Q&A: Holiday Schooling-What Do You Do?

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom

If you went to traditional school growing up, you probably remember the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation. They involved excited restless bodies, counting down the days and minutes until holiday time (& a break from school) arrived.

Teachers recall trying to control the wiggly masses and attempting to keep learning levels high. It seems like yesterday to me–the blessed relief I felt at no more school for two whole weeks!

Homeschooling families don’t deal with this exact situation, but we still struggle with similar issues. When our children begin having trouble paying attention–gazing longingly at the holiday decorations, what should we do?

A Few Options

1. You can, of course, choose to structure your days more or less like a traditional school. You have days “on” for school and you have days “off.” So you keep pressing on until you reach the end of your school days, even if it takes an extra dose of discipline from yourself or your little ones.

2. I heard a speaker at a homeschooling conference suggest that families follow the three months on/one month off calendar in their homeschools. This means you’d school for September, October, and November, leaving the entire month of December off from official studies.

3. Those who consider themselves unschoolers or interest-led learners specialize in integrating life and education, and what better time to do so than during the holiday season. Everything from budgeting for presents, addressing holiday cards, and baking cookies offers a myriad of natural learning opportunities.

These are just three of the endless options open to homeschoolers when the holidays begin peeking around the corner, which leads us to our question for the day.

How do you structure your learning time during the holiday season? What have you found works best to allow you to enjoy the uniqueness of this time of year, while also continuing the learning in your homeschool?

This post is brought to you by Peace Hill Press. Peace Hill publishes books for a well-trained mind, including the popular Story of the World series.

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. We plan school around our trips. Since we have no family living nearby, we travel for most holidays. But if a special opportunity presents itself for a holiday or service activity during this season, we love to be flexible! 🙂 We are somewhat limited in how long we can break for the holidays because our two adopted Russian sons don’t do well with long periods without school. All variables considered, we play it by ear and every year is a little different.
    I Live in an Antbed’s latest post: First Snow Cone

  2. This year, because we did our math, reading and writing during the summer months (on & off according to the weeks) we are taking 6 weeks off for holidays. I was planning for this all along and I am super excited about this break coming up. Instead of our few hours of designated “school time” each week we’ll make gifts for loved ones and do holiday stuff.

    But of course we’re learning all the time and I will be recording what the kids learn during that time, as I do all year round.

    I am going to give myself a break during those 6 weeks from the planning I do all year round (as much as I’m able to turn that part of my brain off).

    The week of thanksgiving is also Brienne’s birthday and then my birthday the week after and then it’s full fledged December holiday goodness. Can’t wait!

  3. Great topic! We’ve been homeschooling for ten years and traditionally we have always taken the month of December off from text book studies and focused entirely on embracing the season and all it has to offer families . We bake, make art, gifts, decorate, ( our house and the Grammies houses too). I can remember feeling guilty for burring the books for an entire month, but honestly as I look back, nothing was lost, we just picked up in January refreshed and ready to get back to work… We still take time off in December but not always the whole month. They are older now so I can get SOME work out of them in early December, but they we’re all ready for our traditional BREAK!
    It’s so fun to be thinking about that now! Thanks!
    Debbie’s latest post: Make a Fall Leaf Picture Book part one

  4. In history, we have just reached the Celts and Roman Britain, and as the holidays are now coming around, I decided that it would be fun to study the Celtic and Pagan origins of the traditions we now associate with Halloween and Christmas. This has been a blast and I think it will help us appreciate the season even more this year as we hang our Celtic-inspired mistletoe and evergreens.

    We will definitely be doing the baking and card-writing and other holiday “art” as a part of our December school, and as the King Arthur legends neatly fit into our current history timeline, I’ve saved them for December as well. What could be more fun than “Christmas in Camelot?”

  5. This is our first year homeschooling and I now think that homeschool parents are pretty crazy. We need to get our 180 days in. I’m a rule follower and I feel like a day is not a little math and reading but a full days worth of work. I will be taking 2 days off at Thanksgiving and a week off at Christmas but will give my daughter some math and reading to do even over the holiday. She was in private school last year and she had work to do over the summer and over all of her breaks as a kindergartener. It won’t be a lot but she’ll have to read every night (as always) and she’ll have some math games or review papers to do.

