Today's list of ways to help the holidays be a joyful family time. Yes that's what they always are with the crying kids and meltdowns, the stress over bills and the right gift, if your turkey compares to the in laws, dashing to each relatives house in order to fit it all in. It is just perfect. Yep keep telling your self that, I used to until I couldn't handle it anymore. The year Ko-Ko was 1 my husband and I swore that we would not except standard. We would always look for a way to make the holidays more enjoyable even if it meant being a little different. Turns out different is really not breaking new ground, it is often very old ground. Back to a simpler time. Homeschooling has even made the list of changes this year.
Less Gifts for Kids. (we will get to the adults later). The first change we ever made was less gifts. They each get 2 gifts from us and 1 from Santa. Yes one, that sleigh is holding gifts for other kids too. Stockings are not more gifts, they are candy, oranges, pomegranates, socks, underwear, hair elastics...maybe a book. Sometimes we also add a family gift (as in one gift for everyone, generally a game). The result (believe it or not) is happier kids. It is much less overwhelming, and much of the breakdowns is about the holidays being overwhelming. The gifts should be well thought out, things that (a) the kids really want, and (b) you believe they will play with. Lots. This will benefit you all year because when kids have to many things they don't play with them. The onslaught of a mountain of toys is to much decision, so they do something else or only play with the things on top. Besides more = more clean up. Less toys are more easily put away and create less mess in the first place. How un-played toys get to be a mess? Haven't figured that one out yet. In keeping with less toys, clear out the old. Then clean them, mend them and donate them.
In A Rich Man's World? Budget. Realistically. As in don't go into debt or neglect even the smallest bill. Come on, don't pretend you haven't made December a tight month before (a little or a lot). These holidays are stressful for grown-ups too who also end up with the odd temper tantrum, cry or meltdown. When we say the kids get 3 gifts we do not mean the years three bigge$t, brighte$t, trendie$t price breakers. They each have a limit of $100. If they come under they do not get extras. They can choose less gifts for the total of $100 (and sometimes they do). Why is Santa's gift included in the budget? Well the worlds population is bigger now (by billions) and Santa is not a fan of greed so if kids ask for big huge expensive gifts, the parents have to help foot the bill or raise more financially aware kids, we choose the later option. And for all those gifts your just have to give your friends (co-workers, acquaintances, someone on facebook you don't know but is now your friend) get creative. They are lovely people I am sure but are they worth your paycheck? Your electric bill? Yeah. I thought not. Don't buy them all a gazillion gifts. Make gifts. Oh wait that can add up too. Arrange a gift exchange amongst the various groups of friends and rather then a budget of $10 of junk, say it has to me made. You can make cocoa cones http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/hot-chocolate-cones-687223/
cookie dough such as my Christmas cookie balls. You can make candies, sew gifts (check out my many Christmas craft posts #1-#19). Get creative and only for the ones who are real dependable friends. Do the same thing with the adults in your family (the creative gift exchange part, don't eliminate undependable family from your list even if you want to). A gift should be thoughtful, not expensive. And watch the cost of your baking and craft supplies. Check around the house before shopping, in fact base what you make on what you have, or mostly have. Have the kids help out, holiday crafts are great school work this time of year.
So The Kids Are Swinging From The Chandalier? Live a quieter life. Do more family things. Get them playing outside. I know we have all that school work to get through. Why? When my kids were in PS they often (not always) spent December doing crafts, activities, songs and plays. Some teachers stuck to their schedule but it didn't benefit them. The kids were too excited to settle their minds enough to concentrate on work. Now I am not suggesting we recreate school at home. You can if that works for you but it doesn't for all of us. I am however suggesting that some teachers maybe picked up a few things along the way that we may want to consider. I have and I have found that my kids have trouble thinking about non-Christmas/Winter things right now. I am done fighting it. We have ditched our books and papers (I create their school work from books generally). Instead we have played educational games, had educational competitions (my kids like competing), done Winter/ Christmas unit studies and themed work pages. Letter writing to Santa. I have used Currclick for unit studies (made a few small ones myself). I also used Super teacher worksheets, (Christmas & winter worksheets). I haven't gone with anything difficult. Plus I still read to them (history) Keep their minds active but relaxed. That's my goal and it seems to be working. We will probably do it again next year. What if I get behind? Well basically I am not worrying. This is homeschool people. We are in charge, we will get it done when we are done. If you are worried about falling behind in certain subjects like math then flag all the easy stuff (like graphs), write up a smaller lesson plan that gives the topic more of a review quality and move on. I think we have accomplished more this way then we would have with our usual schedule. Basically this is the classic advice of “If you can't fight them, join them”.
It's Free! Plan Free Winter Fun Activities with your family. Boardgames, skating, sledding, Christmas movies (at home with homemade snacks), Christmas baking, driving or walking around to look at the lights. Our city makes several out door rinks around the city (free). We have one by our house (with a hill for sledding). We go here almost daily as soon as our schooling is done, getting a jump on the kids in PS. We also met weekly with our homeschool group at the rink downtown in the market square behind city hall. (that's it in the picture) This is fun. Also visiting another neighbourhoods skating rink on occasion is exciting. Turn the t.v. to a Holiday Music Station. Less t.v. helps and it is easier to accomplish when the t.v. is busy supplying the music. Keep the volume low for a peaceful atmosphere then crank it up to sing and play. Much of this can be school ; PE, music, geography (map your route to see the lights, local rinks etc), math (baking, budget, graphs of the lights or the rinks etc) **with less gifts to open (thanks to tip 1) you will have time for some of these things on Christmas Day. That will make the memories you always thought you'd have of Christmas. I was blown away on our first scaled down Christmas by the fun and memories we made. Really tearing wrapping paper is not a special memory.
