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    DecemberTerm Planning

    November 17, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    It’s that time of year again! I live in Central California, which means the weather outside isn’t frightful at all yet (my children are still wearing short sleeves most days), but the leaves turned pretty shades of red and orange, and rumor has it Thanksgiving is next week. That means…DecemberTerm planning is here!

    I am planning to share my finalized plans sometime this week, but I thought today I’d post what I’m looking at for resources. Of course, my two greatest resources are the women I met with last night for brainstorming…

    • For morning devotions, I bought The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean. Last year, I wrote my own, but this year I am trying to simplify, simplify. In our meeting last night, we all agreed that The Jesse Tree tradition is more suited to school (especially if coloring/making ornaments), while “regular” Advent devotions with candle lighting is more suited to evenings and husbands. So, we’re doing both.
    • Speaking of making ornaments, I would like to someday make really nice Jesse Tree ornaments with the children. But this year, I’m just trying to perfect a few things before we take that step. For this year, I think I’m just going to print off the ornament symbol pattern available from the RCA on cardstock, cut them out, punch a hole in them, and tie a red ribbon through the top for hanging. This example of self-drying clay ornaments might be a fun project with the children next year.
    • For evening Advent devotions, my husband usually has me choose something, and then he leads with whatever I picked out. This year, I’m trying to decide between the two amazing options, available free online, courtesy of Christ the King Presbyterian Church.
    • Last night, we nailed down one manner per week to teach during morning Circle Time, but I still need to assign verses to each day, and then the manners will appear, like last year, in my posted plans.
    • For memory work this year, we’re taking the plunge and attempting Luke 2. We all agreed that we always think that Luke 2 is a good idea, but then we also think our children are too young. Well, the oldest children are now not too young, and the younger children always surprise me, so we’ll see how far we get and it’ll be great. My only hurdle now is deciding on a version. I use the NASB for my own Bible reading. But I adore the King James, especially for memory work. Our church, however, uses the ESV, and that is what will be used when they read the Christmas story during the service. Decisions, decisions…
    • A local church is offering weekly Advent lunchtime organ concerts, so we are going to try and eat a very early lunch and attend those weekly during Advent. If we like it, we might make it a tradition of sorts.

    What plans do you have up your sleeve? Does Advent have a major impact on your children’s education?

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  • Reply Mystie November 24, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Reply Mystie November 24, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks, Brandy, for asking and thank you, Kelly, for answering! I, too, have been fiddling around with the idea of the 12 days of Christmas, and have a few low-key plans for this year to begin its introduction. I appreciated your ideas!

    Also, I really want a nativity set. I’ve never seen one that appeals to me, though, not that I’ve looked hard.

    My Advent & Christmas plans will post on Friday. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Kelly November 24, 2010 at 2:19 am

    Sorry about the double post.

    I thought of something else. I try to do little things during Chrismastide to make it special for the kids. For example, normally the only sweetener I allow on their porridge is blackstrap molasses, which really isn’t very sweet at all, but during Christmas and Easter I let them have honey on it.

    We hardly ever use paper plates, but we often use paper napkins for supper. During special times like Christmas and Easter I try to make sure we have cloth napkins out, and I put everything into serving dishes — like parmesan cheese if we’re having spaghetti — intead of setting the package on the table like I normally do. I’ll have lit candles for a centerpiece. We nearly always use a tablecloth (it makes the meal quieter — less clinking of cups and silver and serving dishes on the bare table!) but I have a gold one I use all during Christmas and a white one for Easter season.

    Also, we don’t have school, but I do have extra read-aloud times since everyone enjoys them so much, we have music playing a lot, which is out of the ordinay for us — I have four music students so there’s a lot of that kind of music on a daily basis, plus a few times a week listen to particular works as part of our education, but I hardly ever have “background music” playing.

    I can’t think of anything else right now — but that’s the kind of thing we do… just make the season a little nicer than everyday. Most of it has to do with food, but then, it is a feast — the whole season!

  • Reply Kelly November 24, 2010 at 2:08 am

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  • Reply Kelly November 24, 2010 at 2:08 am

    We do, though it’s pretty low-key. The first year we ever did it the kids each had a little gift to open on each day, but we decided that was overkill. Presently they each get a piece of chocolate in their stocking that they’re allowed to eat when they first get up (normally chocolate is something we only give out on Sunday, and not every Sunday, either), and on Twelfth Night they have one more gift to open. (They get to open one on Christmas Eve, and we save one for Twelfth Night, so that means they usually have two or three on Christmas morning, depending on how extravagant the grandparents were).

