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    DecemberTerm 2009

    November 23, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    The children around here call DecemberTerm “Christmas School,” but I still prefer DecemberTerm, especially since I hesitate to use the word “school” to describe what we do in our home. No one is required to sit still in a desk all day, after all. In fact, a certain male student is allowed to be upside down during narration.

    He claims it helps him think.


    Moving on.

    A Brief History of DecemberTerm

    Last year was our first “official” school year {there’s that word “school” again}, meaning that it was the first year any of my children were required by law to attend a school. This means it was the first year that I got really organized, with a plan for the year, an attendance sheet {required by California state law, in case you thought that was weird}, and so on and so forth.

    Last year, when we hit our break after Term One {which is, conveniently, the week of Thanksgiving}, I found myself wanting to savor the holidays. True, I was exhausted from caring for a newborn. I think, to some extent, it was because I was exhausted that I needed something like DecemberTerm.

    I needed to make sure that another Christmas didn’t fly by in a blur.

    To some extent, I feel like I missed six years of Christmases. I was either pregnant, or caring for a newborn, all of those years. I never stopped and celebrated the important things in my heart. And I feared that the tradition of not really celebrating was what was rubbing off on my children.

    Suddenly, my oldest “baby” was six-years-old, and I felt like he deserved a better inheritance than what I was giving him.

    On top of this, Si and I had been discussing for years that we wanted our holidays to be more festive. Pieper was right. Celebrations devoid of religious significance taste stale in our mouths.

    DecemberTerm became my action plan, my way of tilling the soil of my children’s hearts, preparing them for Christmas Day.

    What is DecemberTerm?

    DecemberTerm is basically an extended Circle Time. We do everything together save the most basic of lessons {Neighbor M. will still get solitary reading lessons; E. will still do math, copywork, and spelling daily; A. will still “play letters” with me}. We take a break from Ambleside until after the New Year, and this in turn tends to give us more time for the leisurely activity of reading aloud.

    What is New This Year?

    This year, I decided to break up the baking days so that I am cooking alone with just one child. Last year, trying to make sure that everyone got a turn became overwhelming, and I didn’t feel like anyone really learned anything about cooking, or connected with me. So this year, each child will bake with me twice during the term.

    Also in the baking arena, we are going to work more on candying nuts than baking cookies. This is my attempt to make our treats a bit healthier. We will make a large batch of cookies at the end, and those will probably go to Si’s office, or to neighbors.

    We also have some additional newness in the form of new books, new poems, and so on. I’ll post a “resources” section near the end. We are going to study Rembrandt every DecemberTerm from now on, but my plans only say something basic like “Rembrandt” because the book hasn’t yet arrived.

    In addition to the DecemberTerm plans, we are also going to return to an evening Advent Reader, which I will link to in the Resources.

    And What is Old?

    I’ve decided that reading Dickens every year is going to be a tradition. If Ralph Moody’s mom can do it, why can’t I? Planning this year was easier for me because I’m following the same rough plan, just with new information. I am learning that planning the first year of something is the hardest. The following years, I am not starting from scratch, but rather improving upon what we’ve already done, smoothing out what did or didn’t work.

    Anything Else?

    Well, when you look at my plans, please keep in mind that this is only a rough order of events. Usually, I figure out within a day or two how it flows best {where poetry best fits, for instance} and then stick with that. Also, the discussion questions are just to stimulate my brain. We do not necessarily go through all of those questions.

    If you are wondering why food seems to be such a big issue, please keep in mind that my children used to have food allergies. This has somewhat tainted their approach to food. When you have spent years of your life having food make you feel badly, or having your parents say that it is “bad” for you, you grow a habit of thinking negatively about food. So this year I’m trying to focus on helping them see that food is a gift to us from God to be accepted with gratitude.

    The Official 2009 DecemberTerm Plans

    Without further delay…

    DecemberTerm 2009




    Rembrandt: The Christmas Story

    The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

    A Christmas Carol

    The Jesus Storybook Bible

    Beatrix Potter:
    The Complete Tales

    Gingerbread Baby

    You Can Do It, Sam

    Evening Advent Reading

    Jotham’s Journey:
    A Storybook for Advent

    Christmas music as the children do their morning chores, and hot tea or cocoa to sip on during Circle Time {except for two-year-olds who cannot handle the responsibility} make the morning a special treat.

    How About You?

    If you post your plans for DecemberTerm {or something like it}, please link it in the comments!

    View DecemberTerm 2008
    Mystie’s 2009 Holiday Term

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  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts November 24, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    You are very welcome, Em. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Lift Up Your Hearts November 24, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Thank you for posting your plans!

  • Reply Mystie November 24, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    That is, of course I don’t mind. You have permission to post any links to me you want, ever. πŸ™‚ I’ve already taken that liberty myself with your posts, so I hope you don’t mind!

  • Reply Mystie November 24, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Of course not. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts November 24, 2009 at 5:43 pm


    Do you care if I link your plans to the bottom of the actual post?

  • Reply Mystie November 24, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Thanks, Brandy! I needed one more treat for my plans, and those peanut butter cups will be perfect, even though mine won’t be quite so healthy. πŸ™‚

    I posted my plans, too. This is our first year, so I kept things pretty basic. I want to get some traditions started, but things will get ironed out a bit more firmly in the next year or two.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts November 24, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Kerry, If you ever post your plans, let me know.

    I checked out one of your blogs for the first time the other day…I liked it! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Kerry November 24, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    thank you for sharing your plans for December. I’m currently working on mine. I’ve downloaded yours to help with that! THANKS!

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts November 24, 2009 at 5:13 am


    If you like peppermint, I highly suggest the cookies at the end. We test drove the recipe last year and it is a WINNER. πŸ™‚

    Of course, you are always welcome here.


    Enjoy! I’d love to see whatever it is you are doing if you post it up. The week of the 20th I want to focus on family things. We’ll probably deliver some of the goodies to grandparents, do some extra baking perhaps for that project, that sort of thing. I only make plans for the three weeks, and then we basically play for two weeks before beginning Term Two. πŸ™‚

    Oh! Sorry the difference between hymn/carol wasn’t clear. It is actually directions to myself on where to find the songs. Hymns are in the hymnal, and carols are in the carol book. It is a very exact science. πŸ™‚

    Actually, I was thinking yesterday that I should scan them and print them and put them all in my binder so that they are all in once place. This will save my running around like a crazy person which has been known to happen on days we are learning a new song…

  • Reply dawn November 24, 2009 at 3:52 am

    Wow, fantastic! I’m going to, er, use certainly the manners chunks, and some of the other ideas in our plans (which I am belatedly starting). We do the Jesse Tree for our devotions/verses, but the manners thing is a great addition.

    You have 3 weeks of lessons, do you do anything the week of the 20th? Also, I was wondering if you could explain the difference between a Christmas Hymn and a Christmas Carol in your plans?

  • Reply Rebecca November 24, 2009 at 3:26 am

    Yum! I think I will have to invite myself over on one of your baking days… after the goodies are all ready, of course!

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