December Curriculum Holiday Incorporation
By Ann Zeise
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Families who incorporate the holiday spirit into their December curriculum find they reduce the stress of trying to do it all and be it all to everyone. So how do you squeeze in all those required subjects and still get all the decorating, shopping and baking done? With a smile on my face, here’s how you’d cover and report how you fulfilled various subject requirements. Many activities cover far more than just one curriculum area, and some will continue well into January.
This includes English grammar and writing compositions, spelling, handwriting, reading of literature, foreign languages.
Write a family note this year to include in your cards [composition]. Have the artist in your family design the card [fine arts]. Address the envelopes by hand [handwriting, English, spelling] or create a database of friends’ addresses and make labels on a Mac or PC [computer science]. Compute the cost of postage [math]. Or email electronic Christmas cards from “Elf Yourself.”
Read Holiday Classics
Download a copy of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens and illustrate it. Think about the true meaning of gift-giving in The Gift of the Magi. Read in the Bible, Luke 2, about the first Christmas. Watch for old English grammar, such as “thee” and “ye.” Talk about old fashion words and how words vanish from use and new ones come into being. Share The Children’s Book of Christmas Stories. Celebrate through reading books about how the Christ Child has been welcomed in many lands through many ages.
by G. Z. Sutton
When abandoned golden retriever Denby is rescued by Santa in the Nevada desert on Christmas Eve, he knows he has found the perfect family. But over the months between one Christmas and the next, Denby finds himself, again and again, doing what he has been told not to. Are his actions somehow tied to the injury he had when Santa found him? Or is he just a bad dog? With the help of a reindeer, some elves, and Santa himself, Denby finds that solving his own mystery could also mean saving Christmas. The story leads to discussion. This Teacher’s Edition of Santa Dog features helpful lesson plans for classroom use. It also includes a fun annual art contest where classes can win cash for their entries. Teachers and students will greatly enjoy all that Santa Dog has to offer.
Christmas Wish Lists
Practice handwriting and spelling while making out that list for Santa. Plan another list of what you want to buy or make for others [socialization]. Compose an email to Santa and send it to him at the North Pole [computer science].
Write to Santa
Norad knows exactly where Santa really is. They track him from satellites. So you can believe they know how to get those important letters from kids right to him. An email all addressed and ready to go to Santa will pop up from the link on this page.
For little ones, the skills of counting and addition. For the older ones, working on higher math skills, algebra and geometry.
Kids need to learn to budget their own list as well as what they can manage to spend on others. I’ve often taken my young ones to shop at drug stores, where there’s almost always something for everyone on their list, and the prices are reasonable. My daughter once announced loudly in the check out that she was all done with her shopping and had only spent $20. The sighs from the other customers were audible.
What a better way to talk about the surface area of solids! [geometry] Have a cloth tape measure handy to measure the various dimensions or just estimate if a package will fit. Estimation is a much-needed math skill. Of course, gift wrapping also involves Art! Talk about complementary colors for the wrap and the ribbon. Use your color printer to print out Christmas wrap designed by your children. Here’s a link for wonderful holiday clipart to use for your projects.
Build a castle or house from a past or future society, to throw in history and civics. How does the geometry of the elements help hold the structure together? What geometric elements seem to work best for what parts? How do you make different parts symmetrical?
Sing The Twelve Days of Christmas too often. Or learn The Fourteen Days of Homeschooling. Figure out the cost of these gifts in today’s currency. Make an Advent Calendar. Have the little ones use whole numbers, but have bigger kids make an Excel spreadsheet that will refigure the time left not only in days, but in hours and seconds until present unwrapping time. [Hint: use the TIME function.]
If your December agenda includes a Christmas cookie exchange, you may be feeling like the pressure is on to come up with a contribution that’s sure to wow the crowd of kids and adults alike. Whether you’re totally at ease in an apron or prefer to let the experts at your local bakery do the leg work for you, these 26 Christmas cookie ideas are sure to inspire.
How about the cultural source of the recipes you select to make? Are some old family traditions? Are you choosing some because they reflect your family’s culture? How about trying a few recipes from some past era this year? Where do such spices as vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg come from? [social studies].
Then there are the ratios of baking. Experienced cake bakers would never dream of trying to bake a cake without first “doing the math” to make sure that the ingredients are in balance.
Is your stove a physics experiment all on its own? I never can use the suggested baking temperatures and time! Use an oven thermometer to compare the actual temperature to the setting on the stove dial. Compare Fahrenheit to Celsius.
Think we’ve got this covered under math! Have you seen our “educational” Fruit Cake Recipe joke?
The Star of Bethlehem
This makes a fascinating web search! So many theories out there about what the wise men really saw and why it drove them to seek a newborn king. Could it have been a comet or an arrangement of planets or a supernova? If you have clear nights mid-December, get outside and look for the Geminids Meteor Shower display.
How do batteries work? Get a voltmeter and set a kid to testing all the old ones lying around. Some low ones can be used in toys that don’t require much power. Recharge the rechargeables. My son is curious about which brand actually will run the longest and is planning an experiment to test the advertising claims.
How are Christmas trees cultivated? [agricultural science] Can you just stick it in the ground after the holidays and have it grow? Why not? [What kind of tree did you get]? Will a poinsettia survive outdoors in your climate? Set an inexpensive one outside to see. [climatology] Mistletoe has no roots, so how does it survive? [parasites] Why must one kiss under it? Must one REALLY kiss ANYONE under it? Ack! [molestation prevention] Holly bears its fruit in the middle of winter. Isn’t this a bit unusual? Can you think of any other plants that have fruit in winter? Why do you think this is?
What a great time of the year to study weather! If you get snow you can spend lots of time gazing at the crystals under a microscope. If you get loads of wind and rain, your little weather station will get lots of attention. Is this winter better or worse than usual? [weather history].
What laws of physics does he overcome to get all those large toys to boys and girls all over the world in time for Christmas morning? Who cares?!
Birds winter over here in the San Francisco Bay Area, but still, they need extra food. We fill bird feeders and make suet treats for them, and they cheer our home with their songs all winter long. If you have deer, you could put out a bale of hay and a salt lick. Don’t forget the needs of your own pets, too!
Throw a Christmas party and invite your little friends over to celebrate. Kids will be excited about spending time at your house engaging in quick crafts, silly games and eating the merriest snacks!
Planning to take an extensive trip this year? Have the kids help with the arrangements and plans. This is all considered “cooperative learning.” What will they need to take along for this other “culture” or “climate?” How can the weight of all that is necessary be fairly divided among everyone? [math, negotiating skills]. Plan to listen to recordings while you drive.
These folks can be a wealth of information! Drag out and update the family tree before they all show up or you go there. Talk about your cultural heritage and what Christmas traditions stem from either your family or from your heritage. Which have you adopted? [multi-cultural studies].
Bring out maps that show where relatives are currently and where distant ancestors came from. [Map reading].
Cultural differences within families. Perhaps someone married “outside” the norm for your family. How is this handled? Kids are sensitive to any friction. Might as well talk about it ahead of time.
Get older members to talk about “ancient” history as they experienced it. Soon no one will be alive to tell stories about World War II or the Korean Conflict, so get those stories recorded now! Have your budding engineer record the stories on video or audiotape. Have you budding news commentator plan some interview questions and prep the relative in advance, so this isn’t too much of a surprise.
Plan some parlor games to play after the big meal. These can involve word or math games, acting or some physical activity. Coming up with games both preschoolers and grandparents will enjoy can be a challenge. Play games online, too.
Are there plans for local cultural festivals in your community this year? Join in not only with your own cultural group, but with others as well. The Jews will be celebrating the Festival of Hanukkah, the Germans St Nicholas’ Day, Italians will be awaitingOld Befana, Mexicans will be hoisting pinatas, African-Americans celebrate several days of Kwanzaa, Celts the Winter Solstice, and the Scots Hogmanay. Greeks celebrate their Christmas after Dec 25, when they believe the wise men arrived bearing gifts. [multi-cultural understanding].
