Studying History at Christmas Time in a Charlotte Mason Way

Someone recently asked about what we do for history around Christmas time. Well, anything we do related to the Bible I consider a History lesson, so the Advent activities and things related to the Birth of Jesus I count as History.

The Advent books by Arnold Ytreeide contain a lot of historical content. Jotham’s Journey, Bartholomew’s Passage and Tabitha’s Travels are all Advent stories. They are cumulative, so it’s good to read them in order. The latest in the set is called Ishtar’s Journey. We read it last year, and my kids enjoyed it. They all have edge-of-your seat action and cliffhanger chapter endings that keep the kids wanting to hear more.





For Easter time, he has another book called Amon’s Adventure. This one is about the son of a character in one of the previous books.

We usually do a lot of Advent activities that cover different aspects of preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And I consider those History, too. We have used the free Jesse Tree Devotional by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience. She has beautiful devotions and nice paper ornaments you can print out and put on a Jesse Tree. Scroll down to the bottom of her home page and click where it says Free Family Advent Christmas Devotional with Jesse Tree Ornaments to find out how to get it. She has written a book called “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift” that is a work of art. The pictures are beautiful, and the devotional stories that go with the Jesse Tree symbols are full of Ann’s poetic writing that makes you pause and think about the full meaning of each symbol and the full prophetic fulfillment and the profound impact of Jesus’ birth.

We did a nice Advent activity with the book Jesus, The Promised One by Christian Perspective. It comes with little books. You can get one for each child. Then each day of Advent you read a short devotional to them and they put a sticker or color something in their little book that goes with the story. They each get a gold pen, too, that they really like to write and color with.

Our Advent activities usually become our History lessons before Christmas. I bought the book, One Wintry Night, by Ruth Bell Graham (Billy Graham’s wife). I checked it out of the library one Christmas and started reading it but didn’t get it finished before Christmas. I took it back unfinished! I hardly ever do that. But I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to finish it after the season was over. This book is worth reading, but you should start it long before Christmas day. It has an interesting modern day story line about a boy who is injured in a snowstorm and has to wait out the storm in a cabin where a lady tells him the WHOLE Christmas story. She takes us through the whole story of Christmas, starting with Creation and ending with the Resurrection!


The Advent Book by Jack and Kathy Stockman at Celebrations and Traditions. is really good, too. You can use it like an Advent calendar. The pictures in the book are all different doors. The child opens a beautifully illustrated, elaborate door, and a part of the Christmas story is found written there.

I just got the book On That Night by Elizabeth Yates, too. It might be a little bit over the heads of younger children. It describes several different people who were affected by reflecting on the Nativity scene at a Christmas Eve service and how each found something that night that they had lost. I really enjoyed the story and found it very inspirational. There was an element of suspense as the story took you on a journey to discover the connections between the characters and what they had lost.

Another little book I enjoy at Christmas is by Elizabeth Goudge, one of my favorite authors. It is called “I Saw Three Ships”.  An Amazon review says this about it:

“A moving, lyrical, and endearing chapter book, celebrating the magic as well as the mystery of Christmas.”

Another story with a slight air of suspense, like most good stories carry, this one has a few surprises and twists that will make you wonder and ponder.

I love to read lots of Christmas stories to my kids before Christmas, trying to find good Classics and living books during the Christmas season. That’s my way of doing Christmas in a Charlotte Mason way. I kind of sneak narration in lots of times by asking one of the kids to sum up what we read the last time before we start the day’s reading. Sometimes I will have them write notes, make cards, write something that has to do with Christmas or some kind of notebook page about Christmas, and we have made a couple of lapbooks over the years about Christmas symbols.


I like this lapbook by Carisa at 1+1+1=1.

And here’s a nice Tot Pack for Toddlers and Preschoolers for Christmas, also by Carisa.

Our main History right now is learning some Texas history. I want to get back into Diana Waring’s Romans, Reformers, Revolutionaries when we get settled in here.

Those are some of the main things we do to incorporate history into our Christmas season. I try to keep the Bible first in all of our homeschooling, especially our study of History.

I hope you are able to glean some helpful ideas from this list.

When Things Don’t Work Out the Way You Wanted

We all start out with dreams and desires and expectations of meeting and falling in love with Prince Charming and living happily ever after.

But many times, that’s not how life goes.

I felt like I waited for-evvvver before I met my Prince Charming. I was 23, but I felt old. Everyone around me (from my self-pitying perspective) was already married and having children. I wondered if I would ever meet someone who would want me. Then I met Gary, and he chased me until I caught him. Not really. It wasn’t like that at all, but somehow I got him to agree to ask me to marry him. That’s how it felt to me.

