We are happily counting down the days to Christmas around my house right now. The stockings are hung with care. The hot chocolate has been rolling out of the kitchen for days now, and the tree is twinkling in the window. There’s only one thing missing...the lists aren’t made yet.
Like most years, I was met with blank stares when I asked my kids for a list of their desired Christmas gifts. Surely I’m not alone? We are a homeschool family. My kids don’t watch much mainstream television. They don’t see ads very often, and they aren’t around other kids every day. They don't have a huge appetite for the most popular toys. All this means they don’t have many “must haves just because it’s popular” items to put on a Christmas wish list. So what’s a homeschool mom to do?
No need to fear. Here are a few ideas—tools not toys—to share with Santa Claus this year. Many of these pair nicely with an afterschooling approach.
1. Subscription Boxes for Homeschoolers
From clothing to science and geography, you could have a subscription box how up at your door every day of the week if you wanted. KidBox, Little Passports, Tinkercrate, and Kiwi Crate are all good options. There’s something about getting a package that brightens the day, and a subscription box is a gift that lasts all year long. Of course, I have to mention that several of the subscription boxes are a perfect supplement to any homeschool curriculum.
2. Magazine Subscriptions
Magazines are one of the best ways to cultivate your child’s individual interests. My oldest son loves sports, so he got a subscription to Sports Illustrated for Kids last year. My youngest son is an animal lover, so he got a Ranger Rick subscription, and my girls love the American Dolls, so they got an American Girls subscription. They have yet to tire of their magazines showing up in the mail each month.
I suggest you look for subscriptions that come monthly. There are several bi-monthly or quarterly subscriptions, but in my experience, that’s too long for my kids to wait. If you do decide to go with a less frequent subscription, try getting one with a sturdy cover that can be used for reference for a long while. I’ve found that Zoo Books fit in this category.
3. Craft Kits
Craft kits are particularly great for Christmas because they are usually consumable. In other words, you won’t have another toy cluttering up your house because once the craft is made, it’s done. I’ve found that these kits provide a lot of fun in the moment as well as a lasting momento of a new skill. I really like the loom kits and yes, the perler beads. It’s a mother’s nightmare, but it’s also nostalgic and wonderful how those beads just melt together to make a perfect refrigerator magnet. You also might consider LEGO kits and circuit boards.
4. Board Games
Board games are the perfect way to sneak in educational fun, and Christmas is the perfect time to learn new games. My family really enjoys classical games like Scrabble, Guess Who, and Mexican Train. For younger kids, you might consider Kerplunk, Hi Ho Cherry-O, and Memory. Older kids will enjoy the strategy needed for games like Blockus, and Uno is a game that almost all ages can enjoy.
5. Special Tools for School
Microscopes are an investment, so Christmas is a great time to provide this tool for your homeschool. Besides, there are not many kids who wouldn’t like to look at a magnified fingernail or pine needle on Christmas Day. If your kids love geography, you might consider a new interactive globe or map. Nature lovers will enjoy butterfly habitats or ant farms. School tools can absolutely be gifts!
6. Books for Christmas
I doubt that I even needed to include books on the list. You all know that books are a great gift. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a small stack of new books. Since it’s common for us to visit the used bookstore, during Christmas I like to buy brand new books for my kids. I think it’s an extra special treat to be the first one to crack open the cover of a good book.
For Christmas gifts, I like to stick to books that are just for fun, recreational reading. That means different things for all my kids. For my oldest, it’s basketball books. For my animal-lover, it’s non-fiction. For my girls, it’s art how-to books and Disney character books. If you want a sure-fire way to grab some great “just-for-fun” (but still inspiring and worthwhile) books, check out Sonlight's Christmas books and the Summer Reader packages from Sonlight.
7. Extra Lessons
Has your child wanted to learn the piano? A foreign language? Taekwondo? The gift of a skill is one that will forever be treasured. If you want to make it super special, you can even wrap a gift to surprise them. If your child wants to learn Russian, wrap up a tea set and a fur hat. If your child is itching to play the piano, wrap up their piano books and a stuffed animal “practice buddy." Like a subscription box, lessons are a long-lasting gift that keep giving long after December. And, with the exception of possible supplies, equipment, or uniforms, there is nothing to clutter up your home.
8. Gifts That Give Back
There is something very cool about holding an item that was made in another country. It’s even more special when you are helping the person who made the item to provide for their family. What could be more educational than a gift straight from the region you’ve studied this semester? Look for fair trade items made in developing countries all around the world or ask your favorite missions agency if they have a handicrafts catalog.
9. With Love, From Mom
Sometimes, I’m surprised to see the things my kids love and treasure the most. One of the most popular gift items around my house every year is our yearly family picture album. Every year, I make a book of pictures that give a sampling of family highlights from the year. This is always a popular item on Christmas day and on through the year. They love pulling out both present and past albums to see how they’ve grown and changed. Things made with love are gifts to be forever treasured. A quilt made by mom or grandmom, a scrapbook, or an embroidered handkerchief all make spectacular heirloom keepsake presents.
I honestly believe that above all the gifts and presents we can give, time is by far the most valuable. It’s so important to remember that our kids want us. It’s the reason we hear, “Watch this, Mom!” a million times every day. They want us to be present in their lives and watch their milestones, both big and small, as often as we can. I think that regardless of how much you spend on Christmas, it’s a special time for families to spend precious time reconnecting after a long year, and recharging the batteries for a new one. So don’t worry...no list is needed for that gift.
Merry Christmas to all my fellow homeschoolers. May your days be merry and bright!