Dateline: Updated for Christmas 2011
By Ann Zeise
Families who incorporate the holiday spirit into their December
curriculum find they reduce the stress of trying to do it all and be it all to everyone.
So how do you squeeze in all those required subjects and still
get all the decorating, shopping and baking done? With a smile
on my face, here's how you'd cover and report how you fulfilled
various subject requirements. Many activities cover far more
than just one curriculum area, and some will continue well into
This includes English grammar and writing compositions, spelling,
handwriting, reading of literature, foreign languages.
Write a family note this year to include in your cards [composition].
Have the artist in your family design the card [fine arts]. Address
the envelopes by hand [handwriting,
or create a
database of friends' addresses and make labels [computer
science]. Compute the cost
of postage [math]. Or email electronic
Read Holiday Classics
Download a copy of A
Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens and illustrate it. Think
about the true meaning of gift giving in The
Gift of the Magi. Read in the Bible, Luke
2, about the first Christmas. Watch for old English grammar,
such as "thee" and "ye." Talk about old fashion
words and how words vanish from use and new ones come into being.
For more, read Holiday
Stories and How to Choose Them, by Marty Layne [HEM] Share
Children's Book of Christmas Stories. Celebrate through reading
books about how the Christ Child has been welcomed in many lands
through many ages.
Christmas Wish Lists
and spelling while making
out that list for Santa. Plan another list of what you want to
buy or make for others [socialization]. Compose an email
to Santa and send it to him at the North Pole [computer
Learn to greet your ethnic friends in their own languages, wishing
them a happy holiday or joining in with a
song in their own tongue. [foreign
Write to Santa
knows exactly where Santa really is. They track him from
satelites. So you can believe they know how to get those important
letters from kids right to him. An email all addressed and ready
to go to Santa will pop up from the link on this page.
For little ones, the skills of counting and addition. For
the older ones, working on higher math skills, algebra and geometry.
Kids need to learn
to budget their own list as well as what they can manage
to spend on others. I've often taken my young ones to shop at
drug stores, where there's almost always something for everyone
on their list, and the prices are reasonable. My daughter once
announced loudly in the check out that she was all done with
her shopping and had only spent $20. The sighs from the other
customers were audible.
What a better way to talk about surface area of solids! [geometry]
Have a cloth tape measure handy to measure the various dimensions
or just estimate if a package will fit. Estimation is a much
needed math skill. Of course, gift wrapping also involves Art!
Talk about complimentary
colors for the wrap and the ribbon. Use your color printer
to print out Christmas wrap designed by your children. Here's a link
for wonderful holiday
clipart to use for your projects.
Build a castle or house from a past or future society, to throw
in history and civics. How does the geometry of the elements
help hold the structure together? What geometric elements seem
to work best for what parts? How do you make different parts
Sing The Twelve Days
of Christmas too often. Or learn The
Fourteen Days of Homeschooling. Figure out the cost of these
gifts in today's currency. Make an Advent
Calendar. Have the little ones use whole numbers, but have
bigger kids make an Excel spreadsheet that will refigure the
time left not only in days, but in hours and seconds until present
unwrapping time. [Hint: use the TIME function.]
What a wealth of subjects can be covered here! Measuring and
fractions with these kids' recipes
How about the cultural source of the recipes you select to
make? Are some old family
traditions? Are you choosing some because they reflect your
family's culture? How about trying a few recipes
from some past era this year? Where do such spices as vanilla,
cinnamon and nutmeg come from? [social studies].
Then there's the ratios
of baking. Experienced cake bakers would never dream of trying
to bake a cake without first "doing the math" to make
sure that the ingredients are in balance.
Is your stove a physics experiment all on its own? I never
can use the suggested baking temperatures and time! Use an oven
thermometer to compare the actual temperature to the setting
on the stove dial. Compare Fahrenheit
Think we've got this covered under math! Have you seen our "educational"
Fruit Cake Recipe joke?
