The Nutcracker

READY TO ROW:

Kick-off Breakfast:

We didn’t have an official kick-off breakfast; however, we had many special breakfasts this month. We had a soft start as we wrapped up The Thanksgiving Door and gradually started our Christmas row.

We celebrated Haley’s 15th birthday while rowing The Nutcracker. I made pancake muffins topped with sugarplum sprinkles and served them with whipped cream and fruit.

Then two days later, we celebrated Parker’s 11th birthday. The month of December is a busy month in our household.

Christmas brunch we enjoyed a festive plate adorned with Santa hat strawberries and cinnamon rolls. I even found Nutcracker “crackers” from our Hallmark store.

Story Disk:

Parker colored the story disk and placed it on Russia.

Cover Art:

Parker chose to use the FIAR nutcracker drawing tutorial as the front cover. He did a beautiful job!

BIBLE:

Memory Verse:

I created a Bible verse printable for The Nutcracker.

You can purchase your copy here at our TPT Store.

Parker traced his verse and we added it in his FIAR notebook.

Christmas Lessons:

I brought out our Kids of Integrity Christmas pack. I thought it would be a wonderful addition while rowing The Nutcracker.

Day 1: A Lesson in Harmony

Jesus is our Yahweh Shalom, Lord of peace. We read about Adam and Eve and how they sinned, grieved God and lost close fellowship with Him. We talked about the gift of Shalom – the peace and joy we have as we walk closely with the Lord.

We added a wrapped gift – representing God’s gift of Shalom – on our Christmas wreath.

Day 2: A Lesson in Joy

First, we opened our Bible and read about the prodigal son. We talked about happiness versus joy.

We set up our Playmobil Nativity set, as suggested in the guide. We also discussed how Jesus is the source of our joy. He is the source.

We put on our spyglasses and went looking for joy in all the wrong places. At the end, we came back to the Nativity and the realization that true joy comes from Christ alone.

We added the spyglass to our Advent wreath as a reminder to look for joy in all the RIGHT places.

Day 3: A Lesson in Courteous Communication

We talked about being friendly, courteous and kind. When our words are harsh, it’s like throwing a stinging snowball in someone’s face. When our words are kind, it’s like a comforting sip of hot chocolate.

It was raining outside so we had an indoor snowball fight! Actually, we had quite a few! 😉

We enjoyed a warm comforting cup of hot cocoa. Though our snowballs didn’t sting, sweet words and hot chocolate are far better than anything that causes unnecessary harm.

Ebenezer Scrooge, the epitome of everything unkind, came to mind during this lesson. I tried to find a picture book version of A Christmas Carol, but I only found the original story on our Epic app. We started reading it and the boys were hooked! Well, I guess The Turning will have to wait a couple more days while we finish this classic story.

We added a Hershey’s kiss on our Advent wreath to remind us to be sweet with our words.

Day 4: A Lesson in Forgiveness

We read about the servant who was forgiven, but he refused to forgive someone else. We talked about how we have no right to withhold forgiveness when God forgives us every time we ask.

We headed to the kitchen to make a batch of pretzel dough. Parker and I followed the recipe in our lesson plan as he measured and filled the ingredients in our bread machine pan and put it on the dough setting.

The dough was a bit dry, so I added water, kneaded it and placed it in the warm oven to rise. 

Parker and I rolled it on the counter, used a pizza cutter to make long strips and shaped them into pretzels.

I left them to sit overnight to serve the following morning at breakfast. We dusted the puffy pretzels with butter and salt. This was an edible reminder to soft-hearted and forgiving. It’s not always easy to forgive, but it’s better to be soft and pliable, like our pretzels, rather than hard and unbreakable.

Day 5: A Lesson in Generosity

We read about the rich young ruler and his unwillingness to share his wealth with the poor. We talked about how it’s better to give than to receive. We both agreed how wonderful it feels to give to and help others.

For fun, we were reading The Twelve Days of Christmas, because that was a “whole lot of giving”!

First, I asked Parker to complete the 12 Days of Christmas worksheet (FREEbie in Preview) to test his memory.  This is also included in our Nutcracker Story Review.

Once he marked his answers, we reviewed them as we read through the story. He did a great job! He was right with all twelve!

Parks added the m&ms on our Advent wreath as a symbol of generosity.

Day 6: A Lesson in Obedience

We read about Joseph and the wisemen. They listened to God’s direction and obeyed it. We talked about loving Jesus, following Him closely and obeying his direction. When we walk this way, we’re lights in this dark world.

Christmas Candles:

Since we were talking about being lights in this world, it made me think of candles. I brought out our beeswax candle making kit.

Parker rolled the wax sheets around the wick. He rolled a few more sheets until it was big enough to place in the votive glass. 

