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!

Ten Lords-a-Leaping

As hard as it is to believe, we’re now at the 10th Day of Christmas in the Hallmark ornament series based on the familiar Christmas song:

I can’t believe there are only two more ornaments to look forward to!

Eight Maids-a-Milking

This is the first non-bird ornament in our Hallmark 12 Days of Christmas ornament collection…even “Five Golden Rings” featured a bird! I’m not really sure what to do with this abrupt change in styling, but I assume after the ladies dancing, lords-a-leaping, pipers piping, and drummers drumming join her on the tree, I’ll be used to it!

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!

IMG_9588

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!

Charleston Memories

On one of the hottest days of the summer, we spent an uncomfortably sweaty, yet fun, afternoon walking around historic Charleston. Even though Christmas was far from our minds, we stopped in the Charleston City Market to buy an ornament for our Christmas tree to commemorate our visit to the Holy City, and our first ever family vacation:

IMG_9077

Now we’re approaching winter in the midwest, with nary a palm tree to be seen, but we have a beautiful memory of them, and our trip, sparkling on our Christmas tree!