How not to stress out...

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As I contemplated what I would write for today's blog, I decided that being the beginning of November it would be a great time for introducing the subject of "Christmas School." I couldn't believe it when I read Judy's post, Holiday School. At first I thought I would have to come up with something else, but after reading her wonderful ideas I realized that my ideas   compliment Judy's and between the two posts maybe we can help you alleviate some Christmas and holiday stress.

To let you know where I am coming from, I started homeschooling my 7th grade son at Thanksgiving after pulling him out of an unsafe public middle school. With a toddler and preschooler at home, and two other boys in the local elementary school, homeschooling seemed almost overwhelming.

And then came Christmas.

I was overwhelmed and I will admit it now...a bit cranky. Between schooling, cleaning, church activities, baking, cards, presents...well you know what I mean. It was too much!

At any rate, the next year I got smart and planned for Christmas by making the necessary preparations part of school: not in addition to school.

Our Christmas school worked this way: we did no formal school for the two weeks before our Christmas break [for late middle/high school kids I did have them keep up with their math]. I had the kids help with cleaning, baking and addressing the Christmas cards. I had them help with wrapping presents, delivering goodies to neighbors and everything else there was to do. It was part of the school day.

For years our children each did some sort of art work or wrote a poem and then I put it all together, got it printed and sent it out as our Christmas card. During Christmas School they did the creative part and then they helped fold, stuff and put labels on the envelopes. There are lots of skills involved in this and it made getting ready for Christmas a fun, family event.

In addition, I read great Christmas Classics aloud to the whole family.  A couple of my favorite read-alouds are The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which I read aloud annually for 20 straight years and the original A Christmas Carol   by Dickens. Even my young children loved this story, though the language is a bit hard.  Many times we would watch the Mickey's Christmas Carol cartoon after reading the original story.

Christmas was fun and not stressful.

The difference--I planned for Christmas, made it part of school and included the children as much as possible. The work got done, we were not stressed out at all and the children looked forward to it every year.  I counted it as school and if you want to quantify it into subjects you might use these: home economics, art, life skills and cultural studies.

So, my advice to alleviate  stress?  Plan for the times you will be stressed and incorporate your children as much as possible. It will be educational, family building and a way to make great memories with your children.

Take care,


Because I love to bake, I wanted to include a recipe for making the best gingerbread men I have ever tasted. These are a holiday tradition at our house. We don't decorate them, but you could. I always make a double batch for a total of about 100. They don’t last long and make terrific gifts  The last couple of years I put holes in the top of the dough with a plastic straw, then after baking we run yarn through the holes and hang them up on our Christmas tree as ornaments. [I just need to be sure to put them higher than our dog can reach!]


Thoroughly cream together:
1/2 C butter
1/2 C shortening
1 C white sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 C light molasses
Mix the following together and then stir into the butter mixture:
31/2 C flour
2 t baking soda
2 t cinnamon
1 t ginger
1/2 t ground cloves

Mix till all is blended and chill.  Roll out cookies to desired thickness , cut with a cookie cutter and bake at 375° for 7-9 minutes.

Note: After you get the dough  mixed up it may still look pretty dry, but just take it in your hands and work it into a ball. I use a 3” gingerbread (tin) cookie cutter and this make about 50 cookies.

As a tip, it is easier if you dampen your counter and lay a plain cotton (not terry cloth) dish towel on the dampened counter.  Sprinkle the towel with a couple of tablespoons of flour  and  then put 1/3 of the dough (rolled in a ball) on the towel.  Flatten it slightly with your hand, sprinkle it with flour and roll out like a thick pie crust on the towel.  If it gets sticky, sprinkle with a bit more flour.  After rolling and cutting out all the cookies, shake the towel off outside and wash as normal.

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