Christmas in our Homeschool 2015

Just when the kids in traditional school are getting all excited about having a break from classes and lessons, here I am in our homeschool getting all excited about the extra fun learning activities we can do this time of year! Our Classical Conversations group has the rest of the year off and will start back up in January, so we have one more day at home for the next few weeks. That always makes this introverted, homebody of a mom happy! It means we can relax a little on our memory work, reviewing a little here and there while we take a break from learning new material. It also means we have more time for our other lessons and activities.

I recently joined a new facebook group that stemmed out of the Periscope videos by Julie Bogart of BraveWriter.com. It is primarily a group of homeschool moms seeking to support one another and share encouragement and resources. One of the other members challenged some of us to do daily Scopes on different topics throughout the past week. (If you do not know what Periscope is, essentially, it is live video with chat. I don’t want to go too far off topic, so I won’t go into it any more than that today.) I really wanted to scope Friday because she asked what we were doing in our homeschool for December. My day just was not condusive to that, however, so I decided to blog about it instead!

Here is my short list:
Jesse Tree devotions and decorations
Making GF cut out cookies/gingerbread cookies
Reading Christmas poems/stories
Watching the Nutcracker Ballet

As I posted earlier in the month, we are doing a Jesse Tree for Advent. This replaces our Bible lessons this month, and it is the first thing we do each day for school. Here is a poorly lit photo of the decorations we have up on our mini-tree so far!

IMG_2515

I think next week Little J and I will be making some Gluten-free cut-out cookies, probably gingerbread because those are just tastier than plain old sugar cookies. I have used this recipe from Gluten Free On a Shoestring before and liked the end result. I think J will enjoy decorating some Gingerbread men of his own, and maybe while they are baking we will read a version of the story of the Gingerbread Man. (That is about as unit-study-ish as we get around here, folks!) Since it is just our little family here for the holidays, I do not go all out on baking treats. We really do not need all that sugar anyway.

IMG_2512

On days when we do not feel much like doing book work, I plan to read some Christmas poetry and other holiday stories and such that I found in some children’s literature anthologies we have on our bookshelves. Just the other day we read an interesting story called “Christmas in the Piney Woods” by Charlie May Simon. It is set in the Arkansas woods and features a little girl who wishes for a baby doll for Christmas and gets a different surprise instead! I am wondering if it is an excerpt from a larger volume, but I have not taken the time to research that. We found the story in our set of Childcraft books (circa 1961) that my grandmother passed on to me. IMG_2519

Today I have been feeling poorly (just a chest cold combined with lack of sleep!), so Little J and I sat down and watched the Nutcracker Ballet together. I have only watched two variations in their entirity online, but my favorite is this one starring Mikhail Barishnakov and Gelsey Kirkland. It is just such a classic, and the dancing can’t be beat, even though it is missing a few of the dances! But this time I decided to share the New York Ballet’s version with him, since it has children dancing and a bit more narration. He seemed to enjoy it and was following along in the book we have that also tells the story of the ballet. Now he is coloring a nutcracker paper doll/puppet that I found as a free printable here, and when it is finished we will assemble it.

IMG_2521

So, there you have it–our homeschool plans for this December! I would love for you to leave a comment telling me one special activity you and your family will be doing this Christmas season!

Advertisements

Our First Jesse Tree: Advent 2015

At 7.5 months old, Little Miss is quite the mover and shaker. She is always, always on the go, unless she is sleeping, and naps taken anywhere not on Mommy are a luxury these days. Having a crawling, pulling up, getting into everything, putting everything into her mouth baby means that I do not have time for a whole lot of extra activities beyond what it really necessary on a daily basis. (You know, things like keeping everyone fed, in clean clothes and diapers, and just generally making sure everyone is healthy and relatively happy.) Homeschooling Little J has also taken some extra time, of course. Even though we usually spend less than 2 hours total actually sitting down to his lessons each day, it is still time that I might otherwise be doing something else.

