February Reads

I’ve decided to start posting what each of my kids reads each month, along with what I’ve read each month. Here is what we all read in February.

My 6th Grader’s February Reads:

  • The Wanderings of Odyseous by Rosemary Sutcliff
  • Epic Fail by Arturo Zamora

My 8th Grader’s February Reads:

  • Going Bovine by Libba Bray
  • Two Miserable Presidents by Steve Sheinkin

My February Reads:

  • The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
  • Against the Grain by James Scott
  • Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
  • Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
  • The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
  • The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio GIturbe
  • The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore
  • The Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
  • The Southern Book Clubs Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
  • Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

My kids had a break from school this month, which is why they’re reading lists were so short. There is no logical reason for my reading list to be so long, I just really enjoy reading. Of all the things I read this month, I think the Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom duology and the Strange the Dreamer/Muse of Nightmares duology tied as was my favorites.

A Return to Reading

Homeschool parents can read too. Here’s what I’m reading.

When I was in my early 20s, I used to read at least 100 books per year. There was one year, when I think I actually topped 150 books. Then I had kids, got busier, and slowed way down on my reading consumption. For the past several years, I’ve been reading on average about 20 books per year.

My oldest son will be a freshman in high school next year. We are planning to continue homeschooling, and continuing to use a Charlotte Mason style of homeschool. So for the past couple months, I’ve been working on figuring out what books I want him to read in high school. Because I haven’t previously read all the books I’m considering assigning to him, I started reading a lot of the books on his future curriculum list.

I suddenly remembered that reading books is way more fun then mindlessly watching Netflix, and bam, I’m a reader again. In the past two months, I’ve read 20 books. My son will actually be reading maybe 5 of them in 9th grade. The other 15 are just books I wanted to read.

I do want to have keep this blog primarily as a homeschool resource, but I’m starting to run out of homeschool related topics to write about each week. So I’m going to start sprinkling in my own book reviews/recommendations as well. For today, I’ll recommend five excellent books that I’ve recently read.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama – This book is super long, Obama is wordy, but wow it’s good. He provides a lot of details about all the background negotiations that go into governing. If you are even remotely interested in politics and/or current affairs, I highly recommend this book.

Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston – This is actually a book my son is reading as a part of his 8th grade US History. It’s well worth reading as an adult as well. This book is a memoir about a Japanese Americans experience in the Manzanar Internment Camp during WW2. Such an important part of US history that isn’t talked about enough.

Memory of Water by Emmi Itaranta – This is a book my son will be reading in 9th grade. It’s also amazing! It’s a future – post global warming – dystopian novel where water is very hard to find and highly regulated by the government. The book also has a really great adventure element and raises a lot of important ethica questions. I definitely recommend assigning this book to high school (or even middle school) students. I also recommend it for adults.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Back when I used to read veraciously, fantasy was one of my favorite genres. This book came out after I stopped reading veraciously, so I somehow missed the buzz. There is actually a Netflix series coming out later this spring, called Shadow and Bone, that is based upon Six of Crows. So I’m sure the hype will soon be even higher for this series. I’ll add my two cents to the debate and say, read this book, and it’s sequel Crooked Kingdom. The have a lot of violence, but would be appropriate for most high school readers. They are also very worthwhile reads for adults.

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham – This is a dual POV book that jumps back and forth between present day and 1921. A teenage girl in present day discovers a skeleton berried under the floorboards of her historic Tulsa home when her family is remodeling. Back in 1921 a white teenage boy is questioning his own feelings about race leading up to the 1921 Tulsa race riots. Even with the dual POV, I did not guess who the body under the floor belonged. This mystery definitely has interesting twists and turns. This book also highlights another super important part of US history that isn’t normally taught in school. I read this book solely for my own entertainment, but it was SO GOOD, that I’m now wondering if I can somehow squeeze it into my son’s 8th grade US History, or find somewhere for him to read it in high school. Highly recommend.

The Library Card Education

Last week, I gave a review of the history curriculum I’m using for my sixth grader. I don’t have a textbook/workbook combo pack to review for my eighth graders history, because I created my own curriculum for him.

My eighth grade son loves to read, so the majority of his homeschool experience is reading. I actually did a quick scan of our bookshelves, the list of everything he’s read so far this year, and everything I have planned for him to read in the remainder of the year… it’s a lot of books! I’m expecting my eighth grader to read more than 50 books this school year. I know that sounds like a lot. But the kid loves to read, and most of these 50+ books are really good books.

