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(My apologies to the boardie who originally came up with this idea. I can't find it in a search!)

My kids (eleven and nine) are rapidly coming up on burnout from school. Because of Covid restrictions, they haven't had their usual extracurricular activities, and we never had our annual summer vacation this year. They have worked hard since the middle of August. 

I've never been one to blow off school for half of December in preparation for holidays, but this year I'd like to breathe some fresh air into our December academics: things that will still be “school”, but not “usual school”. 

Anyone want to add some ideas? Here is what I have so far. 

Logic puzzles

Fun writing assignments (would love some ideas)

Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts

 

I don't know why I'm blanking on “fun” educational stuff! 

One constraint is that we do not have access to the internet during regular school hours.

 

Thanks!

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I had a good time taking a mini course in journalism at that age.  Just basic things like the 5 W’s, how to interview people, and how to write a story.  Maybe they could make a page of a newspaper with Christmas related articles?  Could be real (e.g. phone interviews with relatives about what’s going on with them) or made up (e.g. news from Santa’s workshop).

Around the same time, I signed up for an in-school elective class in which the teacher played us songs (mostly older folk type stuff) that had very evocative lyrics, describing a character, event, or scene.  We discussed what the songs called to mind.  Then we each wrote a story that was kind of a spin-off of one of the songs, and turned it into a script.

Pre-written skits and dialogues can also be fun, but I’ve had little success finding ones for two children, apart from resources intended for ESL teaching.

Edited by ElizaG
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Christmas Mad Libs  https://www.amazon.com/s?k=christmas+mad+libs&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

We read through a Christmas Carol book, that discussed the origin of each carol.  I believe it is the Real Mother Goose Book of Christmas Carols.  https://www.amazon.com/Book-Christmas-Carols-Mother-Goose/dp/0590225189/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=real+mother+goose+christmas+carols&qid=1606492076&sr=8-2

I Spy Christmas book

Watch one of the myriad "A Christmas Carol" movies.

Edited by perky
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If you are doing history this year perhaps you could do an art study related to the time. Perhaps a historical fiction read-aloud at lunch time.

I have a whole collection of free Pizzazz Math worksheets from various places in the internet. These are the kind of worksheets where you do a page of math problems (e.g. adding decimals, simplifying fractions, subtracting negative numbers) and at the end you have the punchline to the joke. Sometimes we divide the page over two days.  I also seen to remember some similar worksheets from a different company where the pages became color-by-number art when you finished. Oh! There's also the dot math guy. It is best if you can download the videos to show during math times and then do the associated exercises, but you could watch the videos and teach the topic yourself. I taught a co-op class of 7-12 yos using the first 6 or 7 lessons from that series. I also used some projects from the book Amazing Math by Lazlo Bardos - i bought and checked out a bunch of math project books and liked this one best.

That is a good age for owl pellet dissection. Unlike the lottery, every owl pellet is a winner! and they will each have the full skeleton of a small animal.

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We usually do a literature or science unit study in Jan/Feb when we are all burned out. Harry Potter (Hogwarts School) or read and map your way through the Hobbit? Electricity with Snap Circuits or Physics with marble mazes? Map the stars on these clear cold nights?

Math fun: Hands on Equations might work with that age group. Or The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math (Sean Connolly has loads of science experiment books that might be fun too).

A Photography Challenge? Or if you have athletes, a physical challenge?

Complete the pictures. https://www.instagram.com/p/BwsdGkxh4qX/?igshid=e8s1481aa0yh

A lapbook or presentation on a topic of their choosing. 

Memorize The Night Before Christmas.

Poetry "Tea" with hot chocolate or eggnog and Christmas cookies.

Try to recreate a famous building or style of architecture in gingerbread.

 

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On 11/27/2020 at 8:05 AM, Quarter Note said:

...this year I'd like to breathe some fresh air into our December academics: things that will still be “school”, but not “usual school”.  Anyone want to add some ideas? Here is what I have so far. 