The Star of Bethlehem
This makes a fascinating web
search! So many theories
out there about what the wise men really saw and why it drove
them to seek a newborn king. Could it have been a comet or an
arrangement of planets or a supernova? If you have clear nights
mid-December, get outside and look for the Geminids
Meteor Shower display.
Good time to study electronics. How do those parading lights
work? How much additional
electricity will we use? How can we prevent
fires or shorting out the wires?
do batteries work? Get a voltmeter and set a kid to testing
all the old ones lying around. Some low ones can be used in toys
that don't require much power. Recharge the rechargables. My son is curious
which brand actually will run the longest and is planning an
experiment to test the advertising claims.
How are Christmas
trees cultivated? [agricultural science] Can you just stick it in the ground after the holidays
and have it grow? Why not? [Botany
of Christmas]. Will a poinsettia
survive outdoors in your climate? Set an inexpensive one outside
to see. [climatology]
has no roots, so how does it survive? [parasites] Why must one
kiss under it? Must one REALLY kiss ANYONE under it? Ack! [molestation prevention]
bears its fruit in the middle of winter. Isn't this a bit unusual?
Can you think of any other plants that have fruit in winter?
Why do you think this is?
Learn to sing Oh
Christmas Tree in German [foreign language] and The
Holly and the Ivy. Baskets of preserved fruits are especially
treasured by some this time of year. Is this a nutritional craving?
What a great time of the year to study
weather! If you get snow you can spend lots of time gazing
at the crystals under a microscope. If you get loads of wind
and rain, your
little weather station will get lots of attention. Is this
winter better or worse than usual? [weather
What laws of physics does he overcome to get all those large
toys to boys and girls all over the world in time for Christmas
morning? Who cares?!
Birds winter over
here in the San Francisco Bay Area, but still, they need extra
food. We fill bird feeders and make suet
treats for them, and they cheer our home with their songs
all winter long. If you have deer, you could put out a bale of
hay and a salt lick. Don't forget the needs of your own pets,
Throw a Christmas
party and invite your little friends over to celebrate. Kids
will be excited about spending time at your house engaging in
quick crafts, silly games and eating the merriest snacks!
Planning to take an extensive trip this year? Have
the kids help with the arrangements and plans. This is all
considered "cooperative learning." What will they need
to take along for this other "culture" or "climate?"
How can the weight of all that is necessary be fairly divided
among everyone? [math, negotiating skills]. Plan to listen
to recordings while you drive.
These folks can be a wealth of information! Drag out and update
family tree before they all show up or you
go there. Talk about your cultural heritage and what Christmas
traditions stem from either your family or from your heritage.
Which have you adopted? [multi-cultural studies].
Find out the history
behind your family traditions. The History Channel has a History of
Bring out maps that show
where relatives are currently and where distant ancestors came
from. [Map reading].
differences within families. Perhaps someone married "outside"
the norm for your family. How is this handled? Kids are sensitive
to any friction. Might as well talk about it ahead of time.
Get older members to talk
about "ancient" history as they experienced it.
Soon no one will be alive to tell stories
about World War II or the Korean
Conflict, so get those stories recorded now! Have your budding
engineer record the stories on video or audio tape. Have you
budding news commentator plan
some interview questions and prep the relative in advance,
so this isn't too much of a surprise.
Plan some parlor
games to play after the big meal. These can involve word
or math games, acting or some physical activity. Coming up with
games both preschoolers and grandparents will enjoy can be a
challenge. Play games online,
Are there plans for local cultural festivals in your community
this year? Join in not only with your own cultural group, but
with others as well. The Jews will be celebrating the Festival
of Hanukkah, the Germans St
Nicholas' Day, Italians will be awaiting Old
will be hoisting pinatas,
African-Americans celebrate several days of Kwanzaa,
Celts the Winter Solstice, and the Scots Hogmanay.
celebrate their Christmas after Dec 25, when they believe
the wise men arrived bearing gifts. [multi-cultural understanding].