As far as history goes, he’s learning US History this year. The overarching spine that we are using to drive the pacing and information covered is the Crash Course in US History series on Youtube. If you aren’t familiar with Crash Course, they are very informative video series that present high school level material in a fun and easy to understand manner. There are series for several different subjects all with different hosts. The host of the US History series is the author John Green. Both of my kids watch these videos each week and they both really enjoy them.

I also have several US History books that span large stretches of time and are being used as spines throughout the year. Of all the books, the one that my son seems to be enjoying the most is The Young People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. If you only want one spine, not five, I’d recommend this book. My son is also reading lots of historical fiction, non-fiction, and graphic novels associated with the various times in history that he’s studying. He is doing lots of writing assignments related to the things that he’s reading.

At the beginning of the year, I ordered quite a few project/assignments from Teachers Pay Teachers to help round out my self-made curriculum. If you want some ready made activities related to a particular topic but don’t want to buy an entire curriculum, Teachers Pay Teachers can be a great site to use. While there are some free resources on the site, most of the assignments that I pulled cost somewhere between $3-$10 for a project that could be completed in a week or less.

This style of learning doesn’t work for every student. My sixth grader is far less excited about reading and does much better with more traditional curriculums. But, if you have a kid who learns by reading, I recommend the library card education.

Curiosity Chronicles Review

Now that we’re halfway through the school year, I’m giving reviews of the individual curriculum we have been using this year. Today, I’ll review Curiosity Chronicles History curriculum.

I initially found Curiosity Chronicles in the spring of 2020 when public schools abruptly closed and I was looking for some enrichment activities to give my then 5th grade son. I ordered the Snapshots in Ancient History curriculum. This curriculum is print-on-demand and always takes 4-6 weeks to arrive, so make sure you order things early. Do to extra demand and offices being closed at the start of the pandemic, it took over two months before my initial order arrived. I therefore held off and instead had my son use this curriculum for sixth grade.

Curiosity Chronicles is a secular world history program designed for elementary school students. It could easily be started with a first or second grader and then used all the way up to fifth or sixth grade. When using it with older students, the curriculum feels a bit lite. The chapters only take 10-15 minutes to read (there is also an audiobook option). They are written as a conversation between two historians, so it’s very easy to read out loud with your student each of you reading one of the character’s roles. Along with the textbook, there is also a student workbook that includes coloring sheets for younger students, and a couple pages of questions related to the chapters reading. My son is able to complete this work in less than five minutes. So an entire chapter can be completed in 20 minutes or less (at least by an older student).

The teachers guild includes multiple hands on projects to further learning associated with each chapter. We did a few of these projects at the beginning of the year, but most took more time to set up than they actually took to complete. They might be great for younger students, but my son really wasn’t getting much out of them. The one exception to that is Minecraft.

My sixth grader LOVES Minecraft! I don’t even want to admit how many hours this child spends playing Minecraft every day. One of the hands on projects associated with each chapter is a Minecraft build. The student builds irrigation systems, pyramids, Polynesian sail boats, Chinese temples, ect, in their ongoing Minecraft History world as they learn about new cultural advancements throughout time. My Minecraft loving son really enjoys these activities.

We have settled into a workable schedule where he reads a chapter and completes the workbook activities two days per week. He then spends one day per week completing the Minecraft builds for those two chapters. The other two days of the week, he does other activities from other sources. Using this schedule, he’s on track to finish not only Snapshots in Ancient History, but also Snapshots in Medieval History this year.

Even though this curriculum is appropriate for younger students, my sixth grader is learning a lot of history. He has even requested that we stick with the series for seventh and eighth grade. The complete curriculum is six book, so doing two books per year, the entire program could be completed in three years. He’s gaining a solid foundation of history knowledge that he’ll be able to further build upon in High School.

If you are looking for an engaging secular history curriculum that truly covers world history (not just Western Civilizations) Curiosity Chronicles is a grate choice. It’s perfect for students from about third to fifth grade, but can definitely be adapted for students anywhere from kindergarten to eighth grade.

Bookshark Science Review

Now that we’re half way through the school year, I’m going to start giving reviews of the individual curriculum we have been using this year. Today, I’ll start with a review of Bookshark Science Level H.

