A Simple Homeschool Thanksgiving

If you’re one of those lucky people who are having Thanksgiving at their house this year, I’ve got some advice for you. Don’t do school that week!

I realize this isn’t an issue for you unschoolers out there. But there are others who are emotionally attached to our lesson plans, whether we’ve written them out to the tiniest detail, or just have a few goals we like to keep in mind. Ever the optimists, we think we can get plenty of school done on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, leaving Wednesday night to get our dinner cooked in advance. That’s called dreaming.

Here’s a Thanksgiving plan for the homeschool mom that I developed after many years of running myself ragged trying to do school Thanksgiving week while planning, shopping for and cooking a Thanksgiving dinner. It’s the result of years of fine-tuning, careful consideration and a few mommy meltdowns. These days, my goal is to keep things as simple as possible.


First thing in the morning, have the kids clean up the area(s) where you do school

Next, provide them with sheets of construction paper, markers, scissors and glue sticks, and ask them to make place cards, a centerpiece for the table and decorations for the house, featuring turkeys, Indians, pilgrims and anything else they deem Thanksgiving-ish.

This will keep them busy for a while, leaving you free to study your cookbooks and the grocery sale flyers so you can plot your menu and your plan of attack (Tip: go to the store with the most sale items you need first; if they’re out of something (if?), you can pick it up at one of the other stores).

Monday night:

Leave your husband or a sitter with the kids so you can do your grocery-shopping in peace. Going by yourself means you’ll get done faster. It’s also your best chance of coming home with everything on your list.


Time to clean the house for company; be sure to get your kids involved by setting a timer for 15 minutes, then telling them anything you find of theirs that’s not in its place when the bell rings becomes yours. That should help get rid of most of the general clutter.

Take your own clutter (in my case that’s magazines, newspapers and books), throw it into a laundry basket, and hide it in the basement or laundry room. Do the same with your husband’s clutter.

Set the kids loose with dust cloths and the vacuum cleaner. Remember, the house doesn’t have to be spotless, just reasonably clean and uncluttered.

Give a little person a feather or lambs’ wool duster and let them clean as they wish.

Give someone else a spray bottle of window cleaner and a roll of paper towels, and ask them to shine the kitchen appliances and any windows they can reach.

When all the cleaning is done, sit down together and read some Thanksgiving stories. (We like Stories of the Pilgrims by Margaret Pumphrey).

Tuesday night:

Assemble all the recipes you’ll need and read each (especially the turkey directions) to refresh your memory. Run out to the store for any ingredients you might have forgotten. You do not want to go to the store tomorrow.


Get that turkey and stuffing going bright and early; once it’s done, remove all the meat and place it in a big aluminum roaster for reheating tomorrow. Store the turkey and stuffing separately in the refrigerator. Pitch the turkey carcass, or freeze it for making soup stock some other time.

The kids should help with the meal preparations. Kids can:

  • peel potatoes
  • cut up vegetables
  • polish silverware
  • cut loaves of bread into cubes for stuffing
  • wash dishes and utensils

In addition to the above, teenagers can:

  • assemble casseroles
  • bake pies
  • add table leaves and bring in additional chairs and tables, if necessary

Wednesday night:

Give the kids poster paper and markers, and ask them to draw the things for which they are thankful. Display posters prominently around the house. While they’re busy with that, you can finish preparing make-ahead recipes such as gelatin salads and baked desserts.

Thursday morning:

Reheat the turkey and stuffing.

Work on the rest of the meal.

Assign your husband and kids to set the table(s). The kids can set out their beautiful centerpiece and place cards.

Enjoy the day with relatives and friends.

Thursday night:

After the relatives have gone, the kids are in bed, and you and your husband have collapsed on the sofa, consider what you have to be thankful for:

You get to see your kids every day.

You get to witness their growth, the thrill of learning to read, the accomplishment of mastering new skills.

Your life isn’t run by a school schedule or a bus schedule. You’re your own boss, and you plan your day the way you want to. How many other adults have that freedom?

Thank God for making you a mom, for blessing you with the specific kids he sent.

Most especially, thank Him for blessing you with the opportunity to homeschool those kids, for giving you all this time with them now. Someday they’ll be grown and gone, and you’ll have ten times as many memories as other moms, because you were there with them every day.

Happy Thanksgiving!