Life Skills: Holiday Preparation

Holiday Preparation

Some might question whether holiday preparation falls under life skills training. However, our family considers it a very useful part of life skills.

Life skills learned during holiday preparation might include…

  • basic planning for an event,
  • large meal planning, which usually includes math skills,
  • budgeting, another area of math skills,
  • time scheduling,
  • working well with others,
  • hosting and being a gracious host,
  • appreciation and thankfulness,
  • and much more!

These life skills are quite useful in holiday preparation. However, they also provide great training for other aspects of our life. Indeed, these life skills may be some of the most useful throughout our children’s life. So, why not teach them in a festive, happy atmosphere as we prepare for holiday gatherings.

We celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas as important family gatherings. In our home, holiday preparation begins with planning the day. If a family member needs to work (hospitals never close!) we may shift our planned event to accommodate everyone. Yes, planning to include everyone constitutes life skills, especially in a large, active family.

Next, we work on the menu. This encompasses not only planning a large menu, but ensuring that everyone can take part.  From a very early age, each child helps with some part of the food buffet. Younger children create the relish tray or make mashed potatoes. As they grow, so do their responsibilities.

life skills holiday preparation

Good Planning is more than life skills training

Good planning helps ensure the holiday is enjoyed by all, without too much stress. Planning includes what we will serve and the amounts needed of each. While our children all learn to cook from an early age (see Life Skills- Home Management again!) holiday planning requires additional planning.

As such, we consider the following:

  • Figure out the number of people attending. (This seems to grow each year!)
  • Plan each meal item. We do buffet style with plenty of variety, all vegetarian, many vegan.
  • Assemble the grocery list. This actually becomes multiple lists.
    • List 1: items we need ahead of schedule to begin early cooking.
    • List 2: items we need last minute, to ensure they are fresh.
    • List 3: actually might be part of the first two, and includes non-food items such as serving ware, bakeware, and even a little decor.
  • Create the “who does what” list. This begins to come together before the grocery list and often alongside the meal planning. After the basics, each family member is encouraged to offer their choices of what they hope to help with or contribute.
  • And, the final step includes who has the kitchen for what time slot. Yes, in a large family, this becomes necessary, even with an extra large kitchen.

Teach these life skills from early childhood. It might seem more like a holiday checklist, and it is. But, it is also helping our children grow up, learning holiday preparation in such a way that they avoid feeling overwhelmed. I could do the entire preparation and know other moms that do. However, by teaching these skills as we live together, our children become teens fully capable of planning a complete holiday on their own, should the need arise.

life skills holiday preparation

Family together!

Holiday Preparation Becomes Family Fun

Some of my fondest memories of childhood and beyond include holiday preparation with my mom and family. Over the years, we have built such memories with our own children, too. I still enjoy the chatter in the kitchen and friendly chiding as we each whip up our own contribution. These hours become family memories none will forget.

But, almost as important as the beautiful memories are the life skills. Most of our teens could quite easily plan a small gathering with great ease. In fact, one of my daughters did the majority of the planning and development for her own sweet 16 party. Given a budget, realistic guidelines, and a few suggestions, she had a party for more than 150 guests. That might be considered a final exam for a course called Life Skills-Holiday Preparation!

Planning Beyond the Food

However, we must also consider planning beyond the food itself. Decor, time, and any activities — all must be included in the planning. Not just what, but who will put them together and when everyone arrives.

And, don’t forget the clean-up. In our home, everyone helps with the clean-up, too. However, giving a little forethought to where things will be put and even who will wash the dishes helps keep the event from becoming a major work-fest for one or two people. Plan ahead. Ask for help. Designate.

life skills holiday preparation

Thank Everyone

Although our holiday events are mostly family-centered, it’s important to thank everyone for their contributions and for coming and enjoying. Holiday preparation life skills training includes being a gracious host or hostess during and after the event. While thank-you cards might not be needed, those verbal thanks are well appreciated. Teach your children to include these in their good-byes, too.

life skills holiday preparation

Holidays

People who read this blog come from many countries, and have different backgrounds. Some are new Adventists, and some have been for many years or all their lives. Because there are a lot of different beliefs regarding how holidays are celebrated, I thought I’d share some quotes from Adventist Home, by Ellen White, that have helped our family and others understand how she thought they should be kept.

