Any adult who has worked with children knows that after Thanksgiving things get crazy. There seems to be a daily half-life to the amount of productivity that goes on. Every day, a little less work and learning and little more distraction and lack of attention.
However, there are strategies that can help weave learning into the season, while taking into account what the kids found interesting and fun. Remember, no matter where you are or what you celebrate, the cultural literacy of the season is important.
Depending on where you live and the weather, and the holidays that you celebrate, you might be able to tweak these ideas for each school subject to work for your family celebrations:
Math. Many of us have special meals and baking that we do this time of year:
- Make lists of food and discuss healthy choices.
- Choose the recipes and determining whether any are being halved, doubled or tripled.
- Work the math for the ingredient quantities and make a shopping list.
- Learn to shop, use unit prices, work within a budget, and come home with everything they need to help create the recipe.
- Measure ingredients, understand different oven temperatures and witness the changes of state between something before it's cooked vs. afterward.
History. This time of year is filled with special days and special people in history. During this season visit:
- The library to find and read books about the history of a holiday, a person who is part of the holiday you celebrate, or a culture that celebrates the holiday in an interesting way.
- A person who could share about their childhood celebrations of a holiday or season or talk about their country of origin and its traditions.
- A place that is holding a special celebration. Create a tradition for your family of taking part in something new like this.
Science. Seasons are changing in most places, and with them, the weather changes too. During this time start watching what is happening outside your home and:
- Watch the weather where you are and track the temperature and what the sky looks like daily.
- Choose a location in the country and another location in the world and using the internet, track their temperatures and weather.
- Compare and contrast the three locations.
- Discuss what it must be like and what activities a child the same age as yours might do during the season due to the weather where they are.
- Find creative ways for your child to understand temperatures that they might not be accustomed to, whether hot or cold. How cold is your freezer anyway?
- For the New Year, don't forget to discuss time zones and how the new year starts for others before it starts for you.
Reading. Pull out seasonal books that are put away during the other 11 months.
- Borrow some books from the local library or add a few new ones to your family bookshelf.
- Find a few classics and read a chapter a day. A Christmas Carol, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, The Gift of the Magi and others fit the Christmas theme. The Miracle of Hanukkah, Light the Lights! and The Ziz and the Hanukkah Miracle are fun, even once Hanukkah is over. Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanza Story, Seven Candles for Kwanza, and My First Kwanza are good reads for Kwanza. There are stories about the New Year and you can discuss how different cultures place the new year differently but that most of us follow the same calendar.
Art and Music. This season is a wealth of culture and art:
- Every culture and language has its own music. Listen broadly to how a holiday is expressed through music of different cultures.
- Have each child choose a favorite holiday or seasonal song and then research where the song came from, when it was written and if the lyrics were ever different.
- Create artwork around the season, the holiday or the weather. Cut snowflakes, decorate windows and make gifts.
Physical Education. Get out and DO stuff:
- In areas with snow, skating, skiing, and sledding are great ways to spend time, while getting exercise and enjoying the snow and ice.
- In areas without snow, consider trying a new activity outside that you don't do during the rest of the year and make it a new seasonal activity for your family. How about rock climbing, hiking, in-line skating, or golf? Get out and enjoy some exercise and family time.
It would be easy to dismiss all this activity as non-educational, but cultural literacy is really an imperative to our society. Use the things going on around you during this season to both enhance your child's knowledge of where they live and the greater world around them AND enjoy time with their family this season. Make some learning memories by tying learning to fun. Finally, you might consider some educational gifts for the holidays this year and taking advantage of a holiday sale on online education programs for those cold days indoors.
Lori Beverage is senior manager of national community and family support for K12 . She has a bachelor of science in elementary and special education from UMaine at Farmington, a master of arts from Emerson College in theater education, and a decade of experience in the brick-and-mortar classroom as a special educator.