Homeschooling for the Holidays

3 Ways to Approach Homeschooling During the Holiday Season

How should you homeschool for the holidays? 

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years–for many of us this stretch feels like one holiday after the other!

The way you choose to approach the holidays will likely mirror your family’s approach to homeschooling. My role as a homeschool coach showed me several different approaches that worked well for the families I worked for (and one that almost always failed).

Three Successful Approaches to the Holidays: Case Studies

All family names have been changed and the behaviors are representative of three approaches but come from multiple family coaching experiences.

Approach 1 to Homeschooling over the Holidays:
100% Focus on the Holiday

The Pilner family were devout Catholics. They took their faith seriously, all year long. From the first Sunday of Advent till Epiphany, they set aside most academic subjects. They delved deeply into Saint days, church history, reviewing the lineage of Jesus, and general merrymaking. As the kids got older, the family maintained habits they were loathe to fully set aside (such as daily math review or weekly essay writing). Overall, they homeschooled over Christmas by ignoring academics for the better part of two months.

They didn’t attempt extra unit studies or science labs or use the time to catch up. They were all-in on Christmas for the whole stretch. And they didn’t “tack on” six weeks of extra school in May or June, but counted the Christmas time as learning. They acknowledged the growth and learning that happened during those six weeks, even if the childrent weren’t making forward progress on their curricular checklists.

Approach 2 to Homeschooling over the Holidays:
Split Your Time Between Regular Studies and Holiday-Themed Unit Studies

The Smith family participated in Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations, but they maintained a consistent routine, overall. The children continued their daily rhythm. They daily completed handwriting, math, and nature journaling, just as before. But the family lessened expectations around co-op, outside classes, and big projects.

The family used the Truth in the Tinsel with their younger kids, and did a form of Christmas School during their family time. Art and music study were part of their normal routine, but during this season they listened to Handel’s Messiah for Composer Study and looked at art over the ages that depicts Christmas, from the nativity up through modern day Santa Claus. They learned Jingle Bells and Silent Night as folk songs.

The Smiths studied basic physics principals and applied them to their gingerbread house building, and they used their geography time to consider how the cultures in that area celebrate Christmas or other religious holidays.

They shifted some of their traditional academics and slowed their progress through curriculum. Generally, though the content was different, they followed a similar rhythm to non-holiday seasons. They took two weeks off over Christmas and New Years, at the same time as the local public schools.

Approach 3 to Homeschooling Over the Holidays:
Life as (Mostly) Normal

The Hodges did celebrate the Fall holidays, but they celebrated nearly entirely outside of their school day. They committed to the normal progression through their curriculum. While their evenings looked a bit different with caroling and white elephant gift exchanges and dinners with friends and families, their school days progressed mostly as normal. Mom did sometimes change a few assignments to bring in holiday elements, such as including some snowman crafts for her youngest kids and allowing the big kids to compose a Christmas letter to include in their holiday cards, but overall, their schedule remained steady. 

1 Approach That Is Guaranteed to Fail

Every few years, I’d have a family who would begin telling me about all the holiday learning they had planned. I’d expect them to be like the Pilners, 100% in on Christmas Homeschool. But after further discussion, I’d realize that they planned to attempt to maintain a steady progress in their curricular checklists. Sometimes they’d even tell me their kids would “catch up” over their planned two-week break from lessons. 

And while I did see families attempt this “do it all” approach–they never tried it more than once. The truth is, no one can do all the holiday learning, crafts, readings, and celebrations AND maintain steady progress in your curriculum.

Approaching the holiday season is a good time to reflect on your big rocks of homeschooling and choose which style of holiday homeschooling makes the most sense for your family.

What is more important to you and your family? Is it more important that you progress through your curriculum at a steady pace, or more important that you set curriculum aside and rest or revel in the holiday season? Or does the middle ground feel like the right sort of compromise for your family?

What to Ask Yourself

Here are some questions you can consider as you decide your approach to this coming season:

  1. How will I feel is I set aside our scheduled curriculum for this season?
  2. How will my children feel?
  3. What are the most important things for our family to learn and experience this season? Are those things found in the curriculum or in something different? 
  4. Am I worried about a child “falling behind” this month? Is that worry founded in reality or in something else?
  5. Does my family need to practice discipline to continue to build consistency in our daily rhythmm? If so, and I’m still interested in doing something different for the season, how can I find a middle ground that honors both needs?
  6. If I do want to set aside curriculum, how will I handle what we skip? Will we pick up where we left off, skip that section, abridge future sections, stop the curriculum early?

Whatever you decide to do this season, you’ll benefit from pausing and considering before it starts. And I strongly suggest giving yourself some margin and grace–a good dose of flexibility will help immensely when surprise opportunities arise.