(I have been blessed to participate in the Homeschooling through the Holidays series over on LifeofaHomeschoolMom.com, be sure to visit the entire series!)
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 4 x 4 farmhouse with holiday cheer! If you are in a rut with gift-giving or feel like its 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.
What hobbies, skills or crafts grab your kids’ interest that you could encourage? Is there a local guild or artisan around who could mentor/ help them? What about YouTube links in a card as part of the present?
(The following is a guest post from True North Homeschool Academy teacher Amber Fonseca.)
I can’t be the only homeschool mom that is attempting to host a tasty AND nutritious Thanksgiving dinner while trying to educate my little man… Oh! Did I mention that I also have a disability and my little is autistic bipolar? I know, I’m a little crazy, but I have a plan!
That’s the most important part of any Thanksgiving dinner, right? Having a plan makes things more manageable and allows you the ability to know where to adjust as the inevitable unplanned happenings occur. Yup, right up there with having a plan is the necessary skill of being able to adjust the plan when the unexpected happens. How? Well, everyone’s plan and backup plan will look different, but here are some helpful tools that anyone can adjust to fit into their own holiday preparations.
Shop early – there will be things that you forget, but having the majority of your shopping done before the masses hit the grocery stores will lessen your stress and allow you to ensure everything on your list is available.
Spread out the cooking – Don’t try to do all of the cooking in one day. I make my rolls first because I can put them in the freezer. Then I make things that don’t require refrigeration (brownies, even low-carb can sit on the counter for a couple of days with no problems). The ingredients (like eggs) will often come from the fridge, and you will slowly give yourself more space for things that MUST go in the fridge once you are done making them.
Use your helpers! We homeschool. That means that while other children are still in school, ours are home and available to help. Younger kids can create decorations as you discuss why Thanksgiving exists, middle and older kids can help with the cooking. Home-economics at its finest!
Don’t try to keep up with the three R’s. Yes, you can have your kids do the math associated with cooking; that isn’t what I mean. It is perfectly okay to take a few days away from written work and focus on relationships and family. I am far from being Super-mom, and there is no way that I can keep up with it all AND continue our regular class work.
Enjoy your family. No matter how much pain I am in or how stressed I may be trying to figure out the carb counts associated with every meal I make, my goal is to enjoy spending time with my son and with my parents when they arrive.
These are just my top five recommendations, as a diabetic with other disabilities including RSD/CRPS and back damage, there are more items on my list. I don’t have the ability to stand and cook for hours and hours. I have to take breaks, I have to give myself time, and I have to accept that my body may not always cooperate.
Here are some added preparations for those of us with disabilities.
Pre-plan your recipes AND your grocery list – knowing what you are cooking and what you need to purchase will make a HUGE difference as you move through your preparations.
Order groceries delivered or for pick-up! Save your time and energy. Pick-up in most places doesn’t cost anything extra but makes a huge difference on your energy levels.
Plan for easy meals, maybe even take-out, for the week leading into Thanksgiving. Your fridge is likely overrun with supplies for the big day, so planning easy meals like spaghetti (I have a low-carb high-protein pasta) or salads don’t use up the energy needed for cooking.
Keep it easy – Don’t try to make two versions of everything. It is okay to have some foods that are not on your diet if you know the majority of the people coming will appreciate it and eat it. Meanwhile, other items can be replaced completely. Stuffing is replaceable here. I heard that gasp! Seriously though, my family grew up eating mashed potatoes over stuffing. This means that I can make Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes and there is no need to make my amazing stuffing. If we had a larger group, I might, but this year the stuffing has been axed!
Take your time and take breaks – I started cooking almost a week in advance. I made my rolls and put them in the freezer, then I made the cranberry sauce and put it in the freezer as well. Next, I will make my sweet potato casserole and the green bean casserole. I will wait until the big day before I add toppings at the last minute. Spreading out the different dishes allows me to better manage my pain levels. On the day of – the only thing I should have left will be the turkey.
