We asked WISDOM parents, students, facilitators, staff and Parent Advisory Council members to offer suggestions to the following question – how do we beat the January blues? Read on for many great ideas that have worked well in the homes of other home schoolers.
A way to have some measure of success through the winter doldrums is to pick one simple, concrete task that you know the Lord wants you to do and do it. If you gain some encouragement from that, then do it again. Remember ‘SAM’: Simple. Achievable. Measurable.
In the hard, cold winter months we perked up with a gym night for home schoolers.
In January, reading out loud daily was a bright spot for us…we would plunge into the world of one well written book after another, savouring each scene and anticipating the next. It helped to have younger, active children doing a quiet hand-work activity while listening.
As a high school student preparing to take some departmental exams, this term I have found myself feeling overwhelmed and, as a result, slightly bored when I sit down to my work. My new tactic, which has succeeded enormously, is to chunk my work. I sometimes do this by concept or by number of problems. Regardless, once I have reached my bite-size goal, I get my reward, which is... running around the house! Not only do I know exercise boosts my brain's activity, but as a person who loves sticking my nose into everyone else's work, I get to quickly see what everyone else is up to. It's a funny thing to do and it makes me laugh which also boosts my energy and morale for tackling the next set of problems.
When I think about “brightening winter” I think of tea. A huge highlight of these long months is sitting down for a cup of chocolate chai tea with my big sister. Life gets so busy, and it's easy to lose my motivation as a student. As a girl I don't process emotions internally naturally. It's hard-wired into me to talk it out. I need to get together with somebody at least once a week to talk about where I am at. Whoever I have tea with doesn't need to do anything. If I can talk, and have their ear, the whole issue is infused with meaning. Though I may not have had a reason to keep trying before tea time, somebody I care about saying, “Well, you know it's worth doing. Let me know how it goes,” is sufficient reason to keep going. Relationship can be enough to motivate me as a student. As a girl it's one of the strongest motivators I can have.
a WISDOM High School Student
One thing we enjoy in January is looking up - the long dark nights make for some great stargazing and offer the best views of Orion and the Quadrantids meteor shower in Early January. This year all 5 visible planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) will be in the sky together before dawn after January 20.
Stargazing definitely encourages learning, and makes you feel pretty small in this amazing universe God created. (And it does make your home feel warm and bright when you come in from the cold!)
James Stenson in his book Successful Fathers says, “Many fathers overlook an important fact of life: Men frequently receive signs of appreciation in their job circumstance - evaluations, raises, promotions, congratulations. But if wives who work full- time at home don't receive such signs of appreciation from their husbands, they don't receive them at all. Children, of course, are innately ungrateful. If the father does not lead the children in this area, then the mother must sustain a heavy emotional burden, facing nothing but negative feedback.” p.53
A WISDOM Mom
We like to enjoy a great read-aloud or audio books in the winter months.
Math is enjoyed through baking cookies or muffins. Fractions are a breeze when we get to eat our creations after the lesson!
Family game night, weekly, is a great way to past the time and there are so many educational games to explore. Our favorites are Carcassonne, Fistful of Coins, Scrabble, Bananagrams, and good old playing cards.
A friend who had a family and an in-home day care once jokingly declared, after a particularly grueling day with many young ones, that if she got to the end of the day with everyone still alive, she had succeeded! Certainly we want to strive for a higher level of success than this on most days but, some days, survival itself is a feat.
We are, no doubt, succeeding in many and varied ways on a regular basis, but aren’t necessarily seeing that in a tangible or measurable way. The same way we don’t see a child’s height changing from day to day, until we measure against the mark on the wall made a few months ago, we need a measuring stick of sorts to see our progress in raising children.
An education program plan, along with regular notes in a journal, can act as that gauge. Recording the books read, activities done, and projects completed shows progress. Seeing that we’ve even started the things on the plan, or just reminding ourselves why we’re doing what we’re doing, is encouraging!
