Christmas Traditions: Breakfast (and a Recipe)

For the first 33 years of my life I went to my grandfather’s house each Christmas morning for breakfast with my family. My parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all gathered together to enjoy breakfast, fellowship, and gifts. I have so many fond memories of those Christmas mornings. My grandfather passed away a few years ago and that first Christmas morning was bittersweet. I missed my grandfather dearly and it seemed so strange not to be there for Christmas morning. However, we started our own Christmas tradition as a family.

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I honestly do not remember what exactly we ate for breakfast when I was a young child, but for all of the Christmas mornings that I could remember we had sausage, eggs, bacon, and most importantly ‘cat head’ cheese biscuits. For those of you that are not from Eastern North Carolina, I want to clarify that a cat head cheese biscuit got its name from the size of the biscuit not the contents. These are large round biscuits filled with gooey melted cheese, like the ones on our plates in the picture at the top of this post.

While I still miss my grandfather, we have settled into a new family tradition that incorporates some of the old tradition and makes it our own.  When I was younger my grandparents house was only a few minutes from my home, but by the time I had my own children we were living almost 45 minutes away which made for a rushed morning to get there in time for breakfast. Now we have a slow relaxed morning before heading off to visit with family for lunch.

We get up Christmas morning and myself or my husband put an egg casserole and some homemade frozen cheese biscuits into the oven. The children can enjoy looking at their gifts, we can read the Christmas story from Luke, and then enjoy breakfast together around our kitchen table. The time together and the slower pace is nice. By choosing foods that can be prepped ahead of time we are able to have a nice yummy breakfast with minimal effort on Christmas morning. This helps me to be able to focus on my family and not spend my morning cooking and cleaning.  I have included my breakfast casserole recipe below in case you are looking for a simple breakfast idea for Christmas morning.

I hope that my children grow up with as many fond memories of Christmas as I have from my childhood. While it is sometimes fun to change things up and there should be no pressure to keep doing things that aren’t working for our family, traditions can be a great way to build family unity and memories. I would love to hear about your favorite family traditions or how you have incorporated old traditions into new ones as family dynamics have changed over the years.

Christmas Morning Egg Casserole

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

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This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

Amazon is doing it again! $5 off $20 Book Purchase. Use Code GIFTBOOK18. If you aren’t sure what book to buy you might want to check out this new book by Sally Clarkson that is on pre-order right now: Girls’ Club.

Exciting news from All About Learning Press this week! They are coming out with a full color edition of levels 1-4 All About Reading and to celebrate they are hosting a $1,000 giveaway! We use All About Spelling and are hoping to use All About Reading next year with my son who will be in Kindergarten.

My Snowman Paul is Free on Kindle and many others in the series are less than $1.

 

 

Crafting with Noodles!

We had some fun with noodles this past week and I wanted to share in case you were looking for a fun easy activity to do with your children. I did this activity with my four year old in mind but my ten year old joined in and had lots of fun as well.

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I chose this activity in part because we had all of the supplies on hand and it would be easy for the four year old to do with minimal help. He loves anything that involves paint and had been wanting to make some decorations to go on the small Christmas tree in his room.

First we chose our paint colors. Since we were looking for a Christmas theme we did red, green, and white. We split the noodles into three bags and put a squirt of paint into each bag (one red, one green, one white). Then, close the bags up and gently move the noodles around in the paint until they are fully covered. Next, spread the noodles on a cookie sheet to dry. We chose to cover the cookie sheet in parchment paper for easy clean up, but old newspaper would work as well.

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It took a couple hours for them to be fully dry. If you have little ones that take a nap or rest in the afternoon you can paint the noodles in the morning and let them know they can finish their project after rest time as an incentive.

Once the noodles are dry you can get creative with them. We were stringing them to make a garland for my son’s Christmas tree. He wanted to do a simple green, red, white pattern. I tied the first one onto the end of the string to keep the others from falling off and then let him go to work. He enjoyed stringing them on but did get a little bored towards the end, so I agreed to help him string them as long as he was giving me the colors in the pattern.  When he was done, I tied the last noodle to the other end of the string and we had a garland for his tree. He wrapped it around his tree and was quite pleased with this work.

While we did Christmas tree garland, you could also use these to decorate a mantle or window, small sections of yarn to make necklaces or bracelets, or have them removable to practice a variety of patterns or color recognition. If you have extra painted noodles left over just stick them in a Ziploc bag until you are ready to do another activity.

