Christmas in the Time of COVID-19

Time for a look at this year’s scaled-back Christmas celebration. Some things were the same, like starting Christmas Eve with a bowl of Christmas Crunch:

Some things were different…but not necessarily because of COVID-19. I had a fun time playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons and helping Jingle deliver his gifts yesterday morning:

The Fab Five finished this year’s Advent project, Lego Diagon Alley:

And I played Animal Crossing some more:

Our Christmas Eve dinner was different this year…I ordered tamales from Portillo’s, and we had them before church.

I always take pictures before church. This year, I took two sets. One with the year’s hottest accessory:

And one without:

This year, we attended an outdoor Christmas Eve service. It was cold, so we weren’t too sad it was short (although I missed all off the familiar Christmas hymns!). We did chuckle when a helicopter flew over during “Silent Night,” drowning out the singing!

We drove through the Way of Lights on the way home:

For Jesus’ birthday cake this year, I made a peppermint chocolate cake with two kinds of frosting (white chocolate peppermint buttercream inside, and an Italian buttercream outside). I think this is one of the best cakes I’ve ever made!

Of course there were new Christmas jammies:

We skipped playing Ticket to Ride on Christmas Eve, so I just had to fill the stockings and set up the nativity scene under the tree before bed:

We didn’t have to get up early, so we enjoyed our traditional Christmas morning coffee cake a little later than usual (but not much):

And since we didn’t have a Christmas Day service to go to (probably the biggest disappointment of the holiday for me), we opened presents in the morning, which was very strange!

We had our traditional Christmas Eve “pick out dinner” for Christmas Day lunch…and dinner (we’re saving our fancy Christmas feast for Sunday…stay tuned!). Here’s a look at some of the things we had:

We spent the afternoon watching Christmas movies, including my very favorite, White Christmas. We played our annual Christmas Eve game of Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries tonight. And since we were a day late, we also played the new Ticket to Ride game Ryan gave me, the 15th anniversary edition with clear trains, which I love! Everything is different this year…we might as well embrace it!

“Hail, O everlasting morn!
Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem:
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!'”

Merry Christmas!

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!

2020-21 School Year–Week Fourteen

Hymn of the Week–“Now Thank We All Our God” (Lutheran Service Book #895)

I always enjoy the week before Thanksgiving in school, because not only do we read all of our favorite Thanksgiving books, this is also usually the week we visit Cahokia Mounds, which we did on Wednesday. It was a beautiful, clear, chilly day, and we had most of the trail to ourselves, which made our masks pretty unnecessary. I’m extra thankful for the few traditions we can continue to do in this very strange year!

As for the rest of the week…Turkey and Bunny continued to work with derivatives in calculus…I guess that’s pretty much all they’ll be doing for the near future. They started reading A Tale of Two Cities…I think the themes of the book are going to very timely and appropriate. They read about Yankeedom and New Netherland in American Nations.

Ladybug multiplied binomials by trinomials in algebra. She finished the first section of Treasure Island. In science, she read about cohesion, adhesion, and surface tension. She and Chickadee learned about the Russo-Japanese War and the Treaty of Portsmouth in history.

Chickadee continued to practice division in math. She finished the chapter on birds’ nests in science. Instead of starting a new book right before Thanksgiving, we read some extra Thanksgiving stories together. She learned about conjunctions in grammar.

Next week will be a super short week of school because of Thanksgiving, so I’ll save my next wrap-up for two weeks from now…have a happy Thanksgiving!

2020-21 School Year–Week Thirteen

Hymn of the Week–“Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” (Lutheran Service Book #892)

This has been A Week. It started out well enough, with a Sunday evening visit to the Missouri Botanical Garden for Garden Glow.

And Monday was nice, too, as it was Moose’s birthday (although we did still have school). Things kind of fell apart after that, however, as my mom was admitted to the ICU on Tuesday. So we did school this week, but I have to admit, I think we were all pretty distracted.

