Holidays

People who read this blog come from many countries, and have different backgrounds. Some are new Adventists, and some have been for many years or all their lives. Because there are a lot of different beliefs regarding how holidays are celebrated, I thought I’d share some quotes from Adventist Home, by Ellen White, that have helped our family and others understand how she thought they should be kept.

“I saw that our holidays should not be spent in patterning after the world, yet they should not be passed by unnoticed, for this will bring dissatisfaction to our children. On these days when there is danger that our children will be exposed to evil influences and become corrupted by the pleasures and excitement of the world, let the parents study to get up something to take the place of more dangerous amusements. Give your children to understand that you have their good and happiness in view,” (AH pg.472 & 1T pg.514,515).

We should not just let the days pass by, but provide something good for them. Specifically about Christmas she says, “As the twenty-fifth of December is observed to commemorate the birth of Christ, as the children have been instructed by precept and example that this was indeed a day of gladness and rejoicing, you will find it a difficult matter to pass over this period without giving it some attention. It can be made to serve a very good purpose… The desire for amusement, instead of being quenched and arbitrarily ruled down, should be controlled and directed by painstaking effort upon the part of the parents. Their desire to make gifts may be turned into pure and holy channels and made to result in good to our fellow men by supplying the treasury in the great, grand work for which Christ came into our world. Self-denial and self-sacrifice marked His course of action. Let it mark ours who profess to love Jesus because in Him is centered our hope of eternal life,” (AH pg 478 & RH Dec.9, 1884).

Let us take these days, especially holidays such as Christmas and Easter, and teach our children that these events in the life of Jesus (birth & death) are for our salvation, and we should share this with others.

In the U.S. we celebrate Independence Day, July 4, with parades and fireworks, and our harvest festival is called Thanksgiving because the pilgrims were thankful to have made it here that first year. What important days are recognized in your country? What are some holidays, Christmas and others, that you celebrate, and how do you celebrate them?

I invite you to share ways that you are teaching your children to give to others.

Surefooted After the Holidays

dreamstime_xl_35184731 Sure-foot’ed, adjective

  1. unlikely to stumble or slip
  2. confident and competent

I don’t know about you, but I feel lacking in confidence after the holidays when it comes to our home school. We’ve spent much of the last two months absorbed in holiday cooking, do-it-yourself gift making, weekly church musical practices, etc. AND…I did count those as learning opportunities of course! But, at this point in time, I am eager to get my feet back on the ground and into routine with a new focus.

I do love the holidays and the warm early evenings indoors with a good book and my little people gathered around to listen. That being said, I also will admit that holidays stress me out a tad because I get anxious we may lose sight of the true meaning of these events while getting caught up in the pace the world tries to set for us. And so every year, I plan ways we might make these events a blessing to those around us, and an opportunity to be blessed in return. But, this post is about how to gain a strong footing again if we’ve found ourselves losing balance post holiday flurry.

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Count Your Blessings

After you’ve cleaned up and put away the holiday decor, serving ware, etc., have a family date night where you make cookies again (to enjoy for yourselves) and reminisccookiedatenitee over the holiday season and what you’ve enjoyed most so far, and the looks on the faces of those you saw open gifts, or experiences you were happy to share with others. Talk about what you’d like to do again the following year and what it meant to each family member.

Make New Goals

Yes, I do make new years resolutions! I’m saying pick three things you want to do before winter’s over, like go sledding or snowshoeing or make ice cream out of snow — some fun activities that don’t cost money that you can do as a family to continue to enjoy this time of year that you may not have had time or snow to do so before the holidays. This year I’m hoping to try ice skating, which I haven’t done for ages. I also love to pick some personal goals in our home school for each family member, and this year I have some fun ideas which I plan on posting in January as we embark to pursue them.

Declutter and Organize

No matter how much I commit to having a simpler Christmas every year, we always are blessed beyond my imagination, and after the holidays I take the opportunity to find a place for each thoughtful item gifted. The children and I evaluate where we will keep our newly acquired treasures, and often they use this time also to donate items they are replacing or no longer want/need. This sort of coincides with the for-every-item-in-one-goes-out thinking. We do a scan of gently used items we can donate to local charity before the holidays so those things can be a blessing to others in need. But, we often can do it again post gift-giving season. When everyone in the home has received new items, I tend to get overwhelmed if we do not do this final step in closing out the year. “A place for everything and everything in its place!”