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What fun and simple crafts have you been doing with your children?

 

Supplies:

A variety of  washable paints

Ziploc Bags (1 for each color of paint)

Noodles (can be different kinds but need to have a hole in the middle)

Yarn or String

 

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

Amazon is doing it again! $5 off $20 Book Purchase. Use Code GIFTBOOK18. If you aren’t sure what book to buy you might want to check out this new book by Sally Clarkson that is on pre-order right now: Girls’ Club.

Exciting news from All About Learning Press this week! They are coming out with a full color edition of levels 1-4 All About Reading and to celebrate they are hosting a $1,000 giveaway! We use All About Spelling and are hoping to use All About Reading next year with my son who will be in Kindergarten.

My Snowman Paul is Free on Kindle and many others in the series are less than $1.

 

Christmas Traditions: Cousins and Cookies

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Christmas elicits so many emotions, both positive and negative.  Our goal as family during this season is to create many fun memories without going overboard and adding to the stress and overwhelm; all the while keeping our eyes on Jesus. Our family culture values time spent together and with those we love and we especially tend to gravitate towards that during the holiday season.

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Two years ago we decided that we wanted to do something fun with my children and my cousins’ children. We didn’t set out to start a tradition, just give the kids a chance to play and us a chance to visit and enjoy each other’s company. However, we did it again this year and decided that it was so much fun it needs to be an annual tradition.

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Most of our family lives with-in about a 45 minute radius of each other but we also have a cousin and her precious son that are many hours away. We try to schedule the cookie party when everyone can come but that is not always an option. If all of our little ones can make it we have eight children four and under. This can make for an exciting but messy event.

We always get together at Thanksgiving and Christmas for dinner and visiting but we really wanted an event that focused on the children and let them play and have a good time together. I originally thought about having them bake cookies together but quickly decided that might be a bit too much. If you have older children or fewer children, baking cookies might be a lot of fun. I let my four year old and ten year old help me bake the cookies the day before and my ten year old make the homemade icing.

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On the day of the cookie party everyone gathered at my mom’s house, (hers is closer to most of the family). First we let the children play outside and burn off a little energy. Then we brought them inside and let each of them choose one of our cream cheese cut out cookies to decorate. We had paper plates to put them on, plastic knives to spread the icing, and a variety of sprinkles and colored sugar to finish them off. My son is allergic to food dye so we made most of our own using India Tree natural colors.

Once they decorated their cookies they either ate their cookies or decorated other cookies for the adults in the room. It was really messy, there was probably some double dipping, but they had so much fun. There were smiles and giggles and lots of proud faces showing off their creations.

 

 

We did a quick craft using foam shapes and stickers, thanks to an inexpensive kit from Hobby Lobby.  Then we finished up the party with pizza and fruit. It was several hours well spent making memories. Aside from making the cookies the day before (and you could buy them in you wanted) there was very little preparation time and the only costs were the food and the $5 I spent on the craft kit. Sometimes it can feel like you spend so much time and energy on something and it is over in no time and not really worth this hassle, this event felt very low stress and my son is still talking about it over a week later.

You might not have a gaggle of young cousins that need to get together but this party could easily be adapted for different groups. You could invite friends, neighbors, or even a Sunday School class to attend your party. If you have older children, the children could actually bake the cookies and maybe even donate some of them to a local nursing home or fire department. When the children are a little older (i.e. have a bit longer attention spans), I want to add reading the book The Gift of the Christmas Cookie to the tradition. I already read it at home but thought it would be a little too much for the youngest ones to sit through.

I hope I have inspired you to add a cookie party to your list of fun Christmas traditions. If you have tried something similar or have other fun traditions that you would like to share with us please let us know in the comments. Stay tuned next week for more on another Christmas tradition, my daughter’s Christmas tea.

 

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

Amazon is doing it again! $5 off $20 Book Purchase. Use Code GIFTBOOK18. If you aren’t sure what book to buy you might want to check out this new book by Sally Clarkson that is on pre-order right now: Girls’ Club.

Exciting news from All About Learning Press this week! They are coming out with a full color edition of levels 1-4 All About Reading and to celebrate they are hosting a $1,000 giveaway! We use All About Spelling and are hoping to use All About Reading next year with my son who will be in Kindergarten.

My Snowman Paul is Free on Kindle and many others in the sries are less than $1.

