2020-21 School Year–Christmas School

Hymn of the Week–“Where Shepherds Lately Knelt” (Lutheran Service Book #369)

It’s been a long time since we’ve dedicated a week to “Christmas School,” but if ever a year needed it, it’s 2020. So this week was spent making ornaments, baking cookies, reading Christmas stories, and watching different versions of The Nutcracker.

I was especially excited about the ornaments. I had originally planned for the children to make them two years ago, but that was the year I broke my ankle, and I just didn’t have the energy to deal with it. Last year I found ornament kits that I really wanted to make, so these beautiful sequin ornaments got pushed back one more year. We had lots of options for colors and sizes:

They were definitely worth the wait (and the seed beads that may be rolling around the kitchen forever!), because they are beautiful!

We also decorated gingerbread houses, something we have done in the past, but it’s been a few years, and I’ve never had a house for each child (the mansion was a group project).

Speaking of gingerbread houses, we did get out of the house to see the gingerbread creations in the store windows on Main Street. We might not have been able to do most of the Christmas activities I had planned this year, but it was nice to do one familiar thing!

This was also “Cookie Week.” I decided we should bake a different kind of cookie every day, and they should all be cookies we don’t usually bake. On Monday, we made eggnog blossoms, Tuesday was chocolate crinkles, Wednesday we baked kolacky, Thursday we made both Madelines and palmiers, and today we baked spritz.

We did a lot of reading this week, too. We finished A Christmas Carol, and made it through most of Letters from Father Christmas (I plan on finishing that next week). We also read a bunch of storybooks:

  • Lucia Morning in Sweden
  • Lucia: Saint of Light
  • The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit
  • Jackie’s Gift
  • The Carpenter’s Gift
  • Fear Not Joseph
  • Madeline’s Christmas
  • The 12 Days of Christmas
  • The Three Wise Women of Christmas
  • The Nativity

It was also “Nutcracker Week.” This is not totally unheard of for us, although this year we were supposed to see a live production. We watched a different version every day:

  • Monday: Ballet Company of The National Opera of Ukraine
  • Tuesday: Dutch National Ballet
  • Wednesday: Wiener Staatsballett
  • Thursday: The Royal Ballet
  • Friday: The Bolshoi Ballet

We saved our favorite, the San Francisco Ballet production, to watch tomorrow. If we have time next week, we’ll watch the Berlin Nutcracker, too…that’s the only one we have on disc that we didn’t schedule for this week.

This was a really fun week of school, but I’m looking forward to taking a break for a few weeks. Merry Christmas!

Christmas Ornament Crafts Revisited

It’s been quite some time since I last shared the ornament crafts we’ve done over the years, so I thought I’d update the list. In 10+ years of homeschooling at Christmastime, we’ve made 17 different ornaments, and a few of those have had different variations, as well. Many of the ornaments have come from kits, but some of those are easily reproducible with the right materials.

2020–I waited a long time for the children to finally make these beautiful sequin ornaments, and it was totally worth the wait…they add so much sparkle to the tree!

2019–When I saw these “stained glass” ornaments at Joann, I knew this was the project we were going to do this year, because they reminded me of ornaments I made when I was a child!

2018–I needed something simple (broken ankle and all), so we made yarn ball ornaments. They may have been easy to make, but they look so pretty on the tree!

2017–This year, we made bead and button icicle ornaments in both red & green and blue color schemes:

2016–I finally found a Nutcracker Prince ornament kit, which involved painting…a first for us at Christmas!

2015–Mop-n-Glo glitter ornaments in two different shapes!

2014–Clothespin donkeys:

2013–Spiderweb ornaments to go along with the legend of the tinsel:

2012–Jingle bell wreaths, and our one true ornament failure. I should have known better than to try to make paper ball ornaments, because I was also a failure at them when I was a student, but we tried, we made the best of our mistakes, and we made a memory!

2011–Button wreaths and pipe cleaner starbursts:

2010–Crystal snowflakes and spiral trees:

2009–To be honest, I’m not 100% sure what ornament we made this year…but I think it was probably these snowflakes:

2008–Our first year of homeschooling meant making the two simplest ornaments I knew how…beaded wreaths and candy canes:

And then there are the final two ornaments. I can’t remember what year we made either of them, but I know the penguins were part of a kit from Target…I normally avoid craft foam projects, but these were too cute to pass up! At some point, we also made Nutcracker Princes that were printed, colored, cut out, laminated, and attached at the joints with brads:

Other than hand-and-footprint turkeys, Christmas ornaments are my favorite craft project of the year. I especially love that they are something that we not only keep, but also get out again year after year to hang on our tree…and someday, the children will be able to add them to their own Christmas trees!

