Christmas is a busy time for families, but home education can’t be put on hold for the whole month of December, tempting as it may be at times. Keep the kids learning and working away at their studies during the holidays, but consider adding some Christmas-themed video fun to the mix.
One way to do that is by watching Christmas movies as a family. You can use these films to enhance your children’s studies in various educational subjects. For instance:
Literature: Perhaps the most famous Christmas story (besides the original) is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, and there are two versions I would recommend here. One is Scrooge, the 1970 musical starring Albert Finney. This one is sometimes overlooked, but it is a grand version, with amazing music and performances, especially by Finney, who played both the older and younger Scrooge.
A second version worth viewing is A Christmas Carol, Disney’s 2009 film starring Jim Carrey. This one is notable for being perhaps the most faithful to Dickens’ original story, and it is interesting that a number of the actors in the cast played several characters (Carrey himself played not only Scrooge but the three ghosts of Christmas as well).
History: For an interesting and imaginative version of the birth of Christ, try The Nativity Story. While a bit overdone in places (some minor and, needless to say, extrabiblical, conflict between Mary and her father over her betrothment to Joseph is out of place), the relationship between Mary and Joseph is well done, and portrays the journey to Bethlehem in a believable and thoughtful way.
Also in the history category, take your family on a trip to Old America—by which I mean America before the cultural revolution of the 60s and 70s—by watching such Christmas classics as It’s A Wonderful Life, Holiday Inn, and White Christmas. While certainly Hollywood-ized, these films provide a glimpse of a different America, one so foreign now that it is hard to believe it wasn’t really all that long ago. It’s important that children not forget Old America, that they appreciate its finer points, and Christmas is an excellent time to help them remember.
Worldview: To engage your kids in thinking about the meaning of Christmas, the importance of the holiday, and its relation to the world, try Saving Christmas, with Kirk Cameron. An unusual film, but fun and instructive, this movie will likely surprise you with it’s rather contrarian perspective. To take just one example, while many Christmas stories (think A Charlie Brown Christmas or How the Grinch Stole Christmas) take a dim view of “materialism” at Christmastime, Saving Christmas actually celebrates it.
Tips and Suggestions: Don’t stop with just watching movies, however. Here are a few tips for maximizing the learning element of family Christmas movie time:
Movie Reviews: Kids love talking about their favorite movies. Why not channel that into a productive use of time developing writing skills?
Q&A and Discussion Time: Write out a list of discussion questions either beforehand or while watching a movie. Include some questions that test your kids’ memory and observational skills, and some that help them probe the themes and ideas of the movie.
Stage a Scene: Have the kids select a favorite scene from a favorite Christmas movie. Let everyone play a character, gather some costumes and props, write out the scene as a script, and then perform the scene together. If you’ve video-savvy, you can even film your scene, reproducing some of the shots and camera angles as closely as possible.
Watch and Read: If the film in question is based on a book, try reading the story as well as watching it. A Christmas Carol is a fairly short book, perfect for reading at night during December. And of course, no Christmas is complete without a reading of the original Christmas story from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
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