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I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Homeschooling After the Holidays {because Christmas break can't last for ever}

Homeschooling After the Holidays {because Christmas break can't last for ever}

Written by Jessica.

Christmas is just a handful of days away, and whether you’ve been preparing for it since the Christmas-in-July sales or you’re a last minute kind of gal, chances are you’re knee deep in all things Christmas right now. In less than two weeks, though, all the wonder of this season will be behind us and we’ll be standing squarely in a fresh new year. And with that, comes getting back to homeschooling.


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Homeschooling After the Holidays {because Christmas break can't last for ever}

Once the festivities are over, the food eaten, the company enjoyed, the presents unwrapped, the messes cleaned up, and the decorations taken down, emptiness can easily fill in all the spaces of our homes and hearts. It’s completely normal to feel a little bit down, or sad, or just blah – for both adults and children. Here are a few ideas for transitioning our homeschools from the hustle-and-bustle and big highs of the Christmas season to the quiet and ordinary days of January:

Give yourself permission to get back into things slowly


It’s hard for adults to get back into “real life” after the holidays, or a vacation, or sometimes even the weekends, and it’s hard for children, too. Remember that homeschooling is not school at home. No one is looking at your lesson plans or through your classroom door demanding that you do school a certain way. Give yourself and your children grace after the holidays. If they need to do a few half days, do so. If they need some extra time to play, or create, or be outside, do that. Last year, on the very first day back to school after Christmas break, my willingness to embrace a slow start allowed for a lovely afternoon that repositioned my ideas of true learning..

Be prepared to start back to school


Full disclosure: the last time I was very well-prepared to start back to school in January was when I was a classroom teacher. In those days I didn’t have children and I could afford to take a full day between Christmas and New Year’s to deep clean my classroom, switch out the Christmas bulletin boards for January ones, do my photocopying, and make lesson plans.

These days, instead you’ll find me snuggling with my kids and reading books by the Christmas tree, spending time with family, and watching my kids enjoy their new Christmas presents. My best intentions to get super-organized over Christmas break and to revamp our homeschool with all kinds of shiny New Year’s resolutions probably won’t happen. At the same time, I know that I owe my own children the same kind of professionalism that my former students received – even if that’s a little less formal and polished than it used to be. So I’ll prepare. I’ll go through our school cupboard, tidy bookshelves, look over lessons, and plan some fun and special. Maybe I’ll even do some photocopying. Because I know that I’ll feel better about starting back to school after the holidays if I’m not flying by the seat of my pants. My children take their cues from me. If I feel frazzled and bothered, they will too. If I feel peaceful, they’re more likely to, also.

Homeschooling After the Holidays {because Christmas break can't last for ever}

Get outside


Depending on where you live, January days can be cold, short, and dark--conditions that can make everyone feel cooped up and restless. This can lead to children getting wild and everyone getting on each other’s last nerves. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in motherhood, it’s that going outside can alleviate a lot of problems. It can make grumpiness and bad attitudes fade away. It can put an end to squabbles and boredom. It can literally turn a day around. It’s more than worth the hassle of bundling everyone up in their winter gear…and then unbundling all the winter gear, drying it, and wiping up wet floors when you come back inside. 

It’s worth it even if you have a bunch of little ones who need your help with every single piece of gear and who have meltdowns before you get outside because a sock feels funny in a boot or a sleeve has come out of a mitten. Trust me: go.out.side. And forget about feeling like you need to be doing a nature study or some kind of experiment with snow. Go outside and just be.

Decorate for winter


Where we live, winter is a sure thing from November through March. We never expect to see any green until late April. So, just like I decorate for autumn and for Christmas, I do the same for winter – think non-Christmas-y snowmen, snowflakes, white, and blues. As soon as the Christmas things come down, these go up. I don’t have tons of them, but my children look forward to seeing our specially designated just-for-winter decorations displayed. They certainly make the house look much less bare and empty after the holidays. 