Logic puzzles
Fun writing assignments (would love some ideas)
Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts

Those are great ideas!

logic & critical thinking puzzle ideas
- crosswords, word jumbles, anagrams
- codes, cryptograms
- sudoku and kenken puzzles
- Critical Thinking Activities in Pattern, Image, Logic (Seymour) (gr. 1-3; or gr. 4-6)
- Dandylion Logic series -- Logic Countdown (gr. 3-4); Logic Liftoff (gr. 4-5)
- Logic Safari series -- book 2 (gr. 3-4); book 3 (gr. 5-6) 
Critical Thinking Press: Dr. Funster -- Think-A-Minutes (gr. 3-6),  Creative Thinking Puzzlers (gr. 3-6)

logic software
- Logic Journey of the Zoombinis (by grade level) 
- Revenge of the Logic Spiders (by grade level) 
- Crazy Machines series (gr. 3+)
- The Incredible Machine: Even More Contraptions (gr. 3+)
- Operation: Neptune (gr. 3-6)
- Mission: T.H.I.N.K. (gr. 2-6)

logic games:
- Set
- Mastermind
- Blokus
- Scan (old Parker Brothers game, usually available on ebay)
- Amazing Labrynth
- Checkers
- Chess
- Boggle
- Scrabble
- Quarto

solo logic activities
- Logix
- Scramble Squares
- Tangrams
- Rush Hour Junior

writing assignments ideas
- make your own holiday greeting cards (mass produce the art portion of all the cards you want to send out this year in 1-2 days, and then kids can write the greeting inside in their best handwriting, doing 3-4 a day)
- make a poster of their favorite holiday (or other) movie
- write a story; add a short paragraph a day to build it up
- short responses to journal prompt of choice -- Journal Buddies website has a lot of ideas
- make a family blog (accessible to others only by your password), and they each contribute a short blog entry each day
- make their own newspaper, building it up a little each day
- read "The Night Before Christmas" poem, or the How the Grinch Stole Christmas book, and then have fun coming up with your own rhymed story poem, or add a few verses to what happened after the end of that poem or story


unit/project ideas

If you celebrate Christmas:
One year, each day we would spend an hour or two making gifts for extended family members, using different kits:
- a beeswax candle-making kit
- Sculpty eraser clay (to make end of pencil eraser critters)
- sun catchers, that involve filling the stained-glass compartments with beads and then baking in the oven
- leather crafts (coin purse, wallet, knife pouch, etc.)
- loop loom woven potholders
- and of course, making special baked goods to share

If you are Christians:
One year we set aside most of our regular school work (except Math, Reading, and a little writing) and each morning we read the short Jesse Tree Advent devotional and then made our own ornaments out of different materials. For the Earth, we painted a ping pong ball and threaded a loop of string through it for hanging the ornament. For Joseph's coat of many colors, we folded over a scrap of colorful fabric, and cut out a basic "pull over tunic" shape and DSs stitched up the non-fold side. We used Sculpty clay for the 10 commandment tablets and for several other days. We went into the yard and looked for 3-4 small flat pebbles, and then hot-glue-gunned them together to create the altar, and cut 

Edited by Lori D.
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24 minutes ago, SusanC said:

This is news to me! I'll keep an eye out for it for my dc, i bet they would get a kick out of that.

Here it is at Amazon. It looks like it is atother places as well -- Walmart, JoAnn's Rainbow Resource, even Sculpty co.

CRUCIAL detail from our experience: if you want your finished creation to be able to actually fit on the end of a pencil, while sculpting, have handy a new pencil with an intact eraser. And once you finish your creation, gently push it onto the eraser end of the pencil to create a hole just the right size for sliding onto the pencil. And THEN do the baking which hardens it. 😉 

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My kids are younger, but we're using A World of Cookies for Santa by M. E. Furman to review geography and bake our way through the Christmas season.  We're pairing it with drawing the world, learning more about holiday traditions in select countries visited in the book, and practicing lots of fractions.

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What a great thread! I've talked about doing May Term, etc, so maybe you're remembering me? :biggrin: You've gotten lots of other great ideas. Alas, our list right now is so non-glamorous, with lots of short term therapy goals. I did buy some cute christmas puzzles at Hobby Lobby. I bought the with a low count, because my ds needs that. But you could go with a higher count with older/multiple kids. You could go pleasant (there are lots of cute ones, say 500 piece), or you could go $$ and get something from https://www.libertypuzzles.com/wooden-jigsaw-puzzles/category/holidays  They're all wonderful, but this one https://www.libertypuzzles.com/wooden-jigsaw-puzzles/adoration-of-the-magi  is a particular tradition for us. We set it out every year at this time, and it's so hard it takes the rest of the month to finish it, lol. Anyone coming in for company pitches in, and it's just very fun. The pieces are laser cut wood, with specialty cuts, very interesting.

Instead of thinking in terms of homogenous weeks (4 weeks, all the same), instead you might think in terms of themes. Like one week make homemade ornaments, the next do puzzles, the next do baking, etc. Or maybe that's my excuse to myself for why I just have a few little puzzles instead of enough to last 4 weeks, hehe.

