I feel like I just pulled the last pine needle out of the carpet yesterday, and it’s time to start the holidays all over again! And yet it’s comforting to think of all of the fun family times ahead…the cinnamon cookies, the crackling fireplace, the coconut Egg Nog (stay tuned for the recipe), the carolers, the snowfall (well, I can dream…) and all of the wonderful feelings of the season. Joy to the world! I truly do look forward to doing it all over again, if only the shopping could become a little easier…
Don’t get me wrong. I love shopping. It’s one of my favorite past-times and I freely admit shopping when happy, sad, anxious, bored, and most any time at all. But – don’t you agree that shopping has become harder and harder? Finding that perfect gift is like mining for diamonds…seldom do you find it, but you can die trying.
Although “gift cards” are all the rage, for a variety of reasons, I do not like giving them as gifts. I’ll do it, but only as a last resort. I much prefer a thoughtful, hand-selected, beautifully wrapped package accompanied by the delight (I hope) of watching the recipient open it up.
Fortunately, homeschooled kids are not all that hard to buy for. In fact, I can honestly say that over the years the children of homeschooled families have been the easiest to please. Birthday parties, classroom prizes, and holiday gifts are a breeze when a child is homeschooled because these children pretty much appreciate everything you give them, not to mention that they see the value in just about anything at all. I recall some years ago watching the kids in a rather large homeschooling group open gifts from a grab bag. Not a single one of them had a negative thing to say…that’s saying a lot for children of all ages. It was a proud moment.
By popular demand (okay, only 3 people, but in the blog world that makes me popular…), I am reprinting my homeschooler holiday wish list from last year. With a few revisions, that is. I hope that you find it as useful as last year’s, and use it as your guide when shopping for your favorite homeschooling families this go-round. Do add any other ideas you have in my COMMENT section. I’ll be sure to add them on to next year’s list. Happy shopping!
[Reprinted from last year, with some additions, too.]
Alright, let’s face it head-on. Like millions of other kids this time of year, your kids are looking forward to the gifts. This is not to say that your holiday traditions, many which focus on the “real” meaning of Christmas and family togetherness, are not valuable and cherished. But, in truth, there is no denying that the part children love most at this time of year is – the gifts. That’s right, I went there.
Having gotten that out of the way, what do your homeschoolers want for Christmas? Not unlike other children their age, their lists probably include cell phones and digital cameras, Transformers and Zhu Zhu pets, boots and clothing, Wii–Points cards, and any number of popular consumer items. But, the similarities end there.
Have you ever thought about what makes homeschoolers different when it comes to gift giving? After all, how many other kids on the block do you predict would be happy receiving the next fascinating book in a series or a beguiling box full of science projects? Off the top of your head, can you even name 2 people who are out shopping for building kits and origami sets right now?
Not knocking popular consumer items, because we all buy and enjoy them. But, after picking up the latest CD or video game, what else can you buy your homeschooler for Christmas? Here are my top picks for homeschooler gift-giving this holiday season:
Memberships and passes of any kind: Think IMAX movie bundles, theme park tickets, museum passes with reciprocal agreements, zoo memberships, and things of this nature. This is really the gift that keeps on giving.
Kits you make yourself: Forget those pricey boxed sets that are so beautifully packaged but actually contain very little inside. Think specifically of the child’s interests and purchase only those truly practical items that are needed for the project or craft you have in mind. Scrap-booking kits, sewing kits, art kits, and wood working kits are a few of the obvious ones. Stretch your imagination just a little bit farther to put together nature and wildlife observation kits, solar powered vehicle kits, Egyptian pyramid building kits, glittery mosaic making kits, fun dough and other kitchen chemistry type kits, and Japanese Anime drawing kits, too.
Games: Games, particularly portable board games (as opposed to anything attached to a TV or computer), can be an important part of any homeschooler’s existence. Because homeschooling families tend to be larger-than-average and often spend more time together, board games are a staple in the homeschooling household and can be a very appropriate gift for kids (and their parents) who become bored with the same old games week after week. Be sure to include thinking and strategy games for homeschooling kids, like chess, Othello, RISK, Mancala and others of this nature. Parent’s Choice award winners are always a good pick. Don’t hesitate to buy games that require more players than you have kids, either. These are the ones you’ll tote in the car for park days and homeschooling meetings so that your child can play with friends.