Christmas School–The Nutcracker

No school for us this week, because we’re on Christmas vacation, but I thought I’d share some ideas for using the Nutcracker in school or at home. In the last 10 years, we’ve done anything from a “Nutcracker Day” to stretching our studies out over a full week. In that time, we’ve learned the story of the Nutcracker, listened through the entire score, compared and contrasted many different productions, seen a live performance, learned a bit about Tchaikovsky, made some fun crafts, and read about how the Nutcracker came to be a Christmas tradition in America. It’s one of my favorite things about Christmas School!

Nutcracker Stories (It’s up to you whether you choose to teach the story before introducing the ballet. I think there can be value in both approaches, because being unfamiliar with the story before seeing the dance can really encourage students to “read” the ballet, but knowing the story first prepares children and lets to know them what to expect.)

Other Nutcracker Books

Music

Ballet Productions (Of course, seeing the ballet live is the best option, and we’ve been fortunate enough to get to do that twice. But since it’s not always an option, I also like watching recordings of various productions, which also provides a great opportunity for comparing and contrasting how different companies interpret the story differently)

Crafts

  • Nutcracker Prince–We done two different ornaments of the Nutcracker Prince over the years…one made of laminated paper and jointed, and one from a kit, which gave us a chance to paint our own.
  • Waltz of the Snowflakes–Snowflake crafts are so much fun, whether you’re making paper snowflakes or ornaments!
  • The Land of Sweets–We haven’t done this craft yet, but you could do all kinds of fun candy and treat themed crafts to go along with the Nutcracker Prince’s magical kingdom.

What kinds of fun Nutcracker activities do you like to do?

2015-16 School Year–Week Thirteen

This was a pretty light week of school. I decided not to start anything new in math, so our main focus this week was language arts…spelling, vocabulary, grammar, writing, and reading. We also did a little science. We watched several productions of the Nutcracker, as always, as well as The Seasoned Traveler: Christmas Markets and Rick Steves’ European Christmas. We also continued our annual read-through of A Christmas Carol…We still have to read the last chapter, but we got through more than I was expecting after having been sick last week!

As always, we made Christmas ornaments this week. This year, we finally made the floor wax/glitter ornaments that I’ve been looking forward to making. They’re so beautiful…I love the way they look in the lights from the Christmas tree!

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This year, for Christmas Around the World, we learned about Christmas in Poland. We read a fun book, Marta and the Manger Straw. We also had a Polish meal…kielbasa, homemade pierogis, sauerkraut, and kolache cookies for dessert. It was a very popular meal!

We still have a few things to wrap up next week (finishing A Christmas Carol, another craft, and maybe learning about Christmas in one more country), but other than that, we’re done until 2016. Merry Christmas!

Christmas Crafts–Ornaments

Our favorite kind of Christmas craft every year is making Christmas ornaments. These are particularly good, because they’re so keepable, unlike pictures and other paper crafts, which often get wrinkled or torn and have to be thrown away. Over the last few years, we’ve made many different ornaments, some variations on the same theme, but all of them different in some way. They also make great Christmas gifts for special people like grandparents, pastors, and Sunday School teachers!

We’ve done very basic candy cane and wreath ornaments with beads on pipe cleaners…I think every child in America has made one of these at some point!

Glitter ornaments are another standard, and they look so pretty in the lights on the tree:

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Pipe cleaners are useful in so many ways…these came from a pattern I found in a book about Christmas during World War II. Super easy, but the metallic stems make them so sparkly and pretty on the tree!

We’ve made a lot of stars/snowflakes…it can be difficult to tell the difference! Some have come from craft kits, and some are simply done following a pattern, and strung on wire or pipe cleaners.

We’ve made other things from kits, too, including one attempt at foam. I really don’t care for foam projects in general, but the penguins we made did turn out really cute!

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This year, for something new, we made wreath ornaments using buttons. For some reason, the buttons, as opposed to the beads used in years past, were particularly entertaining to the children!

We’ve also made ornaments using bells:

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We even made jointed Nutcracker ornaments. These look really cool, but due to some, uh…teacher error…they didn’t turn out quite as planned. They’re still fun, though, and they’re even posable! Turkey designed his to look like the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker Prince.

Of course, sometimes it’s fun to let children design and create their own ornaments, too!

Next year, I want to make jingle bell ornaments, glitter ball ornaments, and maybe a paper ball ornament, (even though I was terrible at making those as a child!), but after that, I’m out of ideas! That’s OK, though, because other than this year’s wreath, Ladybug hasn’t made any of the other ornaments, so I can just start the whole cycle over again with her!