The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a hard journey, school-wise. You may wonder, trying to fit it all in, is education important right now?

What does my child really need at this time?

Too much sugar, too many extra activities and parties, and Christmas preparations divert our attention, leaving me and mine a bit — dare I say? — resentful of our day-to-day schoolwork. (I’m just confessing this to you, of course. My kids have no idea I feel this way as I try to lasso them — figuratively — and get them to the table to work.)

Here are a few tips for finishing strong.

Keep the Main Things the Main Things

1. Focus on the basic needs for sleep, routine, and good-for-you food. Whether you’re a homeschooler or trying to get kids to finish their homework, we all have to help our kids tend to their academic life between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Older kids often have exams just before Christmas, ratcheting up an already emotional season.

As much as possible, try to stick to regular bedtimes and routines as long as school is still in session. Though difficult, this will pay dividends in helping our kids pay attention and finish the calendar year strong.

As far as eating well, this one is a challenge. We are hosting multiple times this month, so we’ll have lots of leftovers, even after sending home with others any food we can. I do my best to keep the sweets around the kitchen to a minimum as long as we’re still trying to get schoolwork done. Once we wrap up school, the baking will officially begin!

Guide Children Through Emotions

2. Clarify the essentials proactively. This may be especially important for kids who are older. Overwhelm will undoubtedly hit, especially if they are in school and preparing for exams. When it does, please sit down with them and help them prioritize, especially when doing it all seems to be too much.

If you’re homeschooling, this may be the season to adjust your expectations a bit. If what you can manage every day is language arts and math, kudos to you! It’s okay if any other extras, even social studies or science, have to slow down during this season. If you have the reserve to do so, think through how to make Christmas preparations a part of your learning during this time. Baking, wrapping gifts, talking about Christmas traditions, writing notes in Christmas cards – all of these can be fun learning activities for kids of any age.

Take Care of You

3. Give yourself a break! My focus is almost always related to learning and education, but here’s what I know to be true in almost every family: If Mama isn’t okay, the family isn’t okay. If on a given Wednesday in December you are feeling anxious and close to the edge, it would be a better use of your time to take a break and deeply rest, as much as your kids will allow, than to stay on your homeschooling lesson plan schedule. That investment in your well-being will result in other days that are more productive and even-keeled.

Do you look ahead to the stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas and say, “Hang on! It’s going to be a bumpy ride!”? Me too. I believe that focusing on the basics, clarifying the essentials, and giving yourself tons of grace can make the ride a little smoother.

When looking at an entire school year, having a paired-down three weeks is not going to set your children back a grade (or even half a grade). This is the time of year to wrap up and review concepts they have learned, encourage their reading accomplishments, and remember the reason for holiday celebrations.