How Our Christmas Bucket List is Helping Us Homeschool through the Holidays

Written by contributor Hillary Boucher of infinitely learning

Christmas. It’s wonderful and overwhelming all at the same time. In our attempts to create happy holiday memories and traditions for our families it’s easy to get overwhelmed, stressed, and quite possibly push your homeschooling to the back burner.

While it’s perfectly okay to let go of homeschooling during a busy season (something we’ve typically done in the past), one of our family’s goals this year is to keep a steady pace with our home learning.

The challenge for us is the stop and go learning that happens around busy times–like the holidays.

For example, my son is working hard as he learns to read and he needs lots of support. I notice that when life gets busy his learning stalls out a bit and leaves him feeling frustrated. He specifically asked us to keep moving forward with regularity and we want to recognize and honor his request and needs.

This year we’ve created a Christmas Bucket List to help simplify and focus our holiday season. It started out long and full of many creative and exciting ideas, but we whittled it down to a simple and attainable holiday plan. Here it is:

– Make an Advent Wreath
– Visit Santa
– Roll beeswax candles for gifts
– Paper chain to count down days until Christmas
– Make Christmas Cookies
– Polar Express and hot cocoa
December Photo Project
– Trim the tree
– Find Santa hats for everyone in the family

Exploring our individual and collective hopes and expectations for the holiday season helped us in a few ways:

  • Having a high level view of our planned holiday activities helped us to identify the ways our homeschooling and Christmas fun complements and overlaps.
  • Being realistic around expectations and time limitations not only avoids potential disappointment and holiday burnout, but it helps us honor our commitment to stay steady with our homeschooling.

Life is funny. The best learning happens spontaneously, but the freedom to learn spontaneously comes from being grounded and organized.

Paring down our Christmas activities to a short, but sweet list has meant less stress and more joyful learning this holiday season.

Do you take a break or keep homeschooling through the holidays?

About Hillary

Hillary feels lucky to be able to work full-time from home and shares the homeschooling responsibilities with her partner. Together, with a little creativity, a full schedule and a lot of love, they facilitate the education of their three adorable, and sometimes very loud, children.


  1. Great post.

    We are definitely embracing the idea of overlapping school and Christmas fun!

    Yesterday we traveled to a neighboring town that has a Honey Bee farm. There we purchased beeswax candles for our Advent Wreath. We also spotted the queen bee and sampled all sorts of honey.

    Today we spent the afternoon creating a nativity scene out of salt dough. We are remaining engaged through Christmas literature and fun art projects while also forgoing our typical routine. So far, so good.

    Cari’s latest post: Christmas Revised

  2. We have scaled back on homeschooling a little (our oldest is in preschool) but we are still doing many of the same activities, just fewer of them in any given day.

    We’re using our extra time to focus on making homemade gifts for our extended family and enjoying a little more crafting time since all of the kids love this and it frequently gets pushed to the back burner.
    Allyson @ A Heart for Home’s latest post: Mortimer’s Christmas Manger

  3. This is our first year homeschooling. We decided to take a two week break after Christmas. We will resume January 3rd. I think the break will be nice for the kids….and me. 🙂 I would have like to taken the entire month of December off, but our family would like to wrap up school in May 2012.
    Sara’s latest post: Sea of Galilee

  4. Hi there,
    I love the bucket list idea! What a great way to ensure the most important(to each family member) activities/ ideas get their due.
    We are slowing down a bit with the homeschooling, but not stopping completely. Our eldest is six and also learning to read, and I too feel the consistency is important. That, some games for math and crafts/baking will get us through the season.
    Can I ask what you are using for reading?

    • We started using “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”, but it didn’t really work with him. His personality is resistant to someone “teaching” him and he finds more success when learning organically. He’s been really empowered by the easy read book section at our library and believe it or not, the Dick and Jane books are his favorite.

      Our current reading strategy with him looks like this:
      *Reading aloud exciting and engaging novels to him almost daily
      *providing access to easy readers and simple words and letter books
      *engaging in activities and games that foster letter, word recognition and writing (like Bananagrams and making out gift cards etc)
      *dropping everything when he expresses interest in what a word is and intentionally expanding the conversations to help make connections

      One strategy that is working well with his personality is engaging him to help his younger brother learn. It helps him reinforce his knowledge, but he gets to stay in a “I’m in control” feeling. It’s also super cute, too 🙂
      Hillary’s latest post: dpp ’11: Joy to the World

      • Thank you for sharing your strategy! Its great to hear what is working for others. Especially from families with a more ‘organic’ learning style. We are lightly using enki for this, but am also finding that just reading together as well as strategically placed ; ) bob books are what’s really working the magic. Trying to let go of some control!
        And I love the teaching the younger ones idea.

