Let’s face it … life gets busy on vacation. How do we juggle school work, housework, entertainment, going out, baking, shopping, wrapping gifts, etc.? without dropping all the balls? It gets complicated, and schoolwork is often the first thing to do. In this article, we will discuss how to homeschool with joy and purpose during the holidays and when to take a guilt-free break. You will learn how to become the master of your schedule and how to make it work for you.

I have found that when you homeschool your children, you need to formulate some kind of schedule and routine, or you will feel frustrated and possibly unsure of what you are trying to accomplish.

The question is … how do we get the schedule to work well for us, especially during the holidays, when activities and responsibilities pile up even more?

I would like to share with you my 7 homeschooling heresies:

(I call these homeschooling heresies because sometimes when I share one of these ideas, I get a shocked look from the listener, like I’ve just said a bad word.)

Terri’s 7 Homeschooling Heresies:

1. You can go to school whenever YOU want!

You don’t have to start at 8 or 9 in the morning. If it works best for your schedule, you can go to school with your children in the afternoon. I did this a couple of times when I had a baby or toddler napping in the afternoon and it was the only time I could fully focus on the task at hand.

2. You don’t have to do every subject every day, or every week, or even every year!

We do grammar 3 times a week and spelling 2 times a week. We do science 3 times a week and history 4 times a week. You can decide to do history one week and then science the next, or even a monthly, even yearly rotation. You don’t have to start grammar until third grade. Keep your daily assignments reasonable, do not do more than 4-5 a day. During the holidays, you can cut it down to 3 or 4.

3. You can finish before noon!

In fact, you should be if you have children in grades 6 or less. School work with the little ones should take 2 hours or less. My high school students spend 3-5 hours a day on their school work, usually closer to 3 or 4. And they take classes outside and still can do it!

4. You should never reward quick work with more work!

This is the surest way to reduce the efficiency of your homeschooling. If a child works fast and completes what you asked, reward them with extra free time or a fun activity that they have been wanting to do. If you want your children to work slowly, have them do some extra work when they finish before their allotted time for that subject.

5. Don’t turn every interest your child has into a unit study!

This is another way to stifle the love of learning, particularly the love of learning about something on your own. If every time your child shows a passion for something (for example, butterflies or racing cars) and you decide to assign him a job, he will stop sharing his interests with you. Am I against unit studies? Oh, quite the contrary! We love doing unit studies to break up the monotony of school, especially during the winter and spring months. We’ll talk more about unit studies in a few minutes.

6. School is a fact!

School should be such an important part of your routine that your children don’t ask, “Are we going to school today?” It should be on the same level as brushing your teeth or getting dressed. School is just what we do. In addition, the routine comforts the children. In fact, when we have something special planned and I’m secretly planning to give my kids the day off from school, they often finish it before I get up and have my first cup of coffee.

7. Take the days off whenever you want (or need)!

You are the owner of your schedule and you are in charge. If you want to take a day off from school, do it! The beauty of homeschooling is that we can choose our days off. We often do not take federally recognized holidays, such as Columbus Day or Veterans Day. Sometimes we don’t take 2 weeks off at Christmas, maybe just one, and do it again after Christmas, instead of waiting until after New Years. But I almost always take the entire week off Thanksgiving because I have a relative who comes to town and I want to clean the house and prepare food ahead of time.

Here’s a bonus: (maybe this is more of a nuisance than heresy)

8. Don’t make Christmas a unit study!

Christmas is a sacred celebration and I steer clear of unit studies that make it cheesy or simply provide me and my children with intense work. I’m all for Advent and I’ll talk about it in a minute, but Christmas unit studies? Frankly, I don’t have time for that and it’s too sacred a holiday to reduce to busy work.

Putting together a homeschooling schedule can be tricky, especially if you are teaching more than one child. Here are some things to consider:

Children in grades K-2 need you to work with them directly. Fortunately, these children usually finish in less than an hour.

Children in grades 3-6 need you close by, like in the same room, perhaps working with a younger sibling or folding laundry and answering questions. Stay close, but don’t float.

Grades 7 and 8 should have a longer leash and work in a quieter room if necessary. Be available for questions, discussion, problem solving, etc. Check your work so they don’t get sidetracked!

