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My son and I have been slacking off on the homeschooling due to the sheer amount of magic that’s been happening during the month of December. One day prior to Christmas, we tried to get with our usual program and we studied the properties, history and folklore surrounding peppermint and peppermint products. My son tasted, touched and examined mint leaves. He learned that diverse products such as candy canes and toothpaste were either made from peppermint or given a peppermint taste due to the perceived medicinal properties and overall fresh feeling that the plant leaves in the mouth. Similarly, he learned about the storied history of candy canes. I just wished that I had know that a German immigrant named August Imgard was associated with the first appearance of the candy cane in the US. I would have worked that fact in somehow, but I’m sure he would have quickly forgotten it.

Peppermint

Peppermint & Candy Canes

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I just came to the realization that St. Lucia and Candlemas are two separate holidays. Duh! Of course, I would not readily be aware of the difference, as these are not family traditions. However, I likely should have known the difference. Like all other holidays clustered around the Winter Solstice, these two holidays focus on the theme of “light in the darkness.” Candles figure prominently in the holiday imagery, and both holidays are European in origin and appear in Waldorf-oriented resources. The similarities amongst the two holidays appear to end there, however. St. Lucia is a Swedish holiday commemorating the life and apparently gruesome death of St. Lucia. St. Lucia is presented as a beautiful and wealthy young girl who has a propensity for charitable acts. Her pious nature only increases when her mother becomes ill and she commits to living her life in chastity, if her mother is healed. The mother is healed and St. Lucia lives up to her vow. Unfortunately, a jealous man who can not tempt St. Lucia to break her vows has her killed. Her life is subsequently celebrated in Sweden with a theme song, local fare and children dressing as St. Lucia, female attendants and “star boys.”

Candlemas occurs on the same date as Ground Hog’s day and celebrates (depending on your spiritual stripe) a Celtic Goddess or the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The day is generally heralded by adherents as the beginning of spring and candle creation is a fun activity enjoyed on the day.

Being somewhat caught off guard, I hurried to create a chaulkboard drawing to at least acknowledge St. Lucia Day. More to come!

St. Lucia Day (1)

St. Lucia Day (1)

St. Lucia Day (2)

St. Lucia Day (2)

St. Nick’s Day certainly was not “all that.” I do not think I did such a great job incorporating this Dutch Holiday into our overall holiday festivities. I originally posited Nick as a sort of “helper” who came to collect Christmas wish lists and left a few small trinkets to tide waiting children over. Not only did we forget the whole “wish list in the shoe” idea, my son saw a conflicting DVD that provided another explanation for St. Nick himself. Here, St. Nick was described as Santa himself. Oh, my. Fortunately, my son didn’t call me out on that. The whole idea of St. Nick Day sort of went by the wayside. That’s all well and good as I am a Krampus fanatic, and St. Nick simply doesn’t compare. Nevertheless, my son made me some cute ornaments, and that’s good enough for me.

St. Nick Ornament (1)

St. Nick Ornament (1)

St. Nick Ornament (2)

St. Nick Ornament (2)

St. Nick Ornament (3)

St. Nick Ornament (3)

In my quest to fill the holidays with magic, I am trying to recognize some of the more obscure (from an American perspective) holidays that occur during the Winter. The first holiday that I am trying hard to incorporate is St. Nick’s Day. St. Nick’s Day celebrates the actual Saint from which Santa is based and is–apparently–a more low key, religious take on the seasonal gift givers. Obviously, a holiday such as St. Nick’s Day appears to be redundant with Christmas itself. Consequently, I had to consider ways in which to make this holiday uniquely special. I assumed I had a roadblock until I came across a video on lapbooking. I found myself so inspired by the video that I determined to make a lapbook for St. Nick’s Day. Once I committed myself to the task, I found it quite easy to create the lapbook and to incorporate a wide variety of information, stories, games and other activities around the day’s theme of selfless giving.