I read about Christmas candles while Parker decorated the glass votive. With Crayola window markers.

Afterwards, we read Michael Faraday’s Candle Burn on our Epic app and learned about the science behind burning candles.

Afterwards, we brought his candle into the kitchen so he could light it.

Parker added a candle on our Advent wreath to represent obedience to God – lights in a dark world.

Day 7: A Lesson in Cooperation

Today we read about Nehemiah rebuilding the wall. Some men guarded while others built, but everyone worked together to finish the project.

Parker and I made paper chains and had to work together to combine them. This was a fun way to illustrate cooperation.

Day 8: A Lesson in Kindness

Parker and I read about David showing kindness to Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son. David never forgot the kindness Jonathan showed him during King Saul’s reign. He wanted to repay that kindness back.

Parker and I read It’s a Wonderful life, which is all about giving and receiving kindness. The book is beautiful, but it doesn’t compare to the movie.

Parks added an angel on our Advent wreath, reminding us to be angels of kindness like George Bailey.

I painted an Advent Christmas tree in the classroom. Parker decorating it with matching Advent ornaments.

Day 9: A Lesson in Righteousness

We read about Joseph and the choices he made to honor God. When we honor God our righteousness shines bright in the darkness.

Parker added a star on our tree as a symbol of shining brightly for Christ.

Over the weekend, Jordan and I put up some Christmas lights. This was a visual reminder to be lights in the darkness.

Day 10: A Lesson in Acceptance

We read the story of Zacchaeus. Jesus wasn’t afraid to sit and eat with sinners. He met them where they were at. We talked about Charlie Brown’s Christmas movie. Charlie Brown wasn’t accepted by his friends and it affected him.

We watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas while wrapping Christmas presents. Parker added a little Charlie Brown tree ornament on our Christmas tree.

Day 11: A Lesson in Compassion

We read about Jesus feeding the thousands. We talked about how he felt compassion for them.

Little Women at Christmas seemed like the perfect book to read after this Bible lesson. The March sisters brought their special Christmas breakfast to a needy immigrant family near-by. The joy they felt helping that sick mother and her hungry little children was a treasure they would never forget.

This story brings me to tears every time. Oh, to have a selfless abandon, a heart of compassion not just at Christmas, but everyday of the year.

Day 12: A Lesson in Contentedness

We read the birth of Christ in Luke 2. We focused on the setting of his birth. Jesus’s life started with a humble beginning. Mary and Joseph laid him in a manger, a feeding trough for animals.

We discussed contentment and the ability to focus on what we have, not what we want. Greed and discontentment go hand-in-hand. They are a dangerous duo and can wreak havoc if left unchecked.

Jordan was just learning about Charles Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army. This time of year, you can see them standing in front of stores ringing their bells. Giving to others is a wonderful way to shift our focus off ourselves.

Operation Christmas Child is another wonderful program. Everyone took turns building a box online. We’ve heard so many wonderful testimonials from children around the world.

Our Christmas tree looked so beautiful decorated with all the ornaments from our Bible lessons.

A Sweet Aroma:

As we returned from Christmas break, the sweet aroma of Christmas lingered in our home. As we reminisced, we read our last Christmas devotion in 2 Corinthians 2:14.

We are to be a sweet aroma, we should leave a lingering impression that reminds people that Jesus was with them. Just like the sweet scent of baking Christmas cookies leaves behind the scent of sugar and spice, our presence and conduct should leave behind an impression of Christ-like behavior.

First, we read The Sweet Smell of Christmas. I printed a copy of our experiment worksheet.

Parker closed his eyes, smelled each sample, and recorded his guess. Afterwards, we reviewed whether he was right or wrong.

SOCIAL STUDIES:

Christmas in Russia:

We started our Christmas in Russia unit by reading a summary from Education.com.

The following day, we started reading from A Very Russian Christmas. The first story was The New Year’s Tree by Mikhail Zoshchenko.

Parker started coloring his Christmas in Russia pack, a compilation of Christmas in Russia worksheets (Little Red).

We researched Russian Christmas traditions by reading excerpts from our Christmas in Russia World Book.

We also read a “Christmas in Russia” excerpt from The Encyclopedia of Christmas.

As I read about Christmas in Russia, Parker recorded key facts on his Research Notes (Little Red).

We read A World of Cookies for Santa, paying close attention to the page on Russia.

We read many fun Christmas books that explored traditions around the world, especially those set in Russia.

Tchaikovsky:

We read about Tchaikovsky in My First Classical Music Book.

I also added Disney’s Peter Tchaikovsky movie to our Nutcracker playlist.

LANGUAGE ARTS:

Story Review:

I created a Nutcracker Story Review to use during our time rowing Jan Brett’s version.

