Homeschooling Over the Holidays

Homeschooling Over the Holidays  (as in the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year)

Whatever your cultural background, each year contains holidays, some longer, some shorter, some with lots of work, some with less work.[1], [2], [3], [4] And, as usual with the more complicated holidays, the kids are excited and Mom’s nerves are frayed (because Mom is usually the Holiday Fairy who makes it happen, and Mom is only one person, and if anyone else asks her how many more days there are until the Holiday – not nearly enough – she is just going to cancel the whole thing). There is too much to do and, with homeschooling, no getting away from the kids to have enough quiet time to either sort things out, or do whatever it is that needs doing. How do veteran homeschoolers concentrate on lessons while the clock is ticking and the children are licking (the beaters)?   In busy years, thoughts may arise such as,

  • “Maybe I’m not cut out to be a homeschooler?”
  • “Do any schools that take enrollments only between the end of November and the beginning of January?”
  • “What about a boarding school?”

Many homeschooling parents (who want to remain homeschooling parents) amend their schedules when seasonal demands increase. If scheduled lessons are a feature of homeschooling life then Mom decreases the lessons or puts them on hold. Shifting the family curriculum to ‘Seasonal Independent Living’ or ‘Home Ec for the Holidays’ can take the pressure off. Even at the high school level, there is no universal law that says, “It is hereby mandated by the Great State of Confusion that each and every homeschooling day will consist of each and every subject being studied.”  To keep burnout at bay during The Holidays, you can shift focus and zero in on Home Ec and Art with perhaps Religion and Community Service time increasing as well.

Home Ec:  Cleaning the halls

In a homeschooling family, Mom does not have to be the only Holiday Fairy making the magic happen. From laundering that special tablecloth, to putting away the extra groceries, to cooking special treats, the children can lend a hand.  The children’s increased holiday energy can be channeled into chores that may not be done as often as you would like:

  • vacuuming every corner of the house (if only in your dreams)
  • rearranging the furniture to accommodate card tables and chairs for guests
  • getting one of those nifty fuzzy duster gizmos and at least getting all the obvious dust removed, even if the furniture polishing doesn’t quite get finished
  • raking leaves before the first snowstorm arrives (if you’re in a temperate area)
  • cutting the grass (if you’re in a semi-tropical area)
  • tidying wood chips where the lawn would (if you’re in a Pacific-northwest maritime area)
  • sweeping the sand off the sidewalk and back into the ‘lawn’ (if you are in the Southwest).

Home Ec is as important as learning math, handwriting or pronouns — no one lives at a school with house elves.  Some children may stay at school if their parents can afford boarding school or they stay in dorms later on in college, but still no one lives-lives there unlike the Home that where, if you show up, they have to take you in — and a home must be maintained.[5]

Home Ec:  Decking the Halls

Decorating for complicated holidays is probably fun the first ten times you do it on your own, but after that it is not quite the thrill that, when we were children, we imagined it would always be.  One way to ease the job is to employ the children in the hall decking adventure.  Crafts that add to the holiday fun, but yet are kid friendly might be:

  • making paper snowflakes[6]
  • popcorn strings[7]
  • popcorn and cranberry strings
  • a card star from old greeting cards[8]
  • a string of brown paper bag gingerbread people
  • folded or cut German paper stars[9], [10], [11], [12]
  • home made candles [13]

Take your time over the holidays and make your home. Repeat the traditions of your own childhood and your husband’s and tell the children stories from when you were little. Make decorations that are kid-friendly.

Art:  Useful crafts

Many families send winter holiday cards and like doing so because, especially in the military, it is nice to stay in touch with old friends who are far away by sending them a special card. Special paper and Italic calligraphy (learned from the Getty-Dubay handwriting books[14])  make charming greeting cards. A more involved family project is extra-special cards for close friends or relatives using the instructions from books specializing in pop-ups[15].

Art:  A flair for the dramatic

The Holidays are a time of rich dramatic offering.  Many group stage special holiday performances tailored to the seasonal theme and attending a production counts as time for subject areas such as literature, drama or religion.  If the performance is culturally different from your own cultural outlook, you can enter the time under social studies.

