Santa’s WORKshop SKILL SCHOOL: 12 Helpful Holiday Tasks to Unspoil our Kids this Christmas!

Welcome to our 12 DAYS OF HOMESCHOOL CHRISTMAS POSTS! If you are just joining us, here’s what you’ve missed so far:

For all the parents out there right now with a kid who wants a Hippopotamus for Christmas (or a rowing machine like my own precious sugarplum), I humbly offer this solution for unspoiling our children and cultivating character this Christmas week.

The arts of (and distinctions between) LABOR, LEARNING, & LEISURE

Last night I read the Christmas chapter of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy to our hopefully soon-to-be little Farmer Boy, and the first two pages had today’s post written all over them. The following passage has so much to comment on what we are discussing in today’s post that you’d think I would have planned it, but no. I happily accept this happy accident. It is a perfect starter to open the conversation on the definitions and distinctions between labor, learning, and leisure. I know it’s long, but if I took the time to type it perhaps you will consider taking the time to read it! I promise it will be worth your (and your child’s) while.

“For a long time it seemed that Christmas would never come. On Christmas, Uncle Andrew and Aunt Delia, Uncle Wesley and Aunt Lindy, and all the cousins were coming to dinner. It would be the best dinner of the whole year. And a good boy might get something in his stocking. Bad boys found nothing but switches in their stockings on Christmas morning. Almanzo tried to be good for so long that he could hardly stand the strain.

But at last it was the day before Christmas and Alice and Royal and Eliza Jane were home again. The girls were cleaning the whole house and Mother was baking. Royal could help Father with the threshing, but Almanzo had to help in the house. He remembered the switch, and tried to be willing and cheerful. He had to scour the steel knives and forks and polish the silver. He had to wear an apron round his neck. He took the scouring-brick brush and scraped a pile of red dust off it, and then with a wet cloth he rubbed the dust up and down on the knives and forks.

The kitchen was full of delicious smells. Newly baked bread was cooling, frosted cakes and cookies and mince pies and pumpkin pies filled the pantry shelves, cranberries bubbled on the stove. Mother was making dressing for the goose.

Outdoors, the sun was shining on the snow. The icicles twinkled all along the eaves. Far away sleigh-bells faintly jingled, and from the barns came the joyful thud-thud! thud-thud! of the flails. But when all the steel knives and forks were done, Almanzo soberly polished the silver.

Then he had to run to the attic for sage; he had to run down cellar for apples, and upstairs again for onions. He filled the woodbox. He hurried in the cold to fetch water from the pump. He thought maybe he was through, then, anyway for a minute. But no; he had to polish the dining-room side of the stove.

That night everyone was tired, and the house was so clean and neat that nobody dared touch anything. After supper Mother put the stuffed fat goose and the little pig into the heater’s oven to roast slowly all night. Father set the dampers and wound the clock. Almanzo and Royal hung clean socks on the back of a chair, and Alice and Eliza Jane hung stockings on the back of another chair.

Then they all took candles and went to bed.” -Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again??? Maybe that’s because we’ve traded childhood labor for childhood leisure.

Fast-forward a hundred years from the above passage, and what does Christmas Eve look like for most kids today? Maybe baking cookies or playing board games. Perhaps playing (or fighting) with siblings. Most likely watching an endless marathon of Christmas movies while mom (not to gender stereotype but probably mom) makes a slave of herself to serve up an incredible and magical Christmas to her children. It’s weird how much it’s changed. Christmas today seems to me like an obligation for parents to pay their kids a debt that we don’t owe!

We’ve come a long way from the whole “children should be seen and not heard” belief set (what a relief) but we’ve fallen off on the pampered side of the pony! Now it’s something more like “parents should be to serve and not disturb.” And don’t even get me started on the whole wish-list to Santa. It used to be that if a child was “good” (which I hate that label but let’s just move on) they would *possibly* get *something* in their stocking. Period. This weird little Saint-Nick-rule has inflated to be something closer to if you are “good” you will get *anything* and *everything* you ever wanted and all your Christmas wishes will come true!

Kids come home for Christmas break and it seems like one big frantic fun spree to ensure that our kids rake up as memorable and magical Christmases as we can possibly produce before they grow up and . . . before they grow up and . . . what? Perhaps before they grow up to think the world spins around them and that they are entitled to have someone doting on their every desire until the day they die? Isn’t that about how our society looks these days? I better move on before I open that can of mincemeat.

And then we sit back and scratch our heads over why our world (or at least our “first world”) boasts such a staggering percentage of adults who don’t seem capable of properly feeding and laundering themselves. Well I’m calling it: it’s not because we’re under-educated. It’s because we’re inexperienced. It’s because we’re under-skilled. It’s because we’re under-worked!