I have two sons, who are currently in 6th and 8th grade. I selected Bookshark Science Level H to use as a science curriculum for both of my boys. It’s their 7th grade level, but recommended for any student ages 12-14 so it seemed perfect for both of my boys. The topic of this year long course is Conservation, Robotics, and Technology. The curriculum comes with eight different books that focus on a more specific subject within that broader topic, as well as a lab kit that includes all the materials needed for weekly lab activities. There is also a student workbook that has critical thinking questions associated with the daily readings from the various texts.

My oldest son is a veracious reader, so I was especially drawn to the living books aspect of this curriculum. My younger son is less excited about reading, but does enjoy doing hands on experiments. My hope going into this program was that my boys could work together and learn from one another’s strengths as they acted as reading buddies and lab partners, working on assignments together. Yeah, that didn’t really happen.

I very quickly figured out that our homeschool goes much more smoothly when my boys are doing entirely different lessons out of entirely different books. Since the bookshark program includes eight different books, I just had them jump around and work on separate sections of the curriculum independently. This worked relatively well, and both of my sons have improved their scientific knowledge using this curriculum.

Once I started shifting the order of the assignments, it quickly became easy to modify the curriculum even more and pull in more resources. My sixth grade son is for the most part sticking with the Bookshark curriculum this year. But, since he is more of a kinesthetic learner, I’ve found additional lab projects to add to the program as I’ve slowed down his reading pace. Because of this, I expect him to only finish 5 of the 8 books during the course of the year.

My eighth grade son would prefer to skip the labs all together and just read the books. He has enjoyed all the books from the program that he’s read, but half way through the school year, it seemed to both of us like he was ready for something different. My eighth grader has always loved astronomy, and he just got a telescope for his 14th birthday. I found a semester long middle school astronomy course that I’m having him use for the second half of the year.

Even though neither of my sons is likely to finish the entire Bookshark curriculum, I do think it’s a good program, especially for students who prefer to learn through reading high quality books. The literary nature of the curriculum does make it a bit week in the actual science though. The lab activities are very basic and there isn’t any emphasis placed on the scientific method.

One other critique that I have for the Bookshark program is that it is not entirely secular. Bookshark is owned by the Christian homeschool curriculum company Sonlight. In order to make their products available to charter schools, Sonlight developed the less religions Bookshark alternative. This curriculum is classified as being “Neutral” which means they took out all the overtly religious references, but didn’t add in anything the Christian parent company views as untrue. When studying conservation, robotics, and technology, this wasn’t an issue at all. A lot of the curriculum is focused on pollution and climate change, and I haven’t seen anything in the curriculum that was not scientifically accurate. I would however be hesitant to use Bookshark curriculum universally for many years because it could lead to gaps in knowledge/understanding.

6th Grade Homeschool Midyear Update

We’re now half way through the school year. Last week I gave an update on what curriculum changes I’ve made for my 8th grader, so today it’s time to talk about my 6th grader. Overall, things are going really well this year for both of my boys.

English/Language Arts: For ELA, my 6th grader is continuing to work through Fix it Grammar. We’re also still using Wordly Wise for vocabulary. The main thing I’m working on with my son for language arts is also reading comprehension. My son is a capable reader, but he often skims things too quickly and doesn’t remember what he read. We have a family friend that has weekly book discussions with my son over zoom. I’ve also shift more towards reading out loud with my son instead of only having him read to himself. This forces him to slow down and also gives us a change to discuss what we’re reading.

Math: We have been jumping around a lot in math for my 6th grade son this year. We started the year using a Spectrum Math workbook. It was too complicated. They concepts being taught were at the right level, but the numbers they used were way too hard. For example, they asked things like find the lowest common multiple of 86 and 104. Why? We shifted to using a single topic fractions workbook instead, since fractions is a big part of sixth grade math. Once my son finished that we jumped over to a different Math Skills workbook. This workbook is a lot easier than the spectrum workbook and my son’s flying through it. When he finishes this, I’ll probably just have him do some topic specific Kumon workbooks until the end of the year. Most of these workbooks are less than $10, and a Saxon curriculum cost almost $90, but still… I’m starting 7th grade with Saxon for use.

