Celebrating Christmas

Celebrating Christmas

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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.  This is how we are celebrating 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.

SIGHT: Decorations

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 Year, 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 Manger, 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 who’s 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?!  An art course would even be a nice touch.

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 does your family love about celebrating Christmas?

How do you celebrate the Christmas season? Find some great ideas in this post from True North Homeschool Academy! Also, make sure to check out the amazing giveaway at the end of the post! #Christmas #homeschool #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy

Christmas Peppermint Pancake Party

Christmas Peppermint Pancake Party

Chocolate Peppermint Pancakes

Homeschool Holidays

Pancakes; Christmas Peppermint Party!

Do you have a house full of hungry home-schoolers? These pancakes are easy enough to whip up a batch or two on a cold winter morning and fill those hungry tummies with whole wheat goodness. Your littles will love making them with you- pounding up the peppermint and sprinkling them on top of the pancakes.  Your middle and older kids can learn to make them on their own.  These pancakes are simple to make but special enough for Christmas and your other favorite holidays! If you’re gluten free, just substitute the whole wheat and white flour with your favorite gf flour.

Peppermint Pancakes

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour 
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • Either 2tsp Peppermint extract or
  • ¼ cup ground, dried peppermint
  • Candy canes, crushed
  • (make your pancakes gluten free by substituting your favorite gf flour)

Directions for Perfect Pancakes

  1. Mix dry
  2. Add wet
  3. Butter griddle, and scoop ¼ cup batter for each pancake
  4. Sprinkle peppermint on top, or mix it in.
  5. Drizzle with your favorite syrup, fruit and whipped cream for a beautiful and delicious breakfast!
  6. Your Christmas Peppermint Pancake Party is about to begin. Set a fancy table with fine Christmas china or eat in front of the Christmas tree;  pajamas and pancakes are a winning combo on Christmas, or any holiday morning!

Eat & Enjoy

Christmas Peppermint Pancake

Sarah Bean Food for Homeschoolers

My name is Sarah Bean, I am 23 and live in Utah. I homeschool 2 kids, Ellie (4) and Will (2). We also teach kids to cook. Some may think they are too young for schooling, but tell that to them! My approach is simple. Learning can be found everywhere, everyday, in all things. Interested based learning is what they do best!  Sarah blogs at Raising Human Beans

Exclusive Holiday Book List

Exclusive Holiday Book List

Holiday Book List

Some of our best memories are centered around reading aloud and sharing books. Of course, Holidays are the perfect time to read a great book aloud together and build some more great memories! We always create a holiday book basket and spend time in the evenings with candles lit, the fireplace glowing, hot tea and chocolote near-by and enjoy our favorite holiday reads together!

Books, Short Stories & Biblical Accounts

The Biblical Account of Jesus’ Birth: Luke 2:1- 20 (NKJV). Make it a seasonal tradition to read it out loud together.
Isaiah 9:1-6, The Promised Son
Mary’s Magnificat: Luke 1:46-55

The 24 Days Before Christmas by Madeline L’Engle; an Austen family advent story.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by by Barbara Robinson. A beautiful reminder of what Christmas is all about.
The Gift of the Magi, by O.Henry- a sweet short story about sacrificial love.
Christmas Short Stories by Louisa May Alcott from the author of Little Women.
Home for Christmas, The Wild Christmas Reindeer, Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve; Jan Brett’s Christmas Treasury by Jan Brett. I’ve been a long time fan of Brett’s artwork. Simply lovely, with sweet stories to go with. You are never too old for a good kid’s book, eh?
Take Joy: the Tasha Tudor Christmas Book by Tasha Tudor. More lovely art-work and all things Christmas
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Read the classic

Take Joy! The Tasha Tudor Christmas Book! from a master storyteller!
Of course the Advent Trilogy by Arnold Ytreeide :Jotham’s Journey, Bartholomew’s Passage, and Tabitha’s Travels.

Our hope is that you not only survive but thrive during the holidays!  Check out our other Holiday posts!

Do you have other Christmas books that you know and love? Please share them so I can add to my Christmas Book Basket!

Special Needs:  Holiday Edition

Special Needs: Holiday Edition

Special Needs: Holiday Edition

The beginning of the holiday season brings many changes.  Our weather changes so we dress differently. We eat different “holiday” foods and treats.  There are more lights up everywhere we turn, Christmas decorations, Christmas music playing everywhere we go, and constant invitations to parties and get-togethers.  For many people, this is a fun and exciting time! We get to see family and friends we may not have seen in a while, and try new and exciting dishes and projects. For a special needs child or a struggling learner who needs routine and thrives on consistency, all of these changes can mean a disrupted world and difficulty with controlling emotions.  Being sensitive to our children and “listening” to their needs regarding how much to do and when they need consistency is important.

Below we’ve gathered several articles by our own Kimberly Vogel and SPED to help you navigate the Holidays.

Kimberly Vogel, Director of the Thinking and Learning Center

SPED Homeschool

Our hope is that you not only survive but thrive during the holidays!  Check out our other Holiday posts!

Light Came

Light Came

Light Came

What does light have to do with the Christmas season? Yesterday at Bible Study the topic was “how we celebrate Christmas” (some of our study members don’t). It was a great study (again) that included Astronomy (my husband saw to that) Jewish & pagan festivals, and the birth and conception date of Christ.

The conception date of Jesus is is probably during the Winter solstice (in the Northern hemisphere, where over 80% of the world’s population dwells) during the darkest days of the year.

Light came in to the world. He dwelt among us.
He didn’t have to.
He choose to. He loved to.
He entered into the world on its darkest days.

I like Christmas; the decorations, the tree, twinkle lights, the music and movies and church songs and services- mostly. But it can also be a time of intense pressure. Come up with presents that are meaningful from an already strained budget and create  holidays that are memory making and picture worthy. It’s supposed to be magical and stress free.

My Mom was not perfect, but the one thing she did better than anyone else was to create magic at Christmas. She’s been gone over a decade and I’ve felt the loss each and every year. No one else has stepped in to fill her shoes and while I’m good to have around in a crisis and have lots of other redeemable qualities, magic making is not my gift. My husband’s mantra this year has been, in response to everything I think needs to be done, is this; “Does this glorify the light coming in to the darkness. Because if it doesn’t we don’t need to do it.”

The Real Thing

And honestly, I think my husband got it right again.. We try to create something wonderful, (I do at least) protect our kids from disappointment (maybe that’s just me). When, in reality,
all we need to do is really get a hold of the fact that
LIGHT
 came into the Darkness and the Darkness could not wrap it’s arms around it.
Because of that the darkness can not wrap it’s arms around us.

The presents, food, twinkle lights, memories, it’s all good. But it’s not the heart of the matter. I want my kids to know the reality of Christmas. It’s bigger and beyond presents and expectations (theirs and ours). It’s about Him, not us.

While your creating Christmas Traditions with your family, don’t forget to plan for spring classes! We offer live on-line classes, pre-recorded Career Exploration and Electives, a Struggling Learners program, Academic Advising, Community and more! We would love to work with you to create a tradition of Academic excellence and success!