The holidays are swiftly approaching, and though there is much cause for excitement and celebration around this time of year, juggling all the holiday things and homeschooling can be a bit much. Let us take a bit of planning off your plate with this free homeschool unit study including the history of the holidays, books to read, some fun activities, snacks, videos, and printables. This unit study can be adapted and used for all elementary grades, PreK-5th.
Scroll to the bottom to download your free Holidays Homeschool Unit Study Workbook for grades PreK-5 featuring: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas.
Thanksgiving Homeschool Unit Study
Books to Read:
- Just a Special Thanksgiving by Mercer Mayer
- I am Thankful by Sheri Wall
- The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks by Jan and Mike Berenstain
- Thanksgiving in the Woods by Phyllis Alsdurf
- The Story of the Pilgrims by Katharine Ross
- Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten
- If You Were a Kid on the Mayflower by John Son
- Junie B. Jones #28: Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and Other Thankful Stuff) by Barbara Park
- Thanksgiving on Thursday (Magic Tree House #27) by Mary Pope Osborne
Thanksgiving Fun Facts:
- The first Thanksgiving took place in the autumn of 1621, and the celebration lasted over 3 days. The attendees were the Pilgrims who remained from the Mayflower voyage and the Wampanoag Natives who lived in what is now known as Massachusetts.
- The Puritans (Pilgrims) did not wear black clothes and buckled hats and shoes. In fact, buckles weren’t fashionable until much later! Their typical style was happy, brightly colored clothes.
- The first Thanksgiving feast would not have included turkey. They likely had duck, geese, or swan for the bird dish, plenty of deer meat, and seafood.
- The oldest float in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is the Snoopy float. It has been in use since 1968!
- The average number of calories consumed by a person on Thanksgiving Day is 4,500!
- Play Pin the Feather on the Turkey: Cut a turkey out of cardboard and let your kids help decorate it with paints, markers, or crayons. Make some construction paper or cardstock feathers and have your children take turns wearing a blindfold to attach the feathers.
- Have a Backyard Pumpkin Chuck: Wrap rolls of toilet paper in orange fabric (or tissue paper) to look like pumpkins. Set up 2 baskets in your yard at an appropriate distance apart (depending on your children’s ages). Have them stand next to one basket and try to chuck the pumpkin into the other basket. The one who gets the most in the basket wins!
- Make a Thankful Garland: This can be done a few different ways and makes not only a fun activity but a lovely decoration as well. It’s as simple as choosing your garland and writing on it things for which you are thankful. The garland can be leaves, pumpkins, acorns, turkeys, etc. You can either find a template or draw them onto construction paper or cardstock, cut them out, and cultivate an attitude of gratitude!
- Harvest Caramel Corn: For this fun fall treat, you need 10 cups of popped popcorn with the unpopped kernels removed. Salt the popcorn liberally. (You want the salty to complement the sweet!) Melt a cup of butter in a saucepan and add a cup of brown sugar. Stir to mix well, bring to a boil, and let boil for 4 minutes without stirring. Add 2 tsp of vanilla and stir while boiling for one more minute. Remove from heat, add 1/2 tsp of baking soda, and stir. Pour a third of the caramel mixture over the popcorn and fold in. Continue adding a third at a time until all the caramel is coating the popcorn well. Pour the popcorn out onto a cookie sheet covered with foil or parchment paper. Once cooled, mix in your harvest candy – use brown, red, yellow, and orange M&Ms (milk chocolate, pretzel, peanut, peanut butter…whatever you like!) and Rolos! Enjoy!
- Turkey Pizza: Your kids are sure to love having a turkey pizza for lunch! Spread your sauce on the crust, sprinkle with cheese, add pepperoni in rows for the turkey’s feathers, black olives for the eyes, and a small cheese triangle for the beak. So fun!
- Fruit Cornucopias: To make the cornucopia shape, dip the ends of a waffle cone in water for a few seconds, then microwave them for about 20 seconds to make them soft and pliable. Curl the ends up and let them dry and harden again. Melt some white chocolate and dip the open end of the cone and sprinkle with orange sprinkles for an extra festive presentation. Once the chocolate has hardened, fill the cone with colorful fruits – mango, kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, canteloupe, grapes, clementines…the more colorful, the better!
Thanksgiving Learning Videos:
Hanukkah Homeschool Unit Study
Books to Read:
- Hanukkah Bear by Eric A. Kimmel
- The Story of Hanukkah by David A. Adler
- Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale by Gloria Koster
- Chanukah Lights Everywhere by Michael J. Rosen
- The Eight Knights of Hanukkah by Leslie Kimmelman
- Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Hanukkah: With Light, Latkes, and Dreidels by Deborah Heiligman
- Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights (Big Golden Book) by Bonnie Bader
- The Golden Dreidel by Ellen Kushner
Hanukkah Unit Study Fun Facts:
- The word “Hanukkah” is a Hebrew word that means “dedication” and can be spelled several different ways.
