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In my series on “How to Spot a Homeschooler,” we’ve talked about: How to Spot a Homeschooler by Things We Find in Our Houses, How to Spot Homeschoolers by Our Friendships, How to Spot a Homeschooler by How We Dress, How to Spot a Homeschooler by the Things We Say, and How to Spot a Homeschooler by How We Say Hello. Today, crank up your favorite Christmas carols because we’re about to talk about How to Spot a Homeschooler During the Holidays.
“So what did you do in school today?” my aunt asked my daughter a couple of days ago, curiously. My aunt is one of those relatives who doesn’t quite get homeschooling, but tries to be supportive anyway. She’s come around to it over the years as she’s seen how it works for us, but I also know she’s still concerned about us getting too…hmmm…weird or unsocialized. (Too late!)
“Well,” my seven year old says proudly, “we made presents. Friendship bracelets for my friends. And we finished reading The Best/Worst Christmas Pageant Ever and watched the movie. It was so funny! And I helped mama clean (“mama” AKA me is super pregnant right now, so you can bet “helping mama clean” goes on the daily checklist.)
I can’t quite describe the look that crossed my aunt’s face in response to this answer. Confusion? Disapproval? Did the bite of cracker she had eaten go down the wrong way? I could tell, however, that this answer was unexpected and had every chance of going into the “weird and unsocialized” box of homeschooling data.
“We are incorporating a lot of holiday stuff into our learning this month,” I jumped in. “Christmas reading, home economics, arts and crafts, things like that, you know?”
The confusion cleared, replaced by a look of relief replaced it: “Oh, so a lot of dead time. Well, I guess that happens in real school, too.” (Yes, she refers to public school as “real school.” No, I haven’t figured out how to make it stop yet. In general, she’s the best though– I swear.) Anyway, it was as if this supposed similarity to “real school,” made it “okay.”
Reader–this is both not okay and wildly inaccurate! Homeschooling during the holidays is its own, unique, special, educational, chaotic, stressful, pajama-wearing time of life! Nothing about it is dead (as a door nail, or otherwise). It’s memorable, unpredictable, magical…and definitely a bit weird. That’s why today we’re going to talk about How to Spot a Homeschooler During the Holidays.
The Santa Claus is one of my favorite Christmas movies, and I can’t help but think about this version of the North Pole when I envision homeschooled kids in the month of December. For myself and many of the homeschooling families I know, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas transforms “regular school” into what I like to call “Elf School.” (AKA DIY central). Decorating, wrapping, making homemade gifts…being a Christmas “elf” can be a full time gig (and an educational one, too!)
During the holidays, you can spot a homeschooler in Elf Mode by the crafting ribbons stuck to their shoes, or the Amazon boxes in their kitchens which are full of supplies for DIY gifts like candles, bath salts, and decorative tins for home-made candies (AKA art, home economics, and shop class!). Also in the spirit of Elf Mode, you may spot a homeschooler carefully filling Operation Christmas Child boxes to send to children around the world (service projects). Or your homeschooling family might make DIY decorations like Victorian popcorn-and-cranberry strings or orange and clove pomanders (history!)
These special holiday projects are far from “dead” time. And I think they are also more meaningful than the kinds of holiday crafts you’ll often find in public school. Instead, “Elf School” days involve learning through family traditions and memories, giving to others, and merging education together with meaningful, real-life results. This gets kids involved in the holidays in a way that makes them feel satisfied and fulfilled because they know they are making a difference (for their family, and beyond) during the holiday season! That’s all any good Christmas elf wants, you know?
I hope I’m not the only homeschooling mom out there who puts chores on the daily checklist alongside schoolwork, but I doubt it! Especially during the holiday season, you can spot a homeschooler doing extra tasks around the house.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah (…or Kwanza… or Winter Solstice) this is a time of year when: you have people stopping by your home more frequently, there are more special meals to make, more shopping to do, and more dishes to wash! This causes an instant, seasonal priority shift, whereupon “Home Economics” suddenly becomes one of the most important classes in your homeschool line-up.
As a result, you can spot a homeschooler telling friends and relatives that they are doing “baking for math this month,” and “home maintenance” for physical education. They may be participating in a short term “finance” study (which loosely translates into picking up extra projects around the house to earn money for Christmas gifts.) Homeschooling families get creative with the titles, but ultimately this is a time of year when we require, and utilize, all hands on deck for the necessary household things that need to be done. No shame. Those are life skills, baby.
