Sunday, November 27, 2011

Planning a Simple, Yet Complete Advent 2011: An Alphabet of Plans for a Literature-Based Family Advent Rich in Sensory Input and Special Activities

UPDATE:  You can find an Alphabet of Advent printable updated with even more ideas and books for 2012 here.
Last year at this time I fantasized that by this time this year I would be sitting in a decluttered, clean home with an organized Kindergarten homeschool program several months underway and a complete focus on sharing the Advent season with my children through learning, play and growing traditions.  Ah, it’s nice to dream, isn’t it?

It is also good to hold onto a good dream until it becomes a reality.  So, hold on is what I continue to do, because the ideal I fantasized about last year is still far from becoming this year’s reality.

Meanwhile, Advent is upon us and I know that dreaming is not going to help my family observe this beautiful season.  However, a little forethought and action can. So, this past week, I took my focus off many other things (including completing my BloTaAcMo goal) in order to lay out a do-able plan for creating a peaceful, faith-filled period of observance and learning for the next four weeks.
My goal for the plan was to keep it simple, while cobbling together something that would:

  • guide all our learning activities between now and Christmas (keying in strongly to our Core Four Plus),
  • be replete with sensory activities
  • be rich in tradition
  • offer opportunities for giving and service

and, of course, help my family to get away from the commercial, secular, me-me-me obsessions that seem to proliferate during this season, while moving toward a greater understanding of our faith history and principles

Keeping this multi-faceted goal – especially the SIMPLE part – was not easy for me.  The more I thought and browsed, the more I found myself wanting to include in our Advent plan:  armfuls of books, oodles of crafts, dozens of songs, pages of art study, a myriad of new traditions…  You name it.  I wanted it in my plan. 

Luckily, the kids kept interrupting my planning sessions and, thus, before I dove headlong into making our Advent plan as cluttered as, um, my basement is, I reeled myself in.  I recognized the irony that in planning a season of simplicity, I was becoming overwhelmed (and, okay, maybe a little obsessed) with ways my family might honor (overdo?) Advent.  Yes, I came square up against the fact that even as I sought to avoid being someone who encourages her family to jump full-force into the hoopla of a “too soon” Christmas, I was sliding down a slippery slope of overcomplicating our Advent. 

Several pauses for child-management, self-reflection, and, of course, prayer, later, the layout for our Advent plan crystallized in my mind:

Following a daily rhythm, we will include Our Core Four in the coming weeks through:

  • Reading, including up to five Read Alouds a day based on an Advent-themed letter-of-the day or a Special Observance.  We will also do spontaneous or easy-to-prepare activities that key into each child’s unique learning needs, interests and goals.  For Jack this will mean lots of repetition of the phonemes the begin each day’s key words.  For Nina this will mean activities to help her solidify naming letters and recognizing and producing the sound each makes.  For Luke, this will mean pulling out phonetic words and site words that are at his level for playing active games, creating sentences, etc.

  • Mathematics naturally tied into reading, cooking and craft with lots of counting, measuring, simple computations, comparing, etc.

  • Faith Formation – a synergy from reading, discussing our Key Words, participating in Mass, enjoying traditions, praying together and living Advent more fully than we have in the past.

  • Sensory Input Activities as life allows, related to Key Words, Letters of the Day and Readings.

  • Traditions.  Some of these may be more secular than faith-filled, as we do choose to enjoy the myth of Santa Claus with our children, layering our faith atop it. 

Hopefully, all this will come together to make our Advent season long on faith and fun but short on stress and an overload of secular celebration.  (And, yes, I know, the sheer number of books may not seem simple, but, for our family, Read-Aloud time is a favorite several times a day, and, since many of the books will be library ones, they will not permanently add to our clutter.) 

If you would like to adapt our plan for your own home, please feel free to do so.

Just click on Advent 2011: An Alphabet of Plans for a Simple Literature-Based Family Advent Rich in Sensory Input and Special Activities to download a copy of my plan for your convenience.

As you review our plan, please be aware that it was inspired by many sources, including:

  • Jennifer at Feast in Family and Feria’s Alphabet Advent and Prepare Now posts and Jen at Wildflowers and Marbles Toward Living Advent and Christmas 2011 post, which are as easy to get lost in as they are to be inspired by – and I don’t mean that one can get lost in them because the ladies who shared these posts are not wonderfully organized and superbly talented Catholic homeschooling bloggers.  Rather, I mean that he learning and traditions they share with their own families and with any who visit their blogs are so incredible, a relative newbie like me could spend hours and hours reading them.  These ladies are Catholic parenting models I aspire to emulate in many ways.

  • My friend Karen’s Advent 2011-Part 2 post at A Servant’s Memories, which proved to me that simple can equal complete.  I know Karen personally and can attest that she is a far busier woman than I am.  Reading her post and witnessing her journey in living her calling makes me realize that we don’t have to do it all, but should aspire to do what we do well. 

I encourage you to visit some of these sites.  Be inspired by them.  See what the Spirit might be whispering for you to include in your family’s Advent this year – doing, but not beyond your time, talent or treasure.  I also would love it if you’d comment or link up with ways you observe Advent in your home.

It is my hope that, with God’s constant grace and guidance, we may each enjoy a simple, yet complete Advent season of learning and loving our faith and one another.  The joy-filled waiting begins…

Thank you to Heidi from Work and Play, Day by Day for linking up last week with Christ the King ideas here at our Sunday Series A Call to Faith Formation for Young Children.  We'd be delighted for you to link up below to share your ideas this week!

PS  Oo!  I love when someone links here and their post leads me to many other wonderful ones.  That is just what happened here.  Heidi linked above and, when I read her post, I discovered Mama Erika's link-up at Raising Little Saints.  If you click over to it you'll find many wonderful links for celebrating Advent! 


Holly@ThreeSidedWheel said...

Thanks for visiting ThreeSidedWheel! And thank you for sharing this lovely Advent Unit-- and thanks, too, for the time and energy spent! Here's hoping that you and your family enjoy this wondrous season and that many blessings will be graced upon you all!

(I added my humble plans to your link up- what a wonderful opportunity to see how others are leading their little ones to Christ!)

Sara said...

Hello, saw your weblink from Playschool6! It looks like there's a lot of helpful information here, and I'd love to write a feature about this blog on my site. If you're interested, here's the link.

Thanks for sharing the Advent ideas!

Karen said...

Thanks for the advent activities! I have been looking for something just like this, and I look forward to going through this with my preschool-aged children!

Deb Chitwood said...

Wonderful Advent activities and resources, Martianne! And I love that you worked to keep a balanced focus throughout the Christmas season. Thanks so much for sharing your Advent unit! I featured your image and post in my December 2011 Family Activities at

Jennifer Gregory Miller said...

Very lovely, Martianne! I merely share what works for us, and I think it's perfect that people make their own plans and what works for them! I do tweak our reading plans each Advent, as there are always different focuses and new books and ways to present!

Martianne said...

Deb, Karen, Sara, Holly, Jennifer and others,

I so appreciate your comments, and happy to share and be shared with and pray all have a blessed Advent!

Karen said...

Miss Martianne - you are too kind to say such wonderful, albeit a little biased, things about me!

Simple is about all I can manage at this time - and about all that is getting done this year.

It is all good!

Thanks for linking to me; and sharing other really great links - always fun to see what others are planning.


ps - we still need a playdate - and maybe even include the kiddos!


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