Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tuesday SOL What about the holidays?

This is a Tuesday "Slice of Life" for Two Writing Teachers. Check out their website for lots more reflections on teaching.


I am having the most delightful winter break. We have stayed home, relaxing together, lots of special time with family and friends, plus sleeping in, going on long walks, watching movies, writing, reading…yes, delightful! After the wedding in November, this is exactly the Christmas and New Year's that I need!

There was an interesting article in the Washington Post ("My Jewish Child Was Asked to Wear a Santa Hat") about the 'dilemma' of celebrating holidays in schools and it described three approaches -

Schools tend to take one of three broad approaches. The first is what you might call Modified Christmas, in which most or all activities are at least peripherally related to Christmas, be it performing a play about Santa or drawing wreaths during art. The second model could be called Christmaskwanzakkah, a multicultural mix that may or may not involve any teaching or acknowledgment of the divine. The third model is the No-Holidays Holiday: Schools avoid celebrating any holidays, though they may have an event or a song built around “shared religious values” such as “peace.”

I guess I fall into the third category - I don't celebrate the holidays with my preschoolers. I simply believe that families should be the teachers of the holiday traditions. I teach at a public school in Washington, D.C., with families from diverse backgrounds. I use the month of December as a time for children to bask in the normal routine…to build, paint, dress up, explore with abandon.

Sometimes holidays are mentioned by the children and this is by no means taboo - I ask the children to tell me more, where did they go? what did they do? what happened? These are ordinary loving, respectful conversations, children learning to share what they know and to listen to one another. These discussions come up organically, not something I orchestrate or pre-plan.

Mid-month, there was a buzz about gifts…wanting to make something for Daddy, wanting to paint a picture for Mommy. Our engineering with recyclables area took on a whole new focus - what could I create for someone else? Honestly, this wasn't in my "plan" - my classroom lends itself to this kind of child-directed purpose, child-created fun.

They had a great time, creating whatever they wanted. In the end, there were tea sets, magic wands, one robot, treasure boxes, a vase, telescopes…

A Robot for Daddy by Nicky

We had a beautiful December together and I am looking forward to lots more magic, exploration, laughter, and love in the new year! 

(I am really going to miss sleeping in late each morning, however.)

Happy New Year!


  1. What a wonderful environment for your children! Enjoy your remaining days of freedom from structure.. Happy New Year!

  2. I love your approach to the holidays with your preschoolers, Maureen! Not holding to one specific approach, but validating each child's interests and beliefs, is refreshing! I like to take a "Winter" approach to the holidays. One of my favorite classroom traditions is our "Winter Read-in", where my students come to school in their PJs, bring breakfast items to share, and their favorite books. We spend the entire day before Winter break eating breakfast, lounging around in our pajamas, and reading books :-)

  3. You know,, I feel this way about sixth graders, too. We are open to talk about all holidays and traditions - that is the way of the world, and should be.