How to keep Your Homeschool Fun During the Holidays (High/Middle School Emphasis)

The hustle and bustle has begun and folks in our homeschool are already sleeping a little too late for my liking.  We still have so much to accomplish, so much to learn, and so much to study before we are greeted with a new year of possibilities.   I believe, however, we can maintain a sense of fun and wonder even though we are not weaving in writing letters to Santa or making reindeer food as part of writing and life skills this month.  I would like to share five ways I hope to keep the holidays fun yet still finish our semester of subjects.

1. Ask for help! 

As I type these words there is another woman teaching my girl in the next room.  Rather than add to my holiday stress by clashing with my student on several writing assignments, I asked the amazing teacher who my children have weekly in a cottage school Literature and Writing class if she could be available weekly during the break for tutoring.  There is just something about someone else reading, commenting, and aiding in the editing process that makes for new and different light bulb moments.  For one hour I know that my dear daughter is fully engaged, challenged, and on task in a time where deadlines are not as pressing as they are in other months of the year.  Do not fear, I can hear you now accusing me of being a tad unrealistic.  I do not have money in the budget at this time of year to pay for a tutor.  While I am grateful I am able to have someone who not only gave me a great deal but has a productive relationship with my child, I know you may not have the contacts or the resources this month to schedule a helper as I have suggested.  Could you ask another mom to step in and do a subject for you this month?  In turn, you barter with free childcare, a free home-cooked meal, or even wrapping presents!  Little helps can make for a more fun holiday in your homeschool!

2. Spend time exploring other countries and their traditions during this time of year. 

This free unit study from Freedom Homeschooling enables your family to not only read about how other countries celebrate at this time of year but integrates geography, cooking, writing, and more.  There are links listed for each country which include stories being read aloud, footage of families in that country and what they do to celebrate, and various videos about holiday activities.  Older students can read assignments independently of course and you may want to have them research the country and its traditions further, either at the library or online.  They could present what they have learned to the rest of the family or to another homeschool family.  (Free Unit Study: Christmas Around the World)  You could do all four units for a month of learning about Christmas traditions, culture, and geography of other countries. On the other hand, you could let your student choose their country of interest and complete just one unit study as some filler activities for those hard last days before break!

3. Offer an incentive! 

Who does not love a little carrot dangled in front of them to motivate them to get through a busy time?  When my kids were small I would make Bingo type sheets for fun and once the sheet was fully covered/completed they could receive a fun prize such as ice cream with mom, stay up past bedtime, etc.  While my kids now stay up often past MY bedtime, I can still offer some fun incentives to motivate them.  Years ago my Bingo squares included activities like “read for 30 minutes in the bathtub,” “read to your pet outside under a tree,” and “practice math facts while jumping rope,” they would now include activities such as “practice Spanish app for double time today,” “get a 90% of above on daily Algebra work,” or “find 3 people to text to invite them for our congregation’s Youth party.”  Here is a Bingo sheet I have designed for this month by using a free Bingo card generator online.  This is simply to add a little fun to our school since we are all tired and ready for a break (but again have MUCH to accomplish!)  I will be offering incentives for a Bingo as well as a Cover-All.

4. Keep your homeschool fun by sharing your time with others. 

Been putting off the visit to the shut-in? Been putting off having someone for a meal?  Do it now.  Our homeschool group which meets on Fridays throughout the school year takes a break from Thanksgiving until after New Year’s week.  I plan to use some of the extra time we have to be Good Samaritans and spend some extra time reading.  Taking a break in the normal homeschool schedule in December can not only make your kids more productive in their schoolwork, but it can bless so many other people!  Last month a dear friend of mine challenged all the ladies of my congregation to invite someone to their home for a meal who had never been to their home.  It felt really good to accomplish that challenge!  Maybe you can challenge your kids to help you host a dinner for neighbors or friends who have never been to your home.  Next week we are hosting a couple who my daughter cat-sits for in the neighborhood but we have never had them in our home and do not know them well.  The added bonus to this challenge is you never know what relationships you are building to spread the gospel!  Use your “free time off” from homeschool classes or lessons for being hospitable. 

5. Recreate Fun Memories

The final suggestion I have for keeping some fun in you homeschool with teens during the holidays is recreate some old favorite memories.  Although your relationship is changing daily as they gain more and more independence, they still have vivid favorite childhood memories of Christmas.  Don’t forget those special recipes, traditions, or activities just because your kids are older.  Take time each day to thank God in your prayers for being their mom and their teacher.  One of the traditions I started when my kids were young was a countdown to Christmas with holiday socks strung across the mantle.  On December 1 my kids begin the day with 24 socks hanging with numbered clothespins on a ribbon across our fireplace.  They take turns opening up the sock each day.  When they were preschoolers it was simply fun to recognize the number on the clothespin, take the sock down, see what was inside, and count “how many socks left until Christmas Day.”  While we are long past number recognition and one to one correspondence in counting objects, we are never too old for surprises.  We are doing this tradition today and they love finding small treats or notes for freebies. To keep that holiday memory alive I will continue to stock those socks with ways to bless their lives this month.  One day it may be a new chapstick, one day it may be a note that Mom will do their chores for tomorrow (I’m only doing that once!), one day it may be their favorite candy, and one day it may be extra tech time.  Making memories means adjusting to your family’s needs and interests, not copying someone else’s simply because you think that is what a successful homeschool mom looks like.  Did your kids love a favorite show as a kid but you haven’t seen it in years?  During you homeschool lunch pull a video up on You Tube and surprise your teen.  Does your child remember a favorite recipe of grandma’s a Christmas but you’ve never attempted to make it?  Work on it together! 

As you continue homeschooling this month, remember this verse:

“Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord.”  Colossians 3:23-24

Vicky Yocum

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