Simplifying school (and life) at the holidays

Written by contributor Jessica Fisher of Life as Mom and Good Cheap Eats

I well remember my public school days near the holidays. They were chock full of rehearsals for the Christmas play, extended art sessions as we finished up crafts that would be gifts for our parents, and a plethora of holiday parties. Our elementary school also threw in a fundraiser and canned food drive as well.

Those seasons were anything but simple.

I think my poor mother must have been run ragged with all the things that were required of us — and her — back in those days.

Times have changed. Given that my husband and I have chosen a different educational path than we ourselves were raised in, we don’t have that same holiday busy-ness thrown at us — at least not from the outside.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to get swept up in the hubbub that we call the holiday season. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s the days and nights can be filled with choir and play practice, family events, work parties, and a host of other joyful frivolities. If we’re not careful we can overdo things and still be run ragged like my mother so many years ago.

For many years I put a lot of pressure on myself and my family to make the most of the holidays. Often this meant full school days and full craft nights as I burnt the candle at both ends, trying to make it “all” happen.

I’m not sure what exactly “all” was, but I don’t think it happened.

There are a host of things that we can do as the holidays approach to make them more meaningful and special for ourselves and our families. Simplifying school and life at the holidays should definitely go on our Christmas lists!

Here are some ways that we can scale back and enjoy more in the coming weeks and months:

1. Take breaks from lessons.

I have many friends who take Thanksgiving Week off from school. Others take a vacation through all of December. My husband’s work closes between Christmas and New Year’s, so we are on vacation along with him.

There are lots of ways you can work it, but allowing yourself and your kids some breathing room is a good course of action.

2. Make use of teachable moments.

This is the season rife with giving opportunities. Serving in a soup kitchen or packing love in a shoebox have just as much value as a math lesson, if not more. Take these unique holiday moments to engage your children in acts of goodwill toward men.

Bake cookies, build gingerbread houses, make presents for friends and family, learn a Christmas carol together. Use this time of fun, food, and creativity to meld school and life. If you don’t already blend that line, the holidays are a great time to do that.

3. Plan for a simpler season.

Identify the things that stress you out over the holidays and troubleshoot those practices. You don’t have to do it all. Now’s the time to give yourself permission NOT to.

I’ve put together a book called A Simpler Season that walks you through this process of paring down your Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s into a season of joy and peace. It offers you the motivation to think through your family’s priorities for the holidays, space to jot down your ideas, and printables to help you stay organized for the season.

If you use the coupon code SIMPLER3, you’ll get $3 off the e-book.

Now’s the time, not only to deck the halls, but to deck the holidays before they take a swipe at you. Make plans this next week or two for how you’ll walk through the season, enjoy time with your family, and make the important things in your life top on the list.

How do you simplify at the holidays?

About Jessica

Once a public high school teacher, Jessica now homeschools five of her six children, covering 2nd through 10th grades. Her oldest is in college, so the experiment appears to have worked! Grab a copy of Jessica’s new cookbook Good Cheap Eats Dinner in 30 Minutes or Less and the accompanying monthly meal plan to help you save money, eat well, and enjoy some freer time.


  1. This is so important to remember. Sometimes we are so busy rushing our kids through to “make memories” even and we fail to slow down and enjoy the season.
    My husband is a student and has the entire month of December off (from classes, not work) and that has helped me slow down during that month and appreciate the fact that we have less stress and can enjoy Daddy more!
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau’s latest post: 5 ways to stop hurrying

  2. We try to enjoy the season, so we cut back or stop schoolwork all together. Then we plan one baking day every week and try to do one art/craft project, along with other things we may want to include. We try not to put too much on our plate so we can actually enjoy the few things we do without having to be constantly thinking of the next thing on our list.
    Suanna’s latest post: Cleaning Kent’s Room

  3. Awesome. I was working on that tonight–planning out Thanksgiving. We take that whole week off for sure, and part of the one before it. Then we just do a few basic things (if we can manage it) all through December. They are learning though–how to meal plan, grocery shop, host visitors, wrap presents, think of lonely neighbors, etc. So it’s a whole lot of learning going on.‘s latest post: Our Favorite Poetry Books

  4. I’m not homeschooling, but I schedule two whole days of nothing on my calendar every week from now through the end of the year. It seems like regular things take longer, and those days give me time to play catchup without stressing and time for me to sit quietly and plan, think or just relax. I’m careful not to overschedule our weekends, and because we have family and friends with holiday birthdays, I put those events on the calendar first and ignore the draw of community events and obligations. We’re not traveling this year for Christmas, so that means I can relax even more. Looking forward to it!
    Gina’s latest post: Picture People Holiday Deal just $16

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