It’s the holiday season and winter is coming! But that doesn’t mean that school or learning needs to stop. For homeschooling families, learning can be worked in any time. The holidays and the winter season offer a great opportunity to experience new things and explore with education!
Travel the World
You can experience Christmas or Hanukkah around the world, without ever leaving your own living room!
In Sweden, Christmas begins on December 13 with St. Lucia Day. One girl in a community is chosen to portray St. Lucia. She then delivers goodies to others while wearing a long white gown and a crown of candles. Other children wear glitter in their hair or tall paper hats with stars.
Many European countries also celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6. St. Nicholas, who eventually morphed into Santa Claus, was a real-life person who gave gifts in secret and helped others. Families today celebrate this special day with small gifts, treats, or by doing good deeds for others.
Hanukkah is also a holiday rich in traditions, with global variations based on country, climate, or history. In the Alsace region of France, many families have double decker menorahs. With sixteen candles, fathers and sons can complete the candle lighting ceremonies together. In other countries, the latkes we associate with the Festival of Lights are replaced by plantains or special spiced fruit donuts.
As a family you could choose a few different countries or traditions to investigate and celebrate this year. Children can use books and the internet to find out the history and hallmarks of their special celebration, then share it with the family or with your co-op. Make traditional foods, listen to music from that culture, or play some children’s games to make it a party!
Fractals and Flakes
If you live in a colder climate, snow is everywhere. Which makes doing math with snowflakes a no brainer!
In Vermont in the 1800s, Wilson Bentley was fascinated by snowflakes and their never ending uniqueness. So he taught himself to photograph snowflakes and helped to show the world how different each one really was. Bentley is immortalized in Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. The stunning graphics provide beautiful visuals of the drive of a passionate human, and create a cool connection between early photography, winter, snowflakes, art, and math.
If you have a budding photographer, he or she might even try to take pictures of snowflakes! You will need a macro lens and to be located in a cold winter climate. EarthSky provides very nice instructions.
Snowflakes are essentially natural fractals, or never ending connected patterns. This is a field inside of geometry, and is a natural fit for integrating art and math. Koch snowflakes are relatively easy to make, and just require a pencil, a ruler, and a few sheets of paper. They focus a lot on triangles, and would be a great tie-in for a basics geometry unit.
Another avenue to go would be to make traditional paper snowflakes. Follow the guide below, then add your own cuts to create your own unique snowflake. This is a great way to create a family collage.
There are tons of websites that allow you to view artistic fractals or to make your own! When you view the fractals, you could discuss what shapes you see repeating and how you think the pattern changes over time.
Since most of these activities are art, reading, or online based, this mini-unit can be experienced anywhere!
Winter time makes people want to snuggle up with their favorite warm food or drink. This can be an easy entry point for kids to get into the kitchen, learn family history, and practice their fractions, measuring, and reading skills.
Every family has a few special recipes that trigger memories or have been passed down over the generations. Take this opportunity to share these with your children, or involve an older adult relative! Talk about your memories of eating or making the food, why it is important to you, and your special twist on it. Encourage your child to share their own memories of the special treat. If you can, it would be especially neat to record family memories on video or in writing to reflect on in the future. By sharing a family recipe, you are creating memories and teaching your child first-hand about collecting oral histories.
Cooking involves specific quantities of each ingredient. Then you have to combine the ingredients in a very specific order and in a particular manner. This involves reading directions and understanding the meaning of the words. Kids would also need to differentiate between the different measuring cups and spoons, and find the right tools for each step in the recipe. That is a whole lot of reading and math thinking!
At the end, share the food that you have cooked together as a family to create new memories!
Meg Flanagan is a special and elementary education teacher who holds an M.Ed in special education and a BS in elementary education. In addition to classroom experience, she has also worked in private tutoring and home schools. Meg is passionate about education advocacy for all children, but especially for children with special needs and children of military and state department personnel. You can find Meg online at MilKids Education Consulting, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.