Homeschooling After the Winter Holidays
Every homeschooling parent knows about homeschooling after the winter holidays. You may have had an extended break with lots of exciting things taking place in a short period of time. Many families travel, some of them, great distances. It can definitely be an adjustment to get back to any kind of a normal routine.
Now that the Christmas tree is down and the menorah is put away, a slower pace and the fun that surrounds holiday decorations meals, Christmas carols, gift-giving, and traveling are through, it’s not completely uncommon to feel a bit sluggish. The good news is, we have some tips that will make the entire process, if not perfect, then just a little bit easier.
Homeschooling After the Winter Holidays
A Novel Idea
Some families homeschool right through the winter holidays. In fact, I’ve done this several times myself. But only because we pretty much did everything, including hosting large family meals, from our own home. The very activities of the holidays gave ample opportunity for many lessons. From utilizing recipes and timing charts for math class to filling out Christmas cards for language arts, and we can’t leave out the socialization that happens as friends and family come and go!
Not every family can do this, of course, but even a single homeschool lesson thrown in every day can help get through the holidays and into the New Year without the stagnation that often happens after long breaks. Those breaks seem to rejuvenate for some children and give them an extra helping of excitement when it’s time to get back to work. But other children have a really hard time getting back into the swing of things. Little daily tasks that keep the homeschooling experience fresh in their minds can be a massive help in not breaking down over the long holiday season.
A Fresh Plan Works Wonders
Some homeschooling families take extended breaks for the winter holiday season for various reasons, not the least of which is traveling. If you happen to be a “host family” for other family members who travel long distances to get to you, that extension can be just as necessary. And that’s why freshening up your plan can be the best decision at this time of year.
On your first “official day” back, make sure it’s an easy one and not chock-full of everything all at once. You might try getting the children interested by learning about a brand-new topic, which helps them come to the proverbial table with interest and excitement. The same can happen with activities that require hands-on interaction. Science experiments, acting out a play, or creating a nice recipe can all be great ways of keeping interest levels high. You might even consider learning about other holidays around the world, such as Kwanzaa, an African-American holiday, or Diwali, to add African heritage cultural studies, and history. It will even make your kids feel like they are still taking a break!
You can also take this time to discuss with your children the upcoming semester and ask for their input on things they’d like to learn about. Getting them involved in the educational planning process, if they are old enough, can be exciting and beneficial for you and your child and a great way to begin the New Year.
It’s also a great time to practice flexibility. January, and getting back into the swing of things after the winter holidays, can be just as stressful on our youngsters as it is on us, even though in different ways. There will be a struggle to get back into the routine sometimes, but it’s not worth stressing too much. Try to have fun with it and adjust your schedule as needed.
A fresh plan also works when you put it to use for planning meals as well. After all the holiday cooking, the last thing you want to do is get up every morning and wonder what you’re going to make for the day. For the first couple of weeks after this break, plan simple meals that will be easy to make, cooked in a slow cooker, or combined with a life skills or home economics class, so you’ll have assistance. This not only helps your child to feel needed and practice skills they’ll use for the rest of their lives, but it’s also an awesome time to bond, have deep conversations, and truly get to know one another better than ever before.
As I’ve already mentioned, diving headlong back into full-on, five-day-a-week homeschooling can be more stressful than it’s worth. That’s why baby steps can get you back where you need to be easier and with less chaos than any other way.
For younger children, this could be as simple as just working on handwriting and math. Since these skills are necessary foundation blocks on which many of the other subjects hinge, it’s important to include them. If you want to add a bit more right off the bat, go with something that your child enjoys. That makes it so much easier on everyone involved. For older children, you could offer the opportunity to do more individual study, reading, or maybe even life skills classes. No matter which age group you’re working with, or if you’re homeschooling multiple age groups, the bottom line is to simply go back into something they are likely to enjoy. And if they don’t enjoy it, then at least let it be something they don’t have to dig too hard to finish.
You might also consider going on a field trip as a first activity after coming back from break. Of course, common outdoor field trip destinations might be off-limits due to inclement weather, but libraries, museums, and even some zoos all have some exciting things that go on throughout the winter for just such an occasion.
A great activity right after the holidays is allowing your children to write thank-you letters and cards for everything and everyone they might have been thankful for over the holidays. Not only does this help cultivate a grateful heart and thank family members & friends for any winter holiday gifts they might have received, but it covers several aspects of the language arts category, as well. They’ll be writing these out by hand, expressing thoughts and emotions on paper, addressing an envelope, and counting up how much money it will take to purchase the stamps necessary for mailing their cards and letters.
This activity can actually be repeated a couple of times throughout the year, especially after birthdays or other special holidays or personal accomplishments in which they receive something from a friend or relative. Taking the time to stop the busyness of the day to emphasize expressing thankfulness will be an activity and a habit that will follow your children throughout their lifetime.
I’m not just talking about having grace for your children. Yes, of course, they need it too, but you should also have grace for yourself. It’s never “easy” getting back into the swing of things after the lull of winter holidays and there will be days that seem like an overload. At times like that, a book-reading marathon and verbal discussion afterward can aptly be called a school day.
Don’t be afraid to do things you might not always do. Have a movie and popcorn night. Order pizza and practice socializing with one another. Leave the dried laundry until tomorrow; you can always hit the “fluff” cycle and fold or hand it then. And that’s okay! Your homeschool days will be back to a five-day grind in no time, but until then, there’s no reason to throw in everything you’ve got all at once.
There’s no “right or wrong way” to come back from holiday vacation if you even take one at all. Whether you are Christian and celebrate Christmas or Jewish and celebrate Hanukkah, just like with almost every other facet of homeschooling, you do what works best for your family. For some, that means homeschooling right through the winter holidays with a decreased schedule. For others, it means taking off an extended period of time and then slowly easing back into the homeschooling routine.
No matter which road you take, know that it will not be the wrong one. If it works, it’s right. And that’s what really matters. Work on instilling the love of learning most of all. You’re most likely to see everything else fall into place after that. And from there, you can enjoy the process as well as the result.
Stacey is an author, blogger, and former homeschool mother who loves to encourage and uplift, especially on the subjects of faith and homeschooling. She lives in Central Kentucky with her husband, Jimmy, and their two children. For more information, visit her website, Words From The Wheel.