Why We Choose To Celebrate Hanukkah (and how we do it)

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(Hey you! Busy Mama! if you don’t have time to read the entire post, just skip to my P.S. at the end – I want to hear from you!)


Yep, it’s me.  Here after a reallllly long blogging hiatus.  I’m hoping to sit down soon and write a nice newsy post and catch you up to speed on our crazy happenings around here, but in the mean time, I thought I’d pop on because it’s the start of Hanukkah and I just had to share what we’re doing (and why)!

I posted recently on instagram about why we’ve chosen to celebrate Hanukkah, even though our family is not Jewish –

“We get asked if we’re Jewish because we celebrate Hanukkah, and no, we’re not Jewish, but we do observe this AMAZING 8 day celebration that commemorates the unlikely success of a small band of Jews that victoriously pushed back against the Greek army. Not only that, but once they reclaimed the temple, they wanted to dedicate it back to God by celebrating the feast of Tabernacles (an 8 day Feast) but there wasn’t enough oil to light the menorah for that long. However, their oil continued to burn and did not stop burning until they’d finished their celebration! This is a celebration of MIRACLES with a powerful message and reminder for all that the darkness cannot overcome the Light.” (catch my full post here)”

So that’s the short version.

The even shorter version is:  It’s life changing.

We’ve been celebrating Hanukkah since my children were very little, but each time it rolls around (sometime between late November and late December), I learn even more – about the story of Hanukkah and more importantly, the goodness and overwhelming love and faithfulness of God.

He always keeps his promises. No exceptions.

He swore that he would never allow the Jews to be wiped form the face of the earth, and not only did he fulfill that promise, but He went over and above and blessed the Maccabees desire to rededicate the temple, allowing their menorah to stay lit for 8 days, when their was only enough oil for one.

If you want to learn more about the WHY and WHAT of Hanukkah, take a minute to check out these few clips on the history and celebration of Hanukkah – and why Hanukkah is not just for Jews!

and also this one:.

And now onto the HOW of celebrating Hanukkah!

Your Hanukkah celebration can be as simple or elaborate as you choose.  Personally, we like to keep things simple and meaningful, but there is technically only one thing you’ll need:

a Hanukkiah – a menorah that is specific to Hanukkah.  A traditional menorah has 7 branches – one for each of the seven Feasts of the Lord, and it’s used all year in Feast celebrations.  However, a Hanukkiah has 9 branches – one for each day of the festival, and one branch called the sh’mash or servant candle, and it’s used to light all of the others.

this one is a complete kit with candles and all

this is a fun (and safe one) for the kids

this one, this one and this one are on my wish list!

To celebrate, grab your menorah (or make your own!  simple DIY ideas here) and on the first night, light the servant candle and then extinguish the match.  Then, use the servant candle to light the first candle and allow them both to burn down completely.  On the second night, repeat these steps, lighting the first and second candles.  Continue on until you reach the eighth night, thus lighting all nine candles.

Aside from lighting the menorah each night for 8 nights, there are no other specific guidelines to celebrating Hanukkah.

Here’s how OUR FAMILY celebrates Hanukkah –


Lighting of the Menorah.

Jewish families will recite prayers as the candles are lit, and this is a wonderful component to add, whether you are Jewish or not.   Our family takes a little different route, and instead, we pray before lighting the candle (more on that in a second) and then as a, uh…joyful….if not melodious….expression, we sing this song, getting faster and faster until it’s a jumble of shouting and we can’t go any longer.  I blame this tradition purely on my husband.



This is, to me, one of the greatest aspects of our Hanukkah celebration and the most important part to pass on to our children.  Hanukkah is the season for Miracles.  It’s commemorating a time when God did the impossible and this is a truth that I want my children to cling to.  During the 8 days of Hanukkah, our family spends time each night praying for those that need miracles.  I post on social media, asking for prayer requests that we then place on cards in our Hanukkah calendar, and then I divide the requests as evenly as possible over the 8 nights (thanks to my dear friend Angela for the awesome idea!).  We also spend time as a family writing down our own requests and reminders to pray for our dear brothers and sisters in Christ through out the world.