Community Service:  Volunteering

On military installations, the entire community is often involved in various holiday celebrations. These activities can be good learning experiences outside the family circle. Chapels have an extended schedule of services or provide seasonal programs. Community theaters and choral groups produce holiday programs. Teens, who are collecting specific credits for high school graduation, might include:

  • ‘Office experience’ for collating and folding bulletins (and the attendant chore of keeping them in a useful place where others can find them later)
  • ‘drama’ for a holiday pageant
  • ‘literature’ for participating in special readings
  • ‘music’ for choral presentations
  • ‘religion’ for in-depth  research of traditions

Military installations may have food pantries for families who cannot afford all the Holiday trimmings, or may conduct clothing drives. These activities take the focus away from the commercial side of major American holidays and provide more memories than just the ‘what I got’ variety.

Social Studies:  Holiday differences overseas

Cultural differences between the U.S. and the host nation can provide learning opportunities. How, if it is a part of the culture, does the host nation celebrate the winter holiday? What are the differences between how the host nation celebrates and how the children remember celebrating in the United States?

Children can make unique souvenirs of the overseas tour with illustrated and captioned booklets of the differences they see and/or how your family celebrates. Small booklets are easily made with rubber cement, cereal box cardboard, scraps of fabric and manila paper, or typing paper that has been folded in half and sewn into a ‘signature.’[16]

Math:  Budgeting and baking

If gifts are a part of your holiday celebration, the children can practice their money math skills through buying gifts for the family.  Children use basic math skills if they have a specific amount of money already saved throughout the year (perhaps a dollar per week for the younger children, and more for older children), and then must divide the total either among the immediate family, or for extended family members if that is your practice.  Dividing a limited amount of money for the purchases of multiple people, and perhaps the gift wrapping materials, is a primary lesson in budgeting.

Holiday baking also provides math practice with the usual half cups of this, three-quarter teaspoons of that, and either halving or doubling recipes.  The children can confirm their pencil and paper exercises for increasing or decreasing recipes with actual measurements.

History:  Why do we do what we do?

Holiday observances did not spring out of nowhere.  Someone, at some point, found relevance in choosing to include a certain decoration, cook a specific food, or follow a particular schedule.  What was the relevance?  Does it still apply?  If not, why not?  Children can complete a unit study on the cultural significance of the holiday celebrated by the family.

Life isn’t all academics. Life is about relationships, discovery, harmony and love. So recapture the holidays between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day by taking time to relate to your family. Discover the tender joy of being in harmony with the natural rhythms of family life.


[1] Muslim Families Activities
http://ourseeds.tripod.com/activities.html

[2] Christmas lesson ideas, A to Z’s Home’s Cool
http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/articles/120998.htm

[3] Naaseh Venilmad
http://naasehvenilmad.blogspot.com/

[4] Pagan homeschooling, A to Z Home’s Cool
http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/religion/pagan.htm

[5] Home Comforts : The Art and Science of Keeping House

[6] Easy-to-Make Decorative Paper Snowflakes
http://store.doverpublications.com/0486254089.html

[7] How to string popcorn  (includes warning about pets trying to eat the popcorn while it is on the tree)
http://www.wikihow.com/String-Popcorn-on-a-Christmas-Tree

[8] How to make a Christmas card star
http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Christmas-Card-Star

[9] How to make stars
http://www.howtomakestars.com/instructions.html

[10] Froebel star
http://www.howtomakestars.com/instructions.html

[11] 3-D stars
http://highhopes.com/3dstar.html

[12] Paper stars (German language; included for illustrations of colored stars)
http://www.blinde-kuh.de/weihnachten/basteleien/sterne/

[13] Beeswax rolled candles
http://www.magiccabin.com/magiccabin/product.do?section_id=0&bc=1004&pgc=200

[14] Getty-Dubay Italic handwriting instruction books

Write Now: The Complete Program For Better Handwriting

Italic Handwriting Series Book A

Italic Handwriting Series Book B

Italic Handwriting Series Book C

Italic Handwriting Series Book D

Italic Handwriting Series Book E

[15] “Joan Irvine: the Pop-up Lady” http://makersgallery.com/joanirvine/

[16] Bookbinding 101:  Your first book
http://www.diyplanner.com/node/442

Homeschooling styles and methods: Waldorf schooling

Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and founder of the “science of the spirit,” to which he gave the name Anthroposophy, also developed a school for the children of the workers of the Waldorf Astoria cigarette company in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919 [1].   The name of the cigarette company gave its name to Steiner’s style of schooling.