Our Christmas School Plans

 

Last week I shared about all of the books I wanted to read during December. As much as I want to focus on reading lots of good Christmas books, we will also be doing some other fun and simple activities.

First, as I thought about independent reading I decided that each of my older children would read a different Christmas or Hanukkah book each school day during December.  We have a multitude of great picture books that will be easy for them to read in one day but still provide great reading practice. Over the course of each week they will choose two that they really enjoy and write a paragraph reviewing the book and telling why they enjoyed it. They will also come up with one or two extra activities that could be used to supplement the books they are writing about (a recipe, a model, a research project, etc). My goal is to publish these on the blog.

*Some of the links in my posts may be affiliate links see below for more information. *

For musical studies we will be doing a hymn study of O Holy Night (coming soon to the blog) as well as enjoying a few fun activities to go along with other Christmas Carols from At Home: Where Life Happens. I love that her ideas are fun but simple to implement.  I know my children will love the marshmallow creations to go along with a couple of her song choices.

For art studies we are going to choose one lesson from our ChalkPastel.com lessons each week. I’m really excited about Away in a Manger. We will also be making a few Christmas crafts and pictures to send to grandparents,aunts, and uncles that live far away. This time of year seems to lend itself to lots of creative activities.

I have noticed that my children have been a bit lazy about their handwriting lately and I wanted to get back to doing copywork to help address it. I found this great set of Christmas poem copywork at Schoolhouse Teachers. I am going to have them complete one poem each school day.  They also have lots of other resources, lessons and videos in their Christmas Corner. If we have extra time we may enjoy some of the videos or other activities that are included in that section.

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A few of the activities and lessons included in the Schoolhouse Teachers Christmas Corner.

Bible study will be an important part of our December studies. We have really enjoyed using the Unwrapping the Greatest Gift advent study in the past. I also really like the free advent printables from Kim at Not Consumed. I am still praying about which study would be most beneficial to us as a family this season. I want to keep our focus on the Bible and not get into a system that becomes overwhelming.

This year we will continue with our normal math programs for my older two children (Math For A Living Education and A+ Math) in order to help make up some of the time we missed due to Hurricane Florence. However, my four year old will enjoy using pattern blocks and some fun free Christmas math printables.

My goal is to be able to continue making academic progress while focusing our attention on Christmas. There are so many things that keep us busy this time of year and want to minimize the stress of trying to ‘get it all done’ while still incorporating many fun holiday activities. My prayer is that this plan allows us to enjoy the holiday season, keep our focus on Jesus, and have time for rest and family fun.  Speaking of rest and family fun, I will be sharing later this week about a December challenge that I have given to myself and I would love to have you join the challenge. I plan to spend time each day focused on being still and being present. I will share my simple (and free) plan for spending time each day with God and my family.

What are you planning to do for school in December? Is it business as usual or do you change it up for Christmas. I’d love to hear what resources you love to use.

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

 

YWAM has a special 50% off collection on some really great biographies now through December 15th!

Amazon has some great Cyber Monday Week all week long! Including some great deals on Kindles.

Amazon Prime 30 day FREE trial. If you do not yet have Amazon Prime this is a great time to try it for free for 30 days! Get your Christmas shopping done with free shipping, enjoy Christmas music and more.

 

Educational Christmas Ideas (that don’t feel like school supplies)

When I start thinking about gifts I want to choose things that will bless the person that I am giving them to and not just take up space. We love to include educational items in our gift giving but I don’t want them to feel disappointed or like they got stuck with schoolwork for Christmas. If you want something they can really use and learn from without feeling like they got ‘stuck’ with something educational check out these art and music resources.

*Some of the links in my posts may be affiliate links see below for more information. *

Art supplies and classes are top on my list for this type of gift. It encourages creativity and most children tend to love the chance to express themselves through art. Over the course of this year I’ve had the chance to review four different types of art products that would all make great Christmas gifts.

First are You Are An Artist Chalk Pastel Lessons. These are so much fun and so easy for a beginner to get started while being varied enough to keep a more skilled child interested. They offer seasonal courses, themed courses, history related courses, and our personal favorite a Clubhouse Membership which gives you access to new projects each month. They also have recently branched out and started included acrylic lessons! My oldest enjoyed the lessons except that he really didn’t like how the chalk pastels got on his hands. We had been adapting by allowing him to use color pencils but I recently discovered these chalk pastel pencils that I’m going to get him as part of his Christmas to give him the ability to blend and shade like the pastels but still keep it off of his hands. (They are having a 25% off sale this week so its a great time to check them out.)