- Also called the Festival of Lights, the story goes that as the Jews were restoring the Temple Judah the Maccabee reclaimed in Jerusalem, they found there was only enough oil to light the lamp for one night. Miraculously, however, the lamp burned for 8 nights until they were able to get more oil. This is why Hanukkah is an eight-night celebration.
- The menorah, or lamp/candelabrum, that is traditionally used has 9 branches. One branch is lit each night, usually by the light in the middle called the shamash, or “helper” candle.
- To commemorate the use of the oil, many fried foods are eaten during Hanukkah. Some of the more popular options are latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts).
- Approximately 17.5 million donuts are eaten in Israel during Hanukkah.
- Clothespin Menorah: Have your children paint 9 clothespins using a mixture of colors. Leave the pins until they are completely dry. Cut out 9 flames from gold foil. Line up the clothespins and hot glue a gold flame to the top of each pin. Using sparkly blue paper (found at Joann’s or Michaels) or just solid blue paper if you choose, fold a sheet in half to make the Menorah stand. Add a small piece of folded blue paper in the middle for the shamash and hot glue it in place. Finally, add the candles when it’s time. Your younger ones can safely “light” their own menorah each night!
- Hanukkah Art with Pointillism: If you’re unfamiliar with Pointillism, it is creating art from dots. Read more about it here. An easy way to create Pointillism art is by using Q-Tips. Get your kids together for an art lesson and paint a Hanukkah picture with dots. You can paint a menorah, Star of David, dreidel, or whatever you choose.
- Make a Menorah Snack: Start by slicing a banana into 9 slices with one being larger. Arrange the slices on a plate with the taller slice in the middle. Take 9 pretzel sticks and dip one end in peanut butter (or cream cheese). Stick the dry end in the banana slices. “Light” the candle by adding a chocolate chip to the peanut butter/cream cheese “glue.”
- Marshmallow Dreidels: Add white icing to jumbo marshmallows and roll in blue sprinkles. Add a pretzel stick to one end for the handle. Once you spread more white icing on the other end, add a Hershey’s Kiss for the top.
- Eight Night Cookies: Using sugar cookie dough and number cookie cutters, cut out cookies for numbers 1-8 and a few extra in the shape of the Star of David. Once baked and cooled, decorate with white and blue icing, and enjoy one each night of Hanukkah!
Hanukkah Learning Videos:
Kwanzaa Homeschool Unit Study
Books to Read:
- My Family Celebrates Kwanzaa by Lisa Bullard
- My First Kwanzaa by Britney House
- Together for Kwanzaa by Juwanda G. Ford
- Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington
- Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Kwanzaa by Carolyn Otto
- Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis
- The Story of Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington
- Soulful Holidays by Ciara Hill
Kwanzaa Fun Facts:
- Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held from December 26 to January 1 to honor African culture and heritage. The first Kwanzaa was held in 1966.
- The name Kwanzaa comes from a Swahili phrase that means “first fruits of the harvest.”
- Kwanzaa uses a kinara, a candle holder with 7 candles – one black, 3 red, and 3 green. One candle is lit each night to represent one of the 7 principles of Kwanzaa known as Nguzo Saba:
- Umoja (Unity)
- Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
- Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
- Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
- Nia (Purpose)
- Kuumba (Creativity)
- Imani (Faith)
- During Kwanzaa, people are greeted with “Habari Gani?” which is Swahili for “What’s the news?”
- Dr. Maulana Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, stated that it is not a religious holiday, but a cultural one.
Kwanzaa Unit Study Activities:
- Make an African Statue: Using a toilet paper roll, paint, scissors, and clay or playdoh, your child can make their own statue. Paint the tp rolls brown and once dry, cut in small holes for the eyes and cut the front on the top and bottom of the edges to look like an oval. Use white paint to decorate the face. Make the nose and mouth from brown clay or playdoh.
- Make African Drums: Make these fun drums with styrofoam cups, black markers, shoe polish, glue, and masking tape. Glue two styrofoam cups together bottom to bottom and let them dry. Tear off pieces of masking tape and place them over both ends of the cups, covering them completely. Continue adding the tape on the sides until the entire outside is covered. Brush the outside with shoe polish and wipe it off with rags. Use markers to decorate the drums around the top, middle, and bottom with geometric shapes or other designs.
- Kwanzaa Kinara Toast: After making toast, spread a thin layer of a nut butter of your choice, then lay 7 pretzel sticks on the toast in a row. Add a red M&M to the top of the 3 sticks on the left, a green M&M to the top of the 3 on the right, and a chocolate chip on the top of the middle pretzel stick. You’ve just made your own kinara snack!
- Kwanzaa Friendship Fruit Salad: As Kwanzaa means “first fruits of the harvest,” let your kids cut and mix up a bowl of different fruits to share with a friend or neighbor.
- Kwanzaa Cookies: Traditional Kwanzaa colors are red, green, black, and yellow. Make some sugar cookies with your children and let them cool. Add icing in Kwanzaa colors to individual bags. Snip the tip of the bag so your kids can decorate the cookies with the different Kwanzaa colors.
Kwanzaa Learning Videos:
Christmas Homeschool Unit Study
Books to Read:
- Green is for Christmas by Drew Daywalt
- Dasher: How a Brave Little Doe Changed Christmas Forever by Matt Tavares
- The Christmas Owl: Based on the True Story of a Little Owl Named Rockefeller by Gideon Sterer and Ellen Kalish
- The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
- Weird But True Christmas: 300 Festive Facts to Light Up the Holidays by National Geographic Kids
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
- A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig
- All about Christmas: Over 100 Amazing Facts behind the Christmas Story by Alison Mitchell
- Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver: The History and Legends of the Real Santa Claus by Ned Bustard
- The Advent Storybook: 25 Bible Stories Showing Why Jesus Came by Laura Richie
Christmas Unit Study Fun Facts:
- Though Christmas is a widely-recognized holiday by religious and non-religious people alike, it began as a celebration in recognition of the birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the Son of God. While celebrated on December 25, it is generally accepted that He was not born on that date.
- Christmas trees originated in 16th-century Germany, though they did not become widely popular until 1846. It was then that the beloved British Queen Victoria, her loving German husband, Prince Albert, and their children were pictured in a London paper standing around their Christmas tree. Because they were so well-loved, everything they did instantly became fashionable and the practice of decorating Christmas trees took off. Thanks, Prince Albert!
- The first state in the US to declare Christmas a legal holiday was Alabama in 1836. The last state to declare it a holiday was Oklahoma in 1907.
- The largest Christmas present ever given was a gift from France to the United States in 1886. It was the Statue of Liberty!
- While most places around the world put out stockings to be filled on Christmas by Santa, those in the Netherlands get their shoes filled instead.
Christmas Unit Study Activities:
- Decorate a Giant Gingerbread Man: Have your child lie down on brown butcher paper and draw their outline. Using whatever craft products you have or want them to use (markers, paints, ribbons, stickers, plastic jewels, etc.), have them decorate their life-size gingerbread man. If you prefer, this can be done on a smaller scale by using and cutting out a Gingerbread Man template.
- Have a Reindeer Race: This fun STEM activity is a great way to sneak in some Physics, and your kids will want to play again and again! To begin, set up your racetrack. Tie one end of a string (one for each track) to a chair, thread a straw onto the other end of the string, and then tie the string to another chair. Because these reindeer will move quite fast, make your string as long as is possible for your space (10-15 feet if possible). Now, it’s time to make your reindeer. Blow up a small white balloon and clamp it off. Decorate him with googly eyes, brown paper antlers, and a craft pom pom nose. Once your reindeer is complete, tape the top of the reindeer to the straw. When both reindeer are ready, remove the clamp while keeping the end pinched, let them go at the same time, and watch them fly!
- Grow the Grinch’s Heart: Another fun activity is this Christmas-themed science experiment. Draw a red heart with a Sharpie on a deflated green balloon representing the Grinch’s small heart. Add some vinegar to the bottom of an empty water bottle. Attach the balloon opening to a funnel, add 2-3 spoonfuls of baking soda to the funnel, and shake it a bit to get all the baking soda into the balloon. Remove the funnel and carefully attach the balloon to the water bottle without letting the baking soda fall into the bottle. Lift up the balloon, let the baking soda drop, and watch the Grinch’s heart grow 3 sizes!
- Reindeer Food: This Christmas variation of Puppy Chow (also called Muddy Buddies) is sure to delight your children. It makes a great snack, party food, or gift! Simply combine 5 cups of Chex cereal and 1 1/2 cups of broken pretzel pieces in a bowl. Melt 1 1/2 cups of peanut butter and 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips together in the microwave or stovetop. Pour the melted peanut butter chocolate mixture over the cereal and pretzel mixture and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes or until it just starts to set. Place 1/2 cup powdered sugar in the bottom of another bowl, then add half of the chilled mixture, another 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, and the rest of the cereal/pretzels. Gently stir until the sugar is mixed and coating the pieces, then return to the fridge for 30-60 minutes until set. Once set, add more powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time until everything is very coated. Once satisfied with the sugar coating, add 1 1/2 cups of red and green M&Ms and 1 cup of mini peanut butter cups. Stir, add to a serving bowl, and enjoy!
- Reindeer Snacks: For a healthier option, this holiday take of Ants on a Log is a fun way to get your kids to eat a veggie during this season of sugar. Fill celery sticks with peanut or other nut butter, break mini pretzels and arrange them at the top to look like antlers. Add candy eyes and a brown (or red for Rudolph!) M&M nose.
- Grinch Kebobs: Another healthy snack is this simple fruit kebob! Stack on a skewer a green grape, banana slice, strawberry, and mini marshmallow for a quick, fun snack that looks like the Grinch in his Santa hat!
Christmas Learning Videos: