The Worst Christmas Ever, Never Lose the Wonder, and Other Merry Stuff from TOS
December 20, 2017
Hey Mama,

Christmas is almost here—can you believe it? And then it will be over. And then . . . life resumes. We’ll start prepping and rushing all over again, knowing us. But don’t fret over that today, Mama. Today, *this day*, focus on spending the next five days with your littles, your love, and your God. It’s His season after all. Sometimes we get so busy we forget that. Without Him, we wouldn’t have CHRISTmas—but, oh, I’m so glad we do!

So have yourself a very merry little Christmas (in Him and through Him) and take heart as you read these articles from The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine :

And remember, Mama . . .

With it being only a few more days to Christmas, I hope you're taking things (deliberately) slow. Don't rush around and about, even though you feel like you need to. Perspective—we're so thankful to the Lord, our Savior! Perspective, Mama—He has done so much for us! LIFE. He is the Life Giver for all eternity. What a gift! Christmas has such meaning to the one who is IN Christ. That's the most important Gift we can share with our children. Keep the perspective.

I know it's crazy busy right now. I know the house has to get cleaned up, the food prepped, and the gifts wrapped. I know the kids are going in the opposite direction half the time (grin). Your Lord also knows, and He is right beside you. He is the Author of your story, the One who lovingly placed you on this very path to begin with. It's His work. And He's faithful to complete it! It's HIS story, too. Not just yours. 

He's very invested, Mama, in your family, in your life. He's the Builder. So slow down and acknowledge His presence. Thank Him for what He has done for you—personally. Glorify God who is the beginning and the end of all things—especially this season. And remember—there IS no end! Life eternal is yours, for those who are in Him. Be IN Him today! Abba Father loves you.

Also, some of you are struggling terribly. I am stunned at the amount of pain that I continually see from moms. If you are one of these precious Mamas, then it's even more important that you slow down. Rest. Enjoy this upcoming holiday along with your family. Take the time to look around and praise Him for what He's done so far. 

You are already a good servant, and an excellent Mama to your children. And nothing will ever convince you to cease striving—you love your family too much. You're staying on the path, good or not-so-good. You're faithful. And He sees.

Mama, take some time to rest in His love and care for you today and in the coming days. You have a Parent, too. He loves you even more than you love your own children. Imagine that deep love . . . it's enough to make anyone merry. :-)

And Merry Christmas from all of us at TOS! May His hand ever be on your head.

A Prairie Homeschool Christmas
December has arrived and with it the anticipation of our favourite time of the year. Christmas has always been special for our family. Whether celebrating at home or traveling to spend the holiday with more distant relatives and friends, the key is for us to be together.

Once the page turns on the calendar, we shift gears a bit and our homeschool lessons become less formal. Instead, we look for opportunities to learn through the lens of the holidays. One of our annual favourites is attending Homeschool Days at a local museum. This year’s topic was how the arrival of the Great Depression brought Christmas celebrations back to a simpler time with a focus on family and friends rather than “things.”

Christmas memories of my childhood are of my grandma baking cookies, cakes, and pies in her little kitchen, tossing out instructions on how to make the best crust or how to make her special cake sauce just right as my cousin and I frantically scribbled her words down in our recipe notebooks. Today, we use those old handwritten recipes to learn about the basics of food science, while connecting with our family traditions. We also make this an opportunity to learn about how children celebrate Christmas in other parts of the world by preparing holiday recipes from different regions.

When our own girls were young, we shared many holiday traditions with our family and friends. One of these was to load up our vehicles with children, blankets, flasks of hot cocoa, and tins of gingersnaps to keep the little ones happy, and head up to a designated area of Alberta crown lands, permit in hand, to cut down our own Christmas tree. Now, we make this an opportunity to learn about forest management with our grandson as he tramps through the snow with his Papa, looking for the perfect conifer for our holiday decorations.

No matter what your homeschool plan looks like this month, allow yourself to enjoy the spirit of the season. There are many online resources that include special holiday lessons and an endless list of Christmas books and movies that your family can enjoy together. Make sure to take the time to breathe and not stress over things not being perfect. The most important things you make at this time of the year are the memories your children will cherish for many years to come.

Kimberley Linkletter is a freelance writer and social media enthusiast. Her background is in government where she worked as an assistant to elected officials before retiring to travel and homeschool her grandson. She shares stories of their adventures on her blog, Vintage Blue Suitcase. She also writes Miss Kimmy’s Musings that focuses on homeschooling.

