Advent Homeschool Curriculum
Before I had children, I thought I was an organized person. I could write a to-do list and tick off jobs without batting an eye. Keeping track of appointments and deadlines wasn’t a problem. Staying on top of life seemed to come naturally.
Now that I have three rambunctious boys, I realize that organization was never an intrinsic quality. I know how to be organized, and before children, I had the capacity to do it. After kids, my capacity is very much diminished, and I often find myself scrambling to keep on top of my plans. My struggle becomes particularly apparent around the Christmas season.
My hope every year is that I will establish lovely Christmas traditions in my home, similar to what I remember from growing up: candy making, carol services at church, decorating the house. Especially, I want to celebrate the Advent season in a way that helps my children (and myself) focus on the birth of Christ. Every year I make a little bit of progress. However, I simply haven’t managed to make Christ-centered Advent traditions really stick.
This year, I realized that in order to get traction with Advent traditions, I need some help. When I read about Lara’s Gentle Advent – Jesse Tree curriculum, I saw that it offers the structure I need to get organized ahead of time. This means that I can spend the Advent season helping my children reflect on Christ.
Celebrating Advent with a Jesse Tree
I came across the idea of a Jesse Tree a few years ago. It’s a simple idea, but it takes some amount of planning and effort in order to make it happen. A Jesse Tree works like an Advent calendar. Each day you read a portion of Scripture, beginning with Creation on December 1 and ending with the birth of Christ on December 25. Afterwards, you hang up an ornament your Christmas tree that has a picture relating to the Scripture you read. The daily readings give a broad overview of the Bible, reminding us that all of the Bible points us towards Christ. This strikes me as a beautiful way to prepare for Christmas.
Despite my wish to establish a Jesse Tree tradition with my children, my attempts have not gone well. I’ve made all the mistakes – from forgetting to start on time, to falling behind in our daily readings. In order to make it work, I need a plan that will not just get me started, but will give me momentum to see it through.
Keeping a Family Advent Journal
With A Gentle Advent, Lara has put together everything needed to celebrate Advent with a Jesse Tree. In addition to printable ornaments (I glued mine onto wood slices that I purchased online and tied on some ribbon so that we can hang them up), she created a printable journal. This includes the reference for the Scripture to read each day, room to write down our reflections on the Scripture, and space to list what we are grateful for.
My children aren’t writing yet (and it’s often hard to get them to engage with something like this). So, instead of doing individual Advent journals, we do a shared family journal where I write down what each of them has contributed to our daily conversation about Advent. I really appreciate how the journal helps us move beyond hanging ornaments and reading a passage from the Bible. It encourages meaningful conversations with my children. I know I’ll enjoy reading through the journal in years to come and reading my boys’ reflections!
Making an Advent Wreath
While the Jesse tree ornaments and journal allow our family to get into a daily rhythm of reading Scripture together, Gentle Advent also gives us a simple activity to do together each day. Sometimes this is a poetry reading, learning a carol, baking, or studying a work of art. Other times, we are delving into handicrafts to create something beautiful and useful.
On the first day of Gentle Advent, we put together our Advent wreath. Lara provides a great tutorial on how to do this with a floral wreath form. When I was getting ready for this project, I rummaged through my closet for items I already owned. I repurposed some older Christmas decorations and candles and the boys helped me add some cinnamon sticks and pinecones. I think it turned out just right!
We’ll light the candles each Sunday after church. To help us remember what each candle represents, Lara’s provided a booklet with family readings for each week and for Christmas day.
Creating Nature Art Greeting Cards
Another activity for different day of A Gentle Advent made use of our weekly nature walk. Out in the woods, we gathered up pinecones and evergreen branches. Back at home, we painted leaves to stamp on cardstock. We also used the evergreen branches as brushes. On some of the paper, I printed a festive message so that we can use them as greeting cards. The boys decorated some plain paper, too, which we can use to wrap gifts.
Charlotte Mason says that children should not “be employed in making futilities such as pea and stick work’. The modern equivalent of pea and stick work would be something like macaroni art. It does not have a use or purpose, and often isn’t very attractive. I’m grateful for the host of activities and crafts in Gentle Advent that help my children focus on what is good, true, and beautiful and create things that are both lovely and useful.
A True, Good, and Beautiful Advent
Advent is a busy time of year. When I already struggle to stay organized in the mundane things of day to day life, adding on Christmas traditions, extra readings, and fun activities can feel impossible. However, when I consider what I want my children to learn through the Advent season, I am convinced it is worth the effort. A Gentle Advent is the helping hand I’ve needed to realize my hopes for a Christ-centered Advent and Christmas.
Amy is a homeschooling mom of three boys, living as an American ex-pat in the northwest of England.
She connects the Charlotte Mason philosophy with the Charlotte Mason practicalities at her blog, Around
the Thicket. You’ll also find her co-hosting the Thinking Love podcast, a show that explores
homeschooling, Charlotte Mason, the early years, and more.