The best gifts are presents with purpose. Sure, they can border on the frivolous around the holidays—like an overpriced outfit your kid has been eyeing for months, or that one action hero figure that will complete a set, get played with non-stop for a few years and then be boxed up never to be seen again. Ultimately, though, you want your hard-earned cash to bring joy to your little ones over Christmas, and bonus points if you find a gift that teaches them something along the way.
One-and-done presents should be reserved for culinary treats only—like indulgent holiday cakes or maybe a box of fancy chocolates. The best gifts can be used throughout the year while still remaining fresh and exciting. How can a present or toy feel like a new experience each time? When your child learns something new each time he or she uses it. Below is a homeschool gift guide for the holidays, focusing on presents that can teach your kids new skills or facts while they play.
Books make a great gift because they encourage learning and can help children develop critical thinking skills.
Never underestimate the power of reading. Books teach, inspire, influence and shape minds young and old. Books are an age-old addition to anyone's holiday gift list and shouldn't be abandoned in favor of high-tech gadgets. It's no secret that reading improves children's performance at school and is an integral part of childhood development. Each new story and realm opens up new pathways in the brain for kids to explore using their own imagination. This can lead to the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills as well.
However, there are some instances in which audiobooks are a perfectly reasonable substitute for the real thing. Some children get car-sick when they read, making for an awfully long road trip to Grandma's house if your young ones can't settle in with a book. Or perhaps your child suffers from dyslexia, and the stress of plodding slowly through a book can be overwhelming at times.
There is a broad spectrum of special needs that may be better accommodated by being able to listen to a story rather than having to read the words on the page. Audiobooks are excellent ways for children to reap most of the benefits of reading in situations where having a book in hand or having a parent read aloud to them is not a practical option.
A kid’s microscope kit from AmScope comes equipped with all the gadgets and tools your little one needs.
Discovering the wonders of science for the first time is not only thrilling but lays the foundation for an interest in STEM that can last throughout your child's education. There are many science kits on the market, from basic chemistry or biology kits for elementary through high school, to engineering and electronic kits for kids who want to develop their hands-on tech skills.
There are even career-prep advanced kits out there that focus on the specific problem-solving skills that are needed for jobs in forensics or physics. These kits can enter your home as exciting gifts, but they generally contain enough activities to be incorporated as projects within your homeschooling curriculum.
Microscopes, either on their own or part of a kit, can really be a gift that keeps on giving. The versatility of buying a microscope for kids is unparalleled. They can be used for basic biological science lessons or to accompany a chemistry experiment. Their importance to STEM subjects is paramount, but you can also use a kid's microscope kit to expand their concepts of art.
If someone in the family has a DSLR camera, it can be hooked up to certain kinds of microscopes for a lesson in photomicroscopy. Showing kids that not only can they see microorganisms that exist all around them, but that they can even take pictures of them, can help solidify their interest in discovering the details of the world we live in.
Telescopes are the perfect gift for anyone with an adventurous spirit- both young and old.
Once your children gain a better concept of the tiny worlds at their feet, why not show them what exists beyond our own planet? There are telescopes for sale for all budding astronomers, from small tabletop varieties to larger units with higher magnifications.
When browsing telescopes for sale, keep your ultimate goal in mind. Are you purchasing a telescope so your student can see the mountains on the moon and maybe even Saturn's rings? Or do you want to be able to find distant binary star systems or nova? The range of capabilities available is quite extensive, and product descriptions aren't always intuitive to people without prior stargazing experience.
Before making such a large purchase, don't be afraid to call customer service and have them help you figure out the best option for your family. Telescopes make great gifts that can provide happiness for generations. While they are a joy to use recreationally, they will help you integrate physics, astronomy, and even history into your homeschool curricula. They also make great "family presents" that can be used by students of every age for different lessons.
Another good option for the whole family, board games have come a long way since Monopoly and Scrabble. While most classic games do help kids flex certain cranial muscles, there are games out there to help cultivate an interest in every subject under the sun. Games to increase skills in logic, coding and problem-solving as well as every "classic" school subject exist for all age groups.
Board games are a great gift for both kids and their parents.
