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  • Blog: Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree... Using Reading to Make Homeschool Easy During the Holidays!

    Sure, the holidays can really put a huge burden on parents, especially the homeschooling variety. We tend to get bogged down with the myriad of festive duties, and homeschool learning becomes even more challenging. The kids have holiday fever (or just regular old fevers if you're at our house right now) and visions of sugar plums dance "through their heads" instead of addition and subtraction. With all of these dilemmas, homeschooling during December can feel more like pushing a rope up hill than educating your children. Yet, remember that homeschooling is a tool meant to serve our needs. With that in mind, and your overall educational goals... change your homeschooling schedule to meet your needs!

    For instance, December is a great month to really get your kids reading. In fact, turning this month's learning into a thematic reading unit would be so easy! You can easily encourage classic literature with underlying Christmas themes. This enables you to follow their train of thought during the month of December, but also get in quality learning through reading! Not to mention the fact that you can grab your book and hit the road if you've got errands to run! I love creating themed learning units, and in my experience these units catch and keep the attention of the kids far longer than just a regular school day! Isn't that exactly what we need right now... my regular school day surely can't compete with Santa and the Grinch! Here is a list of a few books you might want to use for your Christmas thematic unit!

    For younger kids...
    The Littlest Christmas Tree: A Tale of Growing & Becoming
    by Janie Jasin
    The Polar Express
    by Chris Van Allsburg
    The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story
    by Gloria Houston
    Children Around the World Celebrate Christmas
    by Susan T. Osborn
    The Legend of the Poinsettia
    by Tomie dePaola
    Josefina's Surprise: A Christmas Story
    by Valerie Tripp
    The Nutcracker
    by Janet Schulman, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Renee Graef
    Here's an extended list of great "Christmas Read Alouds" that would be perfect for younger kids.

    For Middle Schoolers
    The Little Match Girl
    by Hans Christian Anderson
    Christmas Day in the Morning
    by Pearl Buck
    Christmas Sonata
    by Gary Paulsen
    A Christmas Memory
    by Truman Capote
    The Cat on the Dovrefell
    by Peter Christian Asbjornsen
    Little Women
    by Louisa May Alcott

    For High Schoolers
    A Christmas Carol
    by Charles Dickens
    Pride and Prejudice
    by Jane Austen
    The Christmas Shoes
    by Donna VanLiere
    Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ
    by Lew Wallace
    What Christmas is as We Grow Older - Short Story
    by Charles Dickens
    Christmas by Injunction
    by O Henry

    Whenever I make a thematic unit, I usually try to integrate other core subjects into our reading selection. I do this by assigning writing projects that support what we have been reading. For example, this month if you choose to have your daughter read "Little Women" have her write daily journal entries about how she would feel if she were living during the 1800's at this time of year, or you could have her do a reading response journal in which she would write about each day's reading and what her perception of it was.

    You might also want to consider using Vocabulary and Spelling City to reinforce what your child is learning through the Christmas thematic unit you've established. At Vocabulary and Spelling City there are premade spelling and vocabulary lists that reinforce concepts and vocabulary used in many pieces of classic literature. These lists are a fun and easy way to give your child extra language arts practice and tie it in to your reading selection.

    I also like to integrate my themes across subjects. You can include history naturally by selecting books that include history. Books such as "Little Women" mention previously are set during the Civil War and include many historical details. You can use this to enhance a continuing study of the civil war or even have your student do a little side study about the families affected by War during the holidays! Math could also be integrated into a Christmas theme by giving your child a budget and have them try to find Christmas presents for their siblings within the allotted budget. If you want to keep it strictly tied to the literature selection you could have them research how much things cost during the civil war as compared to now. Have them try to find out how much what they want for Christmas cost during the 1800's (if they had it then!)

    Finally, the big FINALE! I love this part... whenever you come to the end of thematic unit you've got to have a BIG DEAL ENDING! We love to find the movie that goes along with the book that we have been reading and have a big party. We usually make projects or crafts that correspond with the book we've read, make a meal fitting the time period of our book, play a game that might have been mentioned in the book, and then watch the movie. Whenever we've done this, we have had the best time! It is so fun for the whole family, and it really concretes in their minds some of the experiences of the book!
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. mamaneedham's Avatar
      mamaneedham -
      Thanks for tying so much together to make a wonderful unit study! I really like some of your book suggestions - some of those I've never heard of.
    1. fairylover's Avatar
      fairylover -
      What a great list of books. We will definitely be reading some of them.
    1. bailbrae's Avatar
      bailbrae -
      Wow! Thanks for the awesome suggestions! We always read AND watch The Polar Express every year, and we will continue to do so. But I bet both of my boys (ages 8 and 13) would enjoy trying to find some new old favorites. Thanks again!
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