This is the lapbook’s cover. It features a simple picture of St. Nick which may be colored. It needs a little more oomph to it, but it will make do for now. In the very near future, I hope to create a decorative title which will be affixed above the St. Nick picture.

This is the inside cover of the laptop. Here, a fanciful picture of St. Nick can be seen poised above a small mountain of shoes. In the Netherlands, St. Nick’s visit results in shoes being filled with fruit, candies and small trinkets.

This is the cover for a fold-out story of St. Nick. I essentially printed out a story that consists of two pages printed on one side of paper. I folded the paper in half and cut out an imposing picture of St. Nick and pasted it on the blank side of the story.

Here is a simplified version of the St. Nick story. St. Nick has some fairly lurid stories associated with him, so I went for a simplified tell that left something to the imagination.

To make the most of the space allotted by the folders that comprise the lapbook, I incorporated an envelope to hold pieces for a bingo activity. I layered some papers for a drawing activity and a fold out “bag of coins” to further discussion of the St. Nick lesson. The other folder is likewise filled with side activities including a St. Nick puzzle and some material to make St. Nick ornaments.

The flap containing the St. Nick story opens out to reveal a Bingo game. The reverse side of the fold-out flap also contains a pocket which can be used to contain other elements of the St. Nick lesson plan.

Finally, the rear of the lapbook contains a matching game that prompts one to search through a picture and circle objects that start with the letter S. Here, I should point out, St. Nick traditionally travels on a ship, so the S is a fitting letter to associate with the seafaring saint and his ship.

The Winter holiday season is upon us once again. Time to make the most of it. This year, I’m going to make the month of December a magical, cultural extravaganza to remember. I intend to focus on the folk traditions of the German people. My family is primarily German, and I will be seeking as much inspiration as I can from Christmases past, both my past and the distant past.

I happened by a local discount store that sells one-off products either from foreclosed businesses, fire sales, or so forth. While there, I happened upon some surprising toys on offer. Not only did they have a Underground Railroad game (of all things) they had a beautiful paint set featuring various individuals representative to one Native American culture. I think the figures represent traditional Cheyenne dress, but I do not remember. Whatever the case may be, I decided that this was a worthy impulse buy. I wanted my son to focus on the many native persons who helped the pilgrims survive in their new country, and this was one way for my son to have something “real” to him in his five year old understanding. He absolutely loved his plastic Native Americans and eagerly got them ready for the big Thanksgiving feast. Here, I should note that my own family has Native American ancestry and I am well aware of the controversy surrounding Thanksgiving and Native Americans in general. However, due to my son’s young age, I edited out some but not all of the unpleasantries that occurred subsequent to the Native American/Pilgram encounter. That topic will be left for other days.


I was not enthusiast about another Thanksgiving of overeating while sitting around watching football. This year, I decided that Thanksgiving itself should be a memorable event filled with family “traditions.” We don’t really have any family traditions pertaining to this holiday, so we went looking and oh, did we find ideas. The core of our holiday was based on a Pilgrim Unit study that I purchased from a link off of a facebook homeschool site. Apparently, this woman used the lesson plan once as a schooling unit and then the various projects and activities associated with the lesson plan in subsequent Thanksgiving celebrations.

Following her example, I ensured that my son would wake up to the arrival of the Mayflower. It was supposed to “arrive” in the backyard next to the tipi. However, it arrived behind the couch. Good enough.

Mayflower

Mayflower

Next, we tried our hand at baking. My son was very eager to help with the stirring and pouring of cranberry muffin mix.

Baking

Baking

We then invested time creating a Turkey centerpieces for the table.

Turkey Centerpiece

Turkey Centerpiece

I threw together a Thankfulness journal. I must admit that I put it together without my son because I want it to last for a few years. My son likely would have adorned the cover with his famous circles with legs that represent everyone from people to turkeys, suns and beyond.

