Twaddle-Free Holiday Celebrations

Copyright Deborah Taylor-Hough. Used with permission. All rights reserved. http://thesimplemom.wordpress.com


Since we’re currently in the midst of the December holidays, I chatted at length with Catherine Levison (author of A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education) and we put our heads together to come up with ways to apply the concept of avoiding “twaddle” (or what modern parents might call “dumbed down” literature or activities) in our holiday celebrations, family times and Christmas reading materials.

Defining Twaddle in Literature

First, let’s look at the synonyms of twaddle which include: babble, drivel and silly. Ordinarily twaddle refers to literature written down to children. Books written specifically to children are not avoided. A good example would be any of Beatrix Potter’s works — she wrote to children but not down to them. Or the original A.A. Milne “Winnie-the-Pooh” books are another good example of twaddle-free just-for-fun reading material.

Regarding children’s literature, look for interesting content and well constructed sentences clothed in literary language. The imagination should be warmed and the book should hold the interest of the child. Life’s too short to spend time with books that bore us.

If our children have only been exposed to junk food, they may resist trying nutritious food. If they’ve been raised on twaddle, they may need to be weaned slowly off of this mental junk food. Ideally, if they were not exposed to twaddly books in the first place, all involved would be way ahead of the game.

It’s our opinion that dumbed-down literature is easy to spot. When you’re standing in the library and pick up modern-day, elementary-level books, you’re apt to see short sentences with very little effort applied to artistically constructing them to please the mind. Almost anyone can write — but not everyone is gifted in this field. Gifted authors bring images alive with their choice of words. Gifted authors often write classic literature, and classics are an excellent way to spend one’s reading time.

Twaddle is easy to come by; the planet is filled with it. People coped with it in previous centuries, and we must cope with it in ours. If anything, literature has deteriorated even further. The best way to handle this excessive quantity of bad books is to stand firm and only spend our money on the best — even at holiday time.

But what about friends and relatives who unknowingly supply our children with twaddle at gift-giving times?

Try talking to those who are apt to buy gifts for your children and tell them about the direction you’re heading with reading material. Some people pick up on things easier than others, therefore, for some folks a simple explanation of the type of literature you want purchased as gifts is all they’ll need. If you’ve started to collect any particular set of children’s classics currently in bookstores or catalogues, you could provide Grandma with a list of titles you’d like. Be specific, and offer to help her with the ordering or perhaps even drive her to your favorite bookstore.

Twaddle-Free Holidays

How else can we apply the concept of twaddle to the holiday season as a whole?

Well, I firmly believe that twaddle is in the eye of the beholder. That means that some of the following ideas may appeal to you while others may not meet your expectations. Catherine and I put our heads together and came up with the following ideas — some of which were shared with us over the years by other people. As always, take what you like and ignore what you don’t.

During the holidays, I frequently discover a large number of low-cost entertainment options by reading the “What’s Happening” section of our local newspaper. For example, this week I found a listing for a singing group performing traditional Celtic holiday carols at a local church for just a small donation. Many churches and community groups put on low-cost (or free) live performances during the holidays.

Rather than taking the family to a newly released holiday movie, consider spending a few extra dollars and attend a ballet or classical concert instead. Many times attending a concert by a local symphony performing familiar Christmas songs is a very child-friendly introduction to symphonic music for children who haven’t previously experienced that type of music. Also, many churches offer sing-a-longs of Handel’s Messiah that are open to the general public.

As we all know, holiday music is drastically varied. Perhaps some attention to playing classical music around the house — while avoiding animated cartoon characters screeching their holiday favorites — would be more soothing.

Many families, including both Catherine’s and mine, buy one new Christmas book a year and have their collection on display. Catherine’s favorite is called The Christmas Story featuring the paintings of Gennady Spirin. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and priced accordingly — however Catherine insists it’s worth every penny. This is one way to include masterpiece artwork into this season of the year.

It’s also time to buy next year’s calendar. If you haven’t thought of it before, hold out until you find one featuring fine art rather than kittens, horses or cars. Along with being a practical item, the calendars often provide excellent prints to use for art appreciation throughout the year.

While grown children and other relatives visit, provide some old-fashioned fun that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. Charades, sing-a-longs, board games and caroling are easy, affordable and fun. Catherine’s family collects Christmas jigsaw puzzles — which may appear to be a bit twaddly at first glance — but they truly enjoy spending time together which makes it more than an aimless pursuit. You could also choose puzzles depicting masterpieces or popular works of art.

Many families are constructing their own advent calendars from wood and incorporating photographs and other touches. If everyone participated in a project of this sort, then they can all look forward to getting it out each December.

Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Well, if the snow doesn’t come to you then go to the snow. Some folks make an annual trek to the mountains during December in order to be assured of some contact with winter weather.

Obviously, there are countless good ideas that help families enjoy each other. Catherine and I send our absolute best to you this holiday season and may each of you be truly happy.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Deborah Taylor-Hough (author and mother of three) is a free-lance writer, editor of The Charlotte Mason Monthly email newsletter [ join-cm-monthly@hub.thedollarstretcher.com ], and author of the popular Frozen Assets cookbook series and several other books including Frugal Living For Dummies®. You can visit Debi online, connect with her blogs, and order her books at: http://www.SimpleMom.com

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Thanksgiving Ideas

thankstreeLater this month, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving Day. One of our family traditions for this particular holiday is making a Thanksgiving Tree.