Mercy Every Minute  
Will this be a difficult Christmas season? Are you missing a loved one? Are you in painful circumstances? Are you uncertain of the future? Are you praying for help or healing or wholeness? 

In seasons of joy or seasons of pain, in seasons of uncertainty, anxiety, or seasons of provision—I want to have the strength to always say, “Yes, Lord.” And I know you do, too. And it’s because we know our God is for us. His plans for us are good—because He is good.

Two women in the Bible, separated by many generations, each in a desperate situation, cry out from the depths of their soul. Their prayers are similar in their strength and depth of wisdom. Each knew something to be true in the midst of desperate times. They knew their God . They knew Him to be trustworthy and faithful. I mean, really knew Him so much so that they were able to rejoice in the midst of their unsettling life stories. They even begin their cry with praise.

Let’s look at Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and Mary, the mother of Jesus: two completely different anxious circumstances . . . the same faith-filled response.

As you read through the Christmas story in Matthew chapter 1 and in Luke chapter 1, you will find Mary in a place of uncertainty; people may have misunderstood and even rejected her. And although Mary herself didn’t understand the full reality of what was happening, she must have had a close relationship with her God to be able to quickly respond, “Be it unto me according to your Word.” When Mary was with her cousin Elizabeth, what emerged from Mary was not anxiety or complaint, but this beautiful prayer recorded in Luke 1:46-55: 

My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. (. . . Read more )

This prayer is very similar to Hannah’s prayer when she is leaving her son, Samuel, in the temple to live. Can you imagine leaving your little boy in the hands of another? To be able to do this, Hannah, too, must have known her God to be One in Whom she could put her full trust when everything around her looked impossible. In her pained situation, Hannah had a living faith. Hear her heart cry in 1 Samuel 2 as she leaves her son:

My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. (. . . Read more )

May Hannah and Mary’s response be ours. May we know our God enough to be able to proclaim Who our God is, what He has done, and what He will do—even in the midst of uncertain times. May He be praised in the midst of it all!

Jesus, the Word that became flesh, longs to come to you and reveal Himself to you. He will show you that He is Holy and Righteous and Faithful. May our soul magnify and rejoice in the God of Christmas, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace: this Jesus that wants to dwell within us. May He be exalted in us. 

A blessed CHRISTmas to you and your precious family from all of us at The Homeschool Minute and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.


P.S. Do you need prayer this season? Email your prayer request to: and our staff would love to pray for you!
Hey Mom,

Two things:

Number One - If you’re still doing school, STOP!!! You need to pack it all away and get to the important business of enjoying your family at Christmas. From a father’s perspective, I like it when we celebrate a child’s birthday as a family. I truly believe God feels the same when we celebrate HIS son’s birth as a family.

I’m afraid that you’ve been duped into thinking that school is what matters during this time of year. It doesn’t. What matters is the HOME part of homeschooling. So here are my last minute helps for enjoying the few days before Christmas and the days leading up to the new year.

- Close the books no matter where you are in your “schedule.”
- Refuse to look at your lesson plan for 2018.
- Do something unexpected with your kids today—watch a Christmas movie in the middle of the day, go out for lunch…at that special pretzel place you like, pick up pizzas for lunch, go phone caroling (call your parents, a shut in, or anyone who might like it), take the kids Christmas shopping for their dad, have a wrapping or baking party.
- Slow down and serve finger foods for dinner in the glow of the Christmas tree.
- Read a Christmas story out loud (we have some original MP3s you can download and listen to right now).
- Serve up some sparkling grape juice and Christmas tree-shaped ice cream.
- Savor these wonderful days and let things slide. It’s ok if you can’t get it all done, but it’s NOT ok if you miss out on these Christmas relationships with your children and husband.

Number two - Still scrambling to find the perfect gift for your husband? If so, then look no further because you can still get the 2018 You ‘da Dad Daily Calendar in time for Christmas IF you order right now . It just might be his favorite gift of the year.

Be real...and have a Merry Christmas!!

Stacy Farrell
The Message of Christmas

There’s a drum you’ll hear me beat with passion and persistence, even as the noise of the world tries to drown it out: 

“We are only here for a twinkling before we’ll stand before Him.”

We are only here for a twinkling before we will stand in the presence of the One Who created us. 