We keep this simple as well, with homemade buntings, cut out stars, lights, lots of twinkly lights.  Homemade is the name of the game around here, and here are the ideas and projects I’ve compiled.



We read a Hanukkah story every day for 8 days, and I’ve got a wonderful list of titles that we work from as I slowly build our home library. I’ll be sharing our reading list soon – so check back!



Our family also celebrates with donuts on the first and last nights of Hanukkah.  There’s no rhyme or reason to imbibing on these particular days  – other than I choose not to serve donuts every night, despite the temptation to do so.  Donuts and latkes (think fried hashbrowns from heaven) are “traditional” Hanukkah fare – as is any food fried in oil – a tip of the culinary hat to the miracle of the oil.

So remember:  donuts = miracles.

Isn’t Hanukkah amazing!

If you’re looking for some Hanukkah cooking inspiration, check these out –

Menorah waffles

Deep fried cookie dough

Cheese latkes

Sufganiyot (Hanukkah jelly donuts)

gluten free latkes

gluten free + Paleo Apple latkes

Paleo Hanukkah recipe round up



Yes, our family does still celebrate Christmas in an abbreviated way (more on this in another post).  However, my husband and I decided that we’d give our gifts to the kids on the last night of Hanukkah, and Christmas gifts are reserved for grandparents and extended family on December 25th.

If you’ve never celebrated Hanukkah before, I can’t recommend this enough!

And I know.  One.More.Thing. to add to an already packed and chaotic holiday season.

However, please believe when I say that it’s absolutely worth it!

Do as little or as much as you’d like.

Simply read the story of the Hanukkah miracle to your children.

Sit quietly together and pray for those that you love, because this is the season for miracles.

Eat a donut or two.

or eight.


In the midst of this crazy month, Hanukkah is a time to slow down. To remember and pass on to our children the promises of God and his supernatural intervention in the lives of those who honored Him and refused to compromise.

P.S.  Our family truly DOES want to pray for you!  As part of our personal Hanukkah celebration, we want to spend time on each of the eight nights of hanukkah, praying for those of you that need miracles – those that need to see God move in unexplainable ways and to see the darkness over come in your own life or in the lives of those you love. If you’d like us to pray for you, please comment below or email me. We’ll be placing each request in the pockets of our Hanukkah calendar and pulling them out each night to pray. Please never be afraid to ask for prayer or reach out. My children would love to pray for you! May you know the Light that has conquered darkness during this season!


Posted in Hanukkah, Vintage Faith | Modern World | Tagged , Leave a comment

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2017-2018 FREE Printable Charlotte Mason Inspired Homeschool Calendar


It’s FINALLY here!!!

THANK YOU to you poor patient mamas who have so kindly emailed me, saying, “uh…calendar…where is it?”

I had every intention of publishing it in May, and somehow May turned into August …[hangs head in shame]….

Below you will find the links to each month (August 2017-July 2018) that also happen to correspond to the pages in my Charlotte Mason Naturalist Planner.

And as a bonus this year, I also have a full academic year at a glance calendar sheet which is SO helpful for getting a bird’s eye view of where you’re going and what’s coming next!

It’s great for simple planning and reference, or print multiples and use them as your child’s attendance records by marking off each date.  You’ll also see under each month a small lunar calendar, great for referencing in your nature journals!

Enjoy mamas and have a wonderful, adventure filled school year!

(click on each month to open it in a new tab, then right click and choose “print”)

August 2017      September 2017      October 2017

November 2017      December 2017      January 2018

February 2018      March 2018      April 2018

May 2018      June 2018      July 2018

NEW 2017-2018  Year At A Glance Charlotte Mason Homeschool Calendar

And don’t forget, once you print these off, show us how you’re using them on instagram and facebook by using  #vkmwplanner

Posted in Homeschooling, Printables, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , 5 Comments

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Our Morning Meeting: The Anchor To Our Homeschool Day (part 2)

Have you read part one?  Head over there now.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.