I’m not saying that Christmas week with our kids shouldn’t be fun. I’m not saying that Christmas week with our kids shouldn’t be magical. I’m not even suggesting that Christmas week with our kids can’t be a little indulgent. I too want to give our kids a happy, magical Christmas. And to be honest, I do! I’m simply asserting that there also can, and should, be work.

Farmer Boy Christmas Bunting I made yesterday

Kids used to be let off from school to help their parents in the fields (that’s why summer vacation is during the summer) and winter “break” was usually just a few days; Christmas Eve (a working day to prepare everything) and Christmas day itself. Did you get that? Kids used to be let out of school to . . . work! School wasn’t seen as work. Learning used to be considered simply . . . learning! School was actually seen as a respite from work! But now?? Kids don’t truly work hardly at all. Well, they at least don’t labor. For the most part, kids go to school and lounge at home. Sure, there may be a few tame chores involved. But there is not a lot of wood chopping, floor mopping, or pig slopping going on for our kids these days.

For modern childhood, vocation time has become vacation time and learning has replaced laboring.

Now in some ways, this is good. Perhaps kids used to work too hard and perhaps they learned too little (at least from books). Perhaps for “Farmer Boy” there was an overbalance of labor and precious little leisure. But in other ways, this alteration in our society as to what qualifies as “work” has actually robbed our children of valuable life-experience, practical skills, perhaps healthy body weights, oh . . . and its filled our society with entitled, spoiled little (and big) brats.

I’m a 90’s kid, so I should know all about being a spoiled brat myself. And I’m sure compared to many, especially people who grew up in less privileged countries than the good ole’ USA, I probably did have a somewhat pampered and spoiled childhood. It’s all relative, isn’t it? But thankfully, similarly to dear Almanzo . . . I was a farmer girl. We learned at home, we leisured at home, but we also labored at home.

Me and my big Sis

Many people equate wealth with being spoiled. It is often assumed that a poor child could never be spoiled. And, conversely, it is perceived that a rich child is almost certain to become spoiled. I don’t believe this to be true. “Farmer Boy,” unlike Laura Ingalls and her family, was not poor. In fact, the Wilder family was one of the wealthiest and most respected families in their part of New York state. But reading the pages of Almanzo’s life would never lead you to label him a “spoiled” child. He was well-fed, and well cared for, treated to special things fairly often, and in many ways very rich! But spoiled? Definitely not.

I don’t really think that wealth has all that much to do with becoming a spoiled brat. Ok, does wealth enable one to pamper and spoil their children with golden abandon? Yes. However, there are many ways to spoil a child . . . money is just one of them. Junky plastic toys and candy are so cheap that almost any parent can afford to pile them on top of their child. No, I believe that work has a much greater influence on a child’s character than wealth.

I remember one Christmas growing up when my dad told me I needed to go fill the wheel barrow up at the wood pile (my usual daily chore). We had just finished opening stockings, and I stared up at Dad aghast, my lap filled with bright and shiny loot, and said “but . . . it’s Christmas!” A response like that from “Farmer Boy” a hundred years ago would have probably landed Almanzo at the woodshed instead of the woodpile. But thankfully, my dad has a very rich and varied (not to mention sarcastic) sense of humor. Instead of sending me out to the orchard to fetch a switch, my dad threw his head back and laughed. You’ve never seen anyone throw his head back and laugh till you’ve seen my dad do it. When he had sobered his laughing sobs he said, eyes still squinty and watery, “Yes! Yes it is Christmas. Now would you like to have a nice warm fire today? Or would you like to have a COLD Christmas?”

Me and my dad

I wasn’t happy about filling the wheel barrow. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t thank my dad for the character-building Christmas-day chore. But I learned a very important lesson that frosty morning about two decades back: nice warm fires have to be stoked . . . even on Christmas day.

Good things come to those who WORK!

Instead of waiting on our kids this week . . .

Instead of catering to little King Tuts and Cleopatras . . .

Rather than allowing our kids to lounge & languish the week away . . .

Rather than cultivating selfishness and entitlement . . .

Let’s embrace Christmas character-building!

Let’s emphasize laboring before (and after) looting and leisureing!

Let’s require Holiday Help of our kids!

Let’s celebrate the season with joy in our hearts and willingness of our hands!

~Santa’s Sweatshop WORKshop Week~

Our kids are so young that having them help is usually more work for me than just doing it all myself, but that’s not the point. I want our kids, starting from their formative years, to learn to value work. I want them to learn to respect work. I want them to learn how to work. I want them to learn to appreciate the opportunity to work. I want them to enjoy work. I want them to associate work with delightful rewards like cookies and cocoa and family movie nights.

