by Beverley Paine
Through my many email contacts and expatriate American friends I have learned about some wonderful ideas for traditional celebrations. In the USA Christmas is preceded by Thanksgiving. I think it would be a lovely idea to bring the following Thanks-giving celebrations into either Christmas or New Years.
One friend always has an advent tree at her house for Christmas. She makes a banner with a tree drawn on it and twenty four felt circles with different Christian symbols relating to Christmas drawn on them. Every night they ceremoniously get out the circles, read to or tell the children a little story behind that night's symbol, and the children take turns pinning the circle on the tree drawn on the banner. The symbols were a lot of fun to make and helped everyone to focus on the meaning of the holiday season instead of the greedy commercialism.
Encouraged by her children's eager participation and interest in the advent banner and ritual she designed a similar thing for Thanksgiving, pulling the attention away from all the Christmas decorations and toys which flood the stores at this time of year. Instead of a tree she drew a Cornucopia that is filled with felt fruit & veggies. Each piece of felt was cut into a shape, symbolising a different thing to be thankful for... apple- friends, pear - health, pumpkin - family. After placing it on the banner each person is supposed to go around the family and write down all the names or things they are thankful for on a piece of paper. The papers are stored in a basket or box, which becomes the centre-piece for the traditional meal of celebration. After the meal, each person pulls out a piece of paper and reads out what is written.
Another friend retold how she made a "Thanksgiving tree" every November 1. With her children she would go out and look for a many-limbed tree branch, and stick it into a drilled hole in a piece of two-by-four. Then they would cut out paper leaves in autumn colours in the shapes of autumn leaves - oak, maple, ginkgo, etc. Using a hole punch she made a hole at one end, then attached a piece of yarn. Each evening at dinner, one family member would tell one thing they were thankful for and write it on a leaf and attach it to a tree branch. They all took turns putting on leaves, until Thanksgiving Day, when the tree was "done" and served as a decoration or centerpiece.
I think these are lovely ideas, and one that would easily translate into any other occasion of celebration - Christmas, Birthday, Easter - even Anzac or Remembrance Day. Creating rituals and traditions around important occasions are important elements in children's lives. We shouldn't really have to wait for a special occasion to say thank you or be thankful, but having such wonderful and solid traditions binds families together and teaches tolerance and respect.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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