Celebrate Chinese New Year!

Celebrate Chinese New Year!

A Little About Celebrating Chinese New Year

February 15 kicks off the 2021 Chinese New year, which lasts until January 21, 2022.  Based on the Lunar New Year, it is celebrated in Asian countries around the world, including China, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, and Tibet, as well as Chinese communities throughout the United States.

My daughter and her friends have a round-robin monthly movie night. This month they’ll be watching Mulan, eating fish, dumplings, and sticky rice cakes while celebrating the Chinese New Year!  My daughter is hosting and has spent many happy hours creating Chinese Lanterns, beautiful cut-outs, and banners with sayings on them as decorations. The theme was inspired by her Chinese language class. Of course the color red features prominently and that is because “red” traditionally means “good luck” especially accompanied with gold or black lettering or decoration. These are cheery and beautiful decorations and the pops of red are a beautiful contrast to the dead of winter we are experiencing!

Each Chinese Year is assigned an animal. This is based on the Chinese Lunar Zodiac. The Chinese Zodiac is a classification system that assigns animals and related attributes in a 12-year cycle based approximately on the orbital period of Jupiter. 2021 is the year of the Ox. According to tradition, people born during the year of the Ox are considered hard workers, intelligent and reliable. They don’t need to be center stage or demand praise are calm and make excellent leaders.

Happy Chinese New Year design background for banners, poster, greeting card and brochure. Photorealistic 3D rendering.

Celebrate Chinese New Year with Activities

  • On Chinese New Year, you’ll commonly see a calligraphy character on a square of red paper, hung in a diamond shape. The character, 福 [fú],  means good luck.
  • Red envelopes full of money- are traditionally gifted from an elder or parent to children, or to anyone who’s unmarried.
  • Firecrackers and fireworks are often set off throughout Lunar New Year, both to ward off an ancient monster called Nian,
  • The Lion Dance and Dragon Dance and gymnastic performances are an exciting part of a Lunar New Year parade

Chinese people playing lion dace on street during the lunar new year celebration.

Celebrate Chinese New Year with Traditions

  • Don’t cry or argue. Talk about happy things to set the tone for the future days.
  • Pay your debts before the New Year starts and avoid bad luck.
  • Don’t cut your hair or anything else on the Lunar New Year. It is believed that you’ll be severing connections.
  • Avoid wearing black or white as they are associated with mourning.
  • Don’t do laundry on the first or second day of the New Year. Avoid washing your hair too so that you do not wash your good fortune away.
  • Don’t sweep after Lunar New Year’s Eve; you’ll be sweeping away accrued wealth and luck.
  • Wear red to attract good luck.

Celebrate Chinese New Year with Lucky Foods to Make and Eat

  1. Fish – In Chinese, “fish” (鱼 Yú /yoo/) sounds like “surplus” and it’s believed that eating fish will bring an increase in prosperity.
  2. Chinese dumpling (饺子 Jiǎozi /jyaoww-dzrr/) – legends say that the more dumpling you eat during the New year celebrations, the more money you’ll make in the New Year.
  3. Glutinous rice cake (年糕 Niángāo /nyen-gaoww/) – symbolizes prosperity. The main ingredients of Nian Gao are sticky rice, sugar, chestnuts, Chinese dates, and lotus leaves.
  4. Good fortune fruit – tangerines and oranges (橙 chéng /chnng/), which sounds the same as the Chinese for “success” (成). They are selected as they are particularly round and “golden” in color symbolizing fullness and wealth.

As with many New Year traditions celebrated around the world, a deep and thorough house cleaning is in order. Getting rid of the old and treating oneself to new, particularly new clothes. Make sure those clothes are new to bring you good luck!

And share the New Year Celebration with those you love- family and friends- eating, giving red envelopes full of money and wishing each other good fortune and ( 新年好 Xīnnián hǎo) Happy New Year!

