Tag Archives: holidays

Celebrating Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day will be a little different for us. We usually celebrate it by making or preparing Valentines during the day, then surprising each other with them at suppertime. Our grandma comes over for a special meal, and we end the day with a lot of chocolate.

This year, however, my husband will be working late, so the kids and I have been wondering what to do. The consensus is that we’ll have a special Valentine’s Day snack instead of a supper during the few minutes in the afternoon he can come home so he won’t miss it. And we’ll still end the day with chocolate. 🙂

There are lots of ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Find picture books at the library about St. Valentine, or look up information about him online. Share his story with your children.
  • Spend some time baking together!  Make Valentine’s Day treats from scratch with your kids. You can find all sorts of recipes to try at KidsCookingActivities.com and Kaboose.com.
  • Decorate a room in your house – Cut out paper hearts and tape them around the room. Our favorite room is our kitchen, and the paper hearts are going up all over the windows. Have the kids write messages on the hearts or the names of the people they love.
  • Create homemade cards for grandparents or neighbors.
  • Make valentines to share with the residents of the local nursing home or for children in the hospital.
  • Write a letter to a friend you don’t see very often.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

New Year’s Around the World

No matter if we’re home together or visiting other family members, we usually celebrate on New Year’s Eve with games, snacks, movies, fireworks, and of course, staying up until midnight. This year, as we get ready for the festivities, we thought it would be interesting to find out how the rest of the world welcomes the new year. Here’s what we discovered:

In England, New Year’s Eve customs are quite similar to our own here in America. Many people celebrate with parties either in their homes, restaurants, or pubs with friends and family. They also watch fireworks displays, and at midnight sing “Auld Lang Syne”. They count down with the clock and toast the new year. Sound familiar? It did to my kids!

But here are some other things we learned:

In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is known as Hogmanay, and it’s an evening full of traditions. One of the customs is called first footing, or being the first person to cross the threshold of a home after midnight. This “first footer” will bring all the luck of the coming year with him, but there are some criteria he must meet. Ideally, he will be tall and handsome with dark hair, but he cannot be a doctor, a minister, or a grave digger. It’s also traditional for the first footer to carry a lump of coal to signify life, comfort, and warmth, along with a cake to represent prosperity.

Omisoko, New Year’s Eve in Japan, is one of the country’s most important holidays, coming second only New Year’s Day. Buckwheat noodles, called toshikoshi soba, are eaten to ensure longevity and prosperity. Families gather to watch the Red and White Song Festival, a television program that features singers whose songs were popular during the year. As the clock approaches midnight, many people visit the shrines and temples. Getting up to watch the sunrise on New Year’s Day is another important tradition, as viewing the first sunrise is considered a good and proper start to the new year. Popular foods for New Year’s Day include fish, fish eggs attached to seaweed, black beans, and kelp. New Year’s postcards sent to friends and family are delivered on New Year’s Day, and children receive monetary gifts in special envelopes.

In Mexico, Año Nuevo (New Year’s Eve) is celebrated by decorating homes in red ( improved lifestyle and love), yellow (blessings and good employment), white (improved health), and green (improved financial situations). Families often celebrate with a late-night dinner of turkey and mole. If Mexican sweet bread is served, it was usually baked with a coin or charm inside the dough. It’s tradition that whoever receives the piece with the coin  will have good luck in the coming year. When the clock strikes midnight, 12 grapes are eaten — one at a time with each chime of the bell – and a wish is made with each one.

People ring in the New Year in so many different ways! What interesting New Year’s traditions do you have in your family?

 

Photo by Matthew Hull

Late for Christmas?

I envisioned this December much differently. We would finish up with schoolwork early in the month, then sit back and enjoy all the sights and sounds of the holiday season. We’d spend a day baking cookies for a friend’s cookie swap party, work on Christmas crafts together, look at the  various holiday light shows, and make some handmade gifts. And I would actually get my Christmas cards out on time this year.