Science: I purchased the Bookshark Level H science curriculum at the beginning of the year with the hope that it could be used by both my 8th grader and my 6th grader. We started out working together, but my sons have such different learning styles, and temperaments, that group activities just don’t work well for us. The bookshark program uses 8 different books, so I’ve been having the boys choose what book they want to do next and each work independently on separate sections of the curriculum for most of the year. This has been working pretty well with my 6th grader, but he needed a little more structure. I got the Evan More Science Skill Sharpeners workbook and he’s been using that in conjunction with the Bookshark curriculum. During the earth science portion of the skill sharpeners workbook, he also read the Bookshark Planet Earth book. During the energy section of skill sharpeners, he’ll use the Bookshark energy book. On top of all this, my 6th grader is doing lots of labs. He’s doing all the Bookshark labs, plus some of the skill sharpener labs, he has a tinker crate subscription, and he got several science experiment kits for his Christmas that we’re adding in as well.

History: My son started the year using Curiosity Chronicles Snapshots in Ancient History curriculum. This is an elementary school curriculum that is pretty easy for my 6th grader. He can do an entire weeks lesson in about 20 minutes, and we were flying through the book. In October, I decided to slow down on Curiosity Chronicles and have my 6th grader join my 8th grader in studying US History several days per week. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in the science update, my boys have very different learning styles and teaching them together is far more challenging than teaching them separately. Eventually, my 6th grader and I agreed that flying through a world history course is not a bad thing. He enjoys the curiosity chronicles program, even if he can do an entire weeks lesson in a single day. He’s almost done with the Ancient History book and is planning to get through the the Medieval History book this spring.

Social Studies: My parents come over once a week to help with homeschool. They have been teaching my kids US Government all year. This was great building up to the election, but extended beyond the election. US Government is complicated and they’re taking their one day a week teaching duties serious. For the second half of the year, they’re planning to teach economics/personal finance. My mom is a retired middle school teacher, and my dad is a retired accountant, so this should be great. I’m usually in work meetings for the entirety of these lessons and don’t have much to say about them, except that I’m supper appreciative of my wonderful parents. One other social studies related item that I added to my son’s schedule back when I was trying to pump the brakes on his history was geography. He’s working through the Evan More Geography Skill Sharpeners workbook about one day per week.

Typing: For the first half of the year, we spent a lot of time focusing on handwriting with my sixth grader. His handwriting has gone from completely illegible to just sloppy. My son still greatly prefers typing any writing assignments that are longer than a sentence. For this reason, we’ve decided to shift gears and have him learn typing for the second half of the year. He’s currently using Typing Club and really enjoying it.

PE: This is probably the subject I’m failing at the most as a homeschool teacher, but I’m trying to get my boys to get some form of exercise everyday. My 6th grader really enjoys jumping on the trampoline in our backyard when it’s not raining. We’ve also started doing yoga together on rainy days.

8th Grade Homeschool Midyear Update

We’re now half way through the school year, so I figured it was time to give an update on what curriculums we’re using. We have made several curriculum changes, but the bigger overall update is super positive. In fact, homeschool is going so well with my 8th grade, we’ve decided to stick with homeschool for high school too. Eek, there will be more on that in future posts for sure.

English/Language Arts: For ELA, my 8th grader is continuing to work through the WriteShop 1 writing program. We really like this program, and I’m planning to have him do WriteShop 2 for 9th grade. We’re also still using Wordly Wise for vocabulary. My son is also reading a lot. I’m using more of a Charlette Mason style (aka lots of reading) for his other subjects, so he spends at last an hour reading from various books every day. I’m also having him read fiction for ELA. For the first half of the year, I allowed him to choose what he read. I’ve started assigning him ELA reading during the second half of this year, more in preparation for high school. But I’m still assigning him books that I expect him to really enjoy.

Math: My son started the school year about two years below grade level in math. We used Life of Fred for a while, and then shifted to using a Kumon Pre-Algebra workbook that my son liked better. He is making great progress in math this year and really starting to understand what he’s doing. He’s been struggling in math since kindergarten, so this is all super positive. We’re about to finish the Kumon workbook he’s been using, and will be shifting over to Saxon for the remainder of the school year. I purchased the Saxon 8/7 curriculum. There is no way my son would have been able to handle this curriculum at the beginning of the year, but I think he’s ready for it now. I also want him to do the Saxon Algebra 1/2 before jumping into Algebra 1, so he is still about a year below grade level. But progress is being made. Hooray for homeschool.

