While delightful, the holidays can be stressful for our children on homeschooling programs, especially if they also have special needs. We want and expect to have fun, but the changes and intense activity can be demanding. But with preparation, practice, and flexibility, you and your child can enjoy the holidays.
To prepare, look back and look ahead. Remember past holidays. (If they were good, post your advice below.) If your child melted down, was rude to Grandma, or just had a horrible day, think over what led to the trouble.
In your homeschool, did your distractible child become so excited that you couldn’t teach? At public gatherings, did the music volume, crowds, the temperature, or sugary treats affect your child? In family gatherings, it might be Auntie’s insistence on long hugs or her overpowering perfume. Maybe your host likes the TV on louder than your child can stand. Perhaps relatives don’t understand your child’s diet or believe you are too strict about it. There may be physical barriers to plan around. Survey those holidays past.
Holiday Action Plans for Kids on Homeschooling Programs
Now look ahead. Adjust your homeschool plans in light of the challenges you see. For instance, because of my son’s attention deficit disorder, my goals for December included little new math material, lots of handcrafts and read-alouds. We talked about and practiced serving others and giving. We made candy for his music teacher, scoutmaster, and others who helped us with the homeschooling programs.
Help your child prepare for family gatherings by discussing what’s going to happen in detail. Practice what your son can say if your brother-in-law decides it’s time to him give an oral exam. Better yet, if you’ve seen awkward interchanges before, role-play alternatives at home. “If Uncle tries to quiz you on history, how can you get him to stop? Let’s think what he likes to talk about? … Yes, you could ask about his trip to Alaska or his dog’s new puppies.” “What can you say when Grandma offers you sweet potatoes? How will she feel if you tell her you hate those little marshmallows? What can you say instead? Good. Let’s act it out.”
Don’t just practice conversations. Imagine situations out loud to help your child be ready. (Carol Barnier suggests this in her ebook, Holiday Social Skills for Your Wired Child.) Ask your daughter imagine the long car ride. How will she feel? At Grandma’s, what can she do if the room seems too loud or too busy? (Perhaps create a secret signal, like squeezing Dad or Mom’s hand. See if some of the family want to go for a walk….) For the Christmas pageant, what will the church look like in the evening, lit by candles? What will it smell like? What’s a good thing to do if you forget your lines?
You may talk with your church and family ahead of time. Some families with special needs have difficulty attending church. At the holidays, would they consider any small changes that would let you attend? Joni and Friends has resources to help them. If your family is open, send them a letter revealing your child’s perspective and needs, adapted from Viki Gayhardt’s example.
How to Follow Homeschool Programs during the Holidays
- Enjoy the days by being flexible.
- Laugh with your children.
- Keep your expectations low.
Get outdoors and exercise; even walking helps. Say no when you need to. Watch for the unexpected blessings, like beautiful sunsets—or the day I came downstairs to a kitchen full of paper snowflakes, as my son announced that the day’s homeschool programs were cancelled due to snow.