Family Life: Lifelong Learning through Family Traditions

We recently asked Bob Sornson, educator, speaker, and award-winning author about ways families can help their children reach beyond the “noise” and added activities,  and reinforce life-long learning not just academically, but spiritually as well. 

boy with finger turkeySome of the most important learning of the year can occur when the kids are home for the holidays. Family life becomes the center of our kids’ daily activities when they aren’t in school. Don’t let those teaching moments slip away.

Here are three areas of learning that not only are important to our children for the rest of their lives, but are often become family traditions.

From patience and prayer to random acts of kindness and service to others … these are ideas that add value to family life the rest of the year, too.

Building Connections

The family traditions we create around the holidays give children a sense of security and connection.

  • Some families make cookies and decorate the house. Some families share gifts on holiday morning.
  • Others go to church for midnight service; work side-by-side in a homeless shelter; or find a family to support during the holidays.

Whatever your traditions, your children will remember them and value them forever.

Self Esteem & Self Control

Holidays are a great opportunity to help children practice self-regulation, including self-calming, delayed gratification, persistence, and giving attention to the right thing.

Self-regulation skills are often considered one of the best predictors of which kids will become successful adults, so don’t waste any wonderful opportunities for learning.

When it’s hard for your kids to wait to open gifts, remember how important self-calming and delayed gratification are to their future. Daily family life gives us ready-made ready-made opportunities for learning:

  • waiting until prayers are done before eating supper;
  • helping with the dishes before family game night; or
  • finding it hard to fall asleep in the nights leading into big events (trips to the Mall, Grandma’s house, Christmas Eve).

gratitudeHopefully the holidays cause us to give thought to the important things in life, too. Let’s consider helping our children learn the importance of positive thinking by embracing a few simple routines during these days.

  • Each day during these holidays, ask each member of the family to name three things for which she’s grateful.
  • Consider asking older children to spend 15 minutes journaling about their blessings.

Physical and Spiritual Growth

Remember to encourage exercise each day … especially after all those sweets.

  • Exercise gives our brains and bodies a chance to “recenter” and rejuvenate.
  • Daily prayer as a family is special during these days, too.
  • Ask each person to commit some random acts of kindness.

Family traditions leading up to and during the holidays offer wonderful opportunities for learning.

Practices that incorporate expressing gratitude, journaling about our blessings, daily exercise, daily prayer, and random acts of kindness become family traditions that are not just remembered, but become part of our annual celebrations for years to come.

We would love to add to Bob’s list of suggestions. Do you have special ways of incorporating learning into daily family life or holiday preparation?  Be sure to leave a comment.


Bob Sornson, PhD, was a classroom teacher and school administrator for more than 30 years and is the founder of the Early Learning Foundation. He is dedicated to helping schools and parents give every child an opportunity to achieve early learning success. His pre-K to grade 3 Early Learning Success Initiative has demonstrated that we can help many more children become successful learners for life.

Bob is the author of numerous articles, books, and audio recordings. [amazon_link id=”1452225184″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Fanatically Formative, Successful Learning During the Crucial K-3 Years[/amazon_link] (Corwin, 2012); [amazon_link id=”1930429878″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Creating Classrooms Where Teachers Love to Teach[/amazon_link] (Love and Logic Press, 2005); and [amazon_link id=”1933916729″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Juice Box Bully[/amazon_link] (Ferne Press, 2010) are among his best-sellers.

Bob is also the author of the Stand Up/ Speak Up Program which teaches children to make the choices to stand up and speak up for themselves and others.

To contact Bob or learn more about his publications and workshops, please