There’s so much magic afoot this time of year…

elf bath

Trata, our elf, was caught one morning taking a bubble bath. I love Katie’s delighted expression in the mirror. She was an elf-skeptic when our adventure began with Trata (Eric’s name for him) this year, but she has let the magic wash over her now.

elf muffins

Trata surprised everyone this morning with batter for cinnamon-chocolate chip muffins. It takes only a few minutes to put together a muffin batter (in fact, I should do this before bed more often), and the payoff was huge with Katie and Eric. This may have been their favorite so far… Trata has also been found playing Candy Land with one of the Holiday Barbies and a stuffed reindeer, sleeping in a Santa hat under our tree, and a couple of other scenarios. I am having so much fun thinking about what he will do next and trying to be creative with him!

homeschool park days

Developing friendships during homeschooling park day this week… Katie loves this time. She played with friends for two hours straight, not at all concerned about what I was doing or where I was. Eric requires more watching, though he does follow his sister around and exercises some independence while I get to know the other moms. We had so many laughs this week, and that was much needed.

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Decorating our tree on December 1st.

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We had my parents over for dinner on Christmas Tree Day. We always make lasagna (Christmas colors!!), bread, salad, and boiled cookies.

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Picking out our tree…

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My little supermarket helpers

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The repeating layers of lasagna are GREAT for young cooks. Here, Katie is dolloping the ricotta. She put this vegetarian lasagna together herself, with minimal guidance. (I did prep the mushrooms and made the sauce, though she helped pick our basil for the sauce).

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A couple years in, and our homemade “tree forest” advent calendar is still going strong and holding up to use. We made this forest back in 2010; here are the directions from another site. I put two Hershey kisses under each cone. Katie lifts all the odd numbers; Eric has the evens this year. They love the dark chocolate first thing in the morning—must be Christmastime!!

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Lights on a grey afternoon…

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We went over to my mom and dad’s house and helped them decorate their tree, too. I love seeing all of our favorite ornaments each year. So festive.

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Another elf pic! Here, Trata was fishing for goldfish crackers with a candy cane fishing pole and a Hershey kiss on the end as bait. To be fair, I have seen variations on this over the years, though I did add my own twists on it. The kiddos thought it was a hoot.

on a walk

On a walk this morning to the corner store to pick up candy for graham cracker house decorating tomorrow with our Bergon ladies! Eric wanted to wear this hat (from a stuffed animal) and put it on himself. So sweet.

stocking craft

Katie has been working on stocking-themed items this week (just here and there, not like a big unit or anything—not sure how I could make a big unit out of stockings, LOL!!). She has been working on addition of digits under 10, and I found one of those worksheets where you work all the sums, color each section according to the number, and reveal a picture—in this case, it revealed a stocking. For some history and ELA, we read (actually, she read with just a few assists) an essay about the legend of hanging stockings and answered reading comp questions. To involve Eric, I found a stocking template online, cut out some red construction paper stockings, broke out the cotton balls and glitter—and they went to town. Fun, easy, and the customers were quite satisfied long enough for me to clean up the lunch dishes. I love that they can do some work together and learn from each other, a definite perk to homeschooling.

We had Monday off from school, technically per the River Springs calendar, but we did a full session to make room on Tuesday to go visit Nana with my mom and Aunt Debbie. We all love to go to the market with Nana: Eric loves to ride with her in her cart, and I have fun seeing what she buys. After eating our lunches back at her house, we usually all go to visit Great-Great-Uncle Ross. The kiddos are growing more and more used to the nursing home and how to behave there. I bring things for them to do, though sometimes they really like visiting or looking at things, especially Eric. We are grateful to have a schooling schedule and the freedom that allows us to do this. We are grateful that our children get to experience social learning in a real environment: i.e. what is life like as we get older, and how do we relate to our elders? What traits in our human nature connect us across generations? What is the essence of love and duty and respect? When I am asked, as homeschoolers often are (at least I have personally been asked quite frequently), about how I “socialize” my children, one of my first thoughts is that all of their social interaction takes place in the very real world with all social dynamics in a realistic context.

The kiddos are so lucky to have so many opportunities to make friends their age, and we see peer friends sometimes several times a week. We play on teams, practice sports and music, meet for crafts, park time, and more. We attend museums, see live theater performances, and make conversation with clerks in stores. My children have different personalities from one another, one more introverted (like me and Bill) and one more extroverted. But this is a difference of personality and not a difference of skill set. Social protocols, manners, and cues can all be taught. Bill and I are both introverts who managed classrooms and helped to manage whole departments at a large high school. Introversion/extroversion really has very little to do (Bill and I have read up on this) with social skills or the very ponderous, unwieldy, what-do-people-mean-exactly-when-they-use-it-term “socialization.” I just consider myself to be the lucky teacher who gets to teach them the social skill set, as well as their mother. As a homeschooling family, we just choose to divide social time (at the McGaugh Academy) a bit more sharply from our academic time than we might otherwise find taking place in a traditional school setting. Homeschoolers with co-op arrangements no doubt feel even differently than I do. At the McGaugh Academy we teach our children their academics, and then we also take them into real life settings and situations with their peers and with people who are not their peers and we teach them there, too. We are never in a closet, as the socialization question sometimes implies. The community is truly our classroom. We can learn from anyone, and anyone can be our teacher. We believe that and live that, every day.

The Christmas season is a perfect one for making the most of our community resources and for celebrating our fortunate friendships. This coming week holds so much magic, and we are so thankful for it! Here is to a week of more memories with family, friends new and old, and Christmas magic!

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