Board games can be a great way to sneak in a little extra education and learning during family time, or single-player brain teaser games can keep your kids entertained in the backseat during a traffic jam or lengthy wait at a doctor's office. Recent studies have concluded that board games are a promising tool for education because they engage the brain by employing memorable shapes and patterns that help people retain knowledge.
Your school supplies shouldn't distract your students from the tasks at hand, but it can help to make them fun and engaging. Even something as simple as stocking up on notebooks with your child's favorite cartoon character or giving them pencil toppers that have silly faces on them can make your student eager to learn each day. Scented markers and stickers add some flair to assignments and can help kids slow down and think about what they are doing.
Especially if you are homeschooling more than one child, gifts of personalized and fun school supplies help your child know that you acknowledge them as important and unique individuals who each approach learning in a different way.
Separating their supplies from your usual household stash of pens, pencils and notebooks also helps them differentiate between when it's time to learn and when it's time to play. When family time, playtime and school time are all under one roof, it can be advantageous to compartmentalize.
Homeschooling Around the Holidays
To many parents, the holiday season means a drastic change of pace. School is out and the kids are home 24/7 while they were gone eight hours a day before. A lot of parents experience the extra stress of finding childcare because they still have to work regardless of whether or not their kids are on vacation. Lucky for you, this added stress does not affect you as much, but you will likely still experience a shift in tone in the winter months.
Every family approaches the holidays slightly differently, based on their religious views, regional traditions and personal upbringing. Let this knowledge help relieve some stress, as it means there is no one prescribed way for you to homeschool over the holidays.
Perhaps you want to keep as close to a traditional school schedule as possible, structuring your lessons and days off around your local public schools' semesters. Or maybe you have a freer approach to teaching, and let your children guide you as to what times of day they learn the best. Either way, you can incorporate holiday festivities throughout the season in between regular lessons.
Figure out ways to incorporate the holidays into your lesson plans.
Depending on the ages of your students, a chemistry lesson can turn into baking cookies, and geometry can be learned while wrapping presents. If your kids are musically inclined, perhaps they would enjoy caroling around the neighborhood. Everything can ultimately be turned into a learning experience, but don't forget to let everyone take time to relax and have fun as well.
How to Use the Season
The holidays are a perfect time to teach kids of any age about different cultures. Help them find books in the local library about different religions celebrate different holidays, or about how people who celebrate the same holidays they do have different traditions around the world.
Perhaps your family could start a tradition of opening up an educational gift a week early, such as a book about holidays around the world and spend 30 minutes each day reading and discovering together. Evidence points to children developing more finely-tuned reading skills when they are read to by their parents from an early age. Reading and sharing a book with children not only helps them when they are young but encourages older children to remain interested in and focused on reading and learning.
Some families function well by taking an extended break from Thanksgiving to right after the New Year. If part of your holiday gift to your children is a trip, and you will not be adhering to your normal class time for an extended period of time, you can still help your kids keep some sort of academic schedule by helping them keep a notebook.
It can be a travelogue if they are experiencing a new place, or it can contain interviews with different family members if you are visiting loved ones. Perhaps asking them to create journal entries at the same time every day will help them focus on finding interesting things to record.
Take time during the holidays to encourage learning outside the classroom and within your community.
Museums and zoos often have seasonal discounts or local passes around the holidays. Your kids might enjoy talking to someone at the science center about ways to put their new microscope to use or participating in educational shows at the planetarium in order to learn which stars to find with their telescope.
Membership to a zoo or museum could be a family-wide gift as well, and one that sets the stage for countless future lessons and projects. Depending on where you live, local parks and trails can turn into biological scavenger hunts. Your young students can document the types of plants they find, determine what kind of bird dropped the feather they see or even tell whether the rocks on the path are igneous or sedimentary. With the extra family time the holidays often provide, the whole world can turn into a classroom.
Just as there is no one "right" way to parent, there are endless opportunities to keep teaching your homeschooled kids throughout the holiday season. The best gifts, no matter which holiday you celebrate, are the ones that are exciting for many months or even years to come. When your kids learn in your home, the holiday season becomes an exciting opportunity to intertwine fun, learning and gift-giving all in one.
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