The Great Spruce


This year, I chose The Great Spruce as our holiday row. We started immediately after Thanksgiving and rowed through the entire month of December, even after our “Christmas Break” with fun activities and read-alouds.

I made SPRUCE cakes to infuse us with a little more Christmas spirit!

Jordan colored the story disk and placed it on New York. It’s getting pretty crowded in the Big Apple.

The boys created their title page in their FIAR Notebooks. They were bright, cheery, and beautiful!


Christmas Around the World:

Every year we learn about Christmas celebrations around the world. This year, we started with Christmas in the U.S.A, specifically New York.

Christmas in New York:

We read about the Rockefeller tree in our A Very New York Christmas book.

The kids colored their Christmas Around the World and Christmas in the U.S.A. worksheets (Little Red).

We also read Home Alone 2: Lost in New York: The Classic Illustrated Storybook (Pop Classics).

I loved reading this holiday classic! It showed the Rockefeller tree, because Kevin LOVED Christmas trees!

We also read about Christmas in the Northeast states. I printed copies of our Christmas Across America pack.

You can purchase a copy HERE at our TPT Store.

The boys completed their Christmas in the Northeast worksheets.

We also used our sensory bin Christmas trees to map out the states of the original locations of all Rockefeller trees (1933 to present day).

Jordan worked on the Rockefeller History and figuring the average, or mean, Christmas tree height (in Story Review pack).

The Gingerbread Express:

Last month, we read about immigration through Ellis Island while rowing Balloons Over Broadway.

We talked about America being the “melting pot” of cultures and traditions from all over the world.

The boys created a “Gingerbread Express” page in their notebooks to begin our holiday journey, exploring Christmas traditions around the world.

Christmas in Italy:

It’s become tradition to order a Pandoro cake each year. Naturally, the kids wanted to start our Christmas Around the World journey in Italy.

I set out our Pandoro cake and everyone’s Christmas Around the World worksheets (Little Red).

We read Christmas in Italy (Christmas around the World)and The Legend of Old Befana: An Italian Christmas Story.

While in Italy, Jordan made some rustic Italian bread to eat with our dinner.

I’ve wanted to make Italian wedding cookies for a long time. Once we started Christmas break, I was able to bake more. After glazing them, I added holiday sprinkles. They were SUPER soft and delicious!

Christmas in Germany:

After reading about La Befana, we were back on the Gingerbread Express, headed for Germany.

We read Christmas in Germany (Christmas around the World).

While studying Christmas in Germany, we focused our attention on gingerbread! I made a large batch of gingerbread dough.

We sat on the couch together and watched Christmas in Rockefeller Center.

Afterwards, the kids enjoyed gingerbread cookies with milk. Yum!

Fairy Tales & Gingerbread Stories:

Since we were celebrating Christmas in Germany, I brought out our Usborne Illustrated Grimm’s Fairy Tales. We talked about fairy tales and what they teach us.

We read Hansel and Gretel from Usborne Illustrated Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

We also read some other gingerbread stories, but everyone still loves Gingerbread Baby the best!

Gingerbread Cookies:

The kids designed their own gingerbread cookie, cut them out, and I placed them in the oven to bake.

The kids decorated their gingerbread creations.

Their looked so cute and colorful! We had Guffy, Ollie, Grogu, a teddy bear, and Capt’n Cookie with his cutlas and ship!

Gingerbread Houses:

I set up three gingerbread stations around the table.

Daddy helped with the structural part of the process.

The kids had fun adding frosting and candy embellishments!

They looked sweet and festive and filled the house with more sugary goodness!

Christmas in Australia:

Our next destination would take us across the high seas to explore Christmas in Australia.

Of course we encountered pirates, but they were kind and sang us A Pirate’s Twelve Days of Christmas.

The boys colored their Christmas in Australia worksheets (Little Red).

Bub made us some Christmas citrus punch to enjoy on the sandy beaches of Australia.

I made Christmas tree shaped fairy bread.

Christmas in Japan:

We had a brief stop-over in the beautiful country of Japan.

Our neighbor delivered a package of sweets at our door, which was perfect for our Japanese tea party!

As the kids sat, sipped, and munched on their treats, I read Tree of Cranes, a sweet story about a young Japanese boy’s first Christmas.

We enjoyed a wonderful Sushi dinner, in honor of the birthday girl, Haley! She chose Japanese for her birthday dinner, which paired perfectly with our visit to Japan!

