Every year, beginning in October, I start looking ahead with great anticipation toward Christmas. My inbox begins to fill with email subscription posts from my favorite blogs sharing some of the most amazing Christmas ideas I’ve ever seen. Everything from Advent activities and holiday crafts to homemade gift ideas and Christmas lesson plans. I love it all.
And every year, my number one goal is to share the love of Christ with my family, to teach my boys about the gift that God gave to us through his one and only son, Jesus. And there’s a deep desire and an urgency in my heart to show these boys of mine how to be thankful for all they have, to love others well and to live selflessly by giving. I tell myself that this will be the year we focus more on the gift of Jesus’ birth and less on the presents, more on His Truth and less on “I want, I want, I want.”
All of the amazing resources online used to overwhelm me, but over the years, I’ve learned how to not dwell on every single “great idea” unless it REALLY grabs my attention. Well, okay, I’m still learning. But, I’m getting better. Last year, I was completely consumed with a million and one different ways to celebrate the birth of Jesus and teach that giving is better that receiving. I took on too much and lost my focus. This year, I vowed to do it differently.
This year I planned to get really creative with our schooling through the month of December. I named it ADVENTure School. Recently, Wendy, co-owner of the Hip Homeschool Moms, wrote an article I just loved and wholeheartedly agree with. She outlined three very good reasons why one could choose NOT to do school in December. After sharing all of the ways a homeschool family could still learn, engage and have fun through all kinds of amazing activities centered around the reason we celebrate Christmas, Wendy said this…
If you look at it this way, you’re not really taking the month of December off at all. You’re just doing a different kind of teaching and learning, and that’s a good thing!
I could not agree more! For our family, there are just too many other things going on around the holidays that cause us to feel pulled in too many directions when we try to focus on our typical studies as well. So, with notes in hand, favorite blogs, pinterest boards and websites bookmarked and my creative mind in gear, I made a list of what I hoped to do to center our Christmas around the Savior. I was beaming! This would be the year ADVENTure School was in session!
My list included the following:
- Creating a Random Acts of Kindness Poster and including one act of kindness for every day in December. We called this ADVENTures in Kindness.
- I had read about a book last year called Bartholomew’s Passage: A Family Story for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide. I decided to get it this year.
- We tried to do as many of the Advent activities as we could in the Thriving Family magazine, put out by Focus on the Family, last year. This year, I was looking forward to another Advent guide from them. Sure enough, it arrived in my mailbox just in time.
- We were also blessed to get a copy of the bible study, The Birth of Jesus by Grapevine Studies.
- We ordered the DVD, Why Do We Call it Christmas with Buck Denver which came with an incredible Family Christmas Countdown called Everyday Emmanuel.
- And, just for fun…I printed a list of about 20 other online resources that included recipes, crafts, decoration ideas, lots of activities, lists of lists and well, you get the picture. These were part of my backup plan in case we needed MORE to do.
Okay, so maybe I got a little list-happy. But, my intentions were good. And our resources are amazing! I wanted to saturate the hearts and minds of my boys with the love of God and to show them how to love others well. All good things, right? Except, once again, I was taking on too many things. Trying to cram as much as I could into the 31 days that make up December. What about all the other days of the year?
So, here is the moral of my ADVENTure School story. Jesus isn’t a holiday. He’s a person. A true gift given to us by God. Plain and simple, YES, I need to really focus on his birth and the gift He is to us from God surrounding Christmas time. I strongly desire to. But what about the rest of the year? So, when I get all down because we’ve skipped several days on our Random Acts of Kindness poster because all four of my kids were sick this week, I don’t need to fret. Or when we’re a few days behind on our Advent story reading…that’s okay, we can just keep reading til we’re done, even if it’s after Christmas. When we didn’t quite get to making that crafty Christmas Countdown calendar I had all planned out in my mind because no one but me was really interested in it, I can let it go and remember, we already have a perfectly good calendar hanging on our wall. We can just use that. And when so many of the other activities I had planned are just taking much longer than I anticipated I need to just breathe and know God honors our efforts.
And I’m realizing another thing…that list? The one I cling to like a lesson plan? It’s actually more of a guide to help steer us in the right direction. So, during this season, how do we know we’re on the right path in leading our kids toward the real meaning behind Christmas, even when it looks messy and disorganized? I’ll leave you with this sweet and true story.
My husband took our four boys to the store last week. As with many grocery stores at this time of year, there was a man out front ringing a bell while standing next to a bright red kettle. You know the one. Our oldest son asked if they could drop some quarters into the kettle. (it’s on our kindness poster) My husband didn’t have any cash in his wallet at the time. So, they shopped and upon leaving the store, it was pouring down rain. Trying to usher four young boys across a very wet parking lot alone can be challenging, so my husband was in a hurry and trying to keep our boys safe. Then our oldest asked again, “Dad, the cashier gave you some money back. You have some in your wallet now. Can we put some in the kettle?” My husband continued moving them along quickly toward the truck, when he suddenly stopped and realized…this was one of those moments you just don’t want to let pass by for the sake of convenience. (How many times have I done that?) Of course they could stop and give some money. So they turned around and went back to give to the Salvation Army. All four of our boys beamed…especially our oldest. And my husband’s heart melted as he knew that they had been learning a lot in ADVENTure School over these past few weeks.
And I am happy to say that I am learning that Christmas can serve as a beautiful reminder to make Jesus famous all year long in a million different ways. And sometimes, the greatest lessons, aren’t planned at all. They’re the simple acts of love from one to another and the sweet conversations with your kids that leave you feeling thankful for the “lessons” that God had planned all along.
Have you been inspired this month to renew your resolve to stand firm on the Word of God in your homeschooling all year long? I know I have.
Note: First photo above from Cali Makes Do via www.Flickr.com