When I was a little girl at Dilworth Elementary in Charlotte, North Carolina, November meant one thing: Thanksgiving break. It seemed like every classroom in every grade took a hiatus from the normal curriculum and focused on Native Americans, Pilgrims, cornucopias, pumpkins....the things of fall.
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There are some good things about public school, and the fun activities around holidays are right up there at the top. Homeschoolers, though, can have a lot of fun -- and educational time -- around holidays, too. In fact, we can take a lot of time and focus more on the meanings behind holidays.
When Laura was in the third grade, somehow, by the grace of God, our natural progression in history landed us squarely at the Pilgrims' landing at Plymouth. Most of the time, I can guarantee that history class won't be so accommodating. I doubt this year's lessons of Ancient Egypt will have us feasting with Native Americans and Pilgrims on corn, pumpkins, and venison.
Homeschooling at Thanksgiving offers a cornucopia (sorry, couldn't resist) of lesson ideas that can supplement what you're doing in homeschool, even if it has nothing to do with Pilgrims. Gratitude is always a good lesson to reiterate, as is why Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. Escaping religious persecution and placing faith in God first are always good things to discuss. Provide pens and copies of this "Three Things I'm Thankful For" activity for guests and family to complete. Then, share what you have written. You can also trade papers and have people try to guess the authors.
In our home, Thanksgiving is an all-hands-on-deck affair. We start on Tuesday, giving the kitchen a good cleaning and washing any special serving dishes we may need. We make a list of all the food to be purchased -- use this handy worksheet! -- and make a plan to cook dishes so that everything is done at the same time. It's also on Tuesday I make my Cranberry Relish, as it's so much better when it's had a couple of days in the refrigerator, although this year, my daughter will learn how to make it. For busy Thanksgiving Day mornings, I like to have breakfast already made so people can help themselves. A cherished family delight,Pumpkin Chip Muffins is always a hit on Thanksgiving Day morning -- or really, any time during fall and winter months.
My kids have always enjoyed helping me decorate for Thanksgiving. It helps when you have some cute decorations, like this"thankful" banner or this adorably cute Thanksgiving tablecloth. Of course, homeschooling at Thanksgiving would not be complete without some Pilgrim attire...
Kids love books about Thanksgiving, and one of my most favorite books is one I've had since I was a girl. Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin disappeared for a long time, but now it's back with a simple, heartwarming message and a delightful bread recipe to bake.
Several bloggers have put together activities, unit studies, and curriculum to go along with the Thanksgiving holiday. Here they are:
Rabbit Trails Through Thanksgiving by This Bit of Life
Intentional Activities for Kids -- Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt by Intentional in Life
Free Fall Thankfulness Journal for Kids by Kingdom First Motherhood
The Thanksgiving Jar -- A 30 Days of Gratitude Printable by They Call Me Blessed
Thanksgiving Book List Free Printable and a Thanksgiving Morning Time Resource Pack by Humility & Doxology
Year Round Homeschooling has a veritable cornucopia of Thanksgiving resources
I Choose Joy has these Fun Activities for Kids to do on Thanksgiving Day
Music in Our Homeschool features this Free 15-Minute Music Lesson for Thanksgiving
You can discover the history behind Thanksgiving and why we celebrate it with the e-book What Was the First Thanksgiving?. Filled with historical background on the Pilgrims and the reasons behind their voyage to the New World, the native Wampanoag tribe, the difficulties both groups encountered, plus the reason that Thanksgiving was made into a national holiday and more! Includes maps, paintings, and illustrations.
Thanksgiving is a time of reflection, giving thanks for all of God's provision. This year, my mother died on October 1 after a very brief battle with metastatic lung cancer. So this will be a very different holiday season. Yet, because of Jesus, I am filled with the hope of heaven and that one day, I will see her again, all because Christ was her Savior.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:4-5)
I thank God for each of you who read my posts and follow me on social media. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your support.
I like a clean house. I don't like cleaning house. There's the conundrum. And there's absolutely nothing like homeschool (and blogging / vlogging about homeschool) to make one acutely aware of just how messy and cluttered one's home really is.