Our Morning Meeting takes longer to describe than it actually takes to execute!!  Part one breaks down the subjects that we do every day.  In general, our daily subjects take about an hour and a half or s  to get through, but that obviously varies depending on how many diapers I need to change, who spilled what on their books, and how many chapters of our read aloud they con me into reading!  However, that’s the great part: flexibility. If your read aloud book is at the most suspenseful chapter, you may want to continue and read on to the end and nix poetry.

You’re allowed!  You homeschool– the sky’s the limit and the curriculum serves you, not the other way around.

That being said, assuming that we’re plugging along on a “normal” school day, we cover the subjects that I mentioned in part one (Bible, memory work, hymn study, poetry, nature journals, grammar and our read aloud) at the beginning of our Morning Meeting, every day.  Somewhere near the end of that list, we take a short break – usually right before our read aloud so we can grab snacks while I read.

Once we’ve gotten through our daily list, then we move on to our looped subjects, history, geography, Shakespeare, art and music.

Here’s how that works…


Loop One| History + Geography

I “loop” these subjects, meaning that we do one subject one day, and the following day we switch and loop to the next subject.  This means that I don’t schedule history on Monday, Wednesday, Friday – it means that we do the next thing.  For example, every other Wednesday, we have a homeschool co-op, and every Thursday, we are out of the house doing art lessons and running errands, so those days, we rarely get in a morning meeting.  So, if we covered history on Wednesday, we skip Thursday for art lessons, and then Friday, we do geography. This has been SO helpful in not forgetting where we are or going a week without doing a particular subject if it’s been a busy time.  I short, we just do the next thing.


I have gone round and round on what history curriculum I like best.  In fact, I should devote an entire post to that (I think I will….) because there are so many options and things I like/dislike about each one I’ve used.  I adore history and so do my kids, so I like to keep us together if possible.  Unfortunately, that’s becoming more and more difficult, so we’re trying a few things to span the ages and learning gaps.  Right now we are studying modern history so we are using Story of the World (I love their accompanying maps in the workbook and I use their outlines for my oldest, so she can get used to following a lecture and taking notes.  I don’t do the projects in the workbook, as they’re too time consuming for us).  However, I’ve also flipped back and forth and used Mystery of History (although their modern world book is over the heads of my youngest) and Beautiful Feet Books.  See…I’m very undecided! One of my kids is advanced in her reading and comprehension, and one is dyslexic and so weighty lessons that are full of content are hard for her to focus on at this point, making it difficult to find something that fits.  So….we roll with it and do the best we can.  As long as we’re moving forward, I’m not worried.

Upon recommendation, I also recently grabbed A Little History of the World and it’s been SO enjoyable!  It’s written in a conversational tone and covers a lot of material.

My oldest also supplements her history reading with historical literature.  I use the reading lists from Beautiful Feet Books as double duty – extra history and literature studies.  I choose books for her roughly based on the time period we’re studying and each day she reads 2-3 chapters in the books and then does a written narration.


We keep this nice and simple.  There are some wonderful resources out there and I’ve used and enjoyed the packs from Simply Charlotte Mason as well as the literature based pack from Beautiful Feet.  Both were wonderful but a little more time consuming than I wanted right now.  We may go back to them eventually, but for this season, short and sweet is where it’s at.

Right now, we’re coloring and labeling the maps that come with the Story of the World lessons, and we’re also doing map drills – I give them printed blank sheets of a map and they fill in what they know.  Then, they are given the answer key and they correct it themselves and fill in anything they forgot.  That’s it when it comes to map work – it takes less than 5 minutes.  After their drills, we read through Elementary Geography by Charlotte Mason, we discuss it and the kids narrate back portions of it in turn.

Loop Two| Shakespeare, Art + Music


I know his name can strike fear into the heart of many a homeschooler, but I adore Shakespeare, and after reading Ken Ludwig’s amazing book, How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare, you’ll grow to love it, find the value in it, and it truly won’t be scary anymore!  Slow and steady is the key here, and there are so many great resources to supplement with.

