As the weather gets colder in the Midwest, our family starts to settle into a slower rhythm of life. The sun goes down before dinner, so our evenings consist of reading books aloud, puzzles, games, or handicrafts. Most of the girls’ school activities are pausing for the winter months, making our days less full.
November and December bring out the best of our family during the winter season. Winter is fresh and exciting in the beginning. The snow is a welcome addition to our days. Sledding, building snowmen, and playing on “Snowflake Island” are what the girls look forward to after their school work is complete. This time of the year, I need to have all the necessary components of a snowman in my fridge and three working spray bottles to paint the snow with food dye. We are still eagerly waiting for our first significant snowfall.
We stick closer to home and simplify life. Over the last few weeks, I purchased new read-aloud books for our evenings. Two winters ago, we read through all seven Chronicles of Narnia books, while last winter, we managed to read The Hobbit as a family. The girls love listening to stories in the evening as we all gather around our fire with hot tea.
Slowing down and simplifying is part of preparing ourselves for Advent. Advent is the season of expectantly waiting for Christmas. Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas day. This year Advent starts on Sunday, November 29th, and always ends on Christmas Eve. Carving out time during these four weeks allows us to focus on what it means to wait and prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:6
Favorite Advent Books
As a homeschool family, our school days start with Morning Time. Morning Time is when we gather on the couch and read. This is a natural time in our day to add in our favorite Christmas books that keep our hearts focused on the true meaning of Christmas.
Each year, I add a few new books to our Advent collection. Tabitha Travels by Arnold Ytreeide was our new book last year. This book is set up to read one chapter a day through the Advent season. The girls loved the storyline so much that we finished it much earlier than I thought we would. Thankfully, Arnold Ytreeide has a 4 book Advent series, so I purchased Jotham’s Journey and Bartholomew’s Passage to add to our Morning Time reading this year.
Advent Book collection
- The Advent Book by Jack & Kathy Stockman
- Nancy and Plum by Betty MacDonald
- The Christmas Surprise by Ruth Nulton Moore
- The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
- The Story of Holly & Ivy by Rumer Godden
- A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Ziefert
- Angles Came Down Told by Aunt Theresa
As I reflect and plan what I want the purpose of Advent season to be for my family, I want us to focus daily on loving others like Jesus did. Reading books to my girls helps them understand people in circumstances that are different from theirs. Stories about children who have experienced loss or hardship that my girls have never seen up close develop empathy and compassion for others.
Changing our morning read-aloud books to our favorite Advent books does not require extra time or energy. I purchased a few new ones and am set for December 1 when our Advent books will be added to our school rhythm.
Christmas around the World
Our core homeschool curriculum is Exploring Countries and Cultures from My Father’s World. This curriculum explores a particular country for two weeks by studying its ecosystems, people groups, history, industry, culture, food, and holidays. Learning about how these different countries and cultures celebrate Christmas is a natural way to expand our Advent celebrations.
Since we are already spending time studying other cultures and reading up on festivals that are important to other people groups, it is easy to add the element of Christmas to these studies. In November, the girls will be studying countries in Europe, so I am currently researching books that will tell the girls about how Christmas is celebrated differently across the continent.
The Ideals Christmas Treasury is a book my mom gave to me that has a whole section about Christmas in Many Lands. This book is a perfect resource to pique the girls’ interest and see how much they want to dive in and explore Christmas traditions worldwide. Incorporating foods and traditions from countries around Europe enriches both our learning experiences and our Advent season.
Homeschool Advent Activities
This will be the first year that, as a family, we will be studying Christmas traditions in other cultures. I do incorporate different aspects of Christmas into our homeschool curriculum each year. I make sure that our Advent activities enhance what we are already studying and do not add extra planning and preparation.
In the past, we have studied other aspects of Christmas in-depth during our homeschool day. Resources that I have used in the past:
- 101 Hymn Stories to study Christmas Carols
- Truth in Tinsel incorporates crafts for younger kids
- The 12 days of Christmas
- Unwrapping the Greatest Gift
This is the season to simplify life and ensure that what our family focuses on will enhance this time of expectantly waiting for the birth of Jesus. It is important to implement Advent activities that are natural for your particular family.
Choosing a few meaningful traditions that our family enjoys has enhanced our Advent season. Reading books as a family and baking up a storm in the kitchen are already ingrained in our family culture. Adjusting these activities to be centered on Christmas celebrations does not require too much planning on my part.
Knowing what my family does well and where we thrive helps me bypass fun traditions that other families do during this season. Many families my girls know have an Elf on the Shelf at their homes. I am so happy that other moms can creatively come up with mischievous things for their family’s elf to do each day in December. I am just not that mom, and that is okay. The tooth fairy is pretty hit and miss around our house, so taking on an Elf seems like another chore. Being comfortable with our family culture and expanding on what we already do well brings more joy to our holiday season instead of stress.
What are your simple Advent traditions?
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