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Listen, I've sat on this blog post for months now. Knowing that it's extremely hypocritical of me, and also knowing my adult children (and my husband) will read this post and go, "Do whatI?"
So this is my promise to myself that if I write it and publish it, I will actually do it. [insert laugh track here]
I firmly believe in teaching life skills in homeschool. While there is a day dedicated to paying taxes along with all the paperwork required to do so, there is not a Mesopotamian Day. Maybe there should be, but there isn't. We still need to learn history, including the Fertile Crescent, but knowing how to do taxes is important -- along with how to properly load a dishwasher, do laundry, operate (and clean out) a vacuum cleaner, etc. So here's the thing, the secret and joyful part about teaching life skills: you teach them so you can get your students to do them, so you don't have to do all of them.
Little kids can easily clean up after themselves. Teach the "clean up song," use a timer, whatever you need to do, to get them to help clean up the homeschool area before dinner -- especially if your homeschool area is, like mine, also the dining area.
Teach tweens to do their own laundry, load and unload the dishwasher as well as hand-washing dishes, clean the bathroom, and other necessary jobs. Teens need to learn about filing taxes, completing employment applications, voting, and heavier household tasks like moving. Ironing clothes, using a laundromat, repairing things, sewing, and car repair are all things that teens need to learn to prepare them for life as an adult.
It helps me when I manage the house by utilizing a schedule. Sticking to it on the long-term is something that I have an issue with. Check that: it's an opportunity for growth. Yes, that's it.
Some people have set days for laundry in which they do all their laundry on that one day. My adult sons, who live out of the house, bring over their laundry to work on as they do some outside chores for me that I just cannot do. It's a good system. Since I have a washer and dryer at my beck and call, I usually do a load a day, to stay on top of it. Do what you need to do -- but teach your little ones how to do laundry, too: sorting, washing (hot, cold, warm, etc), drying, folding, and putting away.
I have found that soaking dishes, then running them on express wash in the dishwasher, is a quicker method than on normal, particularly when I have to do a load before dinner so we'll have dishes to eat on, or if there are a lot of dirty dishes. I use the express wash a lot, and have become a fan of it, actually. If I soak and do an initial swipe with the scrubber brush beforehand, the express cycle does a great job of washing and sanitizing them. I've taught my daughter (the only child left at home) to do this, too, so now she loads and unloads the dishwasher.
In my homeschool, we schedule breaks in between two to three subjects. During these breaks, I ask my daughter to do a small chore, say, unload the dishwasher, then she can take her break. Usually she'll use the bathroom, grab a snack, go outside, and maybe play a game on her tablet. That's all fine to do, as long as she comes back without grumbling to get some more academics done. This is a system that works well for us.
We use the weekends for project days -- either deep cleaning or maintenance chores. Every other week, on Saturday night before bed, I'll put special cleaner in the washing machine and let it run at night. This way, it doesn't use up precious daylight hours when we could be doing washing clothes. The same goes for the dishwasher. I remove the filter, clean it and remove all the debris, then put it back. I like to use this cleaner to clean the dishwasher, as it removes limescale, grease, buildup, and rust (and it's all natural).
I have found by taking a couple of days and deep-cleaning the house (and, by the way, if the kids help do this, I think it counts as homeschool as it's teaching lifeskills), then maintaining the cleanliness through the week, neither the house or myself get overwhelmed with it all.
You may be homeschooling one while having a little one on your hip or at your ankles. Homeschooling a child while having a baby or toddler is tough, but not impossible. Teaching the toddler, especially, that this is the time for brother or sister's school will acclimate him or her about school. Try to include the toddler as much as possible -- they might want to do "school" too. Try these tips:
Homeschooling, homemaking, and your sanity can coexist, but it requires working smarter, not harder. Make the appliances and tools work for you, not against you. Unless they're paying rent in the form of cold hard cash, kids need to be doing chores, as they live there, too.
Finally, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a mental health day during the week, putting on some kid-friendly DVDs or streaming services, and letting the kids watch a movie or two while you get things in order in the kitchen, or do a general clean-up. Sometimes, friend, we just have to do that to help our own sanity.
(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her daughter. In the past, she also briefly homeschooled her son, who has autism.
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