I purposely used some gift money years ago to invest in a few winter decorations. But you don't necessarily have to budget specifically for this. Start with your Christmas decorations. Do you have any snowmen or snowflake decorations that don’t have Christmas colors or Christmas symbols included on them? Those would work. The after-Christmas sales at craft and department stores can be a great time to pick up things like this. Look outside, too. A basket of pinecones or a vase of bare branches with homemade snowflakes hanging from them, for example, is free and frugal.

Homeschooling After the Holidays {because Christmas break can't last for ever}

Make some winter artwork


This first weeks back to school in January are a good time for easing slowly back into school and for making time for extras. Plan to make some snowmen, snowflake, or snow-scape art projects with your children. The completed projects can take the place of Christmas artwork you've taken down. Plus, you can decorate your walls or tabletops with them – many birds, one stone. My children love to make these Borax snowflakes.



Bring out the winter books and marvel at the season


Choose to embrace the wonders of the winter season instead of feeling gloomy about it. Picture books strewn on the coffee table or in baskets in the living room are a wonderful way to learn informally. Some of our favorites for winter enjoyment and learning include the following:

Snow by Cynthia Rylant
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft
Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner
Snow is Falling by Franklyn Branley

Homeschooling After the Holidays {because Christmas break can't last for ever}

Begin some winter habits or traditions


Heading into January straight after the Christmas season can feel dull and bleak. It doesn’t have to. Make it special and create memories. Maybe that means committing to going outside every afternoon, or intentionally doing something your family enjoys once a week like skating or snowshoeing. One simple thing that I love to do with my children this time of year is to have “cookies and milk afternoons” (or cookies and cocoa…or in my case, cookies and coffee). Make some cookie dough in advance and keep it in a covered bowl in the fridge. Then, in the afternoons, say at read aloud time or after coming in from being outside, make just a sheet full of cookies and serve them right out of the oven. Warm cookies plus a winter afternoon? Doesn’t get more hygge than that.

Hold tightly to the message


From the time my children were teensy-tiny, they’ve known what Christmas is all about: remembering and celebrating the birth of Christ. Contrary to what music, stores, advertisements, mainstream America, and many well-meaning people want to pretend, that one miraculous thing – and that alone - is what Christmas is all about. Yes, our home is bedecked with beautiful holiday decorations, and we love all that as much as the next family. But against that backdrop, we wait and prepare for Christmas with things that point our hearts toward the true message: Jesus.

Advent calendars, unwrapping one Nativity-themed picture book for each day of December, our Nativity sets, daily Christmas devotional readings, a Jesse tree with ornaments that tell of Jesus’ coming – these are the things that we focus on in December. So even after the Christmas tree and other decorations come down and the house has that January bareness about it, I leave out some of the things that were at the heart of our Christmas. Our Nativity set is the last decoration to be put away, and the twenty-four Christmas books that we read throughout Advent stay on our coffee table well into January. These things stay on a bit longer than the rest, reminding us that although Christmas is over, that miracle that we just celebrated is still present.

Immanual. God with us.

That’s worth holding onto, worth pondering, well into the New Year.












7 comments:

  1. Thank you for these great suggestions!

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  2. I can definitely get behind cookies and coffee in the afternoon-I'm guessing the kids could, too! :) Thanks for reminding me the January dull drums are real. And we can get back on track!

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    1. We all need that gentle reminder from time to time, don't we? Slow and steady will be my New Year's mantra.

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  3. Just reading your post made me feel relaxed about starting up again next week. Getting outside even when it's cold helps me and my kids too. We have a tradition in January where we take down our tree and place it outside. Then we make treats for the birds and decorate it. We leave it out all winter, and when Easter comes we cut off all the branches and use the trunk to make a cross.

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    1. Those are wonderful ideas for family traditions, Lisa - thanks for sharing them! I love the idea of making the cross and am curious to know how your family makes yours. We have put our tree out in January with treats for the birds in some years, too. The Christmas book, Night Tree (Eve Bunting), a favorite of ours, ties in nicely with that idea.

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  4. Very encouraging this morning, thanks and God Bless.

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