But like everything else lately, Christmas hasn’t come like I thought it would. Our tree still isn’t up. The house isn’t decorated. We haven’t been out to look at the lights. I didn’t make any gifts. And I can’t even seem to locate our advent calendar.

Just days after we arrived home from a Thanksgiving visit with family, my oldest daughter had to go into the hospital with a ruptured appendix. Though my husband was able to get time off so we could take turns sitting with her, things at home fell further behind. It’s as if I’ve spent the last week or so just trying to catch up — trying not to be late for Christmas.

But it’s never too late to consider the real meaning of Christmas. That amid the hustle and bustle of holiday “have-tos”, the reason for the celebration is still there — the birth of Jesus, God’s Son come to earth.

And while we can remind ourselves, we can remind our children, too. Snuggle on the couch and read a Christmas story book. Set up (and even play with) a nativity scene together. Help them wrap a gift for a needy child in your church or neighborhood.  Talk about what it must have been like for Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men as your driving in the car.

So even if the mistletoe isn’t up, the stockings aren’t hung, and the lights aren’t blinking on the lawn, you’re not late for Christmas; any time we think about God’s wondrous gift is the right time.

Thankful

Even with all of my good intentions, this school year has not been an easy one. Come to think of it, I don’t know that any of them could be classified as “easy.” But as we celebrate the holidays, I am reminded of how thankful I am that we are able to homeschool and educate our children in the way we believe benefits them the most. So even on our “off” days, when things aren’t going as I would like them to, I am so thankful that:

  • I know my children’s academic strengths and weaknesses; while I applaud their strengths, we can focus together on the areas that need improvement.
  • I know their character strengths and weaknesses, and I’m around to help guide them through various situations.
  • I know their friends, their friends’ parents, and their friends’ siblings, and I know what they do when they’re just “hanging out”.
  • They’re learning (albeit slowly some days!) how to accept and get along with one another, as well as how to encourage and support one another.
  • They’re learning practical skills as they help out around the home.
  • We have time to deal with “life” as a family, helping each other when the need arises.
  • We have time to reach out to others in need — to friends, family, and people in the community.
  • We are learning and growing together.
Though many of our friends’ children now attend school, homeschooling has definitely proven to still be the best option for our family. So this season, instead of becoming discouraged by the inevitable “bad” days, I’m going to continue reflecting on all the positives we’ve experienced. And I am so very thankful.
How has homeschooling benefited your family? What are you most thankful for?
Photo by ensignmedia

Fun in the Fall

Fall is my favorite time of year, and it always goes by way too fast. If you’re like me, and the new school year of lessons, projects, and activities have kept you busy, here are a few ways you can take a moment (or a day) to step back and enjoy the season with your children:

Crafts:

My kids love crafts – and I do, too! While you may have thought of doing leaf rubbings, here are a few sites with even more ideas:

Family Fun – On this site, you’ll find thanksgiving cards, a leaf mobile, and more great ideas for fall.

Busy Bee Kids Crafts –  Crafts on this site include an autumn tree collage, pumpkin lollipops, a paper bag scarecrow, and apple stamping.

The Crafty Crow –  with links to other craft sites, at The Crafty Crwo you’ll find directions for creating a leaf picture alphabet, melted crayon autumn leaves, a plastic bottle owl, and marbled shaving cream autumn leaves.

At Danielle’s Place, you’ll find plenty of turkeys for Thanksgiving, including  several paper plate turkey and a turkey potholder.

 

Picture Books:

When the weather becomes a little cooler, it’s the perfect time to snuggle up together with a good picture book. Here are a few of our fall favorites:

Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming

Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert

In November by Cynthia Rylant

Countdown to Fall by Fran Hawk

 

Our family also has a few favorite activities we love to do year after year. They include: pumpkin picking, apple picking, attending fall festivals, having backyard picnics, and flying kites. This fall, we’re also going to explore a corn maze and cook up some yummy desserts. What does  your family  do to celebrate fall?

Celebrating America…with Books!

