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Halloween at Home

Halloween With A Homeschool Twist

By Ann Zeise

Halloween at our home is the kickoff for the holiday season, and a time to take advantage of the themes available in the community. I know for some Halloween is a devil-filled holiday they want to avoid and ignore, but this family enjoys the opportunities it provides to get to know neighbors better and learn a little more about life and death.

Civic Pride

Scott volunteered at our city’s Fall Fest, which had a pirate theme that year, with “real” pirates taking the children on canoe rides in the city pool, all streams in the town being rather dry this time of year. I’m not telling him this is “civics,” but I think he knows.


In this Silicon Valley, suburb children still trick or treat around the neighborhood. It is the one night of the year they get to meet all their neighbors, renewing neglected friendships. Practicing good manners is paramount! I insist that if my son knows the people, he greets them with, “Trick or treat, Mr./Mrs. Neighbor. This is me, Scott, from down the street.” And of course, after the candy has been offered, he says, “Thank you.”

Now some may say this is extortion of a sort. Look at it this way: your child may have an emergency some day and need to knock on a neighbor’s door for help. Knowing which neighbors are “child-friendly” and having practiced going up to them could save their life someday. One day we had a frightened neighborhood girl, who felt she was being followed by a suspicious stranger, knock on our door and ask if she could call home. I only knew the girl vaguely from Halloween visits.

Conquering Fears

While certainly, a parent doesn’t want to terrify children, controlled “fearful” situations and overcoming those fears is an aspect of “socialization.”

Suddenly it seems to be quite dark. Daylight Savings Time is over, and it’s going to be a long winter if a child can’t have some fun in the dark. Being out in the dark with friends and family can be the first step in practicing overcoming this fear, after all, those “spooks” are just the neighborhood children in costumes!

Fear of the Future

What lies ahead of us? While children seldom can put into words these fears, they know they will grow up and die someday. Halloween gives them a chance to do some childish planning for the future. Shall they be a fireman or a cowboy, a ballerina, a surgeon or Indian maiden? Will they be funny or sad or even frightening! What would it be like to be a historical figure, someone from a different race or ethnic group, another species, from another galaxy or even the opposite sex? And most awesome of all: what would it be like to be dead?

Dramatics of Halloween

There’s an element of theater in Halloween that I adore. We set the stage at our home, transforming the front yard into a haunted place. We change ordinary things, such as ladders and sheets, into tall ghosts. We search through our music collection for music with appropriately minor chords, and then dabble in electronics as we rig up speakers in the garden. Spaghetti and olives become brains and eyeballs in a flash. Christmas lights, placed in sets of two become watching eyes. Designing and sewing the costumes has been either a project for weeks, or a sudden panic, which often looks more creative.

Emotions of Jack

O’Lantern, of course. Shall he be friendly or menacing this year? How do we design his face so he will portray the emotion we desire?

A trip to a local pumpkin farm to find the freshest pumpkins is called for. Sometimes we can also find bundles of corn stalks and hay bales cheaply there, too.

The cutouts are peeled and boiled down for a Halloween pumpkin pie.

Enjoy these Halloween recipes for much loved traditional Internet Gory Goodies!

Mathematics of Candy

Starting with the purchasing decision: which candy to give out this year? What store to buy it at? Do we have any coupons? Comparing the price per piece. Maybe a few really good bars for close friends and just little ones for strangers, what do you think?

Later, it’s home with all the goodies. When my son was little, he’d just stop when he thought he had enough for his own needs: about 10 pieces, he wasn’t greedy. His teenaged sister cured him of that idea. “It’s your job,” she explained, “as the child in the house, to go out and get enough candy for all of us.” And she took him back out.

Greed, combined with stamina, won out over the years. He’d return with a pillowcase full of candy, pouring it out on the living room floor, we’d sort and form a bar graph of the types of candies, seeing what was the most popular. Check the candy wrappers for tampering.

Older and wiser now, Scott’s able to set aside a good portion for the home for abused women and their children here in town.

Earlier in 1997 we had a tour of the Jelly Belly factory and learned how candy was made. If you can’t make a tour, you can get a coupon for Jelly Bellies here.

Skeletons Inside

Do take the opportunity at this time of year to get as good a skeleton as you can afford. Here are two skeletons I found online to help learn some anatomy this time of year. That link is now fairly small and fast loading. I’ve also linked them separately as large files for printing. One has bone names in “plain English” and the other has the scientific names. These drawings are by George J. Williams.

Time For A Tale of Horror

As the trick-or-treaters have ended their forays, we snuggle near the fire with a flashlight and read one of the Edgar Allan Poe stories. What shall it be this year? The Black CatThe Mask of the Red DeathThe Tell-Tale HeartThe Fall of the House of Usher? If you are so inclined, you could play some of Poe’s stories on YouTube. These are pretty scary, so not for little children.

“The Black Cat”
Based by E.A Poe’s story. Rob Green (The Bunker, House, The Trick), a special director for the genre of horror and thriller, made this short movie to Poe’s story.

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