The holidays, as joyful as they can be, are also sometimes hectic with a plethora of activities, making homeschooling moms already stretched for time feeling a little less than jolly. When my kids were younger, I fully embraced the homeschooler’s mantra of “you can create your own schedule” and declared Thanksgiving through Jan 1st (…or maybe even 7th or 8th) an official break, with visions of putting the books away and spending our days sipping hot chocolate, fully refreshed for continued learning in the New Year.
It sounded great in theory, but I discovered it didn’t quite have the benefits I anticipated. While a little break is always welcome, too long of a break and a lack of structure made getting started up again in the New Year a bit difficult. By the time January rolled around, we were completely off track. It is amazing what a few weeks off schedule can do. And as my children got older and were in a variety of activities and classes outside of the home, we found it just wasn’t possible to put everything on hold.
Over the years, I learned a better balance for homeschooling during the holidays that still gave us time to enjoy the season without losing momentum.
Here are five tips to help you get through the holidays:
Stick to the Basics
Slow down the schedule, but be sure to continue with the basics and have a routine. Having your students cover the three Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic) at the beginning of the day keeps them from losing progress but still leaves plenty of time during the day to do special activities in the afternoon. By sticking to a basic routine, it will be much easier to get back on track when the new semester starts.
A friend of mine had a fabulous holiday tradition that I stole for my own family. Rather than a traditional advent calendar with a daily trinket or candy, do a daily advent activity. Activities don’t need to be elaborate and could be as simple as building a snowman, baking cookies, or having a playdate. It is the daily anticipation and surprise that makes the activity special.
Knowing there was something special in store for the afternoon sure made the few lessons in the morning go quickly with minimal complaints.
Even if you feel you’d really like to step away from your regular curriculum, it doesn’t mean you have to walk away from structured learning.
Unit studies were very popular when I first started homeschooling. Though I don’t hear as much chatter about them anymore, they are a wonderful way to learn across all subjects while studying one particular topic. There are many Christmas and holiday themed unit studies available for purchase or free. Below are a few free guides I found.
If unit studies aren’t your thing, look for holiday themes for a particular subject.
Learning Through Activities
There are plenty of holiday activities where learning can be easily incorporated.
- When baking, have your child take a lead role and check the ingredient list, plan out the needed time, read the recipe aloud, and calculate measurements. I bet you can work in a little kitchen science in as well.
- Building gingerbread houses requires planning and problem solving to avoid a collapsed house.
- When planning and shopping for presents, have your student write a list (handwriting) and figure out how much they have to spend (finance), and compare prices (math).
- Plenty of life skills are learned while helping prepare for holiday guests and hosted activities.
The holidays are also a great time to make some special educational trips, like going to the aquarium or museum. This allows you to get out of the house and away from the holiday hustle and bustle while the kids can burn off a bit of energy while learning.
Catch Up and Then Reset
One thing that always added stress to our school year was the feeling of being behind. We would always start out strong, but by the time December hit there were subjects where I felt we just weren’t where we should be. With the holidays, it was easy to want to just stop entirely and get a “fresh start” in January. Unfortunately, all those feelings over being overwhelmed would come flooding back in January and be hanging over my students’ heads for the remainder of the year.
With many regular and extracurricular activities on pause for the holidays, it is a great time to really focus on a struggling area and get caught up. While the thought of “working through” a break is probably not very appealing to your student, a reduced schedule in other areas will allow them to make a lot of headway by focusing on one area, even with minimal daily work. This can be a real encouragement to your student (and to you) and change a dreaded subject to one that is enjoyed, or at least less dreaded!
While keeping to a basic routine and schedule will be beneficial, don’t stress if things don’t always go as planned and be flexible for the unexpected. Take the opportunity when presented to spend time with friends and family and enjoy each other’s company. Enjoy family traditions and create new ones along the way. It is important to not let the season derail your homeschooling entirely, but do take the opportunity to focus on the special things that happen only this time of the year.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!