Too Busy for School?

What’s a homeschooling family to do about academics during the busiest time of the year?

Cue the music. “It’s the most won-der-ful time — of the year!”

The holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving and running through New Year’s, can be magical. But honestly, it can also be overwhelming. During the hubbub of the holidays, how am I, a homeschool mom, supposed to stay on track with teaching my children every day? Late night pageants and parties, neighborhood gatherings, service projects, decorating, and making and gathering presents are added to my already packed calendar. How can my children keep up with co-op and curriculum?

First, ask God how you should spend your time. “Lord, this week should we do schoolwork or prep for our visit with Grandma and Grandpa?” During the holidays, God may direct you to spend less time on bookwork and more on baking and crafting for others. Or entire days might be spent around the fireplace reading aloud. You don’t have to keep up with the Jones’ and be on the go 24/7. It’s okay to scale back on parties or gift gifting. Relax your expectations in our Instagram and Pinterest world. Follow His lead, even if He has you say “no” to otherwise good traditions. Trust that He knows what’s best.

Realize learning happens, even if it’s less formal. Some seasons I have set aside our main curriculum and switched to a unit study, a multi-subject study on a single topic appropriate for children of all ages (in our case, ages 4-14). I’ve selected light-hearted unit study subjects, like chocolate or conifer trees or worldwide Christmas traditions, to up the fun factor a bit. Other years I’ve given each of my children a reading list of his own for December and asked him to do a project on it when he is finished. Or we’ve done an entire month of arts and crafts since art is usually the subject I put on the back burner. Lovingly crafted, we have given the finished works as Christmas gifts so it’s served a dual purpose.

If you relax your formal schooling during the holiday season, don’t give up on math altogether. Math basics are lost so quickly that in our family, we keep up our math lessons at least a day or two each week, even during the holidays.

While you and your children may not maintain the same academic pace during the holidays, realize that children who attend public schools are experiencing the same slowdown. Holiday concerts, class parties, field trips, plus scheduled breaks are a given for the school districts in November and December; academics are not usually the emphasis.

When you find yourself busier than you’d like to be, delegate more responsibilities. Have older children read with your little ones or grade their siblings’ math papers. Ask your husband to take over the science or history lessons in those longer, winter evenings. Assign some necessary household tasks so you create some holiday margin for yourself.

Take advantage of the season to forge new friendships. As homeschoolers, sometimes we hear our academic choice deprives our children of social opportunities. Use the holidays’ parties and service options to expand your social circle. Visit a nursing home or a fire station. Invite a neighbor over to make cookies or ask a new family in your homeschool group to go ice skating with you. Our co-op pauses from mid-November through late January but that doesn’t mean our family hibernates. We simply find other ways to get involved.

Finally, my husband often reminds me that as Christians, we should experience the fruit of the Spirit. When we are feeling an emotion contrary to those listed in Galatians 5, that’s not from the Lord. Guilt and stress are not on the list. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Homeschool mom, don’t let Satan steal your joy during the holidays. If you aren’t experiencing His peace during the holiday season, make a change for you and your family!

Melanie Hexter

"Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage (Psalm 84:5)." Melanie Hexter writes on homeschooling and travel from the beautiful mountains in Colorado, but that's not where her family has always lived. She and her husband have homeschooled their six children, three now graduates and three still in process, in three time zones as they have pursued God's leading. In addition to helping her husband with his business and her children live out their gifts, Melanie has written the U.S. National Parks Unit Study and several literature-based studies which she makes available to others at

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