Home for the Holidays

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Last Wednesday our co-op went “Home for the Holidays.”

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It was our big, annual Christmas party with our cooperative learning group. After 10 years of Christmas parties there are not many themes we haven’t covered. We have done “Christmas Around the World,” “Holiday TV classics,” “The Polar Express,” “A Musical Christmas,” and “Favorite Christmas Stories.” This year we were racking our brains for something we haven’t done before…a theme we could build our Christmas party around. We came up with “Home for the Holidays” and it turned out to be my favorite theme yet!

On the first Wednesday of December we always have our final co-op for the month, returning back after the new year. On this Wednesday we don’t have any of our typical classes or activities. Instead we have a party and fill the day with Christmas crafts, games, gift exchanges, and a Christmas lunch. It is always a lot of fun despite the boatload of work leading up to this special day.

The theme this year, “Home for the Holidays,” was magical in its simplicity. The idea was to allow the other families at co-op a glimpse into the individual holiday traditions that our families hold dear. Each mom was given a classroom to decorate  with decorations from home and were given 20 minutes to do an activity or craft with the kids, reflective of a holiday tradition their family cherishes. There were seven rooms and the kids were split into groups of 6 and rotated through the different “homes.”

It was so much fun seeing what each family came up with and learn more about each other’s Christmas traditions.

The Caylor family has a tradition of decorating a stocking each year (individually) to reflect the interests and experiences of each person’s life that past year. Miss Tauni had many of her own stockings from the previous 20 Christmases hanging on display as an example of what they have done in the past.

For the craft she had sewn little stockings for each of the kids to decorate with glitter paint. It was such a fun tradition to hear about and the kids all loved making their own little stockings. It was fun to see what designs the kids all came up.

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The McCready family has the tradition of watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” every December as a family. At this station the kids had the opportunity to make an ornament. Miss Corrina printed out a variety of black and white photos of the co-op kids that they were able to choose from, cut out, and place in a glass bulb with glitter and snow to make a snow globe ornament. On the whiteboard she had written some of the more notable quotes from the film that the kids could copy on the outside of their ornament with a gold pen.

After completing their craft the kids had fun filling out the “It’s a Wonderful Life” trivia sheets.

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The Hudak family has the Christmas tradition of decorating Christmas cookies and watching “Home Alone.” In their room the kids decorated cinnamon ornaments shaped like gingerbread houses with white puff paint, creating an ornament for the tree that looks like a frosted gingerbread cookie.

While the kids worked they watched part of “Home Alone,” enjoyed rice krispy treats, and played “Bean Boozled.”

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In Miss Nicole’s room the kids learned about their family’s tradition of collecting nutcrackers and Christmas salt and pepper shakers. The kids were able to see some of the boys’ nutcrackers and Miss Nicole’s shakers that were on display.

For the craft the kids were able to choose between painting a miniature nutcracker or glass salt and pepper shakers while munching on Christmas cookies.

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In Miss Kathy’s room the kids were able to participate in their family’s tradition of decorating gingerbread houses. Miss Kathy had pre-constructed houses made from graham crackers that the kids were able to cover with candies.

In their family they also have a tradition of watching Polar Express so she gave each of the kids a silver jingle bell with the tag, “The bell still rings for those who truly believe.”

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In the Stone family’s room the kids were able to participate in an epic photo booth and make decorated frames, reflective of the Stone’s annual tradition of holiday photos.

Miss Rose  brought a box of holiday costumes and props and the kids were able to stand in front of a green screen and pick from a series of backgrounds on Miss Rose’s I-Pad to make fun holiday scenes. This was a favorite stop for the kids on their trip “Home for the Holidays.”

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Our family’s room was the last stop of the morning and all the groups joined together for our activity. In our room we decorated the table with some of the sillier traditions we enjoy as a family. We shared the antics of Buster, our Elf on a Shelf by displaying some of his past pranks.

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For our activity we recreated the funny “white elephant” gift exchange that is part of our Christmas Eve traditions every year. The kids had fun helping me prepare for the activity by scouring the aisles of Dollar Tree for 23 crazy items to wrap for the game.

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One by one the kids took turns picking gifts and stealing from each other until everyone had a wrapped gift. Then one by one they unwrapped their crazy gifts, sharing in the same laughs our family enjoys every Christmas Eve.

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After our final “Home for the Holidays” room we enjoyed a pizza lunch with side dishes, drinks, and desserts brought in by each family.

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Each mom was in charge of decorating a lunchroom table with Christmas decorations from home, thus continuing our “Home for the Holidays” them in the décor.

After lunch we concluded the party with a gift exchange between the kids. Every student had previously drawn a name of another student and with a $5.oo budget shopped for a special gift.

The kids sat in a big circle and took turns delivering their gifts to the person they bought for. All my kids were thrilled with the gifts they received.

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Tyler received the movie, “Olive the other Reindeer” from Saga. This cute movie about a dog named Olive who wants to help save Christmas, was a perfect choice for Tyler. He insisted that as soon as we got home he must watch it with Olive since it is a movie about her.

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We could not have asked for a more perfect day. It was magical.

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This was Gracie’s last co-op Christmas party. Next year she will be off at college and we will be down one McCleery. After 10 years of co-op Christmas parties it is hard to imagine one without her there. I’m so glad her last one was this one. Getting to walk into the “homes” of these women who have been like second mothers to her, and learn more about them, and the joys they find in this time of year, brings such a special meaning to the theme of “Home for the Holidays.”

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