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'Ask the Learning Advisor '

What to do in the long days of winter vacation     Send a link to a friend

[DEC. 24, 2004]  Q:  I'm dreading winter vacation. Last year, my children spent most of their time in front of the television -- when they weren't fighting with each other. What can I do to make this year different?

A: Maybe Laura Ingalls Wilder's family stayed cheerful through "The Long Winter," but today most families end up pretty much like yours. If you don't want to follow last year's pattern, you'll need to start making some plans.

Save the calendar of events printed in your local newspapers. In most communities, December is filled with activities for the whole family -- and many of them are free. Some of the things your family likes to do in the summer are even more special in the winter. Some zoos, for example, have special winter tours. Try to find a mix of indoor and outdoor activities.

Although winter vacation gives your children a break from school, don't let it be a break from learning too. You are your children's first and best teacher, so take advantage of your time together during the holidays.

Tuesday, Dec. 21, was this year's winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Now the days start to grow longer. For centuries, people have been celebrating the winter solstice. It's the basis of many modern winter holiday traditions.

Here are some activities to help your children learn and strengthen family bonds at the same time:

  • Chart the light of day. Have your children find the times of sunrise and sunset in the newspaper. For one or two weeks, record them on a double bar graph.

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  • Use the national weather map to compare the winter weather and temperatures in states in various parts of the country.

  • Make a winter solstice dictionary. List words like "equator," "hemisphere," "celestial" and "orbit." Have your children put these in alphabetical order, then look up their definitions.

  • Tell solstice stories. Share how your ancestors celebrated yuletide -- winter, religious holidays and New Year's. Research myths and customs connected with the sun and winter.

  • Make art. Have your children draw pictures of their favorite winter things and activities.

And be sure to set aside some time each day for reading. Ask your librarian for suggestions -- but don't forget about "The Long Winter!"

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For more information about helping children learn or to submit your own question to The Learning Advisor, go to http://advisor.parent-institute.com. All questions will receive a prompt answer by e-mail.

Copyright 2004, The Parent Institute.

Life Sentence, No Parole

If we tried to invent the cruelest punishment for dogs, we probably couldn't come up with anything worse than "solitary confinement" on a chain or in a kennel.

Dogs are pack animals who crave the companionship of others.  Scratches behind the ears, games of fetch, or even just walks around the block mean the world to them.  Curling up at your feet while you watch TV is their idea of heaven.

Many dogs left to fend for themselves at the end of a chain fall prey to attacks by other animals or cruel people, and many others are injured or hanged or choke as a result of getting entangled or caught in their tether.

If you have a backyard dog, please, bring him or her inside.  They don't want much--just you.

A public service announcement from Lincoln Daily News and helpinganimals.com

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