Now that you know my lists, I have one more thing to share — a low-carb high-protein bread recipe that actually tastes AMAZING. I needed a recipe that let me think I was cheating with a good-ol’ yeasty roll slathered in butter, and this recipe let me do that while still controlling my blood sugars!
1 packet quick activated yeast
*Mix these and set it aside*
½ cup softened butter
¾ cup sour cream
¾ cup ricotta cheese
2 egg whites
2 cups Almond Flour (set ½ cup aside)
¾ cup GF Flour (or regular if you aren’t gluten-free)
½ cup egg based unflavored protein powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ cup warm/hot water
Mix your dry ingredients in one bowl and then cut in the butter until the butter is mixed in and creates a fine crumble in the flours. In a separate bowl, blend together the sour cream, ricotta, and eggs. By this time, the yeast and water should be nice and frothy. Mix the yeast into the sour cream and egg mixture. Lastly, slowly add the flour ingredients into the liquid ingredients. The dough will likely still be a bit sticky. Mix/knead in the last ½ cup of almond flour. If the dough is still to wet to shape, you can add more almond flour, OR you can place it into a muffin pan and make muffin rolls. The dough can also be placed in a bread pan. Bake at 350 until the top and edges are lightly browned, and a knife comes out clean. Enjoy!
About Amber – Nobody knows the faith required to walk the home education path like a prior homeschool graduate turned homeschool mom. Often, when God calls us to walk in faith, the first step is the hardest. My parents took that step when I was in elementary school: they withdrew my public school enrollment and we started our homeschool journey. Years later, I graduated college armed with an English Language Arts degree, a teacher’s certification, and a passion for teaching English. Choosing to home educate my son meant that I would no longer be able to teach Lit & Comp, (College) Composition I and C.S. Lewis to high school students – or so I thought. I am excited for this amazing opportunity to share my passion for English with homeschool students online!
(Make sure you find your way to the bottom of this post to enter the Christmas Blessings Giveaway!)
The Holiday Season is hard upon our heels. As our family size shifts and changes with kids launching and significant others joining us, our traditions are changing. Regardless of the natural ebb and flow of family changes, we fill our holidays with the tastes, sounds, sights, and smells of Christmas.
TASTE: Food & Drinks
Food often evokes memories, and holiday foods can bring up beloved relatives, now gone and the happy glow of childhood. Green bean casserole was de rigor at my house growing up during the holidays and always served in a huge clay handled and lidded pot we got from Mexico. Mmm! We incorporate old favorites each holiday like deviled eggs. And don’t try to sneak any chic new ingredients in! I want them plain, simple and perfect with just mayo, mustard and a dash of paprika on top. Served up on the green colored Carnival platter, of course.
But we also add in a new recipe or two. While the pumpkin should be traditional, how about bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers to add some zing to the table?
Along with food, we have a tea/coffee and a hot chocolate bar stocked for the holidays with flavored hot chocolates, peppermints, and flavored Keurigs. This can be as fancy or simple as you like but it makes for quick and happy gatherings as those of us in the far north thaw from coming indoors.
We make simple changes throughout the year during different seasons. We have an old shed window pane (sans glass) in the bathroom and have homemade banners swaged across, which we change by season. We go all out at Christmas and swath our three-story 4 x 4 farmhouse in twinkle lights, decorate trees on each floor and bring out homemade treasures that we’ve collected over time.
I add to our mini-stuffed snowman collection throughout the year, and these perch atop windows, nestled in boughs of greenery. We have mini-trees throughout the house as well, some decorated by theme (cowboys, y’all) or color (pink and purple with twinkle lights is an adorable look!). Twinkle lights are everywhere and we often spend holiday evenings chatting with twinkle lights and fire going, making a gentle, cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy the holidays.
SMELLS: Candles & Flowers
With the plethora of essential oils and candles, it’s easy to create scents by seasons. We sprinkle peppermint and evergreen on our fake Christmas tree, creating a subtle and beautiful aroma, while still protecting families from seasonal allergy attacks.
