homeschool fatigue: how to deal with the winter blues

Homeschool fatigue: tis the season to deal with the winter blues.

The anticipation of new September plans has definitely disappeared. Christmas decorations have been packed away, though the outdoor lights are still on. The skies are dreary grey and routine seems, well, routine. This is the slump month.

Thus begins the season of homeschool fatigue.

A homeschooling mama of five, with two elementary kids, two in kindergarten and one toddler, asked for suggestions as she explained her scenario: “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 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 suggest as ways to switch up academics:

  • 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 instead of math.
  • Create semesters for different topics (a school solution that surely helps curb boredom).
  • Teach the subjects together, instead of separately. After reading a history or science passage, write on that topic or create a report.
  • 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.

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. A season of scheduled neglect. 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 feel good? 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.
Making it through the slump month is a challenge, but our goal is to turn out challenges to charms. We can do it, when we work with intention, change things up, and let things go.

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