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It’s that time of year again. We’ve been in winter mode for at least 4 months and it will probably last for another 3. The fun holiday period is over. And the excitement of working on new goals has started to wear off.
My daughter read the book Seabird by Holling Clancy Holling last year and fell in love with a new word – doldrums. If you don’t know what that is, in nautical terms, it’s defined as “a belt of calm and light baffling winds north of the equator between the northern and southern trade winds in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.” In business or art, it can be “a state of inactivity or stagnation.”
But for the homeschooling mom, it simply means trouble. It takes longer and longer for the kids to get to work. They have a harder time focusing. Complaining becomes our constant companion. And everyone fights more.
We’re all going a little stir-crazy from the short moments outside. And it’s months before the next big project or activity. Even I start to lose motivation.
A couple of years ago, it didn’t hit so hard simply because we still had our inspection coming. So I knew we had to maintain our rhythm. I couldn’t let anything slide until they had come to see our routine. And we were all just stressed out enough to keep working despite the doldrums.
But these last few years. Oh boy, that is a whole different story. Our inspection is over. And the next inspection in April is for the littles. So… no one feels much like doing any schoolwork.
It is much easier to give in to the blues with nothing to keep us motivated. So we have to come up with our own ideas. Here are a few things to help you get through.
Fake It Til You Make It
The first thing is to just simply do. Even if you don’t feel like it. Or you start school late every day. And even if you don’t finish everything, just do it. The most important thing is to just keep the momentum going.
I’ve noticed that if we stop completely, it makes it so much harder to get back into it. Especially when the weather is already making us feel a little down in the dumps. But just getting the next chapter read or the next math assignment finished does wonders for morale. We keep going, acting like everything is normal and we are having fun.
Because you know what? Eventually, it will be back to normal. And we will be having fun with our work again. We’ll be spending more time outside in the backyard. Our energy will grow as the sun stays out longer. We just need to keep moving towards the goal of finishing out the year, no matter how long it takes us.
Try Something New
The other thing that can sometimes get us over the hump is to change things up. Here’s where I will vary the schedule as much as possible. We’ll do morning time in the afternoon and our afternoon work in the mornings. I’ll move Composer Study from Mondays to Thursdays. We’ll drink hot chocolate instead of tea for poetry tea time. Anything to switch it up while still moving forward.
We’ll start rearranging the house. This is a great time to start decluttering as everyone decides to switch it up a bit in their room. We’ll move the beds closer to the windows. I’ll put their desks facing each other in the schoolroom. I even let the kids build a huge fort in the living room and sleep in it for over a week. A change of scenery can do wonders to cheer up all the gloominess.
This is also the time when I will try to fix what’s broken. So when math is taking so long because they are having a hard time switching from French to English every other day, I’ll do French math one week, then English math the next. Or we’ll drop a book that no one seems to enjoy and try something new in its place. We’ll pick out a new handicraft or try to find a different nature spot to study.
The trick is to find that one thing that arouses interest in learning again and pushes us back on track.
Do a Monthly Challenge
This is a new trick we’ve found to put some excitement back into our lives. We do monthly challenges alongside our regular schoolwork. We’ll pick a theme each month and try to complete the challenge as many days as possible. And this is something everyone can get involved in, including the toddler.
This idea was sparked by the Read-Aloud Challenge we did in January with Read Aloud Revival. The kids really took to this like fish to water. Every day they woke up ready to pick the next book they were going to read. And if I hadn’t found time to listen to them before bed, they would not let me read the bedtime story to them. Instead, reading one to me. It was lovely. And they were so sad when the month was over. I had to tell them we didn’t need to stop just because I took the calendars down.
So I decided to start the month of February with another one. This time we are doing a kindness challenge in coordination with Valentine’s Day. Every day, they have to choose one kind thing to do for another, either in the family or out. So far, they have written nice letters of encouragement to each other, cleaned up each other’s messes, and even finished a couple of chores without my even asking! (I may have just found the secret to get them to do chores). I haven’t even offered incentives to keep it going this time around. They are just happy to do it for its own sake.
We’re Still Learning
But the beauty is that even if we aren’t doing what is written on our schedule, the kids are still learning. They are using their creativity to come up with new ideas. Sometimes it’s practicing their spelling and writing in those little notes. Or they use engineering skills to figure out how to create a tunnel out of blankets and string. And they are reading with much more pleasure. The bored little faces that used to look outside at another day of rain are now looking inside with smiles at each other. Most of the time. Because let’s face it. They are still kids.
Change Your Schedule
We just recently changed our school year to begin in January. There were multiple reasons for this change. But one of those reasons involves trying something new.
And it seems to have worked in regards to the doldrums. In fact, I would venture to guess that our doldrums just haven’t hit yet. Even though the weather is still crummy, the excitement hasn’t waned as quickly this year.
I think the fact that we are still in the first month of our new school year has helped. The stories are still new. The lessons are still fresh. And we just added a new child to the classroom.
Maybe we found the ultimate answer to combatting the February doldrums. Wouldn’t it be lovely for the answer to be that simple?
I guess we’ll find out when the mid-year of our new school schedule comes in the summer. Maybe we just transferred our doldrums to a sunnier clime.
If you are year-round homeschoolers with a January start date, I would love to hear whether you struggle with the doldrums. And when it hits.
What are you doing to combat the February doldrums? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.