Gearing up for the Holidays

It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly—Thoreau

Thanksgiving is a great way to open the holiday season.  We spend time traveling to be close to our friends and family, we cook and eat and laugh and shop and plan for Christmas.  And most significantly we remember how important it is to be a cog in the wheel of our family’s lives.

Gearing Up for the Holidays (Quantum)

This year we are really making an effort to remove the materialism from the holiday season.  We are concentrating on the parts of the holiday season that are most important to all of us:  family and friends.

And no, it isn’t easy.  For children, Christmas seems to be inextricably tied to gifts.  But in addition to gifts there are so many tiny traditions and each of these small jewels creates the magic of what we think of when we think of “Christmas!”

We are singing Christmas carols, practicing our roles for the traditional church Christmas pageant, planning all our favorite foods and inviting guests from far and near to come celebrate on Christmas Eve.  Children are trying to earn last minute pennies and we are all busy trying to create “priceless” surprises for one another.

We have temporarily relocated to Vermont and are spending time enjoying one another and enjoying the unexpected.  Here we are able to touch and learn about local wild animals.

Christmas is a winter holiday and Happymess kids are building snow forts, sledding downhill and creating snow jumps so brothers, little and big, can take flying leaps into soft snow piles.

Big sister, Zuzu, from far away has come home and is busy creating balloon concoctions for smaller brothers.

After a very adult dinner we are able to step out side and watch the reflection of fireworks as they explode in the sky and are reflected in the snow.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is being Thankful for moments of family unity.

Finding Creative Inspiration

Creative inspiration is a necessary ingredient for every part of life, but certainly needed when educating and inspiring children. We need to be creative in our approach so our students are engaged and we need to continually reinvent the lesson to maintain both their level of interest and our own.


So where do we find our creative inspiration? Our Happymess approach is usually to look at each lesson as part of an inter-disciplinary component.

We ask ourselves, "How does this one piece of learning fit into the giant puzzle of knowledge?" I typically try to find at least 3 different disciplines related to each individual subject. I try to surround our nugget of factual study with small pieces of art, history or literature that will make the "fact" seem more "real" to our aspiring student.

For example, when studying math we ask ourselves, "Why is this really necessary? Who has used this knowledge in the past?" "Why might we be interested in knowing this in the future?"

These type of questions quickly lead us to a study of history, both ancient and modern. We can look at the ancient Greek philosophers and mathematicians and learn how they studied the general principles of the world. We can study the lives of Euclid and Pythagoras and learn about the Euclidean algorithm for determining the greatest common divisor, or in Saxon Math terms, the greatest common factor (GCF). We study Pythagoras' theorem for determining the hypotenuse of a right triangle: a squared + b squared = c squared.

We see immediately that these are not merely formulas to be memorized. These are scientific principles that govern our natural world. These principles were observed by great minds of the past and were simplified into tangible equations.

So now as we commence our exercises we see that these Saxon math questions are part of an ancient dialogue. These questions have been asked, studied and answered for thousands of years. So "Why," our student wonders, "do we need to keep studying them?"

This is an excellent time to look at some current scientific uses for which these theorems can be helpful. They include use of GPS, navigating in outer space and measuring areas of a building or bridge for the purpose of construction.

Athena and I were recently purchasing tile for our kitchen. We went to several tile stores and were unable to determine the exact cost of the tile due to the lack of unit pricing. The salesperson was unable to provide us with a unit cost per square foot so that we could compare various prices of tile. After tap-tap-tapping repeatedly on her calculator she finally looked up sheepishly and said, "They just don't give us an app for that so I can't answer the question." Then she turned to Athena and said with a smile, "You see, that's why you have to study math in school." Athena just smiled back because she had already calculated the various sums in her head while pretending to study the ceiling.

We left the store thanking Pythagoras and his ancient friends for enabling us to get an honest price quote. Expanding the relevance of an otherwise "dry"

subject takes a creative approach but makes it much more fun to teach and much more entertaining to learn.

Where do we find our creative inspiration? We just keeping asking, "Why?" and "Who?" and "When?" each time we learn a new fact.

Let Me Count the Days: Homeschooling is searching to find the past and the future while struggling to understand the present.

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