• Holiday Spotlight: Cuban Christmas Traditions

    by Ana Cooper

    A nativity set belonging to the blog author.

    While winter holidays are cozy, chilly, relaxing times for many, Christmas traditions with Cubans is anything but a silent night. Many families will go out of town to their home countries to visit family or have the whole family come to see them. Here are some traditions we celebrate in my Cuban family in South Florida.

    Clean, Clean, and Clean Again

    You would think that Cuban moms and abuelas think we live in filth. If it is your turn to host this year, beware of the cleaning duties. You will have to clean things you have never thought of cleaning all throughout December. You may have to clean it twice. Bathroom essentials such as toothbrushes and topical medicines are not allowed to be seen. It must be good enough for the Three Kings and Santa. Otherwise, they won’t bring gifts.

    Navigating Nativity Scenes

    Most Hispanics identify as Christian. Cubans are predominantly Catholic, and we love our nativity sets. The bigger the better. Every year my parents must decide what room to flip around to accommodate the whole nativity scene, shepherds and all. There also might be a Baby Jesus in a manger somewhere special in the house. It is usually covered during Advent, the liturgical season before Christmas, to show that Christ has not come yet. In my house, my mom bought a bunch of straw from a craft store and had us put it in the manger whenever we did a good deed.

    Chaotic Calendars

    As multiple Christmas celebrations fill up the calendar, sometimes it feels more like Hanukah. With all the extended family that Cubans have, it is literally a fire hazard to put everyone together. You must separate everyone into their different subsets. Each of the four grandparents may have a party for that side of the family. And if you want to see any friends during the Christmas season, plan way ahead because the calendar fills up quickly. Oh, and don’t forget about St. Nicholas Day or Three Kings Day!

    Time for Cake 

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  • Haven’t We All Been Home-Schooled?

    by Ana Cooper

    Two girls sit on a front porch bench holding first day of school signs. The front girl holds a Kindergarten sign and the older girl holds a Freshman sign. There is a tall stack of books between them.

    Before starting college, I was homeschooled my whole life. I sometimes feel homeschooled students face unfair stereotypes. However, that seemed to change during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since almost every student and teacher in the world had to shift to remote learning, they got a taste of being “homeschooled”. Even then, some still have misconceptions concerning homeschoolers and homeschooling itself, so I’d like to share my experience.

    Homeschool is Not a Solitary Learning Experience

    On the contrary, homeschoolers get to spend more time with friends that they choose while doing recreational activities. Many local homeschooling communities provide field trips to museums, parks, historical sites, have yearbook committees, various clubs, and hold dances. Homeschoolers are very social and involved in their communities. Because homeschoolers are not age segregated, they often deal with multiple ages and personalities and have great interpersonal skills.

    Many Influential Figures Were Homeschooled

    Did you know that many of the U.S. Presidents and founding fathers were homeschooled? They have contributed extensively to society and put together the greatest country in the world. Thomas Edison’s mother homeschooled him because his schoolteacher said that Thomas was “addled”. Check out this list of other famous authors and scientists who were homeschooled: C.S. Lewis, Winston Churchill, J. R. R. Tolkien, the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, Susan B. Anthony, G. W. Carver, Booker T. Washington, Mark Twain, and Louisa May Alcott.

    Independent Learning is Embraced

    Homeschoolers are trained to be independent and active learners from an early age. Because they have to work independently, they develop the good study habits which carry them through college and beyond. In general, college freshmen can struggle with time management during their first semester, but many homeschoolers tend to have an easier transition because of their established habits. Many colleges these days seek homeschooled students because they know they can be successful. These same skills and qualities of active learners are carried into the workforce as well.

    Did I ‘Miss Out’ on a Traditional High School Experience?

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