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. When I was growing up, it meant picnics with family and friends, swimming in the lake,  and lighting fireworks. And for my kids, it’s still a special time for eating watermelon and setting off firecrackers. But even more importantly, it’s a time to remember our heritage, a time to treasure our freedom, a time to reflect as a family on all that it means to be an American.

There are a lot of great books about the 4th. If you’re looking for some to share with your children, check these out:

 

For Kids:

America the Beautiful by Katherine Bates and Wendell Minor

America: A Patriotic Primer by Lynne Cheney and Robin Preiss Glasser

A is for America by Devin Scillian and Pam Carroll

Fireworks, Picnics, and Flags: The Story of the Fourth of July Symbols by James Giblin and Ursula Arndt.

Looking for Uncle Louie On the Fourth of July by Kathy Whitehead and Pablo Torrecilla.

Fourth of July Mice! by Bethany Roberts

Independence Day by Trudi Strain Trueit

Happy 4th of July, Jenny Sweeney! by Leslie Kimmelman and Nancy Cote

Fourth of July Fireworks (Our Holiday Symbols) by Patrick Merrick

A Fourth of July on the Plains by Jean Van Leeuwen

Fireworks and Freedom: A Fourth of July Story and Activity Book by Carol Amato and Ann Koffsky

Hurray for the 4th of July by Wendy Watson

America Is…by Louise Borden and Stacey Shuett

American Patriotism by Kerry Patton, Kathleen Hawkins,  Rachel Simmons and Paul Vallely

Patriotism (Character Education) by Lucia Raatma

 

For Parents:

The American Patriot’s Almanac: Daily Readings on America by William Bennett and John Cribb

How to Raise and American Patriot: Making it Okay for Our Kids to Be Proud to Be American by Marijo Tinlin

How to Raise an American: 1776 Fun and Easy Tools, Tips, and Activities to Help Your Child Love This Country by Myrna Blyth and Chriss Winston.

 

Photo by wintersixfour

Resurrection Day

Today is Easter Sunday,  a day set aside to remember our Savior’s death on the cross and resurrection. A day to celebrate our new life in Him.

This past week was full of special activities — egg hunts, Easter parties, craft days, and re-tellings of the Easter Story. We have a few favorites things we do almost every Easter season. They include:

*Reading our favorite Easter picture books — Benjamin’s  Box by Melody Carlson is one we read year after year. It’s written to correspond with the Resurrection Egg set, where each egg contains a different “piece” of the story. Before we purchased one of the sets, I made up my own using regular plastic eggs and filling them myself with items we had around the house.

Another book we really enjoy is The Parable of the Easter Lily by Liz Curtis Higgs. In the story, a young girl named Maggie receives a flower bulb as a gift and, disappointed, tosses it into the garden. When the bulb grows into an Easter Lily, Maggie learns about grace, forgiveness, and the true meaning of Easter.

*Dying Easter Eggs — Sometimes we dye the eggs before Easter, sometimes on Easter Sunday. Either way, it’s always been a great activity for bringing extended family together. Now that the kids are older, we don’t just dip the eggs  in the dye; now we blow the eggs out so they’re hollow and paint them!

*Hunting for Easter Baskets — We had this tradition when I was small, and I’ve continued it with our children, for no real reason except that it’s a lot of fun.  Each child has a designated basket filled with goodies, and Easter morning they hunt around the house for them. Even my 14-year-old still enjoys looking for his basket. Or maybe he just going for the treats inside. Hmmm….

What does your family do to celebrate the Resurrection?

Time for Re-establishing

After lots of traveling over Christmas and New Year’s, we had our first quiet week at home this week. Our co-op did meet on Monday, so that day was full, and Tuesday the girls had music lessons, but that was all we had on the calendar. And, for a few days our car was in the shop, so I couldn’t have gone anywhere anyway. I had anticipated getting a lot done, including unpacking from our trips, putting away the Christmas decorations, and cleaning the house.

But the house is still a mess and the Christmas tree is still up. Instead, this was the week of re-establishment.

First, we had to re-establish our school hours, and it took a couple of days before the routine was set again. Some of that time was also spent looking for workbooks that somehow disappeared. One math book is still on the loose.