ยท High school students must work independently. However, this does not mean that they do not need you. They need you as much as ever, or maybe even more. But let them work on their school subjects at a time that is most convenient for them, as long as they are up to date with their school work. My children are taking outside classes at cooperatives, the university, etc. and they have to keep up with their studies.

Like a puzzle, gather all the necessary information taking into account the ages of your children and the number of topics to be covered on each day of the journey. What you finish will be your master schedule.

Over the years, I have found that the more children I have, the more structured it has to be. However on the other hand …

The more children you have, the more flexible you should be.

These two statements may seem contradictory, but they go together. Create your schedule structure, but be willing to reserve it for your children’s individual needs, as needed.


You will need to use the following 4 tools around your home if you want to stay on top of your schedule this holiday season:

Family calendar

School planner

Master program

Individual student schedules

I want to emphasize how important the family calendar is. This is your central place to record Christmas parties, outings, appointments, library book delivery, youth group, classes, gift giving, company visits, etc.

If it’s not on the calendar, you might forget it. You may be a master at keeping all the information safely stored in your brain, but your family cannot read your mind. They can read the calendar. In particular, your husband needs to know what is going on, whether he is included in the activity or not. If you need to be somewhere, or if a shoebox expires on a certain date, or library books expire the day before Christmas Eve, mark it on the calendar.

A school planner is good, but it is not necessary. I have gone many years without one, but now I like to have one. They usually have a lot of features, including holiday sections to help you bake and give as gifts. However, it shouldn’t replace the family calendar yet, because again, other members of your family need to know what’s going on, not just you.

The master schedule is the sheet of paper where you recorded the regular school routine for your family. This should show what everyone should do during the course of the day, at least during normal school hours. You can create this by hand, within the pages of your school planner, or in a spreadsheet such as Excel or OpenOffice. I like to create mine in Excel, then print it out and put it in my school planner.

From this master schedule, you must create individual student schedules. Why do you ask? Because you want your children to start making school work their own. Remember, I told you the story of my children doing their homework before I got up in the morning. They could do this effectively and comprehensively because each has a student schedule taped to the top of their school box. That way, they know what they are expected to do each day and can do those activities on their own. If you have a non-reader, then it is not necessary.

Finally, I want to touch on two more aspects of schedules before concluding and they are the concepts of routine and traditions. Children thrive on routine and love traditions.

First, routine …

Help your children develop good habits by following a routine. Frankly, you don’t have to go through the day in a military fashion and change the subject in exactly 30 minutes, but you can establish that we do this first, then this, then this.

The routine is great for pre-school activities like breakfast, getting dressed, morning chores, etc. It works very well during school and is especially useful after dinner.

We have a routine of family devotions right after breakfast and before school. This is expected and enjoyed. During the 4 weeks before Christmas, we use this time to celebrate Advent. We read stories that tell the story of Christmas and sing Christmas carols in anticipation of the upcoming celebration.

If you want to incorporate Advent into your vacation school schedule, choose a consistent schedule that you can include it in, and preferably when Dad is home. After Christmas is over, you can continue family devotions using something else as your guide.

Finally, traditions …

Set up some traditions for the holiday season, if you haven’t already. We have certain foods that we like to prepare several days before Christmas. We like to get our tree on the first weekend in December. Many people get them the day after Thanksgiving. We start listening to Christmas music as soon as we finish Thanksgiving dinner, while eating dessert.

If you have traditions that you want to incorporate and you are not sure how to carry them out because you have school work to do, get rid of school work! You are the owner of your schedule and can get rid of it at any time you choose. This is the beauty of homeschooling! We can go see the Nutcracker during the day when school is in session. We don’t have to get it back later, we can just enjoy the day off!

Give yourself permission to take as many days off as you need. Maybe you need 3 weeks off during Christmas. Guess what? It’s okay! You will know if you need to go some extra days like June. Maybe you study at home all summer and want to take the entire month of December off. Have to! You are in charge and can be trusted to make good decisions for your family.

Just remember, school is a given, but you can take days off without feeling guilty when you need it or just want it. So enjoy the holidays!

And enjoy your learning moments!

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