We are suckers for growing things and holidays often find newly potted flowers in our dining room- poinsettias for Christmas, of course, but we love cut flowers too, which are worth buying at least a few times a year. You know the old adage, if you have two loaves of bread, sell on and buy a lily. I take that pretty seriously.
Don’t forget Cinnamon Applesauce ornaments and clove-studded citrus to decorate with. Place them amongst ornaments when you pack them away for subtle and beautiful fragrance when you unpack your treasures the next year.
SOUNDS & More Sights: Music, Videos & Books
Family tradition in our house dictates that Christmas decorating begins the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas music and videos must wait to be watched and listened to until then. However, the day after Christmas you’ll find us bringing down Christmas decorations while playing the Peanuts Christmas album and from then until New Years, we’ll play new and old favorites.
We save seasonal videos and books as well. Each Christmas season we’ll watch The Star, The Nativity, Muppets Christmas, White Christmas, Miracle on 31st street, While You Were Sleeping and other holiday favorites reserved especially for Christmas.
When our kids were young we read Bartholomew’s, Tabitha’s Travels and Johan’s Journey, along with other well-loved Christmas books and while our kids are older now, we do bring these books out each Christmas and stack them around the house. It’s not unusual to find people reading them curled up on a sofa with hot tea or chocolate or even reading them out loud to each other.
And of course, we read the Nativity Story on Christmas Eve, often having attended a candlelight service where we sing beautiful hymns like O Little Town of Bethlehem, Away in a Manager, and Silent Night.
Stockings and Presents & Christmas Morning
We love giving and receiving gifts and I fill the handmade Stockings my Mom and I made with magazine subscriptions, Burt’s Bees, gift cards, gum, and flashlights and batteries.
We’ll eat a simple or fancy brunch, depending on whose home and who wants to cook what and then we’ll open presents. Some things just happen year after year, like good books and movies, hats and accessories, home-made items and of course, something Peanuts-related. Art and craft supplies always show up; though as my kids have gotten older and their skills have developed, their craft supplies are decidedly more expensive- have you priced a pottery wheel or anvil lately?!
We’ll feast on roast turkey later in the day and then play a board game, read books and watch movies in front of the fire or go on a walk if the weather is nice.
We love the Christmas Holiday season, with all of its sights, sounds, smells and good gifts! What do you do to celebrate?
Now for the Giveaway!
It’s hard to believe that Christmas is upon us once again. 2018 has flown right by and the holiday season is in full swing. With Christmas being the season of giving, I’ve gotten together with some pretty awesome bloggers to give TWO families some CASH in the 5th annual Christmas Blessings Giveaway – $500 cash (delivered via Paypal).
We hope that the prize will be a blessing to the winning families and help them to fulfill their kids’ Christmas wishes, pay off some bills, or to save for a rainy day. Whatever the money ends up being used for, our prayer is that it helps to lessen any financial burden and/or fills a specific need.
There are lots of entry options in the Rafflecopter form below – the more you enter, the better your chance of winning! I know it can seem tedious and time-consuming to go through all the entries, but isn’t a chance at $500 worth it? I think it is! Plus, all of these generous bloggers donated their own money toward the cash prizes and this giveaway wouldn’t be possible without them. So I hope you’ll take the time to check out each one. Who knows, maybe you will find your new favorite blog.
The giveaway will run from Monday, November 12th through Wednesday, November 21st (ends at 11:59 pm EST). Winner will be notified by email shortly after the giveaway ends and will have 48 hours to respond to claim the prize or another winner will be drawn. You must have a Paypal account to win. Please be sure to read the Rafflecopter terms and conditions upon entering.
I didn’t talk much about habits. Probably because I’m much better at the philosophical assent part of habit (I think it’s important!) than the actual practice thereof (but I don’t wanna!). Habit, though, is the secret sauce to actually getting a lot of things done.
