A few weeks ago I received an email about planning for Advent – and I was SO grateful for the reminder! Honestly, I’ve never thought about it this early, and I’ve enjoyed spending the last few weeks really thinking through and considering what we plan to do this year for the Advent season.
I wanted to pass along our plans to you in case you’d like a little extra time to consider it for yourself. Advent is something we’ve observed in various ways for several years, so please don’t dismiss it as something only homeschooling families do. 😉 I’ve tried to note below which traditions we’ve done in previous years, and what we’re adding this year due to the fact that we homeschool now and can place some traditions during regular “school time.”
1). Jesse Tree ornaments at breakfast – this is a daily tradition that we’ve done for the past several years. I purchased a simple little tree at Target, and found these DIY ornaments and scripture reading guide on Etsy. This has given us a groundwork for understanding how all of scripture points to Jesus, and it’s been a special tradition that the boys enjoy becoming more and more familiar with each year. We simply read the scripture and the boys interpret which picture/ornament goes with the passage, and take turns hanging it on the tree for the day.
2). Cindy Rollins’ Hallelujah guide while listening to Handel’s Messiah and doing the scripture reading with it – this is a brand new daily tradition that we’ll be doing this year, and one I hope to continue for years to come in various ways (possibly even attending a concert in person once our family becomes more familiar with it). I purchased and read this book in a few days and am really excited about the various ideas (and recipes!) found in it. We plan to simply read the daily scripture and then listen to the assigned portion from Handel’s Messiah for that day. I’m still deciding when in our day we will do this, but I really like the idea of it happening right before bed, while we cuddle by the fire or drink hot chocolate (and if we miss a day here or there, she has designed it to where we can easily “catch up” without it being too overwhelming or taking up too much time).
This book also includes a weekly hymn, scripture memory and poem. We *may* incorporate these into our Advent Tea each Sunday (see #4 below) – I’m not sure, yet.
3.) Advent “Feast” Days – this is something new for us as well. I’d like us to observe the following days in some simple but special way since we have the time for it this year. If you aren’t familiar with what the saints’ days are, simply google it (or read it in Cindy’s book, ha). I just learned in more detail recently about each of them, and enjoyed it!
- Sunday December 6 – St. Nicholas – I think we will fill the kids’ stockings with some sort of goodies on this day and use it specifically to talk about St. Nicholas. We’ve never done Santa in our home, so I like having this specific day to talk about the real St. Nicholas. This will also be a good time for us to give the annual reminder to our kids not to spoil other families’ fun/choices to celebrate Santa, and to remind them that no other family is wrong if they do choose to celebrate Santa (trying to prevent Pharisees over here, haha).
- Sunday December 13 – St. Lucia – I honestly had never heard of this before reading about some traditions from Sally Clarkson and Cindy Rollins, but the story of St. Lucia is such a neat one! I encourage you to look it up and read it. I’m still deciding what we will do to celebrate, but it may be as simple as making a Swedish Tea Ring to enjoy on this day. I’ll keep you updated!
- Thursday December 24 – Shepherd’s Meal – Although we’ve never done this before, I feel like we may start it and continue it forever, I love the idea of it so much. It came from Sally Clarkson in The Life Giving Home and The Life Giving Table. It’s the idea of having a simple “shepherd’s meal” on Christmas eve. I love this for various reasons – it keeps Mama from worrying about cooking anything too complex on Christmas Eve, and keeps the food good but simple so that the focus can truly be on what it is we are celebrating. I also like this because we usually have a Christmas Eve service at our church, and this meal will be simpler preparation earlier in the day that we can simply come home and enjoy after our worship service.
4). Advent Tea each Sunday of Advent – this is a new weekly tradition idea that I got from my friend, Bethany. I’m excited to try it and see how we may make it our own this year! Here are her words for how she described what her family did last year:
“We simply turned out all the lights and sat in the dark. My husband said, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” The children responded, “Behold, the Light has come.” I lit the number of candles for the week and my husband read Scripture and prayed, then we enjoyed tea together by the candlelight that grew brighter until Christmas Eve (when my parents joined us😍). I made a different cookie each week, froze half, and served them all on Christmas Eve. We ✨LOVED✨ this new tradition and look forward to this for many more years.”
This may be when we incorporate the weekly hymn, poem and scripture from Cindy’s Hallelujah guide. I haven’t chosen or purchased an Advent wreath and candles yet. If you have a favorite you use or recommend, or an idea about how you make one from outdoor materials each year, I’d love to know!
5). We will be using Advent Morning Time Plans from A Gentle Feast. These plans include seven lessons that each contain:
- Bible reading
- Composer Study
- Picture Study
Our school plan right now is to continue our regular school lessons through December 11. Then we will do the AGF Advent morning time plans December 14 and following. This should allow some wiggle room for weekends and traveling to be with family, and will likely look like us doing a lesson daily Dec 14-17 and then Dec 21-23. I highly recommend these if you public school and are looking for something special and simple to do daily with your kids during their time home from school.
Lastly, there is the gift of Christmas Literature! Although we’ve begun to decorate for Christmas in our house already, I am waiting to get out our Christmas books until after Thanksgiving. We have many picture books we’ve collected through the years, and I’m still trying to decide what chapter book we will read this year. We’ve done Jotham’s Journey, Ishtar’s Odyssey and Bartholomew’s Passage the past three Christmas seasons and absolutely love those books – I highly recommend them. I may wait on Tabitha’s Travels until Carmen is a little older, so we are considering some more classic books this year. If you have a favorite chapter book, let me know! We will definitely be working our way through our picture books and one or two chapter books in December.
I’ll be sharing in a future blog posts ideas for cultivating generosity in our homes during this Christmas season, as well as ideas for favorite holiday recipes, so be sure to subscribe to this blog / get emails when I make a post if you want to be sure you don’t miss them.
Now, as you make your own plans, let me encourage you, please – examine your season as you enter Advent. Don’t do what you think anyone else is expecting you to do. Don’t feel like your family has to look like someone else’s family. Choose traditions that fit your family and let your focus be simple but special ideas that remind you of Christ’s coming. Let’s not forget the real reason we establish these traditions (and that it’s not about instagram pictures and bragging rights).
What are you considering this season? Share below and let’s encourage each other with ideas as we prayerfully plan for Advent!