by Becky Slamer
Christmas can carry so many varying and extreme emotions. Those emotions can range from excitement to stress to sadness to delight to awe. For some, the decorating, the parties, the baking, the gift giving, the lights, all the traditions, and all the celebrating bring much excitement and joy. For some, those very things bring stress and worry. The holidays can also be a time of incredible loss or sadness. Yet, there is nothing quite like the delight on our children’s faces on Christmas morning. For a busy homeschooling mom, preparing for Christmas along with everything else on our plates may cause us to lose our focus and joy.
Christmas Can Be Worshipful
Ultimately, the focus of the Christmas season should be the birth of our Lord and Savior. Focusing on Him invites us into awe and worship. Even the world around us is proclaiming His birth. Christmas can be a worshipful season. We can even enjoy homeschooling through the Christmas season.
Enjoy a Sprinkle or Embrace Christmas School
Over the years, I have chosen to embrace the opportunities that come with this season. That is how Christmas School began! There is so much natural learning in an Advent study. Things like decorating, shopping for gifts, budgeting, baking, packing shoeboxes, giving, planning for events, Christmas books, movies, music, and so much more can provide great learning opportunities. I love that it can lead back to talking about Jesus’ birth and its significance.
In our family, we mix up some of the things we normally do. Poetry teatime becomes Christmas hot-drink time while reading Christmas books. Read aloud time is done by the Christmas tree. Field trips with friends to enjoy seasonal fun are a highlight. One of our favorites is a local candy shop that hand makes candy canes as we watch. Making the choice to “press pause” on our regular curriculum and learn in fresh ways, has been incredibly freeing.
Whether you choose to sprinkle Christmas amidst your ongoing curriculum or you choose to make Christmas your focus, here are a few more ideas from our Christmas school.
Try Something New and Mix It Up
Some activities we have done only once or twice. It is always fun to explore new ideas, especially if we are studying something specific. For example, when we studied geography, we did a Christmas Around the World unit study. When my son was struggling with writing, he kept a Christmas journal that helped motivate him to get some ideas on paper. He would answer a question a day like, “What is your favorite Christmas decoration and why?” One year my daughter read A Christmas Carol. Last year, our friend taught us about Handel’s Messiah. My children produced a terrific Christmas art project (bonus–it was also a wonderful grandparent gift). Copying a Christmas Scripture passage or poem with fun colors can also become a Christmas card! Listening to Christmas music lyrics can provide many teachable moments.
Establish Traditions That Last
Without holding on too tightly to any one tradition, we have some we do year after year. I try to remember that we are focusing on Jesus. The advent season, the anticipation of celebrating His birth, is full of rich opportunities I do not want to miss. Doing some planning in November or early December helps keep me from needlessly fretting later in the month or missing things I really wanted to do.
On December 1, we talk about the meaning of Advent. In early December, our church has an elaborate Christmas program. Our kids have had the opportunity to sing, dance, and act in it since they were little. It has become a cherished tradition. Christmas School affords us the space for the late night rehearsals the week before and the space to recharge afterwards. My daughter and I enjoy going to the Nutcracker ballet each year. We have a local, professional, ballet company that puts on outreach performances for students for a very reasonable price.
The kids decide what to gift those that invest in their lives on a regular basis, like leaders at church or their piano teacher. The kids read Compassion or Samaritan’s Purse catalogs and choose a gift to give. We also take one day for the kids to clean out their toys and clothes.
We pray as we send out our Christmas cards. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, my husband and I have practiced a Silent Night, where we take turns enjoying a quiet house and being still by the tree. Now that our kids are older, I am excited to try this as a family.
As we approach the last few days before Christmas, we tend to be at home more. We enjoy watching The Nativity Story and falling asleep by the Christmas tree. My family grew up having tamales at Christmas time. I knew that when my daughter was old enough, I would learn how to make them with her. We have done it for two years now and are getting the hang of it! We choose a day close to Christmas when the kids and I spend the day baking Christmas goodies for our neighbors and now we throw in a tamale or two as well. A Happy Birthday Jesus party or cake on Christmas day is a great way to keep the focus on Him. A relaxing Christmas morning tradition that slows us down is having a hot drink while my husband reads the Christmas story from the Bible, followed by us opening gifts.
You may have similar traditions and even more special ways to celebrate the season. Don’t hesitate to embrace the natural learning opportunities and enjoy some Christmas School this December. Know and listen to your family and adjust accordingly. We are in a season of needing to create some space for our family to breathe and rest a little more. As a result, I am going to adjust some of what we do this year and you may find us spending a lot of time reading by the Christmas tree, watching Christmas movies, listening to Christmas music, and taking advantage of online shopping!
May your Christmas be a wonderful and worshipful season of learning as we celebrate the birth of Jesus!
Becky Slamer and her husband, Scott, have been married for almost 16 years. They are in their 11th year of homeschooling their 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son. They are also in full time ministry with Cru, a ministry that reaches college students. They read a lot and celebrate often in their home. Performing arts and soccer round out their days and have been great opportunities to connect with others. Becky joined LIFE Homeschool, a CHEA Support Network Group during their first year homeschooling. She served as the Co-Op Coordinator for two years on the leadership team before becoming President earlier this year. Homeschooling has been the greatest gift for their family!