Welcome to the merriest time of the year—Christmas time. Joy floats through the air on the notes of cheerful holiday melodies, and your kids are bright with anticipation. So how can you keep those smiles on their faces and complete necessary schoolwork at the same time?
Well, whether or not you’re able to take a longer break during the holidays, you can sprinkle these holiday-themed activities into your days.
Make and Give Gifts From the Heart
Generosity is always a welcome gift because it comes from the heart and warms the hearts of others. Making and giving gifts with your children teaches them about the best gift of all—giving.
We sent homemade holiday cards to help brighten the spirits of young patients at local hospitals, made goodies for lonely seniors, and baked dog biscuits for animal shelter residents. But don’t forget the birds! Spread peanut butter all over both sides of mini bagels and press each side into a bowl of birdseed. Attach a colorful string and hang them up on your trees.
Help faraway family and friends feel not so far away with personalized concerts, plays, and holiday greetings. Dress your family in their finest, sparkliest holiday attire and sing Christmas carols, recite holiday poems, or just wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
Try some of these or create your own traditions of giving.
Build a Gingerbread House
Want to add a bit of sugar and spice to your holiday history lessons? Bake some gingerbread and start building.
I think making a gingerbread house might just be the ultimate holiday challenge, but one of the best family activities. Of course, there are kits available if you are a novice builder, but it might just be that much more fun to plan and build it from the tabletop up.
The craft of building gingerbread houses originated in Germany in the 1500s and may have been the inspiration for the story of Hansel and Gretel written by the Brothers Grimm. Gingerbread eventually found its way to America via the English colonists who settled here.
Did you know that the world’s biggest gingerbread house was built by the Traditions Golf Club in Texas and was 60 feet long, 42 feet wide, and about 20 feet high?
Fostering a needy cat or dog during the holidays is a great way to comfort frightened and lonely shelter animals and improve their chances for adoption. Gentle and caring family interactions and your loving home environment help to bring out their true pet personalities hidden inside while living at the shelters. This insight helps staff to place each animal in its perfect forever home.
Shelters will provide your family with all the essentials necessary to care for your new furry friend: food, bowls, a collar and leash, and a crate for when you’re not at home.
The hands-on experiences of pet ownership, even if only temporary, can help teach responsibility, time management, selflessness, compassion, and accountability. We fostered cats, orphaned kittens, pregnant mama cats and their litters, retired racing Greyhounds and other dog breeds, and even a few needy baby goats throughout the year, and the rewards are immeasurable.
Celebrate Holiday Traditions Around the World
It’s fascinating and such fun to learn about the Christmas traditions of other countries whose culture is so different from our own. Some museums, libraries, and city visitors’ bureaus sponsor a display of decorated Christmas trees from around the world. Visit the displays and use this as a stepping stone for learning about the Christmas customs of other countries.
Visit Model Railroad Displays
This is inspired by my husband David’s love of trains. Model railroad clubs throughout the country host open houses during the holiday season. Your kids will be in awe of these delightful miniature villages and landscapes, many of which are modeled after their local towns with historic landmarks and businesses. Check your newspaper for a listing of dates and times for the open houses.
Most displays are interactive and operated by club volunteers who are always happy to talk about the display and answer any questions. A simple visit just might elicit a conversation about railroading history, industry, or inspire your kids to start planning and building a display of their own.
Create a Holiday Collage
I save all the Christmas cards we receive each year as keepsakes and use them as inspiration for making my own cards. You could also encourage your kids to get a little crafty and choose their favorite images and scenes, cut them out, and make a collage of Christmas spirit. Frame it and hang it in a central location where everyone will be able to see it and feel the joy every day of the year. If you haven’t saved your cards in the past, consider doing so this year.
It’s such a special gift to be able to sprinkle the spirit of Christmas into your homeschool days. It brightens attitudes. It sparks creativity. And your kids might be astonishingly motivated to work on schoolwork when they’re snuggled up all warm and cozy with their new furry friend.