As parents, habit is incredibly valuable.
It does two things – one it gets things done and two it supports the atmosphere of the home, and by extension, homeschool.
When we truly follow through habitually, we get important things done. I’ve made my bed every day (except Sundays – that’s my reward) for a month now. My room does look nicer with the bed made. It also makes it so I don’t eventually steal all the covers from my husband’s side because I reset them daily. I think he appreciates that.
If we have the habit of running and emptying the dishwasher twice a day, the kitchen stays more functional for the cook at the next meal. I run it at bedtime and empty it first thing in the morning while my coffee brews and the kids empty it in the afternoon. I timed it once, it takes significantly less time for me to empty the dishwasher than my coffee to brew, so I might as well get the job done. Also, the dinner cooking implement and tableware is more difficult to put away than the breakfast/lunch dishes, so this is a fair trade of labor.
If I have the habit, however, of setting up the coffee the night before, I can still empty the dishwasher before drinking coffee. Better still, if I prep breakfast and can put it in the oven as it preheats, empty the dishwasher, and then drink coffee – I can face anything in the day.
The most important habit is being in God’s Word daily. There are so many ways to make this happen! Read it with any of a myriad reading plans. Recently, I’ve been listeningvia podcast each morning as I’m slowly convincing my eyes to open. If I require of myself that I listen to the Word before anything else, this is a great way to go!
Some habits are best done from time to time. We have the habit of Baking Day on our PREP week. We do school for six weeks, and then take a week off formal academics for rest, planning, and preparation of the coming term. We plan and bake all the snacks for second breakfast during that PREP Week. That habit is so helpful throughout the school term!
The idea of scaffolding is a little tricky because it can apply to little things and to big ones. You scaffold an individual lesson, yes, but you also scaffold your whole homeschool. The idea of scaffolding is to build supports so your children can learn without fear. They know what to expect, when, and how. Scaffolding in this context, is less about the physical, but emotional and intellectual supports.
Kids note our emotions. How we’re feeling affects how we interact with them and respond to them. They know when we’re happy or sad, confident or worried. They respond to those emotions in many different ways, whether by imitation or sometimes by lashing out. If we are habitually glum or habitually joyful matters in our homes. It can be sensed by all who enter. Sometimes it can be observed by all who enter because we don’t get done what we expect.
Beyond that, though, our lifestyle habits and learning habits affect our homeschool. By establishing routines throughout the day of a set apart learning time or even that we “do school” day in and day out help our students to succeed. If there is no question whether it’s a school day, one battle is fought. If children are assigned a written narration daily, then there’s no argument whether there’s a narration today or later in the week. Standards of what lessons happen when passing confidence on to our kids that pay off in really important ways.
Your habit of self-education, of listening to narrations, of being engaged in their schooling is just as important.
What habits of learning are you working on, personally?
If it’s your habit to read challenging books or to keep a commonplace book or book of centuries;
or if it’s your habit to write letters to the editor and be active in the community;
if it’s your habit to learn a new handicraft or artistic skill, kids see that.
They see that learning and participating is what adults do and it helps them be excited about and want to learn themselves. Their feet follow the paths we lay down. Lifelong learning helps moms have sympathy with how much hard work the children are doing, too.
Perhaps when you read the title, you thought this would be about habits for your kids, but I think it’s really important to consider how your habits as a parent, teacher, friend affect your students and their learning. Establishing your own habits will eventually trickle down — the trickling isn’t necessarily immediately apparent — but consistency on your part will breed consistency, feet will follow in your pathways, and that will be felt by all.
Dawn Garrett blog contributor
Dawn Garrett lives in Central Ohio with her husband Jason and their three always-homeschooled children, ages 13, 12, and 11. In her homeschool, she and her children learn about God and His cosmos by studying the seven liberal arts in order to know Him better, imitate Him and His ways, and share about Him with others. She follows the AmblesideOnline curriculum. Her home blog – about books school and life – has been at ladydusk for more than 15 years.
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