Studying a Foreign Language is such an excellent way to learn about cultures, geography, and people around the world. Learn more about our Chinese classes (Mandarin, simplified) Elementary, Middle School, Senior High. Chinese, along with Hebrew and Spanish,  is one of three Critical Languages taught live and online at True North Homeschool Academy. We offer Spanish, German, French, and Latin as well. Follow our page on Facebook or join our group where our academy students and teachers sometimes share how their foreign language classes have been inspired by the cultures we study and share your ideas for a Chinese New Year celebration!

Experience Based Gift Ideas for Tweens and Teens!

Experience Based Gift Ideas for Tweens and Teens!

Experience Based Gift Ideas for Tweens and Teens!

Experience Based Gift Ideas for Tweens and Teens are not wrapped in paper but in love!

The holiday season is just around the corner! Gift-giving is an important part of our Holiday tradition, along with stringing miles of lights and decorating multiple trees, filling our large farmhouse with holiday cheer!

If you are in a rut with gift-giving or feel like it’s materially oriented and has lost the joy of giving and gratitude, consider giving gifts that will contribute to experiences and that you can share together.

Hobbies & Shared Experiences

What hobbies, skills, or crafts grab your kids’ interest that you could encourage? Is there a local guild or artisan around who could mentor them? What about including YouTube links in a card as part of the present?

One son has been greatly interested in blacksmithing. I found some professional equipment for him used, along with a potential mentor, who is also now on the look-out for us for additional materials. The equipment isn’t new (some of it is antique) but it’s in great condition and good enough quality that he can get his feet wet without a huge financial investment. We were excited to find a former homeschooler, turned YouTuber, whose contact information will be part of the gift.

Books, Magazines & The Arts

Don’t forget magazines as a present that gives all year long.

Don’t limit your selections to “kids” magazines- we’ve had issues of Science News, National Geographic, Biblical Archeology Today, Artifax, and others laying around for years.

It has always amazed me how much information our kids glean, and what interests are piqued by reading books and magazines that are beyond their “ability” or from a different worldview than we hold. Reading and discussing articles together is a great way to have a conversation that can go far beyond the topic!

We’ll also be purchasing some Met Opera tickets to enjoy together- did you know that you can experience the Met live as they stream live performances, probably to a city near you.

The website includes great information about the performances, performers and so much more! During the actual live stream, you’ll get to hear interviews with the directors, performers, and producers, see behind-the-scenes staging and production, and be invited into a unique world of music, dance, and theater!

Learn & Support Local Artists

Our area hosts a small film festival that shows indie films and documentaries, many of which are award winners. Because it’s local, we often get to meet people somehow related to the film and hear interesting tidbits about the film selection along with other unique details. Our local festival shows films bi-monthly at local theaters, the crowd is often interactive and friendly and the movies are thought-provoking and discussion-worthy!

Call your local movie theater and see if there’s a film festival in your town!! Our local festival is great about making sure we know which movies are not suitable for youth and children, but you can always check the listing ahead of time to ensure that they are wholesome. We are buying season tickets this year as a family gift and look forward to some great viewing!

Create your own film festival at home with these fun scratch-off posters. Commit to a regular monthly or bi-monthly viewing with your kids and sit down to some classics like The Princess Bride or Karate Kid. Invite some friends and family and make it a party! 100 Movie scratch-off poster- books, places.

The Great Outdoors & Togetherness

Hit the trails!

Most cities have lovely bike or walking trails. Our mid-sized city has tens of miles of biking trails. Give commitments to biking somewhere together on a regular basis. Make it even more fun by adding in some early morning pedals to get coffee or hot chocolate together- or commit to evening summer rides to a favorite restaurant or Shakespeare in the park!

Give your kids coupons with times and dates, committing to a weekly conversation and coffee date – just you and them – sans electronics.

Not sure what to chat about? Check out our free list of Tween/ Teen Winter Convo Starters.

Get creative this Holiday season and celebrate your interests and relationships!

I’d love to hear about your creative, relational, or experience related gifts!

