If we aren't careful, holidays can clean out savings and burn out energy. Kids may even forget basic information over a long break. However, it is possible to have a fun, inexpensive holiday, and help your child achieve academic gains at the same time.
Check scope and sequence or skills lists in books such as Teaching Children: A Curriculum Guide to What Children Need to Know at Each Level Through Sixth Grade by Diane Lopez. Note any skills your child needs to strengthen. Consider how to bridge learning gaps over the holidays, but try not to analyze too much. That can take all the fun out of a special day.
If your child finds history dull, explore unusual holidays such as Johnny Appleseed's Birthday (in September). If literature or social studies lacks luster, try Riley Day, which celebrates the birthday of the "Hoosier Poet," James Whitcomb Riley (in October). Learn how to celebrate your elders and respect authority on Grandparent's Day (first Sunday after Labor Day). Spend a day together, or at least eat dinner together, on Family Day in September (recently proclaimed by President Bush). And don't forget to check out holidays celebrated in other parts of the world!
Your local librarian can be your personal guide to holidays, books, and audio-visual materials. Check out library books on holiday unit studies, such as Holidays Through the Year (Grades 1-3). To find free unit studies online, google "free [holiday name] unit study" or "free [holiday name] unit studies."
Hint: if you rearrange the holiday calendar - for instance, if you study Easter a few weeks before or after the official date - you'll be able to obtain more materials. If you wish to study a holiday on the actual day, check out or reserve library materials well in advance.
Planning a long school break? Instead of assigning a traditional report on "What I Did During the Holiday," assign a holiday video or radio show project. For a story starter, speak into a recording device, "Hello, everyone out there in radio (or television, or whatever) land. On this day in history... " Next, get your child to tell what happened into the microphone.
Find many story starters and holiday ideas at akidsheart.com.
Create holiday scrapbooks or lapbooks. Lapbooks, also known as shutterbooks, typically contain pockets and flaps for storing manipulative objects. Space won't permit detailed instructions on making books with children; find out more through your local homeschool support group, or at knowledgequestmaps. com/article1.htm.
If you enjoy arts and crafts, you may want to develop your own lapbook ideas. Can you think of a way to make an Advent calendar lapbook? What could you put in the flaps and pockets?
Use homemade books to preserve holiday recipes, Bible history studies, and projects about seasons and creation. You may wish to make your own pictures to use in your lapbooks, and learn together about photography, computer graphics, topographical maps, costumes from other lands, and drawing techniques. If possible, get together with other families, and do holiday projects as a group. Multiply your holiday fun.
Parents will want to exercise wise discretion in choosing holiday unit studies. For instance, your family may wish to ignore World Television Day (November 21) if TV addiction is a problem... or to celebrate TV Turn-Off Week instead. It's in April - keep checking
tvturnoff.org/week.htm for the dates in 2007.
Some holidays are hard to categorize; you could use them to study many different subjects. I've organized abbreviated lists for November and December holidays, by subject, to get you started.
- Music, Arts, Literature, & Film. Roy Roger's Birthday, Saxophone Day, National Young Reader's Day, National Children's Book Week, Robert Louis Stevenson's Birthday, Claude Monet's Birthday, Mickey Mouse's Birthday (1928), Louisa May Alcott's Birthday (1832), Mark Twain's Birthday (1835), National Author's Day, Walt Disney's Birthday, Rudyard Kipling's Birthday.
- Food, Math, Science, & Fun. American Teddy Bear Day (make your own bear), National Nachos Day, Homemade Bread Day, National Oatmeal Muffin Day, National Maple Syrup Day, Peanut Butter Lovers' Month, X-Ray Discovery Day, National Cookie Day, Slinky Invented (1943), first Artificial Heart Transplant, Poinsettia Day.
- Social Studies. National Adoption Month, South Dakota Admission Day, North Dakota Admission Day, Daniel Boone's Birthday, Election Day, Montana Admission Day, Washington Admission Day, Veterans Day, National Geography Awareness Week, Oklahoma Admission Day, World Peace Day, Gettysburg Address Delivered, North Carolina Statehood Day, World Hello Day (how many ways can you say "Hello?"), Thanksgiving, Rosa Parks Day, Illinois Admission Day, Pearl Harbor Day, Hanukkah, Mississippi Admission Day, Indiana Admission Day, Alabama Admission Day, Bill of Rights Day, Boston Tea Party, Wright Brothers Day, Louisiana Purchase, Edison's First Publicly Demonstrated Light Bulb, Transistor Invented, Christmas, National Candy Cane Day (do you know the story of the Candy Cane?), Iowa Admission Day, Date Pledge of Allegiance Recognized, Texas Admission Day.
I don't know about you, but this is making me hungry - not just for food, but for more holidays! How can you find more special days? Buy a comprehensive holiday calendar, or find a free one online, such as Funday Calendars at homeschooling.about.com/cs/unitssubjhol/a/holidaystation.htm. Or make up your own. Simply celebrate an "un-birthday" tea party, as the Mad Hatter did in Alice in Wonderland.
You and your youngsters can greet tomorrow morning with sparkling eyes and bouncing steps, anticipating a wonderful holiday experience. Make any day a holiday; use free and frugal unit study ideas to help you.