Sometimes outside feedback is helpful too. A grandparent commenting on a child’s improved behaviour, or a facilitator observing progress since the last visit, can affirm what one suspects may be happening, but finds difficult to assess when so close to the situation.
Lastly, let’s not forget to count the everyday things: building relationships between family members, celebrations of birthdays and holidays, visits with extended family, road trips, and the regular ups and downs of life, are all opportunities for growth in experience and character. After all, isn’t that educational success?
A WISDOM Mom
Winter illness, endless cold, lifeless landscapes, limited daylight, loved ones no longer near. What beckons us? ...things common, ordinary and dreary.
Oh January, what are we to make of thee?
Most maligned month: common, ordinary, abundant in summoning labors. How can we endure thee?
Memories of the past months are so full! Full of life, thanksgiving, remembrance, gifts, hope, wonder, joy, warmth and encouragement, full of faith, full of light…
…whispers reveal your treasure, born of silent reflection, sweet and enduring,
In January, we like to organize one visit with friends each week so we have something to look forward to on Friday. January is also the perfect month to make snowmen or snow forts right after lunch when it's the warmest. Then, when the kids come in with cold toes and noes, delve into a great read aloud and discussion time in the afternoon, accompanied by hot chocolate and leftover holiday goodies. I am often amazed by how much we accomplish in our book work in the winter months when we are not as tempted to travel or work outside. Each month, truly does offer a different learning experience, just embrace the month you’re in and you might be surprised how much you learn!
Our family loves reading our novels by lying down on a rug or blanket in front of our cozy fire place. If the weather is moderate outside, have a fire outside and read novels that are part of the study plan, and have a wiener roast at the same time!
Another idea is to get a one month family membership at the local recreation centre to get exercise and enjoy doing different activities together or create your own on the farm.
One of the best ways I have found to be successful with home schooling in the cold, blue months of January and February IS to make a plan and go full speed ahead. It doesn’t matter what topic or curriculum choice – just get busy and keep busy. Do as much as you can in any and all areas of learning. It can be hands on, doing extra sewing, crafting and art OR setting a goal for the number of pages read aloud (or silently) OR simply working on academics. You choose what needs to get done and what WILL get done.
To brighten our home in the winter months, I also try to add in as much fun learning as I can. Include fun Art Lessons, play a game marathon, have poetry readings and tea, or even a recipe bake off. It is also a good time to write extra Pen Pal letters (or write to relatives). Be creative. Do what your family needs.
When we first moved to this area we were challenged by the words of a father. “All my children are successful in the world’s eyes, but none of them are successful in God’s eyes.” In other words, they had well-paying jobs and a stable family but they were not walking with the Lord. His words encouraged me to view success through God's eyes, and train our children appropriately.
Take part of the month to do something completely different than the usual, regular school work. Do a short unit study on something you are all interested in and make it interesting, fun, and creative.
It would be a welcome break from the usual subjects and learning can still take place.
So, in answer to the question, something I think is very important is to be sure moms take “professional development” or creative refresher time sometime early in the New Year to refresh, refocus and reinvigorate ourselves for the push through into spring. I try to schedule a day (usually a Saturday) reserved to myself when someone else (hubby or mother/in-law) can watch the kids. This was in particular when they were younger, now as teens, its not such a big deal to have someone watching them, but still important to set aside specific time.
The refresher day (can also be called parent-teacher interview, professional development or in-service day) can look different depending on what season I am in with our HSing journey, but I might sneak out for a special coffee first thing in the morning, or lock myself in the bedroom with a special cuppa tea or joe. I will review our home schooling philosophy or mandate, or reasons for home schooling (which I typed up & printed out when we first started HSing, and have modified slightly over the years, sometimes I will spend this day ensuring this still meets our values and reason behind our pursuit to home educate), I will also review the Education Program Plan for each student and think about where we are and all that we have achieved, I’ll have picked a few articles, website, blogs or videos that I want to watch about new teaching method, curriculum or some other interesting thing about inspiring learning at home (TED Talks are great for this), as I am inspired throughout the day I’ll make notes in a scribbler about changes I might want to make to our home schooling or program plans. Then I might light a candle, draw a bath and read something completely non-curriculum related.
