They Were Strong and Good

I chose to row They Were Strong and Good during Christmas, because it would give us plenty of places to explore in our Christmas Around the World holiday tradition.  Before setting sail globally, I decided to explore a few of our United States first!


I set out a festive breakfast as we planned to ride the “Gingerbread Express” around the world this Christmas season.

The kids ate their gingerbread oatmeal and toast and I read They%20Were Strong and Good""They Were Strong and Good aloud.

Jordan colored our story disk so we could add it to our world map.

Both boys created a cover page in their FIAR notebooks.  We rowed this book for four weeks and studied various topics by location.  It may seem like a tossed salad, but it actually flowed rather smoothly and made for a very enjoyable Christmas season.


Memory Verse:

I created a Bible verse printable pack for this book.

They Were Strong and Good Bible Verse Printable (Joshua 24:15)

You can purchase your copy here at our TPT Store.  There’s a bonus FREEbie tracer in the Preview.

Jordan traced the Bible verse on the first day.

The following day, we cut apart the tracer and he glued it into his FIAR notebook.

He used the Bible verse puzzle to practice it until he could recite it by heart.

Twas the Night Before Christmas:

I created a poetry booklet for Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clark Moore.

Twas the Night Before Christmas Tracer Booklet

You can download your FREE copy here at our TPT Store.

Each day the boys would read the poem aloud then trace a page in their booklet.

Jordan loved illustrating each part of this wonderful poem.

The Twelve Days of Christmas:


Gingerbread Boarding Buddies:

I set out an invitation to create Gingerbread Boarding Buddies at the schoolroom table.

I cut out cardboard gingerbread men and set them out on a tray with white glue and an assortment of crafting supplies.

The kids were excited to start our day with a fun and festive craft.

They added bows, buttons, and various trimmings to their gingerbread men.

We brought out our paint pens so the kids could add special details.

I read several gingerbread stories on our Epic app while the kids finished their gingerbread buddies.


Parker was NOT a fan of the traditional ending, but he LOVED The Ninjabread Man (Tadpoles Fairytale Twists)""The Ninjabread Man.  His buddy was inspired by this character.

We ended this activity by reading Jan Brett’s Gingerbread%20Baby""Gingerbread Baby.  This has been and continues to be everyone’s favorite gingerbread story!

We brought out our trusty paper bag suitcases and the kids made a Gingerbread Express picture using stickers I found at the craft store.

I also printed some Christmas Around the World – America pages for the kids to color and add to their FIAR notebooks.

We sat around the Christmas tree and turned on our Polar Express and imagined boarding the “Gingerbread Express” headed to our first destination, Colonial America!

Making Gingerbread:

With all the talk about gingerbread men and an express, we HAD to make some gingerbread cookie dough.  Jordan and I whipped up a batch of gingerbread in the kitchen.  This is always great practice measuring liquid and dry ingredients.

Bub is always happiest in the kitchen.  He measured out the dry ingredients while I worked on the wet ingredients.

Of course he helped cracked the eggs, because he’s trying to master it one-handed.


We baked a few test cookies and set them out on our cookie plate.  They didn’t last on the plate too long 🙂

We even had gingerbread inspired activities during our Sonlight Language Arts lessons.


We read A%20Christmas Cookie Exchange""A Christmas Cookie Exchange by Sheri Wall.  It was a cute story.

Christmas in America:

Since we left off in Colonial times while rowing The Finest Horse in Town, I thought it would be fun to study what Christmas was like in Colonial America.

We read Early%20American Christmas""An Early American Christmas by Tomie dePaola.

Popping Maize:

The Native Americans introduced early Americans to Maize, or popcorn.  We also read that popcorn was used to decorate trees during this time in history.

Since both boys were learning about this time in their history lessons, I brought out the popping corn we picked back in the fall.  The boys helped harvest the kernels off the cob.

We tried scraping them off with a knife and they went flying all over the room….

I found that rubbing the cobs together was the easiest and cleanest way to get the kernels off the cob.

We used our Cuisinart CTG-00-MPM, Microwave Popcorn Maker, One Size, Red""Cuisinart Microwave Popcorn Maker and the kernels came out light and fluffy.

Everyone grabbed a handful and munched on this great snack!

Corn Cobb Angels:

I found a cute corn cob colonial doll activity and thought we could make corn cob angels, tying in our Christmas in Colonial America theme.


I copied the pattern and set out our cloth squares so everyone could pick their own color scheme.

The kids prepped their cobs and I helped cut out the cloth patterns.  We set them aside and honestly didn’t finish them until we came back from Christmas break.

I hot glued the dolls together to save time and set them out on their trays.  Haley picked various craft supplies to embellish their angels.  Everyone took turns using the hot glue gun and decorating their dolls.


They were colorful, unique, and not very angelic-like, but they were loved and that’s what matters!

