Saturday, November 10, 2012

To School or Not to School? That is the Question!


This is the 5th day and last day of the "5 Days of Preparing for the Holidays" blog hop with the Schoolhouse Review crew. Today's topic is Homeschooling through the Holidays. To school or not to school? That is the question I am sure we all ask ourselves during the holidays? We homeschool year-round so I say go for it! There are a lot of topics that can be studied using the unit study approach during this time including the First Thanksgiving, Pilgrims, Plymouth Colony, Colonial Life, and Native Americans. You can have the children make comparisons about past and present times (then and now). The key is to have a flexible schedule so that you don't get overwhelmed. I usually over plan but I always tell myself to remember that we won't get through everything. It can be difficult to homeschool during the holidays. We lighten up the load and focus on thankful hearts, gratitude, traditions, and the first Thanksgiving. We usually set aside most of our regular curricula for just a few days so that we can spend time together establishing meaningful traditions while building stronger relationships.

Homeschooling Through Thanksgiving: 
Our Family Traditions and Gratitude Activities
Thanksgiving is celebrated the fourth Thursday of November. November is an eventful month for our family. It is a time for birthday celebrations and holiday cheer. We recently added several new Thanksgiving traditions to our list. Some are family traditions that have been passed down for generations year after year. Other traditions found online have been added within the past two years. Forgive me. I must apologize this post will lack "good" activity photos, because I have a ton of photos stored on my computer and can't find the photos I need for this post. I also have a lot of our Thanksgiving materials still in storage. Here is just a small sample of a few activities we traditionally do to celebrate Thanksgiving. Most of the gratitude activities are planned for next two weeks.

Family Traditions
Let me begin by telling you about several family traditions and how we tie in a little extra schooling into the day.

Family Feast
One of the most common and well-known Thanksgiving traditions for most families is the family feast. This is a great time to discuss family togetherness and the concept of the family unit. Family members and friends often travel across the state to visit one another during the holidays making it an extra special time. We usually visit several of our friend's houses on Thanksgiving Day. We also teach mathematical concepts when cooking in the kitchen with our daughter. She learns about measurements and quantity.
This is a common tradition known to many people. Each person grabs an end of the wishbone and pulls it apart. The person with the larger side makes a wish. This year, we will gather a few thin bones from our meal so that Alyssa can closely observe the bones. We will discuss the difference between bird bones and our bones. We will do an experiment with bones (Are you getting enough calcium? Rubber Turkey Bone Experiment).

Game and Puzzle Night
We gather around the coffee table to play games and complete puzzles as a family after eating a grand feast. This usually happens when we get home because we usually do not cook the meal at our house. Hopefully, next year I will be able to attempt making a full Thanksgiving meal for our family ... and friends. I do cook a Thanksgiving meal several times throughout the year but it is usually eaten with a few relatives or friends. I also bake and bring dishes when we travel.

Other Childhood Traditions Remembered
Thanksgiving Parade
I remember always watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade on television in New York with my family. We would lay on the floor wishing we could be there in person. We often sat way too close to the television  - maybe that's why my eyesight is horrible and I feel as though I am blind!

Football Games
I have noticed that individuals will also gather around the television to watch football instead of the parade. We have family members and friends that are known to go to football games if the event falls on Thanksgiving Day. My husband and I aren't huge football fans so we usually don't participate in this tradition. Yes, he still likes football! I do remember in high school and during my freshman college years attending Thanksgiving Day football games with family.

Gratitude Activities
The above list can go on and on but I would rather switch gears to tell you about a few gratitude activities that may or may not be familiar to you. We visit several people on Thanksgiving Day so all of these activities do not necessary and could not possibly happen on the same day. We might alternate activities each year, bring an activity with us, use the activities at meal times a day or two before Thanksgiving Day, and there are times when I make a Thanksgiving meal within the same week. My hope is that at least one of my blog readers will leave with one new idea to try this year.

Harvest Blend Blessing Mix
This mixture can be given to relatives and friends on Thanksgiving Day. Yummy! If you travel to the Thanksgiving feast, then bring the bags with you. Alyssa always passes them out to everyone after the meal when family members gather to visit. The links below will send you to several websites that have the recipe, printables and/or photos. I have a few more grocery items to pick up this weekend before we can make our Harvest Blend Mix.

