Christmas School is the perfect answer to how to Homeschool during the holidays !
The holidays are coming ! The holidays are coming !
Cooking, cleaning, preparing for company, shopping, parties, children’s plays,
church events, cooking some more, oh, yeah….and homeschooling !
Phew! I’m tired just from typing all of that !
How DO you homeschool through the holidays ?
Do you dream every year about decorating cookies with your kids, curling up by a fire and reading Christmas stories, making handmade gifts and cards, and spending time as a family focusing on the real heart of the holiday ?
Do you find it impossible to balance the long list of “to-do’s” with all the
“want to do’s” ?
Something always falls short … school doesn’t happen, the fun stuff doesn’t happen, or the sleep doesn’t happen. Sure you can clean the house at 1am when company is arriving in the morning…. zzzzzz. Yep me too. I’ve tried juggling all those plates. Just not my forte.
So, what exactly is Christmas School ?
One day it just dawned on me…
I was busy buzzing around the house on my scroogey broomstick doing MY thing, and the kids were busy in THEIR part of the house, dodging the math books I kept throwing their direction. They wanted to help bake the cookies and I just wanted them to do their “school work”. We all were grumpy and not feeling the Christmas spirit at all. And truly, not much was being accomplished.
Why not work WITH my children…the holidays being the lessons ?
Ok, so I may be a slow learner, since the unschooling crowd has had this figured out for a long time. lol But if you have to make cookies for a party, why not talk about cookies that American Girl Addy may have made during the Civil War, and whip some up (measuring and baking include lots of foundational math and science concepts too) ?
If you need a covered dish for a church dinner, why not make American Girl Kirsten‘s Swedish Potatoes recipe ? Want to send the Grandparents something they will cherish for years to come? How about a homemade card like one Samantha may have made at the Turn of the Century ?!
And so, “Christmas School” was born and became an unwavering tradition in our house!
You can read more about it in a previous post –> HERE <– Seriously, my kids started looking forward to Christmas School in September…and so did I !
We incorporated school and the holidays in many different ways depending on the ages of my kids and what life was like each year (including spending the holidays in a different country ) !
*American Girl Christmas School
One of the best “Christmas School” years we had was when we used the historical
American Girls Unit Studies we were working on for ideas. For example, we remembered from the American Girl Felicity Unit , that clove studded fruits (pomanders) were part of the Christmas decorations in colonial Williamsburg. My girls made a whole bowl of them for a centerpiece on our table ! They smelled amazing !
We worked together to make our home an inviting place for our guests. We baked, and decorated, and even cleaned happily. I quit worrying if they’d forget all their multiplication tables and really enjoyed the month (and my children). We practiced those skills in the car or at appointments when we could.
January came around and so did those math facts. We made so many sweet memories that Christmas and enjoyed all the wonder and peace and closeness of the season. Now that my kids are all grown, I will never regret setting aside “school work” for those days together.
So I’d like to share some ideas with you for Homeschooling Through the Holidays with An American Girl Christmas !
You can use the ideas from time to time…you can make it a unit study…you can print out the stories and place them in a binder for family reading whenever there are a few quiet moments…
However you choose to use these ideas, I hope you will feel confident that your children are learning; calm that you’re getting that to-do list checked off; and content that you are finding the time to create those sweet Christmas memories with your children.
*note: Most of the links below are to free resources I have found online. However, there are some that link directly to a resource on Amazon. You may already have these in your home, or find them in your local library. However, if you click on the link and make a purchase on Amazon, I will receive a small commission from the sale. THANK YOU so much for supporting my work!
*Ideas for an American Girl Felicity-
A Colonial Christmas
*Note: Christmas, as we know it, was just beginning to make an appearance in colonial America. Therefore, this section has less reading selections directly written about, or during, this period. I have included some good stories to read that while not set exactly at the time, will still be good family reading.
*Felicity’s Colonial Christmas Reading*
*How Did George Washington Celebrate Christmas ?
*Christmas at Valley Forge
*Christmas in Colonial America
*Christmas in Colonial America
* The First Christmas of New England By Harriet Beecher Stowe
*Christmas in Seventeen Seventy Six
*Listen HERE for some really nice early Colonial carols.
You can also find the entire CD, “Glory Shone Around: Early American Carols”
—> HERE <—
*The Twelve Days of Christmas
*Auld Lang Syne and Teaching ‘Auld Lang Syne’ from Making Moments Matter
* We Won’t Go Until We Get Some: Christmas in New England Colonies
(Best for older students…This would be a great discussion starter for you high school age kids! Also a good starting point for the roots of the celebration of this holiday !)
*American Christmases: First Hand Accounts of Holiday Happenings from the Past to the Present (This has accounts from as far back as John Smith right up through today.
This book could be used for each of these sections and would make a great coffee table book to boot !)
