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!
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.
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!
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!
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.)
- The Nutcracker–I like this picture book edition because it includes so many details from the story without being too long to read out loud. It also has fantastic illustrations!
- Nutcracker and Mouse King and The Tale of the Nutcracker–If you want the whole, weird Nutcracker story, this is the edition you’re looking for.
- The Story of the Nutcracker Ballet–This is a good introduction to the story of the ballet for the smallest of viewers.
Other Nutcracker Books
- The Day Before Christmas–A sweet story about a little girl and her grandfather going to see a performance of the Nutcracker together for the first time.
- The Nutcracker Comes to America–A mostly true story about how the Christensen brothers made the Nutcracker a popular Christmas tradition in America.
- Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite
- The Nutcracker in Harlem–A jazzy retelling of the classic.
- The Nutcracker Mice–A cute twist on the Nutcracker, set in the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg.
- Degas and the Little Dancer–This book isn’t specifically about the Nutcracker, but it is about a little girl who wants to dance in a Christmas ballet.
- Nutcracker Ballet Coloring Book
- The Story of the Nutcracker Coloring Book
- The Nutcracker Colouring Book
- The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Complete Nutcracker and Symphony No.4
- Duke Ellington: Three Suites (Including the Nutcracker Suite)
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)
- San Francisco Ballet—This is my perennial favorite. I love the slightly unusual setting: the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition
- Dutch National Ballet–Our second-favorite production includes a unique Greek dance, and an unexpected setting for the Land of Sweets…inside a camera!
- Bolshoi Ballet
- Royal Ballet–Another unusual setting for the Land of Sweets…on a cake!
- Wiener Staatsballett
- Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin
- Mariinsky Ballet
- George Balanchine/New York City Ballet
- 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?
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!
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!
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:
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!
This was our last week of school in 2014!
It was a light week. In the mornings, I had the children work on religion, math, very limited language arts, crafts (more on that in a bit), and reading. We also finished A Christmas Carol, and did a poetry study of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
The afternoons were all about fun. I decided that this would be “Nutcracker Week,” which worked out well, because we own recordings of five different productions. We started with the Bolshoi Ballet on Monday, which enabled us to both recognize the Nutcracker’s Russian roots, and continued our study of Christmas in Russia. On Tuesday, we watched our new production for the year–the Vienna State Ballet. Wednesday I was feeling British, so we watched the Royal Ballet performance. We watched what I think is probably our most unique version on Thursday, the Dutch National Ballet’s production. And I saved the best for last…today we watched my all-time favorite, the San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker. I had Turkey and Bunny take notes on what they really liked in each performance (or what they found unusual), and then had them attempt to rank them when we were done, which is no easy feat! (For the record, my ranking goes 1.) San Francisco Ballet; 2.) Dutch National Ballet; 3.) Royal Ballet; 4.) Bolshoi Ballet; and 5.) Vienna State Ballet.)
To go along with my favorite part of the Nutcracker in both music and dance, “The Waltz of the Snowflakes,” we spent some time a few mornings making snowflakes to hang in the schoolroom. Turkey, in particular, enjoyed seeing what patterns he could make, and even I made a few snowflakes. We weren’t happy until we had a full-on blizzard going!
The snowflakes were craft one. We also made our ornament for the year–a cute clothespin donkey. We had quite the assembly line going to get them finished!
And, for a fun end-of-the-week activity, I got the new Lego: The Hobbit Lake Town set to go with the sets the children and I built after we finished the book earlier this fall. It’s a small building, but it was fun to build, and added some new minifigs to our Lake Town setup.
I’m looking forward to taking a break and just having fun for a few weeks, but we’ll be back in 2015, ready for more learning (and fun!).