About the author: Lisa Nehring’s most memorable gifts were an engagement ring tied into a church Christmas ornament and a month-long backpacking trip to the High Uinta’s Wilderness areas – two grand adventures that changed her life. Along with gathering gifts (and gratefully receiving them) she owns, blogs, and teaches here at True North Homeschool Academy, which offers live online and self-paced classes, clubs, transcripts, testing, Special Needs resources, a vibrant active support community and more! Working at a job she loves and is passionate about, along with homeschooling, is one of her most favorite gifts of all!  You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and hanging out in her Facebook group; True North Homeschool Tribe.

 

 

Meet Charles Dickens – the Man who Invented Christmas

Meet Charles Dickens – the Man who Invented Christmas

Charles Dickens’ Past: Humble

Charles Dickens had an incredibly humble upbringing. That’s probably why we love him so much. We can identify with him or we have a sense of empathy for him. However, if we can’t identify with true poverty he gives us, through his writing, the opportunity to see all facets of society. Dickens helps us explore how Victorian Society was so challenged during the Industrial Revolution with the affluence of the few in contrast with the poverty of the masses.

As a child, he worked in a blacking factory under horrendous conditions before the laws of child labor were enacted in England in 1833. His father, mother, and younger siblings were sent to debtor’s prison. He was too old to go with them, however, and was healthy enough to work so he was sent to work at Warren’s Blacking Factory making shoe polish.

Charles Dickens’ childhood had such an impact on him it became a regular theme throughout many of his books and short stories. His captivating stories allow readers from all classes to see what Victorian life was like for others.

Charles Dickens’ Present: Family, Privilege, and Power

Like every adult with a young family, Charles Dickens was in need of an income to support his growing household. He was becoming an accomplished writer. He had a dedicated following for his weekly short stories (later chapters of some of his most famous works). This was his opportunity to use his creativity to explore the current issues of the day in Victorian England.

The Industrial Revolution was at the height of progress. Industrial magnates were inventing all kinds of things from steam engines, to cotton gins. Every effort was being made to make England a powerhouse of commerce.  In the midst of it all, there was an expanding gap between the classes in Victorian Society. There was a growing population that had the luxury to spend money on books and magazines and ‘the finer things of life’. However, these were the people that were out of touch with the life of the common citizen of Britain – the factory worker, the shipyard laborer, or the country farm tenant.

As Dickens grew in popularity so did his connections in high Victorian society. He had many friends with noble upbringings, yet he never forgot his humble beginnings. He was the perfect person to help bridge the class gap and create awareness of the reality of every-day, common life in Victorian England.

Dickens’ Future: Hope

It’s easy to see how Dickens was becoming a person to help create change in society. With his stories in written form, they were accessible to many. However, by going on the road and performing excerpts of his most loved works he was able to reach people in other countries and increase awareness through the stories of his quirky, oddly, but always perfectly named, characters.

His travels allowed for even more creative genius as he traveled.  Exploring abroad was a perfect way to become familiar with the culture and customs of other regions of the world. His popularity grew as he toured the USA and Europe. His tours allowed him to see how others were handling the positive and negative effects of the Industrial Revolution. Creating a path of hope was his greatest and most powerful writing endeavor.

History in Context

When you recognize the individuals that were the contemporaries of Charles Dickens, it’s astounding. As he grew in fame, he likely had multiple opportunities to mingle with many well-known people. His opportunity to influence them and be impacted by their life stories no doubt became his inspiration for so many of his literary works. Look at this shortlist of other famous people that were living at the same time as Charles Dickens.

Scientists – Inventors – Businessmen

  • Charles Darwin
  • Louis Pasteur
  • John D. Rockefeller
  • Andrew Carnegie
  • Thomas Edison

We could stop there but let’s continue with recognizing other famous authors of the Victorian era. Imagine Dickens, among these famous writers, sharing their thoughts and ideas over a game of charades or chess at a dinner party.

