Archives for December 2011

Keeping the Obligation Out of Tradition

Written by contributor Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home

I am a great lover of family traditions. In fact, my entire master’s thesis was built around the theme of tradition and legacy. I love the stories that are passed down from generation to generation, the bits of family legend, as well as the tangible items: our grandmothers’ china, the old grenade and bayonet from World War II, Aunt Mabel’s jewelry, old books inscribed in elegant handwriting, and threadbare quilts with my mother’s old dresses.

In our own family, my husband and I decided early on in our marriage to deliberately cultivate traditions. We had one or two of our own before the kids were born and then added to them yearly. We have collected a solid stash of them in these 20-some years, from candlelight dinner every Saturday night, to the bedtime reading ritual, to taping numbers all around the house each birthday eve in celebration of a child’s new age.

Most holidays have their own traditions: decorating Christmas cookies, doing a Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt, hosting an annual October soup-and-pumpkin party. (If you are looking for some amazing ideas for family traditions, check out 10 Ideas To Get You Started at Simple Mom.)

Tradition anchors us. We take joy in unpacking the beloved ornaments each year and comfort in knowing there will be hashbrown casserole and cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning breakfast. Human beings, especially the very young and the very old, are naturally creatures of habit and order.

 But what happens when our kids outgrow the traditions, or just don’t want to take part? It will most likely happen, friends. Those of you who are just beginning this journey may find it impossible to believe that your wide-eyed little angel will someday be a 15-year-old who won’t want to sing Christmas carols around the piano or go with you to the annual performance of The Nutcracker that you have always attended. Together. As a family.
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Taking a Holiday Break (but not too big of a break)

We are half way through our second official year of homeschooling and we are still finding our way. I suppose we’ll always be finding our way.

It’s good to keep a beginner’s mind, yes?

We’ve learned a thing or two over the last year and a half – like the benefits and challenges of homeschool breaks. It’s not always as simple as it looks. Or so we have found.

The holidays are a perfect time to express our homeschool style. Many of us do this in the form of taking an extensive, well-deserved break from routine lessons.

It can be wonderful to embrace long festive days together as a family – filled with baking, crafts and holiday outings. Sometimes we just need time and space to be in our separate corners and regroup. I’m willing to step out on a limb and speak for the group here – I bet we’ve all been on both sides of this fence at one time or another.
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Weekend Links

Congrats to the two winners of Sparkle Stories–Danielle K and Jessamyn! Look for an email from me in your inbox.

“Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

Weekend Giveaway: Sparkle Stories

This giveaway has ended and the winners have been contacted via email. Thanks!

Today you’re in for a treat: an introduction to one of my family’s recent discoveries, Sparkle Stories. My three children have fallen in love with these imaginative tales, and I think yours will as well.

From Sparkle Stories:

“Sparkle is an online resource for high-quality audio stories for children and families. Each week Sparkle Stories delivers delightful audio stories to subscribers around the world.

We offer three original Story Series, plus a fourth Series with classic stories, songs and games, all designed to entertain and inspire the whole family. (Jamie’s note: One of the storylines, Martin & Sylvia, features a homeschooling family.)

Audio stories, or stories told out-loud, are untethered to images viewed on a screen. The child is free and able to paint her own pictures out of her own imagination. She becomes relaxed and entranced – committing herself fully to a fantastic adventure.

Sparkle Stories are fun, Sparkle Stories are inspiring, and Sparkle Stories are good for young minds and spirits! Our stories inspire a sense of wonder and magic in life, encourage creativity and a strong sense of self, and even illuminate common childhood challenges.”

Two Simple Homeschool winners will receive a 3-month subscription to the full Sparkle Story series–that includes all four stories.
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Creating a Candlelight Christmas

Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae

One of the most important locations in our home at Christmastime is the dining room. This is where our real Christmas celebration occurs throughout the month. I make sure that even if I don’t hang an ornament in any other room, the dining room gets special treatment.

Back when my oldest children were babies, I read about a family who eats by candlelight every night in December. It made the whole month feel special, even if they were just scarfing down pizza. Candlelight makes everything more elegant, right?

We began that tradition in our own home with just big thick candles in the middle of the table. I’ve added a few candlesticks and hurricane lamps over the years. I’m always on the hunt for the “perfect” Christmas candelabras, although my crew is content with pillar candles and votives for now.

I’ve found that, in the hustle of the season, this was a great time to slow down, look our loved ones in the eye, and let them know we think they’re worthy of a candlelight supper. Turning off the lights also seemed to quiet the noise, allowing us to focus on the people in front of us, the magic of the moment.
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