Free Things for Christmas, by Briana Elizabeth

Editor’s Note: Briana Elizabeth shared this last year, and we think it’s worth repeating.

My house is in a quiet hush.

Only certain decorations have made their appearances, and even though we’ve watched Elf a few times, the tone of the house is quiet expectation. We’re all working on our own projects, and I’ve made one room the Santa Room that’s been blocked off with curtains and a standing rule that if the curtains are closed? No one is allowed to enter — and that goes for all of us, me included.

School has been pared down to the three basics: Latin, math and reading. We’ll idle there for about a month, and fully take off for about two weeks. This is why we homeschool, after all. This is our family culture. These are weeks of lots of art making, of singing, of special books and movies, of planning, and cleaning. We’re having some very special guests this Christmas, also, and we’re adding in what will hopefully become new traditions.

All year long, I collect links to Christmas crafts that I know will challenge the kids a bit, and become heirlooms. Those are my qualifications. We don’t make anything that is going to be thrown away when the decorations are packed away. Today I am going to share a bunch of them with you! Hopefully there’s something for everyone.

For a quick sewing present, Oliver+S published a great little tutu skirt with a matching doll skirt! These are great for your students learning to sew because this company’s patterns are like professional sewing lessons, they’re so detailed.

If you want to make some ornaments that the kids should be able to make by themselves, or use in decoupage, there are some adorable bird print outs that are available. For a table setting, I’m having my kids cut out paper angels that I’m going to put a tea light in as luminaries. Hopefully I won’t set the whole table on fire, but I think it should be pretty.

Every year at my house we make a lot of Christmas stars. I grab free, old encyclopedias when I can so that I have a constant supply of vintage looking paper. Of course you could use any paper you want, so use your imagination! I’ve even used old Christmas wrapping paper for these. You can decorate them, too. When I was in high school I went to visit a friend’s house, and his mother was making Moravian stars for their tree. She taught me how, and every year we add some more to our own trees. We use them as package decorations, for buntings, you name it. Finnish stars are also so beautiful to hang, and though a little more complicated, still fairly easy. There’s a great youtube video on how to make them, and they can be made with different papers and in all different sizes, too. If you get really good at them, there are some more complicated patterns. Here are some simple ones that are folded and glued. From Sweden come some amazing star lanterns that are very traditional and beautiful. OK, only one more star to make, and I think these are the simplest of all. I’ve also used decorative scissors to make the cuts and used all different kinds of papers. (In the summer I make really large ones and hang them on my porch with twinkle lights.) These are not stars, but Danish hearts go from utterly simple to very detailed so that everyone can join in the crafting.

It would be a wonderful afternoon to have a star making party with lots of cocoa and marshmallows, Christmas music, and a table full of papers to make stars with. If you were to do that, I would make sure I had a good understanding of how to make the stars myself so that teaching guests would be easier. You could put up a map and throw some geography in there by asking the children to find the countries where these stars are traditional. Always the homeschooler, right?

Another oldie but goody is macaroni snowflakes. I know, I know, they can be cheesy, but I think these are adorable and very accessible for little hands. On the same website is an old-fashioned recipe for cinnamon ornaments, which smell amazing and can be kept from year to year until the scent wears out.

Now this is more for a teen with a very small, sharp pair of scissors, but a circus carousel would make a lovely little mantle decoration or gift. Christmas it up with traditional colors and some glitter.

If you happen to have some tissue paper hanging around, you can make some beautiful transparencies. And for a toddler, I think this nativity printable is adorable. If you really want to get crazy, you can print out this house template, let the kids color them, and make table settings with them, decorate a mantle, or even use them for a mobile like the crafter did! Elsewhere on her website is an adorable garland that could be made for the Christmas tree, also.

If some of you are crocheters, there’s a beautiful snowflake garland pattern. If the thought of a garland is overwhelming, just make one at a time and hang them singly on the tree.

Last but not least are the most detailed ornaments. I live in an old Victorian house that was built in 1880, and when we bought the house, of course we became interested in its history and all things Victorian. Exciting for us to learn was that people of the Victorian era pretty much made Christmas as we know it today, and their ornaments were just as fantastic and over the top as they were. These are amazing reproductions thanks to jet printers! Don’t limit yourself to the suggested pictures! Make circus performers, or ice skaters, huntsmen, fairy tale characters, aliens!…it’s paper, you can throw away what you don’t like! But the ones you keep are treasures because of paper’s delicate nature. Make sure you wrap them carefully at the end of the season and put them in a box that won’t be crushed.

The trick to this stuff is to not go crazy. Don’t try and do all of them. You’re making memories of the experiences, not trying to recreate the pictures. Choose one or two that you really like, and then set aside an afternoon or two to make them together. Put your dinner in the crockpot and relax. Get glue everywhere, and laugh a lot. Eat lots of marshmallows. Have fun.

Merry Christmas, everyone.



Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.

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