Holidays as Homeschool Curriculum
By Vicki Bentley
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
Do you ever feel stuck in the day-to-day sameness of your school routine? If you circle the holidays on your calendar, you can have not just instant mini-units, but family fun and fond memories. Celebrate!
Family Celebrations are God’s Idea
Setting apart holidays (originally holy days) as a remembrance started back in Genesis with the Sabbath. Each of the biblical holidays teaches us about our relationship with God; His festival celebrations were a revelation of His character and a foreshadowing of the coming of His Son. Whether you are celebrating God-ordained or man-made holidays and traditions, ask the Lord to reveal to you the heritage and reminders He wants you to pass along to your children and their children.
Holidays as Mini-units
You might discuss why poppies are the traditional Veterans Day flower, then try your hand at making your own from crepe paper or tissue paper (or buy some from the local vets selling them in front of the grocery store). Pick up some MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) from an Army surplus store to have a soldier-style meal. Write thank-you notes to relatives and friends who have served in the armed forces; better yet, invite them to dinner and have them share what military life was like—where they ate, how they traveled, what it was like to bathe and shave from one helmet’s worth of water, and other challenges. Or visit a VA hospital and play a game of checkers with some of the residents, then thank them for their service.
Other historical or intrinsically educational holidays include Independence Day, Flag Day, Election Day, Constitution Day, Presidents Day, Thanksgiving, and others. But imagine the memory-making opportunities in National Pizza Week (2nd week of January), National Kite Month (April), National Mustard Day (1st Saturday in August), and Dictionary Day (October 16).
Keep it Simple
You don’t have to make a major production out of a holiday to make it special—sometimes the impromptu celebrations of seemingly insignificant moments are the most memorable. Our family had great laughs celebrating the birthday of Dr. Seuss by taking turns reading the pages of Green Eggs and Ham aloud as fast as we could, then speaking in Seuss-ical rhymes throughout the day. Or the weather could spark a new family tradition of baking raindrop-shaped cookies in honor of the first showers of spring. Make an “everyday celebration” out of suppertime by serving up homemade pizza to the tune of “That’s Amoré!” and other Italian favorites.
Create Your own Holiday-of-the-Month Club
Want to give your kids a gift that says, “You’re special and I want you to celebrate life!” all throughout the year? Create your own holiday-of-the-month club. Using an idea-packed resource such as Silvana Clark’s Every Day a Holiday or one of the others listed here, select a holiday (or two or three) from each month and make holiday activity bags. To help them anticipate the learning fun, mark the dates on a calendar with stars—but don’t give away the surprise!
An Internet search can turn up everything from scavenger hunts for Columbus Day or homeschool day at the state fair to a list of not-so-ordinary holidays. Websites for Family Fun and other family magazines highlight budget craft ideas, holiday recipes, and holiday how-to videos.
Are you interested in documenting your holiday studies and adventures? Find activities, templates, worksheets, and other helps by searching online for holiday notebooking, lapbooking, or unit studies.
Silvana Clark’s book, Every Day a Holiday, includes food, craft, and fun ideas for the usual—and not so usual!—holidays throughout the year. Gloria Gaither and Shirley Dobson share ideas for building family traditions and togetherness in their Let’s Make a Memory series. Find educational and inspirational ideas for celebrating Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, and more in A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays by Robin Sampson and Linda Pierce. If your overloaded schedule makes you wonder when you’ll have the time or the creativity to make a holiday special, check out the newly released Everyday Confetti by Karen Ehman and Glynnis Whitwer. And in Homespun Memories for the Heart, authors Karen Ehman, Kelly Hovermale, and Trish Smith share more than 200 ideas for unforgettable family moments. These resources remind us to “celebrate ‘just because’ events like rainy days, road trips, bedtime, and book reading—because even ordinary moments are reason enough to celebrate.” (Ehman)
(This article was adapted from the Early Years e-newsletter, October 2009. See more resources listed here, under Homeschooling.)