The second art lesson/projects that we tried and loved are the Kidzaw Master Kits. We reviewed the Starry Night kit and the children really enjoyed it. The box came with enough supplies for two completed projects (the same project done twice) and the project took less than an hour from start to finish. They recreate a famous work of art and get the opportunity to learn  a little more about the artist.  They have lots of other kits and even this fun party kit that makes up to 12 pieces of the art work. That would be a fun and inexpensive alternative to doing a birthday party at one of the art studios.

Zirrly Super Beads are another great option. These low mess beads are easy to put together with a bit of water and a lot of fun for a variety of ages. My four year old did them with a bit of help from his sister but my ten and twelve year olds still enjoyed using them and doing some of the more complicated designs.  The fourth fun art option we reviewed this year were Pencil Grip Magic Stix Markers. These were great options for older children (old enough to be careful and not write on things they are not supposed to). They do not dry out like many markers and have a dark strong color that is great for a variety of projects.

Not a specific product but another idea that my children have loved is a ‘bucket full of art’. You can gather a variety of supplies and put them together in a bucket full of art supplies that they can use to create whatever they can imagine. We always like to include the basics such as scissors, paper, crayons, and glue. Then we find some other fun items like stickers, clay, paint, beads, yarn or glitter glue. You can order these items online or check out your local craft store. They can provide hours of fun for a very reasonable price.  For older children you could include supplies specific to a hobby or supplies for making slime and goo.

Some children prefer music to the arts and there are lots of options for musically inclined children. I am not musically inclined but my children have been showing interest in various musical instruments.  My four year old really wants to learn to play the harmonica. I’m not quite ready to help him learn but I did find this great harmonica and book with video lessons for when I think he is old enough to get started. The great thing is I could get both for under $20 total.

My twelve year old has been learning to play the guitar using Guitar 360 Method and really enjoying it. These online video lessons are significantly cheaper than in person lessons and give us the flexibility of being able to complete them whenever he has a few minutes. If you have a student that is interested in learning to play the guitar, but you do not have the time or finances for in person lessons this is a great option. Since he is already taking the lessons I am purchasing this collection of guitar picks as a stocking stuffer for him this year. (Check out the blog post for a 20% off coupon.)

Elizabeth is learning the violin. In interest of full disclosure I prefer listening to guitar practice than violin but she loves it and is showing great progress. I will have a full review of that product coming in January but if you are interested in giving violin lessons as a gift check out Practice Monkeys.

Schoolhouse Teachers also has a great variety of music classes available with their family membership. In addition to all of the other core and elective classes they offer both guitar and violin courses that have video components. They also offer music theory, voice, and recorder classes. In addition to those instruments there are a variety of musical unit studies and classes. One membership covers all of the courses for an entire family so this is a very economical option. (Check below for a great sale on Schoolhouse Teachers)

I hope that you found some fun and educational gift ideas to support your budding artist or musician. Please share in the comments any additional ideas that you have for fun gifts that are also beneficial.

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

A Christmas Carol Audio Book Only $.66 (Amazon prices subject to change)

Amazon has put Heroes Next Door: Hornet 24 on sale and there is a coupon on the page to make it even cheaper! This is a great Christmas gift.

Free I”m Thankful For…. Book from Amazon! (Always check prices as they are subject to change)

The 2018 Lego Advent Set is on sale right now for only $21.97. If you are looking for one grab it soon because they typically sell out!

2018-fall-harvest-special-ban-240x400-2

FREE Fall in Love with Science e-book from Apologia

The World of Peter Rabbit and His Friends Only .99 on Kindle! We love Beatrix Potter’s stories and this one includes her original illustrations.

Sunny Under the Sea  Free (always double check because Amazon changes prices regularly!)

FREE: Check out this great new FREE resource for classical and Charlotte Mason education! Classical Christian Education & Charlotte Mason. Great for folks already homeschooling or if you have friends that are looking into it!

FREE Writing About Books: Book Reports And Beyond from Write Shop!
Not Consumed is having a great sale from 11/20-11/26. I have not tried all of her products but we love her hymn studies and have used and enjoyed several of her Bible studies. My children are currently working through the sibling challenge journals that are on sale.