Alternatively, I might spend time doing something creative like scrapbooking or stamping and card-making, or a group of moms getting together to do some knitting or quilting or some other group pursuit. I end the day with discussions with my husband, brainstorming over ideas that I’ve scribbled during the day, or thoughts about where he can be of extra help (in the home school or around the house), we try to end the evening with dinner out (if it’s in our budget and hubby’s work schedule allows) or earlier that morning I’ll have put something like chili in the slow cooker so that I don’t have much work to do for meal prep that night.
When recently visiting a family, the mother stated they were having a great year; that things had recently changed very much for the better. I asked what she had done that had helped. She related that after breakfast when the family was ready to begin home schooling, they started by simply sitting together around the kitchen table, began with prayer and scripture reading, and then spent time listening to mom read a good book. This took up to an hour and a half each morning.
She related how the prayer and reading activity very naturally helped her students make the transition from breakfast to study. As a result, the rest of the day's schooling activities just rolled along very smoothly. The change in her approach had made a very noticeable improvement in the children's disposition to learning, and as a result, their achievement.
Take a 'school day' and only play games... and they don't have to be 'educational'. It will add so much fun and change your perspective.
One day I got frustrated with my kids for getting up late. I yelled at them and told them to get up, it was a school day! I then realized that we all needed a good break. I pulled out the playing cards and we spent the rest of the day playing Kanasta. At the end of the day, the kids asked why they had to get up so early to play cards... but notice, they didn't ask until the end of the day! It was such a refreshing day, and we all had a rejuvenated perspective after.
Start a novel, and don't do any other school till the novel is finished. (Make sure the kids have plenty of crafts and colouring over the days it takes to read your literature)
Go swimming (fun swimming, not lessons) during school time. Physical education is a part of school too!
Plan a home school potluck, just because. Make a ‘socialization day’ a mental health break.
I like to shake the after-Christmas blues by jumping back into a schedule at the end of the festivities, but to do it with a twist. A quick look at the learning objectives for the year reminds me of the plans that I had in the fall that we have maybe not yet started. This helps me to add in a new activity and switch up the schedule, so it feels fresh and challenging. And then remember to also have some fun, like skating, or skiing/snowboarding at a local facility. Ask another home school family to join you. I have fond memories of an outdoor wiener roast with a home schooling family on a warm winter Sunday afternoon.
Mom's need to realize what an awesome job they are doing homeschooling their children. Take a moment to look back on the wonderful things you have done so far this year, look through your family photos since September.
Suffering from the winter blues? Take the day off of "regular school work" and learn about a current interest, or watch an educational program and discuss it, bake together, start a family read-aloud, do puzzles or play games. Learning can have many forms and sometimes a small change or break is all it takes to refresh.
-A WISDOM Grad
Know the actions of your child (take them onto yourself. Don't become attached to the actions, but put them at the foot of the cross. (forgiveness) Encourage your child to do the same. The evil actions will be made good and the fruits of the good actions will be multiplied. This frees you to focus on the person.
Lift the child up, by showing mercy with actions (especially with gentle eye), with words (especially by listening), with thoughts, intentions and prayers, to be humble (to know who he or she really is):
- A child of God, made in His image and likeness. A brother or sister of Jesus with infinite value.
- Loved beyond our comprehension (God becomes one of us and dies for us).
- He or she has been redeemed from our fallen humanity ( Jesus was raised from the dead).
- He or she has a free will (and can choose to live with our fallen humanity or our redeemed humanity).
