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5 Tips for Overcoming the Winter Doldrums


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Homeschool burnout. The winter doldrums. Cabin fever. It doesn’t matter what you call it; it’s coming. The feeling isn’t exclusive to homeschooling either. Most public and private schools plan a long 3- or 4-day weekend in February because they’re feeling it, too.

It’s cold and frequently wet or snowy outside. There are often many days during which the sun doesn’t peek through the clouds. Spring – and its typical break – seem far away. We’re faced with seemingly endless days of monotony. It’s all very gloomy-sounding, isn’t it?

Homeschool burnout. Cabin fever. The winter doldrums. Whatever you call it, you don't have to succumb to it this year.

Just because winter is in full swing and homeschool burnout is common, that doesn’t mean you have to succumb to it. There are ways for beating winter blues. Over the last 12 Februaries I’ve learned (the hard way) how to avoid – or, at least, minimize – homeschool burnout.

Change curriculum

A few years ago, we made a mid-year curriculum switch to Trail Guide to Learning. It was one of the best things we’d ever done for our homeschool, in more ways than one. A huge unexpected benefit was the fact that changing mid-year put us on track to finish the curriculum just before Christmas at the end of that calendar year. We stopped where we were for summer break, picked up  where we left off when starting the new school year, and finished just before Christmas break at the end of the calendar year.

That meant that we started the next level of the curriculum – what most people would start at the beginning of a new school year – in January after Christmas break. So, we weren’t trudging along with the same curriculum we’d be doing the whole school year. During the most monotonous period of the school year, we were starting something completely new.

If you can swing it, starting all – or some – of your curriculum in January, rather than the beginning of the school year, can really help alleviate homeschool burnout.

Add something new

If you can’t completely change up your curriculum, it often helps to add something new – preferably something fun and creative! This could be a great time to try a new art curriculum or learn to play an instrument. Make time for hands-on learning, start a 50 States study, or try some just-for-fun science experiments.

Go on a field trip

Sometimes the best way to combat cabin fever is to get out of the house. This time of year can be an excellent one for outings to places with indoor venues, such as museums (art, children’s, history, science), aquariums, TV stations, food manufacturing plants, etc.

An extended field trip/vacation to a warmer climate is an excellent burnout-buster if you can manage it.

Plan a spring fair

Spring is a long way away, but it may not be too early to change up your studies a bit by preparing for a spring fair. When preparing for fairs, we like to do our regular work in the early part of the day, leaving the rest of the day open to more interest-led learning based on our fair topic. We may do things like:

  • Read biographies
  • Watch documentaries
  • Hands-on learning such as projects or art
  • Prepare topic-related meals
  • Prepare costumes, props, or presentation boards

When kids are able to choose a topic of interest and take a little break from their regular studies, their enthusiasm can be contagious – which is much more fun than the other contagious things going around this time of year.

Take a break

One of the best ways I’ve found to combat homeschool burnout is having a more year-round schedule. We do a six-weeks on/one week off schedule with 6-8 weeks off in the summer and 6 weeks off between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. This is my very high in my top 10 list of sanity-saving tips for homeschool parents.

We always wind up with a break in mid-February and it is always appreciated.

Even if you can’t or don’t want to go to a year round schedule, I would highly recommend taking some time off in February, even if it’s just a Friday and a Monday to create a long weekend and even if it’s too cold or nasty to get out of the house. If that’s the case, take advantage of some of these fun, indoor activity ideas:

20 fun indoor games

Indoor Activities For Kids

17 Great Indoor Games and Activities

10 Indoor Winter Fun Activities for Kids

If I had to sum this entire post up in one sentence, it would be: the best way to avoid homeschool burnout is to do something different. Break out of the rut and monotony of the day-to-day and have some fun!

What effective methods have you discovered for avoiding or minimizing homeschool burnout/cabin fever/winter doldrums?

This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.

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6 Comments

  1. Had it really been a few years since you made the switch to Trail Guide? I remember that post but I could have sworn it was last year sometime.

    I like the idea of switching at this peak of boredom! I gave M, 14 a week off from her usual math/history/science routine, and a week of journaling from Connect The Thoughts for this week instead, and she spent hours yesterday exploring the new topics. She was enjoying herself so much that she forgot to crab at her brothers when they came in. 🙂

  2. Starting a new curriculum in January is such a good idea, I can’t believe I never thought of it!
    Right now I’m very grateful to myself for having planned to spend February in Spain learning Spanish. I’m SO looking forward to a few more hours of sunshine a day than we’d get in a typical British February. 🙂

  3. Hey Kris! I love this! It was chosen as one of our favorite posts this week for the Hip Homeschool Moms Hop! Thanks for being a part of our community and supporting the Hop! We appreciate you and all you do for the homeschool community!

  4. This post makes me smile! Thank you! I have been on the “little yellow bus” fence a lot this school year! This spoke straight to me!

    1. I’m glad I made you smile. Those little yellow bus days are rough. I had one yesterday and had to think about my own words. It was just a fleeting moment and I know that it wouldn’t really even solve the problem, but some days the daydream sounds appealing. Here’s to a better day for both of us!

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