Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Christmas Gifts and Winter Learning

Christmas gift giveaway: We’re giving away 2 books this week: Science Experiments (for ages 5 to 10) and Science Experiments (for ages 9 and up). To enter, see details at the end of this blog post.

In addition, we’re focusing on things we can all learn as the Winter season settles in. Regardless of our age, we can all learn things from Christmas, the holidays, and winter, in general.

Here is a list of learning ideas for Christmas and the coming winter months:

1. The Christmas Story, of course. (The biblical one, not the BB gun one.) Regardless of faith or personal beliefs, it’s helpful to have an understanding of what the biblical story of Christmas is all about. Even Linus telling Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about, in A Charlie Brown Christmas, is poignant, no matter our age or beliefs.

2. And since we mentioned it, we can learn empathy and understanding through watching A Charlie Brown Christmas. As in most of Charles Schulz’s creations, we see children forgetting to be kind and compassionate, being temporarily too self-centered and unseeing of the “bigger picture,” until the light suddenly dawns. Witnessing this transformation in Charlie Brown’s friends helps children realize that they, too, can view things differently and in a more positive and perceptive way.

3. And also, since we mentioned it, we can learn the importance of family, tradition, and nostalgia in watching The Christmas Story – yes, the BB-gun one. Who has not been disappointed on Christmas, by not finding that “special gift” under the tree, or having the “day spoiled” by a disaster, such as a ruined Christmas dinner? But then having parents who understand those feelings, who put things into perspective or create ways to overcome disappointments, making those Christmases some of the most memorable of childhood.

4. Moving on from Christmas stories and shows – of which there are many wonderful ones, too many to mention in this blog post, but some which I know are special to you and your family – we encourage you to take a look at your own Christmas stories and traditions, and all you can learn from them. Write down your traditions and special events in a journal, then pass them on to your children and grandchildren.

5. Hanging Christmas lights from a tangled ball of last-year’s interwoven wires is a lesson in patience and perseverance! Doing this year after year either reinforces those qualities of patience and perseverance, or leads to developing an innovative way of storing those twisted strands of light. Maybe your child will be the inventor who creates a better way of organizing and storing those strands for next year!

6. Then there’s the electrical aspect of actually getting the lights to glow. There’s burnt-out bulbs, blown fuses, running extension cords to outlets, setting timers, synchronizing the motion lights to music, and determining the number of lights and strands required for each display! Plus understanding volts and wattages, and the meaning of the UL certification label on the lights. Christmas lights can lead to a thorough study of Electricity and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).

7. Speaking of Mathematics, there’s baking and more baking to be done! Cookies, candies, a Yule Log cake, and Gingerbread houses to make! Not only does this require mathematical measurements of ingredients, but also critical thinking skills for constructing the special goodies. Plus, creative thinking and logical thinking skills come into play, when certain ingredients aren’t on-hand and substitutions have to be made, or the final result isn’t exactly as planned and last-minute, inventive tweaks are needed. All are learning opportunities, while still having fun!

8. Speaking of fun and creativity, there’s the wrapping of the gifts. Give younger kids boxes and scrap paper, ribbons, and bows (or, as the Grinch said, “ribbons, tags, packages, boxes, or bags”). Let them practice wrapping the boxes or perhaps wrap special items they’d like to share with others. Older kids can wrap thoughtful, hand-made items they’ve made for others.

9. And speaking of hand-made items, crafts made by family members to give to loved ones are always heart-warming and appreciated. And, as the Grinch also said, as he watched the Whos down in Whoville, clasping hands and singing on Christmas morning: “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” With hand-crafted gifts from the heart, Christmas doesn’t have to come from a store. Children can learn, first-hand, that it means a little bit more.

10. Before we move on from Christmas – and all the potential for learning it provides – remember to write “Thank You” notes to everyone after Christmas. This “lesson” includes Cursive Writing Practice, Creative Thinking, Creative Writing, Envelope Addressing, Stamp Affixing, perhaps Post Office Visits, and most importantly, emphasizes Thoughtfulness, Respectfulness, Expressions of Gratitude, and overall Good Etiquette. Thank-you cards can be handmade, too, or created from recycled Christmas cards.