*Christmas in Williamsburg
*The Elves and the Shoemaker
*An Early American Christmas CD (You can stream through Amazon for free!)
*Felicity: An American Girl Adventure (DVD)
*Colonial Christmas Homemade Decorations*
*Note: Most of these homemade decorations/ornaments would also make nice gifts to give !
*Homemade Pomander Balls or make a Pomander Centerpiece
*Recycled Christmas Card Ball Ornaments
*Cut Paper Ornaments
*Dried Apple Garlands or Dried Orange Garlands (or Ornaments)
*Punched Tin Ornaments
*How to Make a Colonial Williamsburg Christmas Apple Tree Decoration
– 6 More Colonial Christmas in Williamsburg Decorations
*Tin Punch Ornaments (You could do the same with tin cans and use them for luminaries!)
*Embroidered Paper “Sampler” Ornaments
*Colonial Christmas Holiday Gift Making*
*Kids Simple Sew- Lavender Sachet Bags
*Felicity Goodie Bags (Though this is for favor bags for a party, these would make great small homemade gifts ! Since “taking tea” was such a part of Felicity’s story, you could fill the bags with a variety of teas and stick them in a mug for a lovely gift for family or friends !)
*Simple Jacob’s Ladder Toy (and a How-To for making one with chocolates !!! What kid wouldn’t love one of these ?)
*Paper Quilling– would make AMAZING Christmas cards !!
*Silhouette Ornaments (These would be great decoupaged on a piece of wood as well!)
*DIY Whirlygig Toys
*Colonial Christmas Recipes*
*A Peek Into the Pantry has a FANTASTIC blog full of wonderful historically inspired recipes featuring the American Girl Dolls. Here are a few of my favorites below~
*Felicity’s Cooking Studio
*Felicity’s Spiced Cider and Providence Cake
*Felicity’s Colonial Hot Chocolate
*Felicity’s Brunswick Stew, Spoon Bread, and Apple Pie
*Felicity’s Twelfth Night Cake
*Felicity’s Beefsteak Pie
*Colonial Christmas Entertaining Ideas*
*Go Caroling – Try singing some of the songs that Felicity may have known
– Joy To The World (history) and Lyrics/Instrumental to Practice
– God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (history) and Lyrics/Instrumental to Practice
– Hark the Herald Angels Sing (history) and Lyrics/Instrumental to Practice
– The First Noel (history) and Lyrics/Instrumental to Practice
**If you’d like to learn more about Felicity , the Revolutionary War, and Colonial America, you can find LOTS more fun hands-on history learning ideas with this FREE Unit. Just click on the picture below.
*Ideas for an American Girl Josefina-
A Southwest Frontier Christmas*
*Josefina’s Southwest Frontier Christmas Reading*
* The Glowing Heart: A Josefina Mystery
* Sunlight and Shadows- Josefina
* Changes For Josefina
*Poinsettias and Christmas
*The Legend of the Poinsettia
*The Night of Las Posadas
*Nine Days To Christmas
*Christmas in Frontier Oklahoma
*The Little Match Girl (Though not set in the southwest, it was written in 1845)
*You may also like to choose from this list of Christmas Short Stories in American Literature
*Excerpts from the diary of Major Lawrence Taliaferro- Christmas 1827.
(You may wish to read this yourself before sharing it with your children. It is very interesting
but may be offensive to some.)
*Three Kings Day
*Southwestern Frontier Homemade Christmas Decorations and Gifts*
*Poinsettias (YouTube how-to – in Spanish, but you will be able to easily follow along!)
*Try a new take on a Gingerbread House
*Mexican Mirrors (These would be so pretty as a garland or on a Christmas tree)
*Piñata Ornaments or these Mini Piñata Ornaments
*Ojos De Dios
*Three Kings Ornaments
*Papel Picado Banners (Templates in all levels of difficulty)
*4 Mexican Celebration Paper Crafts Kit
*Las Posadas Luminaries
*Paper Flowers (Remember, Josefina had a very special love for flowers !)
*Star Popsicle Stick Ornaments (add a piece of yarn to hang these as ornaments on your tree)
*Las Posadas Ornaments (These would make really cute gifts too)
*Southwestern Christmas Recipes*
*Josefina’s Chicken Enchiladas
*Josefina’s 3 Bean Tortilla Soup
*Josefina’s Mexican Hot Chocolate
*Josefina’s Pumpkin Pastel
*7 Foods to Celebrate Dia de Los Reyes
*Easy Rosca de Reyes Buns
*New Mexico Empanadas
*Mexican Hot Chocolate
*Frontier Christmas Entertaining Ideas*
*Host a Tamalada
*Celebrate Las Posadas and maybe host a Las Posadas Celebration
Here are some ideas –>How To Host a Las Posadas Celebration
–>Las Posadas Ideas from Scholastic
+Learn the Las Posadas Song (lyrics only) or Video Version (in English and in Spanish )
*Serve neighbors with a “Chocolatada”
( Think of this as a winter version of a Lemonade Stand! Mexican Hot Chocolate & Pan Dulce or Biscochos ! The Chocolatada is really a Peruvian tradition -I LOVED IT !!, but it would easily fit into this theme and would make a wonderful activity for the kids !)
