As the holidays approach, I begin to hear the question over and over again. "When are we going to take off school for Christmas?" In my mind I'm weighing the options. Do I plug along trying to finish our required number of days sooner and have more summer time off? Or do we take time off now when the kids- and I- am tired and need a break. Over the years of homeschooling, I've learned to do a little of both. We usually continue to doing learning things (that can count as "official" school days), but we break from our regular structure and bring in some fun things. Of course we do take some time fully off- mainly when Daddy is home to have fun with us. But we also do some fun learning things that help to bring a little structure and learning to our days but still allow us to celebrate the season.
Christmas is a wonderful time to do unit studies. You can study countries and culture with a Christmas Around the World themed unit. You can study literature by doing a unit study or lapbook with a Christmas book. You can study weather by looking at the weather in different locations at Christmas time. All of these can be fun and holiday themed, but you're still learning. There are many free unit studies available all around the web. A good place to start is Homeschool Share.
Crafting seems like a fun activity but isn't often thought of as educational. However, there are quite a few learning tasks that happen while creating crafts. Learning measurements as you prepare materials, reading directions, critical thinking when something doesn't seem to be working, learning how different materials react with each other- all of these are educational components of making crafts. If you google "Christmas crafts for kids" you'll find many ideas. Here are a few to get you started.
Christmas is a great time to give your child time for writing. Have your child write a creative story about a family Christmas celebration or what the "perfect" holiday would be. Have him write a persuasive essay about why he should get that one thing he really, really wants. How about doing some research on several charities that could be helped throughout the season and writing a paragraph about what each one does.
Like crafting, cooking has many "hidden" educational benefits. Learn how to read a recipe, measure ingredients, and why different ingredients are important. Do some critical thinking when something doesn't work just right and figure out what happened or what you can change. (Some cooking- like cookie baking- is more fun with friends. So you can have a little social time too.)
Many charities or mission organizations need help throughout the holidays. From making meals to wrapping gifts, there are usually many things to be done throughout the holiday season. Consider your child's age and pick a charity that you can help. A service project can have educational benefits, but there are also spiritual benefits as kids learn the importance of serving others and reflect on the real meaning of the season.
It's possible to keep doing a little "school" throughout the holiday season while still having a break and a lot of fun.