Science: I purchased the Bookshark Level H science curriculum at the beginning of the year with the hope that it could be used by both my 8th grader and my 6th grader. We started out working together, but my sons have such different learning styles, and temperaments, that group activities just don’t work well for us. The bookshark program uses 8 different books, so I’ve been having the boys choose what book they want to do next and each work independently on separate sections of the curriculum for most of the year. It’s worked well, and my 8th grader especially did enjoy the Bookshark curriculum. But he’s less excited about the books he has left to read in the program and ready to move on to something new. My son has always loved astronomy, and even recently got a telescope for his birthday. I found a semester long astronomy course for middle/high schoolers created by Real Science Odyssey. At first, I was thinking I’d try to figure out how to add to it and stretch it out into a full years curriculum for 9th grade. But then I decided a much easier solution would be to have my son abandum Bookshark and do the astronomy for the second semester of 8th grade. So far, he’s loving the change.

History: My son is learning about US History this year. For the first half of the year, I was primarily designing my own curriculum. He’s been doing A LOT of reading. He’s also watching the Crash Course US History video series. On top of that I’ve purchased several different worksheet style assignments from Teachers Pay Teachers over the course of the year. My son does like to read, and he’s really enjoying history, but he’s always excited when I had him a worksheet or history themed game. So I decided we needed a little more substance to our curriculum. Build Your Library is a secular Charlette Mason curriculum that I’ve been interested in for a while. Unfortunately, Build Your Library breaks US History into two years over 5th and 6th grade and then teaches it again in 12th grade. Neither is perfect for an 8th grader. I decided to purchase the 6th grade curriculum, since we’re now half way through the school year and about half way through US History. I’m modifying this curriculum to be better for an 8th grader and having him do the entire years course in half a year. So far, so good.

Social Studies: My parents come over once a week to help with homeschool. They have been teaching my kids US Government all year. This was great building up to the election, but extended beyond the election. US Government is complicated and they’re taking their one day a week teaching duties serious. For the second half of the year, they’re planning to teach economics/personal finance. My mom is a retired middle school teacher, and my dad is a retired accountant, so this should be great. I’m usually in work meetings for the entirety of these lessons and don’t have much to say about them, except that I’m supper appreciative of my wonderful parents.

Health: We’re using a Charlotte Mason approach to health, and my son is just reading various books that are mildly related to health and calling it good. He does have a medical condition and for awhile he was working his way through a workbook that educates/prepares patients for future medical treatments/options. He was not a fan of that program. Right now he’s reading a book about the history of tuberculosis and loving it.

PE: This is probably the subject I’m failing at the most as a homeschool teacher. My son never leaves the house! It’s feels like a huge accomplishment to get him to leave his bedroom most days. We do have a trampoline in the backyard that his little brother loves and sometimes we’re able to coax my 8th grader out too. We’ve also started doing yoga together on rainy days, but the boy definitely needs more exercise. Sometimes, living in a pandemic is hard.

Art: Art is my sons main elective for the year, but we’ve been really bad about this subject too. We have a lot of art supplies, and most days I just tell him to draw something, or paint something, which actually happens pretty sporadically. Since we’re doing US History, I just purchased Great American Artists for Kids (recommended in Build Your Library curriculum). I’m hoping saying, “here do this Normal Rockwell project” will work better than “paint something” has been working.

What about Socialization?

This is the first question people always ask when they hear someone is homeschooling. But for my family, “socialization” was actually one of the biggest reasons we chose to homeschool.

I am mom to two amazing kids who are currently 12 and 14 years old. I have never given birth. I first met my children when they were 5 and 7 years old and was fortunate enough to adopt them a year later when they were 6 and 8. My kids early lives were traumatic and they never got a chance to form a close attachments to their parental figures.

Attachment is the word used in the mental health world, not socialization. Many people take attachment for granted, but it’s a very big deal, and when it’s missing it causes a lot of problems. Both of my sons started school before they learned how to trust other humans, or felt what it meant to be loved without condition. Not surprisingly, they struggled in school.

Academically they were fine. They’re both really smart kids. But socially, it was a nightmare. One of my sons did well in the classroom, when the teacher was there to keep everyone else in order, but recess was another story. He wanted to go outside and laugh and play with all the other kids, but he didn’t know how. For an entire year, my son had a panic attack on the playground every single day.

My other son build walls around himself. He didn’t trust anyone and lied enough to make sure nobody would trust him either. He held people at arms length and rejected others before they had a chance to reject him. When people tried to break down his walls, he just found new ways to push them away even harder.