Thanksgiving Journal

Thanksgiving Journal

While I was crafting away, my son got silly creating a turkey hat form himself and sketching a lopsided face on our sad little scarecrow.

Turkey Hat

Turkey Hat


Scarecrow Gets a Face

Scarecrow Gets a Face

Of course, we got in quite a bit of homeschooling. Well, virtually everything we did was homeschool-centric. We just put in a little more effort completing our Turkey, Pilgrim and Native American themed worksheets. Worksheets do not seem very-Waldorf. However, my son

Homeschool Break

Homeschool Break

After that much-needed break, we put together our Thankfulness Tree. My son wrote down various things for which he is thankful onto stickies-sized paper. He then hung his little slips on the tree.

Tree of Thanks

Tree of Thanks

After all these doings, it still was not time to eat, and my son still had his ya-yas to get out. So, we played a spirited game of marbles. Marbles is definitely not to my liking. However, the Pilgrim Study United cited marbles as a teaching tool to demonstrate what colonial children did for fun. By now, it is no surprise to my son that children during this era did not have televisions, computers and toys common by today’s standards. He continues to find this unimaginable but not surprising. However, he soon realized that he could enjoy the game just the same.

Marbles

Marbles

Finally, it was time to eat. We ate a modest turkey dinner using light from candles and little metal lanterns that we had created to evoke a colonial home.

Candlelight Dinner

Candlelight Dinner

I grew up in the 70s reading boy-oriented books that my grandfather supplied me with. There were various books about topics like Electrical Engineering for kids. There were various other science books and encyclopedias. I also had hand-me down construction toys like real, metal erector sets with little wrenches. Those types of things left me cold. However, I LOVED this book called Indian Crafts and Lore. This was an educational book that introduced Native American culture to boy scout types using various craft and construction projects. I was recently reminded of this book and tracked it down at the local library. I then endeavored to build a tipi in the back yard to enforce certain lessons that we had discussed regarding the role Native Americans played during the first Thanksgiving.


Finally, I should point out where aesthetics lack, the life lesson was significant. My aim here was to teach my son that the comforts of modern life were not available to Native Americans and colonial settlers. My son had seen images of native and settler homes before and was bothered by the lack of bathrooms and other amenities. The life lesson is that people used to have to expend significant amounts of time and effort to achieve the most minimal of living standards. Watching me search around for, cut, drag and maneuvre wood into place was enough for him to get the hardships of olden times.

The Squirrel chaulkboard drawing was okay. However, I only had white chaulk. Consequently, the drawing simply didn’t have the oomph that I was going for. I decided to switch the drawing when I incorporated the new handmade leaves into the decor. I was at a loss. I wasn’t quite sure what sort of theme to work with. I only know that I wanted something that evoked the spirit of November. I ended up “borrowing” from a drawing I saw on another Waldorf. Not very original, but it looks great!

Scarecrow Chaulkboard

Scarecrow Chaulkboard

This past weekend, we went overboard in our big run-up to Thanksgiving. First, we made a charming leaf mobile. We found this craft in a homeschooling enrichment guide published by Little Acorn Learning. Here, we are getting started by painting the base material that will later be cut into leaf shapes.

Painting the Leaves

Painting the Leaves


After a vigorous painting session, the pre-leaves are left out to dry on a trash bag. Couldn’t risk painting the table as well!
Drying the Leaves

Drying the Leaves


Here’s the leaves all cut out and hung up mobile style from two branches mounted on an overhead light.
Finished Leaves

Finished Leaves


After the fact, we realized that we had too many leaves for the mobile. We could have made it significantly more impressive, but I was losing steam by this point. Consequently, I decided to take a few of the more darker, redder leaves and make hang them from a “thankfulness tree.” The “thankfulness tree” is an upcoming Thanksgiving Project. I intended for my son to hang little cards on the three that listed things for which he is thankful. That will still take place. However, the tree will be a little more jazzy in appearance than originally planned.
Thankfulness Tree

Thankfulness Tree