holiday

The Gift of Story

The Gift of Story

As we make our lists and fill up our shopping carts, let’s not forget that stories are also great gifts to give. My children may not think of stories as being their favorite presents, but I do plan to pepper the season with stories that hopefully will become special to them as they get older just as they did for me. 

When I was young, my grandmother told me stories about her childhood living on a Georgia farm. I can still remember the sound of Granny’s voice, her laughter and the way she used her hands when she talked.  Since she was the youngest of three daughters, she wasn’t needed in the house, so she became the leader of her three brothers and cousins as they played around the farm and did a number of “tricks.”

Once when they were bored, they spent a day taking the pine needles off a pine tree that stood by itself out in the middle of a field. When my great-grandfather drove by it on his tracker, he couldn’t figure out what in the world happened.  He “fetched” his wife and family to look at the pine tree that “had shed its needles,” and they all looked at in awe. My grandmother and her brothers didn’t say a word.

There were so many stories. There was one about the time they had a water-drinking contest, and she said that almost drowned her littlest brother, James!  My favorite story is about how they took a bite out of every peach on a peach tree because they were told not to pick any of the ripe peaches.

My Granny also told me how my grandfather liked to play practical jokes. One Christmas he wrapped a huge box for my grandmother and put it under the tree in early December. He wouldn’t tell anyone what it was, so everyone had to wait a long time to find out.  All he said was that it was very practical. On Christmas morning, everyone wanted Granny to open that box first.  What was in it?  Toilet paper.

As you can see, I come from a long line of tricksters and practical jokers, and if it weren’t for these stories, I would never know that. True family stories tell children where they come from, and they teach them lessons that their elders learned the hard way. But young children love stories whether or not they are true, and I think every parent should make a point to tell stories to their children. Trust me – it doesn’t matter how bad you think your story is – you’ll have a captive audience.

When my eldest son was four, I began making up stories for him. For several years, I told him a story every night before bed, and it got to a point where he wouldn’t let me go without his story. Somehow, these stories were so much more special than reading him a book. I didn’t think I could always tell a good story, but my son loved them anyway. I would let him pick the main character – usually an animal – or I would use one of his favorite toys to be the hero. Sometimes, I could throw in a little bit of wisdom that I wanted him to learn too. These stories were more personal and pertinent to his life even if they weren’t worth writing down.

This holiday season, I hope you’ll think about starting a storytelling ritual with your children. You’ll be amazed to see that made up stories or family stories can be the best entertainment, the best way to share your values, and the most rewarding gift you can ever give your child.


Homeschool Gift Guide: Everybody Needs Books!

Homeschool Gift Guide: Everybody Needs Books!

The “something to read” is always my favorite part of shopping. I can’t buy all the books for my own family, so here’s a roundup of fabulous titles for many ages and interests.

Stuff We Like :: Holiday Break Edition

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

We’re taking a couple of weeks off to wrap up the winter issue and just chill (but we do have a few great blog posts scheduled over the next few weeks), so this will be our last Stuff We Like of 2015. We expect to like plenty of stuff in 2016, too, so we’ll be back to our regular posting in January.

around the web

Everybody is talking about Iceland’s Christmas Eve book flood, but that’s because it’s awesome.

I don’t really take selfies, but after reading this, I kind of want to.

Dream trip: The Alice in Wonderland guide to Oxford

 

at home/school/life

in the magazine: The winter issue may be my favorite issue yet—and it'll be out in just a few weeks. Right now I’m editing a really cool piece on planning your life after homeschool. (Because after homeschooling, you can do anything!)

on the blog: I am inspired by Lisa’s post on making your own wellness a priority—that’s something I really struggle with.

on pinterest: Now all I can think about is making homemade chocolate pop tarts.

 

reading list

I’m reading an odd little book about early 19th century murders that’s equal parts bizarre and fascinating. If you’re interested in a quirky history of the dark side of the Romantics, you too might enjoy Murder By Candlelight.

We started Sea of Trolls as a winter readaloud—even though it’s not build-a-fire weather at all around here, this seems like the perfect book to read by the fireplace. Maybe we’ll do it anyway.

Both the activity-ish books we got the kids for Hanukkah this year have been big hits: Finish This Book (for our teenager) and Don’t Let the Pigeon Finish This Activity Book (for the 8-year-old).

 

at home

We are settling in for a few days of much-needed vacation. On the agenda: Harry Potter movies, hot chocolate, cuddling, and starting my ZickZack scarf. (I couldn’t resist!)

My best friend and I are planning a Dollhouse marathon over the break. (Are you a Dollhouse fan? When I first watched it—when it originally aired—I was pretty bummed by what seemed like a lot of unrealized potential, but on further viewings, it’s really grown on me. I’m pretty interested in some of its ideas about identity and consent.)

