Learn how to use Christmas carols in your homeschooling to make the most of the holiday season.
Music in Homeschooling
One of the simplest ways our family marks the change of seasons in our homeschool is through the use of music, both familiar and new. For us, this includes a few different options that can come up during the school week like free listening, more formal music appreciation lessons for critical listening with related classical pieces, as well as the songs we practice for memorization in a particular month.
For example, in Autumn, this means playing family favorites from Aaron Copland during Quiet Time, like his Appalachian Spring. And with all our boys, pieces that take on a more macabre character, like Rachmaninov’s The Isle of the Dead make an appearance in October. While in December this shift is made with our family tradition of listening to a little portion of Handel’s Messiah each day and then intentionally working Advent and Christmas Carols into different school subjects.
For this article specifically, I’m diving deeper into a few ways we use the Christmas carols I want to review or teach our children that year as the base for other typical homeschool subjects throughout the holiday season. Whether your family switches to Yule School in December or strives to have a cozy Hygge Homeschool of your usual curriculum all winter long, you can add in carols for any age. Take the suggestions below that fit your current family dynamics and have peace leaving the rest or saving them for another season of life.
Christmas Carols in Homeschooling
Free listening is the term our family uses to describe listening to music, classical or otherwise, simply for the pleasure of it. As opposed to traditional music appreciation, where students are encouraged to have a critical ear that is listening for different aspects of a piece, free listening is just a low-stress way to fit in more exposure to various genres of music with little preparation ahead of time. And this is the simplest way to include carols in your homeschool.
The Christmas carols of your choice can be played amid family chore time, a meal, drawing in nature notebooks, with another art project, or even during bath time for a sing-along to include the youngest of students in your family. Anytime music would normally be on for your homeschool, you can opt to make it carols during this season.
Memorization & Hymn Study
For December, all our new memorization – poetry, folk songs, hymns, etc – are exchanged for Advent and then Christmas carols. We do continue to review older selections we have learned earlier in the school year, but the new material is drawn from the unfamiliar carols our children are to learn for the present year. Because carols are just songs with a particular Christmas theme to the lyrics, I use the same method for teaching them as with our other hymns and folk songs.
I introduce a new hymn by having everyone repeat the lines of the spoken first verse after me. Next, I sing the first verse once and then have my boys join in the second time through with humming a neutral syllable like “lu” or attempting the words. We sing the verse we are learning about three times a day during our Morning Liturgy (Morning Time). And they pick up a verse in about a week. After our singing, we choose from the additional activities to help us dig a little deeper:
- Discussing the theological truths of the text
- Drawing what is heard in the text or music
- Narrating the text
By no means do we make it through all these activities every week; however, we do try to hit at least one for each verse learned.
Geography & History
There are a couple of different routes for connecting carols and geography in December. One is to pick a carol or two to listen to or learn from the region your students are already studying or from the setting of a book they are reading. Another option is to pick a favorite carol and explore the history of where it comes from geographically.
A fun activity to make this subject more hands-on for busy boys and girls is to pass around a beachball printed with a globe pattern. The person who catches the ball sings the next line of the carol and finds its place of origin on the globe.
Similarly, carols to listen to or learn may also be pulled from particular points in history and can likewise be inspired by a book or a current historical period being studied.
In a vein akin to geography and history, books that showcase a carol’s text, whether in picture book or chapter book form, are lovely additions to the homeschool day for this season as family read-alouds. They provide another organic invitation to sing along as the text periodically punctuates the story’s narrative.
Some titles like this that our family treasures are The Birds Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin (the author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm), I Saw Three Ships by Elizabeth Goudge, and Joy to the World by Tomie dePaola.
Language arts is one of the most versatile subjects for incorporating carols. Here, I’m also lumping in the subject of foreign languages, where carols to listen to or learn may be selected from almost any language being studied, including Latin.
Other options to try with your carol lyrics for traditional language arts study are dictation, penmanship practice, spelling, vocabulary, and sentence diagramming. You can read how our family tackles each of these skills individually throughout the whole school year in the article 5 Ways to Use Music Study for Language Arts.
Each year is different, and we don’t get to fit carols into all of these subjects each December. But hopefully, both of our families will make a few of them happen this year, and these ideas will give you a few new ways to bring a little more Christmas cheer and joy to your homeschool days!