by Sarah Buchwalder
Even if you aren't part of a liturgical tradition that observes Advent, or even if your family doesn't celebrate Christmas at all, these are still some ideas you can implement in your homeschool during the "season of giving" and ways to foster the virtues of patience and generosity.
1. Purposefully set aside time each day, preferably at the same time, for quiet contemplation (for you and your children). If you are actually observing Advent, what you're doing is preparing your heart and mind to better understand and appreciate the Incarnation.
2. Try a reverse Advent calendar. Simple slips of paper each day, drawn out of a bowl or box, are just fine. (You could use purple paper if you have some for Advent, or red or green for the holidays). On each slip of paper is a prompt to give in some way. For example: "Complete a chore for someone else." "Do my own chore without being asked." "Hold my tongue and count to ten instead of losing my temper." "Choose an item in good condition to donate." "Purchase an item with my own allowance to go toward a food/clothing drive." "Write a nice note for someone."
3. Related to the above: some families like to "fill the manger" for the Christ Child by leaving a slip of straw (or hay, or paper) in a designated place, like a Nativity scene, each time a virtue is practiced or a personal sacrifice is made. The goal is to have a comfy place for the baby to sleep by the end of the season with all the accumulated pieces of straw.
4. Practice waiting! Instead of eating that cookie right away, set it down and flex your patience muscle. Instead of Googling something right away, make a handwritten list throughout the day and see what was actually worth turning to a phone/screen for.
5. Each day, preferably at the same time, set aside time for reading aloud Scripture related to the Christmas story.
6. Think of a different name used for Jesus in Scripture each day and write it down in a prominent place. (This could be a blackboard, a posterboard, or separate slips of paper pinned to a bulletin board; whatever makes the most sense for your family). The goal is to have a long list of names by Christmas. Explain the names/titles if necessary. (Some examples: "Emmanuel" - God-With-Us. "Alpha and Omega" - The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. "Shepherd" - This metaphor is used many times in many places; why do you think that one is a favorite? There are lots of mini-lessons across subjects here!)
7. There's a reason candles are a central part of Advent traditions; we are coming close to the shortest day of the year, and each week more light is added to the Advent wreath to symbolize the light of hope growing in spite of deepening darkness. You can light a candle, or succession of candles, regardless of your own traditions as we approach the winter solstice.
8. A similarly lovely and tangible symbol is to plant something that will hopefully bloom by Christmas! Paperwhite bulbs are an obvious choice. You can even grow them in water. Watch them sprout and send out flowers. A great, simple science lesson too!
Sarah is a mother of three and a New York expat, homeschooling on the Midcoast. Her degree is in philosophy and she wears multiple hats at HOME (and home). She sort of classically educates her kids and likes being by the ocean, growing food, and having meaningful conversations with friends. She is a pet mom to an especially handsome bearded dragon, three chatty guinea pigs, and a fluctuating flock of hapless Ancona ducks.