That’s a sobering message, for sure. This side of Heaven, we can’t even know what that really means. 

Sure, we can know the facts about it that God reveals in His Word—but grasping to the level of knowing is . . . well . . . beyond our grasp.

Yet this is the message of Christmas: The One we will go to on that inconceivable day has already come for us.

Emmanuel (God with us)

God has come for us. 

Because of Jesus, the sweet Christmas Babe, that inconceivable day that awaits us can be anticipated with great hope.

Regardless of our failures . . . regardless of our weakness . . . if we embrace the gift of the Christmas Babe—and kneel before Him as our King—our future is bright, indeed.

Beautifully, stunningly bright. 

The prophet Ezekiel caught a glimpse of the sight that awaits us:

“As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.” (Ezekiel 1:28 KJV)

Merry Christmas!


P.S. - We get so caught up in the rush of Christmas activity, it’s easy to lose sight of the miracle of the day. We created a Christmas Freewriting to help you celebrate the birthday of the God whose greatest commands were to love Him and love each other. Get your FREE copy now!
Stacy Farrell is the author of more than ten books on a variety of topics, including, time management, motherhood, manhood, philosophy ( Philosophy Adventure ), and writing. She speaks at homeschool conferences, writes for leading Christian homeschool magazines, and is the founder of Home School Adventure Co. Although she loves to write, speak, and teach, Stacy considers her role as wife to Roger and mother to two precious sons to be her greatest work and privilege. Learn more about her resources at Home School
Raising Real Men   
Our Worst Christmas, to the Glory of God!
That year went down in our memory as “The Worst Christmas Ever” . . . except for the rest of the story. 

It had already been a tough year. We were starting a business and living on a fraction of what Hal used to bring home. Our baby daughter had spent her first several weeks in ICU with a life-threatening heart condition; and while she was home now, she was on powerful (and dangerous) meds 24/7. 

And then Hal was diagnosed with cancer. It was Hodgkin’s lymphoma and had already spread—“stage 4,” the doctor said and about a 50-50 chance this would be his last Christmas with us. Family who came for their usual Christmas visits were quietly staging “Last picture with Daddy” photos. It was grim. 

And to make it even worse . . . three kids had their tonsils out the same week. And on the one, single, last chance that Melanie had to buy something for Christmas presents . . . one of them had a hemorrhage and had to be rushed back to the hospital.
Worst. Ever.

And then the e-mail came. A local family (and then their homeschool group), through a strange chain of events, offered to buy presents for the kids—all eight of them. Get this! They didn’t even know Hal had cancer. The Lord had just laid it on their hearts to help us without even knowing! The day before Christmas, the unfamiliar cars showed up, and the drivers unloaded bag after bag after bag of wrapped presents into our living room. Suddenly, the bare space under the tree was full—to the middle of the room.

And the next day, as we unwrapped the gifts, we asked the children, “Who’s that one from?” and they said again and again, “The tag says, ‘From Jesus’!”  

Several months later, Hal’s pathologist told us, “No evidence of active lymphoma.” And two years later, Katie’s cardiologist told us, “She’s perfectly fine now. You can stop the meds.” 

But that Christmas, with the future still very unknown to us, God showed us His love through the thoughtfulness and generosity of strangers who pointed all the credit back to His greatest gift, His own Son. It was as if He was saying, “Dear ones, I know. I’ll take care of it.”

Friends, you may be struggling. You may have illness, debts, uncertainty, and pain in your Christmas. But remember this—God knows your struggle, Jesus has felt your pain, and all things are working together in God’s ultimate plan—for your good, if you have heard His call and trust Him in truth (Romans 8:28). Remember the One who endured human life and death in order to give you eternal life—a life with Him and far apart from all the struggle and grief we will one day leave behind— remember Him, cling to Him, and rejoice in His birthday this year!

It's not too late to order a great audiobook for your holiday trip – check out the downloadable versions on our website . And for the special someone in your life, a marriage retreat that’s really a couple’s getaway you’ll treasure – Click here to find out more about Come Away Weekend! 
Merry Christmas to You All! 

In Christ,
Hal and Melanie
Tracy Klicka
Home School Foundation,
Never Lose the Wonder

The words “Christmas Eve” conjure up a hundred memories for me. As a child, sneaking downstairs late at night on Christmas Eve hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa was one of my first memories. Sitting on a pew in my grandmother’s church, with flickering candlelight all around, listening to unfamiliar carols but loving the calming words and beautiful music is another one.

