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    Keeping December Merry and Still Getting Lessons Done

    November 25, 2014 by Brandy Vencel

    Our first Christmas after we began homeschooling was very blah. In fact, that is all I remember about it — that feeling that it was so. much. less. than it should have been. I think part of that is due to the fact that, during the early years of our married and family life, we always traveled at Christmas time. We participated whatever was happening in the home we were visiting, rather than initiating anything ourselves.

    That’s fine, as far as it goes, but when we were on our own, we found that even though we’d been married for seven years and had four children, we had no traditions of our own.

    Our second year of homeschooling was a year of recovery for us as my husband had almost died during the summer months. I vowed that Christmas was going to be different. I wasn’t going to let it be blah ever again.

    Now, mind you, I don’t mean expensive or complicated. I’ve never had the budget for expensive, and I can’t ever pull off complicated. The solution was so simple when it hit me: I’d start with a special December Circle Time!

    These days, we call it DecemberTerm, and it’s the highlight of our year. We already have the time set aside, first thing after breakfast in the morning. What better way to begin each day of the season than with singing Advent and Christmas songs, doing Jesse Tree activities, and reading old favorite Christmas books?

    It really is a delight.

    For the first three weeks of December, which is most of Advent, we still do all of our AO readings. We still do Latin and math, though we do cut things like grammar, Shakespeare, and Plutarch. After that, we take three weeks off: Christmas week through the week of Epiphany. (I don’t plan again for school until after Epiphany.) I love the rhythm of it — of Advent as a sort of transition, and then the Christmas season as a total break from lessons — as a season of festivity.

    Today, I thought I’d share about this year’s DecemberTerm, and a couple other things we’re doing.


    First, I’ll show you my plans:

    Click here to download a copy of these plans as a PDF.

    Here are my resources for pulling off these plans:

    Other Changes

    Even though we are continuing with normal lessons, there are a few other changes I make as we begin to get into the season. For example, I schedule days for Christmas baking. Also, instead of our regular handicrafts, we make Christmas ornaments, which we later give as gifts to extended family. I haven’t officially decided what our ornaments will be this year, but I’m leaning toward glue-based ornaments because I think my two younger children will enjoy them. Last year, I aimed the style of ornament at the older children, and I want to return to a few of the simpler, younger ones before all of them are too old for it.

    Getting Lessons Done

    This year’s Average Day Chart has really worked for us, so I won’t be tinkering with it. Fridays will still be our enrichment day, but it’ll have more of a Christmas preparation focus with time for making more ornaments, baking, or even going to our local Children’s Nutcracker.

    So while we change some things, we don’t change everything during Advent because, to us, Advent is waiting for Christmas. The celebrating part — full-blown festivity of it all — begins on Christmas Eve.

    What are some of your favorite Advent or Christmas traditions?

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  • Reply Don't be the White Witch (Thoughts on Advent and Christmas Traditions) | Afterthoughts December 15, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    […] If you want to know about it, read this. DecemberTerm consists of turning our regular morning Circle Time into an Advent time. I love it, even on the days when we can only execute part of our plans. […]

  • Reply Catie November 23, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    This is SO great! Thanks for all of the wonderful resource ideas! 🙂 I’ll be stealing some of these for sure. I especially loved the link to the Christmas poems list. I didn’t even know that was there! It seems like the AO site is a never-ending treasure trove!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel November 30, 2015 at 11:33 am

      Yes, it is a LOT like treasure because you have to dig for it. 😉

  • Reply Cameron November 21, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    How did you like the book, The Christmas Mystery?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel November 22, 2015 at 2:50 pm

      We really, really enjoyed it. BUT — this is my one caveat — there were one or two theological things that were a problem. This is the nice part about reading aloud — we can skip that one part, or change it, etc. So I wouldn’t hand it to a child to read on their own, at least not until they were old enough to really understand my objection.

  • Reply Bev November 21, 2015 at 10:20 am

    This is really neat. Do you do special morning circle stuff to create a “Lenten term” as well. I feel like we put a lot of emphasis on one but not the other.

    My kids and I are on a Jan to Dec school schedule instead of an Aug/Sep start to our year and we always “begin” school after Epiphany as well, finishing right around Thanksgiving (just finished yesterday in fact). So, while a good bit of my planning is done for me (using AO), I’m actively planning the schedule part of things now and was considering a Lenten term, but I’m not sure what that would look like yet.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel November 22, 2015 at 2:54 pm

      I will fully admit that I have never done much to prepare for Easter save the actual week starting on Palm Sunday. The main reason for this is practical — Advent is the beginning of a new term for us, so I *have* to make plans. Might as well make them for Advent. 🙂 But Easter is in the middle of the term, so not as natural of a break. I’m not saying that’s right, but that is how it’s happened. At this point, my focus is on trying to make Easter week better before expanding out to a longer period of time, if that makes sense. 🙂 With that said, I totally see the benefit of a longer period of preparation…

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