Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lapbooking Christmas

We have three weeks of school left before Christmas break.  I am ready for something different from our routine.  So I’ve been searching for lapbooks to work on during the countdown to Christmas.  I think one a week is enough, but I have a back-up fourth one just in case.

Lapbooks are a wonderful way to add some change to your schooltime.  They can replace your standard curriculum or add to it.  You don’t even have to homeschool to use them with your kids, and they come in ability levels from Preschool through High School. 

We have used lapbooks to review something we’ve been learning about.  For instance, last year the girls did a curriculum, The Prairie Primer, based around the Little House on the Prairie books.  At the end of many of the books—we meant to do one after all of them, but it just didn’t happen—we did a lapbook.  We’ve done lapbooks on Fridays, our normal “day off.”  We’ve supplemented science and social studies with lapbooks.  

My favorite site for free lapbooks is: 
They have tons of lapbooks based on different books and subjects.  We will be doing The Polar Express and The Night Before Christmas lapbooks, and I may use The Twelve Days of Christmas.

The other lapbook I plan to use is The Nativity.  I found it for free at: 

Monday we will start The Polar Express.  Thursday the movie is on TV, so we can compare the book—a beautiful book by Chris Van Allsburg—to the movie.   It is a short, easy book to read, but never grows old.  

The following week we will do The Night Before Christmas.  There are many versions of this poem, some with gorgeous illustrations.  I plan to find several to compare.

The last week of school, we will leave the secular and finish up with the true meaning of Christmas—The Nativity, and possibly The Twelve Days of Christmas.

In addition to our lapbooks focused on Christmas, we are doing a Jesse Tree for the first time.  The name alone has significant meaning to us because we lost a baby we named Jesse on the day after Christmas 2006.  The Jesse Tree focuses on the lineage of Jesus, seeing how all of history led up to His miraculous birth.  I found a couple of websites that provide ideas/devotions for the Jesse Tree.  This year we are using one offered by . We start our morning with the Jesse Tree activities.

What are you doing to spice up the Christmas season in your home?  Lapbooks and the Jesse Tree are a great way to involve your children in this special time of the year.  You don’t have to homeschool to do either.  They are low-cost, low-effort, and high learning.  Now, get out there, Google “lapbooks” and get learning in a new way!

Monday, November 26, 2012


Have you ever used fresh cranberries for cooking?  Until we found them for 10 cents a bag a couple years ago, I had never bought fresh cranberries before, let alone cook with them!  In fact, I wasn’t even sure I liked canned cranberry sauce.  When I had ten bags of fresh cranberries, I decided I’d better figure out what to do with them!

First, you can freeze a bag of fresh cranberries by simply popping it in the freezer.  When they thaw, they retain their texture and don’t go to mush like you might expect.  They will be fine for up to a year in your freezer.

One of the first things I did with my fresh (or frozen) cranberries was to make this salad/relish.  It involves no cooking whatsoever--just a food processor, or something else you can use to finely chop.  You don’t need to thaw the cranberries if they are frozen.  It is a tangy, wonderful holiday side. You just finely chop a bag of cranberries, one orange—rind and all—and a small apple, seeded.  Add up to a cup of sugar.  Mm, Mm, makes my mouth water!  This is a great, simple recipe you can make with the kids.  They might be surprised how much they like it.

Now, what about getting some education involved in your cranberries? The first real “cooking” of cranberries I did followed reading Cranberry Thanksgiving, by Wende and Harry Devlin, with my children.  (There is also a follow-up story Cranberry Christmas, but we haven’t read that yet.)  Cranberry Thanksgiving is one of the books featured in Five in a Row.  Here is a great lapbook using this book to do with your children to learn more about cranberries:

At the end of Cranberry Thanksgiving is a recipe for Grandma’s Cranberry Bread.  It is a wonderful recipe!  We love it!  It is sweet and moist.  For our family of 8, it is best if I double the recipe, but I used just one bag of cranberries for both loaves.  It really should be closer to a bag and a half, but we find there are still plenty of cranberries.

If you’ve never bought or used cranberries before, I suggest you give this tart, beautiful fruit a try.  Around Thanksgiving the price is very good and you can find great deals on fresh cranberries--I've seen them for as much as $1.99 a pound and as little as a dime a pound.  Try something new; get your children involved.  You might discover a new holiday favorite!