Welcome, my Tenacious Homeschool Tribe, to another episode of Homeschooling with Dr. B!
One of the things that I really miss about California is Disney. Yes, I live in Florida, and Disney World is absolutely wonderful. I adore Epcot! But during the holiday season, Disney used to, I hope they still do it, go to the haunted house and turn the Haunted House into The Nightmare Before Christmas. I just loved it so much! I’ve always really just loved Jack Skellington. I mean, what is there not to love? He’s so eager to learn about the holiday, and he just embodies such joy and commitment. I just absolutely adore Jack!
But whether we’re a homeschooling family or not, we tend to have a love-hate relationship with the holidays. I mean, the family gets together, and it’s wonderful! But at the same time, there’s a lot of stress when the family gets together. In addition to that, we have gift giving and meal preparing and so many things to do. As always, the true benefit of homeschooling is flexibility. Here are some things that I did or did as a homeschooling family during the holidays.
I would look at where we were in our history book and talk about the holidays during that specific period in time. For example, when we were doing our World War II section, we talked about how families are separated during the holidays. Some people were in the armed services. There was no gas to travel from one town to another, and people were dealing with rationing. There were no goods available to make gifts, including toys because many of those resources were diverted to the war effort. We talked about how people got creative with their gift-giving. They made homemade gifts, gave war bonds as gifts, gave certificates, and shared their love with one another. Believe it or not, turkey was rationed during the holidays in World War II. The turkey was being diverted to our servicemen, so families were creative with that too, you know. If they lived in the country, they might have turkey or duck or chicken, but they got creative about it. The other thing is that there were a lot of dim-outs, and Christmas trees didn’t necessarily have lights, or there were blackout curtains on the windows, or windows were boarded up. I mean, it just depended on where you were in the country during World War II. Your access to resources was more limited than in other places. The amazing thing is that everybody got creative! Just incredibly creative!
One of the things that we do is get creative about decorating our homeschool room. We do Christmas trees. We create ornaments, wreaths—anything that the kids want to do. Sometimes we create angels, little yarn angels. I mean, there are so many options. All you have to do is a small search on the internet, and you will come up with a plethora of crafting that can be done for the holidays.
And of course, we do a lot of caroling. We have done caroling to senior citizens’ homes. We have done caroling in hospitals. Of course, with COVID upon us, we can’t do that anymore. Maybe this year, we’ll get creative and go caroling in our neighborhood. I don’t know… We’ll see what we come up with.
And church services. I love Christmas church services! Now, I haven’t been Catholic for the longest time, but my grandmother brought me up Catholic. In Hispanic countries, midnight mass is a huge thing. It’s an amazing pageant. You have the baby Jesus coming up with Joseph and Mary and the shepherds and the Three Kings. They would just go all out. They bring horses and camels. I just remember when I was a kid that was so much fun! So I do try to do midnight mass with my kids, even though we’re not Catholic. I just love it. I love the pageantry that goes along with it. I cannot help myself. You know, that primary socialization will get you every time. So at least once a year, I make my grandmother happy, who is now gone by attending Catholic midnight mass.
And believe it or not, when we do that because we don’t do it every year, we usually talk about our family history. You know how our family celebrated Christmas—our favorite Christmas, our saddest Christmas, different things. The kids just really love sharing those stories.
For literature, I love reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It recounts, as you know, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. He was an elderly miser who was visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. After the visits, Scrooge is transformed into a kinder, gentler man. We did a whole lesson on figurative language for that, and the kids absolutely loved it! I love it! Because, of course, as we’re reading it, I’m making the voices; it never gets old even as the kids get older. Now it’s their turn to make the voices, it’s their turn to dress up, it’s their turn to take over this pageantry, and I love it!
Another book that we often read during Christmas time is the Gift of the Magi by William Sidney Potter, better known as O. Henry. It’s a short story that was published in 1805. It’s the story of a young husband and wife and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money. And the wonderful thing is, they both end up giving the thing they love the most to make the other happy. And here we talk a lot about giving for others and receiving.
I remember one year my daughter, oh my goodness. They must have been like four or five, and in the town where we lived, there was very limited shopping. It’s in northern Michigan. You know the options are very limited, and my husband took my twin girls to get a Christmas gift for mom, and one of them bought me a Triple X purple thong! You got it. Now, even as heavy as I am today, I still don’t use a triple X anything, let alone a thong, or used a thong ever since I was in my twenties. This was just so funny!
My husband calls me, and he’s like, “you know she really wants to give you this.”
And I said, “let her. Let her. Let her do it.”
It made her so happy to get this purple thong for mom, and I still have it somewhere because it was just such unimaginable joy that she gave it to me. And of course, I acted so surprised, her gift to me was the color purple. My gift to her was loving her fully, and it was just wonderful! Absolutely wonderful experience for both of us. Our family still laughs about it, and I still love that purple thong. It counts as one of my best Christmas gifts ever!