**If you’d like to learn more about Josefina , America’s Frontier, and the Santa Fe Trail,
you can find LOTS of fun hands-on history learning ideas with this FREE Unit. Just click on the picture below.
*American Girl Kirsten- A Pioneer Christmas*
*Kirsten’s Pioneer Christmas Reading*
*An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving (read online) Audio Version (free)
–> I have a FREE unit study for this story HERE
*An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving (DVD)
*Christmas 1881- A Pioneer Christmas Story
*A Pioneer’s Christmas
*Effie’s Christmas Dream (written as a play… this would make a fun kid led activity!)
*Mini Page Pioneer Christmas
*A Pioneer Thanksgiving
*A Pioneer Christmas
*A Country Christmas
*Little House on the Prairie Christmas DVD
*A Little House Christmas Treasury and Christmas in the Big Woods
*Laura Ingalls Wilder: Christmas Stories
*Little House Christmas Paper Dolls
*How Christmas is Celebrated in Sweden
*Lucia Morning in Sweden
*Homemade Pioneer Christmas Decorations*
*Scrap Ribbon (or Fabric) Christmas Trees
*Swedish Straw Stars Ornaments
*Dala Horse Ornaments
(just glue to poster board…you could add glitter or some other embelishments)
*Dried Fruit and Popcorn Garlands
*Little House Stockings (You could use fabric glue if you didn’t want to sew these !)
*Punched Tin Ornaments
*Tin Can Lanterns
*Pioneer Christmas Homemade Gifts*
*Pioneer Christmas Recipes*
*Remember that homemade goodies make wonderful gifts too !
*Swedish Rice Pudding or Kirsten’s Rice Porridge
*Kirsten’s St. Lucia Buns
*St Lucia Braided Bread Crown
*Kirsten’s Fall Spiced Apple Oatmeal
*Kirsten’s Baked Potato Soup
*Kirsten’s Swedish Pancakes
*Pioneer Snow Candy
*Little House Pumpkin Pie
*Kirsten’s Cook Book
*Little House on the Prairie Cook Book
*Pioneer Christmas Entertaining Ideas*
*Host an Old Fashioned Taffy Pull
*Serve up a Pioneer Feast… anyone play the fiddle ?
Have some fun pioneer activities:
+Play some Pioneer Games (scroll to the bottom for indoor game ideas)
+Make a playlist of fiddle music
+Make your own butter for the meal
– Jingle Bells (history) and Lyrics/Instrumental to practice
– Silent Night (history) and Lyrics/Instrumental to practice
– Good King Wenceslas (history) and Lyrics/Instrumental to practice
– Away in the Manger (history) and Lyrics/Instrumental to practice
*Celebrate a Swedish Christmas like Kirsten and her family may have done.
They surely incorporated traditions from their homeland and also from their new home, America.
*Ideas for an American Girl Addy- A Civil War Christmas*
*Addy’s Civil War Christmas Reading*
*Changes for Addy
*A Heart Full of Hope
*Christmas During the Civil War
*Little Women (Read online here- or at least the first several chapters)
Little Women (Free Audiobook Dramatic Reading- organized by chapters)
*Christmas In the Big House, Christmas In the Quarters
*A Christmas Journey to Freedom (YouTube video – about 1 hour)
*The Story of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Longfellow
You may also like to watch this well done video on YouTube- song set to
actual photos of Civil War soldiers and soldiers today –
“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”
*The Christmas Pickle (Do you think the Civil War story is true ?)
*Christmas Eve in War Times
(This is a bit of a heart wrenching story, but with a happy ending. You may want to read it through before you print it for your children to read)
*A Christmas Dream and How It Came to Be (short story by Louisa May Alcott)
*Christmas Dreams: Portraits of Little Women (Easier language )
*Children’s Christmas Stories from American Literature
*Little Women (DVD)
*Addy’s Homemade Christmas Decorations and Gifts *
*The History of Christmas Trees & History of Ornaments
(interesting to read before you decorate )
*Addy’s Craft Book & Kit (comes with materials for the projects)
*String Popcorn into garlands or make Scrap Garlands
*Simple Papercraft Ornaments and Decorations
*Woven Cardboard Stars Ornaments
(could make the nativity as ornaments or dolls- since this project is super creative it would make nice ornaments or great gifts ! You could even fashion them to represent the people in your family !)