Turkey and Bunny did derivatives of trigonometric functions in calculus. In advanced biology, they learned the names and functions of a lot of muscles. Ryan commented that it learned like we were casting spells from Harry Potter one day! They learned about language development in psychology. They read about “El Norte,” “New France,” and “Tidewater” in American Nations.

Ladybug continued to work with systems of equations in algebra. She and Chickadee read about the Boxer Rebellion in history. In science she learned about valance electrons and how chemical reactions occur. We started reading Treasure Island.

Chickadee started some simple division in math…I was not ready for that! We finished reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins…she wanted it to last forever! In science, she learned about several different kinds of nests. She was relieved to have a review week in spelling…that means no test!

I don’t know what next week will look like, but hopefully it’s a little better than this week has been!

2020-21 School Year–Week Twelve

Hymn of the Week–“For All the Saints” (Lutheran Service Book #677)

I’m so happy it’s finally November (even if it has been unusually warm the last few days)!

On Monday, we took our annual walk around Creve Coeur Lake…it was the perfect day for it, and there was still plenty of fall color to see. And most importantly, we got out of the house!

After our very rare field trip day, we got back to our regular work. Turkey and Bunny learned the chain rule for derivatives in calculus. They started reading two new books for history: American Nations and Light in the Dark Belt. Now that they’ve learned about how muscles work in advanced biology, they’re learning about specific muscles/muscle groups.

Ladybug worked with adding, subtracting, and multiplying systems of equations in algebra. She learned how elements are grouped on the periodic table in science. She also learned how to write a scientific paper. We finished reading The Trojan War. In history, she and Chickadee read about the Oregon Trail.

Chickadee started carrying in multiplication in math. Her writing lessons focused on passages from 101 Dalmatians. She learned a bit more about migration in science. We read about the first theater performance of Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

Ladybug and Chickadee put the finishing touches on their election lapbooks this week. The biggest addition was the “Vocabinet,” which summarized all the terms they’ve learned over the last month:

Both Ladybug and Chickadee were very proud of their finished projects!

Next week will be a pretty normal week, and then we’ll add in our Thanksgiving studies!

2020-21 School Year–Week Nine

Hymn of the Week–“Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word” (Lutheran Service Book #655)

This week was a little strange. We had Monday off as part of our long weekend, and then we had what I’m calling “Documentary Day” on Tuesday. We watched various episodes from different shows covering nature (Frozen Planet), architecture/history (Great Estates of Scotland), American history (America: The Story of US), and biography (The Diamond Queen). This was a nice way to have a different and laid-back day of school, especially since we don’t have our usual field trips that we would enjoy going on for a break, and I think we may do it again at some point!

On to the rest of the week. Turkey and Bunny learned about the different kinds of joints in advanced biology. They read more about dreams and states of consciousness in psychology. We discovered that even our hymn study can include some humor, and although we weren’t expecting it, we had a good laugh when reading the text background for “Lord, Keep Up Steadfast in Your Word,” because it include a parody lyric that was popular at one point. They finished reading There are No Children Here for our study of US geography and cultures.

Ladybug learned about atoms and molecules, compounds and solutions in science, as well as the states of matter. She and Chickadee learned about the Boer Wars in history. She read about the death of Achilles in The Trojan War. Both she and Chickadee continued to work on their election lapbooks…here’s a look at some of what she added this week:

Chickadee continued to multiply two-digit numbers by one-digit numbers in math. We started reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins together. In spelling, she worked with “ee” and “ea” words. She learned about what gives feathers their color in science.

Also, we finally had an outing today! Our local pumpkin patch is offering some different options due to COVID-19, and I was very comfortable with how they’re doing things, so we went a picked a pumpkin (or four) this morning!!!

This was a nice, low-key week of school, and just what we needed!

2020-21 School Year–Week One

Hymn of the Week: “Earth and All Stars” (Lutheran Service Book #817)

The first week of the 2020-21 school year is complete! We kind of eased into things…we did get to all our new subjects, just not all on the same day…we had to save something new for next week! Our first day was especially fun, and the Fab Five like the new Lego Architecture set of Dubai we added to our collection!

