December 2, 2009

School in December

Through the years we have done different things in December but rarely have we ever kept an entire regular schedule including all of our formal subjects. This year we are keeping several "core" subjects for daily school while adding in lots of holiday extras. Each day they must do math, spelling, writing, reading and their instrument practice. We are studying Christmas around the world together for geography and a little bit of history thrown in there as well through the Christmas studies. We increase our art and music time as well as we work on Christmas gifts and listen to Christmas carols.

Last year I made a caroling book of about 30 favorite Christmas songs and made photocopies of them for each of us to have. This year I went to and downloaded my favorite version of each song and made 2 cd's of the songs in the order of the carol book so now we can learn all the song lyrics and sing them in the proper tune :) So far this is a big hit with the kids and an easy way to incorporate music naturally into our month.

Christmas gifts offer us a time to be creative and just have some fun while we prepare gifts with love for family and friends. It also gives my kids a time to go through all their toys and belongings and decide what they are ready to pass on to others. We often listen to Christmas music while we do this. In addition we will soon begin the baking proccess and our service projects for the month. December is a great time to remind your family to give to others and serve from their abilities. Having more time for that this month is important to us and worth putting science off for a little longer.

We spend more time doing things together as a family as well. Visiting museums, seeing plays, taking walks around the mall, service projects. It is nice to just be together as a family. We do a bit more reading and sharing what we are thankful for. Also we have been trying to play a board game each day, either all together or just certain members of the family but trying to spend time together on our relationships, especially sibling to sibling relationships right now. These things offer learning unique learning environments in their own way.

One of my favorite parts of this season is how we celebrate Advent together. Each evening before bed we gather on the couches in our living room with only the Christmas tree and a small reading lamp lit and we read our Advent book. This year we are reading Jotham's Journey by Arnold Ytreeide. Fabulous book and series, can't recommend them enough for your whole family (though there are some scary parts for younger ones - it is possible to edit as you read aloud though). We light one candle for each week of advent. Some years we have had an advent wreath, this year we are just using 4 candles we have on hand. We read one chapter a night and then discuss. After our discussion we sing a Christmas carol or two around the tree and then say bedtime prayers together as a family. It really is a special time together and a great way to show our kids what we value and prioritize during this season. It also gives us a time to slow down and come together quietly as a family and it does feel like a special quiet set aside time of closeness that we don't get all the time in our busyness.

Each year I do my best to have majority of our Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving so that we can just enjoy the holiday season and not lose our focus. I have found that to being an important part of our Advent season. This year we have an extra treat that Serona will be staying home for a 2 week staycation this year in the middle of December which gives us more time all together.

Whatever your family traditions, old or new, enjoy this season and may it be a peaceful and joy-filled one for your family. A time to reflect and give generously out of the abundance of all you have been blessed with as a family. A time to be truly thankful and to instill these values in your kids and build family traditions focused on the important things of the Christmas season and Advent so they in turn can pass it on to the generations that follow.

Merry Christmas and God bless!