Spend some time in your community helping to make the holiday more cheerful for others for whom this year is particularly bleak. Collect food for the hungry. Participate in caroling at a senior citizen center or health facility. Usually, there is a volunteer services coordinator at nearby churches or city hall. [community service]. Learn a new skill through the service.
Participate in a Christmas play. Often historical places will have old fashioned holidays in the period that they represent. Volunteer to help out. You’ll have more fun and learn more than if you just visit. [history].
Visual and Performing Arts, Applied Arts
by Tessa Asato
A joyous coloring book that highlights the spirit of the season. Enjoy 20 full-page illustrations, each accompanied by a short narrative. Every page captures the holiday warmth and encourages people of all ages to expand their inner artist.
Make a 3D paper snowflake
This is a little more complicated than a two-dimensional paper snowflake, but it looks excellent and is a suitable craft for children adept with scissors and patient in making crafts. It will produce a 6-armed three-dimensional snowflake decoration that makes a perfect tree decoration or window-hanger.
Singing and Instrumental Music
Join a chorus or just form an impromptu group and go caroling around the neighborhood. Put Christmas tapes or CD’s on in the house and in the car. Even the littlest children will memorize their favorites shortly. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at their interpretations <g>. Practice and join in a community sing-along of The Messiah. Prepare some holiday tunes to play on your instrument so others can sing along. Research the words to favorite holiday songs online, and publish a family sing-along book, so everyone will have the words. Learn to play familiar carols on a pennywhistle.
Arts and Crafts
Make a least some of your own decorations for the tree. Support the arts in your community by purchasing items made locally. Look through books of fine art to see how the Christmas story is told through painting and sculpture. Make candles or scented soap. Look online for holiday craft ideas for kids. [research, computer science]. Craft supplies make excellent stocking stuffers or gifts for young relatives when you aren’t at all sure what they want. Sew, knit or quilt gifts and decorations.
Theater and Dance
Can you manage to get out to see The Nutcracker or a performance of A Christmas Carol? Will dancing be part of your New Year’s plans? Better learn a few steps of the latest swing dances now! It’s the latest rage. Prepare a skit or reading to present at your family party.
Health, PE and Drivers Ed
If some family members must be careful about what they consume, help plan meals so they still can be celebratory for everyone. Find ways to substitute low-fat ingredients for high and still have delicious treats. Think now of fun foods that won’t be loaded with so much sugar you’ll wind up at the dentist in January. My daughter surprised me with a request that she’d really love to have chilled dill pickles more than anything else. My son loved to prepare “Ants on a log” for holiday parties. [Celery stuffed with peanut butter and lined with raisin “ants.”]
Exercise sometimes seems impossible in winter. For those with freezing temperatures, there’s skiing and ice skating, snowboarding, sledding and ice hockey. A brisk hike in the winter can be wondrous. Amazing how kids love to ride their bikes through puddles after (or during) a good rainstorm. Suddenly, all those fitness videos and exercise equipment get dragged out of storage this time of year.
Yeh, for health and PE! I put on 3 miles of walking around the mall the other day! Might not be the most aerobic, but, hey, it was all I could fit in! Often great deals around for sports equipment for gifts. In the weeks after the holidays, everyone will have fun using the equipment, throwing the new balls, etc. Plan to hike the mall during the weekdays when everyone else is at work or school. I wear a device that tells me how many calories I’ve burned. Take along water.
Driving and Drinking
Talk about stress driving! Teens can learn to handle conditions of bad weather and overcrowded roads and distracted drivers in parking lots. Teach them how to spot drunk drivers and how to avoid them. Talk about designated drivers, and even if your teen doesn’t drink, do they really want to be driving with a bunch of sick friends? There are some tough decisions to be made in these years. Teens appreciate knowing you’ll back them up if they find themselves in a tough situation. Fender benders happen. Friends wind up drunk. How do you want your teen to handle alcohol?