Written by Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
This is the time of year when my kids appreciate the fact that we started school in early July. We have been off since last week and will be off until after New Year’s. We do this so that we can slow down and enjoy the Christmas season with less stress.
Many homeschooling families stick to their regular schedule throughout December because their kids do better with a consistent routine.
However, I know a lot of families are either taking some time off or are drastically scaling back their academic schedule. If you fall into the latter group, you may be looking for ideas on how to create stress-free learning opportunities this month.
Before I offer my suggestions, let me first offer a disclaimer for families like mine so that you can carry on your December plans, guilt-free as well as stress-free. We start school in early July so that we can take December off. It is a scheduled school break for us.
That means there is lots of video game playing, TV watching, staying up late, and sleeping in. We sometimes bake together or do fun art projects (the girl, not the boy), but that’s the extent of December school for us.
If that describes your family, you may now resume watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel, playing Words with Friends, or playing Just Dance with your kids and enjoy your time off. Do not feel an ounce of guilt from the following suggestions.
Now, for those of you who are still doing school, but want to scale back your academic schedule for December, may I suggest the following:
Scale back to core subjects.
This is one of those times when the basics of reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic will serve you well.
Write letters to relatives (don’t forget thank you letters after Christmas). Explore with poetry, stories, or journaling. Read your favorite Christmas books together as a family. Allow your independent readers plenty of free-reading time. Continue working on math or experiment with living math.
Give kids a break from their areas of difficulty.
Often when we think of scaling down our school schedule, we consider it paramount to continue working on a child’s area of weakness so that he doesn’t lose ground. I completely understand that sentiment – but I can also completely understand a kid’s need for a break from a difficult subject.
Have you ever worked a difficult or high-stress job? When you’re on vacation, it’s the last thing you want to think about. I think kids feel that way about the subject that presents them the greatest challenges.
Sometimes, a child can really benefit from a complete break from it for awhile. We’ve seen that happen at my house with the dreaded long division. It seemed one of my kids would never get it prior to one summer break, but when we resumed school after several weeks off, it suddenly clicked.
That may not happen for every child, of course, but you may want to at least consider dropping the difficult subject back to 2 or 3 days a week if you’ll be taking advantage of a scaled down workload this month.
A little breather may do you all some good.
Use this time to do the fun subjects.
For many families, a guilt-free December schedule may take the form of spending time on those hands-on projects that often fall by the wayside. This may be the perfect time to dive into art, music, or drama.
Homemade Christmas gifts can be a win-win option, combining creativity with the joy of giving.
Your kids may want to write a Christmas play to perform for the family or learn Christmas music on their instrument of choice to entertain your family.
You might also consider doing all those science experiments or hands-on projects that you ran out of time for during the regular school year.
Don’t forget about family service projects.
December can also be a wonderful time to do service projects as a family. If you play musical instruments, volunteer to share your talent at a local nursing home.
If you don’t play an instrument, perhaps you can sing carols, or just play games and spend time with residents. Be sure to make plenty of homemade cards to hand out to the residents who may not have family to visit.
You could serve the homeless at a local soup kitchen, collect non-perishable items for a food bank, or collect toys or coats to donate.
Who needs home ec class when you can bake together as a family? Baking together isn’t just a hands-on life skills lesson; it’s also the stuff memories are made of and provides an opportunity to pass those favorite family recipes down to the next generation.
Often the key to a stress-free December is not taking time off of school completely, but rather thinking of learning in a much broader sense.
A break from the day-to-day in favor of pursuit of more active, free-range learning may be just what your family needs to regroup and face January with renewed energy and commitment.
What steps does your family take to make the busyness of December less stressful?