Rational Holiday Homeschooling

Tis the season to be…

Doing everything homeschool moms always do plus 17,459 other tasks that the holiday homeschooling season demands. Oh ya, and get it all done without complaining, while covered in flour and bits of wrapping paper, and smiling and oozing warmth and appreciation for mankind.

I can get exhausted just thinking about it. Bah humbug, right?

It would be easy to set the Norman Rockwell stage if the kids were tucked away in school somewhere and Mt. Laundry wasn’t spreading to every corner of the house. Imagine how many perfectly decorated cookies you could wow the family with if lesson plans could write themselves? If Tiny Tim could learn cursive without your help?

But, how insanely boring would that be?

Homeschooling and Overdoing the Holidays

When I yanked my boys from the clutches of public school, one of the first goals was to make our calendar work for us. And taking the entire holiday season off was the plan. They never really did anything during those weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas break anyway, so why should we have to either.

We weren’t staying home and doing lessons. All those holiday concerts, festivals, family parties, traveling exhibits that we never had time for before were on my agenda.

“Oh, look kids, Holiday Music with Ancient Instruments at 11:00 am at the museum downtown!  Let’s add that to the calendar on Tuesday between Christmas Decorating in the 17th Century at 9:00 and Gingerbread Houses for Beginners at noon.”

That year we also entered gingerbread competitions, my middle son starred in a holiday musical that ran for ten shows, we visited all our relatives in the state, saw The Nutcracker ballet, the symphony, and…

…well don’t even get me started on that darn Elf on the Shelf!

Our first year to take the holiday season off wore us out. And visions of math worksheets and novel studies danced in our heads.

Finding Balance in the Bells of Holly

As ‘holiday homeschoolers’ we did not actually take the season off after all. We were running around as nutty as fruitcakes celebrating the fun right out of the season and of homeschooling. A lot of learning happened, and we were jolly enough, but we needed balance.

When your kid cries, “Please. Not another ornament to glitter!?” maybe it’s time to step away from the good intentions and be more intentional about your idea of holiday fun and learning.

This will be our 5th holiday season to take off. But truth is, we still do not really “take time off for the holidays.” We just homeschool differently during this time. Winter homeschooling can be the best part of your year. And with a few years of trial and error on just what that balance is, I have some ideas, pointers, and insights to share.

Rational Ideas for Holiday Homeschooling

  • Plan one holiday field trip a week. Running to the grocery store for eggnog and tree shaped Little Debbie cakes counts as a holiday field trip. It’s holiday homeschooling at its best.
  • There are plenty of holiday arts and crafts that do not involve glitter.
  • Past the age of 9 or 10, many boys are only crafting and decorating because they feel they must, not because they enjoy it.
  • Rolling the windows down and headbanging to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas album counts as caroling.
  • Studying holiday customs from different countries is a lot of fun and filled with learning and new foods to dislike. C.S. Lewis lied. Turkish Delight is disgusting.
  • Do not try to study and carry-out every holiday custom from every country in the world. I highly recommend not recreating the Ecuadorian practice of burning the straw man for the new year.
  • Let everyone help decorate the tree. Does it really matter if all the ornaments are on the same branch? We’re making memories here! And if some get broken that is less to box up and carry back to the attic.
  • If you are fast, you can remove the grocery store bakery packages and place the cookies on a decorative cake pedestal. Put just one in the oven and burn it slightly for smell effect. Toss some flour around the kitchen and smear some across your shirt. Look exhausted.
  • You can continue doing your regular lessons, but if you do the Santa thing at your place, at least go pay him a visit before public schools let out for winter break. His lap is cleanest right when the mall opens.
  • Take your kids to do their own gift shopping. Before you leave have them write a list, then form a budget. In that order. Allow no scratch-offs. This covers math and a lesson in sacrifice and giving. Later when you unwrap your writing pen, magnet, or notepad it will feel like unwrapping a diamond. Explode with appreciation.
  • Read all those wonderful holiday books you have saved over the years. Make the older kids listen too. They are just pretending to be exasperated. Mostly.
  • Take it easy on yourself. If it won’t matter that it didn’t get done when January rolls around, don’t make it a priority during the holidays.
  • Always err on the side of memory making. If they will not remember it, don’t stress yourself making it happen. I’m still trying to forget the taste of roasted chestnuts.

It’s the Holidays, A Time to Give

When people leave the office for holiday vacations it is somewhat easy to set work aside and enjoy the season. As a homeschool mom, it is hard to step away from the many roles to enjoy holiday homeschoolung. Separating school from family, chores, activities, holiday planning, etc. is virtually impossible.

The holiday season adds extra work. Something must give to enjoy it. Don’t let it be your sanity. Stay jolly.

Jennifer Cabrera

About the author

Jennifer Cabrera is the mother of three awesome boys. As a Physician Assistant/MPH, Jennifer unexpectedly fell into homeschooling after butting heads with the public school system and was amazed to discover it was everything she never knew she always wanted to do. Her writing pokes fun of the highs and lows of homeschooling.

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