Of course, once the kids get older, especially if you have girls, this is an excellent time to read Little Women. A little woman is challenging. Let me tell you. It’s a difficult read. You really need older kids. But anyway, the story follows the lives of the four March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy—and details the passage from childhood to womanhood. Part of the story happens during Christmas during the American Civil War. One of the things that we did that year, of course, we turned it into a movie night. After reading the book, we watched Little Women, and we made ornaments. It was just fun! But again, it was a challenging book. The girls really enjoyed Meg, Joe, and Amy, and of course, everybody was brokenhearted for Beth. But they enjoyed the movie more just because the book is, I don’t know… It’s not a wonderful classic, but it’s not written as creatively as we are used to nowadays.
And, of course, finally The Little Match Girl. It’s a literary fairy tale written by a Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen. The story is about a dying child’s dreams and hopes, and it’s just very poignant—just the saddest little story about children living in poverty. And so often, we combined that year with collecting gifts for an orphanage in the Caribbean.
Now, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, please don’t take offense. This year, Hanukkah is joining our party! One of our children has become very interested in Judaism and is considering joining the religion. So, Hakkunah’s joining the party, and we do celebrate other holidays around that time. Kwanzaa, and you also can choose not to celebrate. That’s totally okay. We will discuss some other options in upcoming episodes that you can use.
Science is great during the holidays if you don’t celebrate Christmas. You could do some fun things during the holidays, like making snow. Making snow is actually not that hard. You just pour baking soda into a plastic container with a lid, add some shaving cream and baking soda, and more shaving cream, then mix and repeat until the mixture is the consistency of snow. Then kids always enjoy that!
Something else that you can do is look at different snowflakes under the microscope if you have a microscope. The kids absolutely loved that! That is so much fun.
You can create a homemade giant bubble solution that freezes if you live in a cold place. You know you do one and a half cups of water, one-half cup of dish soap, one-fourth of a cup of white corn syrup. This freezes beautifully! You can freeze the different bubbles’ sizes and see how the bubbles react as they freeze or melt. One of the things that my kids noticed was that the smaller bubbles froze quicker and floated to the ground faster. Some really tiny bubbles are dropped to the ground and just shatter as soon as they freeze. In contrast, the larger bubbles, giant bubbles, floated high in the air and often got caught in a tree, and that just looks amazing! Just so beautiful.
Now I focused on Christmas because it’s always been my homeschoolers’ favorite holiday, and we’ve always loved Christmas. And believe it or not, not because of the gifts but because of the snow. Even though their mother doesn’t miss the snow, they still miss the snow. They love sledding! They never got too into skating. They did it for a while, but they never really got into it. For them, it was all about the sledding. Now that we’re in the Caribbean, they really enjoy living in a place to go to the beach on Christmas Day.
I mean, it’s just amazing! And of course, we all love the food. Our family tradition is that on Christmas Eve, I make Mexican food traditionally served during the holidays. And then, the following day, we make a traditional American traditional Christmas dinner on Christmas Day. So, they just really enjoy the contrast. And, of course, they love caroling. Both of my kids are just wonderful singers. I just absolutely love how beautiful they sing, and we just really enjoy that. Now, I’d love to sing too, but I don’t do it very well.
And of course, the decorations and I’m sure that’s my fault because I love the pageantry of Christmas. One of the amazing things about living in the Caribbean is Christmas starts right before Thanksgiving. So to speak, it doesn’t really end until the end of January. They have so many Christmas-related holidays. It’s just amazing! I just absolutely love it! The community we live in does these three Magi horse rides in the community, and you can follow in the golf cart. It’s just… I just love it, and so do the kids.
The most important thing is that we love getting together with family and friends. That is just so enjoyable! I love it. I just absolutely love it, and this year I see my favorite aunt for the Christmas holidays. Just wonderful. I love sharing that family history with my kids, and my kids love hearing about it.
However, after talking about Christmas for so long, I admit that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I know some people think I’m just absolutely bonkers about this. But I think Thanksgiving meals are so easy to make. I just love it. I always make desserts first and let them cool down, and then make the meal. I love hearing what our family is grateful for every year. Our family tradition is everybody gets a turn talking about what they’re thankful for as we go around the table. I remember the first few years when the kids were really young. One of my daughters was grateful for pizza, and the other was grateful for chicken nuggets, which are very important things to be grateful for. And, of course, they’re always grateful for family and friends. I just love the coziness of Thanksgiving!
And let me see what am I grateful for this year? I’m grateful that many of us are still together to celebrate the holidays, and I’m grateful for those who are no longer with us but were part of our lives. COVID has been tough on all of us. But that’s why I believe it is even more important to cherish these family moments. Cherish one another.
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Remember, life can be overwhelming, and certainly, the holidays can make it so, but homeschooling doesn’t have to be! For more links and resources, please visit our website. Till next week! Enjoy your kiddos!