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Christmas is Coming, and We Can't Concentrate!

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, December 07, 2009

                The Homeschooler's Notebook
     Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
   Vol. 10 No 88                         December 7, 2009
                      ISSN: 1536-2035                              
   Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

  Welcome to The Homeschooler's Notebook!

  If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
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  Guest Article
  -- Christmas Distractions!
  Helpful Tip
  -- Handprint Gift Ideas
  Late Answer to Recent Question
  -- Computer Literacy
  Reader Question
  -- Frustrated and Exhausted
  Additional Notes
  -- Newsletter Archives
  -- Sponsorship Information
  -- Reprint Information
  -- Subscriber Information

       Guest Article

  Christmas is Coming, and We Can't Concentrate!
    by Barbara Frank


  Remember being in school the month before Christmas?  How much
  actual studying got done?

  Not much, as I recall.  Between the kids' excitement about
  Christmas being just around the corner, and the teachers' need to
  get kids ready for the pageants and programs they were expected to
  participate in, little serious study was accomplished. (Not much
  was accomplished the rest of the year, but that's another article!)
  Teachers often resorted to filmstrips (some of you may remember
  them) and worksheets related to Christmas.  Not educational really,
  but it was the only way they could cope with wound-up kids.

  I thought that being homeschoolers meant we could escape all the
  fuss and commotion and spend our time studying, with the added bonus
  of having time to incorporate various Advent activities into our
  daily plan.

  Well... it worked like that at first.  Back when the kids were little
  and I was in full control of their schedules (ah, the good old days),
  we kept it pretty simple.  Other than the annual Sunday School
  Christmas Program, with its practice sessions held at church, I was
  able to keep things on an even keel and we stuck to our schedule
  right up until the week before Christmas.

  But we kept having kids, which meant more kids to shop for and wrap
  presents for.  And our aging parents handed off responsibility for
  the Christmas celebrations to us, which meant big family gatherings
  for which we had to prepare (planning, grocery shopping, decorating...
  you know the drill).

  As our kids got older, they started really getting into the festivities,
  which meant they were pretty distractible.  It's kind of hard to teach
  someone how to divide decimals when they're dreaming of their wish
  list and you're trying to decide between ham and turkey for Christmas
  dinner.  Neither of you is really paying attention.

  We soldiered on, but I sure wish I'd had the Internet back then.
  There are so many great free resources available now.  I think if
  I'd had the Internet, I would have just used Advent and Christmas
  resources like the ones listed below to keep the kids busy until
  Christmas, figuring there is always January for serious study.

  I'm only homeschooling one now, and he's still a bit fuzzy about time,
  so he doesn't know exactly when Christmas will be here.  But once we
  bring out the Christmas tree and decorations, he'll be distracted by
  Christmas once again.  I'd better get more toner for my printer so I
  can give him some of these printables to keep him busy!

  For Kids

  Countdown to Christmas Advent Calendar
  Audrey's Christmas Page (online storybooks, plays, coloring pages):
  Children's Ministry (lessons, worksheets, craft ideas, songs):
  Christmas Coloring Pages:
  More Christmas Learning Activities:
  Christmas Symbols Printables:
  Twelve Days of Christmas Printables:
  Nativity Printables:
  Christmas Gift Tag Printables:
  Christmas Notebooking Sheets and Coloring Sheets:
  Christmas Crafts for All Ages:

  Especially For Older Kids and Teens

  Christmas Quizzes from the Bible:
  Free 4-week Advent Bible Study:
  Christmas Crafts for Teens:
  Christmas Crossword Puzzles:
  More Christmas Crossword Puzzles:


  Barbara Frank is the mother of four homeschooled-from-birth
  children, ages 16-25, and a freelance writer/editor and former
  newspaper reporter whose recent work has appeared in Focus on
  the Family Magazine and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.
  She's also the author of "The Imperfect Homeschooler's Guide to
  Homeschooling" and "Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers".  She
  has a B.S. in Journalism from the University of Illinois at

  Barbara and her husband Tim publish books and curriculum for
  homeschoolers via their company, Cardamom Publishers.  They live
  in southern Wisconsin with their two youngest teenage children.

  You can find Barbara at http://www.barbarafrankonline.com


  Do you have comments to share?  Please do!
  Send your emails to:  mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net


  The Homeschooler's Notebook recommends...

  A Great Christmas Gift!