Authors

  • Karl Marx
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Henry David Thoreau

As a world traveler, Dickens had the opportunity to ‘rub shoulders’ with so many famous people in both Europe & the United States of America.  His circle of influence was ever-expanding; creating opportunities to invent the timeless masterpieces for which he is known. Imagine being at a gala event with even just a handful of these world leaders!

Statesmen

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Queen Victoria
  • Kaiser Wilhelm II
  • Theodore Roosevelt

While he may have not met all of these people personally, he had more than ample access to the news of the day. His journals show that he was greatly impacted by his trips to the United States.

Of course, art and music was an important part of ‘high society’ life as well.  But these artists also had a way of creating greatness out of the simple aspects of life using a variety of different creative mediums.  Can you imagine the inspirational conversation that would come over an evening together with these world-renowned artists & musicians?

Artists

  • Vincent Van Gogh
  • James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Like most in the Victorian era, Dickens was considered a very religious person. He was benevolent and had a familiar sense of the impact generosity – or the lack of it – can have on a person. Imagine him sitting at a table discussing the human condition with any of these famous humanitarians, theologians, missionaries, and activists.

Activists

  • George Mueller
  • Florence Nightingale
  • George Spurgeon
  • Susan B Anthony
  • Harriet Tubman
  • David Livingstone

Surely, each of us lives ‘for such a time as this’!

Dickens lived during an era of massive change in every aspect of life in the modern world. Did his past haunt him? Definitely.

Were his present circumstances challenging? Indeed.

Did he have hope for the future? Absolutely!

And, he was committed to using his talent of masterful writing and character creation to help change thoughts and ideas about the challenges of life in the Victorian era.

His timeless classics offer an opportunity for us to examine our own era and decide how we can be people of strong moral character with our own God-given skills and creativity.

 

Find Out More

Want to know more about the man who invented Christmas and the Victorian world in which he lived? Check out our spring class, Dinner with Dickens, taught by Shannan Swindler, this spring for students in grades 8-12.

Holidays!

Holidays!

Holidays!

Holidays! I absolutely LOVE the holidays! Just the thought of them makes me smile so hard that my cheeks hurt. In this article, I want to share some of my favorite holiday memories.

As a child, I enjoyed making ornaments at school because I knew that my Mom would treasure them. Our real, six-foot, Douglas fir tree was adorned with three kids’ worth of ornaments and the number grew with every school year. The thing that I loved most was that nothing else went on the tree but those and maybe some garland!

Do you and your family make ornaments of any kind, especially edible ones?

Aside from this, my favorite holiday pastime was stealing the pineapples and cherries off the ham before it went in the oven! My mom didn’t figure out it was me until the bowl disappeared and reappeared empty. I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen after that!

Do you have one in your home who simply can NOT wait for you to stop cooking or to walk away while they sneak in for the kill? Who gets run out of the kitchen at your house?

Making memories is what the holidays are all about! Whether it’s your entire family or only those who live in your home with you, make memories! Start new traditions, too.

I remember the year that we had steak, baked potatoes, and salad for Christmas dinner instead of the traditional foods we were used to having. Let’s just say that there were NO leftovers!

What’s the craziest or most different meal you’ve had for the holidays?

As a teenager, my best friend and I would go to the movies on Christmas morning to keep from having to help with the cooking. By the time we were done, our families were eating and we always seemed to make it home right when the blessing was being said!

Do you have a favorite movie that you like to watch during the Christmas season?

In college, I spent those same times volunteering at local shelters and missions, serving the homeless. I can remember helping to de-bone 250 turkeys, sending 30 back to the restaurant who donated them because they weren’t completely cooked. As I stirred a restaurant-sized vat of cornbread dressing and then moved to open 100 cans of bulk-sized cranberry sauce, I didn’t want to see or hear anything that resembled food!

Do you and your family volunteer anywhere during the holidays or go caroling? What are some of the ways that you spread the love?

