Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Learning through Literature: Nine Days to Christmas

Maybe it has to do with our current journey to minimalism, or maybe it has to do with our busy Christmas schedule, or maybe it's that we are technically 'off school' in December {but there's no way I will let my kids run loose all day}, but I wanted something slower and easier for December.  I decided I wanted to learn through books, only, this month.  I liked the way that our Five in a Row lessons were laid out, and decided to do something similar with the Christmas books on our shelf.

The first book I chose was Nine Days to Christmas, A Story of Mexico by Marie Hall Ets & Aurora Labastida.  I picked it up this summer at a yard sale, and had no idea the treat we were in for!

Nine Days to Christmas is a book about a sweet little girl named Ceci who was celebrating her first Posada-a Mexican Christmas party.

I decided to write up a mini 'Row' lesson for Nine Days of Christmas in case you would like to do this for your children.  We did this in just one day, but could easily be spread out to 5.

The first thing we did was to pull out our North America Continent Map.  We looked over our continent cards and located all the countries on the map.  Then, we focused on our 'neighbor' Mexico.  After we established where Mexico was, we were ready to read.  You can do this with any map, but I do think the continent maps are worth their money!

The first page of the story (page 5) mentions that Ceci is in Kindergarten.  So we discussed how old that made her.  After realizing that Ceci was 5 just like Charger, he was very interested.

On page six, and throughout the book, there are various Spanish words.  Pinata, tortilla, and Posada.  I had my children repeat the words and we discussed their meaning.

Pages 8 and 9 offer a beautiful picture of children playing in a garden.  This has so many possibilities, but I helped bring attention to how they were dressed.  Short sleeved dresses in November?  A great opportunity to talk about the weather and various climates-even at Christmas.

On page 10, Ceci's brother, Salvador, tells her that her party is in 21 days, and 9 days before Christmas.  We used our calendar to determine that Ceci's party would be on December 16th and the discussion took place on November the 25th.

Pages 14-17 bring examples of Ceci's yard in Mexico.  She has a stone wall and a gate, which no one around here has.  This was a great opportunity to discuss different types of living quarters.

We discussed different types of church services with the mention of mass on page 18.

Page 18 and 19 have a beautiful spread of a pond with ducks swimming.  Ceci feeds the ducks.  On pages 20 and 21, she tries to BE a duck.  She feels sorry for how cold the ducks must be.  We brought in our lessons about ducks from The Story of Ping that we rowed earlier this year.  We knew that ducks don't get wet, so they don't get cold.  LOTS of great ways to take this part!

Ceci and her family have a servant named Maria.  On page 22 and other pages, it discusses what kinds of work she is responsible to do.  Obviously, this is a big culture difference not only between countries, but between economic groups.

When Ceci's mother takes her to the Mexican market on pages 26 and 27, there is a lot to be discussed.  We talked about the beautiful market, bartering, and I tried to help my children understand what a market is. Hopefully we can go to a big one someday.  I've been to a few, and it's just hard to describe!  The picture is beautiful!  Also, if you know Spanish, or want to look up the words, each of the areas of the market are labeled in Spanish.

Ceci gets to pick a pinata, which goes on for about 6 pages.  The pinatas 'talk' to Ceci and make animal noises, ask questions, and beg for her to choose them.  My children enjoyed picking out their pinatas from the pictures.  Charger even picked the same one that Ceci did-maybe it's a 5 year old thing :).

Pages 34-37 Ceci and her family prepare for the Posada.  We discussed preparing for parties here and there.  We talked about the fruit and candy that Ceci was putting in her pinata.  My children had never heard of fruit in a pinata-I liked the idea :).

Pages 38-41 have a wonderful description of the Posada itself.  Ceci is dressed in 'traditional' Mexican clothing, and she and another boy carry a tray with Mary, Joesph, and the donkey through her yard.  The others at the party follow behind them.  They walk to the door of the house and knock, behind the door people sing back that there is no room for them in the inn.  What a lovely way to remember the Christmas story.  We also discussed different traditional clothing.

The last 7 pages of the story focus on Ceci and her pinata.  She doesn't want it to be broken and is sad that everyone will be trying to break it to bits.  In the end, her star becomes a real star and stays in the sky forever.  I appreciate that, though there is a 'hint' of magic here at the end, stars are real.  It's not like her doll came to life or anything :).

All we did was read and discuss, but you could take this SOOOO much further.  Making-or buying-your own pinata, dressing in Mexican clothing, reading about ducks getting wet, making and eating tortillas and much, much more!

Overall, we simply loved this little book.  Of course, it left me scrambling for more great living books for Christmas around the world!  So, we will be reading Tree of Cranes next.  I hope to have some 'rowing' ideas for you for it soon.

Merry Christmas!!


learning table said...

This little book is a gem. I have a copy that I found at a used book store last year, and we just love it. Thanks for sharing your lesson. :)

Becky Jackson said...

Thank you! Very great ideas! I will definitely consider these in the future!