Black Friday Deals Christmas Gifts

A Cozy, Book Filled December

We started our school year the day after Labor Day and that first week went just as planned. Half-way through week two we were hit with Hurricane Florence and nothing has really been the same since. We took several weeks off during the worst of the recovery but then we started working school in around relief efforts. For our family that meant helping prepare and serve meals to the volunteers that have been staying at our church to help the community.  We would school first thing in the morning before going to serve lunch, or bring math books  and reading with us to work on during down time. Music lessons were happening before breakfast or sometimes even using the laptop at the church.  This was what needed to happen and the children have learned a lot from the real life experience of helping to serve others. They have even made new friends from all over the eastern United States.  However, there are some things that I’d really like to do this December to help us focus and enjoy the season.

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We love books and have a collection of Christmas books that takes up several boxes. I try to add one or two books to it each year. While we will still be volunteering during the first few weeks of December, we will have several weeks off and even the days we are volunteering should be a little slower than those first couple of months. I want to fill our time with lots of Christmas focused read alouds. I purchased Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien as a new read aloud for my older children this year. If time allows I’d also like to read aloud A Christmas Carol to them.  If you do not have A Christmas Carol the audio book is currently only 66¢ on audible.

For my four year old I’m purchasing the book An Otis Christmas. We love all of the other Otis books that we have purchased so far and are looking forward to adding this one to the collection. These books are adorable books about a little tractor named Otis and the lessons he learns through his many adventures on the farm. The are sweet and lovely little books that he likes me to read over and over.

In addition to those books we will read lots of holiday themed picture books. I know one of the first ones they will ask for when they realize that the Christmas books are down from storage is Cranberry Christmas. This is a delightful sequel to Cranberry Thanksgiving that we purchased last year. They also enjoy The Very First Christmas which is a recordable book that I recorded myself reading several years ago. Other favorites include The Gift of the Christmas Cookie and The Very First Christmas. There are so many more and I truly couldn’t pick just a few favorites.

Throughout the month my goal is to read whenever we can. Sometimes that might mean just grabbing a book and reading for a few minutes in the morning. Other times, we will pour hot cocoa or eggnog and snuggle up on the couch to read. I have lots of recipes for great Christmas cookies that we hope to have time to bake and enjoy while we read. However, if life gets busy and there is no time to bake or baking feels more stressful there is no shame in having a premade snack. You can enjoy popcorn or cookies from the store. While I want to spend plenty of time with me doing the reading, we may also choose to listen to some of these stories as audio books when we need to be in the car.

I plan to have some of these books displayed as decorations, as well as several baskets with the other books placed throughout the house. I want the books to be a visual reminder to me of our commitment to make this a cozy December full of reading. Having them placed in various locations at easy reach will also make it easier to read in those little pockets of time between activities and commitments. When I look back at the end of the month, I don’t want it to be with regret for what we didn’t do but with peace about the time we spent together.

I thought I was going to leave you with a list of my top ten favorite Christmas books but I was having such a hard time deciding. So, I have several lists of great Christmas books that fit various age groups and situations. I would truly love to hear your favorite books because I’m always looking to add new books to our list. I hope you will join us in making December a month full of good memories and lots of books!

Books For Young Children

The Story of Christmas  (board book)

An Otis Christmas

Usborne Lift-the-Flap Nativity

One Baby Jesus (board book)

Christmas in the Barn

The Jolly Christmas Postman

Jan Brett’s The Night Before Christmas (the illustrations for this one are wonderful)

That’s Not My Snowman (board book)

Our Family Favorites

The Very First Christmas

Cranberry Christmas

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie

The Night of Las Posadas

A Little House Christmas

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift (Advent Devotional)

Legend of the Poinsettia

Chapter Books

The Best Chrsitmas Pagent Ever

A Christmas Carol

Letters From Father Christmas

Cole Family Christmas

Magic Tree House Christmas in Camelot

New Books We Are Adding This Year

An Otis Christmas

An Amish Christmas

Letters From Father Christmas

Cole Family Christmas

Audio Books

The Night Before Christmas

A Christmas Carol and Other Favorites

A Christmas Carol (less than $1 at the time of posting)

Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Adventures in Odyssey Count Down to Christmas

 

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

 

Deals and Freebies!

A Christmas Carol Audio Book Only $.66 (Amazon prices subject to change)

Amazon has put Heroes Next Door: Hornet 24 on sale and there is a coupon on the page to make it even cheaper! This is a great Christmas gift.