“I saw that our holidays should not be spent in patterning after the world, yet they should not be passed by unnoticed, for this will bring dissatisfaction to our children. On these days when there is danger that our children will be exposed to evil influences and become corrupted by the pleasures and excitement of the world, let the parents study to get up something to take the place of more dangerous amusements. Give your children to understand that you have their good and happiness in view,” (AH pg.472 & 1T pg.514,515).

We should not just let the days pass by, but provide something good for them. Specifically about Christmas she says, “As the twenty-fifth of December is observed to commemorate the birth of Christ, as the children have been instructed by precept and example that this was indeed a day of gladness and rejoicing, you will find it a difficult matter to pass over this period without giving it some attention. It can be made to serve a very good purpose… The desire for amusement, instead of being quenched and arbitrarily ruled down, should be controlled and directed by painstaking effort upon the part of the parents. Their desire to make gifts may be turned into pure and holy channels and made to result in good to our fellow men by supplying the treasury in the great, grand work for which Christ came into our world. Self-denial and self-sacrifice marked His course of action. Let it mark ours who profess to love Jesus because in Him is centered our hope of eternal life,” (AH pg 478 & RH Dec.9, 1884).

Let us take these days, especially holidays such as Christmas and Easter, and teach our children that these events in the life of Jesus (birth & death) are for our salvation, and we should share this with others.

In the U.S. we celebrate Independence Day, July 4, with parades and fireworks, and our harvest festival is called Thanksgiving because the pilgrims were thankful to have made it here that first year. What important days are recognized in your country? What are some holidays, Christmas and others, that you celebrate, and how do you celebrate them?

I invite you to share ways that you are teaching your children to give to others.

National Day of Listening

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” James 1:19.

Today, November 23, is the (unofficial) National Day of Listening in the United States of America. Today, I want to encourage everyone, no matter where you may live, to take part in this as well. Modern times have us so busy we often don’t take time out to just listen and to be actively involved in listening. What makes this so special for us homeschoolers, is this can really clue us in to our surrounding family and friends, and can be a great ice breaker and guide to interviews, including community outreach.

Questions you may want to ask yourself today:

  • What is “active listening”? Active listening is the involvement of both verbal and non-verbal listening skills. The listener will listen with all five senses. The key is that you are responding and paying attention to the speaker. Non-verbal responses can include smiling, eye-contact, posture, and nods of the head. Verbal responses can include remembering, questioning, reflection, clarification, and summarization.
  • Am I an active listener? If you do most or all of the above, you could consider yourself an active listener. Active listening promotes positive relationships with others, and helps you to feel better about yourself. Sympathy and empathy can be reflected in emotional times as well.
  • How can I become a more active listener? Listening doesn’t “just happen.” When you use your senses, you become involved and seek to understand what is being said. Some helpful tips: Don’t take sides (stay neutral), have patience, don’t jump in with questions or commentary every time there is a bit of silence. As a pastor once told me, “Be sure to hold the heart of the other while listening.” Also, be careful of too much eye-contact, as it can appear intimidating. You will also find that when you successfully listen, that you will naturally mirror the speaker’s emotions as well (excitement, sadness, etc). Also, be careful that you refrain from being distracted while listening, as it can appear that what the speaker is sharing with you is unimportant and not interesting.
  • What are the benefits of active listening in the homeschool environment? When active listening is used in the homeschool environment, it deepens the student/teacher (parent) relationship. When a student feels they are being really listened to, they will feel cared for and connected. The student will become emotionally connected to their environment, and have a deeper desire and motivation to learn. Active listening is a huge motivator. The skill will help the student gain self-understanding, improve relationships, feel understood, feel cared about, build trust, and overcome poor-listening habits. Poor listening habits interfere with learning and feedback. Active listening will promote learning and feedback, and may also improve study skills.