New Jersey:

While learning about Christmas in Colonial America, we focused our attention on the Northeast.   I created a Christmas Across America – Northeast pack for the boys to work on.

Christmas Across America - The Northeast States Holiday Fun Pack
Christmas Across America – The Northeast

You can purchase your copy HERE at our TPT store.  There’s a bonus “Crack-the-Code” FREEbie in the preview!

We read about early American Christmas traditions in the northeast from the Christmas U.S.A. book.

The boys completed the close reading text from the pack and color-coded the northeast states.

Color-coding the map is a great way for the boys to practice U.S. geography.

While in the northeast, I focused on New Jersey since this area reminded me of the farm scene in the book.


We also read An Orange for Frankie""An Orange for Frankie which was a sweet story and seemed to fit into our holiday row perfectly.


Since we were rowing this book in the winter, I thought it would be interesting to learn about farming in the wintertime.

We read Sleep%20Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter""Sleep Tight Farm which was a wonderful picture book and even had a page on what honey bee keepers do in the winter.

We also read Ox-Cart Man and Jordan mentioned the similarities between the two story lines.

Bee Keeping:

I created a Bee Keeper box and set it out on Learning Lane.  I put Honey Bee life cycle cards along with our Safari Ltd Safariology the Life Cycle of a Honey Bee""Safari Toob figures, a local honey bear, Faber-Castell Beeswax Crayons in Durable Storage Case, 12 Vibrant Colors""beeswax crayons, and a Playmobil bee keeper set.

I also printed out a Bee Houses worksheet for the boys.

We also read about bee keeping from our See%20Inside Where Food Comes From""Usborne See inside Where Food Comes From book.

We also read excerpts from various books about animals in winter.

We read about bee keeping from several sources and I created a Bees in Winter Preposition worksheet for Jordan since this tacked his grammar assignment for the week.

Jordan read through each sentence, marking the prepositions and illustrating them on the worksheet.

A friend of ours gave us a chunk of honeycomb that we pulled out while exploring bees.  Jordan observed and tasted it while I read more form The%20Honey Makers""The Honey Makers.

While exploring the honeycomb, I brought out our geoboard so Jordan could create various hexagon shapes.  I chose to focus more on bee keeping for this book, since we would dive deeper into bees while rowing The%20Bee Tree""The Bee Tree next spring.

He LOVED putting together the PLAYMOBIL® 6573 Beekeeper with Hive, Multicolor""Bee Keeper set.  It was PERFECT for this row!

We loved the mask, hive, and trays that could be taken out.  We love the detail Playmobil puts into their products.

We even added bees to our Grammar Ace lapbook while learning about Indirect Objects.

New York:

“All Aboard!”  Our next destination was New York City!


We read A%20Very New York Christmas""A Very New York Christmas which was a great book about New York.  It gave a great overview of what you would find in the city at Christmastime.

While studying New York, Jordan made a list of all the occupations in the book.

How a City Changes:

Jordan and I read A Street Through Time which showed how a location changed over the course of 100 years.  It was a really interesting book, but a longer read for younger students.


A Street Through Time""A Street Through Time showed how improper plumbing can lead to plagues and rodent problems.  In contrast, reading How a City Works (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)""How a City Works showed how proper plumbing can keep a city and its inhabitants healthy.

We also learned about electrical, plumbing, garbage, and more.  It was a GREAT book about running a city as well as discussing pollution.  They included a fun experiment at the end of the book.

Pollution Experiment:


I gathered all the supplies we needed for the experiment and we headed to the kitchen.

Jordan polluted our water source with hot cocoa mix and stirred to combine.

He then added some “trash” that would both float and sink to the bottom like the sediments found in dirty water.

He stirred our polluted water and tasted it.  Science is always better when you can sample it, right?  Ewww….

Next, he skimmed the floating debris and scooped the sediments from our tainted water source.

Next, he poured our dirty water into a mason jar covered with two coffee filters.

You could see the water was slightly lighter in color, but still not completely clean.

He suggested filtering it again.

We grabbed two new coffee filters and filtered it again.

It was lighter, but not pure.  Jordan tasted the filtered water, but still felt it was “tainted” by the pollutants.  Overall, filtering the water removed the sediments and debris.  Thankfully, our cities do so much more when “cleaning” our water before it pours out of our faucets.

The Southeast:

“All Aboard!”  The Gingerbread Express took us to the Southeast part of the country, specially Alabama.

We read Alabama and The Legend of Papa Noel, a regional Christmas story, on our Epic app.


We learned that peanuts are a huge crop from this area so read From Peanut to Peanut Butter on our Epic app.  Jordan and I headed to the kitchen to bake some peanut butter cookies.


Jordan was REALLY good at making them look beautiful with his fork marks.  We packaged some as a gift for his piano teacher and the rest we kept to enjoy.  They were DELICIOUS!!!