In a totally different suggestion, I was noticing our local air trampoline park place is doing subscriptions for the holidays, just $10 a month. Might be some affordable fun if you join something like that and go every day. 

You could also take up a sport or make a list of 3-4 wintertime sports to try within a 2-3 hour drive. Maybe things you've wanted to try but haven't. Like it turns out in our area you can SKI, who knew? So ski, ice skate, inner tubing, indoor sky diving (yeah, that's a stretch), whatever. 

I was noticing the moss is REALLY NICE right now, which I hadn't anticipated. It might be you'd enjoy doing some hikes, making a list of 3-4 state parks and exploring a different one each week. You'd need to bundle up, but you'd get a different perspective going this time of year. You could have things you're looking for.

Have they done outdoor lights yet? If they've never done it, might be fun. Maybe some service projects for someone elderly/shut in. There might be some people who need their yards raked or bushes prepped for winter or who would appreciate a poinsettia.

We're working on learning the solfege so ds can hear the notes well enough to follow along with videos like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2V9dPe5WXgs&list=PLDgZsF4cmKBWArkXhITC2JOq1vyr0QTuJ&index=6&t=0s You can do them with bells, singing, rhythm. If that doesn't float your boat, you could find other things. But if you think your kids would enjoy bells, it could be fun. Or buy everyone $7 recorders and cotton balls and learn to play a christmas song to perform on the big day. 

 

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15 hours ago, PeterPan said:

What a great thread! I've talked about doing May Term, etc, so maybe you're remembering me? :biggrin: You've gotten lots of other great ideas. Alas, our list right now is so non-glamorous, with lots of short term therapy goals. I did buy some cute christmas puzzles at Hobby Lobby. I bought the with a low count, because my ds needs that. But you could go with a higher count with older/multiple kids. You could go pleasant (there are lots of cute ones, say 500 piece), or you could go $$ and get something from https://www.libertypuzzles.com/wooden-jigsaw-puzzles/category/holidays  They're all wonderful, but this one https://www.libertypuzzles.com/wooden-jigsaw-puzzles/adoration-of-the-magi  is a particular tradition for us. We set it out every year at this time, and it's so hard it takes the rest of the month to finish it, lol. Anyone coming in for company pitches in, and it's just very fun. The pieces are laser cut wood, with specialty cuts, very interesting.

Instead of thinking in terms of homogenous weeks (4 weeks, all the same), instead you might think in terms of themes. Like one week make homemade ornaments, the next do puzzles, the next do baking, etc. Or maybe that's my excuse to myself for why I just have a few little puzzles instead of enough to last 4 weeks, hehe.

In a totally different suggestion, I was noticing our local air trampoline park place is doing subscriptions for the holidays, just $10 a month. Might be some affordable fun if you join something like that and go every day. 

You could also take up a sport or make a list of 3-4 wintertime sports to try within a 2-3 hour drive. Maybe things you've wanted to try but haven't. Like it turns out in our area you can SKI, who knew? So ski, ice skate, inner tubing, indoor sky diving (yeah, that's a stretch), whatever. 

I was noticing the moss is REALLY NICE right now, which I hadn't anticipated. It might be you'd enjoy doing some hikes, making a list of 3-4 state parks and exploring a different one each week. You'd need to bundle up, but you'd get a different perspective going this time of year. You could have things you're looking for.

Have they done outdoor lights yet? If they've never done it, might be fun. Maybe some service projects for someone elderly/shut in. There might be some people who need their yards raked or bushes prepped for winter or who would appreciate a poinsettia.

We're working on learning the solfege so ds can hear the notes well enough to follow along with videos like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2V9dPe5WXgs&list=PLDgZsF4cmKBWArkXhITC2JOq1vyr0QTuJ&index=6&t=0s You can do them with bells, singing, rhythm. If that doesn't float your boat, you could find other things. But if you think your kids would enjoy bells, it could be fun. Or buy everyone $7 recorders and cotton balls and learn to play a christmas song to perform on the big day. 

 

Hi, PeterPan!  Maybe it was you who started the idea that became "December term".  The only idea I remember from the thread a couple of years ago was letting your kids use colored pencils for copywork during December.  I knew I needed more than that to get my kids' interest!

Thanks for all of your great suggestions!

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29 minutes ago, Quarter Note said:

The only idea I remember from the thread a couple of years ago was letting your kids use colored pencils for copywork during December.

That was definitely not me. My kids have both been pencil phobic, lol. 

But actually, that's a really good reminder! When my dd was young, I did super cute printed schedules around this time. You know, printed in red and green, with little candy canes thrown on, etc. So maybe this would be a good time to introduce my ds to the joy of a printed schedule and cover it over with elf-ness! :biggrin:

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One year we did a unit study on snow.  

Science - winter weather, types of snowflakes, crystals 

Math tie-in - properties of hexagons

Literature - Snowflake Bentley, poems, picture books, and short stories with a snow/winter theme

Language arts - write own poems about snowflakes

Art - paper snowflakes, attempt to photograph a snowflake, beaded snowflake ornaments, borax crystal ornaments (art/science cross-over)

Cooking - snow ice cream (if sufficient snowfall), bake and decorate snowflake shaped cookies

 

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22 hours ago, Sherry in OH said:

One year we did a unit study on snow.  

Science - winter weather, types of snowflakes, crystals 

Math tie-in - properties of hexagons

Literature - Snowflake Bentley, poems, picture books, and short stories with a snow/winter theme

Language arts - write own poems about snowflakes

Art - paper snowflakes, attempt to photograph a snowflake, beaded snowflake ornaments, borax crystal ornaments (art/science cross-over)

Cooking - snow ice cream (if sufficient snowfall), bake and decorate snowflake shaped cookies

 

@Sherry in OH I love this idea!  And that reminded me, way back when I first started homeschooling I dreamed of doing a study on migrating animals.  Maybe I can do a migration study for @PeterPan's May term.  

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We are members of Schoolhouseteachers dot com. They have a holiday section with all of their separate units, plus the units from full curricula on the site that have to do with each holiday, broken up by suggested age levels. It is so nice to have. One year we did a Shakespeare literature study of his Twelfth Night play which was a blast. 

For this year for my dd16 I have picked out another Shakespeare Christmas unit that does not go over one play, but does something each day from history. I don't know. I haven't looked at it in awhile since I printed out the plans, but it looked interesting, and like my 1st grader could follow along too, really. It was small things. I chose a unit from the Art and Literature course for her that was about Snow and Ice. It has poetry, art history, art assignments.  Then as a family, we are doing some Advent activities. I just printed out a freebie Advent Bible reading plan for the month for daily readings for my dd16. My 1st grader has an advent that her Sunday School teacher made that has a scripture from Creation to Salvation over the month. It has a giant Christmas tree poster with sticky velcro. Each reading has a velcro picture to go with it that she puts daily on the tree. 

My older kids made one similar to that in a co-op one year that had a poster with a Christmas tree shape formed from mini envelopes. In each envelope was an activity to do each day until Christmas. It had things like make and mail a homemade card. Make homemade hot chocolate. Make a Christmas Ornament. Learn a new Christmas carol, etc.  It was a lot of fun, maybe not super educational, but was great for memories. 

For my 1st grade dd, I have a file folder of preprinted things I have collected over the years, but most could be homemade. So far she is enjoying a pattern making game. The pattern cards are stockings, several different sets of matching ones. Then there are cards that say make an ABBACABBA pattern, or whatever. The board for it is a cardboard piece with a fireplace background, with room to "hang" the stocking by the fire.  She does her Advent calendar, follows along with the adult advent readings, and has a large laundry basket full of Christmas story books to read through from the library. 

On weekends we are all Christmas crafting. We are making gifts for family. I buy items after Christmas each year and save for the next year for this purpose. But there were plenty of lean years when my bigs were older that we used whatever scraps we had around the house to sew handmade ornament sets for gifts and packaged them really nicely.  We make handmade cards to go with. We look up how to make ornaments on Youtube and have made some really amazing ones even from toilet paper tubes. We enter some of our creations each fall the following year in the state fair young arts and crafts division and the kids earn money on their prizes. (Sometimes we Christmas craft early in August for the fair in advance of it and then have those new items for Christmas later in the year.) 

Anyway, I know my kids aren't your same ages, but we always find something to do that is useful and fun.   Good luck to you!

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One thing I love to do is Author studies with picture books. It’s a great starting point that you can take in different directions...and do just a little or a lot with.  Read them, compare/contrast the plot or characters, take a close look at the artwork, write your own version of the story, try your hand at the art, create your own picture book, create a stop-motion video, rewrite as a reader’s theater, research the author’s life. Since it is just a picture book, it’s naturally more fun and less “academic.”

December is the perfect month for Jan Brett and or try a common theme such as Gingerbread stories. 
 

Another idea is to take a trip around the world and learn about how different cultures celebrate Christmas or other holidays.