Free I”m Thankful For…. Book from Amazon! (Always check prices as they are subject to change)

The 2018 Lego Advent Set is on sale right now for only $21.97. If you are looking for one grab it soon because they typically sell out!

 

2018-fall-harvest-special-ban-240x400-2

FREE Fall in Love with Science e-book from Apologia

The World of Peter Rabbit and His Friends Only .99 on Kindle! We love Beatrix Potter’s stories and this one includes her original illustrations.

Sunny Under the Sea  Free (always double check because Amazon changes prices regularly!)

FREE: Check out this great new FREE resource for classical and Charlotte Mason education! Classical Christian Education & Charlotte Mason. Great for folks already homeschooling or if you have friends that are looking into it!

FREE Writing About Books: Book Reports and Beyond from Write Shop!

 

 

12 Days of Christmas or Relax and Enjoy!

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In some ways it is very hard to believe that Christmas is only a couple days away.  It feels like December has flown by. We have had lots of great times baking cookies, reading  Christmas books, enjoying hot cider and cocoa, and doing ‘Christmas School’.  This week we enjoyed  some beautiful Christmas lights. There is a street in our town that goes all out with Christmas balls and other decorations. Luckily for us, our friends live on that street, so we parked in their yard and took a walk to enjoy the Christmas lights.

*Some of the links in my posts may be affiliate links see below for more information. *

We have also enjoyed giving back a little this year. We participated in Wreaths Across America with our AHG and Trail Life Troops, we did some fun things with Lightem’ Up, volunteered with our local historical site, the kids did the Detective Givemore Freebie and enjoyed implementing those ideas as well. We bought and wrapped Christmas gifts, we have participated in various church services (including the 3 year old singing ‘Away in a Manger’ with his class), mailed the Christmas cards, and decorated the tree. We even made a bit of Christmas art including painting poinsettias and some fun Christmas themed chalk pastels.

 

However, like many years before this there are other things I meant to get done. The kids really wanted to do a gingerbread house, there are some Christmas movies we have not yet watched, and a some other fun bucket list activities that we have not yet completed.  I doubt I am the only one in this situation. If you find yourself stressed because you have not checked off everything you wanted to accomplish, I want to remind you to relax and enjoy Christmas.

First, Christmas is about the birth of Christ and not all the other fun and busy stuff. This doesn’t mean those other things are bad, but if you find yourself overwhelmed let them go and focus on Jesus and family.  As a mom, it is so easy to let myself get wrapped up in the preparations and details. I forget to focus on the worship and wonder. Let go of the added expectations and the stress over what didn’t get done.  Spending time worshiping HIM this season is more important than those little details.

Secondly, we always hear the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ and we tend to think about the days before Christmas. In our culture today, Christmas is often considered ‘over’ on December 26th. However, traditionally the twelve days started on Christmas and ended with another celebration on Twelfth Night or Three Kings Day. I don’t say that to imply that you need to spend those twelve days frantically filled with Christmas activities, but if you haven’t’ done some of the things you planned to do, simply enjoy Christmas and then do some of those activities in the days after Christmas.  For our family this year, that will involve a gingerbread house, a trip to a Christmas light show (which thankfully is open until New Years) and some Christmas movies. If you had great intentions for getting that craft done, but never had time or baking those cookies use those days after Christmas to continue enjoying the season and celebration.

I pray that you have an enjoyable Christmas and that you are able to take the time to truly relax and enjoy it. I’ll be taking a few days off of the blog to focus on my family. When I return I’ll tell you more about our New Years traditions, Three Kings Day/ Twelfth Night, and our plans for the rest of the school year.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Deals and Freebies!

Amazon is doing it again! $5 off $20 Book Purchase. Use Code GIFTBOOK18. If you aren’t sure what book to buy you might want to check out this new book by Sally Clarkson that is on pre-order right now: Girls’ Club.

Exciting news from All About Learning Press this week! They are coming out with a full color edition of levels 1-4 All About Reading and to celebrate they are hosting a $1,000 giveaway! We use All About Spelling and are hoping to use All About Reading next year with my son who will be in Kindergarten.

Homeschool Buyers Co-op also has many digital options on sale right now. Music lessons, digital reading, and more.

My Snowman Paul  is free on Kindle (as of posting Amazon changes prices frequently so always double check before purchase).

snowman

Need a good way to organize all of these great printables and have access to them when you need them? Try a free Dropbox Plan.