The Great Lakes:

Next stop, the Great Lakes region of the United States.  I created a Christmas Across America – The Great Lakes pack for the boys to work on.

Christmas Across America - The Great Lake States Holiday Fun Pack
Christmas Across America – The Great Lakes

You can purchase your copy here at our TPT Store.  There’s a bonus “Crack-the-Code” FREEbie in the Preview!


We read about the Great Lakes states from our Christmas%20USA""Christmas USA book.  We read how some of the states in this region are Christmas tree producers.

Christmas Tree Life Cycle:

Since we learned that many states in this region produce Christmas trees, I though it would be fun to explore their life cycle.


I made Christmas tree cinnamon rolls, which looked like green blobs, while I read the Christmas Farm, the kids ate their cinnamon rolls.

After breakfast, the boys completed their worksheets.

Since we were studying Christmas trees, I gave our Grammar Ace lapbook a two-page layout of a Christmas tree decked out in Prepositions.


We added state trinkets to our sensory bin and were ready to continue our around the world.

From Land to Sea:

We were ready to set sail on the Eliza Jane Hopper.   The boys took turns labeling the Compass Rose.

I created a few inserts for their FIAR notebooks.  I added a world map and a Compass Rose.

The boys located the Caribbean Islands, labeled the points on the Compass Rose, and marked the travels of the Scottish Sea Captain on their world map.

While exploring the High Seas, we ventured upon some pirates.   Jordan read A Pirates Twelve Days of Christmas on his own.

Afterwards, he sat at the table and completed the Pirates Twelve Days of Christmas math worksheets I made for him.

The Twelve Days of Christmas - Multiplication Fun Grab Bag

You can purchase your copy here at our TPT Store.

The Netherlands:

As we read about traditions here in America, we learned that many of the customs were introduced by Dutch and German immigrants.


So we read about Christmas in the Netherlands.  Sinterklaas rides into town on a pony and his helper tosses candy and treats to the children.  I opened our Christmas candy and tossed some to the boys while they worked on the Eliza Jane Hopper (our Playmobil pirate ship).

We also learned how Dutch children leave their clogs outside for Sinterklaas to fill with goodies.  I made little paper clogs and filled them with little treats.

I set out a stuffed animal too.  The kids were SUPER excited to see an early Christmas treasure waiting for them!

Puerto Rico:

The Eliza Jane Hopper was sailing towards Puerto Rico.


We sailed past the Caribbean Sea ,to the Isthmus of Panama, and eventually to Puerto Rico.

I took a moment to read The%20Seven Continents (Rookie Read-About Geography: Continents: Previous Editions)""The Seven Continents and review them with Parker using our Continent file folder game (The Homeschool Den).


We sang our seven continent song and he did his best to label each continent.  We reviewed any continent that he struggled to remember.


Since we were sailing the high seas, the boys took turns labeling the oceans too!

We were learning about the Isthmus of Panama in our Sonlight history lessons.  The boys took turns checking out this location on the globe and building the Isthmus of Panama with our landmark foam pieces.

Afterwards they colored their own Isthmus landmark card and added it to their FIAR notebooks.

The U.K.:

The Eliza Jane Hopper successfully landed in the United Kingdom.  I brought out The%20Lighthouse Keeper’s Christmas""The Lighthouse Keeper’s Christmas to read with the kids.

The kids enjoyed reading bout our old friend, the lighthouse keeper.  It was the perfect transition from sea to land.


We also read Katie:%20Katie’s London Christmas""Katie’s London Christmas.  This delightful picture book gave us a wonderful overview of London during the holidays.

Christmas Cards:


We read The%20Jolly Christmas Postman""The Jolly Christmas Postman which was an adorable story.  Each page had a special gift to enjoy!


Afterwards, we went to the playroom where I set out an “Invitation to create Christmas Cards”.

The kids chose to write a card to one of their friends who lives far away.


They embellished their cards with stickers, sequins, glitter glue and more!  We set them aside to dry.

During the holiday break, the kids wrote, sealed, and mailed their Christmas cards.

Crackers for Christmas:

We actually finished rowing They Were Strong and Good the first week in January.


I set out a Christmas in England breakfast as a way to say goodbye to Christmas, wrap up our holiday row, and usher in our new book for January, The%20Duchess Bakes a Cake""The Duchess Bakes a Cake.


The kids enjoyed eating their English breakfast and opening their Christmas crackers.

After breakfast, we read Christmas%20in England (Christmas around the World)""Christmas in England while the kids colored their Christmas Cracker craft (Tweet Resources).

Everyone enjoyed coming up with their own jokes to put inside their Christmas cracker.  What a fun and festive way to finish our holiday row!


They Were Strong and Good Playlist:

As with our other rows, we created They Were Strong and Good Playlist with read-alouds, music, science, and other clips.

Pinterest Board:

You can find most of the activities, ideas, and printables from this post on our They Were Strong and Good Pinterest Board.

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