Then finally, we got married and started having children. After I convinced him that it was time to have a baby. We had one, and then another, and then we just couldn’t stop having babies. We ended up with 10! Babies are the best thing God ever made! I am ever so thankful for each and every one of them.

But our happily ever after has been full of unexpected and surprising, dare I say, traumatic events that have shocked us and even caused PTSD-like symptoms in several members of our family.

The first years with children were sweet for me but exhausting. I sure loved my babies. And I loved teaching them everything from walking, talking, and eating to swimming, riding a bike, and reading. I was “Mommy”. That’s who I was.

I didn’t get much support, but I didn’t think I should need it. I thought I should be able to do it all by myself. I thought I shouldn’t need help. My mom didn’t need any help. Why should I? My husband was brought up to believe that his only real responsibility was to provide for the family monetarily. I was thankful for that. He worked so hard. He put in long hours. But it was hard for me to appreciate his hard work when I hardly ever saw him, and I was dealing with 3, then 4, then 5, then 6 little ones virtually by myself.

His career wasn’t working out the way he expected, either. He tried to advance. He did excellent work. He cared about every project he worked on. He gave it everything he had. But he could never get recognition for his hard work. Instead he was always encountering people who questioned his ability, who took credit for his work, or who demanded impossible things from him.

So I was struggling with doing the thing I wanted most in life – to be a good wife and mother. And he was struggling with the thing that he thought was his main purpose in life and would bring him fulfillment.

We were getting very disenchanted with how things were.

And then things got worse!

He lost his job and couldn’t get another one.

We lost our house.

We were technically homeless for several months!

I did not expect God to let something like that happen to us. We were seeking Him. We were praying with our children. We were teaching them the Bible. We were expecting God to do miracles for us.

But He had a different plan. It was a very difficult plan for us to walk through.

He gave us fair warning.

He had told Gary that he could choose to walk or climb. Gary chose to climb.

Around the same time, I had prayed for a Baptism of Fire.

We should have known our road was going to get very rocky. But we didn’t expect it to become downright treacherous!

We trusted God and lived totally by faith for over 3 years. He supernaturally provided all of our financial needs.

But the time came when He stopped sending us the money to make the house payment. Then we faced foreclosure and eviction from our own home. I couldn’t BELIEVE God would let that happen to us!

I was in shock. Literally. We had a very difficult time finding a place to live with 8 children. We had a few unpleasant experiences living with other people. Then the Lord made it clear that we were to leave Ohio. We didn’t have any money, but the Lord said to tell people we were leaving and the money would come. We were given about $3000 by some very surprising sources.

And off we went to the faraway land called Arizona in our minivan that was stuffed to the gills with 10 people and duffle bags full of a weeks worth of clothes for each of us. And a few of our favorite things.

It was ludicrous.

But God told us to do it, so we did it.

Through the whole crazy journey, we kept praying and trusting God, and He kept providing in the most unusual ways and usually at the last minute.

One time we ran out of money in Colorado Springs. We had to leave the hotel we had been staying in. We had been on the road – homeless – for 3 months at the time. We went to a park to pray. Gary’s cell phone rang. A man named Burt asked Gary to meet him at a certain address. When we got there, he asked Gary many questions. He must have answered them to Burt’s satisfaction, because he then gave us a check for $500 and went into the bank, which was at the address where we met him, and made sure Gary was able to cash it without any problem. Then we were able to go back to the hotel and stay there for another week.

When that week was over, the Lord used the hotel clerk to give us a home for two weeks, right around Thanksgiving time. He provided for us so that we could cook a Thanksgiving dinner for the hotel clerk and her family. In her kitchen!

There are so many ways that God provided for us supernaturally during our Journey of Fire. I would have a hard time telling all of them.

But I would never have put my family in such a situation on purpose. I never expected God to let such extreme losses and stressful experiences happen to us.

But we have been forever changed.

I know I have.

Now my kids and my husband –

I’m not so sure they fared as well as I did.

Some of them are seeming to question God’s faithfulness and care. I think they want life to be easier than it has been.

I wouldn’t mind getting some of my biggest prayer requests, like a home of our own, answered real soon.

But I will never turn my back on God or question His goodness or His direction.

My older children are working through issues of trauma, and they are testing their wings and their boundaries.

Now that has been shocking to me. I thought they would stay close to God no matter what. I didn’t expect them to question God or His goodness or faithfulness. But they are their own people, and we all have to develop our own relationship with God. They need to take their questions and needs to God for themselves. I try to help them, but I can only do so much.

This has been a heartbreak for me.

But I still trust God to work all things together for their good. Because I dedicated them to God when they were young. I did my best to raise them in the ways of the Lord. I loved them and took care of them the best that I could. I honored God and lived a believing life before them.

