Holidays and Homeschooling: Celebrating, Learning, and Family Traditions

When my oldest children were just approaching the age to begin homeschooling, I talked to a wise friend who had been homeschooled herself. We were talking about homeschooling styles and ideas, and she said something that has stuck with me through all the years of homeschooling my children: “Life is school.” It’s simple, but profound.

What this doesn’t mean is that as homeschool moms we should go around making everything into a lesson. You know what I mean, you grocery store field trip people. “OK, kids. If we buy this laundry detergent and this dish detergent and pay with a $20 bill, how much change will we get back.” (I can laugh at this because I’ve done it myself.)
No, “Life is school,” means that there are so many natural opportunities for learning in our day to day life. If we give our children rich opportunities for learning (instead of letting them just constantly zone out in front of a device) and we facilitate learning throughout these opportunities, they can often learn much more than they would from a planned lesson.

Homeschooling through the holidays

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Holidays are an awesome time to put “Life is school” into practice. There are great opportunities for learning as we’re celebrating and taking part in family traditions. Here are four ways that you can facilitate learning throughout your holiday celebrations.
(Just a note first…I am NOT recommending that next time a fun holiday rolls around, you sit the kids down at the table and say, “We’re not taking a school break for this holiday, we’re going to learn fun things instead.” I’ve done this, and it went over like a lead balloon. Instead, just create some opportunities for natural learning. “Hey, let’s read aloud together for a while, and then we’re going to try this yummy holiday recipe.”)

Use a unit study.

I love, love, love unit studies. It’s so much fun to gather the whole family together and learn by reading books, doing hands-on projects, notebooking, and exploring a subject in detail. Holidays are an especially great time to use unit studies.

You can read books about the holiday. You can find recipes and crafts and other holiday-themed learning activities. You can even construct a lapbook or notebook with information that you’ve learned. I have a host of unit study resources on the site, including some holiday unit studies. You can also pick up my free Create Your Own Unit Study Ebook. It has a step-by-step guide and planning pages, and you can use it to create a unit study for any holiday.

Learn the history of the holiday.

Holidays are an awesome time to learn history. As you explore the historical background of a holiday, you’ll be able to learn what was going on in the world at the time. Why was the holiday established? Does it have historical significance? has some great videos and articles that explore the history of some of our holidays.

Tie in learning with family traditions.

Establishing family traditions is so important in building family unity and connectedness. But you can also learn the history behind your traditions. Explore why you started the tradition. Is there a spiritual meaning behind the tradition?

Each year at Christmas, we use the Jesse Tree as an Advent Countdown. The Jesse Tree has lots of biblical history and meaning. So it isn’t just a great family tradition that helps us to focus on Christ at Christmas. It’s also a way to learn more about the Bible and the history of the Jewish people.

Learn about the music of the holiday season.

As a non-music person, I sometimes struggle to include music appreciation in our homeschool. But the holidays are a great time to bring in some music. We’ve had fun looking at the history of holiday music as well as listening to and learning some of the songs ourselves.

Music in Our Homeschool has an awesome resource for this. Music Lessons for Holidays and Special Days is a self-paced, online music class. It includes thirty-six lessons that cover well-known holidays such as Christmas and Easter, along with fun holidays such as Star Wars Day. The lessons are in order by holiday date. Each lesson includes text as well as carefully curated videos where you can hear the music performed. There are also printables for the lessons, so you can create a notebook as you learn about each holiday’s music. The course is designed for elementary-aged kids, but I’ve looked at it and think you could definitely use it as a whole-family course, adapting for older or younger kids.

Music lessons for the holidays

The holidays can be an informal, relaxed time to learn naturally. Celebrate, enjoy family traditions, and learning will happen because “Life is school.”

Homeschooling through the holidays

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