Amazon Prime 30 day FREE trial. If you do not yet have Amazon Prime this is a great time to try it for free for 30 days! Get your Christmas shopping done with free shipping, enjoy Christmas music and more.

$10 Sign-Up Bonus for Ibotta and they are doing some major savings and rebates starting today. Great way to save money on the things you are already buying.

$40 off your first HelloFresh Box

If you are looking for some maps to help extend your geography check out these from Knowledge Quest Map Trek (including a free sampler).

Homeschool Buyers Co-Op is offering a great deal on Discovery Education Streaming right now.

Two Free Audio Books with an Audible Trial and if you aren’t sure what to start with I’d suggest checking out the Green Ember or The Penderwicks for good family choices.

Also check our free resource library with history freebies, recipes, and four Christmas freebies!

When you sign up for our free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library

This post may contain affiliate or referral links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Our Holiday Baking Traditions and Ideas

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When I think about the holidays, I have many memories of family events, fun activities, and church services. Baking and cooking in the kitchen are among some of my fondest memories. I remember making cut-out sugar cookies each year with my mama. Some years my cousins or friends would join in the fun. I also remember that each year my grandmother would get together with her sisters and they would spend a day baking all different kinds of cookies to have throughout the holiday season. They had so much fun together that day and we kids enjoyed sampling all of their hard work.  I’ve been baking with my children for years and while we bake all year long it seems we do even more baking near the holidays as we prepare to give baked goods as gifts and to feast and enjoy.  This year we even started a new tradition of decorating cookies with my cousins and their little ones. We had five children 3 and under (and two more that couldn’t’ make it this year) and they had so much fun putting icing and sugar on the cookies. It was messy and a bit crazy but so much fun and so many memories were made.

Sometimes we hesitate to get into the kitchen and bake because we are worried our kids are too young, it will be too big of a mess, the cookies won’t turn out right, or we feel there are so many other things to do and it is just one more thing on an ever growing to-do list.  I really want to encourage you to take the time to make those memories, but I also want to give you permission to do what works for you. We most frequently bake our cookies from scratch and even the little ones help mix and pour. It helps with fine motor skills and the bigger children work on math as they do measuring and fractions. However, sometimes you just buy the Betty Crocker mix and make the cookies. If baking with your little ones seems like just too much, start by baking them yourselves and letting them help decorate. In our house we have one who can’t tolerate food dyes, so we use India Tree Natural Colors to make icings or colored sugar (simply take regular table sugar and mix in a few drops of coloring) to decorate.

If you want to have cookies ready to go for fun events, tea times, unexpected company, or other events you can make extra cookie dough and freeze the dough in a log or in balls and have it ready to go next time you need cookies. This helps limit the mess and save some time while still letting you use whatever homemade recipe you love. There are some recipes that do not freeze well but most basic chocolate chip, sugar cookies, shortbread, or gingerbread cookies do well in the freezer.

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Three Kings Day Cake baked by my daughter for our 4-H project.

Another fun idea is to invite some friends over for a cookie party. You can either have everyone bake  different kind of cookie at home and bring some to share or have everyone bring the ingredients and recipe for their favorite cookies and you can work together to bake the different types of cookies. Then each family can take some home or you can share them with neighbors, public service workers, or a nursing home.

Some of my favorites growing up were sugar cookies and chocolate chip. However, there are so many yummy varieties. I’ve included some of my favorite recipes for cookies that we use around Christmas as well as some favorites of friends of mine that celebrate Hanukkah. No matter what you celebrate baking together can create fond memories and delicious treats.

If you want a good book to go along with your cookie party and help you to focus on the story of Christmas, I recommend The Gift of the Christmas Cookie. It is a sweet and touching book that helps us remember what Christmas is all about. Our plan is to bake cookies next week and then enjoy reading the book while we sample some cookies and milk. Another fun choice is to read Cranberry Christmas and then bake the cranberry cookies from the recipe at the end of the book.

Cranberry Christmas

Cookie Recipes to Try:

Some of these were recommended by friends, some I found and wanted to try and some are family recipes that we have been using for years.

Hanukkah:

Honey-Nut Rugelach Cookies ( My friend made these for an international event we did this week and they were so very yummy!)

