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Our 2019 Plan for Advent + Favorite Christmas Books

“We have to find a way to more deeply experience our experiences. Otherwise we’re just on cruise control, and we go through our whole life not knowing what’s happening. Whether we realize it or not, the divine energy of God is flowing through each one of us. When we draw upon this Source consciously, our life starts filling with what some call coincidences or synchronicities which we can never explain. This has nothing to do with being perfect, highly moral, or formally religious.” (Richard Rohr)

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The best intentions can sometimes be our worst enemy. The advent season often quickly becomes a season of busyness, noise, excess, and stress for many. We are on “cruise control” to the chaos of Christmas. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

For me, I have a deep desire for Advent to be a time of stillness and reflection. A time to intentionally NOT be stressed. A time to center our hearts on the reality of Christ’s coming. A time to wait and to hope.

God is here now. I don’t want to be too busy and miss Him.

ALL The Advent Resources = Too Much of a Good Thing

First, I wanted to take a moment and catalogue all the Advent resources I currently have. Mainly, I want to share this to demonstrate how quickly even the best things can be too much. All of these resources are wonderful and good and can bring life. But, we do not need to do all of these! That would be impossible and a bit crazy.

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So, here they are…

And this is just the resources to use as a homeschooling family! This doesn’t even cover the countless personal devotional books out there for adults. I think my husband and I own maybe 3-4 different ones. (Personally, I enjoy Light Upon Light)

You can see that there are so many things!! And like I said, it would be crazy to try and incorporate all of these. I haven’t even opened Unwrapping the Greatest Gift and we have had it a couple of years.

So…

What I Am Actually Using

Then, we will do a few handmade crafts or holiday baking, but not for the purpose of accomplishment or to take a pretty photo.

My guiding priorities for the season are:

  • togetherness
  • joy
  • gratitude
  • generosity

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I decided to skip doing the The Jesus Storybook Bible — Advent Reading Plan this year even though I just bought the beautiful Crew + Co Advent Cards. The reason for this is that we already read The Jesus Storybook Bible during our Morning Times regularly and I feel it would be redundant and too much to push to read through this every day on top of the other readings I want to do.

I did want to at least share that this is available for those who are interested. We did this last year and enjoyed it.

How Does This Fit Into Our Days?

Family Breakfast

First, we read daily from All Creation Waits during breakfast, which myself and my husband are always present for. We take turns reading. I plan to incorporate a few things from Unearthing Wonder (which coordinates with All Creation Waits); for example, we might create an animal ornament the kids can color each day. We will do these activities after Dad leaves for work and as a part of our normal homeschool day.

Advent

Morning Time

We already do a Morning Time most days as a part of our normal homeschool routine. This will stay the same for December, it’s just that the theme switches to Advent! I feel that there is no more prep for our Morning Time than I already do.

Morning Time includes:

  • Prayer
  • Bible Story or Catechism
  • And one of the following on a rotational basis:
    • Music
    • Poetry
    • Bible Verse (sometimes for memorization)
    • Picture Study
    • Character Lesson

For our Advent Morning Time, I will pull some elements from A Gentle Feast’s Morning Time Plans For Advent and also some from Slow + Sacred Advent. The idea here is that we are not covering ALL of these things during every Morning Time. Monday might be a poem, Tuesday a picture study, Wednesday a hymn, and so on.

And, I do not plan to check every box with Morning Time Plans For Advent and Slow + Sacred Advent! I see these as guides and inspiration, not as a checklist I need to complete.

FYI: Slow + Sacred Advent provides a specific calendar for 2019, which is available here. I’m shifting this a bit and starting on December 1st. I prefer not to do any Christmas stuff until after Thanksgiving. But, you can see in the structure of the weeks how each day only carries a few items. Again, this is similar to how we already do Morning Time.

Projects

We will focus on doing only a few crafts/projects per week that are pre-planned. I am sure the kids will come up with ideas on their own and I always leave room for that. My preschooler in particular is great at coming up with craft ideas: “Mama, can we make snowflakes today?”

Projects include handcrafts and baking, and I am hoping for this to truly be an outward-focused process where the kids get involved in gift giving and service to others.

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Books

Beyond that, we will read lots of books! I have provided a list of my seasonal favorite books below. We read usually a few picture books at the end of our Morning Time and then read throughout the day and before bedtime so there is plenty of time for great books!

