IDEA #6: CRAFT TIME!

For a fun craft project that can be enjoyed by kids of all ages, try making personalized homemade placemats to use on Thanksgiving. "Make a placemat of thankful memories," says Gretel. "What do your children have to be thankful for this year? Is it a list of things? They could draw them, laminate the paper, and place it at someone's place for the special meal. Another possibility would be to have your kids illustrate favorite scenes from the story of the first Thanksgiving, and turn those into placemats."

IDEA #7: NEW USE FOR CHRISTMAS CARDS

Melanie Hexter shares this interesting idea to turn the tradition of Christmas cards into a meaningful experience for you and your family: "We save all the Christmas cards we get in the mail in a basket on our kitchen table. Each dinnertime beginning in late November, we pull one card out of the basket and pray for its sender. Sometimes we need to tell the kids who sent it or how we know the sender, or even show the kids a photo of the sender. We try to pray very specifically, based on what we know about the spiritual, physical, financial, and emotional needs of the card's sender; certainly we pray for salvation for our unsaved friends. Not until we've prayed for the sender do we throw the card away. Sometimes it takes months to make it through our stack of cards, but it's a great family prayer project."

IDEA #8: TEACHING OUR CHILDREN THE REASON

FOR THE SEASON
 "We love Christmas," Cindy shares, "and try to make the most of the season to teach our children about Jesus and to reach out to others that are more open to the gospel at Christmas than at other times. Because we try to seize every teachable moment during the season, we do not have Santa Claus at our house. The kids know that the historical Saint Nicholas was a generous man who reached out to the poor, but that Christmas is all about Jesus. I don't want another story to compete with the true meaning of Christmas. We decorate our house with the goal that anyone who comes through our door will know what we are celebrating. Dozens of nativity scenes are distributed throughout the inside and outside of the house. Banners are hung on the walls that remind us of the names of Christ and the prophecies about His advent."

IDEA #9: SERVING THOSE WHO SERVE

Tamara Willey writes, "Remember our military. We may not know right now where our troops will be come Thanksgiving and Christmas, but we do know that there are men and women serving so that we can have a restful, worshipful holiday. Consider sending care packages to service members who get no mail as well as those who are already on the prayer bulletin boards. Personal words of hope from Scripture, and especially notes from children and young people, healthy and fun snacks, and pictures from home to paste on their all-neutral brown tents or walls are especially appreciated. If you would like a reply, send a Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope (SASE) with it. Also let them know that you are dependably praying for whoever the recipient of that letter is: not just a one-time prayer, but prayer for him and his whole base and mission success and wisdom for leaders and relaxation of tension between service members. Kid-made items are also fun, like homemade picture frames or prayer bracelets. You can also send booklets that are made by Christian servicemen and women for service members to encourage their faith. You can find these at your local bookstore, but keep them positive and helpful and brief. Good wholesome literature or DVDs are welcome as well--adventure and humor are good choices."

IDEA #10: BALANCING SCHOOL AND LIFE

Many homeschoolers take creative approaches to balancing schoolwork with the extra scheduling demands of the holiday season. Melanie writes, "Some years we've taken one month off from our usual studies of history, science, and language arts (no breaks for math). I let my older children each pick a topic they want to research, read about, and then work on some related project we agree upon. For example, this year they each picked out a lapbooking project from www.handsofachild.com. These unit studies come with a study guide and learner-oriented directions. Other options for your child's unit study could be a head start on a 4-H project, a unit study on a period of history or a scientist, a hands-on building or handiwork project, or even a month's worth of culinary work (meal planning, shopping, and cooking for "home economics" credit). The individualized topics mean less involvement for mom at the busy time of year and more flexibility for the children as the hectic holiday calendar fills."