Homeschooling parents, regardless of whether they homeschool all year round or stick to a traditional school year schedule, ride the wave of back-to-school momentum in September. That leads to the onset of fall and outdoor activities in October. Next thing you know, the holidays kick off in November and the calendar year wraps up with fun and festivities galore.
After the holidays wind down and the new year begins, many homeschoolers get back to business. Come mid-January, after the holiday decor has been put away and each week seems rather similar to the last, there’s a phenomenon some have called “the homeschool blahs.” It’s a time where you’re checking a lot of boxes, but you may feel your motivation waning or your spark fizzling.
Simply knowing this can occur can be helpful. What can parents do to overcome a sense of malaise and reignite the spark of excitement and energy? I asked homeschooling expert Leigh Bortins, the founder of Classical Conversations, for her advice. Here’s what she said.
The Epoch Times: As homeschoolers, did you and your family ever experience “the winter blahs?”
Leigh Bortins: Our homeschooling family worked really hard on academics up until Thanksgiving and then celebrated the holidays and traveled until New Year’s Eve. So on January 1st, we were ready to get back to work. We made sure the boys had a snow weekend with friends at the end of January, and all four of our sons played sports and got plenty of exercise throughout the winter.
We worked really hard on academics through the winter so we could finish our intense studies by spring, vacation before the crowds can, and snag summer jobs before anyone else. Taking the six weeks at year-end and knowing we had a very long delight-directed summer coming up kept us going at a good pace for 15 weeks in the fall and 15 weeks in the winter. Our schedule and great rewards kept us on task even when the winter blahs arrived.
The Epoch Times: What do you think are the main contributors to this seemingly common experience of homeschoolers in the months of January and February?
Ms. Bortins: People with a purpose seem to get more accomplished. I love homeschooling because I had so much free time, but in order to have free time, I had to set very specific goals. Of course we had days that slowed us down and we just had to be a family, but in general, my family was driven by routine, even now that they’re all adults.
We had a motto, “Work and pray, then rest and play.” The seasons are given to us to mark beginnings and ends, new goals, and finished accomplishments. I found working with the seasons helped avoid winter depression because we were busy indoors and outdoors.
The Epoch Times: What are some ways homeschooling parents can reignite their enthusiasm for homeschooling when motivation wanes?
Ms. Bortins: I suffer from mild depression, which of course is worse in winter. For me, wanting my children to succeed in their Classical Conversations seminars, wanting to be a help to my homeschooling community, and knowing the days were long but the years were short helped me to keep moving. For a person with depression, the phrase “Change your position” really helps to remind me that change—physical, mental, and emotional—is reenergizing. Changing location like schooling outside or at the library, changing energy levels like walking or calling a friend to encourage, and changing topics, like a new emphasis on map-making or new recipes, all help.
And the best advice, have a pajama day and read for five or six hours together and apart, in bed and on the rugs. You can’t fail parenting if everyone has a book in their hand.
The Epoch Times: What ideas have you employed in the winter months to make homeschooling more fun?
Ms. Bortins: First, wherever we have lived, we went outside a lot. Children don’t complain of cold the way adults do. Collecting leaves, playing duels with sticks, setting up bird feeders, cleaning the garage, and visiting seniors are all good winter projects besides the sports leagues, art lessons, and music lessons available to homeschoolers. Visiting friends from our Classical Community, Moms Night Out, and Dad’s Day at the Playground provide a lot of emotional growth and winter cheer. Serving others is the best way to overcome any complaint.
The Epoch Times: How can a homeschooling mom or dad differentiate between winter blahs and the need to make a major adjustment in homeschooling strategy?
Ms. Bortins: What a great question! A lot of people give up important things like eating well, exercise, studying, and even marriage just because of some bad days. It’s a good idea to wait to make decisions when you feel stronger. As I said before, small changes in attitude and activities can sometimes be enough. Noting your children’s growth patterns can also inform whether a parent needs to make major adjustments. Children’s bodies grow or their brains grow—not both at the same time. If eating, exercise, and thinking are at healthy levels and your child feels the blahs, they may be about to have a growth spurt. Children have seasons of growth just like any other living thing. At the end of the struggle, anticipate a beautiful outcome.
The Epoch Times: What would you tell a first-year homeschooling parent who feels his or her enthusiasm dwindling?
Ms. Bortins: You may feel enthusiasm dwindling because homeschooling has become normal. It’s not always exciting or rewarding to homeschool. Sometimes I’m tired of cooking and reading and making the bed, but I am not going to give up eating, learning, and organizing. I may rest for a day or two. Like life, homeschooling has ups and downs. Again, I find if I change my position, I may find an unexpected enthusiasm. Or at least remember I’m homeschooling because someone loves me and needs me!