*Easy Paper Angels
*65 Pinecone Decorations
(while not all of these would’ve been decorations during this period, you get the idea 🙂
*Christmas Recipes from the Civil War*
*Addy’s Mini Sweet Potato Pies or Sweet Potato Pudding
*Addy’s Civil War Beef Stew
*Addy’s Turkey Stuffing
*Addy’s Hoppin John
*Civil War Snowballs
*Jefferson Davis Pie
*Civil War Idiot’s Delight Cake (sorry- that’s really the name ! lol)
*Cake from the “Civil” War
*Civil War Christmas Entertaining Ideas*
*Take a “Sleigh Ride” !
Sleigh rides were very popular during this time.
If you don’t have a horse drawn sleigh :D, maybe a wagon, some bikes, or even your car would work ! Decorate your favorite mode of transport with bells and garlands and gear up for perhaps the first annual sleigh ride tradition ! Invite the neighborhood kids too! You could end your “sleigh ride” with a bonfire complete with snacks & songs.
*Decorate an outdoor Christmas tree in the park (or one in your neighborhood!)
Decorating Christmas trees was just beginning to be popular in America during the Civil War period. Try this activity for a unique take on it !
One of the treats I discovered when I moved to Texas, was that every year in December, many families “secretly” decorate a tree along the highway. You wouldn’t believe how many trees and how creative they get ! Since this might be frowned upon where you live, why not make a new tradition of decorating a tree with things that the birds and squirrels would like for Christmas ?! Think strung cheerios, pinecones dipped in peanut butter and birdseed, and orange slice ornaments. This would make a great activity for a houseful of guests needing something to do !
*Host a New Years Day Celebration
Be sure to serve Hoppin John & Collard Greens ! Why ? Read more HERE
You can see a very interesting visual of how the holiday was celebrated by different people at that time– Harper’s Weekly Illustration
You can also read more about “Mumming” and the Mummers Parade
*Ideas for an American Girl Samantha-
A Turn of the Century Christmas
*Samantha’s Turn of the Century Christmas Reading*
*An Ellis Island Christmas
*Manners & Mischief- A Samantha Classic
*Samantha: An American Girl Holiday (DVD)
*The Gift of the Magi
*A Christmas Carol (read online) or Listen to the free Audiobook
(Dicken’s contribution to Christmas as we know it is huge!
You can find my full (and free!) Christmas Carol Unit <–here
*Christmas With Dickens
*A Christmas Tree (Short Story- text and audio)
*Other Christmas Short Stories by Charles Dickens
*The Presidential Christmas Tree
*Christmas Every Day
*Christmas Carol By Sara Teasdale
*Christmas at Beacon Hill (Explains the candles in the windows during Christmas)
*1900’s Homemade Victorian Christmas Decorations and Gifts*
**I love to receive ornaments as gifts !
Maybe make doubles- one for decorating your home, and one for a gift !
*Samantha’s Christmas Crafts
*American Girl Samantha Craft Book
*Authentic Victorian Christmas Ornament (with printable template)
*Make a Decoupage Scrapbook (This would make a lovely gift !)
*Raisin and Nut Garlands
*8 Victorian Christmas Tree Ornaments (Children can make !)
*Create a Christmas Putz (yep…a putz !)
*History of Christmas Crackers and DIY Christmas Crackers
*Decorate a Window for the Holidays
*Victorian Roses Ornament
*Miniature Tree Table
(This is only a photo, but I think it would be easy to print out some victorian santa images, glue to pasteboard, and make this sweet little tree !)
*Paper Fan Ornaments
*Old Fashioned Christmas Postcards (these would make cute ornaments too!)
*Gift Giving at the Turn of the 20th Century
*Teddy Bears were all the rage ! And so were handmade gifts !
Try this Easy Teddy Bear Sewing Project or you can buy the kit HERE <–
*Victorian Christmas Recipes*
*Samantha’s Snickerdoodle Cookies
*Roosevelt’s Fat Rascals (they’re justttt cookies !)
*Samantha’s Gingerbread Cakes
*Make Real Victorian Gingerbread and Christmas Pudding (YouTube)
*Turn of the Century Victorian Christmas Dinner Menu
*10 Victorian Christmas Recipes
*Old Fashioned Barley Candy
*Turn of the Century Christmas Entertaining Ideas*
*Start a neighborhood Christmas candle lighting tradition
(see Christmas at Beacon Hill)
*A “Christmas Carol” Reading Night
Wouldn’t this be so much fun ? You could prepare some typical snacks
(maybe some punch too!).
*Samantha’s Nutting Party (A How-To complete with recipes from Peek Into the Pantry)
**If you’d like to learn more about Samantha , The Industrial Revolution, and the Turn of Century , you can find LOTS of fun hands-on history learning ideas with this FREE Unit. Just click on the picture below.