Academics

One last note about our Advent daily schedule — we will still keep up with our regular homeschool Kindergarten Math & Language Arts. I don’t want to lose steam with those lessons, especially with where my 6 year old is right now in his reading. That said, I am positive it will feel like a lighter month overall with these types of table lessons and if we need to do less Math to make sure we embrace the season, it won’t bother me one bit.

Nativity

Favorite Bible-Based Stories for Christmas

All of these feature non-white-skin-tone images of of Biblical people.

The Jesus Storybook Bible

I sell a Nativity peg doll set that matches the Jesus Storybook Bible illustrations because I love this Bible so much! The Christmas stories in here are fantastic.

Silent Night by Lara Hawthorne

The text in this book is simply the lyrics to the song Silent Night, but these illustrations are stunning and inviting. I adore this book.

A Baby Born in Bethlehem by Martha Whitmore Hickman

A beautifully illustrated and accurate retelling of the Christmas story. I appreciate that it is one of the few books that depicts the wise men arriving not at the Stable but later when Jesus is a toddler.

Refuge by Anne Booth

So what happened after Jesus was born? He became a refugee! This story depicts the flight to Egypt, as told from the donkey’s perspective. A refreshingly original retelling and timely story.

The Story of Christmas by Jane Ray

Words directly from the King James Version. The illustrations are stunning, and includes an image of Mary nursing baby Jesus. So lovely!

Little One, We Knew You’d Come by Sally Lloyd-Jones

This is from the same author of The Jesus Storybook Bible (with a different illustrator) and is a simple retelling of the Christmas story, told from the perspective of Jesus’ hopeful and loving parents.

The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats

The classic Christmas carol come to life by the perfection that is Ezra Jack Keats. Love this!

Favorite Christmas Picture Books

Night Tree

A family prepares a feast for woodland animals by decorating an evergreen tree at night with food. This story is a beautiful one of family traditions, togetherness, and generosity.

Christmas in the Big Woods

We love all of the Little House on the Prairie picture book versions. This one in particular is quite lovely.

Pick A Pine Tree

This books depicts a family tradition of selecting a pine tree for their home in such a charming way. The rhythm and illustrations are engaging and cheery.

I will say that we did not enjoy the Pick a Pumpkin book by this same author + illustrator as much as this.

The Little Fir Tree

Based on a classic fairy tale, this book is quite engaging and thoughtful. We also adore Deep in the Woods by the same author.

The Nutcracker

I particularly love this version of The Nutcracker for the illustrations (though I substitute the name Clara for Marie). My kids also love The Storybook Orchestra: The Nutcracker version.

Red & Lulu

A story of two Cardinals that live in an evergreen tree that has been chosen to be the tree on display at Rockefeller Center in New York City. My kids absolutely adore this book.

Dasher

From the same author/illustrator of Red & Lulu, this is an origin story of how Dasher and the other reindeer came to drive Santa’s sleigh. Charming and memorable.

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree

This classic book is just absurdly charming and funny. The top of a too-tall Christmas tree is tossed out only to find a home somewhere else. Then the top of that new tree is trimmed and discarded again and again and again until numerous families have a tree to decorate their homes.

The Night Before Christmas

There are many versions of this out there but we own the Tasha Tudor one. I like the detail in her illustrations and they aren’t so overtly cheery like some other depictions.

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

I will immediately adore anything Barbara Cooney illustrates — she brings this story to life so beautifully. This story is timeless and just about the perfect message for Christmas.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

This was a favorite book of mine as a kid and I love reading it to my kids. We recently came across this version and love it because it is the same illustrator as The Cloud Spinner, an all-time family favorite.

The Little Reindeer

Magical and sweet. This whimsical tale is perfect for the little dreamers out there.

The Remember Tree

A heartwarming story of a family tradition. The book invites kids to guess the clues as to what new ornament will be unwrapped to add to the tree. A helpful way for children to consider the true meaning behind Christmas symbols.

Apple Tree Christmas

A lovely story in the vain of Little House in the Big Woods, where simple Christmases centered around family values are the ones that hold the most love.

DIY Advent Wreath

See this post for how I made our Advent Wreath to pair with Slow + Sacred Advent!

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5 thoughts on “Our 2019 Plan for Advent + Favorite Christmas Books

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