I pray these three simple steps help you find a sure footing in your homeschool journey as you prepare for another year of adventure learning beside your precious pupils. May the love we shared over the holidays, as we took comfort in the birth of our Savior and gave thanks over the many things He has done for us, shine forth afresh from our homes and the hearts of each member residing therein!

Blessings,

Allison

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The Why of Jesus’ Birth

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,” Isaiah 9:6.

In all the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations, do we take the time to really think about what the birth of Jesus is all about? There’s also the confusion with the fact that the day we celebrate His birth has its roots in a pagan day.  While we know that Christmas is not the true day of Christ’s birth, we need to understand why He was born at all. Why didn’t Jesus just come down from heaven and live a week or so, then be killed and rise a day or so later? Wouldn’t that have saved us?

With all the controversy over Christmas — from the view that it is totally pagan and should never be celebrated, to the view that it’s roots are insignificant and it should be fully celebrated — maybe we should change our focus to why Jesus would come as baby at all.

As I have pondered why Jesus would come to this earth and be born as a baby, I have seen an importance that we usually miss or pass over lightly. We often look at the cross as being the only thing for our salvation. The cross gives us the forgiveness we need, but His birth gives us the reason and strength to learn how to live godly lives. The why of Jesus’ birth is to give us the desire and strength to live our lives with the connection to Heaven that Jesus had, and to give us the victory over our sinful ways. To have this connection with God in our daily life, as Jesus did, will give us the strength to overcome. This should be something we do every day, so we should celebrate Jesus birth and death every day. Both are vital to our salvation in our lives day by day.

As we enjoy this Christmas season, after all the celebrations and dinners are over, let us not lose the importance of what Jesus came for, and remember His birth every day.

Christmas Peace for the Homeschool Mom

As Christmas approaches, our house becomes alive with excitement. It’s as if even the logs in our little cabin vibrate with delight. Our little family is one that celebrates Christmas. We open presents, read books about Santa, and bake brownies for the police and fire departments, among other things, but we also have friends who don’t celebrate Christmas. We have friends that just use the holiday season to spend time with family, and we think that is also a fantastic use of holiday time.

Despite someone’s holiday traditions, Christmas beliefs, plans, or none at all, it seems that it still ends up being a stressful time for a lot of families. This can be especially true of homeschool families.

While school teachers are busying themselves meeting goals and completing tasks before the end of the semester, homeschool parents are busy trying to squeeze units in before the holidays, or trying to make them stretch until the holidays. The holidays bring other stressors for our little homesteading family—weather changes, food prep, winterizing the house, preparing shelters for the animals, maintenancing the cars, planning for spring, extra costs for travel, and more. At a time when things should be calm and enjoyable, time seems to speed up, and this homesteading, homeschool mama starts to lose the race before it even begins.

Christmas Peace

This November I began reading a book written by a local friend called Christmas Peace for Busy Moms, and it has been a wonderful experience. It’s a five-week study that brings God into our daily life, to offer the peace we long for during the holidays: a peaceful heart, a peaceful day, peaceful relationships, peaceful surroundings, and a peaceful holiday. This is important stuff!

I spoke at church this week on the topic of prayer, and during the course of the sermon, I realized myself that prayer is the means by which I can find peace. It’s not just by reading a book, doing a Bible study, or even fellowshipping with other Christians. Prayer.

Prayer is how we bring God to us. He wants to be with us, and we often do a lot of things to stand in the way. During this holiday season I’m going to try my best to bring God into our homeschool experience through prayer. Yes, we do other things. We try to participate in the Adventurers program, and we go to Sabbath School and church. We also try to read the Bible at home (which ends up being Bible stories from books), and we like to learn memory verses.

To be completely honest, though, a lot of these things add to my stress. Planning adds to my stress. Driving 50+ miles to church three times a week adds to my stress, even finding time to sit down with a book every day adds to my stress, and I want peace.

Christmas Prayer

Because I want the peace that only Jesus can offer, I am prepared to begin a new holiday tradition this year. I’ve tried advent calendars and other fun traditions like unwrapping and reading a Christmas book every night for 25 days. These things are fun, but again, they add to my stress. This year I’ll try something different, something with less work, and abundant rewards.