You can purchase your copy here at our TPT Store.

Parker worked through the story retention worksheets. Some of them were a little more difficult to remember after the break.

Story Comparison:

We read several versions of The Nutcracker during this row. Parker was able to identify many of the similarities and differences.

We decided to read The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman, the original story that Alexandre Dumas adapted for the ballet. There was a darker tone and some parts were interesting, but Parker preferred the adapted version.

Story Adaptation:

Since we recently finished Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, we watched Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

After watching the movie, Parker completed the Movie Adaptation worksheet. Afterwards, we added the review in his creative writing sketch book.

MATH:

Calendar:

Parker helped me update our school calendar to December.

Afterwards, he added dates, birthdays and holidays on his December calendar worksheet.

SCIENCE:

Levers:

First, we read Levers on our Epic app. This was the perfect book for our unit on levers, first and second class.

I brought out some hazelnuts and almonds along with our nutcracker.

We read about “The Nutcracker” in The Encyclopedia of Christmas and saw examples of nutcrackers in Julia Rothman’s Food Anatomy book.

Hazelnuts:

We also read about nuts in Julia Rothman’s Food Anatomy. We learned that most “nuts” are actually seeds. Hazelnuts are one of the few true nuts.

Afterwards, Parker completed “The Life Cycle of a Hazelnut” worksheet from our Story Review.

After learning about hazelnuts, Parker used the nutcracker to crack hazelnuts and almonds to enjoy a healthy snack.

Sugarplums:

We always hear the term sugarplums at Christmastime, but I don’t know how many of us really know what they are. I did a little research and added a History of Sugar Plums in our Story Review.

I purchased Green Urban’s Nutcracker Printables pack. FIAR recommended the story cards, but she also had a larger Nutcracker pack which included the “Sugarplum Tree” poem, the original story and so much more! Parker read “The Sugarplum Tree” poem while sipping hot chocolate.

After reading about sugarplums, Parker drew pictures of some of the sweet confections he loves.

On my way home from an appointment, my husband bought a Sugar Plum Danish to go with my Starbucks latte. Oh my gosh! That was QUITE the treat!

Christmas Trees:

First, we read about the lifecycle of pine trees. Next, we read Christmas Farm, a beautiful story about an older woman who decides to raise Christmas trees with the help of a young boy, her neighbor.

We also read about the history of Christmas trees in The Encyclopedia of Christmas.

Afterwards, Parker put together our Christmas tree craft.

Mice:

Since The Nutcracker featured the mouse king, I thought it would be a good idea to briefly study mice.

First, we read Christmas Mouse together on the couch. This was geared for the younger students, but it was so cute.

Next, we read In My Backyard Mice on our Epic app.

Lastly, Parker color-coded the parts of the mouse worksheet from our Story Review.

Animal Adaptation:

Though we rowed this mini unit for three weeks, we didn’t have enough time to cover everything. I decided to have Parker record all the animals in the story so we could study them after Christmas. We may update this post with our holiday round-up activities.

ARTS, CRAFTS & OTHER FUN:

Instruments:

We started this unit by reading This Magical, Musical Night on our Epic app.

Parker and I also read Welcome to the Symphony and he listened to the various sounds of instruments.

Afterward, Parker looked through the illustrations, recording all the instruments in their proper category. We also brought out our instrument nomenclature cards (The Helpful Garden).

I bought this beautiful book as a momento of our time rowing The Nutcracker. Parker and I read the story and listened to excerpts from Tchaokovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.

Candy Cane Hunt:

I bought the candy canes, but we ran out of time. We did this activity as part of our holiday round-up in the new year!

First, we read The Legend of the Candy Cane on the couch together. We used this for our Bible study stime.

Since it was wet and rainy, we did our candy cane hunt inside.

Nutcracker Figure:

I gave Parker an unfinished miniature nutcracker to paint. He had fun painting while I read aloud.

Ballet:

In addition to reading The Turning, we read Ballerina Gets Ready on our Epic app. We saw a glimpse of a day in the life of a ballerina.

We dressed up and attended a local production of The Nutcracker. Afterwards, we went out for Sushi. We had such a fun evening! This has truly been a magical row!

Sugarplum Thumbprint Cookies:

I thought it would be fun to end our row on a sweet note.

I prepped our baking area by laying out the recipe and baking ingredients in the kitchen.

Parker helped scoop, measure and mix the ingredients.

Parker and I rolled, pressed and filled the cookies. They looked so pretty!

We served them at our “Land of Sweets” Christmas party. What a fun and festive row!

HELPFUL LINKS:

Pinterest Board:

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

Youtube Playlist:

As with our other rows, we created The Nutcracker playlist with read-alouds, music, science, and other clips.

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