To help you be an effective listener, these tips can help:

  1. Look at the person.
  2. Listen to words and feeling content.
  3. Be sincerely interested in the speaker.
  4. Restate what is said.
  5. Ask for clarification, when needed.
  6. Be aware of your own feelings and opinions.
  7. If you must state your views, don’t forget to “hold their heart” and use words carefully.
  8. Above all, don’t forget to ask God for guidance!

Active listening can be hard sometimes (it is a learning curve in my home), but with God, all things are possible. I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me!

 

Sources:

https://www.thoughtco.com/active-listening-for-the-classroom-6385

https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/active-listening.html

 

Thanksgiving Reflection

What are you grateful for this year? What are you reflecting on as you quickly entertain your kids while you fret over a Thanksgiving meal? What, besides the endless list in your mind, are you working so hard for? For whom are you working so hard…to thank? That’s on my mind this morning. That’s what I’m trying to narrow down, because I have so much to be thankful for.

Last year we were so focused on bringing our second, H, into the world, that Thanksgiving was simply a hi-and-bye holiday. Reflection wasn’t even an option at the time of rushing through our days. But this year, it’s full of reflection, reflection of where we started as a family. The one person it circles back to is my husband. He’s the one I’m thankful for this year, or every year actually, and every day of the year, down to every second of the year. The Lord has blessed us — from the start of our dating days, to marriage, to knowing when the perfect time for us to start a family would be; from enduring miscarriages, to finally getting our Ollie, and repeating the events to get our H, to surprising us with our number three.

The journey has been amazing no matter the event. We sometimes overlook how things go, how long it takes, how difficult a path is, how frustrating, and mind-numbing the challenge can be. But, once we hit the end results, we don’t consider how we arrived at the end. I’ve spent so much time lately focused on “what’s next,” that I forget to look back sometimes and be grateful at how far we’ve come as a family. Until this week. I’ve happily set time aside each day to see our past journeys and see how grandly the Lord has blessed us through each and every one of these journeys, how simply you can see Him playing a part through all of it, how He’s used each and every one of our event as a way to strengthen us as partners, and how us becoming stronger set us up for being the parents we are today and the parents we always will aim to be.

And again, I reflect upon how amazingly lucky and blessed I am for my one and only husband. Without his support I wouldn’t be the person I am today. He’s made me stronger and wiser. Without him I’d never know the unconditional love and security I have in him when things get tough, or have the opportunity to relish my daily joys — from simple events to grand homeschooling home runs.

Every day I’m grateful for my husband; every day I pray to God to bless him and our home. Every day I thank God for him, because without the husband, our home would be quite bare, our boys wouldn’t have a wonderful role model, and without his hard work we definitely wouldn’t be homeschooling. Being able to homeschool because of the hubby’s hard work is what stands out the most these days. Yes, it’d be nice at times to drop H off at a daycare, send Ollie off on a school bus, and get all my errands, chores, and cooking done before they are due back, but those “yearnings” only last for a split second…and then they’re gone because I see the wheels turning in Ollie’s mind connecting the dots, I see H discovering something new and looking at me with excitement. I treasure these moments because I know they’ll be gone soon.

Then, the hubby comes home, and before launching into his day and after giving kisses and hugs all around, he turns to me and asks how my day was. Did the boys and I have a good day? How is H doing, anything new? How am I feeling? Am I overwhelmed? Where can he help? What can he do around the home to help to make my burdens easier? The list goes on and on, and he never complains when I add to his work hours when he comes home. He just keeps going, even when he’s exhausted and the boys hang on him like little monkeys. He never complains as he puts both boys to sleep, knowing soon he’ll be adding a third to the bedtime routine. He never complains when I toss in the towel after a hard day and simply don’t want to lift a finger. He jumps in and takes over, and I’m beyond relieved to have such a helpful partner.

