Use Holiday Fun for High School Credit
By Lee Binz
Truth be told, when we were homeschooling, I was always completely stressed out by December. As a stay-at-home mom with a limited budget, it took me most of the month to create a marvelous, memory-filled holiday for the boys, while staying within our budget. All the gifts, cleaning, cooking, baking …it was overwhelming at times! I wanted to create cherished experiences and spend meaningful time with loved-ones and neighbors. Add to that a birthday in mid-December, and … well, it was a stressful month for me. Through the years, though, I learned how to decrease my homeschool workload for the month, while retaining academic rigor in the midst of holiday fun. In fact, when our children got into high school, I realized that many of our fun traditions could be used for high school credit on their transcript. How can you use holiday fun for high school credit? Let me count the ways!
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1. Fun with Fine Arts
Many families enjoy theater and musical fine arts as a part of their yearly tradition. If you attend “A Christmas Carol,” watch “The Nutcracker,” or see “A Christmas Story” at the theater, they can be great additions to your course descriptions. Remember, a course description is just a description of what you did and a list of what you used in each class. Include field trips and hands-on experiences in your course descriptions, along with those holiday events. Each theater event could be included as a field trip in a Theater or Survey of Fine Art class. A sing-along event with “The Hallelujah Chorus,” focusing on the composer Handel, and practicing Christmas music during music lessons can be included in a course description for your Music, Voice, Piano, or Survey of Fine Art class. We spent the month of December listening to various Christmas classics, and learning the composer of significant works of music. Many young people will perform musically at church during the holidays. This can give you the opportunity to modify your course title slightly, and call it “Piano with Performance” demonstrating the additional skill of performing in a group.
Hand-made projects are more than just awesome gifts, they can also be artistic creations. Use arts and crafts time in your homeschool for gift making, and then include each project in your course descriptions. Often, a course description will provide an explanation of how you graded the glass. For a fine art class, you might include a list of each hand-made project, and grade the final project with an “A” if it was completed to your satisfaction. Photography, and framing that photography, would make a wonderful gift as well as a school project. Sewing, knitting, crocheting, and other handcrafts can be included as well. You may have enough hours for a stand-alone class called Sewing, Handcrafts, Photography, or Visual Arts. Alternatively, those hours can be rolled into a class called Survey of Fine Art.
Some reading and writing may be included in your fine art class. When I was homeschooling, I gave my children Normal Rockwell’s Christmas Book to use for a writing prompt, and asked them to write a short story about any painting inside its pages. This way, writing could be used as part of their art credit, showing that the class included some compositions as well as projects and experiences. Attending a dramatized version of “A Christmas Carol” might be included as a theater study in an art survey or theater class. You could even have your child compare the theatrical performances to the story and discuss which version more closely reflects the original work.
2. Creative English Composition
Instead of your regularly-scheduled English program, why don’t you substitute some Christmas reading and composition instead? After all, the purpose of your English program is to teach reading and writing fluency, and fluency requires practice.
The holidays are filled with writing opportunities. Writing Christmas cards is a great exercise for penmanship, particularly for techie teens that rarely write by hand and may need the practice. Christmas cards are a micro-writing version of the quick essay skills that are important for college. Writing a card is an exercise in quickly getting ideas out of your head and onto paper. Many families have a Christmas letter tradition and perhaps your children can participate, or even take over, that holiday writing. Some families may encourage all members to write and develop a longer letter or email newsletter they send to family and friends. Instead of sticking to the normal grind of writing, December is a great time to mix it up and write essays about Christmas. You might consider submitting them to publications or scholarship competitions, or using these essays in your family Christmas letter or giving them as gifts.
3. Career Exploration and Occupational Education
Some teenagers will be fortunate to have a job during the holidays. Whether they are working full time for the theater or at Target, those hours can be collected into an Occupational Education course. While your child is working, estimate the number of hours spent on the job. Roughly 120-150 hours is equivalent to one full high school class, and about 60-90 hours is equivalent to a semester class worth half a credit. The work your child does can be either paid employment or community service. While your child is working, you may need to set other academics aside, but the hours still count for school. When they accumulate enough hours, call it a credit and put the class on your transcript. You can simply call it Occupational Education, or you can use a more specific title such as Occupational Education: Careers in Retail. Write a course description describing the job, tasks, and skills learned, and voila … your child has completed a Christmas credit!
4. Relax with Delight Direct Learning
Allow your children time during the busy holiday season to work independently on their unique interests. While they work, you will be able to focus on your tasks without going crazy trying to direct your homeschooler through subjects like a lion-tamer. Just be sure to claim those credits! Often, their delight directed learning will be classes we have already talked about; art, music, or theater, for example. However, if you allow them some free time (while limiting the giant time-wasting of frivolous technology) they’ll be able to enjoy virtually any interest. I’ve known teens that were in love with the strangest subjects! Will it be mushrooms, chess, Tai kwon do, or robotics in your home? Remember, if they work for 120-180 hours, they will have enough to call it one credit.
For some children, this may look like “wasting time.” If they are just lying on top of the dog reading, or playing their guitar constantly, or fiddling with engines or robotics all day, you can count it for high school credit. Estimate how many hours they spend on their interest, though, so you know how much credit to give. Remember, colleges call this “passion” and they love to see it in applicants.
5. Dig into the Bible
During Christmas, we tend to spend a huge number of hours in church. If you spend additional hours studying the scriptures for Christmas-related instruction, all those hours can be added to your Bible credit. In a Christian school, students might receive a credit of Bible each year. If you include Bible Studies in the normal course of your homeschool, don’t hesitate to include it on your homeschool transcript. During the Christmas season, you might consider including some books about hymns, or find a new Christmas-themed devotional, or family Advent tradition.
Christmas School Counts
During the Christmas season, you need to set aside your regular homeschool schedule to squeeze in everything that you need to do. Develop a Christmas School Schedule that clearly lists your expectations each day. Don’t skimp on the core subjects of reading, writing, and math. If you have identified a weak area in your homeschool (such as math or science) don’t skimp on your weak area, either. It’s so hard to get back into the groove when you skip a hated subject for a long time! Check your other subjects to see if there is anything else that can’t be missed. If you need to be consistent to get done before June, don’t skip it in December, but usually homeschoolers have more flexibility. At a minimum, when you change to your Christmas School Schedule, be sure every day includes some reading, writing, and math.
Read Christmas-themed novels, poetry, compilations, and plays. Many of the great literature authors have written marvelous holiday classics. Just one example is the Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol.” It’s been adapted from book-to-big screen so many times! This story, or a version of it, is on TV multiple times a year, featuring everyone from Mr. Magoo to the Muppets, so you may want to read it first. Just this one story is on most College Bound Reading Lists It’s considered classic literature, and it’s also a Christmas book. Here are more great authors and classic literature you can read during the holidays.
Classic Christmas Literature for High School Students
Remember to record your fun holiday activities and use them for high school credits!
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