Christmas in England:

All aboard the Gingerbread Express! Our next destination is England, in the United Kingdom. Yes, the Gingerbread Express is magical and is able to transport us over land and sea!

We read Christmas in England (Christmas around the World) while the boys colored their Christmas in the United Kingdom worksheets (Little Red).

The boys were also learning about England in their Sonlight history lessons. I love when both curriculum align.

Parker readThe Jolly Christmas Postman and enjoyed finding the surprises inside.

In the evening, I whipped up a batch of Christmas confetti shortbread. The recipe was easy to make and SO delicious. Everyone kept coming back for more!

Christmas in France:

Parker wanted to learn about Christmas in France! How could I say no? All board! The Gingerbread Express dropped us off in France to meet an old Friend, Madeline.

We read Madeline’s Christmas and Parker mentioned how he loved the way the lines rhymed. It reminded us of the fun we had rowing Madeline a few years back. 

Parker colored his Christmas in France worksheet (Little Red).

We also read Christmas in France (Christmas around the World) by Jack Manning.

Three Kings Craft:

The last page had a three kings craft idea that inspired Parker’s creative writing assignment for the week!

This week’s assignment was to write a dialogue. I thought it would be fun to write a dialogue between the three kings.

Parker and I painted our paper roll tubes and set them aside to dry.

Later, I cut out construction paper hair, beards, and crowns to add to our three kings. Parker added the embellishments to our regal trio.

I thought it would be helpful to have names for the three kings while writing his dialogue. Daddy helped him find the names recorded by historians.

Parker read Once Upon a Clear Dark Night (Arch Books) to inspire him before starting his paper. 

The kings kept him company while he typed up his dialogue. He titled it “A Conversation Between the Magi”. I thought it was SO cute and creative. Great job, Parks!


Story Review:

I created The Great Spruce Story Review Pack for this row. This printable is like our other FIAR story review packs, but it has bonus science and math worksheets.

You can purchase your copy HERE at our TPT Store.

Creative Writing:

Hot Chocolate:

Our neighbors dropped off treat bags for the kids. Their goodie bags had hot cocoa and candy.

Parker’s creative writing assignment was to write a “how to” paragraph. The hot cocoa was just the inspiration we needed!

Parker and I walked through the steps together. Then he practiced those steps and made hot cocoa for his siblings.

After making it several times, he knew exactly how to make hot cocoa on his own.

Hot Chocolate:

The next day, we headed to the kitchen to make hot chocolate from scratch.

We heated our milk then gathered assorted chocolates (milk and dark) and melted them in the microwave in 30 second intervals.

We added our hot milk to the melted chocolates until it was a syrup consistency.

Then poured hot milk in the cup, added some chocolate syrup, and stirred.

We added hot milk to the top and stirred again.

Parker REALLY enjoyed the hot chocolate! He walked me through the process to ensure he knew the steps.

Afterwards, he typed the “how to” steps on his laptop.


For December, I stocked our thematic reading shelf with wonderful Christmas books to read all month long.

Our bookshelf was SO festive and inviting. It help make our schoolroom a little more festive.

We read many wonderful Christmas books during this row and throughout the Christmas season.


Average & Mean:

I printed the “Just Your Average Tree” worksheet from The Great Spruce Story Review.

To find the mean, or average, Parker counted the numbers on each tree, then he took that number and divided it by the total number of trees.

Afterwards, he color-coded the answers, red for even numbers and green for odd numbers.

Measuring Trees:

I created a Measuring Christmas Trees Math Pack for this row.

You can purchase your copy HERE at our TPT Store.

Converting Inches, Feet, & Yards:

I gave Jordan the Christmas tree cards and coordinating worksheet.

He recorded each measurement and completed the conversions below.

Non-Standard Measuring:

Parker used marshmallows, chocolates, and candy corn to measure the cookie trees.

Afterwards, he used the ruler to measure in centimeters and inches.

Area & Perimeter:

For extra fun, I challenged the kids to estimate how many “goodies” they would need to cover area and perimeter.

If they were correct, they kept all the goodies! If not, they got “some” for participating! 😉

Math Lapbook:

Since Parker was learning about multiplication and division while we rowed this book, we added a Christmas tree themed insert in his Math Notebook.

They looked so pretty, festive, AND informative.



Since we were exploring evergreen trees, specifically Christmas trees, I thought it would be fun to start learning about the forest habitat.

We read Life in a Forest (Living in a Biome) and learned about both the trees and wildlife that depend on this biome.


