Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Winter Themed Activities for Homeschool

What to do with your children when it is too cold to go outside?   That is a question many homeschool moms are asking themselves right now.

One thing I have always loved about homeschooling is taking those serendipitous days to tie "school" into the particular events or seasons. In fact, when I was a child, I remember fondly my grandmother (a former teacher) pulling out weather and holiday related books and activities to share with me.   As a homeschool mom of younger children, I kept a notebook with printed pages from magazines and websites that I could pull out when the occasion lent itself to a "theme day".  Since most of the country is experiencing extreme winter weather, I thought I'd share some ideas for having a weather themed school day.  

Read poems about cold or snow!

Here is a link with many of the poems I remember, book links and wonderful illustrations.  Look down the list and you will find the poem Jack Frost with an illustration from an old book.  I remember my grandmother reading that poem from a book with that exact illustration over 45 years ago!  (With insulated windows we don't get to talk about "Jack Frost" much anymore.   Last week, in the mountains we observed 'hore frost' at the top of a mountain in our view.)   In any case --  there are also directions for writing poems inspired by the cold weather

Write your own poems The hardest part about writing for many children is thinking up something to write about.  Cold and snow are sensory experiences that lend themselves to the employment of descriptive language.  Check out your language art resources or any online free guides to help you get started with writing poetry with your children. 

This link has examples of poems children wrote as well as a list of books that inspired them:
short poems written by school children printed. 

Read books about cold and snow - the above link has a list of books.   A few of my personal favorites:

The Mitten by Jan Britt which can be turned into a craft activity for preschoolers with a simple internet search.  Make a paper mitten and cut out paper animals to recreate the story from memory.

Snowflake Bentley  by  Jacqueline Briggs Martin

The Important Book  by Margaret Wise Brown

High schoolers can enjoy these poems and books written for younger children.  However, a short story for the older children at your table is To Build A Fire by Jack London.   It is a tragic tale and of course, Jack London was a naturalist writer; still it gives you much fodder for conversation and families in the North will appreciate the realistic portrayal of minus 30 degree weather.   
That story would also segue into a discussion of safety during cold weather making the extreme weather events an opportunity to teach practical skills to your children.  Let them help you prepare the house, talk about ways to "be prepared" if you lose power etc.   

How having a campaign to vote for the most cold invoking writing from your selected poems and from the lines they write.   Older students can challenge their friends through whatever social media you embrace to the same contest.

Illustrate the winter scenery.  I love the products I have used in the past by Harmony Art Mom.  Her website has changed quite a bit, but you should check it out.  In any case, there is a ton of free material right at your fingertips online.  The particular beauty to winter landscape invites different artistic techniques.

Assuming you have power, make some special treats.  We always tried to bake "Mrs Johnson's Snow Cookies" when we got a snow (which wasn't often in NC).   They are just spice cookies cut thin and covered with "snow" icing (white sugar icing).   I don't even know Mrs Johnson, but the recipe and tradition was handed down to me by a friend when my children were small.  I bought snow flake cookie cutters a few years ago. 

Tell your children stories of cold and snow in your childhood.

My children always loved to hear about the time an ice storm closed down Pitt County for 15 days.  We lost power for the duration, but since we heated the house with oil, we were at least warm while we missed Gilligan's Island and played Parcheesi by candlelight for two weeks!   My dad had the only truck that would traverse the roads, so he delivered water from our old hand-pump well (at the barn -- not the house) to all our country neighbors every day; we cooked soup on a home-made gas cooker and eventually my dad had to bury the freezer goods in a snow bank to preserve them.  By day 8, tired of soup, my mom cooked up a big platter of fried steak. We were all so excited to eat meat you had to chew for a change, imagine our horror when she tripped on the way to the table and those steaks when flying all across the kitchen!   After a stunned moment, the four of us kids plus my uncle who lived with us jumped up and began rescuing the steaks off the floor.   I guess the funny part for my sons was the image of their mother embracing the 10 second rule.

They always wanted to hear the story their father recount the time my he and his brothers challenged each other to run around the house in their skivvies during the snow (thankfully it wasn't as cold as today when I don't recommend that activity).  Children love to hear when their parents were silly or even a bit foolish and it sure was funny to hear about how grand-father locked the door forcing the  boys (the oldest of whom was 19 at the time!) to knock on the front room door where their sister was entertaining her beau!

What stories can you share with your children of cold childhood days? Take a break from the regular school routine and liven things up while making memories, sharing memories and exploring themed topics.

[Thanks to a blog friend Mindy, posted a link to an audio recording of To Build A Fire.   I should also mention that even if you don't have some of those classic winter tales on your shelf, you could probably find them with a free KINDLE reading app or other free online literature source.]


  1. Great ideas! I am going to post this on my Facebook page for all my friends in the Midwest who are wondering how to not go crazy in -50 weather. I especially loved the story-telling ideas. How perfect!

  2. Look what I found! Am listening now to "To Build a Fire." It has the text for kids to read along.

  3. Mindy! I LOVE that link you sent!!! I"m posting it at the bottom of the post and devoting another entire post to this topic. Thanks so much for sending it!

  4. PS _-- I hope you are warming up! We are going to be 70 tomorrow. That is a +60 degree change from Tuesday!