TEACH CT - The Education Association of Christian Homeschoolers

The Best Holiday Season Ever!


Seems like only yesterday we were decorating, shopping, wrapping, baking, addressing cards (Oh, I forgot; you haven’t sent cards in five years), participating in church programs, and feeling frustrated and worn out from all the holiday preparations.  The “Grinch” visits about now—so little time, so much to do! We vow to change things next year.

Well, next year has arrived.

My conclusion, after living through numerous Novembers and Decembers, is that preparations are not the culprits that steal the season’s joy. Instead, the perfectionist in us seems to surface during holidays. We begin with good intentions, wanting perfect family memories our children will cherish forever and share with their children. Armed with determination, we proceed thinking we are Super Mom. Last year’s leftover projects compete for attention with new, fun projects we discovered on our favorite blog. Choices, choices!

Planning for Peace

Shhh! A secret—graduated homeschool moms are fairy godmothers. Okay, I’m waving my magic wand granting permission to drop your panic, skip leftover projects, clear your holiday to-do list, and make new plans around peace, joy, and family celebration. Abracadabra! Poof! Guilt gone! Children love a joyful holiday free from a stressful, Grinch-like mom rather than one filled with every possible delight.

So how do you manage this?  Begin by planning doable projects, and then start early to avoid a crazy, rushed holiday season.

  • Recording your plans in some manner alleviates the attractive temptation to do “just one more thing.” Save plans for gifts, foods, and activities for reference next year.
  • Notebook lovers use spiral notebooks or three-ring binders for holiday journals, or computer lovers use a spreadsheet. Designate sections (Thanksgiving and Christmas) or pages for categories: cooking (menus and baking), special family chore designations, shopping (include a budget limit), gifts to make, gifts to purchase/order, travel plans, decorations, home preparation (cleaning, guest preparation), and maybe a page for events/programs. Note dates when you will do tasks. Possibly put October, November, and December calendar pages inside your notebook, or use your computer/phone calendar.
  • Save receipts in a large envelope in your notebook or somewhere accessible for after-holiday returns.
  • Randomly add to your holiday plan. The record is your “brain,” so use it! I keep a notepad on my nightstand to jot down things that pop into my head in late night hours. If not, I’ll lose them by morning. The Grinch steals them while I sleep!

Choosing Traditions

Traditions are the things we do most times to form a consistent thread through our children’s lives. Skipping something you can’t do one year won’t cut that thread. Do you want to continue your childhood traditions or start new ones? Ask family members what they enjoy.

  • Keep traditions simple. Read a particular Thanksgiving story or make a “thankful tree.” We added one Christmas ornament each year for each son, producing a collection for each one’s future tree. I assembled a special breakfast casserole on Christmas Eve to bake on Christmas morning while Dad read the Christmas story before we opened gifts.
  • Spiritual traditions—Advent calendar, Christmas countdown, Bible readings, birthday party for Jesus, Christmas Eve service—focus on the reason for the season.
  • Play Christmas music to refresh you, and focus on the season rather than the season’s trappings. A December unit study of musicians and Christmas songs is fun. Attend a Handel’s Messiah performance or, if time allows, participate in your church’s Christmas concert. Some churches welcome temporary voices for the holiday concert without a year-round commitment.

Divide and Conquer

Forget finishing any unfinished home projects. Cramming them in isn’t worth the stress. But you can bring better order by working a little at a time on everything you want to accomplish. Divide and Conquer is your holiday mantra.

  • Try setting aside a certain weekday each week to accomplish holiday tasks. Use a timeline to space activities rather than packing more into the last two weeks.
  • Cut holiday cooking stress. If you use a similar menu for Thanksgiving and Christmas, double the appropriate recipes at Thanksgiving and freeze for Christmas.
  • Watch for sales, and pick up gifts and/or decorations before the rush. Yep, I like a good sale as well as any woman, but consider the tradeoff for time and stress in order to save just a bit more. I quit going to huge holiday sales long ago, but you may love them. Shop online. Choose what is practical for you. Record the gifts you buy for whom so you won’t overbuy.


You might suspend school lessons in December. We accomplished what we needed the rest of the year, but we also labeled many holiday activities as “school.” At least, reduce your lesson time between Thanksgiving and Christmas and incorporate holiday fun into your learning.

  • Draw names—your immediate family and/or your extended family—for gifts to minimize expense and volume. Adjust for children’s ages. It may feel strange not buying each child a gift, but you save money and each person can concentrate on one special thing for someone.
  • If you spend Christmas away with family, minimize home decorating. Decorate a table tree rather than a large one that requires more time/effort. Make or buy special decorations, use them, and take them with you to gift to family, reducing your takedown time when you return.
  • Decorate for Christmas after Thanksgiving, and don’t try to keep up with the neighbor who creates “Holiday Wonderland” in his yard.
  • Be radically different and send cards (or online greetings) in the summer. Your message: “We want to be the first to wish you a Merry Christmas and blessed holiday this year. We are all busy during the holiday season, and we love you too much not to stay in touch”—or similar. Your message will stand out and recipients will appreciate it.

Include Others

The season is for giving, not for gimme. Include at least one holiday activity to do for others.

  • Bake for neighbors.
  • Thank pastors and church employees, the mail carrier, delivery persons, garbage collectors, dry cleaner clerks, the librarian, or anyone you appreciate with a note and cookies or a small gift such as a bookmark.
  • Go caroling in the neighborhood or at a nursing home.
  • Donate a food basket or toys.
  • Use your gift funds to help someone in need.
  • Invite a family or singles who are alone to share your holiday meal.

The possibilities are endless if you ask the Lord to show you just what your family should do to serve others. Explore opportunities through your church or in your community.

Kick the Grinch Out!

The season is busy, even when you plan and minimize, and you may decide in the midst of chaos that you simply can’t do everything. Don’t despair; remember that the wave of my magic wand included those things that you want to do but, for whatever reasons, just can’t. Choose and leave the rest undone. The absence of some special baked good or decoration won’t spoil the season as much as the Grinch jumping into the middle of your plans.

Our family has incorporated a “favorite holiday memory” game in some years. The shared memories aren’t usually of elaborate decorations, mounds of baked goods, or even gifts. More likely, they are of some special time (when we spent Christmas in a mountain cabin with almost none of the usual Christmas trimmings), some meaningful activity (when we spent Thanksgiving Day serving dinner at the Ronald McDonald House), or some funny incident (We all laughed after I cried when our huge tree toppled over after it was decorated!). Those shared experiences bonded us together.

The real Grinch is our Archenemy, Satan, who would steal our joy and meaningful celebration. Kick the Grinch out!

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] came that they may have life, and have [it] abundantly.” John 10:10 (NASB)

This holiday season could be the best ever, if you plan and don’t overdo it. The Grinch is an unwanted guest, and he doesn’t appreciate the joyous occasion. There should be no room for him at your inn.

Marilyn Rockett is a veteran homeschool mom of four grown sons and Mimi to eight grandsons (including twins), one granddaughter, and three great-grandsons. She worked in local, state, and national homeschool efforts for over thirty years and is formerly Editor in Chief for Homeschooling Today magazine. Her book, Homeschooling at the Speed of Life, provides organizational helps and encouragement. She has contributed to several additional books and written numerous articles as well as spoken frequently at conferences. Contact at .

Copyright 2014. Used by permission of the author. For reprints, contact Marilyn Rockett.