or intricate little cupboards to open. Just the good ol' truth that Jesus came to this Earth as a baby so He might be our passover lamb and we can live forever with Him.
Currently as I write this, Unwrapping the Names of Jesus is part of a 3 for 2 sale on Amazon! There are many other great books part of the deal. Little Drummer Boy (mentioned below) and The Children's Complete Illustrated Bible (mentioned above) are also part of the 3 for 2 deal.
A Simply Delightful Christmas Homeschool Activities:
I'm not a total Ebenezer. I do like to have fun. However, if you already have a list of things you like to do then skip this. Also, don't feel the need to do all of these. They are suggestions and hopefully will inspire you if you need it. Here are a few traditions that we like to keep (mostly):
* Make a countdown to Christmas paper chain (great for little children)
* Cut greenery for a Christmas wreath. I usually make this with my friends at a ladies night but the kids like to venture outside and help me cut greenery for it.
* Read Little Drummer Boy. Make and decorate toy drums then reenact the song ourselves. We plan to do this with our homeschool co-op this year.
* Watch or read wonderful Christmas stories like The Christmas Carol and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (maybe not the first pick for a Christmas movie but we love it). We love listening to audiobooks while we work on crafts or Christmas gifts.
* Decorate Christmas cookies with friends (We are so thankful for my dear friend who hosts this event.)
* Sled or play in the snow & drinking copious amounts of my soothing Hot Carob Cocoa recipe. Snow days for us look like playing in the snow after morning time and doing math in the evening by the fire when it's dark.
* Make Candles on the Longest Night to remind us of who the true light is (one of my favorite traditions). I'll try to create a post just about this as I've had some interest in what this looks like.
* This year, I'd really like to go Christmas caroling. I'm hoping to rope in our homeschool co-op families!
A Simply Delightful Christmas Readalouds or Chapter Books I will include in our Morning Time:
My plan will be to do these three then decide if we have time to read another. I'll update this as we decide.
* A History of Christmas: 2,000 Years of Faith, Fable, and Festivity - although this isn't a novel, it is a living book about the history of Christmas. A lot of our history reading is incorporated into our Morning Time so this is a perfect addition. We will probably only read the first 4 chapters this year as it ties into our Ancient History. Then next year since we will learn about medieval times, we will read the book through it's entirety.
* The Christmas Carol - I prefer to listen to an audio version of this story.
* The Best Ever Christmas Pageant - we have not read this one yet but it seems to be loved by many.