I would like to thank Lee Binz, the HomeScholar, for her blog information that I have used, in part, to put this little post together.
January and February are traditionally difficult months for teachers everywhere; it’s dark outside, it’s the middle of the school year and often hard to keep up with the level of intensity the school year began with, and it’s right after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Our goal as parents is not avoid burnout and stress which is all too common during the month of December. If we can begin the holiday season with the end in sight, we should be able to have smooth sailing through Spring Break. In order to do this, we must prioritize our sanity. To avoid stress and burnout in January and February, prioritize your own sanity first! Think of the airline steward giving instructions before departure: in the event of a depressurization, the oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling compartment; parents, put your oxygen mask on first before helping your child!
Setting clear boundaries will help prioritize your sanity during the holiday season. If you modify and continue to accomplish school or take time off, the newly acquired “free” time in your day will create a void that will be filled with some sort of activity. You must either choose the activities, or let the activities choose you. If you prioritize your sanity and set clear boundaries, you will own the activities and prevent burnout and stress. Ask yourself some questions to help establish what activities you will or will not participate:
- What is fundamentally important?
- Will this increase or decrease my workload?
- Will I really benefit from it? (Yes; just you. If you don’t use your oxygen mask, how are you to help your children with theirs?)
- Would my spouse miss a day of work in order to do this?
- Is it fun? Is it genuinely fun?
The first strategy for Holiday Homeschooling is intentionally making your homeschool lighter than the rest of the year. I have known families that have chosen to work hard the rest of the year so that they can take off the entire holiday season! And that is okay!! If that is what keeps you sane and able to tackle the daunting January and February months, then do it! A break from academics allows you and your family to be able to focus, truly focus with that academic fervor, on the Holy Days of the holiday season.
Compare your “school calendar” to that of the local public school district. Out of 365 days, only 180 are dedicated to the school year for Alaska schools. Note the school YEAR: those 180 days include Professional Development days (no school for students), Parent-Teacher Conferences (no school for students) and early dismissal (half-day of school) days! Alaska’s Homeschool Law Required Days of Instruction: NONE. That is right. NONE! Many families try to stay with the public school calendar but we are not required to! We are not required to have 180 days in our “school” calendar! I know other families that choose to have half-days for the entire holiday season. That is quite all right and legal!
A few ideas for intentionally making Holiday Homeschooling lighter than the rest of the year, if you are not going to take the holiday season off and would like to know what to squeeze into half-days, is to cover the core courses first. Alaska’s Homeschool Law Required Subjects: NONE. According to Alaska’s Homeschool Law, you are not required to teach any specific subjects therefore you are free to determine what your “Core” courses are! No one can dictate these: you own them. “Core” course lessons usually build upon the previous lesson, so your child cannot continue through a curriculum if each lesson is not completed in the sequence. We see this in Math courses: the information presented in each lesson builds upon the knowledge gained in previous lessons. Other subjects can be similar, depending upon the curriculum publisher. Sonlight History lessons, for example, build upon each other. Determining your core courses can simplify your Holiday Homeschooling.
What if all courses are “core” courses? It is okay to modify your core courses: focus on the important aspects of the lessons and eliminate any fluff pieces. Fluff pieces are like the busywork of the assignments and lessons. If your history lesson comes with a mapping assignment, eliminate the mapping assignment. You can modify and change any of the assignments. For Bible, focus on the Christmas story or get more involved with your local church family for the holiday season. It is quite all right to do only 50-80% of what is required of a lesson during the holidays. It is more important that you stay sane than if every math problem in every lesson is completed. You can also change to un-graded subject tasks for Holiday Homeschooling.
Similar to eliminating busywork and fluff pieces of assignments, you can also opt to skip some subjects for the holiday season. To determine what you would drop, think about those half-days. What would be skipped? Certain enrichment activities are okay to skip during Holiday Homeschooling as well. Be careful not to skip any of your child’s weak areas. Cover the weak areas, just not 4 hours a day, every day. Many weak areas can be modified and it is important that the weak areas are not skipped because the weakness will grow.
Some Holiday Homeschool subject modifications can be quite simple. Read Christmas literature or other holiday novels and books. Gift of the Magi by O. Henry; A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens; Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott are three wonderful holiday books that not only inspire, but you can include on your High School Reading List (and colleges really like to see these). Holiday Homeschool writing and composition can include Christmas cards, newsletters for cards, Christmas letters for Christmas cards, Christmas or Hanukkah stories, holiday essay prompts. Your Holiday Homeschooling Senior should take this break from heavy homeschooling to work on his or her college application essay. The holiday season should be the perfect time for this assignment as it allows your Senior to reflect on the possibility of this being his or her last year at “home.” Application essay tip: think about one specific moment in time, a snapshot if you will, and write a short story that happens to be true in that snapshot.
Holiday Homeschooling, whether or not you focus on academics, can also involve the normal holiday tasks without intruding on them! Crafts are art (art credits for high school); baking is culinary arts; Christmas shopping is life skills and, if your child has a budget, Financial Literacy! If you have not considered volunteering your time or have considered but cannot seem to find the time, Holiday Homeschooling can allow time to volunteer at a Food Bank, Clothing Bank, or Soup Kitchen. Younger children are learning while volunteering next to you and, if you have a high school student, he or she can list the hours for a non-academic core and not have to focus as much during his or her senior year.
If you have wanted to try out something, Holiday Homeschooling can give you a chance. Lee Binz, the HomeScholar, did a unit study called Norman Rockwell’s Christmas. Holiday Homeschooling is a wonderful time to allow for more specialization. Let your children study what interests them and does not involve you. Teens, especially, can do many classes alone rather than with you. Some colleges have winter sessions, usually only one month long; a subject is studied intensely for a short amount of time. These are great fillers for an otherwise “bored” older teen and fill your Holiday Homeschool with an added amount of independence.
Some aspects of your Holiday Homeschool you may not have control over. If your child takes outside music lessons, they most likely must continue. You can request Christmas music! If your child is taking an online course through an accredited program, your child cannot just stop taking it and stop turning in assignments. This is one area that you have no control in your Holiday Homeschool due to enrollment in the course and the accrediting requirements. Non-accredited courses, on the other hand, you may be able to work with; you can contact the instructor and inform him or her of a reduced workload for your child because you are Holiday Homeschooling.
Holiday Homeschooling needs to prep you for not burning out in January and February. It should give you a renewed spirit and not stress you out. Enjoy this time with your family because next year will be different. You only get this holiday season once. Think about what is fundamentally important and keep your sanity.