Finding Teachable Moments During the Holiday
After homeschooling for many years, I found a way to incorporate a different way of learning during the holiday festivities. This not only keeps my kids focused on their education, it also helps alleviate the stress I feel when I’m overwhelmed. I’m sure that other homeschoolers do this too, but if you’ve never tried it, I hope it makes teaching your kids a little easier this year: I invite teachable moments into our daily lessons.
In Robert Havighurt’s book, Human Development, and Education, he says “When the timing is right, the ability to learn a particular task will be possible. This is referred to as a ‘teachable moment.’” After reading that years ago, the phrase, “When the timing is right” always stuck with me because teachable moments usually occur spontaneously.
Well, that’s not the case in our house around the holidays. I create my own teachable moments and you can too! And it doesn’t matter what grade level your kids are at — there are plenty of teachable moments for everyone.
Get Your Kids Involved
I was always stressed out before I got my kids involved with the “tasks” that I usually do around the holidays. Now my three kids (one in fourth grade, one in eighth grade and the other a sophomore) pitch in. For instance, they all help with cleaning the house, which builds life skills, and baking the cookies — and as we’re baking, I quiz them on measuring conversions: How many tablespoons equals one ounce, etc. There’s a lot of math involved in baking.
They also write out all the holiday cards. For our closest friends and family members, each card includes a short personal note — grammatically correct of course! There are other things, but I think you get the idea. These normal routines that occur around the holidays are filled with opportunities to learn valuable skills that go beyond classroom learning.
Budgeting is definitely a skill that goes beyond classroom learning. It prepares your kids to be financially responsible, which is something that is rarely taught in the classroom. We budget for many things all year long, but around the holidays we highlight a few things, including:
- Spending money
- The holiday meal
- School supplies
During the year, I have my kids do three important things with the money they’ve earned or received from relatives: budget for holiday gifts, bolster their savings accounts and set aside some spending money for themselves. As the holidays approach, we review the money they’ve saved for gifts, and they start determining what their financial limitations are before they start the shopping process. This leads me to my next teachable moment.
Who thought that you could create a teachable moment by using shopping?!? As I said above, my kids do their own gift buying using a budget with money they saved, and sometimes with money I chip in. Every year it’s an eye opener for them! They quickly learn the value of a dollar — and sharpen their computer skills by searching various websites for the best prices. It’s amazing how creative kids can get when they know that they can only spend X amount. They also learn other things such as comparative shopping skills, the online ordering process and the amount of taxes and fees that are associated with online purchases.
Planning the Big Meal
Every year we have company over for the holidays. My kids are heavily involved in the planning process for the meal. This includes figuring out the number of people attending, planning out the menu, budgeting for the meal, shopping for the meal, preparing it and cleaning up. When we go to the grocery store, I give each kiddo a separate list. They are in charge of finding the vegetables, fruits, cheeses, nuts, protein, etc. My two oldest go off on their own while my fourth grader sticks with me.
They love this challenge. Sometimes I see them sifting through the fresh veggies looking for the perfect sweet potatoes or zucchini. They are in charge of weighing the fruits and vegetables because they know how many pounds are needed. My oldest prides himself on finding the best quality foods for under budget. It cracks me up, but also makes me proud.
Having Fun and Homeschooling
There’s always time for fun around the holidays. Between baking goodies, decorating, caroling, (yes, my kids love singing, especially Dean Martin songs!), watching holiday specials, and reading holiday themed books, the fun almost never stops. And I’m all for having fun, but I don’t fully halt our homeschooling lessons.
I keep my kids studying a few days a week because it keeps them sharp. I’ve found in the past that when I stopped learning core subjects completely, my kids became rusty and forgot what they had learned. That makes for a frustrating homeschooling experience after the holidays are over.
I combat that by having my kids continue their online learning — they prefer using a computer anyway. The lessons are interactive and use a game-like approach, which makes them entertaining. I also give them time to play regular games and to chat with their friends. For us, combining fun and homeschooling is easy using this method.
There’s one other thing I do with my kids during the holidays. We help the community by volunteering our time. My kids enjoy delivering meals and making friends with the elderly. My oldest volunteered at the local zoo and humane society. As they volunteer, I have them write out their experiences in a journal. I explain to them that they should share their emotions and express how volunteering impacted them personally. Their thoughtful reflections are touching.
Homeschooling during the holidays really does provide the perfect opportunity for adding teachable moments almost on a daily basis. My kids enjoy these moments and I hope your children do too. Enjoy the holidays!