  Here's a gift that keeps coming all year.  Wacky... but true, the
  popular general knowledge magazine for kids, is now available online
  for a LOW $15 per year.  FREE comprehension sheets available with
  each monthly issue.  Sign up today for quality reading with a wacky
  twist.  NO ads, Christian values and good clean fun.  View a sample
  on the website.  Produced by Michelle Down, who was homeschooled by
  her Aussie parents in India.  Give a gift to someone special this
  Christmas!   http://www.wackymag.com


  Be sure to check out this wonderful magazine!  We're doing an online
  subscription for our boys (about $13.67 U.S.) - I know they'll LOVE
  it!  Here is an example of one of the amazing "wacky" facts:

  "Dr. David Livingstone was a famous missionary and explorer in Africa.
  He died in 1873 in Africa, far from his family or other white men.
  The native villages took out his heart, then embalmed his body and
  carried him to Bagamoyo where he was taken to England.  He is buried
  in Westminster Abbey, but his heart is buried in Africa."

  Interesting information like this is just the key for my boys wanting
  to delve deeper and learn more about a topic.  As a matter of fact,
  I know I'll be reading it myself from cover to cover! :-)

  Find out more at http://www.wackymag.com

  -- Heather


      Helpful Tip

  Handmade Handprint Gifts for Christmas


  "My children have each made calendars where their handprints
  were turned into a picture that pertained to the month.  January
  is 3 white handprints placed in different positions to create a
  snowflake.  February is 2 red handprints in the shape of a heart.
  March is a handprint with brown fingers; the top half of the
  palm is peach and the bottom half of the palm is green.  Add
  googly eyes and a face and it's a leprechaun.  April is a white
  handprint (without painting the thumb), keeping the 2nd and 3rd
  fingers together and the 4th and 5th fingers together.  Add the
  googly eyes, whiskers, and some teeth and it's a bunny.  Each
  month also has a cute little poem.  They are precious to me."
  -- Kelly


  "Jane, the handprints are such a precious idea!  I brainstormed
  a few ideas off the top of my head:  Handmade pillowcases; napkins;
  wall hangings; journals; photo albums; original artwork or poetry.
  A bit more expensive, but very special are the plates, bowls, cups
  and other items from www.makit.com." -- Mary Beth


  "We also like to send a little of our girls to their godparents
  and family at Christmas.  One year we did photo calendars with a
  different picture of the girls for each month.  I had to think
  this out ahead of time as I wanted the picture to reflect the
  holiday of each month.  Last year we had the girls put handprints
  on plain trivets at our local 'paint-your-own-pottery' store.  This
  was easy and the receivers loved being able to have a conversation
  piece to use and to remember the girls by.

  This year (because I wanted to save money on shipping) I had them
  paint a wooden ornament for everyone.  We are sending them out in
  the family Christmas cards, which also have a picture of the girls
  in each.  This saves me time and money as I only have to address
  and send to each person once.

  I wanted to add that we started an annual tradition of collecting
  the girls' handprints on a white table cloth.  Every year I have
  them 'printed' and then we write their name next to their prints
  and the year.  I think this could be a great grandparents' gift
  as well if grandma is willing to send it back to you each year for
  an update.  I know for us this table cloth will become a family
  Another neat handprint idea is to have the child hold their hand
  down on paper with fingers spread wide then use sturdy but flexible
  wire and shape it around the outside of their hand to form a hand
  print shape.  Do this around twice and then take the ends of the
  wire (which form the base of the hand) and anchor them to something
  sturdy such as a rustic piece of wood (for a country look), a piece
  of heavy metal (for a contemporary look) or even an old book (be
  creative) for a studious look.  Then place pictures of the child(ren)
  in the ends of the finger parts of the wire (between the two wires).
  This make a nice picture holder and can be tailored to each receiver's
  decor." -- Rebecca D.


  "Last year my mom made a project with our 4 children.  She had each
  child use a different color fabric paint to make handprints on a
  large piece of plain cotton, then used green fabric paint to make
  stems for these flowers.  Then the older children made fingerprint
  caterpillars (3 fingertips) and bees (1 fingerprint).  She used a
  fabric marker to add details such as wings and antennae.  Then she
  added a border and backing and quilted it for a unique and beautiful
  wall hanging.  It was a special gift, and the kids did a great job
  of keeping the secret - though with the paint left around their
  fingernails, I knew they had been up to something!"


  Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share?  Please write!
  Send to:  mailto:HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

      Late Answer to Recent Issue's Question

  Gayle's Computer Literacy Question:

  "Does anyone know of any programs that we can use to teach our
  Junior and Senior High children Excel, Power Point and other
  common computer programs?  Thank you."


  "Gayle, I have created over 300 videos for learning how to use
  Word, Excel, and PowerPoint
.  These are step-by-step instructions
  for all of the basic skills and many advanced ones:


  They are available FREE to your family."

  David Kimball
  Personal Financial Coach, Speaker, Author

      Last Issue's Reader Question

  "My daughter is 9 with ADHD and she keeps telling me everything
  is too hard.  She would be in third grade for public school this
  year.  I ask her how she got good grades in school if this is too
  hard and she admitted to me that she copied off the other kids.
  So we have started over with first grade stuff.  I'm tired of the
  fighting every day and her crying.  What else can I do??"

  -- Exhausted in Indiana

      Our Readers' Responses

  "It's always a good idea to go back and try to find and fill
  educational gaps in a situation like yours.  If a child complains
  something is too hard, I think you should take it seriously.  Go
  back as far as you need to find the place where she feels comfortable
  doing the work, let her do a lot of practice to gain confidence,
  and proceed from there slowly.  Be sure to review until you are
  sure that she has mastered the material. 
  I wouldn't tell her that she's doing 1st grade work.  Just praise
  her for learning and progressing at whatever pace is right for her.
  I have children with learning disabilities, one with ADHD, and
  temper tantrums can ruin everyone's school day.  I can empathize.
  My ADHD child tends to blow up rather than tell me that something's
  not right.  I'm always trying to find ways to minimize frustration
  for my child and continue to be patient!
  One book that I've found particularly helpful is 'Homeschooling the
  Challenging Child'
by Christine Field.

  It's written by a homeschool mother with a child with ADHD.  The
  title turned me off at first, but the book is full of practical tips
  and encouragement for those with children that learn differently."
  -- Jennifer


  "With our oldest daughter we think outside the box when teaching
  her.  If she needs to read and doesn't want to sit down and read a
  book, we make sure she is reading things like street signs, cereal
  boxes, recipes for her favorite foods and the such.  Eventually she
  realizes that she is reading and it is fun and makes up her own
  reading games.  We take the same approach to any other 'bumps' we
  may encounter in her learning.  She is a free spirited child and we
  don't want to hamper her spirit by forcing her to learn the way we
  were taught in public schools.  She is very creative and needs to be
  able to express herself in her work.  This is how she relates to
  learning.  This approach works for us and in the end it's fun for
  all of us." -- Rebecca


  "Your daughter shouldn't be expected to work at her *age* level.
  She needs to complete work at her *ability* level.  That's the
  beauty of homeschooling.  There's no messing around placing all
  the kids together to make teaching a group of children possible.
  Your daughter gets the privilege of learning the things she needs
  to know before she moves forward.  She doesn't have to feel 'stupid'
  because of this.  My oldest daughter has learning difficulties and
  she's had to learn not to compare herself to her slightly younger
  twin sisters.  They are all in the same grade and would be expected
  to complete the same work in a school classroom.  We have talked a
  lot about her struggles and she recognizes that she needs to do
  things differently in order to succeed.  She has been doing very
  well and has gained a sense of pride and accomplishment working
  slowly through a math text that her sisters did several years ago.
  She feels good when she finally 'gets it'.  Regularly show her how
  her hard work is paying off.  Help her to see her small improvements.
  It's encouraging to them when they can see their own progress on
  things they couldn't understand before." -- Alisha

     Answer our NEW Question

  "I have a 9 year old daughter and 11 year old son.  My daughter
  is in speech for her 'r' and has always had difficulty in spelling
  but is a fantastic reader.  I was told it's because the words
  don't sound right to her.  My son is a very natural speller.  We
  started out using Abeka and it was WAY to difficult so I switched
  to Sequential Spelling and have used that the last 2 years.  The
  words aren't soaking in with my daughter and my son doesn't seem
  challenged.  I've looked into Spelling Power and it seemed like
  the same concept as Sequential Spelling. Any suggestions?" -- Alana


  Do you have some advice or other input for Alana? 

  Please send your answer to:  mailto:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

     Ask YOUR Question

  Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

  Send it to mailto:HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
  if we can help you out in a future issue!

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Next - All About Spelling, Hanukkah and BlueBehemoth
Previous - Boy Gift Ideas, History Choices, Computer Literacy

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