Of course, there are many different kinds of homeschooling families, and some are quite fashionable. Therefore, I apologize if this misrepresents you. However, I’ve noticed you can often spot a homeschooler between the months of November- January by their very eclectic wardrobe choices. Examples include: athletic shorts plus Christmas sweaters, or last year’s (almost too small) Christmas PJs mixed up with this year’s Christmas PJs, or maybe just sweats and some elf ears.
Exception: if you have a teenage girl who likes to be fancy, she may suddenly dressing the like main character of a Hallmark Christmas film.
Many people assume that homeschoolers “dress weird” all the time. And it’s true that you can sometimes spot a homeschooler by how we dress. However, there’s a special phenomenon which fans this flame of distinctive fashion during the holiday season. It is called, “a break from extracurricular activities.” The day-to-day activities which lure homeschoolers away from the house often pause in the month of December. For many homeschooling families, this break from socialization – combined with Elf Mode and Home Economics Mode – results in a strange and unique clothing line.
Often you only know this fashion trend is happening if you witness it first hand as a homeschooling parent. Sometimes, however you can spot a homeschooler sporting this unique brand of holiday fashion during daytime hours at your local Walmart, Costco, or Sam’s Club, helping mom do the shopping before school is out for the rest of the world.
(It must be noted that this is balanced by the typical homeschool tendency to overdress when it comes to more official seasonal outings.)
This one is not so much a question of “How” to spot a homeschooler as it is of “Where” to spot a homeschooler. In stark contrast to the last point, there are definitely certain times during the holiday season when it seems like you’ll spot a homeschooler (or the same family of homeschoolers) everywhere you go. During the holidays, in fact, you may be met by what seems like a parade of homeschoolers.
Like the ghost of Marley, the face of your local homeschooler is suddenly popping up frequently in the most unexpected of places: as Joseph in the church nativity, in the community band performance, on a float in the holiday parade, or as a caroler in the Victorian Christmas reenactment. “How,” the non-homeschooler may wonder, “is this homeschooler doing all the things?”
Because, my friend, participation in these things are school within the homeschooling holiday framework. We’re in Elf Mode, we’re off our extracurriculars, and (especially for those extroverted homeschoolers) getting plugged in in all the holiday things can be part of the homeschool experience.
No conversation about holiday homeschooling is complete without addressing unit studies. As in the summer months, this highly busy, slightly atypical time of the year is the perfect opportunity to dive into specific areas of interest and learning.
You can therefore spot a homeschooler deep-diving into particular subjects during the holidays, especially of the Yuletide variety, like studying poinsettias. Tis the season for learning about snowflakes, world traditions, and Charles Dickens. It’s the time of year where we do counting with ornaments, and practice spelling by writing thank you cards, and learn about STEM circuits via Christmas lights!
In short: Are your children in Christmas PJs at 2:00 p.m., surrounded by STEAM activities on snowflakes in his or her lap, and empty cups of cocoa. Are there holiday to-dos taped to the fridge, and halfway-finished paper chains on the floor? Does your home look like the Multiverse of Madness: Holiday Edition? Do you plan on having kids help you clean it all up, later (as part of school)?
Are you in full swing of a season full of crafting, reading, participating, and memory making? Do you consider it all educational? If so, you already know how to spot a Homeschooler During the Holidays, because you are probably raising them!
As diverse as homeschooling families are, one thing we all have in common during the holiday season (and other special times of year) is the ability to merge special family memories with learning (and to see how one equals the other, more times than not!) There is no “dead time.” It’s all meaningful; it’s all “good stuff!”
What are some of your holiday traditions and eccentricities, this time of year? Drop a comment and let us know how we can spot YOUR homeschooler during the holidays!
Katie Gustafson has been a member of the world of “weird, unsocialized homeschoolers” for a long time–first as an alumnus and now as a homeschooling mom to a fiercely fun little girl! She’s very into anything creative, especially writing, dancing, and painting. She’s also particularly passionate about literature and owns more books than she will probably ever be able to read. However, she reassures herself with the belief that, in the event of a digital apocalypse, she’s cultivating a much-needed physical library for future generations. Katie is happy to contribute articles to Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, Hip Homeschool Moms and Sparketh. She also has a personal blog on writewhereuare.com.
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