As a homeschooling parent, you are probably very aware of that lack of drive that can happen after the rush of holidays at the end of the year. Molasses isn’t the only thing that runs slowly in January, and this mid-year slump comes to us all, whether we’re homeschooling newbies are veteran educators.
And it’s not just we homeschooling parents who fall prey to the feeling. It’s quite obvious that our homeschooled children experience it too, although they might not be able to verbalize the understanding. All they know is, there are no more holidays to look forward to, it gets dark way too soon, and there’s a lot less playtime than there was just a couple of short months ago.
What Causes the Homeschooling Mid-Year Slump?
Maybe it’s getting back into the swing of things after the more extensive breaks associated with Christmas and Thanksgiving. Or maybe it’s the fact that winter brings on more “in-house” time as opposed to those outdoor days that so many of us love during the earlier and later parts of the school year. Some people even take the entire month of December off from homeschooling, especially if they adhere to a year-round schedule.
There’s no doubt about it: mid-year is, by far, the hardest part of the homeschooling endeavor. Homeschool families are bored, the weather makes it impossible to get outdoors, for the most part, and all that energy radiating from your children can be detrimental when you’re trying to just get through the day.
What Can We Do During the Homeschooling Slump?
There are several things we can do to shake off the funk that comes along with the winter blues, not the least of which is to get mentally prepared for it. One of the best ways to do this, I have found, is based on one of my all-time favorite Scriptures:
“…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matthew 12:34)
When you meditate on good things, then good things are what you will speak about. It’s what you’ll pour out on your children, and in front of your children. It will be the driving factor in all that you say and do and is a wonderful example of the Christian character to them.
Prepping Our Minds
In many cases, that means spending less time scrolling social media in general. You might change over to listening to encouraging podcasts, spending some quality time in family devotions, or even finding a nice quiet spot, first thing in the morning, to be alone with God. Whether that means a short devotion, a Bible reading, prayer time, or something else altogether, is entirely up to you.
As we know, praying is of the utmost importance and there’s no need to keep it to yourself. Pray out loud. Pray with your children about problems they’re facing or emotions that are less than desirable. Speak out loud with thankfulness and talk often about all the blessings bestowed on you and your family.
Taking Care of Ourselves
Just as the mind needs a little preparation, so the body can benefit in the same way. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve probably heard it a million times but: you cannot pour from an empty cup! Take care of yourself so that you are then better able to take care of – and educate – your children. Taking the time to do some type of physical exercise, paired with eating nutritional foods is an excellent recipe for success. Fresh air and sunshine can’t hurt either. I know, I know, it’s winter! But even taking the time to park a little farther from the grocery store doors or walking out to get your mail can be a brisk addition to your day.
There’s no better time than mid-year to evaluate what’s worked and not worked so far with your homeschooling experience in the school year. If you find that something isn’t what you expected it to be regarding homeschool curriculum or resources, simply change it. There’s absolutely no need to stick with a homeschool program that you can see quite clearly is not working. In fact, there may be more harm done by continuing with such a plan because if it hasn’t worked by now, it’s probably not going to.
The same is true for the amount of work you’re doing. If you find yourself struggling to get through everything, it might be time to step back and consider how you could lessen the workload. Perhaps you could switch from doing science every single day to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule while transferring something else to a Tuesday-Thursday schedule. Cramming tons of information in, just to make it through a planner sheet, is far more detrimental than you might think.
Create a Workable System
Herein lies one of the greatest advantages to homeschooling: you can create just the system that works for your homeschool family. And in lieu of trying to offer examples, I will offer guidelines instead. Because every family is different and every child is different, your system is likely to be entirely different from the one I used, or the one someone else uses.
The important thing is that your system leaves room for you to comfortably fit into your average day. You can make alterations for days when you have to grocery shop, go to a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment, or do any other traveling you have to do. You can also rearrange your schedule for illnesses, play dates, or vacations. Again, the bottom line is creating a workable system for your child's education.
You have to remember, as well, that it’s even okay to step away completely from full-time homeschool, books, and even full curriculum sometimes. That doesn’t mean that you’re casting education to the side, but rather looking to learn in different ways, through different avenues. Recipes, for instance, can be a great way to allow children to practice math basics like fractions and time. Watching movies based on great classic literature is a great way to step away, for a moment, from actually reading for a moment but can be used later to show the difference between moving making and book writing. You can even use field trips to learn first hand about something you've been studying.
In Homeschooling, Get Involved with a Great Support System
One of the disadvantageous factors in homeschooling is feeling isolated. When we have no support system, no one to vent to or ask the advice of, then we tend to overthink even the simplest of things. Supportive and like-minded homeschooling moms can do more for a flustered mom than any other resource.
It doesn’t even matter whether your support person of choice is a seasoned homeschooler, sometimes just having someone to talk to can be all that you need. I’ve heard it said that “talking just doesn’t do any good”. But I invite you to try it. Just once is all it will take to feel the burden lifted and make a believer out of you.
If you’re not already a member of a local homeschool co-op, homeschool support group, private group or club, or some other homeschooling organization, I encourage you to consider linking up with one. Not only are these excellent resources for homeschooling families that often feel isolated, but they can also give you access to tutors, mentors, faith-based group activities, or sporting outlets.
Another way to beat the isolation that comes in winter is to invite other homeschooled kids over. You might plan a family-style meal that the children can help prepare or get everyone together for a great show-and-tell session. A talent show could be a great idea if the children are involved in a music or vocal class together, and even playdates are certainly not out of the question.
Choose Indoor Activities Outside Your Home While Homeschooling
When the weather gets colder, you might not be able to have homeschool on the front porch or under your favorite shade tree, but there’s nothing stopping you from utilizing tons of other great opportunities, where you can still go at your own pace. Your public library can be a great escape on cold, dreary days, with the added benefit of allowing you the opportunity to pick up some great new reading materials.
You might even take along a list of vocabulary words and let the children use the actual print reference books to look up definitions, write sentences, or find those words in a great piece of classic literature. In reality, you can work on any subject at all at the library, with the added incentive of new materials to work through instead of the “regular curriculum” as you homeschool your child.
Museums can be an amazing space on winter days as well, and you can find some excellent choices by doing a simple web search, especially if you're in a larger city like New York City or Chicago, or the San Francisco Bay area. If there are no museums in your local area, you might consider looking for a good alternative, or even calling some of your local businesses and asking about a “homeschool walk-through” and use that experience like a field trip.
Homeschooling Your "Why" and Refocussing
When you first made the decision to homeschool, you had some very valid, if not unique, reasons for starting the journey. Do you have a special needs or gifted child? Are you interested in providing an exceptional quality of education to your children? Are you a traveler? Single mother? Maybe you wanted to avoid enrollment in the public schools in your area. Or maybe you wanted to be an unschooling family. The list goes on and on.
The important thing is that you get back to your original “why” and think about that for a bit. It really helps give you a boost as you slog through the winter months. But more than that, it is an endeavor that God will help you with because this isn’t just some random decision you made. This is a God-given right, an honor, and our duty as Christian parents. You will succeed! You will get through this because “…he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6)
Mid-year woes will happen in home education, of that, you can be sure. The way we deal with them can make all the difference though, and I hope I’ve shared some ideas here that will be a springboard for making it through until spring. Remember: this job is worth it. So, pick yourself up, encourage yourself, and get ready to finish another great year! Whatever you’ve learned this year will only make next year better and easier with last year in your rearview mirror.