It wasn’t until I was nearly in high school that I came to both understand and love the true meaning of Christmas—God sent His Son . . . what a gift! He came for me . . . what hope! In Him I found new life . . . what love! Every Christmas Eve after that I sang Christmas carols with thankful tears in my eyes, and celebrated with a bursting heart the joy that Jesus gives in the season marking Emmanuel’s first coming to us.

Eleven Christmas Eves later, I held my firstborn child in my arms. What I didn’t know in mothering skills, I made up for in enthusiasm. How I wanted her to hear of the greatest love she would ever know, as I sang the child’s Christmas carol “Once in David’s Royal City.” How I dreamed about planning for and sharing the joy of Christmas with her and every child God might give us in the future!

One of my favorite Christmas Eve memories was when our firstborn was barely two years old. In keeping the true spirit of Christmas, I had placed the creche on a coffee table next to our Christmas tree in the living room. Perhaps unlike most people who display the nativity scene, though, the stable held only a cow, a shepherd and some sheep. There were no Magi, and there was no Joseph, Mary, or baby Jesus. 

After explaining on Christmas Eve to Bethany that Jesus hadn’t been born yet, but that we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Messiah who would be born the next morning, my husband Chris and I couldn’t really tell what she understood of our explanation. Before retiring to bed, I placed Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus in the stable, whispering, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”

That Christmas morning, the sun had broken through winter clouds, shedding its light on the manger scene, much like the star of Bethlehem illuminated the stable 2,000 Christmas Eves ago. As we descended the stairs that morning, we wondered what our two-year-old had grasped in her young, toddler mind of our explanation the previous night. Then we watched in amazement, as Bethany, upon entering the living room, rushed over to the stable, and discovering Baby Jesus there, picked Him up and kissed Him. As I felt the tears start to flow, I thanked God that even the tender heart of this tiny child could comprehend the gift of His Son.

Last week, the Pew Research Center released a study which revealed that while nine out of ten Americans celebrate Christmas in some fashion, only 55% celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. It causes me to wonder if commercialism and our national preoccupation with the cultural aspects of Christmas—gift giving, entertainment, holiday parties—have stifled the significance of that one night which forever changed the history of the world.

Even if we do celebrate the arrival of our Messiah at Christmas, keeping the stillness and quiet of that first Christmas Eve in our hearts requires us to slow down our pace, turn off the technology, and purposefully plan for moments of worship.

How? By anticipating His coming in your Christmas celebrations—use an Advent calendar for daily readings, sing Christmas carols together as a family, read the story of His birth and other books that celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. 

I will never forget seeing little Bethany run and kiss baby Jesus that Christmas morning almost thirty years ago; may I never lose that same wonder and joy of receiving the gift of His Son. A very blessed and Merry Christmas to you all!  

-Tracy Klicka,  Home School Foundation

Tracy Klicka , the widow of former HSLDA attorney Christopher Klicka, is a homeschooling mom of seven, now adult children. As a seasoned homeschooler and gifted writer and speaker for over 20 years, Tracy has addressed thousands of parents at homeschooling conventions and women’s events, has contributed to  Christianity Today , regularly writes for national homeschool publications, and has contributed to her late husband’s books on homeschooling. She currently serves as Director of Development for the  Home School Foundation , the charitable arm of HSLDA, which helps families homeschooling through hard times. She also blogs at  and for HSLDA’s  Everyday Homeschooling   blog column.

She can be reached at .
Merry Christmas from
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It’s more than a story . . . more than a manger scene. It’s the Story of all stories, and it’s a story where we can find ourselves. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the unparalleled majesty and beauty, the overwhelming questions and fears, and the holy absurdity that were all part of the first Christmas—the Savior of the world born to a virgin from the smallest of towns, arriving in an animal shelter, and choosing to do it all because He loves us.

I first watched the Christmas Experience from   City on a Hill   last December, and I have been anxiously looking forward to watching it again ever since. This six-part devotional video series is a beautiful retelling of the Christmas story that weaves a cinema-quality reenactment of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth with devotional thoughts from Kyle Idleman. He brings fresh perspective, inspiration, and even a little humor to the most wonderful story of all time. Journey with Mary as she tries to explain to her family and to her beloved Joseph the events that have taken place. Imagine Joseph’s fears as he realizes he has been chosen to be the earthly father of the Son of God. Meet the shepherds. Get to know the ordinary people with whom God shared the best news of all time. Marvel as you witness person after completely ordinary person come face to face with the astonishing truth that God Himself had chosen to become Immanuel—God with us.

