How to Make the Holidays the Perfect Homeschool Reset

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Are you tired of feeling like a homeschool failure each January? Try Shawna’s tips for using the holidays as a homeschool reset and start the new year off refreshed rather than tired and discouraged.

Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things.

The first few years we homeschooled, I used to give up right around week 2 of December. The post-Thanksgiving mess, the need for Christmas shopping and prep, combined with my out-of-routine, slightly overloaded children made for a very rocky start to the season.

Homeschooling seemed like the last thing I could accomplish as our schedules and my to-do list increased.

Make holidays the perfect homeschool reset

I beat myself up for it. I went into January determined to get back on track, but every year, I struggled to overcome the feeling I was beginning the new year as a homeschool failure.

Tired of the same pattern taking over our holidays and our homeschool every single year, I finally decided to try something new.

I decided to create an entirely different homeschool plan and experience for the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

You know what? It worked.

It worked so well that I have been doing it for five years since. I will continue to do it until my youngest graduates our homeschool.

How to Make the Holidays the Perfect Homeschool Reset

This new plan has become a kind of mid-year reset for our homeschool. Even better, it’s become a fun, highly-anticipated tradition.

Try our “holiday homeschool” traditions (or come up with a few of your own) to create your own homeschool reset and start the new year off refreshed instead of tired and discouraged!

Plan a Project

Every year, we plan one big project for each child to work on during the holiday season. This year, my oldest is building a new electric guitar, and my youngest is working on a gear-driven clock. Both are builders who chose these projects for themselves.

How to Make the Holidays Make the Perfect Homeschool Reset

In years past, we have created a map of all the best zoos around the world, worked on a brand-new aquarium set-up as part of a Christmas present, and even planted a winter garden.

The project itself is less important to me than the outcome: two engaged and happy kids learning throughout December.

Less Traditional Academics, More Interest-Led Learning

How to Make the Holidays Make the Perfect Homeschool Reset

To make time for the projects (and give me a little breathing room as I complete all the holiday-related tasks), we step back a bit from traditional, formal academics.

Stepping back means we take a break from our math program and reading practice, in favor of more natural, unschool-like learning.

Today, you’ll find my boys sharing YouTube videos about chemistry experiments and the world’s deadliest predators. My oldest son is reading a book about the history of rock and roll. And, my youngest is creating a rock climbing area out in our backyard.

Lots of Art and Baking

Because baking is such a natural part of the holidays anyway, these weeks include a lot of it! (Cookies, pies, you name it!) They also feature more art than we usually include in our learning. These two creative tasks fit perfectly with the glow of twinkle lights and the coziness of our holiday home.

Using the holidays as a homeschool reset allows us to start the new year refreshed and ready to tackle traditional learning. It also makes for a much more enjoyable holiday season!

Do you do anything differently in your homeschool for the holiday season? Please share your family’s approach! I would love some new ideas to incorporate into our home this year.

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Shawna Wingert is a special education teacher turned writer, speaker and consultant. She is also a homeschooling mom of two brilliant boys with differences and special needs. Shawna has written four books for parents of special needs – Everyday Autism, Special Education at Home, Parenting Chaos and her latest, Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs. She has also been featured in special needs discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, The Huffington Post and Autism Speaks. You can find her online at DifferentByDesignLearning.com. You can follow Shawna and Different By Design Learning on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

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  1. I liked this article. It gave me a bit of clarity on our own holiday reset time. It’s always nice to see what other homeschool families are doing, and what’s working. Your holiday reset time is helping your kids build life skills on so many levels. Something they don’t get much of in traditional scholloing. Well done!

  2. That’s a great idea- I might do this next year. I was proud of myself this year because I did let go of a lot the structure that we usually do. It’s very freeing and very scary at the same time.

  3. This is a wonderful idea! Both my kids have holiday season birthdays, so this time of year always feels hectic and harried. I get frustrated with myself when I feel too stressed to enjoy all of the beauty and joy of the season. I’ll definitely be adjusting our school plans for the remainder of this holiday season and planning ahead for a similar reset next year. Thanks so much, Shawna!

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