How to homeschool at Christmastime. The simple traditions that make the holidays our favorite time to homeschool
One of my very favorite things about homeschooling is the ability to set our own schedule. Over the years I’ve found that we do not do well with a traditional school schedule and a long summer break. We need more routine to our days for everyone to be happy and to keep from going stir-crazy.
On the flip-side, we’ve found that we need a longer break than schools traditionally take for Thanksgiving/Christmas. As a small business owner, that is my busiest time of the year and it just feels like a shift is needed for everyone.
We only take a few weeks off in the summer, which allows us to also take a long break around the holidays. Christmas School mode starts the week after Thanksgiving and extends clear through the new year. It’s such a delightful break from the routine, it allows us to really settle into the joys of the holidays without the stress of formal schoolwork on top of all of the other responsibilities that hit us that time of year.
During this time we focus on reading beautiful picture books and favorite read-alouds, we make decorations and crafts. We make gifts for friends and neighbors and extended family. We clear out old toys and clothes and reset the house. We try to spend time outside every day. The kids are still required to read each day, but we don’t focus much on other academic subjects.
We watch our favorite movies, eat a bunch of treats, and make lots of memories. Usually, Christmas School includes singing with friends at local nursing homes and crafting with friends, and going to parties for our church community and extended family. 2020 Christmas School will look different, of course, but we can still do so many of the things that are important to us at this time of year.
I like to keep a mostly Christ-centered Christmas, while still including fun activities and crafts. I’ve listed our very favorite Christmas picture books below. These are all books we actually own and love reading together.
Favorite Christmas Picture Books
Hallelujah Handel by Douglas Cowling
The Birds of Bethlehem by Tomie dePaola
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski This book makes me sob every time I read it. I love this story so much.
God Bless Your Way: A Christmas Journey by Emily Belle Freeman
The Little Reindeer by Michael Foreman
When Jesus Was Born in Bethlehem by Joseph Brickey
George Handel (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers)
A Cricket’s Carol by Mark Kimball Moulton
Queen of Christmas by Mary Englebright
The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola
Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones
The Story of the Three Wise Kings by Tomie dePaola
A Savior Is Born: Rocks Tell the Story of Christmas by Patti Rokus
The Advent of Christmas by Matt Maher
The Night Before Christmas (we have two versions: one with illustrations by Jan Brett and one by Margaret Evans Price)
Who Was Born This Special Day? by Eve Bunting
One Snowy Night by M. Christina Butler
In the Snow: Who’s Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett George
Olive, the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh
Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves by AnneMarie Riley Guertin
The Very First Christmas by Paul L Maier
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen (We have an out of print version, but there are so many beautiful options available)
I know so many people love to wrap all of their Christmas books and open one each night until Christmas, but that’s just not practical for us. I have done it in the past, but it’s just not worth the effort for me this year. One year I was super on top of things and wrapped them all again AFTER Christmas, before packing them away in preparation for the next year. I felt like I was brilliant! Until my then-3-year-old son found them and unopened them all at once. I haven’t wrapped books since. 🙂
Normally I make a big countdown with different activities in a bag or rolled up into a pocket for each day. But this year needs to be more simple. We are in the middle of renovating our kitchen and some other areas of the house. We don’t have a reliable place to display something like that this year. I’m giving myself permission to let that portion go, knowing the kids won’t mind a bit.
It’s taken a while to build up this Christmas book collection, so please don’t feel pressure to purchase everything you see here! Start slowly, adding to your collection each year. Use your library. Search thrift stores. A Christmas Story treasury like this one is a really great option if funds are tight. It includes 20+ stories and songs for the price of one book.
This year we’ll be reading two classic Christmas chapter books: The Family Under the Bridge and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. We’ve read both of these before, but it’s been a while and I think my Littles have never heard them before. Other books we’ve loved in past years: Miracle on 34th Street, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, A Little House Christmas Treasury.
Christmas School Activities and Projects
Each day during Christmas School, we’ll sit down for a miniature devotional using these gorgeous Advent cards from Multiply Goodness. We’ll read the verse and sing or listen to the song for each day. Sweet and simple and so powerful.
Then we’ll read one or two (or three…) of the beautiful picture books listed above, as well as a bit from our chapter read-aloud. While I read the kids work on crafts, gifts and/or projects.
Often I assign a specific project for the day ahead of time so I can be sure I have all of the materials gathered. It adds so much stress for me to be searching for materials as we’re ready to sit down and craft. This will be a little more flexible this year because so much of our time is spent at home and we won’t be trying to get out the door for a performance or party, etc.
Knowing that some projects take longer than others and that we often think of additional things to make/do spontaneously, I don’t choose a project for every single day. You may want to follow my Covid Christmas Pinterest board because I will for sure be adding more to that over the next few weeks. And make sure you’re following me on Instagram because I will share our projects and books each day in stories.
These are the projects I KNOW we will do:
Hydro Dip Ornaments
Hot Chocolate Bombs
Paint Rocks and leave them along our favorite trail
Cards/Packages to send to Cousins
Make Thank You cards (we love to do this as a countdown to Christmas activity and then we just write the card after the holidays)
Dried Orange garland
Drive around to look at Christmas lights. ( We’ve never done one of those drive-through Christmas light shows, but I think this may be the year we give it a shot.)
I am so grateful for the traditions that we’ve established for this time of year. Rather than feeling frazzled and over-scheduled trying to fit everything in, we generally have a peaceful uplifting holiday season full of happy memories.