Taking the 12 Days Of Christmas Literally? Try to limit the number of times you do Christmas.You know, Christmas at home, at Grandma's, at the other Grandma's, Grandpa & Step Grandma's, your brother's, your husband's brothers, again for your sister who was at her in laws. It is crazy isn't it? Rotate. This year, here, next year there. Plan ahead scheduling so that you can do it just once (thanksgiving is a good time to plan). Still need to see your brother who prefers to stay home and visit on boxing day, scale boxing day down. It isn't Christmas, it is a gift exchange with left over turkey sandwiches and outside play. Kids love to see all the grandparents? Plan a Grandparents tea. Invite them all to one house. Yes both sides, maybe even step families. We convinced my Mom in law, her ex and his wife to celebrate together for the last years of my Father in law's life. It worked because they wanted to see the grand-kids. It will not work for everyone but bring the topic up, they just might be to old to want to fight. If you are rotating then the family in the “off year” can be the tea family. Anyway at the tea there is a small gift exchange such as pictures of the kids, a craft they made for family. The family then give the kids a smaller or useful gift (books, clothes, gift cards, family board game). The focus here is tea, a desert and conversation. Very low key and often a quiet way to spend Christmas eve when possible. Again have the kids help as part of school, with the gifts and the baking, or if a proper tea that in itself can be a teaching moment in etiquette. Check out Tea Time Etiquette Here
Making Merry Again & Again? That bunch of friends have you running every weekend to a Christmas party. Choose one, maybe one hosted by a family member. Your kids will love spending winter weekends in quiet family activities with you. So will you. You will save on party dresses, gifts for the hostess, and babysitting. Besides they are not that much fun anyway. And all that running around adds to the holiday stress, especially if you live far enough North for snow. I live in Canada, so we have snow. This idea sprang from our culture (to new readers I am Lakota my husband is Mohawk). In our culture the big celebrations are during the summer (nice weather, clear roads). But Christmas AND New Years are during the worst weather possible for traveling the northern hemisphere, so travel when needed (visiting family).
Want Fun, Not tears? Play! Board Games & Out Side Play For Boxing Day. This one does not always play out in our house in reality although it does in spirit. Here's the thing. Do you really need a gazillion things you found for 75% off the day after your friends and family thoughtfully gave you gifts? Yeah it is a sad reflection on our consumer led lives. So why do we sometimes go out? Well Aunty Claus has her birthday the day after boxing day and we always celebrate it on the day as we do for everyone else. So we go buy her birthday gift for 75% off. She gets great birthday gifts. So to stick to the spirit of this idea anyone shopping on boxing day must be back by noon when Uncle and the cousins arrive (having also hit the stores on the way into the city – they live in the middle of nowhere and are big fans of consumerism). Since we are not early or fast risers this is a quick trip. We can then play. No cooking cuz it is left overs.
You Spent How Much At Hallmark? Yes I have heard some people spend a lot on Christmas cards. I never did. However since I rarely mailed those cards the money I did spend was well wasted. So I have some money & time saving tips. Send a (lightweight) craft and a note, free printable cards off the internet like the ones from Greetings Island (which I blogged about here). Another favorite of mine is Blue Mountain e cards Honestly this is the only way my cards get sent. And it is stress free: free to join, no trip to find the right cards, no stamps to purchase, no trip to the post office or mail box, can be sent even in the worst weather, you can send multiple cards at once or all different. (and again I am saying this cuz I want to, no requested reviews or payments). Have the kids help write and make cards, a great LA activity this time of year.
Sleep Eat And Be Merry. Every parent knows that tired hungry kids are cranky-crying-running -around-like-a-chicken-with-it's-head-cut-off-kids. So make sure everyone gets their sleep. There is less daylight in December and we need sleep, so wake them up half an hour later this month. Homeschooling allows us to not wake our kids up at 6 am. And on Christmas morning do not let them wake you up at 6. Our kids stay in their room till we wake them at the same time we usually do every other (December) day. Yes after they wake they want to get their Santa gift and stocking. Put some fruit at the top of that stocking and encourage them to eat it. Then when stockings and Santa gifts are done break for Breakfast; also known as the most important meal of the day. Some may prefer to slow way down and make a hot breakfast. Some may prefer the every day cereal and milk, or more fruit. My dad makes breakfast the night before. I plan to this year also, not the same breakfast my Dad does but this Bread wreath I blogged about here on a Top Ten Tuesday
Hello; My Name Is Mom. Don't get lost. If you don't look after yourself, fall apart and are a mess of nerves then your house will follow suit. Remember that more relaxed December homeschool path I said we are taking? It is a we thing. I am not spending my nights writing next weeks curriculum, I spent 1 night and bookmarked enough stuff to last weeks. I spend ½ an hour on currclick choosing 5 unit studies. Relax and have fun too. Plan time for a quiet night with your husband, an afternoon with your sister, a few crafts just for you while the kids are in bed. Play outside with them (it will give you energy). Sometimes send them out to play with out you and enjoy some quiet. Looking after yourself benefits everyone around you.
So hope this helps everyone on their search for a fun relaxing Christmas!