If you haven’t yet witnessed the Christmas Experience from  City on a Hill , I’d like to invite you to check it out on their website or watch it with your family as one of the streaming videos in the  Christmas Corner   on

If you haven’t yet joined , come give us a try. You can try the entire site for 30 days for $5. If you or someone you know would be interested in teaching or writing for us, let us know. You can email me at . We look forward to serving you and your family! 

in the latest issue of
The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine.
Contest Corner  
For the month of December

This amazing set includes four Lamplighter books!

This was our first time reading a book from Lamplighter and I have to say we are both very pleased. I love books and I have rooms filled with them. But, these are not just books; they are like little treasures preserved in time for all to enjoy. Not only are Lamplighter books visually stunning, but they are edited within a Biblical framework to ensure that every single story not only lines up with the character of God, but also provides key scriptures to seal these traits in your heart.

The Golden Thread , written by Norman Macleod, is a story written in 1861. I love the font, the style and the art peppered throughout the book. The story is set deep in a dark dangerous forest where a King rules over his Kingdom. The King prepares his son, Prince Phillip for the most difficult test of his life. At first my son, Kaden, was reading this book on his own, but it was so exciting he didn't want me to miss out on all the adventure. The story is filled with so much detail it is easy to slip away into the story with Prince Phillip. ( Read the rest of the review. )

The original tale of the king’s gardener, James, and his 15-year-old daughter Mary, was published in German in 1823 by Christoph von Schmid. The Basket of Flowers has been translated into English and has now been rewritten by Mark Hamby. Recommended for ages 9-14, The Basket of Flowers was ideal for my 12-year-old. Lamplighter Publishing now offers this 234-page hardcover collector’s format for $20. 

Mary loses her mother at a young age and has been brought up by her father James. James is a wise and godly man who has taught Mary much about her Creator and King and what He requires of her, using flowers from his work as a gardener as an example often. Mary befriends Countess Amelia, who then gifts Mary with her clothing as she outgrows them. Juliette, lady’s maid to Amelia, becomes jealous and accuses Mary of stealing a ring from Amelia’s mother. Mary is taken to prison, beaten, and accused falsely. The story chronicles Mary’s struggles as she chooses to do right things in spite of her trials. ( Read the rest of the review. )

Are you looking for a fun way to teach your child the character traits of honesty, perseverance, and industriousness? Do your children love reading or being read to? Basil; Or, Honesty and Industry by Charlotte O’Brien is a great book from Lamplighters Publishing that would help your child learn these traits while enjoying a great story!

This book, like the other books from Lamplighters Publishing, is a reproduction of the original that was written around 1856. The story itself is written almost exactly as it would have been in the 1800s, with little alterations. While this may seem hard to read and/or understand at first, by the time you are done with this wonderful book, you will not notice the writing at all!

We follow Basil as he learns about prayer. He is a poor boy with a rough home life. His mother was too busy with the children and had no time for learning about religion. A few kind words given to Basil from Squire Hamilton—"to pray to God to act honestly and industriously in whatever situation”—give Basil just what he needs. These kind words start a journey for Basil that all people should go on. ( Read the rest of the review. )

“There’s two things as always come to the top: one’s merit—t’other’s scum.” That’s the driving wisdom behind Rising to the Top by Mary E. Ropes, part of the Lamplighter Rare Collector Series. Why do the wicked seem to succeed, while bad things happen to good people? The author has faith that, in the end, justice will prevail, and one’s true character will be revealed.

First published in 1887, Rising to the Top tells the story of thirteen-year-old Bob Martin as he tries to build a life for himself after he is left an orphan. He takes a place as a servant in a wealthy home, where he learns that doing what’s right is not always easy, and that the deceitfulness of others can make one’s life difficult. In the end, of course, true character rises to the top, and both Bob’s “merit” and his enemy’s “scum” are revealed and rewarded appropriately. ( Read the rest of the review. )

YOU can WIN all FOUR books for your homeschool! 

TO ENTER : Click on over to our entry page and follow the instructions! Contest ends at midnight, the last day of the month.
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