Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins
There’s a question that comes up for me every holiday season. It’s one of those important philosophical questions, right up there with, “What is the meaning of life?” and “Who moved my cheese?”
It’s this: How, when you are already a busy homeschooling parent, do you add in all kinds of holiday fun without going a little crazy in the process?
I can’t claim to steer completely clear of “a little bit crazy” territory, but I do have a few practices that help.
I really believe the secret to doing it all is that you don’t. You don’t even try. I’m pretty sure that’s how to keep things merry-and-not-miserable, too: you don’t do it all. You do less.
That’s how you and I can enjoy homeschooling and holidaying, both at the same time. We’re not going to do all the things. We’re not even going to pretend to do all the things. We’re going to do the things that are best for our own families, and we’re going to let go of the rest.
I want my kids to have plenty of room to soak up the holidays. They need time to bake, space to decorate, and a chance to secretly make each other gifts without being found out. I want them to have time to ask questions, and room to explore answers. I want there to be candle light and carols and cocoa.
To make any of that happen, I’m going to have to let go of a bunch of other things.
Do Less to Enjoy More
Here’s what I’m letting go of to make more room for what matters most to us over the holidays:
When there are library books piled on Christmas books piled on math books, we aren’t going to enjoy any of it. Before anything new and holiday-ish comes in, we have to return all the library books, and weed out anything we don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. (Again. It’s an ongoing process.)
Toys that always end up underfoot
I know that having tiny scraps from paper-snowflake-making mingled with tiny Legos on the floor will make my head explode. My head exploding is not how we want to celebrate, so anything with a million little parts, or anything that tends to get left out at the end of the day, gets shelved out of sight over the holidays as a sanity-preservation method.
Sort of! We don’t quit learning activities altogether over the holidays, but we do hold our routines very loosely. That gives us more time for holiday projects, and taking a break from our usual structure also gives us perspective on what’s been working and what hasn’t. That way, by the time January rolls around, we’re ready to reset our routines.
We find more time in our days by crossing out all of our usual-but-not-critical activities for a few weeks. Trips to the library, play groups, coffee dates: if they can wait until January, we let them wait until January.
Christmas cookies for lunch
I’m also letting go of the idea that we should always be willing to skip our usual habits in favor of whimsy over the holidays. “Someone invited us over for late-night caroling? For the third night in a row? Sure!” Except no.
We need to mostly stick to the routines that help us get enough sleep, and fresh air, and meals that are not made entirely of marshmallow fudge. Our bodies need that if we’re going to enjoy anything holiday-ish at all.
What We’re Making Room FOR
When I start to freak out a little because things don’t look usual, when I start to worry that maybe we’re not doing enough, I remind myself of everything my kids ARE learning.
They’re learning about the importance of rest.
They’re learning about the built-in rhythm of the seasons.
They’re learning how to prioritize, when the long list of holiday things they want to do doesn’t match up with the limitations of time and space and energy.
They’re learning how to improvise when holiday ideas don’t go according to plan.
They’re learning about making space for what matters.
They’re learning about leaving room for quiet in the midst of holiday busyness.
They’re learning about wonder and joy, and about anticipating both.
They’re learning about whether we go through this season feeling frantic and overwhelmed, or if we find ways to make room for peace and awe. They’re learning whether the holidays are a time to endure, or a time to enjoy.
(Cait and Kara graciously invited me onto a recent episode of the Homeschool Sisters Podcast for even more discussion of homeschooling through the holidays. Check it out if you need ideas for bringing more peace to your season!)
Now I want to know—what are YOU letting go of this holiday season?