The following article appears today in a guest column over at Anne Elliot's blog and in her weekly newsletter. Thanks for hosting me, Anne!
Is it possible to homeschool sanely and still celebrate the Christmas? Yes! How? My two best tips are to make lists and to start early. I love lists! I make lists of my lists (yes, really). I keep a running list in my Palm Centro (hand-held organizer, but a notebook will do) of every person for whom I regularly buy gifts. As I hear hints or think of gift ideas, I make a note of it. I make a note next to the item after I’ve bought it. This works for birthday presents as well as for Christmas gifts. People who receive our annual Christmas letters/cards/pictures (depending on the year) are on a master database on my computer. Every year, I update the list for cards received and sent the previous year, and who we’ll be sending cards to, then I print it out to check off names as new cards roll in. In early November, I print out address labels for the cards (I update my computer’s address book as needed throughout the year). By the end of the month, I’ve written the letter or pulled out the cards I bought at the after-Christmas sale the previous year. The cards are in the mail the first week of December.
Throughout the year, I buy gifts for family and friends as I see things that would be appropriate. Since none of our family lives close by, all of their gifts are bought and wrapped early in the fall. They get mailed anywhere from mid-October (overseas) to early December (stateside). All the rest of the gifts are bought by the first week in December. I usually wait until the weekend before Christmas to wrap the gifts because I don’t like to put them under the tree too early, but it’s written in my planner. My husband takes the kids out for an afternoon while I do the wrapping. I put on my favorite Christmas music, pour myself a cup of hot chocolate, and think about how each person will enjoy opening his or her gifts from our family.
By early November, I’m working on my menu lists for any meals or parties that I’ll be hosting. The calendar is updated daily, and the food and necessity shopping lists are updated as needed. I start buying things like pie filling or chocolate chips early and a little bit at a time. That way, my food budget doesn’t get too blown out of proportion. Also, if a guest asks what she can bring, I’m able to make a suggestion and then make a note of her contribution right on my menu.
Okay, that covers Christmas, but what about school? Well, I do try to make the kids’ workloads a bit lighter for the month. We focus on the basics and on the subjects that persist in making the workbooks have thirty-six weeks of work in them. I make sure my lesson plans are done right after Thanksgiving so they know what to expect. All the parties, cookie baking, decorating, and shopping trips are good incentives for the kids to finish their schoolwork early during the day. As far as housecleaning and other chores go, we do things the same way we do the rest of the year: everyone has assigned chores each day. A few things do get left undone, but even the very organized homeschool mom can’t do everything. We incorporate fun activities and ministering to others (nursing home sing-alongs, delivering cookies to our pastors, etc.) into our school days as well. For younger children, baking all those Christmas goodies can certainly count for math (measuring) and home economics.
We do take off the two weeks right around Christmas and New Year’s Day, though. Those two weeks are just enough to give us a relaxing breather, but not long enough to forget too much. We’re refreshed and ready start school again early in January.
Remember to slow down long enough to celebrate the birth of our Savior this Christmas season. Take time to read the Christmas story from Luke and to sing some traditional Christmas carols around the piano. Those are two of our favorite Christmas traditions.