    We make sure to have Evening Prayers each night (we tend to be faithful about Morning Prayers because it’s part of our school day, but EP gets squeezed out all too often) and sing Christmas hymns; Scripture readings are from the lectionary — our church uses the 1928 BCP, Psalms and Lessons for the church year are here: Christmas is at the bottom of page three, Morning Prayer on the left page, Evening Prayer on the right.

    We have the tree lights on and light candles on the mantle and all five candles on the Advent wreath, but have the other lights turned off, or dimmed, if they’re needed for reading the Scriptures.

    On Epiphany we have another feast for dinner, but smaller than Christmas dinner (which is smaller than Thanksgiving). When I’m able to, I buy crackers at Michaels and place one on each plate. They’re a lot of fun.

    Tomorrow I’m going to get a new, larger Nativity scene (our old one was a tiny glass set we’ve had since our first Christmas), and do something new: I’m going to set the stable on the mantle, but with only the animals and the empty manger present. Mary and Joseph are going to be put somewhere else in the room and each day I’ll let a different child move them a little closer to the stable, arriving on the morning of Christmas Eve. Then, when we get home from CE service I’ll let someone put baby Jesus in the manger. Starting Christmas morning we’ll set the three wise men up on the side of the room opposite to where Mary and Joseph began their journey, have them travel a little each day till they arrive on Epiphany.

    Another new thing I want to do is something for Epiphany season that I’ll have to talk to the ladies at church about. I want to take a King Cake, with a penny or bean or something in it, to our regular after service fellowship on the Sunday nearest Epiphany, and have whoever gets the prize bring a King Cake the next Sunday, and so on until the last Sunday before before Ash Wednesday. Whoever gets it that last Sunday can bring the first cake the following year, or it can revert back to me. I hope the other ladies are game — they nearly always bring stuff from the bakery, and that’ll work if they don’t want to bake from scratch — they can just hide the prize somewhere in whatever they bring.


  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts November 23, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    Does anyone out there celebrate the full twelve days of Christmas?? This is something I have flirted with doing, but I have NO IDEA how to actually do it. Any book or resource suggestions for me to start my research? I wouldn’t be doing it this year, but I figure now is the time of year to locate the resources for the future…

  • Reply Kansas Mom November 18, 2010 at 6:10 am

    Mystie, I wrote about our baptism anniversary celebration (we’ve only had one) on my blog ( The little prayer service we used is Catholic, but I’m sure it could be adapted if there were parts you didn’t like.

    As for the Epiphany cake…I haven’t decided. I have a recipe in a book of Advent celebrations and might use that but I’m not sure. As for the coin, I’m inclined to insert a (well-washed) penny after it’s baked rather than baking it in. It’s probably fine…but I’ve taken too many biology and chemistry classes to think it sounds tasty.

    I’ve always wanted to put up a Christmas tree and decorate it on Christmas Eve then leave it up until after the Epiphany, but we’re always traveling sometime around the holidays to see my parents so it’s never been possible. Same story this year.

    Kansas Dad and I have also talked about getting a live tree and planting it after the holiday. I still think that sounds cool for some future year.

  • Reply Mystie November 18, 2010 at 5:46 am

    Ok, ok, so I’ve been telling myself for 2 weeks that I need to get the advent plans together, and I finally sat down and started making lists today. I had plans last year, but being in the third trimester, practically nothing actually happened.

    My mom had me and my siblings memorize Luke 2 when I was little, and I still know most of it once I get started (in KJV). My input would be to take it easy and work on it each Christmastime, but don’t expect it all to happen in one month. For us, it was more like a tradition than “school” memory, and by the third year I had it memorized and could say it independently.

    We always go get our tree and pull out the Christmas decorations on the first Sunday in advent. But then by the end of December I am always ready to put it all away, clean, and have a fresh start for New Year. Yet in theory I like the 12 Days of Christmas idea, with Christmas ending at Epiphany. I think that block is one of the reasons I’ve been postponing writing any plans.

    I love the Jesse Tree book. πŸ™‚ A friend of mine who is very picky about children’s books recommended it to me several years ago.