I am practicing walking in the most comfortable, supportive shoes I have ever owned. Jas teases me that my Alegria Palomas are "prescription shoes" and they are definitely clunky looking, but wow, seriously comfortable.

New Year’s Eve is the best excuse to eat blinis with creme fraiche and smoked salmon.


Holiday Curriculum: Putting the Fun Back in Your Holidays

Pinning this to remember for next Christmas: A day-by-day plan to make the holidays more meaningful and less hectic.

Moms, we know how hard you work all year long. Your efforts truly make the world a better place. So, with the holiday season upon us, I’ve decided to do something different this month. Instead of bringing you my latest, greatest curriculum discoveries, I went digging for resources intended especially for you—and I think I’ve found just the thing!

Amy Bowers blogs beautifully about “creative family living” at mamascouts.blogspot.com. She is also the host of periodic online learning labs. This month, for the fourth year in a row, Amy looks forward to helping folks gear up for the season with her online resource, Holiday Lab. The primary aim of this lab is to inspire a calm, restorative holiday season and help readers find ways to be truly present to the beauty of the season.

In a letter to subscribers Amy explains, “Holiday Lab is a process (your process). A yearly reflection and meditation about tradition, creation and the shadow and light in our lives. This is not a to do list, a manifesto, or a guide book. It is an invitation and permission to carve out a tiny bit of quiet and to reclaim ownership of a season whose success and magic is often borne on the shoulders of moms and women.” 

Sound good? I thought so, too! Here’s how it works. As a subscriber, you receive a lab in your inbox ten days in a row—weekdays only. As each lab is yours to keep, you can work at your own pace throughout the season.Each lab opens with an inspiring quote followed by a lovely essay written by Amy. In past years these pieces have been reflections on such themes as maintaining health, making space—both physical and mental, the value of simplifying the holidays as well as her thoughts on family traditions.

Do you journal? Is this a practice you’ve been meaning to establish forever? Get started by using Holiday Lab’s thoughtful journal prompts. Each prompt is a question inspired by Amy’s essays and will get you thinking about the way that you approach the holiday season.

The creative projects portion of each lab is great fun. Here Amy provides ideas to try with your family or, if you prefer, to do all on your own. Previous project ideas include vision boards, making ornaments and surprising someone in your community with a special handcrafted treat. Each idea nicely complements featured essays and journal prompts.

I love the recipe ideas that Amy provides in a section she calls “Soul Food.” Each looks nourishing and delicious, but also simple and straightforward—just what we need this time of the year.

A very special Holiday Lab feature is the private Facebook group Amy moderates for participants. Here members offer one another additional support and ideas to infuse the holidays with meaning and mindfulness.

Holiday Lab celebrates Christmas as a cultural tradition and is secular in its approach. Amy notes that everyone is welcome; the themes explored are “broad enough to serve any religion or ideological framework.”

In the upcoming months of homeschooling, holiday magic-making for family and friends, pause for a second and give yourself a gift. Holiday Lab starts November 30th. The cost for the lab is $30. To register, go here.

In the festive days ahead, you’ll probably find your days are especially full. Throughout this time, give yourself extra self-care. Make time for creativity, reflection and good food. Dance and laugh with friends. Drink cocoa! Make many moments to pause with your little ones and just absorb the simple beauty of the season. Happy holidays, everyone. 


How to Make a Simple Thanksgiving Wreath

How to make a simple Thanksgiving wreath with materials you find on your next nature walk

A few years ago, my eldest son and I made what we call a Thanksgiving wreath. To me, it also celebrates the changing of the seasons because we got all our materials from nature.

All you need to do is wander around outside and pick up whatever you think might look pretty on your wreath. What a great excuse to get the kids out into nature! You can wander around your yard, a park, or multiple places.

As you can see from ours, we used raw cotton that we got at a nearby homestead, acorns, pinecones, leaves, twigs and sweet gum balls. I bet you can find all sorts of other things in your backyard as well.

To make it, I cut out the shape of a wreath in a piece of heavy cardboard for our backing, and then I helped my son glue his decorations wherever he wanted them to go. You’ll need to use a strong glue such as a hot glue gun or tacky glue.

I think even my non-crafty crew could pull off this simple Thanksgiving wreath — love that it incorporates nature walk findings.

If you make a Thanksgiving wreath, please share a link to a photo of it. I’d love to see what you come up with!



Easy, Thoughtful Holiday Gifts to Make with the Kids

Easy, Thoughtful Holiday Gifts to Make with the Kids

I like my friends, so I want to make them something awesome—but my time and budget are always limited. Maybe you’re in the same boat? We’ve rounded up a bunch of easy DIY gifts that are simple enough to make with your kids (obviously you know their abilities best) but nice enough to make your friends feel like they ended up on your family’s NICE list this year.