Links included in this post were things we purchased or watched and are not sponsoring organizations or individuals.
This year we are fully homeschooling, so there is freedom in what we learn about at the busy holiday season. This year, I have fully embraced the outsourcing to Teachers Pay Teachers for a program called “Holidays Around the World.” The resource includes a power point, workbook, minibooks and passport complete with cancellations to “travel” around the world. There are even “tickets” for first class package to travel and craft ideas. I bought it for $15, but at the time of this writing it is $11. Considering the hands on learning and everything included, this was worth it. It will keep the kiddos busy for at least a few of hours if you do it in one day.
It took a couple of hours to prep everything, but the kids got in on the action working on their cutting skills. Making copies, cutting and laminating are all needed prior to the adventure. We made suitcases with construction paper and I laminated the handles so it would take the abuse of the daily travel.
The kit travels to 14 countries, talking about 15 celebrations including Diwali, Hannukah and Kwanzaa. While we may not know someone who celebrates all the holidays, learning about these celebrations help them know a little bit more about those cultures and countries. This program is doable for K-5, we are doing kindergarten and 3rd grade this year. The kindergartner needed more help than the 3rd grader, as expected. This might be a little simple for 4th and 5th grade, but would still be a fun way to explore the world and holiday traditions.
We did the traveling over a 2 week period, with a break on days that I work outside the home. Here are the resources I gathered for our “travel” as an adjunct to what was included in what I purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers.
We travelled to France in the morning, so once arrived we noshed on some chocolate croissants from Trader Joes. The croissants prove overnight so I got up, turned on the oven and put on an egg wash and after baking these glorious baked items were ready to go. We watched three videos on YouTube – Christmas in Paris, Eiffel Tower tour and explored the Lourve. There are longer videos available, but we have a limited attention span.
In the afternoon one day we went to Italy. We reviewed the powerpoint and headed to a Christmas Market in Florence. To learn more about the history of Italy’s traditions across the country, we watched Rick Steve’s Italian Christmas. The video is perfectly bite sized and reviewed several key elements of how Italians celebrate the holidays – including giving to others, celebrating on January 6th and La Befana. A cute video explaining more about the story of Le Befana was brought to us courtesy of a the lady herself at Epcot.
If you’d rather read about Le Befana, there is amazingly illustrated book by Tommy DePaola called The Legend of Old Befana.
We dined on gnocchi that I picked up and prepared. Gnocchi takes about 2 minutes to warm up, so making the sauce took longer. I used canned San Marzano tomatoes with olive oil, garlic and carrots to make a quick and simple sauce.
You can sneak in a Science lesson here too. I shared with the girls that Leonardo Da Vinci was from Italy and a premiere scientist at the time, so we were going to do a lesson while we were there. It was probably the easiest lesson ever done for the kindergartner who usually isn’t as much a fan. Maybe we will have to “fly” to Italy for science every week.
Traveling to Germany was fun and easy. The treat while we visit was none other than the Kinder Eggs I picked up from the Commissary last week. These are favorites of the kids, so it was a fun excuse to pick them up. And they were under $1 so it’s a topical treat without breaking the bank. Since Gingerbread is synonymous with holidays in Germany, we also made our gingerbread house – which this year was actually an Oreo kit I picked up at the grocery store. (I might be homeschooling, but I am also juggling three other jobs outside of teacher and parent so I have to outsource where I can.)
We “walked” around in the Christkindlmarkts around Germany and I was reminded of visits to the similar markets in Bethlehem, PA. Stollen is available in local grocery stores as well if this is something you would like to include in the future.
Hanukkah may have already come to a close, but there are plenty of awesome ways to teach kids about it. For one, the kindergartner loves Super Why! on PBS and they have an episode all about the holiday and the meaning behind the traditions. It is a captivating way to sneak in a little letter recognition outside of learning about the holiday. I picked up some Gelt (chocolate gold coins) at the grocery store for them to share as well.
We know about the traditions of Christmas in Mexico thanks to reading our favorite book, The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie DePaola. He is one of my favorite authors as a kid. We read this book again and reviewed the power point. If you don’t have the book, it’s on Amazon right now for just over $5 and is worth the read. Part of our Spanish curriculum this year has a piñata making craft so we combined the two to celebrate the Mexican way.
The visit to Greenland was gorgeous! Put this on in the background for soothing music and breath-taking beauty. After our power point and worksheets we made a Christmas tree craft – cutting a tree outline from green construction paper and decorated with glitter, crayons and glue. ::glitter gets everywhere, use at your own risk::
This one is fun! It’s a chance to talk about the sides of the world, that not everyone has the same weather or seasons. The kids loved that Australia was celebrating the holidays in the summer. We put on our best summer outfits and learned about Australia. We headed to our local beach, but definitely not in warm weather clothing. I wanted to get Vegemite but struck out in the International aisle at several stores. Next year!
As a kid who grew up with the original American Girl Dolls, I know all about St Lucia Day thanks to Kirsten. It was fun to talk about this tradition with the girls with the power point and worksheets. We also made a St. Lucia wreath – the instructions for how to make it were included in the Teachers Pay Teachers kit. Rick Steve has another great video about St. Lucia, albeit he is in Norway when he talks about it. St. Lucia day is December 13th if you want to celebrate it on time. Read along with Lucia Morning in Sweden to see beautiful illustrations along with the tale of St. Lucia Day.
This video was made by a teacher for kids talking about how he celebrated the holidays in the Netherlands. This video was made by a family who lived in Amsterdam for 6 years and was a fun way to learn about all the different ways the holidays are celebrated in the Netherlands.
I went a bit more over the top here. There is a local British tea shoppe in downtown San Diego that hosts an afternoon tea. I wanted to incorporate the tea as part of our learning so I ordered tea to go. So while we worked on our worksheets and read our mini book, we enjoyed cookies, cakes and tea! If you are in San Diego, highly recommend The Brit Shoppe. Tea to go is $27.95 per adult and includes most items that would be eaten in house, with a few substitutions.
While back in America, we talked about how many people celebrate different holidays here including Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. We reviewed Kwanzaa traditions in the power point, worksheets and through this video from Learning Point. This one is obviously easy for us as we are Americans living in America – we did a couple Christmas crafts from the craft bin (thank goodness for kits from Target and Michaels that have everything ready to go) and had Pillsbury cookies.
Going north to explore Canada, we checked out how Must do Canada celebrates the holiday. And then explored Quebec and Ottawa in the winter to see them skate on the canal and check out ice sculptures. It looks rather cold in the winter there, especially in comparison to some of the warmer places we have lived in Okinawa and Southern California!
In India, we learned about Diwali – the Hindu Festival of Lights. There is a great video from National Geographic that gives a great review of the holiday with scenes from India. A read along book called Dipal’s Diwali shares the celebration from a child’s perspective.
The included craft instructions were for Russian nesting dolls. It was such a fun and cute craft, and even better because the pattern for cutting was included. After we completed the worksheet, we worked on the nesting dolls.
One day we hope to travel to these countries in person. Not necessarily all at once or over the holidays, but one day. The bucket list is still growing. For now we live vicariously through friends stationed there and the miracle invention of the internet. If you are looking for a fun way to adventure around the world with the kids while off on break this year, hope you can enjoy this too!