Tuesday, November 12

Christmas in England & The Other Side of the Wall

Come December, we love to dive off into a holiday-based unit study!  Putting our regular studies aside, we tackle a topic from the holiday perspective, incorporating reading, math, history, home ec, and crafts.  In The Other Side of the Wall, we are transported into the magic of London at Christmas....where the imaginary seems real and wishes might come true!

Download Home for the Holidays for three complete units + lots of holiday homeschooling extras!

What to Read
  • The Other Side of the Wall – 
    • It's Christmas break and Tess and Max are in London, staying at the posh Sanborn House with their Aunt Evie. As they wait for their parents to arrive, there is an unusual snowstorm that makes the city seem as if it's caught in a snow globe. Perfect weather for an adventure in Hyde Park. But when Max, Tess, and Aunt Evie leave to search for a cab, they find a horse and carriage and driver curiously waiting for them at the curb. And that's just the beginning...  Soon Tess is charmed by a mysterious boy named Colin who lives at the hotel all year round--on the 8th floor. But Max is sure the elevator only had 7 floors the day before. And how come everyone at the hotel seems to ignore Colin? Things seem to get stranger and stranger. There's a 1920s costume party in Colin's parents' apartment. A marble that seems to be more than it appears. And a shadow that passes mysteriously by Tess and Max's hotel window.  Tess wants to figure out what's going on, but finds only more questions: Is it just a coincidence that Colin's last name is Sanborn, the same as the hotel? Why does the cat's-eye marble look eerily similar to the crystal at the top of their hotel room key? And, most importantly, what happened in that hotel one Christmas long, long ago?  
  • Christmas in England - Come explore the sights and sounds of the many English traditions that bring people of this country together at Christmas.
  • The Christmas Eve Ghost - In 1930s Liverpool, where streetcars clang on iron tracks, young Bronwen and Dylan live with their widowed Mam.  This is a story of community and kindness.
  • Letters from Father Christmas (J.R.R. Tolkien) - A charming collection of the letters Mr. Tolkien wrote to his children each year for Christmas as they were growing up. Each story is told from the perspective of Father Christmas himself!

Music Appreciation

Classic Literature (Comprehension)
Traditions (History)
Although we generally think of Britain as being one country (England), it can also describe the United Kingdom. The UK includes the nations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Several smaller islands are also included.  The first recorded use of the word “Christmas” was in 1038 when a book from Saxon England used the words “Cristes Maesse” in it.

Many of the traditions practiced today come from Britain's ancient past. Under the Romans, December had a festival called Saturnalia.   King Alfred was the first king to enforce the observance of the twelve days of 'Christ's Mass' according to church law.  This time of year was known as 'Nativity', 'Mid-winter,' or Mid-Winter Mass' up until 1043.

Medieval traditions in Britain may seem odd to us today, but they’re actually the basis of many of our traditions today. Several of our Christmas carols came from this era, as did the tradition of caroling.  "Carol" meant to sing and dance in a circle, and that is what people were doing in church services, so they were banned to the streets.  We still carol in the streets from house to house today!

Two of the oldest surviving carols are The Holly and the Ivy and I Saw Three Ships. Another tradition is Boxing Day on December 26th. This is a bank holiday in the UK nowadays. It originates from the tradition of churches breaking open their alms boxes to distribute to the poor.  The money was put into hollow clay pots with a slit in the top.  They had to be broken to get the money out, and were nicknamed 'piggies.'  This is where we get the piggy bank!

Decorations & Gifts (Math)

Complete these math problems after watching the video above:
  • If postage is 54 cents per letter, how much will it cost to mail 16 letters to Santa from the United States?  How much will it cost in England?
  • Mum is making stockings for each child.  Each stocking requires 3/4 yards of material.  How much material will she need to make five stockings?
  • How many prizes and jokes will you need to fill 237 crackers for your school class?
Christmas Recipes (Home Ec)
Christmas dinner is very important. It is usually served at around 1 O’clock in the afternoon but varies from family to family. Some people like to have it over and done with in time for the Queen's speech at 3pm.

Find more recipes in Christmas with DickensFrom Mrs Cratchit’s plum pudding to Mr Pickwick’s "mighty bowl of wassail," Charles Dickens's novels and other writings are alive with examples of good food being enjoyed in good company. In this selection of Victorian classics, updated for modern cooks, you will find old favorites for Christmas dinner such as roast fowl with tarragon, plus recipes for entertaining, such as lobster patties and a Charlotte Russe. There’s even a recipe for a hand-raised pork pie to keep in the pantry for unexpected visitors (or escaped convicts.)

Mince Pie
You'll need:

  • 1 1/2 c chopped pecan
  • 1 peeled & chopped apple
  • 1/2 c chopped figs
  • 1/3 c brown sugar
  • 2 tsp grated lemon peel
  • 2 refrigerated pie crusts
  1. In a bowl, stir together mincemeat, pecans, apple, figs, brown sugar, and lemon peel.  Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours.
  2. Let pie filling stand at room temperature 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 425°F.  Make pie crusts as directed on box.  Stir filling well; pour into crust-lined plate.  Top with second crust, and cut slits in several places on top to vent.
  3. Bake on lowest oven rack 40 to 45 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.  Cool completely on cooling rack.
You'll need:
  • 2 apples
  • 8 cups apple cider
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  1. Add all of the ingredients, including the apples, to a large pot over medium low heat.
  2. Bring to a simmer for 45 minutes.
  3. Remove the apples.  Serve & enjoy!
Christingles & Crackers (Arts & Crafts)
A Christingle is a symbolic object used in the Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany services of many Christian denominations. Christingle, a word of German origin, means 'Christ Child' and is used to celebrate Jesus Christ as the "Light of the World."  Today they are used in the Anglican Church of England for Christmas services.

You’ll need:
  • A large orange
  • red tape or ribbon
  • 4 cocktail sticks
  • 3” square of tinfoil
  • a wax household candle
  • small soft sweets/raisins/cherries etc
  1. Fasten a piece of red sticky tape or ribbon around the middle of the orange.
  2. Cut a small cross in the top of the orange, and lay the square of silver foil (3" square) over it. (The foil is to catch the hot wax.)
  3. Place a wax candle on top of the foil, and wedge it firmly into the orange.
  4. Put raisins, cherries or soft sweets onto the ends of the four cocktail sticks making sure the points are covered. Insert them around the base of the candle so that there is one in each quarter.
  5. Store upright in a cool place until they are needed.
Christmas crackers are festive table decorations that make a snapping sound when pulled opened, and often contain a small gift and a joke. They are part of Christmas celebrations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.


  1. I love gathering the family together, playing games, singing with one another, just sharing time together.

  2. pizza on christmas eve!


  3. decorating

  4. wow thats very nice post i really like it thanks for sharing and much appreciate your effort
    Merry Christmas Santa Claus

  5. We go out for Chinese food on Christmas Eve.

  6. I make enough Christmas cookies to feed an army.

  7. We host a gathering of family and friends on Christmas Eve.

  8. The whole family goes to church together for the Christmas Cantata.

  9. We love baking cookies to give to our family and friends

  10. My favorite Christmas tradition is the Christmas Eve candlelight service.

  11. I love decorating our home for Christmas.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.