Stained Glass Cookies

Jelly Doughnuts (so not technically a cookie but a nice sweet treat)

 

Christmas and Generic Cookie Recipes:

Almond-Maple Short Bread (These are on my list to try this year)

Cream Cheese Cutout Cookies (these are the ones we made growing up)

Mama Grace’s tea cakes (My grandmothers recipe)

Granny’s Oatmeal Lace Cookies My husband’s grandmother’s recipe that she passed down to me.)

Also check our free resource library for two new Christmas freebies, Christmas Traditions and a Christmas Bucket List.

When you sign up for our free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library

This post may contain affiliate or referral links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

A Christmas Carol Audio Book Only $.66 (Amazon prices subject to change)

Amazon has put Heroes Next Door: Hornet 24 on sale and there is a coupon on the page to make it even cheaper! This is a great Christmas gift.

Free I”m Thankful For…. Book from Amazon! (Always check prices as they are subject to change)

The 2018 Lego Advent Set is on sale right now for only $21.97. If you are looking for one grab it soon because they typically sell out!

 

FREE Fall in Love with Science e-book from Apologia

The World of Peter Rabbit and His Friends Only .99 on Kindle! We love Beatrix Potter’s stories and this one includes her original illustrations.

Sunny Under the Sea  Free (always double check because Amazon changes prices regularly!)

FREE: Check out this great new FREE resource for classical and Charlotte Mason education! Classical Christian Education & Charlotte Mason. Great for folks already homeschooling or if you have friends that are looking into it!

FREE Writing About Books: Book Reports and Beyond from Write Shop!

“Silent Night” Challenge!

We speak every year of how crazy the Christmas season is…shopping, cooking, rehearsing, baking, wrapping, decorating, traveling…  So, I’m here to give you a challenge.  I was actually inspired by something I saw posted yesterday.

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Raise your hand if this sounds like a fabulous idea to you! I LOVE it! I’ve seen various posts in our group at Schoolin’ Swag about favorite Christmas read-alouds, or wrapping up 25 holiday books so that one can be opened and read together as a family every night. So nice.

I like the idea of quiet at Christmas. I really don’t think the actual Christmas night those many years ago was literally “silent”. Think about it…a thundering heavenly host, the raucous clamoring of the shepherds as they scrambled to spread the news, the crowds in Bethlehem, a stable full of animals, and a newborn baby. Okay, so really think through this with me…the sweet Christmas song says “But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes”… I think this is just a bit romanticized. Who wouldn’t be concerned about a newborn who makes no noise? 😉 Jesus was fully God and fully man. Babies cry to communicate all sorts of things. Let’s reconcile ourselves to that.

The quiet I relish at Christmas is for worship. It’s for thought. It’s for breathing the heavy sigh of contentment in being surrounded by so much beauty this time of year. I love the stillness of an evening with fresh falling snow, away from city lights, far from traffic noise, when you can look up at the crystalline sky and imagine that Star. I like opportunities that take my spirit to that level of peace.

So, here’s the challenge. Find time for a “Silent Night” during your Christmas break. It can be Christmas eve, as suggested above, or another evening that is convenient. OR…even MORE than one! Turn off Netflix. Get away from the *beep* *boop* of phones, PS3’s, and all the rest. Savor quiet.

I remember one of my favorite things to do during Christmas vacation as a kid was to lie down under the Christmas tree, looking up through the branches, and listening to the favorite Christmas LPs we pulled out every year. Calming. Focusing. Restful.

I’d love to hear about your “Silent Night” attempt! Share in the comments below, message me, or come join Schoolin’ Swag and share with all of the wonderful folks there!

 

Christmas Education Freebies

I enjoy doing things that are deeply meaningful with my kids at Christmas.  Yes, we do  the “drive around and look at Christmas lights” thing traditionally every year after our Christmas Eve service, but I especially love things that teach in depth about what “God with us” is all about.  We have used Chrismons in the past, and our own version of a Jesse tree. We also use an advent calendar that I bought inexpensively at Oriental Trading (I made little slips with scripture readings to tuck in the pockets for daily readings).  This year we will be helping as a family to serve Christmas dinner to the needy at our church.  It is great to have a giving project to do together at a time when so much focus is placed upon getting.

If you are trying to get beyond the gimmies, Santa, and the “happy holidays” dilution of the meaning of Christmas, you will be blessed by the items that can be found at this link. You will find a printable Advent calendar, Nativity felt board pieces, a Christmas Scripture quiz, several free lapbooks, and a unit studies all about Christmas.