12.11.2010

Our Eight Days of Christmas Around the World: SCANDINAVIA

Our core home learning curriculum this year has been My Father's World: Exploring Countries and Cultures (MFW-ECC), a world geography study we're almost halfway through and have really enjoyed. We've taken a break from it for the month of December, though, in order to focus more explicitly on Jesus' birthday. And, to that end, we've just wrapped up a portion of the Notgrass Christmas unit study, Celebrate the Savior, during which my girls each delighted in creating a "baby book for Jesus."

However - because it's geared for kids all the way up to age 14 - I feel the rest of that book is a bit over their heads for now. So we'll save it for another year and, instead, use the next couple of weeks to study some Christmas traditions around the world.

For continuity's sake, we'll focus on eight of the 13 countries (other than the U.S. and Canada) that are also covered in MFW-ECC. We've already "visited" half of them - so our Christmas study will serve as a helpful review - and we will get to the rest this winter and spring.

My main resource for this has been Celebrate Christmas Around the World (CCAW) by Teacher Created Resources. This is a great book I happened upon in early November as I began to think about this month, and it actually includes ideas for 22 different countries. Thus, it could be the guiding force behind a multicultural Christmas study for the entire month of December, and I highly recommend it. In particular, I really like that, while it includes information about various secular aspects of each country's celebration, it unashamedly gives full credit to the birth of Christ as the impetus behind the holiday as it is recognized today.

We're only going to spend one day on each country so it'll be a whirlwind tour. But I think that's just enough to facilitate some good learning right along with having seasonal fun. We'll start on Monday, December 13, but I aim to post our plans for each country a few days ahead of time.

In terms of literature, I've listed everything I've found on our bookshelves and/or at our local library. Of course, you likely won't find all of these titles where you are, but you can no doubt discover plenty of good alternatives if you have a halfway decent library. I'm also listing everything I've found - but, of course, we probably won't read it all, especially on days for which I've located many resources. Chances are, instead, that we'll choose three or four stories a day, a couple for during our morning group time read-aloud and one or two more to enjoy over lunch.

In contrast, though CCAW contains a wealth of ideas for each country, I'm only listing the activities we'll actually be doing. That's because listing everything would be both overwhelming and, most likely, a violation of copyright law. So I encourage you to buy the book for yourself to see the rest of the ideas, if not for this Christmas, then, perhaps, to have on hand for next year.

That said, if you're looking for a nice mix of instructive but not-too-overwhelming activities to do over the next two weeks, join us on all or even part of the journey - and please let me know if you do!

******

DAY 1: SCANDINAVIA


MFW-ECC actually focuses on Norway, which we spent two weeks studying in October and November (and about which you can read here and here). But even then we talked about how the other Scandinavian countries - Denmark, Finland, and especially Sweden - have similar customs. Thus, we'll include ideas from all of Scandinavia here.


Literature:
  • Christmas Around the World (Chapters 1 & 7) by Emily Kelley
  • Christmas in Sweden by Cheryl L. Enderlein
  • The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Andersen
  • Kirsten's Surprise: A Christmas Story by Janet Shaw
  • "St. Lucia's Day in Sweden" from Children Just Like Me: Celebrations by Anabel Kindersley
  • "A Very Big Cat: A Norse Legend" by Nora Clarke from The Kingfisher Book of Classic Christmas Stories (Ian Whybrow, Editor)
  • Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve by Jan Brett

Craft:

Scandinavian Straw Ornament (adapted from CCAW) -
  1. Tie three or six strands of raffia together at one end;
  2. Braid the entire length of the straw;
  3. Form the braid into a wreath, overlap the ends, and then wrap the ends together securely with thread;
  4. Spray with a thin coat of hairspray;
  5. Attach a red bow to cover the ends and add some color;
  6. Add a loop of yarn to the back for a hanger.

Alternately, since CCAW tells us that Norwegian Christmas trees are "trimmed with paper chains, stars, angels, garlands of Norwegian flags, and lights" (68), you could have the children make their own paper chains, large glittery tagboard stars, paper angels, or even flag garlands. And yet another option would be to use the pattern in CCAW to have each child make a Norwegian Nisse such as those mentioned in a couple of these books.


Other Activities:

CCAW notes that "Scandinavians always remember to feed the birds and other animals at Christmas" and "set out sheaves of grain...to share their bounty with the birds" (67). So we'll take a few minutes to put out some birdseed in our backyard. Earlier this fall, we'd talked about wanting to be sure to do that this winter anyway, and - given that we'll likely be under a foot of snow by Monday morning - they should be much appreciative.


Food:

We'll enjoy a Norse Feast for lunch, including:
  • baked cod (I found some nice, potato-breaded fillets at our local grocery.)
  • boiled red potatoes
  • lefse (spread with cream cheese or goat cheese)
  • carrots (since Scandinavians can mainly grow only root crops)
  • hard cheese
  • fruit soup

Fruit Soup
from MFW-ECC, 2nd Edition, by Marie Hazell, M.A.

12 oz. dried fruit
1/2 c. raisins
4 c. water
2 c. orange juice or apple juice
3 T. quick-cooking tapioca
1/3 c. sugar
1 stick cinnamon or ground cinnamon (to taste)

Mix all ingredients in a pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, about 30 minutes or until the fruits are tender. Serve warm or cold.


Language Arts:

We'll start Christmas Around the World booklets for each child by using the Charlotte Mason-style narration method.

The older girls (ages eight and nine) will dictate three to five facts they've learned about Christmas in Scandinavia, and then they'll use that information for copywork, to which they'll add their own illustrations. The younger girls (age four) will dictate one or two facts they've learned, which I'll write on drawing paper for them; they'll then do their best to draw a related picture. At the end of our study, I'll bind each child's book as a keepsake.

If time permits, I'll have each child make a cover for her book on the first day, too. However, we have afternoon extracurricular activities on both Monday and Tuesday so making the covers may have to wait until Wednesday.


Photo Credits: cindy251978 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/cindyandmike/5235595925/) and Anna Laca (http://www.flickr.com/photos/pdottir/4259327747/)

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