So I am expecting good things in the future for our whole family.

God has not given up on them, and neither will I. I never dreamed I would have a Prodigal. But nothing is too hard for God.

I know He will bring everything back around, because that’s how He is. He is a God of redemption. He remembers every single prayer I’ve ever prayed. He took us through the Journey of Fire for a reason, and it wasn’t so that my children would lose their faith. On the contrary, I know it will make them strong warriors for His Kingdom.

So even though things didn’t go the way I wanted them to, like, at all!, I am confident that He will complete what He started in us.

And if things haven’t gone the way you wanted or expected, I’m sorry. My heart goes out to you.

But I would like to encourage you to keep your hope. I believe that God has a purpose for each of our lives (actually many purposes), and He uses everything that happens to us to galvanize our faith and to make us more like Him.

So take courage! Remain steadfast. Keep your peace and hope.

God will make all things work together for your good. He has not forgotten you. He loves you so much. Just think about how much He loves you. Just think about Jesus leaving His beautiful perfect life in Heaven to come here to Earth and become one of us just because He loved you and wanted you to have a beautiful perfect life not only in Heaven but the best life possible here on Earth. The chance to be a child of God.

And the suffering He willingly went through for you.

Now that’s love.

True love. The truest love you’ll ever find.

I’ve said enough.

I hope you hear God’s heart cry for you. He loves you. He is with you. He is taking you to a better tomorrow.

Don’t despair. Hold onto your hope. Hold onto Jesus.

Things are going to get better. You might have been blindsided by events and actions of people in your life, but God is faithful. You may have been surprised at the things God allowed. But don’t let that hurt your faith. He remains the same as ever: good, loving, faithful, powerful, almighty, and – you know. You know your Heavenly Father. Don’t let anything steal your faith from you.

It is the most precious thing you have. So don’t let anything take your faith from you.

Hold onto the knowledge that even though things didn’t go the way you wanted them to, God is not surprised, your life is not out of His control, He does love you and want what’s best for you, and He is working all things together for your good.

Even though they didn’t work out, He will make sure they work together.

Now that’s good!





Delight-directed, Project-based Homeschooling

If you’re like me, you want to find the best way – the right way – to homeschool. You want to find the way that is enjoyable, sustainable, fulfilling and effective.


You want to do what’s best for your children to train, equip, and prepare them for whatever their future holds.


Well, I don’t know if I could declare this approach the “right” way, but I have found delight-directed, project-based homeschooling to be very effective in accomplishing my goals for an enjoyable, sustainable homeschool model.


Delight-directed means you find out what your child likes and is interested in and you make that the topic for study. That topic can vary throughout the year. Or if your child is fascinated with a subject such as horses, space, gardening, or cooking, he may study that topic for as long as he remains fascinated. You then find ways to facilitate his studies.


When my first child was about 6 years old, he was fascinated with cowboys. I decided to do a unit about cowboys with him. He had seen a Sheriff star at a shop we went to, and he wanted it. So I told him we would go back and buy it after we learned more about cowboys. So I went to the library and picked out several books about cowboys. Most were picture books, but they also contained a lot of information. I had my son pick out 3 for me to read to him. He drew pictures based on what I read. We watched a documentary about cowboys. He talked to my dad about cowboys (he is an expert since he watches old Western movies and reads Westerns all the time). After finishing these tasks we went back to the shop and bought the Sheriff star for him. He was so happy to have it, and he felt like he had accomplished something great by earning it. And he knew more about cowboys than he did before and liked them even more!


My other son is an outdoorsman. He became obsessed with fishing. He wanted fishing tackle boxes and lures and fishing equipment for his birthday. So, what do you think I did? I told him we would get these things for him if he learned more about types of fish. So I went to the library and checked out about 20 books about fishing and fish. He pored over those books for weeks. He started teaching his younger brother and sister about the different types of fish. They became experts, too! For his birthday, he got a fully stocked tackle box. He told us the types of lures that he needed for the kind of fish he would be able to find in the nearest lake, so we knew what to stock his tackle box with. Then we took him fishing!


One of my favorite delight-directed activities is Poetry Teatime. We enjoy baking something nice and reading fun poems to each other while we eat our yummy treat and sip tea or whatever beverage we prefer. If we didn’t do this, most of us would not get any exposure to poetry.


Delight-directed learning happens when we ask our children what they are interested in and what they want to learn more about. One day I asked my oldest son what he wanted to study, and he said “my Bible”. I was rather surprised, but happy with his choice. I asked him to write about what he was learning from the Bible and to discuss with me his ideas. And I asked him to

do some math and study some kind of science, and he agreed. He was about 15 years old. So throughout most of that year, he filled a notebook with his notes and thoughts about what he learned from his reading of the Bible. I found some Algebra resources for him, and he worked through them. He studied science concepts that piqued his curiosity. I got him some living books about science including one about the science of Star Trek. He really enjoyed that year and learned a lot about many topics that he still pursues to this day. He is 27 now!


