by Rebecca Kocsis

Yep, it’s November already. I imagine you’ve really gotten into the stride of the school year, and now the holidays are upon you. What do you do? Keep plugging away through your well-planned routine? Or do you pivot into a new holiday plan? And how do you execute a holiday plan with a supply chain crisis? 

I say pivot! Here’s why.

Our first few years of homeschooling, I did my best to not let the holidays foil my school days – to no avail. Eventually, the stress of homeschooling and trying to prepare for the holidays was just too much. It never failed; I found myself deleting my lesson plans for November and December and recreating them to include holiday activities.

That was when we actually did crafts and baking. I thought I would have more time to do these things when we started homeschooling. Little did I know that beginning homeschooling with three different grade levels left me feeling I didn’t have time for that! But the holidays lent themselves naturally to incorporating these as part of our school day. In retrospect, I knew in my head that cooking and creating were educational in and of themselves. At least so my well-meaning friends would say. I just didn’t quite trust how that would work out in real life. 

After I had a few years of homeschooling under my belt and seeing how it worked in real life (it really works), I finally incorporated holiday activities into our routine. Instead of grudgingly putting away “the books,” I marked a day on the calendar when we would transition to a new holiday schedule. The kids would count down the days when we would pivot to holiday studies. And yes, we still took off two to three weeks for Christmas vacation. 

For social studies, we turned to the history of Thanksgiving and Christmas. We incorporated the study of Christmas carols and hymns. We even learned how to sing “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful” in Latin. We studied fine art that focused on the Nativity and Madonna and Child. 

All of our read-aloud books were holiday-themed. The children’s favorite was probably A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Over the years, we read the Christmas stories of George MacDonald and Louisa May Alcott, among others. They all still love The Polar Express and have copies for their own children.

We spent countless hours making gifts for friends and family. Grandparents adored handmade ornaments and decorated frames with the children’s pictures. For science one year, the kids cooked up homemade scented slime. That was a big hit with their friends. 

Lest you think it was always perfect, we did have our share of flops. We tried making paper, which instead of drying, got moldy. And the year we tried gold, frankincense, and myrrh-themed gifts? Somebody had the idea of making myrrh scented soap. Let’s just say I am still not a fan of the scent of myrrh. It took months to get it out of the house. But even with the disasters, we made priceless memories.

Because we had a busy family, we had an abundance of social events that included meals and desserts. Cookie baking and candy making were a given. I personally believe our family is responsible for perfecting the art of the ever-popular Chicken Enchilada Casserole. We may have made that one a little too often. 

A few of the recipes we made over those years have become a part of our family’s heritage and traditions. Thanksgiving would not be complete without “Helen’s Stuffing”. It’s not your usual stuffing recipe. My mother-in-law, Helen, created it using ingredients that she had on hand because she didn’t have access to other pricier ingredients. Over the years we could have changed it, but we didn’t. A couple of the kids have tried their own variations. One tried making it into stuffing muffins once, but never again. Too dry. I personally wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s become tradition, along with Cranberry Pecan Bars and English Toffee.

In the face of this year’s forecast of shortages, I am reminded of my mother-in-law’s ingenuity; how she was able to make do with what she had. It seems along with the holidays, supply chain issues are also upon us. Add to that the many families who find themselves dealing with unemployment because of government mandates. This year we will adapt our usual traditions when needed to make do with what we’ve got. In the process, we will make some new ones.

Thanksgiving is more than the gateway to Christmas. It can be a meaningful time to not only count our blessings, but show the people in our lives what a blessing they are to us. Without the stress of creating the perfect meal, we are free to worship our Creator with truly thankful hearts. 

Our family is talking about replacing multitudes of gifts with meaningful time together. Instead of a pile of presents under the tree, we can pull out the craft bins and make memories. Can’t get the kids new Christmas outfits? Make the dress code “jammies” — all day! It really isn’t about the trimmings, right? Focus on your family. We are each others’ people. Is there anything more important than that? Well, there is something.

I would encourage you to save yourself the stress of keeping a regular schedule this year. Instead of trying to add the holidays into your already busy routine, welcome them into the midst of your homeschool. Make your celebrations a part of your lesson plans. 

Instead of stressing over not being able to get your hands on the perfect gift this Christmas, focus on the most perfect gift. God sent us His only Son. It’s His birthday that we celebrate. 

You don’t need a lot of money to make memories. It’s not the trimmings that make a holiday meaningful; it’s the memories we make while celebrating with the people we love. And remembering that we are celebrating the most perfect, priceless gift–the birth of God’s Son.