We either make a tree trunk with bare branches out of black craft paper or we draw a tree onto a large sheet of paper.  Then we tape the “tree” to our dining room wall. We cut out individual autumn-colored leaves (red, orange, yellow, brown) from more craft paper.

Whenever someone in the family thinks of something or someone that they’re thankful for, they write the item, event, or person’s name onto one of the leaves and then tape the leaf to the tree branches.

We try to put the Thanksgiving Tree in place by mid-November so our family has at least a full week to add more leaves to the tree.

By Thanksgiving Day, the tree is FULL with the names of people, events and things we’re thankful for. This is great fun for the kids and a meaningful addition to our family’s holiday traditions.

Another idea along these lines is to make a Thanksgiving Jar. Throughout the year as things came up that your family is thankful for (new baby, new job, answered prayers, etc.), write the event onto a piece of paper and slip it into a specially designated Thanksgiving container.

A family at our former church in Olympia empties their Thanksgiving Jar once a year and reads each slip of paper on Thanksgiving morning during their family breakfast.

Do you have any special activities or traditions your family shares on Thanksgiving or any other upcoming holiday?  I’d love to hear about them!  🙂

The Advent Book Box

A great idea for the holidays is to set aside a special box or basket containing your family’s special Christmas or other holiday books. The Holiday Book Box only comes out during the Advent season and is put away again with the decorations after the first of the year.

THE ADVENT BOOK BOX

This list of Favorite Christmas Books was compiled following a discussion between a group of home schooling mothers looking for twaddle-free holiday reading for their families.

A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens

Becky’s Christmas
by Tasha Tudor

(The) Best Christmas Pageant Ever!
by Barbara Robinson

Christmas at Long Pond
by William T. George

(The) Christmas Box
by Richard Paul Evans

(The) Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
by Susan Wojciechowski

(The) Christmas Stories of George MacDonald
by George MacDonald (out of print)

(The) Christmas Tree
by Julie Salamon

(The) Crippled Lamb
by Max Lucado

(The) Donkey’s Dream
by Barbara Helen Berger

(The) First Christmas
by Marcia Williams (out of print)

(The) Glorious Impossible
by Madeleine L’Engle

Martin Luther’s Christmas Book
by Martin Luther

(The) Night Before Christmas
by Clement Moore, illustrated by Jan Brett

A Northern Nativity: Christmas Dreams of a Pairie Boy
by William Kurelek

One Wintry Night
by Ruth Bell Graham

Rembrandt: The Christmas Story

Seven Stories of Christmas Love
by Leo F. Buscaglia

(The) Story of Christmas: Words from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke
illustrated by Jane Ray

Tale of Three Trees
by Angela Elwell Hunt

This is the Star
by Joyce Dunbar

OTHER HOLIDAY-RELATED BOOKS

Unplug the Christmas Machine, by Jo Robinson
Don’t wait until Christmas to read this book! The earlier you start thinking about the holidays, the easier it will be to make any necessary changes in your celebrations.

Debt Proof Your Holidays, by Mary Hunt
Whether you’re just looking for further frugal ideas for the upcoming holiday season, or you’re truly dreading another after-holidays debt hang-over, this book will be beneficial.

Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month, by Deborah Taylor-Hough
Less time in the kitchen means more time for activities you really enjoy. This book will show you a step-by-step plan to simplify and revolutionize the way you cook. Save time; save money; save your sanity! Contains a special Ten Day Holiday Meal Plan — perfect for simplifying your holiday meal preparation.

Simplify Your Christmas, by Elaine St James
Simple ideas for taking the complexity out of the holidays.

Hundred Dollar Holiday, by Bill McKibben
“What we need and long for now are the gifts of time, meaningful family connections, periods of silence, a relationship with the divine,” McKibben writes.

~Debi

Advent Ideas

I’ve noticed that the main search terms that are getting people to my personal blog this week have to do with Advent. In case you’ve been looking for similar information, I found a couple of resources online just now that might be helpful to your family’s upcoming Advent reading and activities.

And in case you’re wondering about the photo, yes, that’s our cat (“Amy”) in the middle of our Advent wreath last year. 8)

2008 Advent Reading
http://www.pcusa.org/advent/pdf/dailyreadingsadvent2008.pdf

Advent Crafts and Activities
http://www.pcusa.org/advent/pdf/advent-eng1.pdf

About the Advent Wreath
http://www.reformedworship.org/magazine/article.cfm?article_id=10

Advent 2008 Inductive Bible Study

After the curse was broken in Narnia, Christmas arrived. That’s one of the wonderful things about our Christian faith. Christmas comes every year. We remember a God who loves us. We remember a God who sent His son to live with us, and die for us.

~John “Mike” Loudon
http://www.pcusa.org/oga/perspectives/nov04/waiting.htm