        • I love Enki! The Foundational Guides really helped shaped my philosophy though we do not “use” the curriculum. Lots of great inspiration there!

  5. Thanks for your post, Hillary! This is my second year homeschooling and last year it didn’t really occur to me that because we were homeschooling, we could really customize our December schedule to do both school and holiday fun. So we just worked through until those “two weeks” of Christmas break that everyone gets.

    This year, we are still doing school work each day, but we’re starting the day off with a new Christmas tradition of a Jesse Tree devotional, and doing a Christmas fun project each day, doing Christmas books for our reading time, and only doing core school work (like Math & Spelling) while setting aside other unit studies for now. Like you, I have a child who’s just starting to learn to read, so I am keeping up with her daily reading lesson because I know she needs that daily reinforcement. But before we do her lesson, I read a Christmas story that she picks out just the two of us (I have two older daughters), and then her lesson seems to go by quickly. After her lesson, we go back to the book and I have her show me words or sounds that she recognizes now as a reinforcement to the lesson.

    So far, it’s been a really refreshing way to spend these weeks leading up to Christmas, because the girls feel like they’re getting a Christmas break even though they really aren’t! It’s also taken some of the Christmas “busy-ness” load off of me because each day during our Christmas fun time, they are helping me tackle things I usually do myself, like addressing Christmas cards, making gifts, decorating, etc. It’s been such a blessing!
    Renee Gotcher’s latest post: My Tango With Traditions

  6. We’ll keep going through the holiday as we always do, but with a five-year-0ld and two-year-old, we have a very simple school day anyway, and I only do lessons when I can. That is, when we’re home and the tw0-year-old is napping. If we are busy and something comes up, I don’t stress about it. But you are so right when you say, “The best learning happens spontaneously, but the freedom to learn spontaneously comes from being grounded and organized.” I love that. Recently I told my five-year-old that we would have weekly goals: at least 2 math lessons, 2 reading lessons, and 1 project activity. If we do one of those a day, that’s five days a week. But we can do them anytime, and sometimes we do more than one a day. If we accomplish this, I’m happy. And that is only our formal lessons. Learning happens all the time here….when he has questions we look them up, we take some local classes, we read lots of books, and I tell stories and we invent puppet shows daily. Those are already part of our daily routine, so I don’t have to worry about that.
    shelli’s latest post: Gift Ideas for Home Educators

  7. When you said bucket list, I thought you meant you have a list of things for school you absolutely want to accomplish. 🙂

    I’ve always just taken off from Thanksgiving to New Years. Sometimes I took off from Halloween to MLK day. Once I took off from Fall Break to Valentines.

    And that’s when I discovered that I prefer unschooling. LOL
    Amy’s latest post: Horrific Winter Hands

  8. We recently came up with a similar type of list as yours, Hilary — all the things we’re doing ‘extra’ these next few weeks for the holidays. It helps to have them named, both so we can look forward to them but also so I can understand how they will take time away from other things.

    Most of my older son’s regular out-of-the-house activities have ended (last one is today), so in that sense, we will have a break for a few weeks. But in general, our schedule varies on a high level based on seasons, and within that there are always times when we are more or less busy, and more or less productive.

    And since life just keeps keeping on (even during the holidays), my kids just will definitely keep learning! 🙂

    Thanks for this post, Hilary, especially “The best learning happens spontaneously, but the freedom to learn spontaneously comes from being grounded and organized.”

    Stacy @ Sweet Sky’s latest post: a month of unschool

  9. This year we finished our formal book learning on the last day of November. We are taking the whole month of December off, but there are still activities we do each week/day that could be considered school. Once a week we try to have a crafty day, baking day, cleaning day. Every day I read to the kids at least one Christmas book and other read alouds that we are working on. The kids all spend plenty of time reading on their own as well. This year my 1st and 2nd graders have been given a budget to shop within for their siblings and we will be taking them to work on that this coming Saturday. They also have imaginative play.
    Suanna’s latest post: The Matchlock Gun

  10. I love the Christmas bucket list! Great idea! This is our first year homeschooling- and am planning on definitely taking it slow for a couple of weeks. We all need a little break, but do want to at least do some reading!

  11. We take a break during the Xmas but we continue to read and do lots of arts & crafts. This year is a bit different as our oldest is in public school for the first time.
    Amanda Petite Mommy’s latest post: Our Week In Pictures 12.10.11

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