If you’re like me, you have great intentions when it comes to the holidays. You want a Pinterest-Perfect winter wonderland, but what you end up with is…less than perfect. I want to make the holidays magical for my kids- without making myself insane. So often, when I am looking at blogs for advent activities, I find lists of activities that are just not realistic for my family. I put together this list of super easy advent activities to keep myself sane. Hopefully some of you will enjoy them too!
- Christmas Coloring Pages from Crayola – It doesn’t get much easier than this! Just hit print! Great for a day when you don’t have time to prepare anything.
- Christmas Music Dance Party – Check out this Youtube playlist or use your own favorites.
- Write letters to Santa.
- Draw a gingerbread house with Art for Kids Hub– these fun, short videos are easy to follow and kids have a blast.
- Get/ put up your Christmas tree. You’re going to do it anyway, it may as well count as an activity.
- Christmas movie night. Netflix has a ton of family holiday movies.
- Make cocoa. Quick, easy, and the kids will be happy.
- Go look at Christmas lights. Good for when you forgot to do something all day and suddenly, it’s almost bedtime. Put jammies on and go drive around looking at lights. Easy peasy.
- Go shopping for those less fortunate. Grab one of the tags hanging on an angel tree near you and take the kids shopping to help make the holidays brighter for kids in need.
- Bake cookies. Use the pre-made cookie dough if you need to.
- String popcorn.
- Play Holiday Charades
- Read your favorite Christmas storybook.
- Go to a local holiday parade/tree lighting/ town festival.
- Have another movie night. The kids won’t be sad if you have them watch Rudolf twice.
- Print out this Christmas word scramble.
- Write your own Christmas stories. If your kids are too young to write, have them tell you a story. You can write it down for them and they can illustrate it.
- Go to a holiday party. You are probably doing this anyway.
- Take the kids Christmas shopping. I like to set mine loose in a thrift shop or dollar store with $5 and see what they find.
- Make lunchtime more fun with this printable holiday place-mat from Three Little Monkeys.
- Make family game night festive by playing Christmas music and eating candy canes.
- Get some wrapping done while your kids enjoy holiday games online.
- Make peppermint bark. It’s super easy. Really. You basically just melt chocolate chips and sprinkle it with crushed candy canes.
- Open one present Christmas Eve. Pajamas are a great choice so the kiddos can put them on and look cute in the 200 photos you’ll take Christmas morning.
Get your kids writing this Thanksgiving with these writing prompts!
- On Thanksgiving morning, you wake up and find that you are not in your bed. You are in a pen, on a farm, and you have a lot of feathers. You’re a turkey and the farmer is hungry! What do you do?
- Your mom tells you that all pies have been banned by the government this Thanksgiving. What do you do?
- You hate turkey. You hate pie. Most of all, you hate cranberries. How do you convince your parents to make something else for Thanksgiving dinner?
- What are you thankful for this year that you either did not have or did not appreciate last year?
- It’s Thanksgiving Day. Your parents decided to order a delivered meal this year. The doorbell rings. You open it and find three dozen live turkeys waiting for you. What happens next?
- Your crazy Uncle Bob shows up at Thanksgiving with a time machine. He sends you back to the first Thanksgiving. What do you see?
- Your Grandma serves a Thanksgiving dinner of cereal, dog treats, and candy canes. What do you do?
- A strange guest shows up at your Thanksgiving dinner. Who is it and how does your family react?
A lot of people have preconceived notions about what a homeschooling family looks like. Some of the ideas people have about homeschoolers are based on stereotypes they’ve heard. Sometimes, someone remembers a homeschooling family they once met and assumes that’s just how it’s done. Sometimes people are just making assumptions based on their own lives. Whatever your assumptions about homeschooling are, put them aside. Like any other group of people, no two homeschoolers are exactly alike.
Here are sixteen ways I break homeschool stereotypes. I’ve heard all of these from people in the past. Some of these assumptions are great qualities – just not ones I possess. Some of them are awful stereotypes and just need to end.
