Welcome to 2017, everyone! The new year marks our sixth calendar year as homeschooling bloggers, which seems really weird to me. It doesn’t look like I’ll be any better at regular postings in 2017, based on the fact that it’s taken half a month to do last month’s roundup, but hey, maybe I’ll surprise you! I really do like sharing our family’s lives, even if it’s not the most frequent. (And you can always find me on Instagram and Facebook if you want to see more!)
If you’re new to seeing our days recapped in this format, check out our archive of previous wrapups here for some more info on why we take this approach and some other highlights of our adventures.
Our Christmas this year was excellent. Dan’s parents, Paul and JoAnn, and his brother, Dave, came to visit from Arizona, along with their dogs, Sadie and Sassy. Then, right after Christmas, my brother (also Dave) came (also from Arizona) to surprise my mom, along with his son (also Dan). Other than the name confusion, it was a house full of family fun. Chris had the honor of cooking the Christmas turkey and did an amazing job, especially considering… he’s a vegetarian!
We always do an advent calendar of small gifts for Sarah leading up to Christmas, and for the past few years we’ve put clues in the pockets of the calendar that lead to a surprise. (This is the same Avon advent calendar with a mouse that I grew up with.) We did Christmas-themed trivia this year, and used a true-or-false theme like we do in the family trivia game I talked about last month. So there would be a statement, like “Oklahoma was the first state to make Christmas a legal holiday,” then a note that said “If this is true, look for your gift near a large map. If this is false, look for your gift near a small map.” (That one’s false. That’s a freebie.)
This year, we chose to spend most of our “gift” money helping as many good causes as possible. We adopted 5 kids through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree, bought some coats for kids who needed them, got a Christmas tree and ornaments for a family that didn’t have any, paid for dinner for an older man in a diner, gave generously to Toys for Tots, sent stuffed pengins across the country, helped pay for a new roof at my mom’s church and more.
That said, we still had some neat gifts. I gave my mom an AncestryDNA kit; we’re still waiting for her results, and mine just came back from testing that I did just after Thanksgiving! (Hint: Sarah is excited because we can now confirm SHE’S BRITISH.) That also gave us a cool opportunity to talk about how DNA testing works, what DNA can and can’t tell us, and things like that.
Sarah’s top gifts received were her new drone (from my mom) and her new jeans (from Dan’s parents). Her favorite gifts given were the handmade pieces of art she worked hard on for everyone! My favorite gift received was a set of three-pronged forks from Dan; if you think forks should have four prongs, you’re just wrong.
We started a family tradition at the beginning of 2015, where we have a jar in the middle of our kitchen table labeled “Good Things” and a box of small slips of cardstock and pens next to it. Each member of the family is invited to share the good things that happen to them, big or small, by writing them down and putting them in the jar.
Then, at the end of the year, we all sit down as a family and take turns reading the good things aloud!
On the last night of 2016 when everyone was home (I think Dec. 28 or so), we did our readings, and came up with a total for the year of 209 good things. It was awesome! (My favorite: “You are my good thing. To: Mom. From: Sarah.”)
Steel City Con
Sarah’s big pre-Christmas gift from Chris, Dan and I was a trip for the four of us to Steel City Con, a good-sized Con in Pittsburgh that we’ve been to a few times.
Highlights here: Sarah got the autographs of two members of the cast of The Walking Dead, her current favorite show. She met and got her photo taken with Josh McDermitt (who plays Eugene) and Michael Cudlitz (who played Abraham). We had a great time! (My favorite part of Steel City is always checking out the amazing art booths, and I was able to get a bunch of Christmas presents there too.)
Another of Sarah’s top Christmas gifts was Hamiliton: The Revolution, which she’s been reading for hours while listening to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat.
She’s also rediscovered her love for R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” series thanks to a jigsaw puzzle of Goosebumps covers she got as a gift (and which we put together, glued and hung on her wall). She also received as a gift and read almost all of Ripley’s Believe it or Not 2017.
On a more challenging note, she’s decided to dig in to Dante’s Inferno and is doing an admirable job wading through that tough piece of literature. (We talk about it as she goes, which really helps.) She also got the graphic novel version for Christmas, which I think will help it sink in even more.
Movies and TV
A special note for our newer readers: I’d love for you to check out our post on learning from movies and TV shows. It really explains a lot about why we are such fans!
Here’s a look at some of what we watched this month besides, obviously, The Walking Dead:
- Home Alone
- Family Feud
- London Has Fallen – Sarah says Olympus Has Fallen is better, but this is still good.
- National Treasure – Always a favorite.
- 3rd Rock From the Sun – Sarah and Mom’s current midafternoon show to watch together. Just as funny as I remembered!
Video, board and card games
Our gaming was a bit different in December, because Sarah traded in her PS3 to start working on getting credit to put toward a PS4. (She’s not quite there yet, but by the time her birthday comes in March, she should have enough!) So we played more app-based games, spent time on Steam and enjoyed our family game nights.
Steep was a snowboarding Steam game that Dan and Sarah enjoyed together, and Sarah and I kept challenging each other in QuizUp. We also had a good time playing Apples to Apples and Family Feud with our visitors.
One of the coolest presents I got to give was a family subscription to Universal Yums, a subscription box that sends snacks from a different country each month. Our December box got wrapped and put on the tree, and when it turned out it was from one of Sarah’s favorite countries, Germany, that was even cooler!
We had a great time trying the snacks, as well as reading the German trivia and listening to the German music playlist through the website! Verdict: German Oreos = amazing. German “russisch brot” cookies = excellent. German peanut curls (think cheese curls, but, uh, peanut-flavored) = maybe a taste we haven’t yet acquired.
I’m not in any way an affiliate of Universal Yums, but I can definitely HIGHLY recommend it. Our second box came today as I’m writing this, and I can’t wait to report on it next month. You can definitely look forward to hearing more about this in our roundups as long as our subscription continues!
Unschooling places, projects and odds and ends
The weight of a cow: NO idea how we got onto this, but somehow Sarah ended up digging around to find out how much a cow weighs and how much meat you get from it. Learn something new every day.
French things: Sarah is still fascinated by French, so we got lucky when the free lesson in the Christmas Around the World Online Unit Study was about Christmas in France. We also did some more Duolingo French.
Cultural geography: That’s a fancy way of saying we’re always interested in learning about other places. Things we explored this month included world population comparisons and the tallest buildings in the world.
So what’s new with your family this month? Drop me a comment! I love hearing from all my “blog friends!”