Homeschooling through the Holidays
Use your unique flexibility to help your family explore the holiday traditions of various cultures.
By Elijah Ammen
Even as a teacher in a Title I school, my educational background was molded by being homeschooled in grades K-12. There are several aspects of homeschooling that I wish translated into public education, particularly around the holidays. While in schools we are scrambling with midterms, half days, and disenchanted students, homeschoolers have the opportunity to use the holidays to their advantage. Take the time to learn experientially and immerse yourselves in learning through a variety of strategies.
Writing from first person point of view seems like a basic creative writing exercise, but it is much more than that. In order to write from the perspective of another person, you need to fully understand their motivation and have the ability to empathize with them. The writer needs to fully research the character and the setting in order to make the story seem realistic. There are a variety of prompts you can use for holidays:
- A Pilgrim or Native American at the First Thanksgiving
- An immigrant bringing his/her Christmas traditions to America
- A family celebrating the Chinese New Year
- A soldier celebrating a holiday while deployed overseas
If you're not completely sure how to manage writing prompts, you can always look at sample writing prompts or use an app like Write About This to generate prompts. You can even use a picture as a writing prompt—just have the writer look at the picture or painting, choose one of the characters, and write his or her backstory. While you could get tied up in rubrics and mechanics, the key is for writers to enjoy the activity while exercising creativity.
Taking these very basic prompts and elaborating on them helps the writers not just develop their writing skills, but to investigate other cultures, explore human emotion, and show the tension and conflict that often happens when different cultures and traditions collide.
- Baklava for Greek and Lebanese cultures (coming from a Lebanese family, this is a delicious idea)
- Buche de Noel (Yule Log Cake)
- Lebkuchen (German fruit and spice cookies)
- Galletas con Chochitos (Mexican butter cookies)
If you want to make this a little more academic, have the students document the process with photos or video and present it as a presentation. Soft skills like use of media and presentation skills are crucial to develop. As homeschoolers, there are unique challenges to developing these skills. Here is an article that offers some tips for cultivating these essential skills.
Virtual Field Trips
Traditions are almost always regional, with tight-knit communities establishing rituals that unite the people around them and establish their values. While the holidays are often terrible times to travel, you can take virtual field trips in order to explore the locations without the hassle.
- Plimoth Plantation has a virtual field trip and videos on their website
- Create your own virtual field trip with Google Earth (see this for an example)
- Use historical videos on the Chinese New Year as research
Whatever you do, enjoy this special time of year, and bring the whole family in on the projects. Your children will retain more if they actually enjoy studying and sharing about other cultures. Who knows? Maybe you'll create some new holiday traditions.
Lesson Planet Resources:
Lesson Planet's review of a writing prompt app that helps generate ideas at a variety of writing levels
A long list of writing prompts that can be used for multiple writing levels. Useful for free-writing or inspiring writing prompts of your own.