We had a blast with Christmas school the last two-plus weeks! I was very fortunate to have a wide variety of resources to use: Books, CDs, and DVDs. Some I got from the library, some I picked up from either the warehouse sale this fall or Amazon.com when I had gift certificates. Many I already had, even before we had children. So, I had a good 10 years or more to collect some of this stuff, without even knowing then that I’d be homeschooling now, but it was all put to good use this year.
We started “Christmas School” on December 5, the day before the commemoration of Nicholas of Myra. I thought that since it was so timely, it would be good to start with Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend. This is a great children’s book that introduces readers to Nicholas’ faith and generosity, as well as the fact that he was a real person.
That day, we also began our Christmas trip around the world. I found a fun book(Christmas Around the World) that gives a basic introduction to the Christmas activities in twelve countries, including how to say “Merry Christmas” in that country’s native language, what the main symbol of Christmas is in that location, and a general overview of when the holiday is celebrated (not always on December 25), and what that celebration looks like, from food to activities to present opening.
I found one other book at the library that I used in our trip around the world: Christmas in the Philippines. This book wasn’t a storybook, so it’s not like I could just sit down and read it to Turkey and Bunny, but they did enjoy looking at the pictures (and there were many), of what Christmas looks like in that country. There were also some interesting looking recipes at the back, but Asian cooking is not my strong point, so I don’t know if any of those were good.
A book that provided me with some craft activities, as well as possible explanations for the meanings behind the 12 Days of Christmas was The Adventure of Christmas. There are lots of great ideas in this book, for a variety of ages, so I’m sure I’ll be using for many years to come.
One storybook we really enjoyed was The Lion Storyteller Christmas Book. It’s as good as the original Lion Storyteller that we’ve been reading in school, and we read a lot of the stories in it. Some of our favorites included: “Old Befana,” “Wenceslas’ Winter Walk,” “A Flower for Christmas,” “The First Christmas Tree,” “Francis’ Christmas Pageant,” “Father Joseph’s Christmas Song,” “Brother Comgall’s Christmas,” “Papa Panov’s Visitors” (a great story illustrating the words of Jesus in Matthew 25: 31-46), and “The Cobbler’s Sons.” There was also a whole section of Bible stories at the beginning of the book, and we might try to read some of those before it goes back to the library.
Turkey and Bunny also had two coloring books they enjoyed using. The first, the Christmas Around the World Coloring Book, had beautiful pictures detailing Christmas celebrations in many different countries. In retrospect, this book was probably a little too detailed and advanced for them, but they didn’t color all the pictures, so we’ll probably be able to use it for several more years. The second, Christmas Traditions, is a fun book that we picked up at our favorite Christmas festival. The pictures were much less complex in this book, and it had the added bonus of Turkey and Bunny having seen a lot of the characters at the festival, so that was probably the more popular of the two. Both also had pictures of the Nutcracker story, so they were very useful on the days we were learning about that story.
My favorite purchase at the warehouse sale (as soon as I saw it, I knew I needed it for Christmas school), was Sacred Songs of Christmas. This is actually a book and CD set, and includes the lyrics and music for 19 Christmas hymns and carols. It’s a beautiful book, and in addition to the lyrics, contains stories, poems, and verses from other hymns. We gained more insight to some of the hymns we associate with Christmas, as well as some of the characters and places in the Christmas story.
We also had a few other Christmas CDs that we listened to during different school activities. The best was the Classical Kids Christmas CD. I continue to be impressed with this series of CDs for children, and the Christmas version is my favorite so far. It’s organized much like a children’s Christmas program, and includes songs from around the world, and showcases some of the other holidays associated with Christmas in various Christian cultures. The Time-Life Treasury of Christmas was also helpful to us, primarily for listening to the 12 Days of Christmas on the days we were doing our special Christmas math activity, but also for providing festive background music on a few occasions, and listening to songs such as “Feliz Navidad” and “Adeste Fidelis” when we were learning about Christmas around the world.
While the Nutcracker was our primary source of videos in Christmas school, we did have one other show we watched, the final day of school. It was an episode of The Seasoned Traveler, which is a PBS show. This particular episode, entitled “Christmas Markets,” allowed us to see what Christmas markets are like all around Europe, but particularly in Germany. It may not have been a story like the Nutcracker, but Turkey and Bunny really liked it, because it was real–a show about a real event, at real places, that real people can go to.
We had a lot of resources to go through this year, but I’m already looking ahead to years down the road, and what we might add to our school as the children get older. Included on that list are The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (I still remember reading about the Herdmans when I was in grade school) and The Annotated Christmas Carol (which is probably still several years off–I don’t think Turkey and Bunny will really “get” it; they don’t really “get” the Muppet version, either!).
That’s a lot of books–it’s a good thing Turkey and Bunny like reading as much as I do!