With Christmas right around the corner life gets pretty chaotic around here. I'm sure it is the same at your place. Christmas cards to write and send, parties to plan and attend, gifts to buy and wrap, extra practices for the Christmas pageant to get the kids to, baking to shop for and accomplish, and so much more. The list seems almost never-ending, and then there is school that needs attention. Having homeschooled for almost 10 years now I can say that we have tried just about everything to keep the reason for the season in mind during this time of year. Some years we have taken the entire month of December off. Others we have focused only on the core subjects and some (mostly at the beginning of our homeschool journey) we tried to keep up the same pace. So how do we fit it all in? Is there a way to find balance? I believe that we have, through trial and error, and I hope that my trials and successes will help you have an amazing Christmas season while still keeping on track with your homeschool plans.
What Hasn't Worked for Us
Keeping the Same Pace
This is the first mistake we made when we started homeschooling. We figured that since the public schools have classes right up until the Christmas break I thought we should too. I planned, prepped and pushed us through those lessons for the weeks leading up till Christmas. I really wanted to stay on track to keep consistency in our school. While this was a great idea, in reality it does not work. We as homeschool moms are not able to just walk away from our job of teaching at 3. We do not have private planning hours built into our days. We are constantly trying to juggle all that a stay at home mom has to do PLUS all the tasks that a full-time teacher and paraeducator has to do. It turned out that in reality there just was not enough time in the day which caused so much stress in our homeschool. Either I was losing it or my kids were melting down.
Taking December Off
Homeschooling gives us lots of flexibility. Sometimes however, that right to choose can leave us thinking we can do it (that worksheet, that lesson, school) tomorrow. While done once in a while is fine, getting in that mindset that we can put things off can lead to stress down the road when you really want that summer break. I found this out the hard way by taking the full month of December off a few years into homeschooling. While the month off gave us lots of time to enjoy this special time of year it also left us feeling behind come January and stressed come May when we really wanted to take a summer break.
Focusing on the Core Subjects Only
This idea seemed like the best way to go about this problem I kept running into. During December we would focus only on Language Arts, Math, Science and History. Everything else was put on hold till January. While this seemed like a great idea at first it turned into a mess. By only focusing on these few subjects my kids were missing out on the fun things in school. That made getting through our school days even harder. Since I had the whole Christmas chaos to worry about and fit in too, having frustrated kids did not help anybody.
What is the Right Balance?
For us we found that working on all subjects but not as intensely is the right balance. So what does that mean and what does it look like?
Find the Fun in All Subjects
We all know that there is fun that can be added to any subject. That might be in the form of educational board games, lapbooks, hands-on projects, crafts and more. During the month of December I like to pull away from the traditional lesson plans and fill in our days will lots of fun activities. As an example, this year we are focusing on the Civil War in History. One of the things I have planned is to have a 1000 piece Civil War puzzle set up in our school area. When it is time for history we can spend part of our time working on the puzzle together and talking about what we have been reading. So even though I say fun activities by no way do I mean complicated activities. By keeping things fun the stress of the season seems to fade away and we are able to find the joy in learning together.
Simplify those lessons
While we have found lots of hands-on fun activities to add in to our lessons, we have also removed a lot of the not so fun work. So for example while my kids will definitely be reading for language arts, they however will not be focusing on writing a research paper for the first time. Reading is great, but adding the stress of learning something so intense, so new, so time-consuming when we are already stressed over an overloaded scheduled does not work. This is the time to step back and take things easy. I have my kids read and find a fun way to have them share with me that they understand the book. That could be drawing a comic book version of the story. It could be drawing a picture for the little ones. Or it could be writing a short story. It all depends on what your child finds fun. Whatever that is, use it to get them excited about their school work. If they are excited then more school will get done.
Find ways to Intertwine Family Traditions into Learning
There are so many awesome ways to pull holiday traditions into schooling. We live up north and one family tradition we have is to go and cut down our Christmas tree. If you also do, why not for science have the kids learn about Evergreen trees. Can they figure out and identify which tree has the best Christmas smell? When you are working on all that holiday baking the kids can help and learn about fractions. What fun it would be to spend your math time in the kitchen baking, plus as a bonus is productive for your schedule. For art the kids could be creating the presents they will be giving away come Christmas morning. For writing in language arts have the kids help write out the Christmas cards. So think through what your traditions are and see if you can intertwine them into your school lesson plans. There is nothing better than as the saying goes “killing two birds with one stone”, not that I would be killing any bird, lol.
So take the time to sit down with your schedule and lesson planner. What ways can you have those family traditions intertwined in school, how can you simplify those lessons, what fun can you add in? By planning out the month this way we have been able to enjoy the holidays and be as stress free as possible with our schooling. The kids have fun and want to do school and I know that come January I won't feel that nudge that we are falling behind. The right balance IS POSSIBLE; you just need the right formula.
Catherine is a Wife and Stay-At-Home Mother and Homeschooler of 3 VERY active boys. Two of them have ADHD, one has Dyslexia and she has both. Faith plays a BIG part in who she is and how they live. All in all, that equals a very chaotic but amazingly blessed life. She would love to connect with you over at Faithfilled Chaos. She is also on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.