Eco-Friendly Christmas

It seems that many of us homeschooling moms-- and moms in general-- naturally become interested in ways to "green" our lifestyle. From making our own eco-friendly cleaning solutions to using cloth diapers to buying organic, locally-grown food, searching for sustainable lifestyle practices becomes an important priority. And so it is this Christmas that we have told Santa and our friends and family that we'd prefer either no gift-wrapping (just a big red bow), or wrapping in old newspapers or paper bags.

And we are following the same practice for the gifts we give, including purchasing smaller gifts with less packaging and sliding them into a monogrammed Christmas stocking that we reuse each year. M has found this new practice to be particularly exciting, as she collected old, leftover wrapping paper scraps and "wrapped" her grandfather's present!

We are also trying to encourage fewer toys, partly because of our limited city space and partly to be more eco-friendly. We've been purchasing sustainable and natural toys to reduce reliance on hard plastic toys that are generally not durable nor meaningful nor good for the environment. I read this great article on entitled, "No More Junk Toys: Rethinking Children's Gifts" which includes lots of good ideas for higher-quality, higher-impact toys. Just trying to think up new ways to reduce unnecessary waste-- and I'm very excited because I think Santa is bringing me a composting system for Christmas!

The Mitten

We've been reading Jan Brett's classic book, The Mitten, for several days now and it's such a delightful story. We've been having more indoor days lately, partly due to the frosty weather and partly due to my "nesting" desire in these final few weeks of pregnancy, so it's fortunate that there are so many wonderful winter stories to borrow from the library.

In light of this, I'm trying to incorporate crafts and/or baking activities that go along with a story. In the case of The Mitten, I found this fun and easy craft. I modified it a bit, so that instead of taping the mitten together, we used the one-hole punch to create sewing holes on the edges and then M used her kids needle and yarn to sew the edges, stuff the mitten with cotton and include the animal characters. The craft is a really great way to make the story more interactive, because now as we read the story, she can put each animal into the mitten at its appropriate time. More adventurous/adept homeschooling moms could easily use felt or other material for the mitten and characters!

I've also been thinking about how great poetry is for preschool kids. While I haven't yet suggested that M memorize and recite any poems, I can envision that occurring down the road. In the meantime, I expanded upon the mitten craft by finding a cute poem and affixing it to our paper mitten. Maybe today we'll bake cookies shaped like mittens before truly exhausting this theme!...

Winter Solstice

December is one of my most favorite months of the year, with chalky skies, long shadows, and lots of festive celebrations. This year, we are incorporating more focus on the Winter Solstice as the primary foundation for many of the December traditions we celebrate, like decorating our holiday tree, hanging stockings, hosting parties, and exchanging gifts.

One of my favorite websites, Rhythm of the Home, just came out with their winter issue and they offer a fabulous list of children's stories about the winter solstice. We borrowed several from the library today, including the delightful story, The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice, by Wendy Pfeffer.

I'm really attracted to the Waldorf-inspired focus on seasonal festivals; and celebrating the Winter Solstice this year, along with Christmas and New Year's, just enhances the magic of the season.

This is also such a great time of the year for baking and crafting, while holiday songs surround us. Today we baked gingerbread men and have read the "Gingerbread Boy" story several times to go along with it. December is so rich with curriculum opportunities for homeschooling kids of all ages! Incorporating lessons in astronomy, history, geography, and world religions -- in addition to the fine and culinary arts -- are easy and fun during this festive time of the year. Happy Holidays!