Christmas is a holiday that most people look forward to all year. As I typed that I was temped to say “most Christians” since at it’s core it’s a Christian holy day, but the joy of Christmas tends to spread beyond religious and cultural boundaries. Non-Christians in the western world still enjoy family time and gifts and work holidays and extra helpings of dessert, and it’s my understanding that the rest of the world often gets in on the celebration. For instance, did you know that in Japan there is a strange connection between KFC’s Colonel Sanders and Santa Claus?
Anyway, I digress. My point is, I’m glad that Christmas can spread joy to the hearts of all who choose to celebrate. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.” I think it’s fair to say that Christmas also declares the glory of God, and by sharing our celebration with the non-Christian population we are also shining a light for them to see and believe.
Shining the Light of Christmas without Extinguishing Yours
December can be a busy and stressful month, even for the believer, but we can’t let that steal our joy of the season. I especially want to be sure my children view Christmas in a positive light, so I’m doing what I can to turn our eyes towards celebrating the birth of Christ without overwhelming their schedule or overwhelming myself (i.e. spending too much money, making too many commitments). This is my mantra: Simplicity does not make me a Scrooge; it makes me wise and focused.
I know some families choose to take a break from school lessons during December, but we continue to press on because we’d rather have that break in the summer. So,we have chosen to infuse the month with simple Christmas fun.
One simple way we have brought Christmas into our school schedule is through Morning Time / Circle Time. I thought I’d share some of the resources we’re using this year.
Christmas Poem to Memorize: long-long-ago-a-christmas-poem
Several Christmas Songs: christmas-songs
In addition to these school-time resources, we are also reading at bedtime (for the second consecutive year) The Advent Storybook by Antonie Schneider and lots of Christmas picture books from the library. Sometimes we blindly grab some off the shelf, but I also try to put some on hold from reliable booklists, like The Read Aloud Revival’s December picks, Brightly’s holiday picks, and Carolyn’s picks at House Full of Bookworms (haven’t seen her publish a Christmas booklist yet this year). As we come across some favorites this year, I’ll be sure to post about them on the Taking Joy Facebook page. We will also find time to read my husband‘s first published book, A Night With St. Nick. He wrote the book before we had our first child by drawing on his own childhood experience. It’s a great book for boys around age 10 as that’s the age of the protagonist. I may be biased, but it’s a pretty great book.
Even though we are a protestant family, we have chosen to incorporate church history in our curriculum (Ambleside Online is great about this). This includes observing some saint’s days. I keep The Loyola Treasury of Saints by David Self handy in my morning basket, and on Saint Nicholas Day (December 6th) we will be reading about the saint who inspired the legend of Santa Claus. The boys will also place their shoes under our Christmas tree the evening of December 5 and awake to find that St. Nick has left (chocolate) coins in their shoes. To understand this tradition, you’d have to read about Saint Nicholas, which I highly recommend you do!
Another way we are bringing Christmas into our existing schedule is by listening to great Christmas music. If you have older children, you might enjoy Cindy Rollins’ 25 Days to Handel’s Messiah: An Advent Devotional Guide. In an effort to bring J4 into the fold, I’m sitting on this for another year or so.
Over the years we have also built quite a Christmas playlist on Spotify, including classics like Handel and Tchaikovsky, as well as popular albums by artists like Pentatonix, Bring Crosby, and Harry Connick, Jr. We also plan to attend our local symphony’s free Christmas concert as well as A9’s boys choir and homeschool orchestra concerts. And, all three boys will be performing in our homeschool co-op’s Christmas musical.
Another resource that might fall under the music appreciation category is our electronic Advent calendar made by Jaquie Lawson. DH’s mom buys this for us each year, and the kids absolutely love it. Every morning in December this is the first activity they do — “Let’s go check the Advent calendar!” is a common exclamation in our house around 6:30am. The program unveils a new animation (set to classical music) each day of December. This year’s theme is Seaside Advent; last year’s was Victorian Christmas. The animations often involve animals, and sometimes they employ games. December 2nd was decorating a snowman, for example.
Planned outings can get overwhelming fast, but there are so many free events in our area that it’s hard to pass up a few. One local retailer goes all out decorating for Christmas, including elaborate toy demonstrations, a full-size indoor carousel, and free pictures with Santa. We also have several private individuals who put up dazzling light displays complete with a short-range radio station playing synced Christmas music, and our library hosts several book-related Christmas events. Even though the weather is turning colder, we are still making strides to take weekly nature walks.
The boys will also be making Christmas gifts this year. We haven’t yet made our pilgrimage to Hobby Lobby, but I’m planning for them to make some ornaments for their grandparents’ trees. We’ll also make some decorations for our house.
These are all simple little embellishments to our existing schedule that won’t break the bank or the calendar. I hope you are including some of these activities in your December, too.
Until next Friday (or so).
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (audio book)
- The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton – love these encapsulated chapters!
- The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (DH is reading this aloud for the kids and me after dinner.)
Moderately challenging books:
- Mind to Mind: An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education by Karen Glass
- For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay in conjunction with Brandy Vencel’s Start Here study (for my CM study group)