Since we pray as a family each evening already, I’m going to start a Christmas tradition that will take little planning. It’ll be focused directly on Jesus and only on Jesus, and it’ll bring Him closer to us. Since I’m sure you’re dying to hear it, here is the plan:

  1. Prepare 25 prayer cards surrounding a topic of your choice (emergency services, our country, our church, our pets, our mailman, sick friends, the sky is the limit).
  2. Connect the 25 prayer topics in some way with the Christmas story (compare public servants with shepherds, pets=animals in the stable, mailman=angel/messenger, the church=the stable, etc.).
  3. Connect the 25 prayer topics with Jesus! (Finding a verse is a good idea. For instance, portions of Psalm 91 would connect with emergency services/protection, and various verses in Genesis would connect with pets. You can also decide to just use verses from the Christmas story here).
  4. Write down your children’s prayer requests and place them into a request basket (or homemade manger). Read them each night and celebrate and thank God when they are answered.
  5. Print a coloring sheet off for each day. Make 25 sheets times the number of kids you have. Easy peasy. I’m starting with a simple coloring sheet this year, and may do a craft next year. Time will tell!
  6. Make notes and put into your envelopes at the end of the day to remind yourself what worked and what didn’t! Adjust next year, or scrap it altogether.

Do you have to have special traditions to make Christmas special? No.

Just like Jesus makes Sabbath special, He makes Christmas special. He makes every day special. Let’s invite Him back into the festivities. After all, He’s the Reason for the Season!

Marrying Nature Study and Handicrafts for the Holidays

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First, a disclaimer: I am not “crafty.” Artistic, yes, but not crafty. I am absolutely positive there are more creative and capable moms out there who could take these crafts to a much higher level. Please feel free to post your ideas (with pictures!) in the comments! No competition here, just sharing the love!

Now that the disclaimer is taken care of…

There just aren’t enough hours in the day around the holidays. I’m all into killing a couple of proverbial birds with one stone, so here goes:

Nature study tends die off in our household about mid-November. Not that we don’t enjoy getting out of doors — we do — but honestly, there is just too much to do! Between the Christmas programs, extra music to learn, seasonal activities, and keeping up with Saxon math (ugh!), the shorter winter days are just not conducive to adding in that extra nature assignment.

In October, as our Adventurer group was collecting leaves for the tree award, it occurred to me that collecting natural materials from the out-of-doors wasn’t a tall assignment, and then we could make Christmas (or other holiday) crafts on colder, icky days in December.

Subjects you can cover with this assignment:

  • Nature Study/Natural Science: Identify those pine and birch trees as you collect needles and bark!
  • History: The Phoenicians were expert dye-makers. What dyes can you make from food or natural materials you have around? How is the process different from in ancient times? What items did the ancients use — or what items were used just a mere 200 years ago? How are paints or dyes for textiles made today?
  • Handicrafts: Charlotte Mason, an educator in the late 19th century, advocated for practical projects that children could make and use (or give away) as an essential part of education. (You might even be able to get some Adventurer awards taken care of with these crafts!)
  • Art: Art history might even be a subject to cover during this time. Perhaps one of your cards is inspired by an impressionist artist, or you are interested in artists who use a particular medium or style. These would be excellent, delight-directed unit study or extracurricular research projects.

Pinterest and internet searches are obvious places to look for ideas, but you might even try collecting items in your yard or along a nature path first, and then brainstorming for ways to use the items.

We concentrated on making Christmas cards using birch bark, pine needles, natural (homemade) dyes, and leaves. I purchased some blank cards with envelopes and a few pieces of scrapbook paper to add to our collected items. We also used ink pads, stamps, twine, and embossing powder to embellish the cards. This was really my first attempt at card-making, so my kids and I were experimenting together!

Starting list of items to collect:

  • Grasses, weeds, pine needles, bark, sticks from lilies, acorns
  • Pressed flowers from spring, summer, and fall
  • Pressed leaves
  • Bird nests
  • Feathers
  • Snake skins
  • Dried lavender and other herbs

Ideas for handicrafts using natural materials:

  • Candle holders (Arrange materials around a glass votive.)
  • Wreaths
  • Shadow boxes (Arrange items and then tack them in; label them if you wish.)
  • Hairpieces
  • Decorative baskets (Hot glue natural materials to the outside of a basket to “spruce” it up, literally.)
  • Art pieces (Include a special feather or grass in a painting for a 3D effect.)
  • Cards or gift tags

Enjoy your completed projects at home or give them away as handmade gifts! Happy holidays!