Christmas Break is a must for me. And while some families I know study Christmas traditions around the world and do Christmas-themed unit studies and homeschool through much of the season, I love to take the entire month off. That’s right, the WHOLE MONTH! We break as soon after Thanksgiving as we can manage (after the last math lesson is completed in our 12 week cycle) and don’t start back until after New Year’s. There is just too much fun to cram it into a traditional two week break. So, I’ve compiled a list of our top 5 favorite activities for Christmas break.
Our Favorite Activities for Christmas Break:
1. Crafts and Homemade Gifts
My kids love to craft, and I love to emphasize homemade gifts. But those kinds of projects take lots of time. Taking the month off allows us to use that extra time to make scarfs and paracord bracelets and homemade ornaments and carved soaps and other sentimental treasures. Some years, we’ve made gifts for the widows in our church. Other years we’ve made gifts for grandparents and great-grandparents. This year, my kids worked hard on homemade gifts for the kids in their class at our local charter school. Whatever the project, I’ve found it helps to combat some of the natural self-focus of the season; instead of constantly anticipating what will be under the tree for them, their hands and minds are busy with gifts for others.
2. Baking and Baking and…Baking
While all my kids look forward to Christmas goodies, my youngest counts down the days till the next batch of Christmas cookies. He is talking about those cookies in March, July, and October. It’s a long time till Christmas. Baking (and eating) at Christmas time is his absolute favorite. But baking is also a huge part of my day to day. Because of our dietary issues, I bake a loaf of bread everyday and many times I will also bake fresh rolls or buns or muffins or something. We cannot purchase any pre-made baked goods. So cakes, cookies, pies, you name it—all come from my kitchen. Which means that come holiday-time, I have a lot of extra baking on my agenda. And that takes time.
While I do limit how much we attempt to do and only prepare a couple of fun extras for each holiday, it still takes time. Taking the month off allows for those homemade Christmas cookies to get made while not adding too much pressure to the season. (Here’s my favorite sugar cookie recipe; I substitute Spectrum palm shortening for the butter to make it dairy free, too. Yumm!)
3. Reading Challenge
I keep my kids very busy with assigned reading during the school year, so one of the highlights to every break is the opportunity to read whatever they want. Our first library trip of every break is quite the event, with each kid nearly exploding with excitement before hand and eerily silent after the trip (as they eagerly devour Magic Tree House, Hardy boys, and other favorites). This year, our charter school also has a fun reading challenge.
As the kids complete each reading challenge (read under the table, read by the fire, read to a stuffed animal, read in a mirror, read to a grandparent, etc.) they cut and paste the marshmallow into the cup of cocoa. So cute and fun that I actually googled the link so that you could download the form and do it, too!
4. Bucket Lists
This year, I had my older kids make a bucket list of things they wanted to do with their time off. We strictly limit screen time activities, but even so, I didn’t have to give many restrictions. The kids came up with tons of fun activities, some we will be able to do and some that are a little out of our control: having a famous music artist to the house for the holidays or playing in snow. But a lot of the ideas gave me a very good idea of what the kids really wanted to do with me, so that I could be sure I was available for those things. My daughter wants to paint with me some time during our break; my oldest wants to learn some hand-lettering with a calligraphy pen.
5. Parties, Friends, and Play Dates
My extroverted crowd loves to gather with friends. As an introvert, I can get really burnt out during this season if I don’t pace myself. But having the whole month off has helped me a ton and allows me the time I need to recharge between activities. Play dates with friends we haven’t seen in awhile, church Christmas parties and special services, birthday parties (we seem to know quite a few people with December birthdays)—they love these interactions and need them, and I want to be a part of it all with them, without feeling stressed about food prep, lesson plans, and crafting deadlines.
Last year, we weren’t able to take our month off, and I felt it. By January, I had promised myself—never again! I will always make a priority when I schedule my homeschool year to keep the month of December free. There are just too many memories to make this time of year, and I want to enjoy them all.