It's that time of year again ... when the world around us conspires to draw your children's attention from daily tasks and school to dreaming and wishing for the biggest and the best and the latest ____________ (insert name of appropriate toy or technology). The holidays are already a busy time of year, so attempting to keep students focused on homeschool academics can seem an overwhelming task!
I've written about Christmas school before, but every year at this time I'm reminded what a challenge it was to try and homeschool during the holidays. So instead of fighting it this year, I want to encourage you to incorporate the holidays into your school schedule.
1. Make Your Schedule Flex
It is really okay to set aside your Instructor's Guide for a few weeks in December and focus on the reason behind all the hype and advertising. You may want to keep up with Math and Phonics, but plan to set aside your regular History and Science schedules and replace them with Advent-oriented literature and art projects.
2. Focus on Giving
One thing I was determined to do when my children were younger, was to turn around that inherent desire to get stuff into a desire to give stuff. Here are just a few examples of how we attempted to exhibit a servant's spirit at Christmas:
- Gifts for Jesus Each year we would pray and ask God to point us to a family, organization, or individual that had a specific need. Most often it was a monetary need, and we would work with our kids as they looked for ways that they might earn some money to share. We always looked for creative ways to anonymously give our gift, so that it truly was a gift from Jesus and not something that would generate praise for us.
- Gifts for neighbors Some years we would create goody bags to deliver to our neighbors and friends. I found inexpensive brown gift bags at the local Walmart and my kids would decorate them with drawings and craft supplies. Then we would bake some small loaves of breads and batches of cookies and make our favorite candies and snacks to share. We had great fun delivering our bags of cheer.
- Gifts of self This is something we still try to do even as our kids have grown and gone. When they were younger, our co-op group would put together a short program of Christmas music and skits and visit a local nursing home to share. Other years our family was involved in various church-related holiday functions—cantatas, Christmas plays, neighborhood caroling—all great opportunities to share the joy of Christmas with others.
3. Include the Entire Family
Christmas is a community event, not something that happens just for the benefit of one or two. So include your children in your holiday preparations. It was always my theory that if my children wanted to enjoy family gatherings, shared meals, and gifts under the tree, then they could help me with the work involved to pull off those things. Obviously, this looked different each year as children got older and able to do more, but in general, my kids were involved in
- holiday house cleaning (before and after events)
- meal preparation (setting the table, assistance with cooking/baking, table decorations, etc...)
- holiday shopping (for gifts, meal items, etc...)
The more they were involved in making it happen, the more they appreciated when it happened.
Bottom line... plan to keep your holiday plans simple this year and look for ways to make your children part of your planning and preparation. School will not suffer when you take a break from your regular schedule, and you will create wonderful memories for your family to recall in years to come.