Family Crafts
Organized Christmas
Caramel Potatoes
Thanksgiving Snack Mix

The Thanksgiving Bowl
We read the story The Thanksgiving Bowl by Virginia Kroll every year. I eventually want to own this book! I love how the bowl cycles through all the months only to land back where it started in the beginning. We discuss months, seasons, weather, Thanksgiving, and other topics when reading this book. Science concepts can be easily integrated into the week. I have a yellow bowl that we pull out each year (hopefully I can find it after this last move). We write what we are thankful for on blessing bowl strips and we place them in the bowl. We read the blessings at meal time and try to guess who wrote which blessing. I honestly didn't realize that Thanksgiving was already around the corner. My husband has a list of items to find in storage and my cheap plastic yellow bowl is on top of the list. I also use fall themed November calendar cards with my daughter so that she can practice sequencing the months of the year. This year we will use them as copy work and concentrate on spelling the months of the year after singing them.

Squidoo Thanksgiving Bowl 
Digital Pencil Click on each month to hear a read aloud. There's a sequencing activity Thanksgiving Bowl Journey.
Silver Box Creative - We used these strips one year with our thanksgiving bowl; they can also be made into a chain.

The Legend of Five Kernels
This became a Thanksgiving Day tradition in our home two years ago. I read an online story to Alyssa a few days ahead of time. This story can also be found in the Beautiful Feet Early America curricula. Close to dinner time, we sit at the table while the meal continues to cook. I give each person five kernels of corn on their plate. I will often place them in a decorative, labeled bag on a plate as a souvenir. Other times ... I really want to emphasize the lack of food and show what a ration may look like on an empty plate. This is a simple activity that reminds us all how fortunate and blessed we are today. We discuss the importance of being grateful and how we must thank God every day for our blessings. Each person tells us five things they are thankful for and how they have been blessed this year. Each kernel represents a different blessing. We try to follow and think about blessings in the same category. You can have them place the kernels in a dish or back into their bag to keep. Before or after the activity, we discuss rations and how food was limited at times due to winter hardships. We learn to empathize and think about how life was then and now? How would you feel if you were only given five kernels of corn to eat?

Squidoo Legend of Five Kernels
Note: Read the story at the above link and scroll down to "Articles on the Five Kernels of Corn" section for more awesome resources! The poem is available along with several other ideas. I believe this is where I originally came across this idea years ago.
Kinder Teacher Thanksgiving Feast
Kinder Teacher Legend of the Five Kernels
The Happy Home Fairy

Blessing Tree or Tree of Thankfulness
There are several ways to create a thankful tree. One year, Alyssa wrote her blessings on fall colored construction paper tree leaves for our tree on the wall. Another year we gathered branches from outside to place in a vase. We hung the blessing leaves from yarn. I wrote down the blessings for Alyssa. The entire family can participate in this activity. The following activity is just a temporary replacement activity until we can gather all our supplies for our tree since last year's tree is in storage. I hope to update pictures later. See the above links for more inspiration. I found a cheap blessing tree at Target this year and decided to give it a try. I prefer the thankful trees mentioned above. This was a quick activity that served its purpose ... to get her thinking.

First Grade Parade

She wrote God, Family, Earth, Rain, Food, and House on the leaves.
This is a waste of money. I found this in the dollar area at Target.
The tree is flimsy. It doesn't stand up so we taped it to the wall. 
Thanksgiving Story Retell Bracelet
We read The Pilgrim's First Thanksgiving and created a Thanksgiving bracelet to retell the story. I found this activity at My Montessori Journey a long time ago and used her printable. We made this bracelet last year too. Each color symbolizes a relevant aspect of the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving. I just realized that we accidentally put three white beads on the pipe cleaner to represent the Mayflower sails. I was probably thinking the word sails is plural so I will use more than one white bead. I am not sure what happened. Please take note that each Thanksgiving story bracelet resource may use slightly different colored beads or change the number of beads used to retell the story. We didn't have black beads which is why I used the My Montessori Journey resource. Dr. Jean and Friends has a Thanksgiving bracelet story on her website. Here's a free simple Thanksgiving story reader to go with the bracelet. Your child be developing fine motor skills, working on retelling, and practicing sequencing skills. Here is another printable and example that a teacher adapted to fit her classroom needs. I have another one but can't find the link online but I am sure you have enough to get started for now.

Other Gratitude Activities We Might Try This Year
Gratitude Rolls and Thankful Rolls - Looks fun and interesting. They reminded me of resurrections rolls.

What are your Thanksgiving traditions? Do you have any gratitude activities you would like to share with us all. Please leave a comment below and if possible a link. Thank you!

Please join in on the blog hop fun! This blog hop is open to all, but time is running out! There is less than a day to link up. Be sure to read all the other posts for more helpful homeschool tips or ideas throughout the holidays. I hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful! What was your favorite activity posted? Did you find anything new?

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