For our family, the Christmas season is an exciting time of year. We love to come up with thoughtful gifts, try out new recipes, find ways to bless others and reserve plenty of time for family and friends. But because I am a bit ambitious, it can be tough managing all of those expectations and our schooling at the same time.

That’s why December becomes a time when we change up our schedule, minimize our academics and find new and creative ways to learn while focusing on ways to exemplify generosity, compassion, and service.

For us, the Christmas season is about remembering why we celebrate — recognizing the incredible gift of Christ’s birth and finding ways to share His love to those around us. It is a special time because for us it is so much more than wish lists and parties; it is a focus on the wonder of that first Christmas and what that gift means to us.

And that focus means that sometimes we just have to put away the books and do things differently. But how do we make certain that school doesn’t just stop? What are some simple ways to really enjoy the season without completely departing from school?

Stick to the core subjects and let the others slide for a bit.

Believe me, it won’t hurt to put them away for a time. But it will drive you all crazy if you try to hold on to everything and still add those extra touches to your season. So let go of some the requirements and give yourself some room to have fun.

Weave core subjects into your holiday chores.

You can incorporate science and math right in your own kitchen by teaching measurements and fractions. Baking special treats and preparing meals for a local soup kitchen or Meals on Wheels program is a great way of getting the kids involved in the community while still applying their math and science skills. I like to give my kids a recipe and ask them to make a double or triple batch. Not only do they get to practice multiplication, but they get to snack on their hard work once it’s done!

You can also make Christmas gifts for other people with the entire family.  A handmade wreath, gift basket, or ornaments are kind and simple gestures, and creating them can be a fun way to come together and do something different.

Give your kids the opportunity to pursue what they can get excited about.

(This is a principle that you want to follow all year long but a great one to implement now if you are not already doing so.) If your child suffers with ADD/ADHD or a learning disability, you know how hard it can be for them to stay focused enough to complete school work, let alone during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

However, when you find something that really interests of excites your ADD/ADHD kids, you will be amazed at how they will jump into it with everything they have. So work together to come up with creative, engaging activities that grab their interest and give them freedom to dig in.

Go digital this holiday season

With today’s focus on Instagram, Snapchat, and other “me” focused apps, making videos is a fun and interactive way to teach while getting away from the books. Have your children use personal video cameras to document themselves as they bake those goodies or conduct science labs. Or have them develop their own narratives about the holidays that you then send to relatives. This gives them opportunities to get creative and have fun doing it.

Instill a humble environment

It’s a tough task these days, but focusing on giving back to those in need and celebrating your faith with family will give kids a great way to connect with and build their own faith. Most local communities organize their own giving back initiatives that you can join, or research broader national programs like Operation Christmas Child. We love to get involved with serving local Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for the needy and/or homeless in our city. The kids look forward to it every year and get the opportunity to interact with people they would otherwise never meet.

Take your classroom to the world stage

Add a fun twist to your holiday celebrations with a dash of the unfamiliar. After a Christmas Around the World musical several years ago, my kids were interested in learning more about Christmas celebrations in other countries. So one of our projects each year is to pick a country and check out what they do to celebrate Christmas. This year, we discovered that in Mexico there is a season of Posada, where kids reenact Mary and Joseph’s search for an inn and end up welcomed into a home where they host a big Christmas party. What a fun way to celebrate! A fun research project for any age and who knows, maybe you’ll find a tradition to add to your own Christmas celebration!

Narrate the season

  1. Write the Family Christmas Letter: One tradition we have gotten away from (but now that I am writing this I may reinstate) was to have my kids take turns writing our Christmas letter each year. And I was always amazed to see what they identified as the highlights for the year.
  2. Write personal letters of appreciation to those special people in their lives.
  3. Creating Christmas poems can be a fun way to encourage creative thinking and provide overall writing practice.
  4. Take the twelve days of Christmas and turn them into the twelve days of homeschool!
  5. Keep a Christmas journal — focus on a theme for the holiday season and have them jot down some thoughts around that theme each day. Don’t make it formal — just an opportunity to think, reflect and remember and something that will be fun to look back at in the years to come.

Direct a Christmas musical

If you are ambitious like me, get your kids involved with other homeschoolers by reaching out to surrounding parents and homeschool groups to produce a fun and educational Christmas musical. This will expose them to theatrics, prop making, and test their organizational skills. (But beware!  You will have to take a pretty big role in this one!)

Yes, the holidays are certainly busy and can be stressful at times. But take advantage of your homeschooling freedoms, relax the requirements and enjoy this special time of year with your family! I guarantee you will never regret it!