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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Homeschooling, Holidays, and Finding Peace

Heading into the Holidays with a Plan for Peace

Jenny Bales

You know the song, “Here Comes Santa Clause?” Well, I have a new version ...

Here comes overwhelm,
Here comes overwhelm,
Right down overwhelm lane!
Presents and travel and all the parties, pullin’ on our brain!
Friends are callin’, children bawlin’, all is busy and bright…
Take a deep breath and say your prayers, cause a plan can make it right!

Smiles and laughter aside, we all know that Thanksgiving leads to Advent leads to Christmas leads to New Year leads to Epiphany…and it all runs together, making us dizzy, tired, and overwhelmed!

How do we avoid feeling overwhelmed by the holiday extra—and find the joy in the season?

There’s a way! We plan for it. Right now!

Balance the Equation: Some Easy Ideas…

The holidays are mostly a lot of fun, but they’re notorious for adding to our schedules and to-do lists.

What can be done?

One way to keep our families balanced is this: whenever we add something for the holidays, make sure we subtract something that we usually do. Keep the equation balanced.

What We Did in October (Our Whole Schedule)
One of Those Things
One Holiday Thing


(3 Events) – (1 Event) + 1 New Event = Peace (Balance)

For example, during Advent, we can choose to add a daily Jesse Tree devotion but put away the catechism program—letting the Jesse Tree devotion be our religion lesson for the day. We usually need to add Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, so we should probably say no to a play date that week.

It’s simple math. Don’t you love it?!

(Often simple is the best.)

Saying “No”…

Saying no can be difficult. But deep down, we all know that to avoid tipping the scale too far, we need to use that little word!

Fortunately, between Christmas and New Year’s, many outside-of-the-home activities take a break. But if we decide to add an Advent Penance Service and a co-op party before Christmas, you and I can bet that (to keep our lives peaceful and enjoyable) we’ll need to cross a few more things off of our calendar.

Again, skipping park day or missing a dance class isn’t going to hurt—and it’s surely going to help.

Give Yourself a “Peace Day”

One thing that works for me to keep life balanced and not overwhelmed is to have a Weekly Peace Day. Each week, I intentionally plan for a full day of peace—choosing one day each week to stay home the entire day.

Just one day at home can preserve the balance.

Modify Schoolwork

As homeschoolers, modifying our students’ schoolwork during the holiday season is normal and expected.

Simplifying our schoolwork allows room for holiday baking, field trips to the Nutcracker, and special celebratory times with friends and family. Yes—it’s totally okay to work on only “the 3 R’s” during December—reading, writing, and arithmetic. Simplifying the school schedule gives us the opportunity to learn from the fun holiday activities.

Put away the history timeline and pull out those cookie recipes! It’s okay!

Do Advent Well!

Above all, it’s essential for us to keep in mind that Advent is a time of preparation for the Incarnation of Christ. Planning ahead, placing the religious aspect of the season in the forefront, and focusing on Jesus’ birthday helps our faith-filled time of Advent to not get obliterated by shopping and eating!

Plan for—and focus on—one meaningful daily family activity during the Advent season. When we choose an Advent activity, we bring focus to our entire family.

In my family, some years we read aloud from a book like The Christmas Mystery by Jocelyn Gaardner. Some years, we do a Jesse Tree. Some years, we plan an Advent calendar of seasonal activities.

Whatever you and I choose, a singular, focused, and intentional activity can bring our family together—so we’re not “all over the place.” It’s easily accomplished, and it’s reasonable for our limited time.

Mom’s Spiritual Health

And don’t forget yourself! Choose one thing for you, Mom, to nourish your soul. Be intentional!

Since we can’t give others what we ourselves don’t already possess, it’s good and healthy to plan for something in our lives that’s special and spiritual during this season, too.

While getting dressed, listen to the readings of the day. Wake up a few minutes before the kids and spend some time with an Advent book of reflections. Splurge on a special Bible study book that you can read while sipping coffee or tea… or slip your Rosary into your pocket, and during nap or reading time, sit in your comfy chair and pray the Rosary.

One of my favorite things is to pray the Christmas Anticipation Prayer. It’s said 15 times a day from St. Andrew’s Feast Day, November 30, to Christmas Day. During this time, I have the prayer on the lock screen of my phone, as well as posted in front of my kitchen sink. With the pre-planned, intentional setup taken care of, I usually get to pray it 3-5 times in a row, at various times throughout my day…

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
In which the Son of God was born
Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight,
In Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee,
O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, 
[here mention your request]
through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ,
and of His blessed Mother. Amen.

Whatever we choose, keep it simple and focused on Christ.

But Wait! I Can’t! This is too much!

Sometimes you and I are in a season of life where we simply cannot cross things off or add things.

Perhaps we feel like we barely survived October (with what already felt like the bare minimum, to keep our families going). Particularly during the holidays, when overwhelm and survival mode kicks in, it can help to find tips from others in order to simplify and keep ourselves balanced.

Here are a few practical ways I’ve been able to simplify in times of stress, especially during the holidays:

  • Don’t make your bed (and don’t make the kids make their beds).
  • Put on educational shows and cross off a school subject.
  • Don’t fold the laundry; a mountain of clean clothes is functional, as long as it has a place to live.
  • Use paper plates at some or all meals.
  • At parties, don’t stay the whole time; stay an hour, then go home! Everyone’s happy!
  • Once a week, simplify meals by eating snacks for dinner (at my home, we call it “sninner”!).
  • Avoid neglecting personal connections; one phone or video call is more valuable than a stack of Christmas cards.
  • Rely on grocery pick up and order gifts online; for reduced stress, stay out of the stores!

And there are many more helpful ideas “out there.” Be intentional, and find ways to simplify!

Thanksgiving—Advent—Christmas—New Year’s—Epiphany

The coming season is one of opportunity. As moms, because of the potential for overwhelm, we can view the months of November and December negatively. But the truth is—in this season, there is joy and beauty to be found!

Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, is God made man.

He is the reason for all the hustle and bustle!

And He wants us to find the joy and beauty in every moment.

When we keep the balance and do Advent well, we will find peace in our homes and peace in our hearts.

Jenny Bales is a Catholic homeschooling mom who is passionate about encouraging and connecting mothers through their homeschooling journeys. She and her husband live in North Texas with their four children who have been homeschooled all their lives. Her homeschool philosophy is "whatever works" with a smattering of literature-based learning, Charlotte Mason, and Classical elements. Jenny loves hot tea, sweet tea, dark chocolate, red wine, college football, and mystery novels—and can’t resist an opportunity to coordinate a conference, retreat, co-op, book study, social group, and or moms’ night out. Jenny loves to reflect on all aspects of Catholic homeschooling through the lens of our incredible Catholic faith. You can find Jenny and her work at

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Beautiful. Thank you for posting.
I needed to hear this today as I was stressing out with all that loomed in the next few weeks.
This is our 16th year homeschooling, and you would think I would have learned this by now.