Camping For Christmas (And For Mama)
We love Christmas. For our family it is truly a wonderful time of year. As soon as Thanksgiving is over all the decorations come out. The lights go up. The tree gets decorated. That Nativity is set up. It is a fun filled time. It is also a very busy time. My wonderful wife who has been so busy with homeschooling the children now has even more on her plate. She is a busy woman, and Christmas can add an overwhelming load to an already stressful schedule. Is there something that we homeschool dads can do to help her out this time of year?
A number of years ago, I came up with an idea to get the kids out of the house and let my wife have some time alone to get ready for Christmas. It is the first gift I give her every December. My children also look forward to this tradition. The first week of December means Yogi Bear Park and our annual Christmas campout. Technically, it is called Jellystone Park, but because the theme is Yogi Bear, that has become what we call it. Every year in early December, I pack up the van with all the children and we find a Jellystone park and spend several days in a tiny little cabin. This is typically somewhere in the Texas Hill Country.
Jellystone Parks are fun places for families. They typically have a number of fun things to do at them. There are playgrounds, jumping pillows, an arcade, laser tag and other activities. You can buy bags of sand and take them to a place where the children can “pan for gold.” We often find things to do outside the park as well. Many times, we have visited Natural Bridge Caverns and their drive through safari park where we get to feed exotic animals. Several times we have also visited Enchanted Rock State Park and hiked up the massive granite rock. We have a grand old time just the children and me. We also spend the evening with a campfire, grilling, making smores and playing games.
While we are making memories, my wife is taking care of all those things she can’t get to when the children are home. I am always thankful she has this time because I can tell when we get home, she is somewhat refreshed. This is a way I can show love to my wife.
In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.Ephesians 5:28 ESV
It is also a time where I can work on some things with my children. This year, I tried a new training method of teaching my children to look for ways to encourage one another and avoid being critical or ugly to each other.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.Hebrews 10:24 ESV
I call it the Tic-Tac method. I attached those little stick-on hooks to the console at the front of the van and hung small zip-lock bags on them. Each child had their own bag. I started the day with 3 Tic-Tacs in each bag. Every time I heard one of them say something kind, or do something nice for their brother or sister, I would add another Tic-Tac to the bag. If I heard them say or do something that was not very nice, I would take a Tic-Tac out and eat it myself. When we got to the cabin, I hung the bags in the wall and continued the training. At the end of each day I would let them eat whatever was in their bag.
We also continued to do family worship. We primarily focused on Christmas, singing Christmas hymns and reading the scriptures that pertain to Christmas time. We had great discussion and prayed for things relating to Christmas.
If you have a lot of children this might sound like a difficult thing to do, but I promise it is worth it. It can be very challenging managing 7 children it a tiny little cabin. It is winter, so we don’t always have great weather this time of year. There have been times where children have gotten sick on the trip and I was up with a sick baby in the night. This year, our van decided not to start for a while which added a little extra stress to the situation. However, it is still all worth it. My children love this time with their Daddy. It is also a tremendous blessing to my wife to have the time to herself. We even get so see God work in ways that we might not get to see. One of my children reminded us to pray about the van and it did eventually start back up. (Weird electrical issue.) Our children are a gift and one day they will be gone. This was our first year without our oldest who is in college. The memories, however, build strong relationships and strengthen our family. None of them will ever forget their Christmas camp outs with Daddy. I am so grateful for the times we’ve had.
I hope you as a homeschool dad can find ways to support your wife and build your relationship with your children this time of year. May you all find much joy in the celebration of our Savior this Christmas.