This year, our religion studies will be done together as a group, as it is a curriculum of my own making. We’re using Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns, along with the hymnal, to learn about a new hymn each week (see above), as well as the author, and the changes made to it over the years. We’re also using the school room keyboard to learn to play at least the basic melody line of the hymns…since choir is on the back burner due to COVID-19, it’s nice to add some music to our school days!

Turkey and Bunny started calculus with a whirlwind review of everything they’ve learned in math in the last three years. I guess it all stuck, because they both received perfect scores on their first test! They also reviewed basic concepts from biology in their advanced biology course. Their psychology class, which like advanced biology is an AP class, was full of new information at a very quick pace, which is going to take some getting used to. They began reading Macbeth this week, and also the first book I chose for our study of American geography and culture, 1491.

Ladybug also did review in algebra, and I was happy to see that she, too, retained what she had learned last year over the summer. We had a little hiccup in her physical science course, because I hadn’t realized that the updated text is basically an entirely new book, and the workbook that goes with it is incompatible with the old text we have. So we decided to study weather until the new book arrives. She and Chickadee learned about Queen Victoria and the British Empire to begin the fourth year of the history cycle. Her first literature study is one of my favorite of Shakespeare’s works…As You Like It.

While I’m not responsible for teaching Moose, it has been interesting to see what he’s been up to in his distance-learning. He is taking and algebra and biology this year, in addition to world geography and English. I’m curious to see exactly how band is going to work out, but they’re giving it a try, and Moose was very excited to discover that the first piece he gets to learn is a medley from Hamilton!

Chickadee is probably the most enthusiastic of my students (shocking, I know!). Like her older siblings, her math was review this week, and she also remembered everything she was supposed to. Her first literature study is Farmer Boy, which is my favorite of the Little House books (although the endless descriptions of food make me hungry!). She is learning cursive this year, and it’s not as difficult as she expected so far. Science for this year is all about winged creatures, and she’s looking forward to learning about everything except bugs!

I chose a motto from Doctor Who for this school year: “Never cruel or cowardly. Never give up. Never give in.” I also picked two Bible verses (because I couldn’t decide)…Psalm 27: 13-14 (I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!), and Hebrews 12:1-2 (Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.). This year is kind of A Big Deal, as it is Turkey’s and Bunny’s last year of homeschooling before college and adulthood, and I pray that we all learn a lot, and enjoy this time together, especially with Moose home during this very unusual year!

The First Day of School 2020

We were up bright and early this morning to begin our 13th year of homeschooling!

For once, we all started school on the same day in the same place, as Moose started his freshman year of high school today via distance-learning. Turkey and Bunny are, of course, seniors this year, Ladybug is in eighth grade, and Chickadee is in third. The motto for the day was:

“I cannot be everywhere at once, people
I’m in dire need of assistance.”

As always, I had schultüte waiting for the Fab Five when the bell rang:

Our other favorite first-day-of-school tradition is building a Lego set…this time, the skyline of Dubai. I especially love the Burj Al Arab.

We all had Animal Crossing shirts this year…even me!

This year is going to be different from any we’ve had before, and I imagine it will be challenging, but we’re going to take things one day at a time and try not to look too far into the future, while learning as much as we can!

The New Normal

For the first time in over three months, we left the house as a family! Actually, it’s been almost three months since any of the children left the house, and it’s certainly the first time any of us has gone anywhere we didn’t absolutely need to. But the weather is beautiful today, so we drove out to Cahokia Mounds.

In the end, we didn’t even run into anybody. Monks Mound was pretty crowded, but we stuck to the trails on the other side of the road, and while we did see a few people in the distance, we never crossed paths with anyone else. It was a lovely day to be out, and it was so nice to get out of the house! We even saw some baby egrets (I wish I had gotten a picture…they were so cute!), and of course, some goslings.

Hopefully we’ll make it back to the Missouri Botanical Garden before too long. I know that will be more crowded, but their safety plan looks good, and now we’ve all had some experience wearing masks outside, so I think we’re almost ready!