Written by Jessica Hulcy
Do you feel like you have no time to enjoy the holidays? Are you drawn to unit studies, but you do not want to let go of your curriculum? Solution: Turn several holidays into kid-friendly units sprinkled with learning! Learn about the holiday’s history and traditions, the songs of the holiday, the people of the holiday, the stories associated with the holiday, the different ways the holiday is celebrated around the world, and also make crafts and cook special holiday dishes. You can have your cake and eat it too!
How does one plan a holiday unit? Pick one main activity and then add to it. You will have to make choices. You cannot cook every treat; instead, prepare your favorite recipe. Remember, we are not trying for 30 minutes of art and 30 minutes of history each day. Some units are more art and some are more Bible and some are more history. Be content with the flow, and always try to combine activities to kill two birds with one stone.
Christmas’s primary activity could be a dramatized nativity for the neighborhood throughout the weeks before Christmas or performed for the extended family on Christmas Eve. The production will involve costumes and props that are either gathered or made. Pick “easy” rather than “elaborate”—bathrobes vs. fancy costumes.
Cooking is an essential element of a holiday unit study and can be coupled with singing carols as you make cookies, which leads to sharing/giving what has been made either with the group after the nativity is dramatized or sharing the goodies with shut-in neighbors.
There is always the option of making some gifts or a gingerbread house if your kids have the desire to create. Some evenings could be earmarked for wrapping gifts while someone reads The Littlest Angel or The Night Before Christmas, or everyone watches Scrooge, Miracle on 34th Street, or It’s a Wonderful Life. Others days could be designated as shopping days or decorating days.
Plan your weekly events and communicate the schedule to the family. Remember that hot cocoa or cider makes all tasks festive.
You could study Christmas traditions found in three different countries, dedicating one week of study to each country. The Hulcys especially enjoy the traditions of Sweden,Germany, and Mexico, so each of those countries gets one day in our family. Swedish Santa Lucia with a wreath of candles on her head serves buns and coffee for breakfast, and traditional risengrød, rice porridge, is served for dinner. Germany gives us the Advent wreath, which must be started four Sundays before December 25. It could be started as early as November 27, but it is always a challenge for our family to get it started on time. With the Advent wreath come Scripture readings and a focus on the meaning of the Christmas season.Mexico brings us the posadas procession of Mary, as well as Joseph being refused lodging and the breaking of a star-shaped piñata from Walmart, after which we serve caramel flan. As an alternative to studying Christmas traditions in a variety of countries, read about Saint Nicholas and the origin of Santa Claus.
The centerpiece used in our home during our Easter celebration is an Easter Tree designed by my friend, Pam Lancaster. It is made from a branch secured with rocks in a coffee can and on which is hung seven small symbols with accompanying verses that commemorate the last week of Christ’s earthly life. For Palm Sunday, we hang a small palm branch made of construction paper. On Monday Christ cleanses the temple, so on that day we hang a birdcage made of toothpicks on the Easter Tree.
Your family could read the Scriptures to first identify and then make appropriate symbols to go on your tree. Good Friday is the day of Christ’s death, so you could use cotton balls to make a lamb that represents the Lamb of God. Cover the lamb with a black cloth to represent Christ in the tomb, but on Resurrection Sunday, remove the black cloth, move the lamb to the top of the tree, and decorate the entire tree with ribbons, flowers, hearts, butterflies, and eggs to celebrate the risen Savior. Sing “Up From the Grave He Arose” and “He Lives”!
Perhaps you could choose one gospel to read entirely during Easter week, observe da Vinci’s The Last Supper painting and discuss how the artist draws attention to Jesus, celebrate communion with your family on Thursday, and on Friday make and serve hot cross buns to remind us that it is the day when we remember Christ’s death on the cross.
Throughout the week, discuss these terms: atonement, propitiation, redemption, salvation, and penal substitute. A wonderful allegory to read/watch is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Dye Easter eggs to hide on Easter morning, and be sure to discuss why eggs are associated with Easter celebrations.*
The rule for holiday unit studies is as follows: Do what you can and what works for your family. Enjoy!
*All activities are taken from KONOS, Volume II, by Carole Thaxton and Jessica Hulcy.
Jessica Hulcy, co-author of KONOS Curriculum, the first curriculum written for homeschool, is an educator, author, and formerly popular national homeschool speaker prior to her near-fatal wreck in 2009. A graduate of the University of Texas, mom to four grown sons, and “Grandear” to grandchildren, Jessica lives with her husband Wade on acreage in Texas. Recently Jessica and Wade started the ultimate online help for homeschooling moms called HomeschoolMentor. Visit www.homeschoolmentor.com and www.konos.com.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.