- I wear pants. The last time I wore a denim jumper, I was five years old.
- I don’t bake my own bread from grains I harvested myself. I buy it at Aldi.
- We don’t live in an RV. (But that would be really cool!)
- My kids don’t speak Latin and I don’t have plans to change that.
- I’m not super organized.
- We’re not unschoolers, though I know and admire many unschoolers.
- I don’t homeschool my kids to keep them away from the world. I homeschool them so they can spend more time in it.
- My kids do not behave perfectly. In fact, when people imply that they do, I laugh.
- I don’t think everyone should homeschool or that schools are evil. We’re just doing what works for our family.
- We don’t homeschool because of super conservative religious beliefs.
- My kids socialize with other kids. A lot. I promise. Please quit asking about this. Homeschoolers have a million ways to get out in the world and interact with people. My kids go to baseball, dance, classes with other homeschoolers, co-ops, the park, the library, museums, the store, church, friends’ houses, doctor appointments and about a thousand other places. Seriously. We’re almost never home, so let’s put an end to this one.
- I do not have saint-like patience and I get frustrated just like other parents.
- I don’t sew all of our clothes nor am I great at crafting in general.
- I’m not a perfect parent.
- I am not a dead-beat parent who is too lazy to get her kids to school on time.
- My kids are not illiterate.
In the end, I am really not that different from any other mom. I want the best for my kids and I am trying my hardest to help guide them in this world. I think that most moms I know can agree that’s what we’re all aiming for.
Homeschoolers, what assumptions have others made about you because you educate your kids at home? If you don’t homeschool, maybe you learned something about families like mine. Let me know what you think!
It doesn’t matter if your kiddos are homeschooled, in public school, or in private school, it’s important to keep them writing year round. But when it’s summer and their days are filled with swimming pools, trips to the beach, and lots of time with their friends and their nights are filled with lightning bugs, barbeques and fireworks, it can be a bit difficult to get them to focus on writing.
Writing prompts can be a great way to motivate kids to get started. Just a few minutes of writing a day will help keep their skills sharp for when school or homeschool starts up again.
- Your family is on a camping trip in the mountains. After everyone else falls asleep, you need to use the restroom. You unzip your tent to find that a strange light has filled your campsite. You head out to investigate and you find…
- You head to the swimming pool with your best friend one hot afternoon. When you get there, you find that it’s filled with Jell-O! What do you do? Do you dive in the sweet, sticky mess?
- You are swimming in the ocean when a giant shark swims up to you. Before you can scramble out of the water, the shark lifts his head out of the water and speaks to you! What does he say? What do you do?
- Describe the perfect ice cream sundae.
- It’s your first trip to sleep away camp. When you get to your cabin, the other kids tell you it’s haunted. That night, you hear a spooky sound. What happens next?
- You are roasting marshmallows with your family one evening when you see something scurry across your back yard. You get up to investigate and find a unicorn hiding behind your oak tree! Do you tell anyone? What do you do?
- Your mom signs you up for a science camp. On the first day, the instructor tells the group that he’s made an amazing discovery he wants to share with the class. You are shocked when you find out that he…
- One day, you are boating with your dad. A large storm comes out of no where and your boat is thrown off course. You find yourself on an island in the middle of the ocean. What do you do? What happens on the island?
- Your teacher sent home a long list of books for summer reading. The only problem is that they are all in Chinese! What do you do?
- Your best friend’s family invited you to join them at their lakeside cabin for the summer. Your parents agree and you’re off for a summer of fun! But you discover something strange when you get there…
- On a trip to an amusement park with your family, you find an empty section of the park. A sign on the unlocked gate reads “Closed to the Public.” The rides are all running! They look even better than the rides in the rest of the park. Do you enter the restricted area? What happens?
- On a hot July afternoon you are riding your bike to your friend’s house. You hit a pothole and your tire pops! As you are checking out your tire, a strange woman approaches. She’s wearing wizards robes. She tells you that she’s come from another land. What do you do? What happens next?