We read excerpts about the various trees mentioned in the book, focusing especially on evergreen trees and their needles and cones.

Jordan and I read O Christmas Tree: Its History and Holiday Traditions and learned more about coniferous trees as well as the history behind the Christmas tree.

Parker read Tomie dePaola’s Christmas Tree Book on our Epic app.

Life cycle of a Pine Tree:

We studied the life of a pine tree, because the “Great Spruce” is within the pine tree family.

We read The Life Cycle of a Pine Tree (Plant Life Cycles) and I handed the boys a Pine Tree life Cycle worksheet (Raising Up Wild Things) to paint.

The boys used their watercolor sets to paint the pine tree lifecycle.

We read Christmas Farm and learned about raising Christmas trees.

We went on many walks, looking at the evergreens in our area, and collecting pinecones.


After our walk, we placed one of our pinecones in water to see what would happen. The boys LOVED the transformation!

We set out our pinecones and I printed a copy of the Parts of a Pinecone worksheet (Homeschool Mom).

The boys used their watercolors to paint the parts of a pinecone.

We repeated our pinecone experiment using the worksheet from our Story Review pack.

The boys sketched their pinecones before placing them in water.

After the pinecone “reacted” to the water, the boys sketched their second picture.

Bird Feeders:

We talked about animals that depend on trees, so I thought it would be nice to make bird feeders for our feathered friends.

First, we read Red and Lulu then we made our bird feeders.

I set out trays with pinecones, peanut butter, and a cup of birdseed.

Everyone spread their pinecones with peanut butter.

Then they rolled their pinecones in birdseed.

Parker and I headed outside to hang the pinecones all around the backyard.


Play-dough Trees:

I created a SUPER soft, glittery play-dough over the weekend.

Then I added pine needle essential oil to make it smell Christmasy.

I set out an “Invitation to Decorate Play-dough Trees”.

The boys created their play-dough trees.

Then they added their decorations.

Their great playdough spruce trees turned out so pretty and festive!

The Great Cookie Tree:

I thought it would be fun to bake a cookie tree, so I made a BIG batch of sugar cookie dough and bought a Wilton Set of 6 Nesting Star Cutters.

Haley helped roll and cut out the stars for our cookie tree.

I frosted the cookies with spruce and lime green icing.

I set them aside to dry overnight.

Using green icing, I stacked the cookies on top of each other.

I decorated the “branches” with mini M&Ms. It looked so pretty on our Christmas cookie plate. Good enough to eat?

Watercolor Spruce Trees:

I knew I wanted to do a Christmas Tree art project and I thought painting watercolor evergreen trees would be perfect.

First, I found a “How to Draw a Spruce” art tutorial (Easy Drawing Guides). I set out the tutorial with blank paper and graphite sticks.

First, the kids sketched their spruce trees with the graphite sticks.

Using their watercolor sets, they painted their spruce trees and we set them aside to dry.

Later, we read Night Treeby Eve Bunting and I brought out nature stickers to decorate their spruce trees.

They decorated their trees with holly berries, snowflakes, birds, and more.

Their trees turned out so beautiful and we hung them up in the playroom as festive decorations. The Great Spruce was such a fun row and the perfect way to enhance our Christmas season!


Pinterest Board:

You can find most of the activities, ideas, and printables from this post on our The Great Spruce Pinterest board.

Youtube Playlist:

As with our other rows, we created The Great Spruce Playlist with read-alouds, music, science, and other clips.

4 thoughts on “The Great Spruce

  1. This is great! What a wonderful row – so many great ideas. Just wondering how much time it takes you to prep/plan the activities for a row, how long you guys typically stay on a book, and how much money you invest in materials per row? I’ve been homeschooler 25 years and have always used and created unit studies/row approach, but your units are so much more elaborate. Puts me to shame lol.

    1. Thank you for your comments! Homeschooling 25 years is quite an achievement! Honestly, I pull our row together with things I’ve collected over the years. I usually check the dollar bins at Target too! Things have changed as far as planning/prepping each row. When the kids were younger (BFIAR and the first few years of FIAR), I read each book and the teachers manual to plan, pin, and prep everything during the summer. I still read the book and teacher’s manual to get a general idea of what I would like to cover during our time rowing each book. With more extensive math, language arts and social studies, I tend to weave FIAR activities into each day as they fit. We continue rowing each book until we’ve “gleaned” all we can. What you see is an eclectic mix of all the fun moments we have during a typical four-week row. It’s just what works for our family!

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