Then we re-established the daily chore plans, including the “before breakfast” and “after school” lists. After several weeks of letting daily chores slip by, it’s nice to have some helping hands with the housework again.

Because adjusting to school and chores again can be tough, we had to re-established the “No Whining Rule.” That one was a little harder and involved a few more tears, but it’s coming along too.

We also re-established the “Video and Computer Games May Only be Played on Saturdays” rule. We set up this rule about a year ago when I felt the boys were spending too much time at the games, and it works well for our family. During holidays, however, it’s an easy one to bend, especially if they get a new one for Christmas.

Looking at the state of our house this week, one (especially my husband) might wonder what we did at home all day. But we did work at some hard things, and the year is off to a good start, even if the house isn’t. 🙂

Photo by Grafixar

Cooking Up Something Sweet

The holidays are the perfect time for trying out new recipes, especially with your children! There are simple recipes for desserts to share with friends and neighbors, as well as foods you can make to give as gifts. If holiday baking with your family is part of your plans this week, here are some websites to check out:

Families Online Magazine – This site features treats you can make with your children, including Candy Cane Cookies and Popcorn Snowmen.

Family Fun – Family Fun is one of my favorite magazines, and one of my favorite websites too. Here you’ll find recipes for advent calendar cookies, cookie kids, and dancing gingerbread people.

Dreams Alive Magazine
– On the page featuring Christmas crafts and cookies just for kids, you’ll find the directions for making chocolate coffee spoons with peppermint and a Christmas chocolate kiss tree. There’s also a recipe for gingerbread cookies in a jar, a nice gift kids can give to relatives or neighbors.

Easy Kids Recipes – While this site has a few interesting recipes posted by the author, there are many, many more on the “Cookie Recipe Contest Page.”  Just click on the link, and you’ll be directed to the 2010 winning recipes as well as 40+ other recipes to try.

Apples4TheTeacher – There are quite a few ads on this site, but once you close them you’ll find a number of tasty recipes, including chocolate fudge and candy cane marble.

NorthPole.com – You’ll find lots of recipes for baking with kids here, so many that they are divided into categories: cookies, cakes, pies, candy and fudge, breads, and other recipes.

Kids Cooking Activities – This is one of my favorite sites for cooking with kids, and they have a page dedicated to Christmas cookies too. Visit this site for the basic sugar cookie recipes for making cut-out cookies, as well as the directions for making jam-filled wreaths, reindeer cookies, and gingerbread men.

Photo by cohdra

Let’s Have a Parade!

This week, we met up with family to spend a day together at a children’s museum. While we were there, we began talking about Christmas parades, and my grown niece commented that one of her dreams was to be in a parade.

“Really?” I replied. “That’s funny, because we’re going to be in a parade this Sunday. We’ve been in one every year for the last five years.”

“But I thought you had to represent a business or an organization,” she said.

But in our little country town, you don’t. Participation is open to anyone willing to pay the entry fee, which ranges from $10 – $20 depending on what you are entering. The categories always include commercial and non-commercial vehicles and floats, classic and antique vehicles, recreational vehicles, horses, pageant winners, and walkers/marchers.

Those may seem like difficult categories for a family to fit into, but they’re not. We enter every year as a non-commercial vehicle. We decorate my husband’s old pickup truck and dress up to fit the theme of the parade. My husband drives the truck, and the kids and I all ride in the back, waving and tossing out candy and wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas.”

Our parade offers plaques as prizes for the entries with the best decorations, and would you believe it, for the past five years we’ve placed either first or second in our category? When I first came across the entry form six years ago, I thought it’d be fun to enter it on a whim; now it’s become a family Christmas tradition. And the kids are always anxious to see if we’ll win again.

If your children would like to be in a parade next year, check into your town’s entry requirements. If you do need to enter as a group, you could enter as a club, a church organization, or a homeschool co-op. Then, with a little creativity and a lot of planning, you’ll be ready to join in the fun!

Photo by gracey