The last few months have been pretty stressful around here. Many of the kids are going through some big life-adjustments, and honestly, it’s taken a toll on our relationships and quality time together.
So when my husband and I began talking about the holidays, we knew instantly that we didn’t need an over-done, frantic season of never-ending activities.
We needed to do Christmas differently this year.
This Christmas, we decided that we wanted to focus our family’s teachable moments around things that would replenish and refuel.
We asked ourselves some hard questions like:
- What things would strengthen our family and, most of all, bring glory to Christ in this season?
- What areas do we want to challenge ourselves and our kids to grow in?
- In our family’s particular life season, what key mindsets do we each need to develop in order to fall more in love with Jesus?
- What do we really want Christmas to be about?
Honestly answering these questions meant that we’d need to change things up a little from previous years. It meant perhaps saying no to some good things (if they didn’t support our overall vision); and being willing to try some new ideas (some that could be a little uncomfortable to implement).
But it also meant a commitment to re-focus more intently on other concepts, such as approaching the Christmas story with new awestruck wonder and simple reverence; and asking God to truly show us how to love each other deeply in unique and practical ways.
Using these answers as our plumb-line, here’s how we’ve decided to approach the holidays this year.
1. We’re putting the books away at the beginning of December.
We’ve always continued plowing through our subjects until around December 18 or so. But this year we’re taking advantage of the fact that our co-op ends on December 2.
On December 3, we’re going to step away from our learning plan and just give ourselves space. Space to create. Time to show genuine love where its needed. We’re going to make some simple projects together. We’ll try a few decadent Christmas cookie recipes. A few of my kids want to learn to crochet. I may do some sewing with my daughter. We’ll see what Christmas crafts we can get into trouble with.
I’m clearing our days during these weeks to make these sort of things happen. Because these things take LOTS and lots of time.
I’m praying for healing and restoration in some areas of our family relationships. I’m praying for crafting opportunities, serving opportunities and giving opportunities. I’m begging God for deep rest and restoration for our weary bodies. “Rest, grace and peace” are the words that keep echoing through my mind.
Honestly, I have no idea how these days will play out… and that both scares and invigorates me! But it will be a good challenge for me to let go of the reigns and step back a little. To trust that not all learning needs to come from a regular school routine, and that not all that God wants to teach us right now has to come from a book.
2. Our days will start (and be founded around) God’s word and scripture.
We’ve been working through another Grapevine study this school year and I’ve been pleased at how it allows kids to not only read Scripture but to respond to it by (what they call) “stick figuring through the Bible.”
Along with the five weekly or twenty-four daily lessons, there are timelines, maps and memory verses. Plus the study is designed to be taught to multiple levels and allows for additional Scripture digging for older levels (and traceable activities for the preschool set).
I was also introduced to another resource that we’ll be referring to: More Than a Holiday.
I really like that this book consists of a 25-day devotional, talking points with kids, all-family activities and prayer prompts. The book is flexible enough for families to use some parts or all parts of the book.
We will probably pull this book out in the late afternoons or early evenings, specifically focusing on the family activities that our brood would enjoy. You can learn more about the book here on Amazon.
3. We’ll still practice a few of our family’s core Christmas traditions… within reason.
I tend to go a little overboard with things like Christmas activities (maybe you probably picked up on that).
So it’s easy for me to say we’ll practice a few core traditions such as “we will decorate the house for Christmas” and then find myself locked into 20 different crafting projects that never get finished and leave me a stressed-out mess.
I’ve asked my husband to keep me accountable to what I will commit us to, and to what extent we’ll get involved. Simply because I can let my ideas and expectations spin out of control and then, when I’m faced with reality, ruin everyone’s fun with a not-so-nice attitude. Ahem.
Reading Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook for Advent every night during December is a fun tradition we like to do (I think I can handle reading a book together once a day).
We may also read a few other books such as The Legend of the Candy Cane: The Inspirational Story of Our Favorite Christmas Candy.
Setting up and opening our advent calendars is something the kids and I greatly enjoy (we may not set up all 5 of them, however).
But overall, I’m really being brutal about what we do and don’t include. If the atmosphere of the home begins with me, I need to do what’s necessary to keep myself in a relatively low-stress zone because this is how I can truly teach my kids about the rich treasures found in the Christmas season. I can’t teach about peace, love and joy from a frustrated, overwhelmed spirit.
4. We’ll do our best to stay open to God’s plans.
We’ve already seen this happening! Just recently we learned of an amazing opportunity for my daughter and I to serve with our church at a school-for-the-deaf in Mexico. The timing of trip is right after Thanksgiving and right before the height of the Christmas season.
I never expected to be able to serve on the mission field with my seven-year-old daughter! And yet, in a few short weeks that’s exactly what we’ll be able to do. What’s even more incredible is that I have recently seen in her a desire to love and to serve others in a missions-minded way. Clearly God has been preparing my sweet girl for this opportunity.
Yes, it will be out of both of our comfort zones (mission trips usually are). But I’ve found that when we choose to embrace the opportunities for growth, He is faithful to do in us and through us more than we could ever hope or imagine. (You’ll hear about our missions adventure on Day 11 of the series).
These are the unique ways we’re looking at Christmas as a “teachable moment” for our entire family.
Isn’t God so good that every year we have new things to learn and discover in his Christmas story?
Isn’t it incredible that He can show us what facets of the Christmas message to focus on each year?
And isn’t it awe-inspiring that we can trust Him to provide unique and beautiful lessons—even things we haven’t thought of?
* Disclosure: I received some of the materials mentioned in this post for free in exchange for review. However, I have given my honest take on the materials and would not endorse them without fully believing that they could also be a valuable resource for other homeschoolers.