All that is to say that planning and decorating for Christmas has been put sort of on the back burner this year. To be honest, Thanksgiving and the end of November rather took me by surprise! Suddenly, on November 30th, I realized that it was time for Advent, and I had nothing planned. I also failed to order the next set of Bible lessons that J needs to continue in our ABeka Bible curriculum, so I needed something to supplement with in the meantime, ASAP!

image

Enter, the Jesse Tree! If you have never heard of this Advent tradition before, it is basically a way of following the story of the Bible from Creation to Jesus’ birth. The name comes from Isaiah 11:1 which refers to a branch coming from the “root of Jesse” (father of King David) as a prophetic announcement of the coming Messiah, Jesus! During each day of advent, you read a new Scripture passage and hang a new ornament on the tree, each one symbolizing the reading for that day. There are many ways to make ornaments for a Jesse Tree, some very simple and some quite elaborate! You can even purchase ornaments if you are not inclined to makeyour own.

I, of course, chose one of the simpler variations for us this year! Little J loves coloring right now, so I used a free printable from Life Your Way for the ornaments and printed them out on card stock for him to color. I need to get some red and green card stock to mount them, and then we will hang them on our miniature tree with ribbon. I found a lovely set of short Jesse Tree devotionals at My Favorite Kind of Crazy, so I read these while Little J colors. He is excited to see what the new picture will be for each day, and I like that it is something easy enough that we can do it while I feed the baby!

I have to say thanks to Kristi at Raising Clovers for inspiring me with her post about their own Jesse Tree party. Maybe some other year we will get all fancy and make some neat ornaments like they did with their friends!

How are you celebrating Advent this year? Have you used a Jesse Tree in your Christmas celebrations before? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Homeschooling at Lemon Lane: Preparation and Planning

It may be hard to believe, but Little J (who is getting less and less “little” all the time!) is now 4 1/2 years old! He is at that wonderful age of curiosity, creativity and craving to learn about everything. In the spring he started to show signs of being ready to begin learning to read, asking what certain words were when looking through picture books or asking how to spell things when practicing writing his letters, etc. At the time, I was a little preoccupied with the arrival of Miss A, so we just did a little work with letters and some sounding things out here and there, willy-nilly.

image

Around the same time, we learned about a local group of homeschoolers doing something called Classical Conversations and decided to look into it as an option for J in the fall. (I don’t intend to go in depth with a post about Classical Conversations today, but I may sometime in the future once we have a bit more experience with it under our belts!) We also knew we would need a basic curriculum for phonics and reading, along with some math. As Christians, we also wanted a solid Bible curriculum to add to what J has already learned at church and through our casual Bible reading at home. For these core subjects, we settled on ABeka Book for this year. All these things may change in the coming years, but for this year we are combining a classical approach with some traditional curricula and will see how it goes!

image

I have to say that at first I was very uncertain about my ability to be my child’s teacher. I will admit that I am not very organized or disciplined with my time management, and I also struggle at times with being patient and gracious. I did not originally even intend to start formal instruction with Little J until he was a bit older since he has a fall birthday. But his eagerness to learn combined with the opportunity to combine homeschooling with a community atmosphere convinced me that now is the time to begin. I still felt inadequate and intimidated by the responsibility of teaching Little J the basic skills that he will need the rest of his life. There is always that fear of failure, of not being enough, lurking somewhere in my mind and heart. I’m sure many of you can relate! As I started planning and preparing, though, my passion for learning and teaching resurfaced and bolstered me up. After a year long break from any kind of teaching or children’s ministry at church, I suddenly found a renewed sense of purpose while planning for this school year. I had forgotten how much I enjoy preparing lessons and teaching young children. It really does feel like an area in which God has gifted me, and now I am full of excitement for the coming year. I can hardly wait to see how God uses homeschooling to change our family and draw us closer to each other and to Him!

image

I won’t make any promises, but I do hope to write more about our homeschooling journey as we go along. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to post in the comments, and I will try to answer as best I can!

Links for more info:
Classical Conversations
ABeka Book Homeschool
Galatians 5:22-23 printable