Spend some time in your community helping to make the holiday
more cheerful for others for whom this year is particularly bleak.
Collect food for the hungry. Participate in caroling at a senior
citizen center or health facility. Usually there is a volunteer
services coordinator at nearby churches or city hall. [community
service]. Learn a new skill through the service.
Participate in a Christmas
play. Often historical places will have old fashioned holidays
in the period that they represent. Volunteer to help out. You'll
have more fun and learn more than if you just visit. [history].
Visual and Performing Arts, Applied
Make a 3D paper snowflake
This is a little more complicated than a two-dimensional paper snowflake, but it looks excellent and is a suitable craft for children adept with scissors and patient in making crafts. It will produce a 6-armed three-dimensional snowflake decoration that makes a perfect tree decoration or window-hanger.
Singing and Instrumental Music
Join a chorus or just form an impromptu group and go
caroling around the neighborhood. Put Christmas tapes or
CD's on in the house and in the car. Even the littlest children
will memorize their favorites shortly. You'll be pleasantly surprised
at their interpretations <g>. Practice and join in a community
sing-along of The
Messiah. Prepare some holiday tunes to play on your instrument
so others can sing along. Research the words to favorite holiday
songs online, and publish a family sing-along book, so everyone
will have the words. Learn
to play familiar carols on a pennywhistle.
Arts and Crafts
Make a least some of your own decorations
for the tree. Support the arts in your community by purchasing
items made locally. Look through books of fine art to see how
the Christmas story is told through painting and sculpture. Make
candles or scented
soap. Look online for holiday
craft ideas for kids. [research, computer science]. Craft
supplies make excellent stocking stuffers or gifts for young
relatives when you aren't at all sure what they want. Sew, knit
or quilt gifts and decorations.
Theater and Dance
Can you manage to get
out to see The Nutcracker or a performance
Christmas Carole? Will dancing be part of your New Year's
plans? Better learn a few steps of the latest swing dances now!
It's the latest rage. Prepare
a skit or reading to present at your family party.
Health, PE and Drivers Ed
If some family members must be careful about what they consume,
help plan meals so they still can be celebratory for everyone.
Find ways to substitute low
fat ingredients for high and still have delicious treats.
Think now of fun foods that won't be loaded with so much sugar you'll wind up at the dentist in January. My daughter surprised
me with a request that she'd really love to have chilled dill pickles more than anything else. My son loves to prepare "Ants on
a log" for holiday parties. [Celery stuffed with peanut
butter and lined with raisin "ants."]
Exercise sometimes seems impossible in winter. For those with
freezing temperatures there's skiing
and ice skating, snow boarding, sledding and ice hockey.
A brisk hike
in the winter can be wondrous. Amazing how kids love to ride
their bikes through puddles after (or during) a good rain
storm. Suddenly, all those fitness videos and exercise equipment
get dragged out of storage this time of year.
Yeh, for health and PE! I put on 3 miles of walking
around the mall the other day! Might not be the most aerobic,
but, hey, it was all I could fit in! Often great deals around
for sports equipment for gifts. In the weeks after the holidays,
everyone will have fun using the equipment, throwing the new
balls, etc. Plan to hike the mall during the weekdays when everyone
else is at work or school. I wear a device that tells me how
many calories I've burned. Take along water.
Driving and Drinking
Talk about stress driving!
Teens can learn to handle conditions of bad weather and over
crowded roads and distracted drivers in parking lots. Teach them
how to spot
drunk drivers and how to avoid them. Talk about designated
drivers, and even if your teen doesn't drink, do they really
want to be driving with a bunch of sick friends? There are some
tough decisions to be made in these years. Teens appreciate knowing
you'll back them up if they find themselves in a tough situation.
Fender benders happen. Friends wind up drunk. How
do you want your teen to handle alcohol?