As I sit at my computer pondering what it’s like to homeschool during the holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year, it’s the middle of summer and 89 humid degrees. (Editorial deadlines will do this to you.) Sitting on my porch contemplating the holiday time of years, I admit that a slight sense of nervousness is coming over me, and anxiety is beginning to well up within. As I think about the often over-scheduled, demanding time of year that we call the holidays—and ponder how in the world I will manage to add the multitude of extras that they bring to the already demanding task of homeschooling my five children—it’s no wonder that I feel like I’m already running late and a few dollars short.

If this is your first year of homeschooling, you’re likely to face a learning curve as you go through your first holiday season as a homeschool family. Adjustments to your regular routine are almost inevitable, and learning how to balance all the extra demands is something that even long-time homeschoolers have to deal with. I know that as a Christian homeschooling mom, it is so easy for me to succumb to the contemporary American church notion that I must do all the Christmas busyness—for the sake of the Lord. But where is that in the Bible? Whose marching orders am I following when I try to live up to that false notion? Certainly not my Lord Jesus, because His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

If you don’t want the weight of the world on your shoulders as this year’s celebrations of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year draw near, find a comfy chair and join me as I think aloud about an easier and lighter way of doing school with my children during these celebrations, when the world around me seems to spin a few revolutions faster.

Follow the Leader

First of all, I want to join my husband in asking, “Lord, what do You want me and my family to do this holiday season?” In the past, I have all too often allowed my neighbors, extended family and in-laws, church leadership, or dare I say it, textbooks, to dictate the answer to that question. But now I deeply want the Lord to determine the flow of our celebrations, gift giving, and calendar, and show us what our “school” should resemble during the holidays. If I am yoked with God, I must be walking in the same direction that He is headed. As He has led us from year to year, it has meant that our family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations have varied and probably haven’t looked like yours. He has lead us down different paths than He may have led you, working on our inner hearts and characters.

In the past few years, God has answered the “What do You want us to do?” question in a variety of ways. We have sometimes had a Christmas tree, but other years, instead of a tree, we have opted for a life-sized nativity scene and fewer decorations around our house. (A large nativity scene in our living room, I might add, inhabited with stuffed animals from the kids’ bedrooms.) We have sent store-bought Christmas cards to our family and friends, then for a few years, opted for homemade cards designed with our children’s artwork and printed at a local copy shop, and now in recent years, no cards at all—all because we felt we needed to follow the Lord’s leading. We have had years of giving homemade gifts and other years of giving more polished, store-bought gifts, another year with one large gift given to all our children (a game table), and other years with individual Christmas gifts for each of them.

At times my response to the Lord’s leading has been willing and joyful. Other seasons I have been more reticent, because in my pride, I wanted to be perceived as normal, going with the flow, and able to juggle all the aspects of schooling plus the addition of the holiday hubbub. I have also been concerned that my children might miss something if we disregarded “traditions.”Yet I have witnessed that the simpler years have not only lessened our financial obligations and lightened my load, but often produced the most joy-filled holiday memories for our children and for us as parents. It seems the Lord is teaching us Micah 6:8: “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”