  6. We are planning to do what we always do: A bit of daily work (reading, writing and math) and then on to project work. I do have some seasonal crafting, baking and making planned, but my boys usually think of the best projects on their own.

    We are studying one continent per month this year and December is dedicated to Antarctica, so we will do that for the first 2 weeks of the month, but after that we will focus the rest of the month on Christmas.
    Erin’s latest post: In This Place

  7. We don’t take a lot of full days off- but we get more flexible around the holidays- and bring work in the car- when you deal with as much traffic as we do- it would be a big waste to not do some work in the car

  8. Mother of Pearl says:

    We do school year round, with regular school days two days a week in summer. That lets us take more time off in the rest of the year. We generally do school three days a week in December. That way we have days when we have structure and schedule to keep us grounded, and days to devote to the chores and joys of the season. We tried taking a few weeks completely off in December, but the kids tend to get at each other too much if they have too much time to do whatever they want to do (it’s the sin nature shining through).

  9. We tend to take the “traditional” times off, but I also tend to throw in a day or two of math and language arts on slow days. I find that my children easily forget math concepts when we break for too long. Switching around what “Mother of Pearl” said, I like the idea of 2 days a week during Dec, and 3 days a week during the summer. I have the same issue with my kids having too much free time. 🙂
    Paige’s latest post: Tupperware Party!

  10. This is our first year home schooling, too, and while my daily schedule is ridgid (we have a lot of stuff to cover), I’m pretty flexible about taking days off or “breaks” if something comes up. On holidays we do no school at all, unless the boys specifically ask for some (usually printables or crafts or something “light”). We work at a pretty rapid pace anyway and study almost every subject every day, so when we need a day (or a few!), we take ’em and simply enjoy the time together doing other things.
    Steph @ AnnoyinglyDomestic’s latest post: Art for Stress Reduction Maybe

  11. This is our first year of home schooling, I think we will have a short week for Thanksgiving and take the traditional two weeks off for Christmas, give or take, a few days. I like the idea of incorporating learning into the Chrismas planning. For now, with a kindergartener and pre-schooler, we are baking each week for our 12 Cookies of Christmas.
    Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith’s latest post: Wordless Wednesday- Daddy Time

  12. Just before our longer breaks, we all sit and write a “wish I could do …” list, and list some project and family fun ideas. Then I take these ideas, projects and activities and jot them on a large blank calendar. Ususally everyone is happy if one of their ideas is done during that week. I sometimes add some homechooling stuff like needlework, crafts, physical ed, singing or poetry to the mix.

  13. We are going to cut back on science and history and allow for the myriad of natural learning opportunities (like you talked about) to unravel. Hoping that “giving” can be a focus… and they will come up with creative ideas…
    Courtney’s latest post: This Weeks Menu 11710 – 111310

  14. This is our first year of homeschooling and I haven’t quite decided! We started late (I pulled my kids out of public school in October), so I’m worried about keeping up. I think we’ll take two days off for Thanksgiving and the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
    Dee’s latest post: November 9

  15. Our goal is to continue throughout the whole season, but we’ll also be celebrating Advent as a family, the same with the Christmas season, both are part of our curriculum studies. I like that we can take it slower if we want on some days though, it’s nice to have that.
    beth aka confusedhomemaker’s latest post: Thoughts On My Mind

  16. We structure our school around the church liturgical calendar, so different seasons have different rhythms to reflect the season, especially during our opening time of worship. So for the time before Thanksgiving, we’ll choose a psalm, break down the verses and make painting of different verses. We’ll make cards to give thanks to those special in our lives. For Advent, we start each day with songs and hearing a story having to do with the Jesse Tree. During Lent, we look at different paintings from the life of Christ and have times of reflection when we draw, paint, write or take pictures. (This is all thanks to Mustard Seed School’s influence in our life.) My kids really look forward to the different ways seasons on marked or set apart with these changes.

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