And so . . . for our 11th day of Homeschool Christmas, I give you:

12 Helpful Holiday Tasks to Unspoil our Kids this Christmas!

1.) CLEANING (Christmas Style)

This may not be everyone’s favorite activity of Santa’s Workshop Week (it certainly isn’t mine) but it doesn’t have to be a total drag either. Our son has been loving his new daily Christmas chore of vacuuming up the pine needles with the dust buster. You can also take a tip from Snow White and “whistle while you work” Christmas style. We’ve been blasting these Christmas playlists for a half hour of Christmas cleaning each morning:


This is probably our favorite Skill School activity in any season. But holiday cooking and baking is extra fun. Bake up a pile of Christmas treats with your kids for friends and neighbors, or cook the Christmas feast with your kids! For great holiday dishes that you can make with your kids, complete with kid-friendly cooking tasks listed out by age and picture tutorials, check out these Thanksgiving Skill School days:

3.) WORKING (we’re talking good old fashioned labor here)

Here’s a quick working list:

  • Filling the wood box (ahh yes . . . my old friend)
  • House repairs with papa (or mama if she’s super cool)
  • Carpentry projects
  • Yard work or snow shoveling

Let’s get crackin’!

4.) TREE SERVICE (without lip service)

Our son has been pretty excited about our three Christmas trees we got to chop down in the forest for a whopping 2 bucks this year. But three trees does not come without a little maintenance. In addition to vacuuming up the accumulated needles each morning, our son has been enjoying watering the trees a few times each week. He’s been kind of amazed by how thirsty our trees have been. They just pine for water.


This is sure to be one of the favorite activities of this list, and one you are undoubtedly already doing. So far, our kids have helped Papa put up Christmas lights on the front of the house, helped me string a giant wooden bead garland for the tree, and then helped us light and decorate all three trees.


I didn’t feel like spending five bucks each for fifty Christmas cards, so I enlisted our son to cover the job for me this year. I printed out these flat cards that he water-colored for everyone on our list. Personal and thrifty!


This is what most of us probably think of when we hear “Santa’s Workshop.” Even better than saving up to buy presents for others, when our kids make something for someone with their own hands it’s really an incredible experience for them. I truly believe that this is the best way to teach our children to develop a true love for giving. Gifts made by hand are gifts given from the heart. Plus, making gifts can teach our kids lots of vocational skills.

What we’re making this week: our son is making gifts this year for Little Sis. We are helping him furnish the doll house we bought her with little wooden peg dolls we are painting and clothing, pine cones we are making into trees, and little wooden dowels we are painting like toadstools. He is also painting a nutcracker with papa for the family to enjoy.


If you have older kids, like maybe eight and up, teach them how to wrap gifts and let that be one of their jobs during the holidays. I’ve known plenty of adults who have no idea how to wrap a gift or tie a bow so look at it as doing your kids a solid for their future adult selves.


Our kids LOVE taking gifts and cards to the neighbors. And it’s a great way to get them out of the house for a few minutes.


Even with extra help from your kids, it’s kind of a given that you dear mama or papa will be doing a whole lot of work this week. If you have an older child, put them in charge of hanging out or babysitting their younger sibling for perhaps an hour or so each day for you to be able to get some focused holiday prepping done.


There isn’t a lot of this going on this year . . . for obvious reasons. If you can, volunteering is an incredible experience for a child. They will learn practical life skills as well as experience the joy of service.


While you are getting that pie in the oven or cleaning the kitchen for the thousandth time, get your kids out of your hair (or off your feet if you have a toddler like I do) by giving them the job of making calls to all the grandparents, great grandparents, and anyone else who may be lonely and in need of hearing a few sweet voices over the phone.

And just in case you think I’m hating on LEISURE today . . .

Our Skill School week started out on the indulgent side by taking our kids skiing this past weekend. I got a whole hour of blogging and tea sipping in at the lodge before our tiny toddler . . . a snow-suited magenta marshmallow . . . came clumping in and announced “Mama, I made a pizza!” We homeschool parents don’t get too many breaks from our kids during a normal week, so I have to say I’m a big fan of ski school so far.

Happy Holiday Skill Schooling!

Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~

7 Replies to “Santa’s WORKshop SKILL SCHOOL: 12 Helpful Holiday Tasks to Unspoil our Kids this Christmas!”

  1. Dear Holistic Homeschool: I love watching this SNL skit right before my kids come home. Reminds me to kick their asses and give them chores.🤣 Good blog! ~Debbie PS If you haven’t seen this one before, dont watch around your kiddos.

    On Tue, Dec 22, 2020, 4:17 PM ~Our Holistic Homeschool~ wrote:

    > ~Our Holistic Homeschool~ posted: ” Welcome to our 12 DAYS OF HOMESCHOOL > CHRISTMAS POSTS! If you are just joining us, here’s what you’ve missed so > far: 1ST DAY: Printable ~CHRISTMAS COUPONS~2ND DAY: 12 “Living Literature” > Christmas Picture Books3RD DAY: Give your child th” >

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