Homeschool Hints
Homeschool Hints Podcast
Homeschooling in the Holidays: Tips From Jordan Gabler

Homeschooling in the Holidays: Tips From Jordan Gabler

How to set expectations, find resources, and avoid the “ditches” of too many projects vs. too little merriment for the season!


Shanxi: Hello, this is Shanxi Omoniyi, host of MPE’s “Homeschool Hints” podcast to encourage you wherever you may be on your homeschool journey.

Today we're going to be discussing: what does your homeschool look like during the holidays with Christmas and Thanksgiving before that and then New Year? And what, if anything, changes for you in your homeschool?

Today I have with me Jordan Gabler. Jordan, did you want to say a few words basically describing your home school journey and then what you do during the holiday season?

Jordan: Yes. So we have 3 birthdays in December.

Shanxi: Oh my goodness.

Jordan: It's a party month for sure. And then we have one in November.

We've slowed down a lot during the holidays, or we've tried to push through, and so we've done a bunch of different ways - how to do holidays and stuff.

And also my husband, it’s like his slowest time of year, usually takes two weeks off at the end of the year so Christmas week, and then the week after he'll take off, which is really nice. But he tries to get all of the extra projects done.

So we just kind of pile them up to the end of the year, and then he decides he wants to do it, like, then - when he has some time off, you know. After he has had a little bit of break with us. He just desires to work a little bit. Yeah, back to routine. Back to normalcy.

Shanxi: You mentioned your holiday homeschool has changed. What are some specific ways it's changed over the years?

Jordan: So when we've had the kids or we've really slowed down like during the holiday season, through each season of bringing a new one in, it kind of looks different.

There is 2 ditches, like, we can fall into. So I've done like the, let's go like all out - kind of almost, like, Elf like, where it's like, “Let's do all the things!”

And so I've done that, where we would make full on, like, Advent things you'd open up each day, where you do a craft or whatever it says to do, you know, and try to do all the things.

We're like, “It's Christmas time! We must do all the things and be busy!”

And then the other side, where it's like, “I'm going to do nothing. Like you know, I'm going to …”

Shanxi: I'm burned out before it starts? <laughs>

Jordan: Yes! Like barely getting the decorations up, you know, and or just not - there's like no merriment, I guess, in the season.

And I was struck by the saying of like, you know, we don't want to be the White Witch of Narnia, you know, where it's always winter but never Christmas.

So I feel like when I was stuck in that ditch, it kind of helped me be like, oh, that's true. We do have a king that we're celebrating.

And that should kind of bubble over into joy and and how we live it out.

And so, something that has helped me - because the season does get busier, you know, there's like kind of no stop in that - but it's busy, like, meaningful doesn't have to be busy also. Like adding all the stuff like doesn't have to be busy.

As I reflect on this, I ask myself, “Am I being a good steward of my time? And also, am I being faithful to what God has given me? He's given me little children, and we do ordinary things all the time.”

And so, so I add a little bit enchantment back into our life. And it doesn't have to look crazy, like doing all the advent stuff every day.

But during different seasons, like when I had littles, like very littles the whole time, I just did simpler things, where it was, like, bought the Hobby Lobby craft things.

And they would do it on their own, where it's not like me like sitting by them the whole time.

You know, we're building this thing together, like we've had built our nativity set together in the past. But that was like at a stage where like they could do it and stuff, but just adjusting to like, we can still do crafts but it doesn't have to be like all out like that.

And then there are seasons of that, where you're like oh man, we can do this, you know. But just adjusting I think has helped me, you know, just bringing life back into our that time, but also not going crazy. <laughs>

Shanxi: Yes, absolutely. I love how you talk about the two ditches because that's, you know, a great framework to think of, you know, to avoid the two extremes and to find the happy middle, which varies from family to family.

What would you say to, you know, first-time homeschoolers who may be, you know, a little bit more toward the first ditch where they're feeling pressure, maybe from family members, maybe from themselves?

Like, “I have to do homeschool and I have to add in all these other things and I have to do…” You know, they're just maybe feeling overwhelmed at trying to fit everything in.

Jordan: In the past, we've taken the whole month off because it was just a lot.

But I feel like this year, we're just taking the two weeks that my husband has off. So, like the week of Christmas and the week after.

But it does slow down, like it looks different. I do school like, probably the first two weeks of December. And then after that, we still keep in a rhythm.

So I feel like if we just automatically drop everything, it's like so hard to get back into things.

And also I just feel like, oh man, like I feel like, what happened to our day? <laughs> Sometimes that's nice, where it's like, Oh.

But yeah, just having like, pegs in our day where it's like, OK. Morning time is really something that we keep even during our time off.

We just read at breakfast. We read the Word, and we sing. I printed off like a lot of different like Christmas Carols and hymns.

And so I have these binders now of - I put them in like sleeves, you know, so it's really simple - and we just pick a hymn or a Carol that we want to sing that morning.

And then we bring out all of our Christmas books that we kind of store away, and then we bring them out and stuff. So little things that aren't so overwhelming.

Shanxi: Yeah, that sounds great. So that probably leads well into my next question, which is like, do you have any favorite, you know, traditions that you incorporate into your homeschool, like around Advent, Christmas?

Jordan: Yes. You know, I mentioned the craft things or like late later or earlier. Because my kids are pretty crafty, and so they always want to be doing a crafter building or, you know, but just buying those like Hobby Lobby ornaments.

And then we give them away to family when we see them and stuff, and they feel pretty proud of them. <laughs>

During the time we have off, we do a lot of games. And also a Christmas puzzle we might be working on.

We usually do like special more special breakfasts and stuff, and so we will make more baked desserts, baked goods and stuff for breakfast.

