It happens every Christmas … all your warm, fuzzy ideals end up in shambles, leaving you feeling frazzled and stressed. The easiest way to stay sane through the holidays is to set balanced expectations of yourself, your family, and your budget.
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In order to manage your month, and your sanity, You can start the month off right by planning ahead. I suggest that you work on at least one thing a day to make the whole month easier for you to manage!
- Make Ahead Meals – Spend the first weekend filling the freezer with meals for your family. Visit my Pinterest board to find some yummy freezer meals to make this month!
- Freeze the Party – Cook what you can for Christmas week and Christmas dinner. You can get my favorite Holiday Freezer Cooking guide here.
- Create a Gift List – Decide who will receive gifts and how many, and keep the list with you. Visit my Pinterest board here for great gift ideas for homeschoolers!
- Read Great Books – Choose holiday classics to read aloud together. Read my article for great Christmas literature!
- Choose an End Date – Choose your last day of school before Christmas break and mark it on the calendar.
- Set Time Limits – Do the academics in the morning, with less structured afternoons.
- Focus on Fun School – Focus on P.E., Culinary Arts, and Home Economics. Find out How to Collect Christmas Credits here!
- Do Less "Schoolish" School – Eliminate a workbook, textbook, or assignment this month. I'll come back to this one later - read on!
- Swap School Strategy – Don't add any assignments unless you take something out.
- Set Your Budget – Christmas is not about money or gifts. Find a few money saving tips here.
- Prioritize Family – Sing, cycle, sled/toboggan, ice skate, or watch holiday classics together.
- Savor Sane Moments – One peppermint mocha or pumpkin latte can make a difference.
- Make Bake Ahead Treats – Bake sweet bread or cookies, or freeze cookie dough to enjoy at a busy time of the season.
- Create Family Traditions – Decide what memories you want to create for your child and work on them.
- Practice Self Care – A warm bath, candles, and chocolate can change your perspective.
- Pay for Help – Hire a housekeeper, landscaper, or helper for one day.
- Focus on Family – Your mission is your family right now, so enjoy it without guilt.
- Date Your Spouse – One babysitter for one night can help get you through the month.
- Decorate Simply – Be realistic and choose what is easy to set up and take down.
- Take it Easy – Not everything should be handmade; choose the easier way when possible.
- Watch Body Mechanics – Grab a chair and pay attention to your posture while crafting and wrapping.
- Love Your Neighbor – Take a treat of baked goods and fruit to their door with a card and a smile.
- Serve Others – Volunteer to serve, or perform music at church or a retirement home. Find out how to use those volunteer hours on your child's transcript.
- Set Aside Quiet Time – Use that daily reminder to keep your focus on what is most important.
- Just Say No – Politely but firmly decline opportunities that take your focus away from priorities.
Of course, you can't get all this done if you are talked into helping out with every event, party, or family function. You need to set limits. You want to live with no regrets and if your own family comes last, you'll be sad after they are grown and gone. Family comes first. Some people will struggle with the concept of "No" and other people just can't hear it. If you have trouble with it, take this time to learn how to say "No" effectively.
First, simply say it - just say no. It may be hard and may take practice. Secondly, explain why you're saying no, if you must. Although it's not necessary, it does help some people understand why you're declining their request. And, lastly, be firm. It is certainly ok to turn and walk away once you say no. (Remember telling your kids that you aren't going to talk about it any more? This is the adult equivalent to that.)
When our kids were in high school, we cut WAY back during December. We just did the very CORE subjects, doing just the things that needed to be done in order to make progress during the year. That means we worked on math and foreign language every day, mostly. They loved reading, so nothing I could do would make them stop reading their beloved books. It was fun for them.
The entire month of December we did school for perhaps 3-4 hours a day. Like a public schools half-day, we crammed in all the core subjects into the morning, and took the rest of the day off. Math, foreign language, some science perhaps, so we wouldn't lose our place in the book, journal writing, and their reading. After that, they helped with holiday things. They wrote Christmas cards, composed a Christmas letter, went shopping, budgeted and bought gifts, helped with decorating, baking, and delivering gifts.
Some of the great Christmas literature that we focused on during this time included "Norman Rockwell's Christmas," one of my favorites. Girls might particularly enjoy "Little Women" or Louisa May Alcott's "Christmas Treasury" of Christmas theme literature. "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry is also a great Christmas book. Although many people read it as a tradition during Christmas, it's also one of the great works of literature that high school students should read, so make sure to put it on your high school reading list. (Find the link to my full list of great Christmas literature above - #4).
Most of the time, though, they just "did their own thing." I kept them away from computer games and the TV, so they entertained themselves in ways that didn't make them brain dead. We all learned that "doing your own thing" meant you were actually learning something, too! They were reading, playing educational games, working on real projects. It was all learning, it just wasn't all book learning.
Think of December as a good time for them to work on their electives, such as service projects or Occupational Education (even get a seasonal job, perhaps.)
Christmas was a huge stress to me, as well. Perhaps because I had boys, but it seemed like EVERYTHING was my job - it was very overwhelming. Taking it a bit easy can help you stay sane in December. Nothing good will happen if mom goes insane, you know!?
I really love Christmas. It's my favorite holiday by FAR, but I must stay sane in December (and you shoudl too!). The holiday season is so fun, but it sure can be stressful. Can I give some unsolicited advice?
1. Don't work so hard
2. Slow down for the holidays
3. Cherish precious memories
4. Take a break from some school things
5. Remember to have FUN!
If you want more details about how to stay sane in December, be sure to check out my Coffee Break Book on Amazon, Homeschooling the Holidays.
If you are looking for some gift giving suggestions, I have some ideas for you (and, of course, your student) that will help you prepare for college. You can find ideas for Christmas Gifts that Pay for College here.
I hope these suggestions help you stay sane in December! Remember to say no and put family first. Breathe deep and enjoy this time with your children!