Homeschooling Through the Holidays

At this busy time of year when we find ourselves preparing for holiday celebrations with family and friends, shopping and cooking more than usual, it can be a challenge to know how to continue homeschooling through December.

People take many different approaches with homeschooling in December. I know people who take nearly the entire month “off” with no formal use of curriculum or their usual schedule at this time and others continue with their normal plan, taking maybe a week or two off. There are those who see the learning opportunities that surround us during the holidays. From writing out Christmas cards to visiting the elderly or volunteering at a soup kitchen as well as cooking and baking, there are many ways our children can learn real-life lessons during this time of year. For those who follow more of an unschooling approach, all the events of the holidays are part of everyday life learning just as at any other time of the year.

I see this time of year as one to stop and first give thanks. Somehow, Thanksgiving has been plowed over by Christmas in our retail oriented society. Reading stories from other time periods or other places in the world can help our children appreciate the life they live and all they do have. Even if financial times are more difficult right now, as they are for my family, our children can see all they do have to be thankful for from a warm home, plenty of food and a comfortable bed.

I remember a number of years ago I was in search of a book on manners to read with my son. I found a book entitled, Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners, by Lucille Recht Penner. This book was more than a book on manners; it was a book on life on the Mayflower as well as the Pilgrim’s life in the new land. What I remember most about this book included how children often stood to eat and the condition of the food they had. They described how they would eat in the dark so they would not see the bugs that had infested their food. Reading that book was a real lesson in thankfulness, thankfulness for things like refrigerators, freezers and containers to keep bugs out. For some time after, I would remind my son that at least we were not eating on the Mayflower.

During the holidays, there are many volunteer opportunities that happen too. You can find many of these opportunities throughout the year but it is even easier to find them during the holidays. You can adopt a child or an entire family in need to purchase gifts and/ or needed items like clothing and school supplies. My home school group has gone to Crisis Assistance Ministry in Charlotte to help them hang and sort clothing they receive as donations for their store where qualified families in need can shop at no cost.

My family, my parents and siblings, started doing some kind of service work each year when we get together at the holidays, either Christmas or Thanksgiving. This year we returned to a Nursing home that we had been to once before to visit with residents. My sister has certified therapy dogs and so they came with us. The residents enjoyed the dogs, the children and the adult company too. Another year we were in Pennsylvania for Christmas visiting my brother and we went to a local service organization and wrapped gifts that had been donated for families in need. We even got to meet some of the parents who came in to pick up the gifts for their children.

Last year, my husband’s side of the family started a similar tradition. He has 4 brothers and sisters and all of them have grown children. They found a family in need that we adopted and then all chipped in to purchase needed items and Santa gifts for the entire family. We learned about the family including how they had lost their home because the mother has surgery and could not work and the father’s income was about enough to pay the rent on a new house they found. They had four children and one daughter was Autistic. One person was in contact with the family and got a list of needed and wanted items. We included gift cards for gas and groceries along with gifts for each family member. We even got to see a picture of the family and my niece took a picture of all the wrapped presents we had for them. It was very rewarding and even my kids (aged 10 and 5 at the time) enjoyed helping to buy the gifts for this family. Due to financial difficulties for many this year, they have adopted a child and are asking for about $10 per family to buy items for the child.

It feels good to give back to others and helps me appreciate all I do have. Even though my family has been on a limited income recently due to my husband’s job change, I know there are others who have greater financial needs then I do. What better time of year to think of others than during the winter holidays. I would love to hear what others have done at this time of year including traditions of all beliefs and stories of giving back.