11. Winter is here! It arrives between December 21 and December 22 every year, in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the Winter Solstice. It is the shortest day of the year. It is the time of year when the Earth’s axis is tilted the farthest away from the sun.

12. Take time to observe this – to really, really observe it. On December 21 or 22, look at how low the Sun seems to hang in the sky, closer to the horizon line, almost directly in your line of sight. Notice the shadows of your house, building, or trees, and notice how far away the shadows stretch in winter, compared to where the shadows fall in summer.

13. Days are short! Or at least the hours of daylight are shorter. Look at your local sunrise and sunset times, and compare them to summertime sunrise and sunset times. Here, our sunrise is at 8:03 a.m. and sunset is at 5:23 p.m. on December 22. But in the summer, on the longest day of the year, June 21, our sunrise is at 6:16 a.m. and sunset is at 9:16 p.m. How many daytime hours do YOU have on your shortest day of the year in December? Compare that to the daytime hours available on your longest day of the year in June.

14. Cold winter wonderlands! Could the length of the day be part of the reason why it’s colder in the winter (less direct sunshine when farthest from the equator) and why it’s hotter in the summer (more intense sunshine for longer periods of time when closer to the equator)? Track the temperatures in a Weather Log over the coming weeks and months, and determine why some days are colder than others.

15. Precipitation! What changes warm rains to winter snows? When watching the snow falling one winter day, my son said, “Snow is actually white rain!” Perceptive, to a point. Scientifically, snowflakes form when ice crystals stick together, because of the colder temperatures in the clouds. The crystal formations then become heavy enough to fall to the ground – even though they often appear to be floating like feathers!

16. Make Your Own Snowflakes! Here’s a couple different ways. Click here:, or Click here:

17. Make a Snow Globe, as simple or as elaborate as you’d like! Here’s a couple ideas: Click here:, or Click here:

18. Animals in the snow! After your first, nice snowfall, track animal prints in the snow. See how many different ones you can find. The first ones you see will probably be delicate indentations from birds’ feet on top of the snow. Then the paw prints of cats or dogs. And tracks from squirrels, rabbits, and deer. Follow their paths to see what areas they visited, and try to determine what drew them to those areas. To identify the prints, do a search online for “animal tracks in the snow.”

19. Animals under the snow! When walking on top of the snow, it’s strange to think of animals living underneath it. But chipmunks, groundhogs, mice, voles, and lizards live under the snow or in tunnels in the ground, where it’s surprisingly warmer. Frogs, fish, and turtles may stay on the bottom of ponds, where they burrow into the mud. Learn more about animal behavior and their winter homes, online or in library books.

20. Animals away from the snow! Many animals – like human “snowbirds” – migrate south or to warmer climates for the winter. You might miss your hummingbirds during the winter, but they are living it up in the southern United States, Mexico, or Central America. Do an image search for bird or hummingbird migration paths to see charts of where your favorite backyard birds might be living during the winter. Keep track of when they return in the spring, then when they depart again next winter. Keep this information in your Nature Journal, where you can refer to it again and again. Remember to feed the birds that do stick around your home for the winter!

The above activities can be interesting and educational for all ages over the winter. Plus, following where the activities lead is always entertaining, as well. Allowing children time and freedom to explore these topics can open their eyes to so much in our world that is amazing, breathtaking, and awe-inspiring – a feeling that can last a lifetime.

And, now, to enter the Christmas gift giveaway, just send an email to us at: We’ll draw 2 winners in the coming week. One book for younger kids (ages 5 to 10) entitled 100+ Awesome Science Experiments for Kids. And one book for older kids (ages 9 and up) entitled 101 Great Science Experiments for Kids.

Happy Homeschooling and Happy Holidays!