Every time I got a phone call from a principle or a note sent home from a teacher I thought the same thing, I should homeschool. But I’m a single mom, with a full time job. Homeschool never seemed like a possibility. I worked with the system. My boys were put on behavior plans and given special accommodations at school. They worked with their school councilors, and saw other councilors and mental health professionals outside of school.

Things did improve, slowly, but the phone calls from the principle never stopped and the voice in the back of my head whispering homeschool never went away either. When 2020 happened, it felt like a huge gift to my family. My boys didn’t get endless hours of family time when they were babies, but they’re getting it now.

Just a few weeks into quarantine life, my son who feared recess above all else told me he never wanted to go back to school. He is without question, the happiest I’ve ever seen him. For years, this sweet boy has seemed incapable of smiling, and now he laughs and smiles almost every day.

And my other son, the juvenile delinquent in training, he’s learning how to trust other humans. Old habits die hard and he does still struggle with opening up to other people, but he’s been lying a lot less. He’s also been laughing and interacting with his brother and me a lot more.

My 12 and 14 year old boys have learned a lot in the past year. They have learned math, science, and history. But also they have learned what it feels like to be constantly surrounded by people who love them. They now, for the first time ever, don’t have to worry about how other people are going to treat them.

But what about socialization? Children need socialization. You’re right, they do. And sometimes, spending time with loving parents and siblings is socialization. At some point in the future, my kids will leave our cloistered house and reenter society. But they won’t be the weird homeschool kids. They’ll be self confident young men, finally able to trust other people.

A global pandemic is the thing that showed me it was possible to homeschool my kids, while simultaneously working full time. But socialization, or more specifically attachment, is the real reason why I am homeschooling my kids.

It’s Been Twelve Crazy Months!

It’s hard to believe in 3 days it will be 2021. I expect memories of 2020 will continue to have meaning, and may even evoke strong emotion for decades to come. Obviously, this year has brought a lot of people a lot of pain and suffering, but it has also brought some good things.

My grandmother died in 2020. She was born in 1920 and celebrated her 100th birthday via zoom. She didn’t die of COVID, but loosing her still gives me heightened empathy for all the people who did loose loved ones to this disease.

2020 also brought social distancing, working from home, and schooling from home. My family opted to forgo online school and embrace homeschool instead. Getting to teach my sons and watch them discover new interests and curiosities has been a hidden blessing during this stressful year.

New vaccines and other scientific breakthroughs give the start of 2021 a hopeful feeling. But the year ahead wont be a complete return to the before times. Getting everyone inoculated will take time. And beyond that, I hope we can hold on to some of the blessings this time of slowing down and forced togetherness has given.

For my little family, we’re already having lots of discussions about the fall of 2021. At least right now, all signs are pointing to continuing to homeschool, even when avoiding the plague isn’t the reason we’re staying home.

Happy Solstice

Yesterday was the winter solstice and beginning today, the days are starting to get longer again in the norther hemisphere. Watching the sun set at 4:30 PM is very depressing, so I’m thrilled the light is returning. I’m not alone, humans have been celebrating the winter solstice as long as humans have been celebrating anything. This year, we decided to study a few of these winter celebration traditions in our homeschool.

I love Teachers Pay Teachers and have found lots of great homeschool resources there. One gem I recently used was a study on winter holidays ancient and modern. The program is designed to be used in a public school classroom, where students divide into groups to research several different winter holidays (11 in total). Since I only have two students, each of my kids was assigned five holidays to research and I took the final holiday of Christmas.

Every day for a week, my kids looked up a different holiday online and filled out the worksheet on how that particular culture celebrates. Many of the ancient European traditions, such as the Festival of Yule form Germany and the Festival of Beivve from Finland had striking similarities to modern Christmas celebrations.

After doing this research project we were able to have a wonderful discussion that probably would have been a lot harder to facilitate in a public school setting. We talked about how Jesus was actually born in July, not December and why the early church chose to make Christmas a holiday celebrated near the winter solstice. The universal human experience of celebrating the return of the sun makes a great date for an important religious holiday.

It also makes it easier to see Christmas as more than a religious holiday. It’s possible to celebrate without believing in Jesus or Santa. Because we can all agree that the sun is coming back, and that alone is worth celebrating. Of course, believing in Jesus and Santa is great too.

So from my family to yours, happy holidays. What ever your traditions or religious beliefs, its good to know the sun will rise a little bit earlier tomorrow.