December is here and no matter what our religious backgrounds or traditions, we all have an increased plateful of stuff. Stuff to take care of, things to celebrate, decorations, crafts, recipes, parties, and gifts.
The holidays are a time of celebration. In this guide I hope to to help find the path to enjoying this celebratory time of year. Too often, as moms and teachers, we try to pile more on our plate than it can ever hold. And instead of extra goodies on the side of normal life, we end up with a disgusting, soggy, mess of too many flavors crammed into an indiscernible mush.
Then the dread of the holiday season sets in. No one wants mystery mush. And so we want to quit the holidays.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are simple things you can do to make room for the holidays without letting the special Christmas cookies dissolve into the stuffing and sweet potato casserole because you forgot to clear space for the cookies on your plate.
To Break or Not to Break for the Holiday Season?
Some homeschoolers take off school from Thanksgiving through the New Year. They find that this is the best way for them to make the extra space needed to fully embrace the holiday season.
For others, that long break just seems to add to the chaos of the season, or they want to take advantage of the cold days for getting academics done so they have more time for breaks in the spring and summer.
There is no right or wrong choice here. In fact, if you are in tune with the needs of your family your choice may even change from year to year. You may take the extended break when your kids are young, but find that a few short breaks work better for your kids when they are older.
If you think your kids are already getting a little ‘school burn-out’ then it is great to make sure they get enough time off that they are ready to hit the books again in January.
Some kids just do better when routines stay in place. For those kids and their moms, a complete break from Thanksgiving through the New Year can be a really bad idea. But you also can’t try to shove extra stuff into the routine without throwing everything off the rails.
So let’s look at some tips for changing your routines, to make them holiday friendly, while still keeping them in place, to keep the peace in your home.
First, Cull Your Routines to a Minimum
Many of us love to add little extras into our routines. But extra is not always more. To make space for both planned and spontaneous moments of holiday joy, look at your daily routines and see if there is anything that you can cut for the next month. Maybe you stop reading that economics book to your teens. Or you let your 5-year-old skip spelling lessons and math worksheets.
Look through your various curriculums and see if any of them have a 30 week plan. Then cut all those out for the season.
Don’t panic. Cutting things out, even important things like spelling and math practice, does not mean your child won’t be learning for the next month. It just means you have the space needed to learn differently.
History and Science are often easy to cut for a period of time during the elementary school years.
Second, Add in Sparkles Carefully
We are not cutting things out just so we can stare at a blank wall and think about what a superb minimalist we have become. We are cutting so we can add in the sparkles! We are taking less stuffing and sweet potato casserole so we have room for cookies, both on our plate, and in our tummies.
If you don’t think cutting is a good idea, just change it up.
So your five-year-old needs to work on adding one’s or two’s? Print out some Christmas coloring math fact sheets instead of giving them the same old boring worksheets. Encourage them to color them pretty, because you have kept a special place to hang up each of them as they are completed. This is part of your holiday decorating.
Tip: Large coloring sheets can be overwhelming and joy-sucking for little hands. So print little sheets that they can finish before the become overwhelmed and start crying over a fun coloring project.
Or make a math/holiday paper chain. No matter what concept your child is working on you can find fun ways to practice the memory part of math with a Christmas theme. Need ideas? Check out my Math for Kids Pinterest Board.
For older kids, skipping the economics books gives you the space to read The Christmas Carol or other holiday classics.
You can replace elementary history and science with a holiday unit study or cultural studies. (Read about holiday traditions from around the world and winter solstice folk stories.)
Third, Keep Space for spontaneity
As you add in the holiday magic, remember that some magic is born of the unpredictable and spontaneous moments. Leave space for saying yes when your kids ask for a holiday movie, or a drive through the neighborhood to look at Christmas light displays. Leave enough space that you have the energy to say yes when they ask to build a gingerbread house from scratch.
And remember, that just because you are reading holiday books instead of your literature curriculum, it does not mean your kids are learning less. Just because they are doubling the recipe instead of filling out a math worksheet does not mean they are learning less. Just because they are decorating a tree, making a paper chain, or stringing popcorn, does not mean they are ‘skipping art appreciation or practice’.
In fact, many times, doing these things means they are doing more, learning more, and experiencing more joy. Which is what the holidays are all about.
Four, Keeping and Creating Traditions
Traditions are part of culture. In our homes and families, we are creating a culture. Traditions help us do that. Traditions do not need to be fancy, boring, or exhausting. They can be simple, easy, and fun. It’s simply the act of doing the same thing from year to year that creates a tradition.
Don’t be afraid to create your own holiday family traditions. Don’t feel obliged to do all the holiday stuff. Pick your favorite things, let the rest go, and enjoy the season.
May your holidays be merry and bright!