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Laughing All The Way | Merrily Homeschooling Through The Busiest Time Of The Year

Yesterday Iwoke up overwhelmed - never a good sign. My to-do list for the day was longer than my arm. I wanted to crawl back under the covers and hibernate until the middle of January until after the Christmas dust had settled.

The schedule for the day included attending our Ladies Christmas Tea at Church - something I look forward to every year. Something I was supposed to bring homemade goodies along to as a gift to our Senior members and shut-ins.

I hadn't baked anything.

Also on the list was finishing an article for Free Homeschool Deals, picking up a car-seat swing for our new church, buying a birthday present for my brother, baking cookies for two separate exchanges, tackling seven loads of laundry, and replying to an overflowing inbox... after homeschooling and taking care of supper.

I wanted to cry. I felt stressed and irritable. When I'm stressed and irritable, I get snappy. I've learned that snapping at my kids doesn't make them work any faster or harder; it drags them down and puts a wedge in our relationship. Ain't Momma happy, ain't nobody happy.

I didn't want my kids to have another day with a snappy Mom. They had too many of those already this month. Something had to give, and I decided it wasn't going to be them. They had given me plenty of grace lately, more than I was worthy of.

I cancelled everything.

I didn't go to the Ladies Tea. I emailed the hosts of the cookie exchanges I had committed to and apologized for over-committing myself; I just couldn't do it this year. I turned off the computer and refused to check my email until the kids were in bed. I closed the door to the laundry room and put the "out of sight, out of mind" rule to the test. Picking up the swing and buying the birthday present could wait until tomorrow.

I cleared the schedule. I had a day free of commitments; a day where I could enjoy my children all to myself and they could enjoy a happy Mommy whose focus was on them and not the things she had to prepare or the places she had to go.

I started the morning with devotions, something I had skipped for a few days because I was "too busy." Ironic and shameful isn't it? The Christmas Season was too busy for me to spend time with the Reason for the Season.

I found my place in 1 Corinthians.
"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends... " 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8
"Oh, Lord," I prayed, "please help me to love the precious souls you've entrusted into our care with that kind of love today."

I woke up the kids by whispering "Mommy loves you! We're going to have a super fun day today!" They opened their eyes immediately and smiled. "We are? What are we going to do? Are we going somewhere?" "Nope. We're just going to stay home all day. Mommy's going to play with you, and read books, and we're going to have lots of fun doing school!"

"Okay! I'm excited about that, Mommy!" I didn't rush them to get dressed or scarf down their breakfast. There was no reason to hurry. They were in the best of moods and I found myself enjoying their chatter. How had I let those adorable giggles get on my nerves?

They laughed when I told them they could do three jumping jacks for every flashcard they got correct. They got more right then the day before when I told them how many they were getting wrong.

We baked cookies, seven dozen of them. I put away my perfectionist tendencies and let the kids help me roll the dough balls. They weren't uniform in size like they are when I roll them. There were small cookies, and big cookies; cookies that looked like snakes, and cookies that looked liked they were rolled by a two-year-old. They looked better than they ever had. Tasted better too.

We read books on the couch, one child leaning on my right shoulder, one child leaning on my left shoulder, and a baby on my lap trying to eat the pages. "Can we read another one?" they asked. "We like it when you read us books!"

They felt satisfied by the undivided attention and went off to play. I started tackling the mountain of dirty dishes in the sink and had the counters sparkling by dinner. We enjoyed the Cream of Broccoli Soup that the kids helped me make.

Not everything was picture perfect about our day. The potty-training child had more than one accident, the baby was teething, I burned the last batch of cookies, and the living room was far from spotless by the time Brad came home from work. Many times I had to remind myself, "love is patient and kind... love endures all things... "

But our day was happy, peaceful, and far more productive than I had imagined it would be. I enjoyed my kids and they enjoyed their Mom.

Quite possibly, I disappointed more than one person by cancelling all my plans, but I didn't disappoint our kids. You can't please everyone all the time; sometimes you have to pick and choose who gets your attention and who is going to feel slighted even if slight is never intended.

I'm no expert (as evidenced by the circumstances that led up to this day), but if you have to choose between your children or another thing, or place that needs your attention, choose the souls that have been entrusted to your care. Cookie exchanges and Christmas Teas are lovely but happy, peaceful children in a happy, peaceful home with a happy, peaceful mother are even lovelier.

If the busyness of the Christmas Season has you wound up tighter than an eight-day clock, consider making the following changes:

  • Just say "no." Practice with me, "Nooooooooo." That's it! You can also add "I've got too much on my plate right now," for clarification.
  • Ask your husband. This advice comes from my friend Stephanie at Who Can Stand. She says, "Andrew never minds if I want to "blame" him for having to turn something down. We got this wonderful idea from Gord and Paula, and it seems men are less likely to care what others think than we are. So if it is easier to say, "Oh, I just can't take that on - my husband thinks I've got too much already," then check with Brad and see if you can 'blame' him too!"
  • Spend time with the Christ of Christmas. You cannot survive without Him, but you can thrive within Him.
  • Subscribe to Homeschooling Enrichment. Seriously. I love curling up with this extraordinary Christian homeschooling magazine for inspiration and vision at the end of long days. It ignites the fire when it's almost out, helps me re-focus, and keep my priorities aligned as they should be (You can read more about why I love it here, or purchase it for 58% OFF the cover price here).
  • Clear your schedule. Wipe it clean. Commit to nothing but your kids. See if it's not the best day of the year, in their books and in yours.
  • Determine not to yell at your children to obey. Otherwise, you are actually training them not to obey until you shout. Call and instruct them in your regular voice. Correct them calmly, firmly, and consistently until they respond promptly to your first call.
  • Remember that a good education is life-integrated and not confined to a textbook. Make it fun! Reward correct answers with jumping jacks Count baking cookies as Home Ec. Sing carols around the neighborhood for Music. Read Luke 2 for Bible Time. Teach fractions with the clementines you're snacking on. Go tobogganing or skating for Phys Ed.
  • Take a break. Who says you can't?
  • Tell your kids you love them. It's hard to feel stressed or angry when you say those three uplifting words: "I love you."
What other homeschooling holiday stress-busting tips would you add to this list? I'd love to hear 'em!

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