For young children Waldorf schooling emphasizes art, music, handicrafts and physical movement (Eurythmy). The schooling philosophy divides children’s developmental ages into three stages of about seven years each: birth to change of teeth, change of teeth to puberty, and adolescence.  Waldorf schools teach from an Anthroposophist viewpoint, a viewpoint that has its critics, but the homeschooling parent, as always, can choose only those aspects that best fit her talents, philosophy and disposition.[2]

A distinctive aspect of Waldorf schooling is an emphasis on the children making their own books rather than reading only from textbooks. These books can be handmade using Manila paper, cloth, glue and cardboard, or the book can be an art sketchbook from the store. Either way, they are individualized records of the child’s interests and work and make excellent ‘souvenirs’ of the homeschooling adventure.

Links:


[1] Soul Economy:  Body, Soul and Spirit in Waldorf Education, Rudolf Steiner, 1977, 2003
http://books.google.com/books?id=NVG7-E6uT3gC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_summary_r&cad=0#PPA9,M1

[2] Foreword, R.A. Jarman, The spiritual basis of Steiner education, Roy Wilkinson, 1996
http://books.google.com/books?id=WpjLkeNwtGsC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_summary_r&cad=0#PPA9,M1

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Copyright 2009 Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and freely distributed as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

Homeschooling styles and methods: unschooling

John Holt[1] was the first writer to use the existing word, “unschooled.” Holt used the word to mean children who learned outside of school, instead of the word’s meaning of people who have never been to school.

Holt was an elementary schoolteacher before he wrote his first book, How Children Fail.[2], [3] During his teaching years, Holt found flaws in classroom style instruction and worked to reform public schools, going so far as to propose an underground railroad to help children escape from the effects of compulsory schooling laws.[4] After he discovered homeschooling, Holt changed his focus from school reform and started the magazine Growing Without Schooling [5]. He initially used the term ‘unschooling’ as a synonym for homeschooling but the word has come to mean a separate form of self-directed learning.  This use of ‘unschooling’ contrasts with the various styles of school-at-home teaching that usually characterize homeschooling.

Like homeschooling, unschooling has also experienced a fractalization similar to that in homeschooling:  the greater the number of people who participate, the greater the number of styles that develop.

Perhaps the ‘eclectic’ style of homeschooling could be thought of as a middle-of-the-homeschooling-road style of unschooling:  no set curriculum, no set list of materials, and no set style of learning.  Eclectic homeschooling though, can still include formal lessons (depending on what each family chooses), so it could probably be categorized more as possibly ‘unschoolish’ than actual ‘unschooling.’

The practice of unschooling is raising children with parental encouragement, conversation and support.  An everyday example of the unschool style is the time of life of small stay-at-home-children between birth and whatever point they are assumed to be educable and are sent off to school.

At the far end of unschooling lies ‘radical unschooling.’  Radical unschooling does not mean unschooling by politically radical parents, although that would not be surprising.  Radical unschooling is allowing children to grow up ‘just living’ and making their own decisions about many aspects of life usually controlled by parents, such as mealtimes or bedtimes.[6]

Regardless of whether a family’s unschooling style is more eclectic or more radical, the intent of unschooling is not to ignore the children and allow them to age without direction.  The intent of unschooling is attentive, engaged parenting that supports the children in their interests and activities:  life as learning, rather than learning separated from living.[7]

Link:

Interview with Canadian publisher, Wendy Priesnitz


[1] John Holt http://www.holtgws.com/

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_Children_Fail

[3] Google Books version http://books.google.com/books?id=n43EjP2iLGgC&dq=how+children+fail&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=LhAoSsi_KNXelQfw7qjmBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4

[4] John Holt and the origins of contemporary homeschooling, Patrick Farenga, 1999
http://www.pathsoflearning.org/Paths01-Farenga.pdf

[5] Growing Without Schooling http://www.holtgws.com/gws

[6] “Is there a difference between a Radical Unschooler and just an Unschooler?”
http://sandradodd.com/unschool/radical

[7] Wikipedia article
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unschooling

Copyright 2009 Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and freely distributed as long as the copyright and this notice are included.