This post is part of the 2017 Homeschooling Through the Holidays series and was written by Kristi from This Side of Heaven.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and soon the turkey and stuffing will fade away, ushering in the season of Advent and all things Christmas. It also raises an important question in the minds of homeschooling parents everywhere – how to handle the next six weeks between Thanksgiving and sometime the first week of January when everyone's schedules get back to “normal”. Do we push or not? Do we set our sights high or low? Do we count these weeks as a total loss and give up the fight entirely until 2018? Here are four ways to approach the next six weeks.
Approach 1: Let it go!
Take the next six weeks off completely. Seriously, a lot of homeschoolers do this. It's only thirty days, and public school kids are generally off ten of those anyway. If you started your school year in the summer, you may already have enough time stored up (for those who are counting down to the magic number of 180 school days) to afford the time off. The main pro to this approach? It's easy, and you can focus on family and the holiday season guilt-free.
Approach 2: Homeschool “light”
Maybe your kids are like mine, and six weeks off in the middle of the school year would wreak havoc on their sense of schedule and discipline. So take a “light” approach – do fewer days a week, or you do fewer hours per day, or fewer subjects per day, or whatever translates into “less” for your family. The advantage of this approach is that you can drop schooling when you need to focus on other things (again, without guilt), but you are not without a schedule and expectations on other days.
Approach 3: Homeschool “different”
Maybe your state has strict requirements for how many hours and subjects a day “count” as a homeschool day. You can still mix it up a bit by doing something different. Start a new unit study that will last until Christmas. Begin a new topic in science. Download some fun holiday-themed math worksheets. Focus on something special for art. Brick and mortar schools do special holiday activities – you can, too!
Approach 4: Real life rhythm
A combination of the last two approaches, this is my favorite approach and intentionally makes the most of how “real life” during the holidays legitimately fits into your homeschool routine. The key to this real-life approach is to be intentional, yet low-key, with the lessons, jot down what you do for the sake of record keeping, and COUNT IT as the learning that it is, even if it's not sitting down with books around the kitchen table.
Redemption (Bible lessons)
One of our favorite resources is Grapevine Studies, an approach that uses stick figures to teach the Bible, and that can be used with multiple ages at the same time. This month, their Maccabeesunit is 20% off – that is the history behind the celebration of the Feast of Dedication, also known as Hanukkah. They also have a stand-alone study on the birth of Jesus. Another favorite resource is the “What's in the Bible…Why do we call its Christmas?” DVD from the makers of VeggieTales.
What better time than the holidays to work this in very naturally through memorizing traditional Christmas poems, Bible passages and Christmas carols? And not just the first verse! I challenge you to memorize full Christmas carols as a family and experience the rich theology that is present in verses 2, 3, and 4! Download some free printable Christmas carol lyrics and do one carol a week, one verse a day.
Go to your public library and choose a wide selection of books to keep on hand this next month on fun holiday topics such as Christmas-related biographies, science (think cold, winter, snow, blizzards, evergreen trees, poinsettias, lights, turkeys, electricity), geography (Christmas around the world, origins of Christmas traditions, reading a map to go to Grandma’s house), and, of course, classic Christmas stories.
There are so many natural opportunities to practice writing in this season – addressing cards, making a shopping list, copying recipes, planning a family newsletter, and writing thank you notes, for starters. Combine this with your Christmas carol memorization for a daily activity.
Think about common holiday activities such as baking, planning a budget, totaling the amount spent, figuring travel times, even choosing lights for your house – you get the idea! Turn those natural activities into learning conversations with your children without missing a beat. Do you have a home business like I do? Bring your children into it and let them help you set goals for the season or figure out what your commission will be after the Black Friday sale.
“Fun” lessons count, too! Cooking, crafts, music, volunteering, helping others, planning a special meal – so many opportunities. Count those as school lessons – really!
Learning to rest is not easy for me, especially during the holidays when there is always another event to enjoy or another task to complete. But remember to take time to enjoy the season! This goes back up to points number 1 and 2 – everything does not have to be about school. You CAN take a stress-free, guilt-free break and just listen to music or play outside or go shopping or watch a Christmas movie together.
And when January 2 rolls around? You can look back on the holidays as a rewarding time of both learning and loving life and be ready to jump into 2018!
Kristi Bothur is a pastor’s wife, mom, writer, and founder of the Naomi’s Circle pregnancy loss ministry. Her days are kept full with homeschooling her children, playing with hair styles through her Lilla Rose business, and writing about parenting, pregnancy loss, homeschooling, and faith on her blog, This Side of Heaven. You can find her there and on her Facebook page, Kristi Bothur – This Side of Heaven.