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School's out for the winter
Families adjust to holiday schedule outside classroom
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While some dream of a white Christmas, some are dreaming of the restart of school in January.

On top of the holiday shopping, party scheduling, family planning and the general stress associated with the Christmas season, families with school-aged children and working parents can sometimes find it hard to juggle everything.

With all local school systems out for Christmas break, thousands of students are now without the daily structure of the classroom. Over the summer, working parents can opt into camps for their children, but during the winter, those are few and far between.

The Dillards, a household of six, know what it’s like to add to their already full plate during the holidays.

Karin and Zack Dillard have four kids: Rebecca, 10; Rachel, 14; Nicholas, 16; and Nathan, 18. Both Karin and Zack are physicians and work various hours depending on their patients’ needs.

During Christmas break, organizing everyone’s schedule can be hectic, because, as the Dillards know well, life does not stop for three weeks during winter.

“There are activities that continue,” Karin said. “Like tennis or different things like that. You can’t necessarily leave children completely unattended without a little bit of an agenda because then trouble starts.”

But handling the extra duties is something the Dillards are familiar with. They’ve been doing it for more than a decade now.

“It was a learning process, but it wasn’t a slow learning process,” Karin said. “You learn very quickly that you had to have some sort of activity for (the kids) — they can’t just sit idly around. That just breeds disasters in some cases, so you learn pretty quickly that you have to have an agenda for them.”

And over the years, she’s learned the secret to making sure everything runs smoothly while the children are out of school and she and her husband are still in the office.

“The biggest thing is it requires (a) tremendous amount of organization and coordination,” Karin said. “For example, I may have it even planned so far in advance that I say, ‘OK, (Zack), this week they’re out. You have to work through lunch, finish your patients at 4 because you have to get them.’ It’s such tremendous organization.”

But it’s not a one-sided affair. Whether the children want to go to the movies or a friend’s house, sometimes the timing is just not good and compromises must be made.

“It also takes cooperation on the children’s part because they have to be flexible and they have to be able to hear the word ‘no,’” Karin said.

But now that two of her children are able to provide additional taxi services, a $10 bribe for a round-trip ride to the mall or the movie theater is commonplace.

“It helps immeasurably,” Karin said. “I can rely on them to help.”

The additional responsibility, however, is something Karin and her family are willing to take on.

“It definitely increases the stress and the workload and just a little bit of the worry, but the pleasure and benefit of just having your family around far exceeds that stress,” she said. “I absolutely love having them home.”