academics / homeschooling

tis the season, the season of homeschool fatigue: how to deal with homeschool winter blues

The anticipation of September has definitely disappeared. Christmas decorations have been packed away (actually I still have a lit and thirsty tree in my home). Thus begins the season of homeschool fatigue.

A homeschooling mama of five asked for suggestions. She explained her concern with this word picture: “Our house is very loud with five kids and it feels like we all fall like dominoes once one kid gets started with another…”

She has two kids in early elementary, two in kindergarten and one toddling. She goes on to say, “it doesn’t help to create a good atmosphere for good learning, so what tricks do you have for peace when trying to teach so many kids at once?”

She adds, “we tend to break things into subjects…but something is just not working and I think we’re all frustrated…even I’m just pretty snappy and frustrated most of the time it seems…trying to keep things light but I think I’m just so frustrated with myself that I just can’t seem to find what works for these kids in order to keep doing what I feel my heart believes in. Maybe it’s just the winter homeschool blues but I can’t feel good about dragging my kids through each day of homeschooling if their own hearts aren’t there.”

Oh, haven’t we all been there!

Is there anything we can suggest to this devoted mama?

Here’s what my kids suggested as possible ways to switch up academics:

Watch history videos. Or documentaries. We are still learning!
  • Change the time of day that you do different subject areas.
  • Do a unit study a month.
  • Change things up. History at the beginning of the day.
  • Create semesters for different topics (a school solution that surely helps curb boredom).
  • Teach the subjects together. Instead of separately.
  • Introduce a new sport like skiing or skating (in our part of the world, you need to use that snow!) Or find a new sledding hill.
  • Book a scheduled weekly field trip to somewhere new, anywhere new, maybe even the library and a café in the town next to yours.

Those are some good ideas. Here are a few of my thoughts:

I suggest to just stop. Stop doing everything — just for a week, or a even just a day. Enough time to gather your thoughts on exactly WHAT isn’t working. One day lost really does not rock the academic schedule. And if it does, you should definitely loosen the academic schedule. (Learned from experience).
  • Lower your expectations. Are you really expecting every day to be perfect? Yeah, I know. Me too. But the reasonable, rational side of me knows: homeschooling is not bliss. Some days are! But some days are definitely not. Perfect is not in a parent’s vocabulary. Good. Good enough. These are the goal. Really, who is demanding perfection anyway? There is no perfect academic education; you’re neither Google nor God, and neither will your children be when they leave home. In the wise words of Disney, Let it go, let it go…
  • The reigns need to be loosened. Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. You have all the freedom in the world. You’re surrounded with the people that you love the most. Take advantage of that. If you haven’t already, take a season of unschooling to identify that kids learn despite…despite an absence of bookwork and academics, despite imperfect teachers, despite noise, despite disinterest in school subjects, despite conventional methods, despite conventional rubrics and grading and testing. Despite, despite, despite.
  • To accomplish formal academics with older kids, the younger kids need to be occupied. In whatever mentally stimulating way you can achieve that. The temporary television babysitter is not evil in short increments, and might wisely be used during focussed study sessions with older kids. A box of Legos, a student basket with craft supplies just for the littlest ones, or measuring cups and a sink full of water (put away your dish detergent;). Whatever works to occupy in short increments. Pinterest provides a plethora of preschool play learning possibilities.
  • Don’t do as many formal academics. Your kids are young. Read, read, read to them. Discuss stuff with them. Follow their curiosities. When a child is begging for something formal or for something more, that’s your sign to follow that and explore more learning possibilities.
Five kids as closely spaced as this family is much like a mini preschool. Multitasking is required. Lots of energy required. You will figure out each child and come to understand how to balance what they need with your quieter mental space as time goes by. Sorry, no quick fix, so I won’t pretend it’s easy. It’s a lot of effort to homeschool five kids. Parents with five kids in school are tired too. All parents are tired at times. Parenting with intention is work. Homeschool parenting is around the clock, twenty three years of parenting work (okay, for my family anyway). Wonderful, rewarding work. But a lot of work.

Having said that, one of the biggest hurdles to happiness in the home is simply this: learning how to be together.

Frankly, #1 You need time alone. Scheduled. In a different location. Not just a different room. You need your own thing. Whatever that is, it needs to be an ‘all about you’ thing. No child in sight. An eventual goal to develop you over the course of your homeschool, just like you are helping to develop each of your children. If you’re not energized, you’re surviving, and none of you are thriving. #2 Value quiet. In my observation, the longer a family homeschools, the quieter their children become. Out of necessity, I think. Lots of noise means less of mama being peaceful and able to think (also back to #1 here). Lots of work teaching the littles to be quieter. A. Lot. of. Work. (PS I also think the kids get more focussed too) #3 Which leads to this perhaps obvious, but vital effort: kids need to be taught self-control. I suggest it is necessary for some really obvious reasons. They focus better in their work, and in their play. They are more peaceful and they accomplish more. They learn to be attentive to friends and other leaders in their lives. They learn to be empathetic, because they listen better. #4 I think this is the one major reason to homeschool: to help them learn to manage their emotions and know how they affect others (also known as socialization, but that’s a different rant for different post). With kindness and continual efforts, kids will learn what they need to learn. Some days those lessons need to be learned and relearned. I know, some days it’s pretty frustrating. Back to ‘unrealistic expectations’. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither is our children’s ability to express their emotions in a healthy way. #5 And you know Rome wasn’t built in a day, because you’re still learning how to handle your emotions too. Kids are our little mirrors, so we get to observe our emotions in a unique way, looking through their reflections. We learn to manage our emotions more expertly as we homeschool. Calmly giving consequences when the need arises, and with the greatest wherewithall, encouraging them to cool down so they can put words to their feelings, and learn to decompress and self-soothe. We need to keep our cool when we’re frustrated. Have to. Not an option. But when we don’t, cause we all will take the ‘non-option’ more often than we should, we will need to be as gracious with ourselves as we are with our children. Rome wasn’t built in 45 years either.

May you be blessed as you return to your post-Christmas homeschool!

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2 thoughts on “tis the season, the season of homeschool fatigue: how to deal with homeschool winter blues

  1. Good points for a tougher time of the year, when everyone starts going a bit stir crazy. . . We try to do the following things: as much outdoors as possible, even when it means just plainly covered head to toe in rainy cold mud. Having proper clothing for kids is essential, one thing you learn quickly at Waldorf school. Tons of outdoors.
    Second, it helps us to stick to seasonal happenings. So, this time of year is great to witness lamb births, ice skating, husky races, snow shoeing, soon maple sugaring, etc. Also, good time to visit science museums and pass time doing more tangible things with our hands.
    And last but not least- chocolate. That what February is for. When we just do not feel like anything, we take a trip to our favorite chocolate store to explore the whole cooking process and to make kids (and MOM!) feel better. 🙂

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  2. My youngest graduated uni May of 2018 at 21, so i’ve sort of forgotten the ups and downs, but they were there. By the very fact that we will forget how some days were so hard and remember that educating our children at home at their own pace and strengths is the best decision you are making should be encouraging when you are still in the midst of it. Like this well written entry points out – just stop – play educational games (we played rummi roots and strategy games), get to planning, preparing, cooking, serving a nutritional meal plus learning how to set a proper table. Every subject is addressed in the kitchen! Dramatic reading out loud – that can dissolve into laughter yet build confidence. Well, that’s all i can think of on the top of my head for when you are trapped indoors. Shalom!

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