This year, one of the things we will be doing is the Luke Bible reading challenge where, beginning on December first, we will read the corresponding chapter of Luke together as a family. According to the challenge, families who participate will read through Jesus’ entire life by Christmas Eve.

Will you be reading anything special as a family during the holidays? Would our holiday booklist be of interest to you?

I’m already preparing myself to argue with my daughter about her selection of Netflix Original Christmas Movies, which seem to make their way to the list on MY profile around this time of the month.

Do you have a favorite Hallmark or a Netflix Original Christmas movie that is part of your family’s traditions? Check out more Holiday Traditions and a list of the new Hallmark movies here- maybe you will find a new holiday favorite.

One important thing about the holidays is to make them your own—that’s what makes them special! Your holiday celebrations don’t have to look like anyone else’s, so don’t stress yourself out trying to overdo things. Most families get into the most financial trouble during the holidays and overspend on pretty much anything during this time!

  • It’s okay to give gifts, not to give gifts, or to give gifts on a different day…
  • It’s okay to decorate a little, a lot, or not at all…
  • It’s okay to rest, relax, and order out instead of cooking…
  • It’s okay to celebrate away from home or with friends instead of family…
  • It’s okay to have a crowd, a few close friends, or only you and yours…
  • It’s okay to take a break from Life itself…
  • It’s okay to argue about why matching pajamas are or aren’t okay for your family…
  • It’s okay to have an overabundance of hot beverages just so everyone can have their favorites…

The holidays are YOURS, so let them reflect you!

About the author: Tammie Polk is a Mompreneur on a Mission! She is a married, homeschooling mother of three girls ages 15, 10, and 5 from Memphis, Tennessee. When she’s not pouring into her girls, you can find her writing, doing crossword puzzles, or playing games! Her major claim to fame is being the author of over 30 books on life, faith, family, and business- all of which were written in the last three years. Tammie is also a business coach, homeschool consultant, motivational and inspirational speaker, and international radio show host!

 

 

 

The Advent Celebration Challenge

Enjoy the benefit of our many collective years of homeschooling through the holidays and read some more articles that help bring home the beauty and truth of the season: a helpful reminder that Less is More For the Holidays and our Special Needs Holiday Edition. 

Let’s face the challenge of THIS advent season together. Join us at our Facebook Group where we will have live presentations and check-ins to help us all keep our focus during this Christmas season. If you have always wanted to know more about creating a Jesse Tree as part of your celebration or more about Advent itself, you won’t want to miss the adventure! It’s no pressure – just a guide- and we will do it together.

Schedule

Here is the schedule but we will also post reminders in the group and on our Facebook Page and Instagram so be sure to follow us! Or print out a 2020 schedule HERE.

Creating a Christmas Shopping Budget with Your Kids

Creating a Christmas Shopping Budget with Your Kids

Creating a Christmas Shopping Budget

Creating a Christmas Shopping Budget with Your Kids with the rest of us at True North Homeschool Academy!  We are proponents of teaching teens how to budget while they are still at home.

A fun and easy way to introduce the life skill of budgeting with your kiddos is to allow them a specific amount to do their Christmas shopping with and then have them create a budget with the money.

It’s not a difficult task and can be quite fun. In fact, my teens love budgets because it permits them to spend money, and hopefully, your teen will feel the same way!

So, get the Christmas budget download worksheet, and let’s get started.

Super Simple Christmas Budgeting

  • Have them go down the name category listing friends, family, and mentors for whom they want to buy gifts.
  • Next, real quick, have them jot down any particular ideas they have for gift ideas. If they aren’t sure, have them leave it blank.
  • Now, have your teen write at the top of the money section their TOTAL amount of money they have to spend.
  • Talk through cost for different items they definitely want to purchase.  They may also want to brainstorm, creating some of their gifts.
  • And finally – once all the money is spent on paper, encourage your teen to take the budget with them and have fun Christmas shopping!

Christmas budget lesson – DONE!