And yeah, just like using that as like, OK, we're learning something together.

Looks, doesn't have to be all like book work focused, but it's amazing what you learn by just baking and playing games. And yeah, just focusing on that, like, kind of relationship time during the season.

Shanxi: Awesome. For the people, you know, who might be veering toward the other side of the ditch. Like, you know, there there's no merriment in the season.

I remember actually seeing a post from a friend recently where she said the holiday season's especially difficult for her this year because her mom has passed.

And I was thinking, you know, if there's anything for people who, you know, feel like they, for whatever reason, can't enter into the joy of the season? Or they're just feeling, you know, extra down when everybody else is really high?

Do you have any words of wisdom or any thoughts just from your perspective of, you know, having all those birthdays crammed into these months where it can be a really busy time, but also you want to be able to slow it down as needed?

Jordan: I've dealt with like, postpartum depression, I guess, during this time, you know, with some of them.

And yeah, I think this time is a time of reflection on like, where is our hope, you know?

And then we find joy in that. Like he is, he is that, and he still reigns. And you know, that causes us to just have a little more joy.

But yeah, it is a hard time when you're going through that season, and you know it doesn't have to be all the things, you know.

It could look different for each family, even if it's just the lights and just a few more special dinners together or, you know just yeah.

Shanxi: You don't have to manufacture or like pretend to be…

Jordan: Yeah, we shouldn't have to manufacture that because it should bubble over of like, joy - of like, we do have a king, you know, and that he reigns.

And that comes out in all different ways for different people. Whether it's just worshipping and reminding ourselves of that.

Shanxi: Yeah, it's like you said, it's always a balancing act. Any advice for new homeschoolers maybe, you know, after the Christmas rush and they're kind of, you know, going into January and the New Year? Many homeschoolers I've heard say this can be, you know, the hardest part of the year to keep going. Have there been anything you've found particularly helpful?

Jordan: Just keeping some sort of rhythm has helped me. Even if you don't, if you decide, I'm going to take not any rhythm, like for a week, you know, like slowly integrating that back in. Because I find it hard when we're just like, full stop, and then full start.

I did say Jonathan is off that first week of January, my husband. He gets to experience that with us, and so it's kind of nice. So he'll kind of help us get back into the rhythm too.

I've taken that time at the beginning of the year - Some people plan out their whole year, and some people like try to plan, while they're like trying to celebrate at the same time.

So I have taken that time. I still like, do a little bit of rhythm, but like, I tried to plan a little more. It's my reflecting and planning time.

Shanxi: Was that something you stumbled on or something that you had intentionally planned to, you know, this time of year is going to be more planning focused?

Jordan: I kind of have looked at more like semester focused. I go month by month, like detail planning, but like just my brain can only focus, let's do this semester and then the next semester, you know. Like, bigger chunks, but then getting the details in each month kind of helps me.

Shanxi: Right. And then you can always move the stuff that you didn't get done from last month. <laughs>

Jordan: Yes! I mean, the details sometimes is like weekly. <laughs>

Shanxi: Also since you've been homeschooling a while now - you said your oldest is 8, was it?

Jordan: Yes, and will be 9. So he's one of the birthdays. <laughs>

Shanxi: Just over the years, have you seen homeschooling change? You know, based on the children's ages? And has that also affected how you homeschool in the holidays?

Jordan: So, before I have taken like the whole month off, and I feel as he gets older, there's like just more that he's learning and stuff.

But he needs more breaks, at other times of the year.

And so, I make sure we have a time of a break. Like Advent, and you know, we're looking forward to that Christmas, you know, as we experience Advent.

But yeah, I add more breaks, like scattered throughout. Like, you know, in spring, and Thanksgiving week, I take we kind of slow down a bit too. I feel like he does better with them scattered out instead of all in one chunk.

Shanxi: Well, thank you so, so much. Is there anything else you wanted to add? Any other thoughts or tips for people who, you know, may be starting out at the beginning of their home, school journey or even you know, people in the middle or nearing the end?

Jordan: So I feel like when we want to incorporate all the books and all the wonderful lists that are out there of like, Christmas time, and I think it can be overwhelming. Like, “I don't have any of this stuff.”

And so, and usually the library is on hold for like, 11 people through or something, you know. <laughs>

And so what we've done actually is each year, we will buy a new Advent book of some sort. And so we slowly like build our Christmas library.

And I feel like that's really helped a lot because I want these books, but I can never find them at the library and stuff. So that's been really nice.

We actually have been going through - I don't know if you've heard of this, this is like the Jotham's journey? There's like four Advent stories, and it's kind of like historical fiction.

And so it kind of brings you into a kid’s life that would be around like when Jesus was alive and like born, you know, during that time. And they all kind of interact with each other, but there's four different ones.

So we're kind of going through that every morning. And so that's a part of our morning time and the kids have really enjoyed it. It's really like, they're like, “Oh, read another page!” But I'm like, “No, we got to save this.” <laughs>

But sometimes, you know, you miss a day of Advent, and it's fine. We can do it the next day.

Shanxi: That's right. We're still expecting. We're still waiting!

Jordan: Yes.

Shanxi: Awesome. Well, thank you. I'll have to look up that series. Jotham's Journey, you said?

Jordan: Uh, huh. Yeah. And then there's Tabitha’s Passage, something like that. And then Bartholomew. Yeah, we've been really enjoying it.

Shanxi: Thanks so much for listening. We hope you are encouraged in your homeschool journey.

Please continue the conversation with us on our website,, or email us at We're also active on social media if you'd like to connect with us there. Thanks to Kevin McLeod of for providing this royalty-free song Wholesome, which is licensed under

Homeschool Hints
Homeschool Hints Podcast
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