Teaching Tips During Busy Seasons & Holidays

how to simplify your homeschool

Long before I was a homeschool mom, I was a classroom teacher and one of the biggest challenges I experienced every year was figuring out ways to push through the academic curriculum while wading through the holiday season filled with parties, programs and plays. I wished I had more teaching tips during busy seasons & hoildays.

It was NOT An easy balance to find. Sway one way too much and my first graders wouldn’t be able to read/write or add/subtract. Sway too far the other way and parents complained about “missing out on all the fun parts of school.” {I do not miss that type of pressure at all!}

Practical teaching tips for Thanskgiving, holidays & other busy seasons

I never dreamed that it would be just as hard as a homeschool mom to ensure that academics did not totally fly out the window as soon as mid-October hit. 

Between the amazing array of field trips that seem to abound every fall {apple picking, pumpkin patches, picnics in the park…} and parties to celebrate the various holidays {Caramel Apple Decorating, Thanksgiving Feasts, Gingerbread House Building…} having a full week of schooling at home seems impossible. Throw in at least one play, program or musical and it’s a wonder we get any teaching done at all from October through December.  

And, before you utter, “but learning happens all the time, no matter where you are and what you are doing” let me remind you that, while that is true, it’s not that simple. I agree that learning can happen anywhere. I believe that learning can occur at anytime.  But, unless your kids are going to grow up to be professional Pilgrims or toy-making elves {no offense to those professions, ha ha,} they will need to know how to read and write.

If they want to survive in the world of shopping and eating out, they will need to be able to multiply and divide. If they want to go to college, they will need to know how to formulate a scientific hypothesis and write clearly structured essays. And those things cannot be taught if we stop focusing on academics for the last 10 weeks of every single calendar year.

So, how can we continue to teach academics during this busy holiday season?

Teaching Tips #1: Plan Ahead!

  • Go to the library and pick out books on the topic of your upcoming field trip.
  • Assign copywork of the lines your kid needs to know for the Christmas play.
  • Take paper and pencils to the store when shopping for gifts and ask your kids to find the total before you go to the register.
  • Search on TpT for history lessons on Thanksgiving or the true story of Christmas.
  • Choose crafts that teach skills your kids actually need and not just because they are cute.
  • Make a “thankful jar” and ask the kids to contribute to it daily in November.
  • Create an Advent activity for the month of December that is both meaningful and academic.
  • If your family does the Elf on the Shelf, be an Elfover-achiever and make at least some of the elf’s daily antics centered around academics.

None of that advanced planning takes away from the fun and joyful experiences of the holidays. But they do make the activities more meaningful and purposeful and they keep your kids focused on their academics while still having fun.

Teaching Tips #2: Be creative!

  • Ask your kids to group the ornaments into types {shapes, sizes, colors, etc} and graph them before you put them on the tree.
  • {Or, later in the season, have them count the number of pine needles that have fallen off before they vacuum, ha ha.} 
  • Rewrite the math assignment to include word problems about apples, turkeys and candy canes.
  • Say “we will practice fractions while baking cookies today” and make your younger kids reduce those fractions while the older kids need to find equivalent choices.
  • Replace the spelling words in your kid’s workbook with words like “gratitude, Thanksgiving, bountiful.”
  • Teach formal letter-writing by having your kids write letters to include in their shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. 
  • Switch out your lunch-time read aloud book for something holiday related. {For a great Thanksgiving chapter book appropriate for all ages, check out the Imagination Station’s Problems in Plymouth.}
  • Take your fun new read aloud to the next level and get a resource to accompany it. {For a free Novel Pack for the above book, click here.}
  • Explore the chemistry of instant hot-cocoa.
  • Define the laws of physics that allow graham crackers to be held up in a vertical position by icing.

Yes, it will take longer to be creative.

Yes, it will feel more like work than if you simply hope they’ll learn through osmosis while baking cookies, decorating trees and building gingerbread houses.  But, the extra time and effort will be worth it. They’ll be doing actual academics while enjoying a variety of fun activities!

Teaching Tips #3: Be Diligent!

Acknowledge that your kids’ academics fall solely on you. Yes, that’s a lot of pressure but it’s what we signed up for when we decided to homeschool. So, remain diligent during the holiday season.  

  • Be diligent about your time.
  • It’s okay to miss out on a field trip or two.
  • It’s okay to say “no” to the choir director at church.
  • It’s okay to turn down the opportunity to organize the co-op Christmas party.
  • Be diligent about goals for your homeschool.
  • Stick to your daily routines.
  • Stick to your lesson plans.
  • Stick to your curriculum.
  • Do not put that carefully-chosen curriculum on the shelf “until January when things settle down.”
  • Be diligent by acknowledging that in January, you will be hit with Valentine’s Day, Easter and end-of-the-year craziness.  
  • Be diligent in continuing to educate your kids during this busy holiday season.
  • Be diligent now so you are not caught off-guard in May and then decide to scrap the last 10 chapters of math.  

I know this sounds difficult and time-consuming but, if you PLAN AHEAD and BE CREATIVE, it’ll be easy to BE DILIGENT!

And if you do all three of these teaching tips, you can easily slip in loads of fun activities and memory-making!

teaching tips for Thanskgiving, holidays & other busy seasons

I have a special gift for you, Imagination Station: 6 Problems in Plymouth. Just enter your name & email and we’ll send it to you.

Katie Wolfe is a homeschool mom to an only child, chronic list-maker, reluctant vegetarian, horrible interrupter and wife to an absent-minded professor. She also knows that homeschooling on your own is hard and invites you to join The WOLFe Pack

NOTE: Not all views from guest bloggers are the views of Kerry Beck or How to Homeschool My Child.


how to simplify your homeschool
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