We hope you love the FREE Christmas Budget worksheet. We have included a bonus Christmas Wishlist worksheet as an early holiday gift to you all!

If you are planning your Christmas homeschool lessons and celebrations now you may also want to take a look at other helpful articles like our Holiday Book Ideas, and Unique Gifts for Tweens & Teens, creating Holiday Traditions, and Celebrating Christmas!

Creating a Christmas Shopping Budget

The True North Homeschool team is wishing you a sweet Christmas season, sweet homeschool families!

Butterfly Box Review & Give-Away

Butterfly Box Review & Give-Away

I love subscription boxes! I’ve subscribed to a few and its’ always a lot of fun- it’s like getting a present in the mail and it’s fun to explore new products.

I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review the Butterfly Box. Like many busy homeschooling Moms, who are working, running a house, participating in ministry, AND homeschooling, sometimes the most important things get pushed aside.

The Butterfly Box is a wonderful way to reconnect to the most important part of life- your faith!

Each month a thoughtfully curated and themed box arrives to help you reclaim those quiet moments with God, build your intimacy with Christ, and live out your faith in the world around you!

What can you expect from your Butterfly Box Subscription?

  • A monthly theme to encourage and equip your spiritual growth
  • 5-6 specially curated and high-quality items that might include artwork, jewelry, books, décor, personal pampering items, cards, and other specialty items,
  • The knowledge that you are supporting a faith-based or small Christian business
  • The assurance that each carefully curated and crafted box will be themed and color-coordinated. I love how all of the items in my box were so beautifully color-coordinated!
  • A sweet and simple newsletter that explains each item in the box and words of encouragement.

What was in my Butterfly Box?

Included in my Butterfly box were two tea drops. I am an avid tea drinker (I’m drinking my daily green tea right now) and I’ve never heard of a tea drop; I received Sweet Peppermint and White Vanilla- shaped loose leaf tea that dissolved in hot water! Tea is such a simple comfort and goes perfectly with one’s daily devotions! One for you and for a friend!

Next up, a prayer bracelet. Mine was a lovely silver toned butterfly to wear as a reminder to pray.

Also included was a laminated prayer guide that suggests circles of influence to pray for throughout the week. The card is beautiful and could easily slip into a 5 x 8-inch frame to put on one’s desk, or into your Bible cover, as a regular reminder to pray.

Then a beautifully bound book: The Power of the Praying Woman by Stormie Omartian. I’ve loved Stormie’s books for years and this one is no different. It includes 31 chapters covering specific prayers, such as, “Keep Me in the Center of Your Will,” and “Comfort Me in Times of Trouble.” Each short but powerful chapter includes encouragement, Scripture references, and Stormie’s blessed brand of exhortation! Published by Harvest House, the book is a visual treat, with a soft stamped turquoise cover and a ribbon bookmark. Each chapter includes a brief introduction, a page titled, “My Prayer to God,” and then a page titled, “God’s Promise to Me.” Sweet, thought-provoking, and do-able, even for super busy, swamped Mommas like you and me!

And even more fun, these would be totally appropriate to read with your kids!

Last but not least, included in this month’s Butterfly Box, a prayer journal, in the same beautiful turquoise as the book, with a title of, “Be Still and Know” on the front cover. Did I mention how I love the color-coordinated theme of this box? It’s a visual treat!

Self-care or the perfect gift!

A subscription to the Butterfly Box would be a perfect holiday present for a teen or adult daughter, an older relative, or a new momma. We can all use an extra dose of goodness in our lives and this little gift box delivers! And honestly, with all of the talk of the value of “self-care”, this is the real deal. If you really want to take care of yourself, the best place to start is with your relationship with the Living God!

Special Offer & Enter to Win

Join the Butterfly Box and use code WELCOME10 for 10% off!

Enter to win 6 months of the Butterfly Box. You have until October 30 to enter! 

This little box is chock full of truth, beauty, and goodness and will offer encouragement to any recipient.

Image of the items in the Butterfly Box