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)


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.



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!


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.


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.


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!



Grasshopper Nature Study

Grasshopper Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie
Printed Resources:
For Fun:

Grasshopper Leaf Art Project - The Silvan Reverie



Animal Tracks Nature Study

Animal Tracks Nature Study

Printed Resources:
For Fun:
  1. Print this sheet on to white card stock
  2. Cut each in to circles using 1.25″ circle hole punch
  3. Use Matte Mod Podge and adhere footprint circles to 1.5″ wood craft circles
  4. Coat top with Mod Podge again
  5. I later took a fine point Sharpie and wrote the name of the animal by the track so I could be sure to know what it was

Monarch Butterfly Nature Study

Monarchs Nature Study.jpg

Monarch-Specific Books:
Butterfly Books:
For Fun:

Favorite Naturalist Picture Book Biographies

Naturalist Picture Book Biographies - The Silvan Reverie.jpg

**List updated 4/4/20

What is a Naturalist?

“We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.” (Charlotte Mason)

A simple way to think of a naturalist is a person who studies plants, animals, and fungi in their natural environment. A professional naturalist traditionally will use more observational science than experimental methods, but that’s not a hard line. Many of the naturalists in this list used experiments to learn more about a field of interest: Beatrix Potter experimented with fungi spores and Maria Merian experimented with caterpillar larvae and host plants.

All of these books evoke images of a childhood spent immersed in nature. In some cases the children grow up to be adults in their specific childhood-field-of-interest: John James Audubon and birds, Jean Henri-Fabre and insects. In other cases there is not such a direct line to an adult career: Ansel Adams became a photographer, Beatrix Potter an author.

I will say that a couple of these books play up the “_________ was not your average child” mantra. The suggestion is that if a young child prefers to study insects or collect rocks than sit in a school desk all day or play video games then they are a bit abnormal. I find that the opposite is actually true–I think children have a natural-born inclination to absorb and enjoy the natural world to its fullest and to their hearts’ content.

“If children are to grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults, nature needs to be integral to their everyday lives, from place-based learning at school to unstructured, unsupervised, even risk-prone play around home. Nature isn’t just a bunch of far-off plants, animals, and landscapes to learn about and visit once or twice a year. It’s an environment to be immersed in daily, especially during our childhood years.” (Scott D. Sampson, How to Raise a Wild Child)

Favorite Naturalist Picture Book Biographies

Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story

Anna Botsford Comstock is the author of Handbook of Nature Study. This picture book follows her life from childhood on, depicting a young girl entranced with the natural world who grows to be a woman widely acknowledged to be a nature expert and pioneer in the field of nature education. One of her main contributions was to encourage children’s interest in the natural world by conducting science and nature studies outdoors. She believed children need to experience nature for themselves, not just through books in a classroom.

Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian

With a net in her hand, young Maria sets out to study insects closely and learn more about them. Since she lived in a time when people thought insects were “beasts of the devil,” Maria Merian is considered to be one of the first naturalists who studied insects through direct observation. She contributed much to the field of etymology. I appreciate that the illustrations in this book evoke the style of Maria Merian herself, who used watercolors, engravings, and etchings. The text in this book is rich, but a bit simpler than some of the others on this book list and therefore preschooler-friendly. In some ways this book is more of a playful and interesting story and less of a true biography.

Another option: The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science — this book is a much longer and thorough biography of Maria Merian’s life, with excellent illustrations and even includes images of Maria Merian’s artwork.

Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America by Kathi Appelt

One of my favorite wildflower nature study books. I personally loved reading this the first time to my kids because I got to learn more about Lady Bird Johnson. I had no idea she had such a connection to wildflowers. “To Lady Bird, the act of planting flowers helped people become better caretakers.” I love the idea of connecting to nature through gardening, not just through wild mountain adventures like John Muir. Later in life Lady Bird helped establish the National Wildflower Research Center, a fitting legacy for a girl and woman that love wildflowers so much and saw the need to protect them for the future.

Note: This book does address the assassination of JFK. It is handled gently but it might bring up some questions for younger readers.

Small Wonders: Jean Henri-Fabre and His World of Insects by Matthew Clark Smith

I absolutely love this biography because it is told in such an engaging and thrilling way — not just a simple run-through year-by-year of Jean Henri-Fabre’s life. We begin with the President of France visiting an old recluse man in a small town — but why would he visit such a man, and who is this person? We later learn it is Jean Henri-Fabre and the President has arrived to give him an award for his contributions to etymology. The early depictions of the young boy’s discoveries in nature are so inspiring and the imaginative settings are inviting–you literally just want to jump into the dreamy landscape. I think this book does an excellent job of depicting exactly what a naturalist is—not only seeing the infinite beauty in the tiniest of wonders, but taking time to observe, draw pictures, and record notes. And, lastly, to share those discoveries with others … which is worthy of reward.

Charles Darwin’s Around the World Adventure by Jennifer Thermes

This biography covers the adventurous years Darwin spent traveling on the HMS Beagle and on land throughout South America (not just the Galápagos Islands). This story celebrates the virtue of exploration and wonder—through the eyes of a young man we celebrate the observation of the tiniest of creatures, the mystery of dug-up bones, and the awe of active volcanoes. Do you know what it feels like to see a new creature or plant for this first time? This book evokes those emotions quite well. This book also comes with fun maps to explore and spark imagination as well as inviting illustrations, especially of the HMS Beagle. The adventure narrative is riveting and fun!

