In another week or so, school will be over for the holidays. But just because we will be on vacation, doesn't mean that there won't be a little bit of learning still going on. In fact, I find vacations to be especially opportune times for reinforcing concepts that my kids are studying during school hours. Here are some of the activities that I consider to be enriching learning experiences even though they are not a part of our official curriculum.

Grammar & Spelling

Already, my children have been writing out their holiday cards. I designed a few cute holiday cards with the words Feliz Navidad and Felices Fiestas across the front, and then helped helped them write out a message on a dry erase board, which they can reference as they carefully write out cards to give to family and a dozen or so of their friends. This activity provides me with the opportunity to teach basic grammar (capitalization, punctuation, paragraphs, indents, etc.), as well as how to address a letter with both a mailing and return address.

Reading

There are SO MANY great holiday-themed books for this time of year. Some of our favorites include "The Polar Express" by Chris Van Allsburg, "Growing Up with Tamales" by Gwendolyn Zepeda, and "The Night of Las Posadas" by Tomie dePaola. These books capture the beauty of the holidays for my kids and inspires their own imaginations, which often leads to the creation of their own winter stories.

And to further motivate my kids, I use a reward system. Earlier this year, we enrolled in Pizza Hut's Book It! reading program. Each month, starting in October, we set a goal as far as how many books to read, or how many minutes each day. If my kids complete the goal, I give them one of the coupons that Pizza Hut sent me that entitles them to one free personal pan pizza. My kids take great pride in their accomplishment and insist on personally handing the cashier their Book It! certificate/coupon.

Math

Baking, baking, and more baking! Learning how to measure is never as much fun as when you actually create something edible and yummy. This year, we’re also working on giving homemade gifts in a jar, which is a fabulous way to make measuring and fractions fun! On our list to make during the next few weeks: peppermint bath salts, gingerbread cookies, blueberry bread, and lemon cake!

Science

A few years ago, we discovered Project Feeder Watch. This international citizen science project is a simple way for people to help scientists monitor the movements and populations of different bird species throughout North America. Participants record and submit their observations of the birds in their area to a single website. These results are then analyzed by scientists. The best part of this project? Anyone can participate! All you need is a bird feeder, birds, and a little bit of time to write down your observations.

We have an observation table set up next to our dining room windows, and it includes binoculars, field guide, pencils and data sheet. Outside our windows we have a single birdseed feeder, plus a few suet feeders. We love identifying the wild birds that come to our feeders everyday, and figuring out what time of day our feeders are at their busiest!

How are you encouraging your children to learn during the holiday break?

Mónica Olivera is the founder and publisher of MommyMaestra.com, a site for Latino families that homeschool, as well as families with children in a traditional school setting who want to take a more active role in their children’s education. She is the 2011 winner of the “Best Latina Education Blogger” award by LATISM (Latinos in Social Media).

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