It might come as a bit of a shock to some people (especially non-homeschoolers) that we take the entire month of December off from school every year.
As soon as the Christmas carols start ringing, we take a break from our workbooks. We don’t do our level readers or practice our numbers or even write in our journals. We take all of December off from homeschooling. But that doesn’t mean that we stop learning.
This annual month-long break came about because we found December to be so busy. From Christmas concerts to parties to special Santa-story time at the library, there are just so many activities that happen during the month. And that’s on top of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. There’s baking to be done, presents to buy or make, and decorations to put up. To make it a less stressful and more enjoyable time for everyone, we did away with seatwork and workbooks. This freed up extra time for us to do other things and celebrate the Christmas season.
One of our goals as homeschoolers was to create a home environment that is restful and peaceful. The flexibility that homeschooling offers means that we can take a break when things are busy. We aren’t rushing our kids to finish workbooks or complete assignments just so we can rush out to a concert or go Christmas shopping. We get a more peaceful house during the holidays.
Books under the tree
A fun activity that has become a family tradition is our nightly Christmas story. At the beginning of the month, we wrap up 24 books and put them under the tree. We include classics like “The Night Before Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and, of course, at least 1 (or sometimes 3) version of the Christmas story. Add in some fun winter books and other cute Christmas stories, and we’ve got a great pile of books for storytime.
We love to do an activity advent calendar. Last year, we strung up some twinkle lights and hung little paper bags off it. Each bag contained a little chocolate and a slip of paper with an activity for us to do that day. Activities might include writing a Christmas wishlist, baking cookies, watching a special movie or going to a Christmas party. Get our activity advent printable and make one for your home.
Printable available at: https://raisingatoz.com/advent-calendar-activities/
Extra Events and Outings
The calendar fills up quickly in December. Between the different concerts and plays, parties, and other fun activities that only come up during this holiday time, we like to take full advantage of these extras and include them in our schedule.
It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of December. By taking a few weeks off schooling, we get to focus on family. We can hang out, have a family movie night, and take walks in the woods together. We also have family visiting from out of town. When we take a break from the workbooks, we can spend more time with our aunts, uncles, and cousins. One of the benefits of homeschooling is the ability to focus on family. We certainly add an emphasis on this during the holidays.
Time for Rest
This is such an important lesson. In a world that often glorifies busy, teaching our kids the value of rest and time off is important. We’re teaching them time-management, self-care and the importance of saying “No.” The holidays can be a time of stress for parents. But by taking one thing off our daily to-do, we can open up time for things that really matter. For us, that means extra time with family, at church, and for our family traditions.
What We’re Learning
But just because we aren’t doing “school” doesn’t mean that we aren’t learning. If we’re skipping the workbooks and not “studying” during December, what are the kids learning? The short answer is LOTS!
We do so much reading with all those Christmas and winter books that are hidden under the tree, and we don’t just read them at bedtime.
We practice writing with our wish lists and Christmas cards.
We work on different math concepts while budgeting and buying presents and baking cookies.
We get to experience a variety of music and dramatic events with the concerts and plays, even participating in the Christmas Eve service’s retelling of the nativity story.
We learn about charity, gratitude and helping others through acts of service during the month.
We learn about our family’s culture, history and traditions through family gatherings and food (Tourtière! French Canadian meat pies, anyone?)
There’s lots of learning happening, but you won’t find it in a workbook. We find it in our everyday lives during the festive season.
Amanda and Stéphane Ostrander are two teachers who decided to homeschool. They live in Greater Sudbury, Ontario where they are happily raising their two daughters, Alexie and Zoé. Avid vloggers, they love to share their homeschool journey, support, and learning ideas with other homeschooling families. See what they have for you and your homeschool life at Raising A to Z.