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[Book Excerpt] Homeschooling the Holidays

~ A word from our founder, The HomeScholar Emeritus, Lee Binz ~

This is a chapter from my book, Homeschooling the Holidays: Sanity Saving Strategies and Gift Giving Ideas. You can purchase a copy in print or Kindle version on Amazon.

Christmas School

When we homeschooled, we did "Christmas school" during the month of December. We worked hard for most of the year and took a little time off during December to make space for the special activities of the season. When my children were teenagers, I allowed them more time for independent study; they work on courses independently into December. For instance, they continued working on science and Latin, but alone rather than with me.

When you are determining which subjects to take a break from during your Christmas school, try to keep courses that build on themselves, and might suffer from a three-week break. One way to help you determine which courses to continue over the holidays, is to consider what would happen if your child was in public school and had a half day or snow day. Which subjects would the school drop? One of the advantages of homeschooling is that you can set your schedule according to what works for your family and are not tied to someone else's schedule.

Every December, we chose literature tied either to winter or Christmas. I also used Christmas essay prompts. As they got older, my children helped us with the Christmas letter we included in our Christmas cards. Other families have their children write a newsletter or newspaper to be included in Christmas cards.

When our children were teenagers and we were homeschooling high school, we skipped many enrichment activities, such as logic, Bible, and memorization. We skipped all SAT preparation over the holidays, which works unless your child needs the practice for a January SAT test. We skipped journal writing, research writing, and sometimes (but not always), skipped read aloud activities.

We completed math, science, history, and foreign language over the holidays. These subjects build on themselves. It can be difficult to stop and pick them back up. Instead of doing 100 percent of everything required for a curriculum, you can do 50 or 80 percent during the month of December. It's important to stay sane over the holidays.

A Delight Directed Christmas

In addition to taking some time off from the usual studies, Christmas school is a wonderful time to allow your student to specialize in studies they enjoy (delight directed learning). Christmas is a wonderful time for you to let go of the heavy lifting of homeschooling, and let your children pick up the heavy lifting instead.

As an example, some colleges offer a winter session, which is about a month long. Instead of taking a semester of math, students take a month-long course that's interesting, different, and unusual, which they study intensely for a month. You can do this too, in Christmas school. Once your child finishes their math, science, and foreign language (or any subjects you are having them continue in December), they still have enough time during the rest of the day to study whatever they want. If they want to study website development or the biology of horses, they can study it on their own without much involvement from parents.

Your student could focus intensely on this single to that need to be don pic during Christmas school, while you focus on other things. It's okay to encourage independence in your children. If you haven't done this before, Christmas school is the perfect time to start, because your child can't get into much trouble over those three or four weeks.

Your Goal as Parents

As you approach the holiday season, do you feel stressed thinking about how you're going to do it all? Do you wonder whether you can keep homeschooling? Usually there are more activities and tasks during the holiday season and adding these to an already busy homeschool load can be daunting. It's especially stressful if you are the person in charge of buying and wrapping gifts and cooking and baking. It's good to remember the little mantra airline attendants use when you get on an airplane: parents need to put on their oxygen masks first.

One thing you can do to avoid burnout and excess stress is to set clear boundaries for the activities you sign up for. At this time of year, your first task is still homeschooling and caring for your family, so when somebody asks you to do something for the holidays, ask yourself if your spouse would miss a day of work to do this task.

Of course, there will be times when the answer is "yes." Your neighbor may be in need, or maybe your children have an opportunity that is too good to miss, and your spouse would take a day off work. But sometimes it isn't important enough to devote time to. You will need to evaluate the benefits of the opportunity before you can decide.

When you're faced with something that comes up during the holidays, decide what's important. Consider whether the activity is fun; while this is not the most important focus (there are many activities that are fun and good), it's a factor. Also think about whether it's important. Some things are fun, but not important.

As you look at opportunities, consider whether they will increase your workload. Some things are fun and important, but they require you to drive three times a day for 30 minutes each way. This will significantly increase your workload, so consider this factor in your decision. Alternatively, some activities can reduce your workload. If an opportunity will take the place of something else that causes you a lot of work, perhaps it is a benefit you should consider.

Your goal in all this is to avoid burnout and stress. January is a difficult month to homeschool, so if you start January burned out and stressed, it will be difficult to hold out for the whole month. Anything you do now to make your life less stressed will help you be successful homeschooling throughout January and February. These are traditionally difficult months for all teachers, in part because there's less sunlight, but also because it's the middle of the year, and can be hard to keep up that first level of intensity. Prioritize yourself and your sanity and do not get burned out, because you'll need to hit the ground running in January!

Learn more about Homeschooling the Holidays in my book review below!

This is a chapter from my book, Homeschooling the Holidays: Sanity Saving Strategies and Gift Giving Ideas. You can purchase a copy in print or Kindle version on Amazon.

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Monday, 27 May 2024

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