I never take for granted my other half, and I thank him almost daily for his help and support, just as often as he thanks me. Be grateful for your supporters of homeschooling. Homeschooling isn’t an easy avenue. Every day is met with challenges, new or old, but it’s also met with amazing results, knowing our kids are in the best possible situation. From having a gifted child to one who’s struggling in school, we all have our reasons for this journey and we all know it’s the right path for our kids — not the easiest at times, but the right one. I know not everyone may see your choice as the “right one,” but thank the Lord for the ones who support your journey, who cheer you on; thank the Lord, and thank them also. We always need the cheers, comforts, and understanding; otherwise, we probably would toss the idea of homeschooling aside and give up on the path. I sure wouldn’t be on this path without my husband’s support and encouragement. We need the support from each other, from friends and loved ones. But, most importantly, we need it from God Himself. Without feeling God in my heart when we homeschool, I wouldn’t be so certain that is the right path for us. But, I see Him and feel Him in everything we do, and now He plays a hand in us being able to do it.

Reflect on your time homeschooling, reflect on your journey, be thankful for how far you’ve come, don’t think of how far you still need to go, just think of where you are today and bask in it. Victories and failures have taught not only you and your kids so much, but they’ve helped you bond and become closer as a family. Thank your spouse, your best friend, your parents, whomever it is in your life that knows you’re doing an amazing job. Be thankful for them and their support.

Be also thankful for you, yourself! You are doing amazing things, you are working harder then anyone sees, you are doing something to better the lives of your children. You’re giving them a life, childhood, and education all in one swing, and you’re doing a fantastic job at it! Reflect on your journeys. You’ll certainly see your blessings.

Remembering

In Canada, November 11 is the day we celebrate Remembrance Day. It’s the day we honour our war veterans and those still fighting in wars. It’s a solemn day of reflection.

Their great-great-grandfathers memorial – Remembrance Day 2016

It’s important to take note of past events, of historical memories, of horrible atrocities and terrible actions. It is only in remembering the devastation they caused that we will find healing and pursue a different path. We need to view current events with an eye to historical events in order to make better choices for our future. We, as homeschoolers, must not ignore the difficult portions of history, the ones that make our country look bad, or the ones that make our hearts cringe. We must face these difficult topics head on, explore them fully with our children, and help them to critically think through the cause and effect of history and current events.

We make a big deal out of Remembrance Day in our home. My great-grandfather is buried near Flanders Field, and my grandfather fought in WWII. I firmly believe that by teaching my sons the history of war, they can learn to critically think through current political issues. I believe that by teaching our children even our most horrible history, we are taking a step towards preventing it from being repeated.

But, the  most horrible history is not always war. It is not always political. Sometimes, it is personal. The war between good and evil is just as real and needs to be told just as much as political history. We must speak of the hard topics.

Along with remembering those who have served and died in war on Remembrance Day, my family also remembers those who have lost the fight against evil. Remembrance Day falls between the birthdays of my siblings, both of whom are deceased. My brother died by suicide. My children know this family history. We discuss it regularly for a couple reasons: 1) so they can know a bit of who their aunt and uncle were; and 2) because they need to know suicide is not an option, that there are better choices.

Speaking of suicide has not opened the door to the option for my boys. Rather, it has opened the door to the conversation. With an ongoing discussion about the hard topics, I hope they can critically think through depressive periods in their lives and make a different choice than my brother did. I know they will experience depressive periods. Varying levels of depression can and do attack every person; no one escapes. We must open the door to these tough topics before they are relevant for our children.

Before another political leader tries to take over the world like Hitler during the time my grandfather fought in WWII, we must recognize the warning signs and say “no.” We must not allow it to happen again.

Before we lose more children to suicide, we must open the conversation, recognize the warning signs, and say “no, this is not an option.” We must not allow it to happen again.

Please open the conversation with your children. It’s tough, but it’s important.