Friday, November 15, 2013

Review: Christmas Comes To America

Gess is getting excited as it gets close to December.  She really loves Christmas and can't wait until it gets here.  She actually starts counting down the days as soon as her birthday is over, which is on October 25th.  While Thanksgiving is fun and family filled, its nothing like the joy of Christmas.  Because Gess has special needs I try to find fun, hands-on ways to teach her about the holidays.  I do not just want her to like what we do, I want her to know why we do it.  That is where Homeschool Legacy comes in.  They gave me the opportunity to review their Once-a-Week Unit Study - Christmas Comes to America and we have had tons of fun learning how all the wonderful traditions that we enjoy came to be.

The Homeschool Legacy Once-a-Week Unit Studies are a great way to learn about topical subjects such as Christmas, the Weather, Birds, Knights and Knobles and so on.  What you do is fill four days of school with your usual subjects but take one day, I usually pick Friday, to do something completely different.  You ditch all your normal stuff and instead become engrossed in one topic.  Whats even better is that all the preparation is done for you so even the teacher gets to sit back and just enjoy the lesson. 

The Once-a-Week Unit Study - Christmas Comes to America is a biblically centered study for the entire family.  It focuses on the history of American Christmas traditions, customs, and symbols.  While many of these customs do have pagan roots, the study shows how Christians often used those customs to teach the message of Christ.  There are 4 weeks in this unit.

Week 1: The Dutch
Week 2: The English
Week 3: The Germans
Week 4: An American Christmas

There are books you read to go along with the study.  They offer a suggested reading list that is fairly large and gives lots of options.  Coming from a small town I was worried that I might not have access to enough of the books that they suggested, but I found several of them at our local library.  There were, however, some that were not available but instead of purchasing them I substituted other selections on the same topic.  Each week you are to read one of the books independently, one together as a family read-aloud, and there is one on traditions that you read a little bit each day.

Next come the fun activities.  They always begin with a family devotional that includes Scripture reading.  In the first week the children had to illustrate what they heard as you read about John the Baptist.  I think Gess did such a great job on that one!

Then you delve into history, geography, language, culture, life skills, discussion, games, science, music, art,  crafts, and research.  There are also field trips and family movie nights!  Now you might not do all of them each week but there is certainly enough learning going on.  The best part is that most of it is interactive and hands-on fun.

Because we did our unit early we have not actually done the field trips which involve holiday specific activities like visiting a Christmas tree farm. However when we do finally go it will mean so much more now that we have studied them.  I also really love the emphasis on music education, something I find lacking in my homeschool.  Visiting holiday concerts will certainly be an extra special experience this year. 

There were still plenty of activities to do besides field trips.  They were great at bringing in crafts and activities that truly went hand-in-hand with the tradition that you were learning about.  Gess' favorite one was making a gingerbread house.  I chose to do it out of graham crackers for the sake of expense and convenience.  I think it is pretty good for her first try.

We also loved learning about the reasons for many of the traditions and symbols that we use.  Since we read about one each day there is lots to learn, even for myself.  While I knew about most of them, Gess did not so it was fun for her to learn why we do the things she enjoys so much.  Her Christmas wish list actually consisted of "set up the tree" and "decorate the tree" so it was especially nice to learn why we do those things!

You end with a fun family trivia game based upon all the things you learn throughout the study.  Gess loves playing games now so this is a great way to change them up for the holidays.

I think the Once-a-Week Unit Study - Christmas Comes to America is a great way to turn your usual traditions and celebrations into a time of learning while keeping the focus on Christ, who should be the center of it all.  It it nice to be reminded to put things into perspective.  As the holidays near it is really hard to keep up with all the book work so this is a nice alternative that allows you to both learn and get in the holiday spirit.  I am actually glad we did this one a bit early as I am ready to keep my mind focused on gift giving, sharing and expressing the love of Christ and the salvation He offers which is the greatest gift of all.

The Once-a-Week Unit Study - Christmas Comes to America can be purchased at the Homeschool Legacy website and sells for $17.95.  I would recommend starting this right at the beginning of December.  Even if you are like us and do not do a lot of school during the Christmas season, this is a really fun way to bring it to life.

Homeschool Legacy also has other Once-a-Week Unit Studies available like the one we used last year, Weather on the Move.  These are great additions to any homeschool so be sure to check them out as you plan your lessons for the new year. 

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