Show compassion by keeping the primary focus on the worth of the child (the person). Encourage, be with, walk with the child in the struggle to bring his or her actions in alignment with his or her being. Compassion is mainly about repentance, conversion, integrity or purity. Forgiveness, mercy and compassion are the steps of true love and success.
-A WISDOM dad
I like to save some exciting read-alouds for Jan and Feb. We curl up in front of the fire and experience a world beyond the freezing, cold weather outside our house. Check out the WISDOM website under Resources for great reading lists. After playing outside, we like to come in to a nice cup of hot chocolate and, of course, a story or the next chapter in our book. Popcorn and a movie in the middle of a particularly miserable, cold day.
Putting away bookwork to play games instead, is a great way to ward off the winter blues. There are great educational games to play. Our kids will think they are playing hooky from school but are actually learning many things i.e. sportsmanship, math skills, reading, how to take turns, how to strategize etc. WISDOM has put together a great list of games and what part of the brain they work.
January is a great time to do Science experiments. Set days and times of the week to do them. You could have a ‘Science Experiment Week', doing an experiment every day. Have the kids take turns choosing them. You can look up ideas on YouTube or get some good books from the Library. With the Science and Tech Events around the corner, experiments are a good way to help students to prepare to present a topic of interest.
Build a puzzle together. Establish a set time every day to work on it, even if it is just for 15 minutes. Come up with strategies together. Listen to music (maybe of a classical composer you want to learn more about) or sing songs while you work. Take turns reading a good book aloud while everyone else works on the puzzle or listen to a book on CD.
Invite someone or another family over once a week through the month of Jan. Plan an activity with them like a wiener roast, bake and/or decorate cookies, do Science experiments, make a craft together, go skating or hiking, play board games. Come up with the ideas together. Both contribute supplies and share snacks.
January/February/March is a time when we change focus from book learning to hands on learning. The children participate in home school swim lessons or other organized programs and events. As well I find it's the best time to plan field trips or afternoons at indoor play parks just to give them an outlet for their energy. I've learned that I can't sustain the energy needed to do extra-curricular activities all year long and a short burst of activity in the winter provides a nice change of pace.
When I considered what we might do in January, or any other time we’re feeling the need for a ‘boost’ or inspiration, I thought my ideas might be too simple to be passed on, but here they are. I actually find that the more simple the ideas, the more refreshing and encouraging they are for everyone. We all love reading, so to set aside some of our regular routines for additional reading time is always welcome. We all love spending time outside together, so to spend a few hours outside, ideally with lots of snow, and then come inside for hot chocolate, is also greatly appreciated. Sometimes baking something we don’t normally bake, like cookies, yes, cookies, is fun. I’m often conscious of the need to allow my children ‘free’ time to explore particular interests. Movie-making is a huge interest right now and it’s something most of them enjoy, which is really significant. It’s really important to make time for activities that bring children together and create special memories. Board games, tea, and popcorn are also a hit. . . and sometimes just because it is out of routine.
Instead of focusing mainly on ‘book work’ during the colder months, try breaking up the day with LEGO, a family reading time, baking, or crafting. Better yet, ask your children what they would look forward to, and maybe set aside an afternoon (or whole day) to focus on that. You could try implementing “Fun Fridays”. This could be anything really - a time for field trips, a day spent with other home schooling friends, going shopping or swimming (basically whatever ‘fun’ looks like for your family).
-A WISDOM Grad
- Mom so often sets the tone for the entire home. Each mom would do well to plan ahead to make things happen that she and her family will enjoy, in the home and outside the home.
- Serve someone with your children. Look outside of self to those with needs we can help to meet.
- Absolutely get to the art or carpentry or sewing or cooking or whatever always get put last on the daily list. Put it first. Keep it simple and doable.
- "Do school" with another family for half a day each week or month.
- Begin a new activity soon after Christmas.
- Plan something to look forward to each week and something even bigger a month away.
- Organize a family square dance.
- Pray for God's inspiration and help each day.