In recent years, more resources have been developed as tools for those who use a more delight-directed approach. One of my favorite resources is the homeschool journals by Thinking Tree Books. They are written by Sarah Janisse Brown and her team. My daughter uses one called a Do-It-Yourself Homeschool Journal: Delight-Directed Learning Handbook. It is a convenient way to organize her drawings and writing and notes about different subjects she wants to learn about. It gives her a place to list the books she is reading to get more information. It has activities sprinkled throughout for logic, drawing, and coloring. I let her work through this on her own. She has skipped around in it and done some interesting work.


One of our biggest projects has been watching and helping Monarch caterpillars change to butterflies. We have brought milkweed plants into the house when we find caterpillars on them. Then we keep an eye on them as they eat and eat and grow and grow. We have measured them at times. We have collected more leaves and sometimes plants for them. We have fetched them when they crawled or fell off of the plant. We help them to find a leaf when they are searching on a leafless stem. Then we try to catch them making a chrysalis. We can spot the signs that they are about ready to start the process. We love seeing them form the chrysalis and then emerge from it a week or so later. We let them dry and harden, then we name them and take them outside, bless them, and set them free. Many of my children have drawn pictures of caterpillars and butterflies and the life cycle. I don’t usually have to ask them to do it. They just do it on their own.

Caterpillar Chronicles Continued

There are so many ways to follow their interests and gifts. I would like to list a few of them here:


Library books

Online tutorials


Nature Study

Montessori – sensory bins, small worlds

Dolls, stuffed animals

Unit studies


Dress up


Sports – athletics

Hands-on activities – Blocks, shape pattern blocks, Legos

Art – Origami, pastels, paint, colored pencil

Science experiments



And we have done many projects over the years that have greatly contributed to the knowledge and skills of my children.


Some of these are:


The Very Hungry Caterpillar Lapbook

Are You As Hungry As A Caterpillar?


Lemonade stand – math, business, baking, marketing, money – making change, expenses and profit

Used manipulatives like M & M’s for counting in Math

Wright Brothers Play

Planted Garden seeds

Baking – measuring, planning celebrations

Cooking – measuring – Thanksgiving –  plan menus, shopping list, etc.

Decorating for Christmas – Bake cookies, decorate them; a special project the girls did was making a little playset for a plush squirrel named Oshee with a pinecone as a Christmas tree and a star on it. They taped little stocking ornaments onto the front of our couch and used a little mint box for Oshee’s bed. They made a little book called Oshee’s Diary and put a picture of an acorn on it. The whole thing was beside our real Christmas tree. They had great fun putting it together.


My daughter had a plush penguin named Felix with whom she made up and acted out many scenarios and made paper furniture and fish out of clay and built a fishing pole for him.He had a friend named Abominable who was a snow monster.

Step Into the World of Fiona and Felix the Penguin

Imagination games with stuffed animals. The possibilities for this kind of play are endless!

Writing, then making a movie – my daughters wrote the names of the cast and characters, script, chart, symbols, and dimensions they made up all revolving around the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Pets – guinea pigs, mouse, turtles, fish, skunk (!), tadpoles – these are real pets we have had!

Hummingbird and other bird feeders

Unit studies





Art for Decorating

Decorate clothing and bags



This is really just the tip of the iceberg, and these are based on the interests of my children. It is up to you to find out what your kids like and then facilitate their learning endeavors. It is lots of fun!


When we make learning an adventure, our kids are much more likely to be on board with homeschooling and they retain the knowledge so much better. They feel like they own it! They are more engaged when they get to have a say in what they are studying and learning about.


So hop on board the delight-directed homeschool train! You will be glad you did. And your kids may still like you and may continue learning for the rest of their lives because they love it!


If It’s Not Good, It’s Not the End – Hold onto Hope – Relationally Speaking

Gary and I did a Facebook Live about how important HOPE is while we’re waiting and as we go through difficult times. Join us here and get your HOPE tank filled up!

Relationally Speaking with Gary and Penney on Facebook Live on Friday or Saturday night.


Relationally Speaking with Gary and Penney – If it's not good, it's not the end!Hold onto hope.

Posted by Penney Hawkey Douglas on Saturday, December 1, 2018

Relationally Speaking: Opposites Attract and Then Mix Like Oil and Water

Relationally Speaking with Gary and Penney: Opposites attract and then mix like oil and water.

Posted by Penney Hawkey Douglas on Saturday, November 24, 2018