Monday, November 15, 2010

Homeschooling Through and Around the Holidays

Deck the halls with boughs of school books, fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.
‘Tis the season to be busy, fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.
Don we now our anxious faces, fa la la la la la la.
Sing of lapbooks, handmade orn’ments, fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.

See the piles of laundry ’round you, fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.
Strike the doorbell, chase the toddler, fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.
Follow me for every minute, fa la la la la la la.
While we sing of wistful summer, fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.


Is it possible to homeschool sanely and still celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas? Yes! How? My two best tips are to make lists, and to start planning early.

I do try to make the kids’ workloads a bit lighter starting about mid-November through the end of December. Many curricula have only thirty-two or thirty-four weeks of lessons, so instead of starting later or finishing earlier in the school year with these subjects, we opt not to do them around the holidays. Instead, we make sure that we focus on the vital subjects with 180 lessons. Of course, we don’t do any school on Thanksgiving Day (if we do school at all that week, it’s only a few days). And, we take off completely for two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s Day.

If you school year round or use unit studies instead of packaged curricula, this might be a good time to check out some of the fun, holiday-themed unit studies instead of wallowing in the rocket science lessons. Many, many unit studies are available detailing the history of the first Thanksgiving, holiday traditions around the world, and more. This way, you can still check off a day of school, but have fun and relax some at the same time.

I make sure my lesson plans are done right after Thanksgiving so that my children know what to expect. All the parties, cookie baking, decorating, and shopping trips are good incentives for the kids to finish their schoolwork early. 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. A few things do get left undone, but even the very organized homeschool mom can’t do everything (sshhh!).

That covers school, but what about the holiday stuff? I love lists! I make lists of my lists (yes, really). Here are a few of the lists that preserve my sanity during November and December: I keep a running list in my BlackBerry (a small notebook would also work) 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 check off the item after I’ve bought it, but leave it on my list so that I remember I have it. This works for birthday presents as well as Christmas gifts. 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. 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.

People who receive our annual Christmas letters/cards/pictures (depending on the year) are on a master database on my laptop. 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 through 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. 

As soon as I know when we’ll be hosting family and friends for various events throughout November and December, I make sure those events make it onto the calendar. Then I start planning my menus for each meal. Menu lists and the calendar are updated daily, and the food/necessity shopping lists are updated as needed.

We need to remember to slow down long enough to be thankful for our many blessings and to celebrate the birth of our Savior this Christmas season. Two of our favorite traditions are taking time to read the Christmas story from Luke and singing some traditional Christmas carols around the piano.

From our homeschool family to yours, may you have a blessed Thanksgiving and Christmas season!

This article originally appeared in the Nov./Dec. 2010 edition of Home School Enrichment magazine, in my regular column, "The Organized Homeschool."