Right now we are reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream (a great one to start with- it’s funny, there are fairies, over-the-top arguments, a man with the name “Bottom” and a queen who falls in love with a donkey.  Crowd pleaser, I tell ya) using Birch’s retold version Shakespeare’s Stories: Comedies.  Each time we read, I go through 1-2 pages of the story and stop after every few paragraphs to make sure that they all understand what’s happening and to give them a chance to narrate.  We also keep a diagram of characters on our chalk board so that we can remember who’s who in the story (the kids also copy the character list into their notebooks).

I’ve also used or heard great things about:

Shakespeare’s Stories For Young Readers by Nesbit

Shakepeare. Classic for Kids. by Lamb

Great Scenes from Shakespeare’s Plays (Coloring Book)



Our “art” is basically an artist and picture study, and the kids take art lessons outside of the home each week.  At home, we cover famous artists, their lives and works and my main goal is appreciation and recognition.  It’s a slow process really, but that’s ok.  We take our time and don’t rush through the artist or their works.  We just finished with the picture study portfolio of Turner from Simply Charlotte Mason and I can’t recommend those enough!  They are pricey if you rush through them, but I don’t plan on covering more than 2-3 in a school year.  In general, we spend at least 2-3 weeks on one work of art.  We get to our art studies once, sometimes twice a week, depending on where we are in the loop, so it’s not overwhelming and it’s spread out just enough that it’s not redundant.  I’ll be sharing my printable Art study sheet soon and a more detailed look at how we study art, so make sure to check back!

I also use and love:

This entire series from Laurence Anholt– they’re a whimsical and narrative look at various artists and the illustrations are beautiful

This series from Mike Venezia – he pulls out the comedic and quirky facets of the artists’ (and musicians) lives and it’s part text book, part comic strip, and quite endearing

Lives of the Artists (Masterpieces, Messes and What the Neighbors Thought) – a wonderful collection of artists’ stories that could actually be used as a spine for art

The Who Was….series – is another great one with memorable illustrations and interesting Artists’ biographies

Famous Painting Cards – vibrant cards of famous works that make it easy to use for picture study or playing games

The Come Look With Me Series – these are a favorite in our home and I’ve used them with all of my kids.  Each page has a painting and the opposite page has questions to ask them about what they see, what they suppose the painting is about, etc.  It’s a wonderful gently introduction into art appreciation.

FREE Artist Study Aids from A Humble Place – these are very well done and bonus, they’re free.  This is truly all you’d need!

I’ve also had wonderful luck with large coffee-table type books of famous artists.  We have been known to rip out a page (gasp!) and hang it on our wall for frequent reference.  I once scored a 2′ tall book of Georgia O’Keefe’s works at a garage sale for 50 cents and it’s one of our favorites.



At this point, our kids are not enrolled in music lessons (which I hope to remedy soon) but we do study music appreciation in our loop and, like art appreciation, it’s a gentle, low stress study that’s not hard to incorporate.  In general, each time we have music, we read about the composer’s life and then listen to his works.  It really is that easy.  Simply choose a few of the composer’s most well known works, or pieces that you think your children would enjoy, and just listen.  I play a song as an introduction each time we start a new artist, but after that, we simply play it throughout the day, during lunch, in the afternoons during chore time and in the van.  Again, just like art, at this age, my goal is appreciation and recognition.

In the past we’ve also spent time going through the orchestra and it’s always good to review – we usually start our school year with those lessons, and then move to more “appreciation”.

Here’s what we’ve used and enjoyed:

The Story of the Orchestra– this is my go-to book.  There are lessons on each instrument, major composers, and general listening techniques and it includes a CD for listening to particular tracts during each lesson.

Meet The Orchestra – a fun look at each individual instrument

Meet The Great Composers (book + CD)

Aside from those, wikipedia and youtube are easy ways to find all of the information and music you might want.

Ambleside Online also has wonderful composer resources as well.

Goodness, I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface!!

In some upcoming posts, I’ll be talking about the curriculum we’re using this year for their independent work and how we schedule our days to fit it all in.  I always love seeing how other homeschooling mamas work their magic, so hopefully this has given you some ideas!

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