If you take a homeschool mom to the library,
she’ll pick out an audiobook for her kids.
When she goes home, she’ll scour the internet for resources to go with the book.
When she finds a really fantastic unit study for only $5.00, she’ll have to get it.
As she looks over the unit study, she will realize how detailed it is.
She’ll wonder if the kids might just need a copy of the book so they can reread it.
You will find her on amazon.com before you know it, downloading a copy of the book she got for free at the library.
“But it’s only $6.99!”
After she downloads the audiobook, she realizes she is out of ink and can not print the unit study.
So she goes to Target, just for some ink, of course.
After she finds the ink, she remembers she needs paper.
She walks to the office supply section to get the paper.
She grabs it, but then she sees file folders.
And of course she needs file folders.
Near the file folders, she sees markers.
The markers are on sale. She can always use markers.
By the time she leaves Target, she’s spent $54.
Her kids LOVE the book and the unit study, so of course she has to plan a corresponding a field trip.
On the field trip, her kids notice the gift shop, filled with educational toys.
She just can’t resist.
Once, home, she realizes that she has to take the audiobook back to the library.
And chances are, if you take a homeschool mom to the library,
she’s going to want an audiobook for her kids.
*Inspired by If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
I know that this is not a popular opinion in some homeschool circles, but I think video games can be magnificent educational tools. Now, as the wife of a video game FX artist, I might be a bit biased, but I really think that people are too quick to brush off games as a waste of time. Can they be a gigantic time suck? Absolutely! Are there some games out there that I would not let my kids play? Of course! But there are so many great games out there these days and I think our kids can learn a lot from them.
So, in honor of National Video Game Day, here’s a list of 5 reasons my family loves to use games in our homeschool.
Reaon One: Games Can Bring Learning to Life
My husband recently brought home an Oculus VR headset. It’s amazing! Oculus has partnered with Discovery to provide some amazing 3D experiences. I may not be able (or willing) to take my kids on an underwater field trip with sharks, but thanks to Oculus and Discovery, they feel like they’ve had amazing undersea adventures. Their 3D shark experience inspired a lot of questions and further learning.
There are plenty of games on PC, tablets, and consoles that also provide ways to bring learning to life in a variety of ways. My kids love the Dragonbox apps for math. It’s a great way to make math real for visual learners. Scribblenauts is a great vocabulary based puzzle game. There are examples in just about any area of study. For a lot of kids, games are a fun way to make learning real.
Reason Two: Games Can be Great for Critical Thinking and Spatial Reasoning Skills
Even when a game is not outwardly educational, it can help improve critical thinking skills. Studies have shown as much. While I am not advocating for kids to skip math lessons so that they can play games all day, some time playing age-appropriate games could actually be good for them!
“Visual-spatial skills are viewed by psychologists and educators as the ‘training wheels’ of later skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and there is little question that we will need more and more workers with skills in these areas.” (Linda Jackson, lead researcher of a study from Michigan State on kids playing video games.)
Reason Three: Games Can Inspire Creativity
If you know more than a handful of kids over the age of five, you’ve probably heard of Minecraft. In Minecraft, you can build the world around you. My son has used it to build historic sites we’ve studied- or just his own made up worlds Studies have shown that kids who play games are more creative, and it’s easy to see why.
Reason Four: Teamwork
When my kids play a game together, they have to get along. It’s a great way for them to learn to work together towards a common goal.
Reason Five: It Makes My Life Easier
This reason may be selfish, but let’s face it, life is hard for moms who homeschool kids of multiple ages. It can be very hard to get one on one time with one of my kids when they need my help. I can keep a kid busy with an educational game and it frees me up to work with their sibling. That’s a win-win in my book.
We don’t spend all day every day playing games, and I am very picky about what I let my kids play, but video games are a tool I am happy to have in my homeschool. What about you? How do you feel about video games?