One of the saddest statements that many homeschool parents make each year is, “No, you can’t go out in the snow. We have to do school now.” This is sad because so many children are missing out on real learning experiences for the sake of “book learning” and “staying on track”.
This doesn’t have to be the case. Parents would love to live and enjoy all that this season has to offer but just don’t know how to do that. There are SO many learning opportunities that are completely unique to the holidays and it is so easy to use these moments for your child’s good, instead of letting them slip by.
When December rolls around, our school time begins to look very different. Our “school” time begins to appear shorter while our “fun” time appears longer. In actuality, the kids are learning the same, maybe more. The kids never know they are learning. They are simply enjoying the holidays.
Holiday baking is a family affair at our house. Cooking can teach kids measurements, sequencing, and fractions, just to name a few. Building gingerbread houses is a great activity to incorporate geometry.
For little kids, you can make a 12 Days of Christmas book to teach counting and don’t forget the Advent calendars. These are a must and great for teaching all about calendars, days of the week, months, and counting.
A gift exchange provides a host of opportunities for math. Create a list of tasks that can be done (like cleaning out the car or folding a load of laundry) and assign a dollar amount earned for each task. All money that is earned must be used to purchase a gift for someone. This also teaches budgeting, thoughtfulness, and work ethic. After the kids choose a gift, allow them to figure how much more they need to purchase the gift, how much the tax will be, and how much they have left to buy a little something extra for the person they are buying for.
All of our grammar, spelling, writing, and reading are accomplished through one simple activity; great Christmas literature. I LOVE read alouds during the holidays and so do my children. Choose your favorite holiday books and read some each day. My children like to illustrate the stories as I read.
After the story, I choose a few words or sentences, depending on age, and have the kids copy them under their illustrations. Some of them would prefer to write about the story in their own words which is fine, too. We then use these for grammar lessons. They identify the parts of speech and correct punctuation or spelling.
A very simple language arts activity that kids really enjoy is making greeting cards. I love this one for several reasons. It not only teaches them grammar, spelling, and writing but, more importantly, it teaches them to connect with others during a time when kids tend to be very self-absorbed.
December is the perfect time to study weather. Let your kids out to play in the snow and surprise them by telling them to bring a little back in when they come. Examine snowflakes or look at them under a microscope. You can even grow your own snowflake or crystals. Visit a Christmas tree farm and choose your own tree. Take care of a poinsettia or study the star of Bethlehem and the winter solstice.
HISTORY, GEOGRAPHY, AND SOCIAL STUDIES
Since the holidays already hold a strong connection to family for most people, it is a great time to focus on heritage, citizenship, and culture. Visit, or even participate in, your local holiday traditions. We love going to the annual Christmas parade and Christmas programs and plays in our area. Not only do kids learn history from these activities, but they also learn citizenship as they feel a sense of belonging. My kids enjoy seeing the local authorities such as the police force and the firemen in the parades.
Kids will also love studying how different parts of the world celebrate the holidays. This is a great opportunity to enjoy studying geography and culture. Another geography activity is to let your kids map out the trip when you go to visit relatives. They will be learning how to read maps, work the GPS, and it helps them feel connected and included, as well.
Although summer is usually thought of as the active time of year when kids get outdoors, the holidays are a perfect time to get in some physical education. Use this unique time of year to let your kids experience activities like ice skating, skiing, and sledding. While we tend to think of these things as recreation, they can be real learning experiences for your child.
Since you’re already going to be spending a lot of time focused on food and cooking, you might as well incorporate a health class in there while you are at it. Let your kids research the nutrition facts of the dishes you prepare and discuss their findings. Teach them about fats, protein, and carbohydrates, and how to read labels.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO MAKE IT WORK
If you are one of those serious homeschool parents who use a set curriculum and must do a certain number of pages each day in order to finish school this year, fear not. You are not doomed to spending this season at a desk while others make cookies and visit tree farms. I understand your dilemma as I have been there myself before.
In January, set down and flip through your child’s books. Find the chapters that cover the concepts that you have learned about over the holidays and mark those chapters as completed. This will give you wiggle room to incorporate fun and learning into your schedule this season. You will be surprised at how much your children retain when they learn with life this way.
This year, instead of shying away from the holiday activities because they take you away from your “regular” schooling, jump in and embrace them as an important part of your homeschool journey.
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About the Author
Jude McLean is a writer, blogger, and parent of two. To read more of his work click here.