Edited by cougarmom4
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On 12/2/2020 at 3:19 PM, cougarmom4 said:

One thing I love to do is Author studies with picture books. It’s a great starting point that you can take in different directions...and do just a little or a lot with.  Read them, compare/contrast the plot or characters, take a close look at the artwork, write your own version of the story, try your hand at the art, create your own picture book, create a stop-motion video, rewrite as a reader’s theater, research the author’s life. Since it is just a picture book, it’s naturally more fun and less “academic.”

I'm so totally saving your list here. :wub:

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On 12/2/2020 at 8:30 AM, 2_girls_mommy said:

We are members of Schoolhouseteachers dot com. They have a holiday section with all of their separate units, plus the units from full curricula on the site that have to do with each holiday, broken up by suggested age levels. It is so nice to have. One year we did a Shakespeare literature study of his Twelfth Night play which was a blast. 

For this year for my dd16 I have picked out another Shakespeare Christmas unit that does not go over one play, but does something each day from history. I don't know. I haven't looked at it in awhile since I printed out the plans, but it looked interesting, and like my 1st grader could follow along too, really. It was small things. I chose a unit from the Art and Literature course for her that was about Snow and Ice. It has poetry, art history, art assignments.  Then as a family, we are doing some Advent activities. I just printed out a freebie Advent Bible reading plan for the month for daily readings for my dd16. My 1st grader has an advent that her Sunday School teacher made that has a scripture from Creation to Salvation over the month. It has a giant Christmas tree poster with sticky velcro. Each reading has a velcro picture to go with it that she puts daily on the tree. 

My older kids made one similar to that in a co-op one year that had a poster with a Christmas tree shape formed from mini envelopes. In each envelope was an activity to do each day until Christmas. It had things like make and mail a homemade card. Make homemade hot chocolate. Make a Christmas Ornament. Learn a new Christmas carol, etc.  It was a lot of fun, maybe not super educational, but was great for memories. 

For my 1st grade dd, I have a file folder of preprinted things I have collected over the years, but most could be homemade. So far she is enjoying a pattern making game. The pattern cards are stockings, several different sets of matching ones. Then there are cards that say make an ABBACABBA pattern, or whatever. The board for it is a cardboard piece with a fireplace background, with room to "hang" the stocking by the fire.  She does her Advent calendar, follows along with the adult advent readings, and has a large laundry basket full of Christmas story books to read through from the library. 

On weekends we are all Christmas crafting. We are making gifts for family. I buy items after Christmas each year and save for the next year for this purpose. But there were plenty of lean years when my bigs were older that we used whatever scraps we had around the house to sew handmade ornament sets for gifts and packaged them really nicely.  We make handmade cards to go with. We look up how to make ornaments on Youtube and have made some really amazing ones even from toilet paper tubes. We enter some of our creations each fall the following year in the state fair young arts and crafts division and the kids earn money on their prizes. (Sometimes we Christmas craft early in August for the fair in advance of it and then have those new items for Christmas later in the year.) 

Anyway, I know my kids aren't your same ages, but we always find something to do that is useful and fun.   Good luck to you!

@2_girls_mommy, can I come to your house?  What fun you all must have together!  I love the idea of the Advent calendar with activities.  I'll also look into the schoolhouseteachers website.  A Shakespeare Christmas unit study sounds like fun.  Thank you!

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On 12/2/2020 at 1:19 PM, cougarmom4 said:

One thing I love to do is Author studies with picture books. It’s a great starting point that you can take in different directions...and do just a little or a lot with.  Read them, compare/contrast the plot or characters, take a close look at the artwork, write your own version of the story, try your hand at the art, create your own picture book, create a stop-motion video, rewrite as a reader’s theater, research the author’s life. Since it is just a picture book, it’s naturally more fun and less “academic.”

December is the perfect month for Jan Brett and or try a common theme such as Gingerbread stories. 
 

Another idea is to take a trip around the world and learn about how different cultures celebrate Christmas or other holidays.

What a great idea, Cougarmom4!  My kids would love to do stop-motion videos.  And I think that it's brilliant that you do this with "just" a picture book, so that it's not so intimidating.  

We love the Jan Brett books, too.  Thank you!

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On 12/2/2020 at 1:24 PM, EssTreeB said:

We really love Joyce Sidman's nature themed poetry books. Winter Bees is a perfect book for December. She also kindly offers lots of lesson plans and poetry writing ideas on her website. I'm planning on using some this winter. Here's the link in case you're interested: http://www.joycesidman.com/teachers/

@EssTreeBMy library has the Winter Bees book so I just put it on hold.  I'll use some of the ideas from her website. 

Joyce Sidman seems like my kind of educator - we're definitely an arts AND science family here.  I'm looking forward to checking out more of her work.  Thank you!

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