    KM: How do you celebrate baptism anniversaries?? I love the concept, but haven’t ever encountered it before. Also, what is your Epiphany cake? Do you bake a coin in it? πŸ™‚

  • Reply Kansas Mom November 18, 2010 at 3:28 am

    The quick version of our Advent and Christmas plans: Advent wreath and Scripture readings, reading Celebrate the Season, reading a Christmas book each day, Christmas choir concert (the older two performing with a homeschool choir), Feast of St. Nicholas (with stockings and gifts), First Son’s birthday, feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (hot chocolate and decorations, maybe a play), Kansas Dad’s birthday, First Son’s baptism anniversary, oplatki on Christmas Eve, and rounding it all out with an Epiphany cake on January 6th. (One of these days I’m going to write it up nicely for the blog, but it might not be until after Christmas.)

    We are also going to make our annual ornaments and, for the first time, a gingerbread cake man with a pan I received for Christmas last year. I totally want to make a gingerbread house (from scratch, because I’m that kind of crazy) but am not going to try that with a baby who doesn’t nap on a schedule. Maybe next year.

    I’ve also picked out a Christmas poem for First Son to memorize, but he’s in the midst of Psalm 23 now. We’ll start the Christmas one when he’s got that memorized.

    I tried a Jesse tree last year and it was a big flop. I’m not even going to attempt it again for another year or two.

  • Reply Kelly November 18, 2010 at 12:16 am

    Hey, Luke 2 is a great idea. I tend to alternate our passages between narrative, Psalm, and exposition. We’ve been working on Gen 1 for a very long time (we broke it down by day of the creation week and included the 7th day — Gen 2:1-3), and I’m ready to start a new narrative passage.

    Last year we did something new — instead of waiting till just a day or two before Christmas to put up the tree, we put it up right after Thanksgiving and called it the Advent tree. We made Chrismons ( and added a couple each day so that it got more and more festive towards Christmas. Everyone loved it. We used a cinnamon/applesauce recipe for the ornaments and hung them outside for the birds after Christmas, so we’ll make new ones this year.

    I should probably write a blog post so I can the details.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts November 17, 2010 at 8:05 pm


    YES! Let’s do it. It’ll be even more fun with all the little boys being big enough to participate. Our school ends Dec. 17 and Christmas isn’t until the 25th. I was thinking about the 19th in the evening. Let’s check our calendars and email…

    I have admired Fernando Ortega ever since he played for chapel at Biola back in the day. I might need you to bring it for our gingerbread house night! πŸ™‚


    I love your hymn list! I, too, am going to try to do a hymn per week. I think it is technically too much for the girls, but I’m going to see if I can snag the songs off of my Christmas CDs and burn them onto a separate CD for the girls to play on their CD player in the play nook. I think they’d memorize them if they listened to them all day in there. πŸ™‚ Maybe I’ll record myself reading Luke 2 and put that on there, also.

    I will try and let you know what I think about the book…but unfortunately it hasn’t arrived yet! I fear my review will be VERY close to the start of Advent…FYI.

  • Reply dawn November 17, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Rebecca – the Fernando Ortega Christmas CD is amazing. You can wait, but why? LOL (sorry, not helpful, I know)

  • Reply dawn November 17, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    I can’t wait for your Christmas plans, I still have last years’ in the folder to refer to.

    We’re also going to attempt Luke 2 this year. We’ve been working on Gen 1 this school year, and we all need a break.

    Our plans are going to extend through Epiphany as we are “off school” from today! through the Monday following Jan 6. We’re going to do the following carols (one per week instead of per month as we generally do hymns):

    O Come O Come Emmanuel
    Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
    Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
    Silent Night
    Joy to the World
    We Three Kings of Orient Are

    I still need to do most of our planning. I was considering purchasing that Jesse Tree book this year, too. I think we’ll probably wait and see what you think [grin]

  • Reply Rebecca November 17, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    I just clicked over and looked at one of the advent devotionals. I think I may attempt that this December. I remember special advent devotionals growing up, but I think maybe we just read parts of the Bible that were relevent… nothing so organized as the devotional I just looked at.

    Are you (we) doing gingerbread houses again this year? Please???

    On a not-really-educational front, I just bought a Fernando Ortega Christmas album on itunes and am trying really hard not to start listening to it until after Thanksgiving.

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