Note: Darwin’s religious views have been widely debated and discussed. This picture books omits any mention of that tension.

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies

Audubon felt that studying birds in nature, in their natural habitat was preferable to book-learning. He would carry with him notebooks and pencils to illustrate birds that he actually observed. Beyond the fact that he is widely recognized as one of the best bird painters, he also helped pioneer the idea of bird banding to track migration. One thing I appreciate in this book is the relationship John James has with his father, who also loved birds and is an encouragement to the young boy. Many of the other stories in this list are told of an individual in isolation from others. It’s nice to highlight a positive family influence on inspiring a love of the natural world.

Note: This book is also on my list of Favorite Bird Books for Children

When Sue Found Sue: Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T. Rex by Toni Buzzeo

You might be surprised that I’m including a fossil collector in my list of naturalists. The reason for this is that Sue Hendrickson’s childhood was that of a naturalist: she spent time in nature and had a particular fondness for finding and collecting nature treasures. The illustrations in the book show little Sue how hunting with a net or magnifying glass for any new discovery. This book ultimately inspires children to take things a little slower and spend the time to take a closer look at the natural world around them. Who know what they will find!

Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, A Life in Nature by Cindy Jenson-Elliott

“‘Ansel was antsy. He never walked–he ran.’ … ‘Why don’t you go outside?” suggested his father.” YES! Send them outside. Ansel Adams spent his childhood exploring Northern California and loving every minute of exploration and fresh air. When he was 14 he took a trip to the Yosemite Valley, falls in love (who wouldn’t?), and his parents gift him with a camera. The rest is history, of course.

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins

A little girl believes tress are her friends. Of course they are when you live in Northern California!! This is the enthralling story of Kate Sessions, whose passion for trees as a child stays with her into adulthood, where she finds herself bringing trees from around to the world to a little desert town known as San Diego. No one at that time could imagine San Diego as a lush and leafy city! Kate Sessions was also instrumental in creating Balboa Park to be what it is today: full of trees. The text and illustrations of this book are reminiscent of Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. Utterly charming.

Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement by Stephanie Roth Sisson

From a young age, Rachel was interested in spending time in nature and had a near-constant desire to learn and know more about all her observations. Then later, something shifts into her consciousness, and she takes notice and action. The images used in this book to depict the “going silent” natural world are quite gentle and I think appropriate for younger children. The book mainly focuses on Rachel’s time spent in nature, her curiosity and love for it. This is just my opinion, but I do not think we need to burden small children with all the ills of environmental degradation. I believe we should worry more about getting them out into nature and inviting them to love it. If they love it, of course they will want to preserve, honor, and protect it.

I think this other biography of Rachel Carson deals with the negative effects of DDT on the environment more directly (both in text and imagery), and may be more appropriate to read to older elementary children — Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor.

Beatrix Potter by Alexandra Wallner

There is no doubt that Beatrix Potter was a young naturalist. She spent much of her time illustrating her own pets, which later served as inspirations for her stories. What many do not know about Beatrix Potter is how her interest in drawing and painting mushrooms in particular also led to her interest in mycology. She even conducted her own observations experiments on spore germination, which were ignored at the time due to a woman’s place in society. Her love for nature continued throughout her life even after she stopped writing her stories.

Another fantastic Beatrix Potter book:

Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit

The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist by Margarita Engle

Louis Fuertes was an ornithologist inspired by Audubon to paint his own artwork based on birds. The illustrations in this book are stunning, realistic, and engaging. The text is all written in prose. It’s a beautiful book that pays a nice tribute. I will say that it’s important to see that the illustrations venture more into a dreamy depiction and steer away from the style of Fuertes himself. The book The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon, for example, does a nice job with illustrations matching the style and era of Audubon.

Note: This book is also on my list of Favorite Bird Books for Children

Karl, Get Out of the Garden!: Carolus Linnaeus and the Naming of Everything by Anita Sanchez

I’ll be honest: I was not expecting to love this book when I got it from the library, but it’s so enthralling! I love the storytelling here and there is an appropriate amount of charm and humor involved in the creation of the scientific classification system: the naming of EVERYTHING! The story inspires an appreciation of Linnaeus for his incredible lifelong work. I love the page towards the end that shows people who speak a wide variety of languages using the exact same Latin word for carrot. What an accomplishment for one person!

Joan Proctor, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez

This book is an easy hit for reptile-loving children! I had never heard of Joan Proctor before getting this book and we are quite amazed at her life’s work–especially her care for Komodo dragons at the London Zoo. The illustrations are fun and the story is an engaging read even for preschoolers — it does not read so fact-based as some of the other books on this list.

Honorable Mentions:

Constellations Nature Study



For Fun:
  • Air Dry Clay Constellations
  • Constellations / Night Sky Sensory Bin




Wolves Nature Study


*Note: I tried to focus on stories where wolves were depicted kindly. Many children’s stories depict wolves as the enemy (e.g. Red Riding Hood, Peter and the Wolf, The Three Little Pigs) so I wanted our nature study to counter those images. For older kids than mine, Kipling’s The Jungle Book might be another option.

For Fun:

Mushrooms Nature Study



*Note: Mushrooms aren’t plants so the title of this book isn’t great

For Fun:

Mushrooms 2.jpg


Wildflowers Nature Study


Nonfiction Books:
Favorite Field Guides:

Wildflowers 2

Printed Resources:
For Fun:


Additional Resources:



Birds of Prey Nature Study


For Fun: