Shiny decorations, cheery music, presents with bows—the holidays offer weeks of fun—and distraction. If your child is impulsive, distractible, or hyperactive, he or she may find it impossible to work on his or her homeschooling curriculum. As homeschooling teachers or mothers, you should always be ready to help.
But don’t grit your teeth or fume. There are many ways to keep your kids from being distracted and keep their attention to their homeschool curriculum. Below are four suggestions on how to make the holidays happier and more productive for your child.
Four Tips to Get Your Kids Focused on their Homeschooling Curriculum
- Make your homeschooling programs and goals reasonable.
First, make your homeschool goals reasonable. If you are expecting houseguests, extra baking, and shopping, remember that, as Elisabeth Eliot said, “God apparently thought the twenty-four-hour day was sufficient.” Ask yourself, “What can we really accomplish in our homeschool during the holidays?”
In first year of following the homeschooling curriculum, I saw that, as the holiday decorations appeared, my son’s concentration disappeared. Your child may not score in the 99th percentile for distractibility as mine did, but you too many need to adjust your goals.
Once I accepted that he would not learn much formally from early December to early January, homeschooling got easier. My main academic goal became that my son would maintain skills that month.
- Let the holidays enrich your homeschooling kid.
Second, let the holidays enrich your homeschool. Here are some examples:
- We heard holiday concerts with military bands and a capella groups, listened to recordings of ancient and ethnic Christmas music, talked about it, and sang carols.
- Look for special activities at local museums and businesses. We loved the massive model train exhibit at the US Geologic Survey’s Virginia headquarters nearby, and slipped cool geology and geography lessons into the trip.
- We thanked our homeschool group teachers and scoutmasters by making them gifts. My son’s homemade candy was a hit. Even as a distractible 12 year old, he could do most of measuring and stirring, though I handled the pot of hot melted sugar.
- We practiced organization and charity by sorting through his toys to find some in good condition to give to a thrift store.
I required my kids to write simple thank you notes, but to sweeten the chore, I let them choose inexpensive note cards. A friend makes custom cards by scanning her daughter’s artwork.
We read aloud even more. For literature, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol became such a favorite that, while still young, my son saved up for a hardback copy. (He prefers Quentin Blake’s illustrations because Blake plays close attention to the text.)
- Reduce unnecessary distractions.
Third, reduce unnecessary distractions! I saw my son’s distractibility increase when our decorations went up, so I began waiting until two weeks before Christmas to decorate. While colorful packages look lovely under a Christmas tree, their mysteries gave my young impulsive son agonies of suspense. So when he was small, I kept them out of sight until Christmas morning. Time your baking. Who can concentrate when the house smells like fresh gingerbread? I usually bake right after supper.
- Focus on what matters.
Finally, focus on what matters. As our family celebrates Christmas, we enjoy many traditions, but we want to emphasize the birth of Christ. So I bought a pretty plastic nativity set that small kids can use to retell the Christmas story—with their own variations, like the time my small daughter announced that the three kings were babysitting Jesus because Mary and Joseph were going out for date night.
The holidays also mean family time, so talk about being good hosts and guests. Role-play what to do when visiting Auntie-with-houseful-of-breakables or when cousins want to destroy your LEGO village. Brainstorm together how you’ll get enough exercise to keep your wiggly ones from exploding with unused energy.
The holidays also give our kids a chance to give: singing at nursing homes and gathering food for food pantries, for instance. These activities can help counter the appeals to greed that pummel us through the media, and help us count our blessings.
Setting realistic goals, working holiday activities into our homeschooling curriculum (instead of just adding them to our schedule), limiting distractions, and remembering what’s important can make the holidays easier more fun for our distractible kids. And this time of year, who isn’t distractible? So these tips help us all.