Physical activities: If you don’t already have these in your garage, consider purchasing new outdoor toys to keep your homeschooler fit and healthy. If a new bicycle is too expensive this year, consider a new skateboard or roller blades. Yard games like badminton, horse shoes, or volley ball can be fun if you have enough players. For smaller families, a Tetherball, soccer goal, or baseball trainer may be more appropriate. Include smaller items like jump ropes, bubble soaps, and those hook-and-loop catcher’s mitts, too, for taking along to the park or playing with friends. Don’t forget safety gear, like helmets and pads, as part of the gift. You can never go wrong with anything involving fitness and play.
Anything that recognizes your child’s special talents: You know your child best. Whether it is composing music on an electronic keyboard or drawing and animating dragons using computer software, make it happen for your homeschooler this year. Is there something you have observed about your child over the past few months? An aptitude for creative writing perhaps? A talent for public speaking maybe? Think of gifts that promote and encourage those skills for the coming year. If a classy set of leather bound journals and expensive writing utensils sounds exactly like the ticket you need for a budding, young writer, spend a little bit extra to recognize and reward this kind of intelligence. On the other hand, if a battery-operated microphone and a full-length mirror might get your child going, consider buying that instead. Your child will thank you for noticing, and you’ll experience the fulfillment of letting them grow into who they need to be.
Something school-like: Though it may surprise you, homeschooled kids sometimes wonder what it might be like to go to school. In particular, things like riding a school bus, carrying a backpack, and having a little plastic case full of school supplies sound like they might just be a lot of fun. If you think your child falls into this category, you might consider a gift of school supplies or some other school-like experience. Tickets to a camp or activity at a local school, zoo, or museum – maybe even one requiring riding a bus, is something to consider. Purchasing a back-to-school kit, including a trendy new backpack and other kinds of items found on a typical public school supply list, could also satisfy this need. Just because you are committed to homeschooling doesn’t mean your child cannot enjoy some of the simple pleasures of a more mainstream lifestyle.
**New** Favorites for this year:
Any CRANIUM game: I have never seen one of these fail. There are new games coming out all the time. Great, great.
Dr. Drew’s Blocks: Yes, even for older kids. These little wooden blocks attract lots of people every time you take them out…so, be sure to purchase the BIG set.
A Day Out: Take the gift child (only) somewhere they have always wanted to go. How often have you had to explain that the cost of going somewhere/doing something was too great for the entire family to afford? A special outing to a concert, a theme park, a workshop,or a sporting event can be even more special when the gift child gets to go with you. Think of spa days, go-kart rides, a train trip, a skiiing lesson, or anything your child has wished for in the past.
100 Classic Books: Great choice for the gamer in your life (see my previous post).
Magazine Subscriptions: I sometimes do not like giving subscriptions because they take too long to arrive. But, if the child is old enough to understand the whole delayed gratification aspect, and even better if you can wrap a copy of the magazine to give along with the subscription, it makes an awesome gift. There are too many great publications to list them all here, but find one of specific interest to the child getting it. I particularly love Boomerang. You can often get great deals on magazines thru fund-raisers, too, helping a cause at the same time.
Lessons: These make great grandparent gifts and combined/group gifts. With horseback riding and cello lesson prices really “up there”, asking several people to contribute toward an 8-week session or a semester’s worth of lessons makes for a very thoughtful and practical gift idea. Consider also classes offered through local ed departments, for fun and enrichment, in an area a child would really enjoy (martial arts? card making? painting? jewelry making? chess?).
Useless Junk: How many times has your child asked for something seen on TV or some useless little toy from the store, but you have refused, deeming the item too junky or worthless? Now would be the time to indulge. Fanciful little things, like those found in dollar stores, pharmacy chains and checkout lines, may not last long but can bring a big smile to the faces of children who have been wishing for these trinkets for a while. They may not last as long as wooden train sets or promote as much creativity as inter-locking blocks, but they can bring about [temporary] happiness as long as they’re still around.
Room decorations: Kids love to personalize spaces and there are some awfully cute wall stickers, coordinated bed sets and fun storage containers on the market now. Teen rooms can be decorated for peanuts using some of those fuzzy folding chairs, brightly-colored coffee tables and lamps, and very cool rugs out there, too. I love the idea of children doing their own mini room “makeovers”! You can provide the supplies and let them run wild. [Tip: funky shower curtains can be used on windows and table tops, too!]
Whatever the gift, rest easy knowing that your child will appreciate the time and effort you put into his or her gifts this year. Children who are the product of homeschooling families come to appreciate the thoughtfulness, practicality and cost of holiday gifts and are sure to enjoy whatever you select with them in mind. Just don’t forget the batteries!