Written by Kara S. Anderson
If you have spent any time at all lately on the internet, you have probably heard a lot of ideas for “holiday homeschooling.”
At the same time, you have probably heard advice to take a break!
“My co-op quits at Thanksgiving and starts again on St. Patrick’s Day, so we follow the same schedule,” one blogger you love writes …
Meanwhile, another tells you that letting go of math, or worse, rhythm and routines, will mean hours of catch-up when you start back promptly at 7 a.m. on Jan. 2.
So what’s a homeschooler to do?
Pretty much whatever works for you. That’s the beauty of homeschooling. You know your family best, so you know what you have planned (travel? tons of rehearsals for the church pageant? Grandma and Grandpa visiting?)
You also know your crew’s temperament – will a break quickly turn into chaos?
I am a fan of a break from more formal learning during the holidays for a lot of reasons:
- There is a a lot of other stuff to do
- That other stuff can provide educational opportunities
- I want to enjoy this special season with my family
- I have tried the other way and it made me a little nutty
So this year, I have printed out a couple of great FREE advent resources from Kortney and Pam, and we’ll be choosing a few ideas from each that will be a good fit for us.
I also know that we’ll continue to learn through real-life:
- Planning and shopping
- Cooking and baking
- Charitable giving
- Making gifts and decorations
- What I call “holiday-schooling”
So what is holiday-schooling?
In December, we shift to a different kind of learning here. We find ourselves home a lot more thanks to Midwest winters.
We get cozy – we hang lots of twinkle lights, light candles and a fire in the fireplace and we settle in.
Here are a few other things we add for holiday-schooling, that last through January and February:
Game and puzzles
We play a lot of games and seem to always have a puzzle going in the winter. Games can be super educational, and I like the pace they bring to a day at home.
Some of our favorites lately have been Scrabble, Cat Crimes and Trash Pandas. (affiliate links)
We also love Ravensburger puzzles.
A lot of arts and crafts get done here during the winter. The kids usually each get some art supplies and craft kits at Christmas, and we love making candles, sewing, knitting and drawing.
Our newest love here is You Are An Artist Chalk Pastels. The video tutorials are wonderful, and easy to follow, and pastels are a forgiving medium!
We tend to have a lot of fun with subscription boxes during the winter – probably because we are home more and opening one of those boxes can be a commitment! When kids get a box in the mail, they’re so excited – they want to jump right in, and that’s easier to say yes to when you don’t have as many other outside commitments!
So during the winter I foresee us doing plenty of Chemistry, cooking, crafting and more. (Check out this episode of The Homeschool Sisters Podcast all about subscription boxes!)
Is there anything better than curling up with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book? My kids don’t seem to think so!
Winter feels like such a natural time to grab a giant stack of books from the library and read through them for hours on end.
And so, for us, the Christmas season becomes a bit about Advent, a bit about just enjoying the season, and it also ushers in a more relaxed pace for the cold months ahead.
It feels like a break (even though we’re still learning a lot), and it always seems to refresh us in time for spring, when everything changes again and we can’t wait to get outside.
So tell us in the comments – do you take a break this time of year? What does holiday homeschooling look like at your house?
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Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! As a first-year homeschooler, I needed this so much! I just emailed my husband an hour ago and asked his thoughts on taking a “mental health” day, since the kids and I just couldn’t seem to focus on lessons. Reading this helped me recognize the beauty in slowing the pace and enjoying the season. Thank you so much for your post.
I love this! Totally describes what we love doing over here during the holidays (with a few variations for travel). I can hear all the sisters out there taking a good sigh right about now. 💓 Thank you so much for sharing!
Our family continues with school but “light” school in December. I have a 4th grader and we do math, spelling and dictation, memory work and cursive. Only takes us about 2 hours each day. No school the week of Christmas and the week after. I love to do fun things in December with her….gingerbread house, read aloud Christmas books, advent study, baking. The “lighter” holiday school schedule opens up afternoons for such things. It’s a sweet time of year.
Jen @ Bookish Family
We take off the week before Christmas and the week after. But we usually take 1-2 weeks off every 6 weeks. Some I count toward our required 180 days (in PA) if we do lots of educational stuff (like a field trip) and some I don’t. We love our break weeks every time of year, but especially as we enjoy all the extras of the holiday season.
We only really take about 2-3 weeks off, which seems ‘short’ for homeschoolers 😉
I find that after 2 weeks off everyone is a bit grumpy and ready for routine, even if they aren’t voicing it…we’ve fully enjoyed the ‘off’ time, but it feels like we’re ready for the next season to start.
Going straight through nearly until Christmas allows us to take advantage of all the extra space in our days because 1) all our outside activities have ended for the year and 2) everyone is too busy to do anything. We do some quality homeschooling during those 3-4 weeks of late Nov-mid/late December!
Where I live the public schools end at the end of June…can you imagine?! I can’t! That’s why we’re done in mid-May, fully enjoying that hard work that we’ve done through the holidays, and instead of doing nothing during the holidays (endless rain over here for months at a time) we’re outside for over a month during the nice season when we want to be doing! all! the! things! outside.
It works for us!
The week between Christmas and New Year is my ONLY time of year to actually relax. Every other “break” is FILLED with activities, travel, etc. which is not restful. We hang at home, enjoy our new presents, and play tons of games. Maybe we’ll venture out to a light display or do a few “must dos”, but otherwise it is completely unscheduled. It’s the only way I can actually relax. I look forward to that week all year!
We transition to more of an unschooling approach during late Nov through mid-Jan.
Lots of cooking & baking (life skills & math in one)
As I do my Christmas shopping, I find a day to take my daughter to shop for her grandma and other relatives. Granted, she’s 8. She has very little money of her own, so *I’m* paying at the checkstand up to the budget I set before we walked in the store. She is still leaning. She’s adding up the items, figuring out what sales tax brings the total to (often with LOTS of help from me), and how much she has left in the budget. She’s learning to think outside herself “what things does grandma like”, “is there anything she’s mentioned needing or wanting recently?” She’s learning to get the most bang for her buck. If I set the budget at $50, she can get 2 things that cost $25 (with tax) or 10 things that are $5. So much practical math (no “when will I ever use this in real life?”) & life skills during these ventures that can take 2-3 hrs.
I allow lots of free reading during this time.
After Christmas comes the thank you letter writing. She knows I expect more than “thank you for the _____. I really like it”. Her letters must state why she likes it / what makes it special to her, and how it will be useful / used.
We cover a little social studies by exploring how the holidays are celebrated in other countries.
Science is 100% free choice with her leaning about whatever topics she wants.
She occasionally will voluntarily do work from her textbooks, but I don’t assign anything.