As soon as the crisp morning breeze hits your cheek, it seems like it’s just a few weeks before you’re facing the holidays and all the juggling of activities that brings.
Trying to homeschool while planning and preparing for the onslaught of company, huge, intricate meals, decorating, holiday crafts, homemade Christmas gifts, special holiday ministry events, parties, traveling, entertaining and holiday correspondence…
It’s enough to make you climb back under the covers just thinking about it.
But you aren’t in the middle of things YET. Before holiday mode hits, consider approaching the holidays from a minimalist perspective this year. Here are 5 tips to help you relax, enjoy and celebrate.
1. Take a longer break from homeschooling.
Our holiday break started the week of Thanksgiving and ran through New Year’s Day. Yes, that’s about six weeks. For that period of time we didn’t do “formal” school. We slept later and participated in church and community events without worrying about late nights and resulting cranky, sleep-deprived kids.
Just because we didn’t follow our routine doesn’t mean that I couldn’t count many activities as school. We just focused on holiday preparations and service rather than completing math lessons and writing essays. Here’s an example of what we did during November and December:
- planned and made holiday meals/company meals/meals for others (nutrition, home economics, practical math, service)
- read aloud as a family from our collection of classic Christmas books
- had daily independent reading time (children’s choice of material for youngers, olders caught up or read ahead for the following semester)
- crafted projects to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas and to make gifts for neighbors, friends, family and others (art, service)
- participated in and attended concerts, cantatas, plays and other holiday events (music/drama)
2. Scale back on gift-buying.
You watch your budget and carefully plan your spending all year, but somehow it all goes out the window at holiday time. Ask yourself if you REALLY have to buy as many gifts as you do. Perhaps it is time to change it up:
- decide to forgo spending so much on gifts for your kids and instead bless another family with a life-giving gift from Samaritan’s Purse’s Christmas catalog
- give everyone a spending limit
- make gifts instead of buying them
- do “family” gifts for your siblings and their kids instead of individual gifts
- choose names for gift buying instead of getting everyone something
3. Don’t go to every event you are invited to.
Isn’t it true that every group each member of your family belongs to has a Christmas event? And not only do you try and attend them all, you sometimes double or even triple-book when they inevitably occur on the same dates.
Contrary to what you may have done in the past, you don’t have to attend all of these events. Just stop.
Look at the calendar and plan ahead to have a manageable schedule, planning in down time so you aren’t running somewhere different every night of the week.
4. Simplify the meals.
Growing up, at Thanksgiving and Christmas we had to have so many different dishes that it was exhausting and expensive for all involved. Instead, at our house everyone chooses ONE dish that they can’t have Thanksgiving without. =D (If you have a large family you might have to take a vote instead.)
I have vivid memories of starting preparations for Christmas breakfast after getting home from Christmas Eve services and being up until 1:00 am or later making this particular item that we had to have for Christmas morning, while readying a 25 pound turkey for the oven at the crack of dawn the next day.
Now, Christmas breakfast is something simple we can make together, and we have a later, large meal for Christmas dinner so the turkey doesn’t have to start cooking so early. We’ve even been known to skip the turkey altogether or cooking just the turkey breast instead of messing with the entire bird.
So rather than having special menus for Christmas Eve and every meal on Christmas, we focus on one main meal.
I’m all for family traditions, but don’t try to do so many that you are exhausted. Pick and choose.
Make your crockpot your friend for November and December, and keep those regular meals extra simple and light to help compensate for the heavier eating that usually happens at all of the holiday events.
5. Slow down and savor the time.
Take some time for yourself during these busy days.
- Meet a friend for coffee.
- Go for a walk outside by yourself as often as possible.
- Trade childcare time with a friend so you can shop, clean or cook by yourself or with your husband without the kids. Make it into a date!
- Read a book. (Not a school book.)
In his book, In Praise of Slowness, Carl Honore wrote:
“It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better…. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”
Make the choice to SLOW DOWN and SAVOR. Enjoy being together with your loved ones, cooking together, crafting together, playing board games and watching holiday movies. You are allowed to plan relaxation time into your schedule and say “no” to those things that will put you over the edge.
REIGN IN YOUR HOLIDAY TO DOS. Use the time and money you save to reconnect with yourself and your loved ones and to peacefully celebrate!