28 Ideas for Not Going Crazy with Winter Doldrums
By: Kate Karman

Let’s face it. Winter is here. It’s raining outside. It gets dark early. And no one is excited about school any more. How are we going to make it till June? The school year stretches out in front of us, bleak and uninteresting.

So, here are 28 different ideas to help put a little more zip back into your school.

1. Praise accomplishments. Don’t look at it as “90 more math lessons till we’re done,” but “59 done! Hooray!”

2. Proclaim one day Homeschool Mud Day. See how many different things you can do with mud. After all, you can pretty much count on rain this time of year. Of course, as soon as you set a date for your Homeschool Mud Day, it’ll be sunny. Don’t let that phase you. Go on a science scavenger hunt outside instead.

3. Pick a new vocabulary word for your family for the day. Something erudite and new to everyone, including you. Teach it to your little ones, too. Then keep track of how many times each family member uses it that day. Award a prize.

4. Be excited about school. It will rub off on your children, and then their enthusiasm will fuel you.

5. Plan your meals around a weekly theme – week 1: everyone’s favorite dishes; week 2 – Mexican; week 3 – Italian; week 4 – kids in charge (they plan and prepare the meals); week 5 – Oriental; week 6 – veggies (how many different things can you do with veggies?). You get the picture.

6. Provide incentives for diligence in school work – special family time after Daddy gets home is a great one. Part of the cause of Winter Doldrums is that the Special feeling around Christmas is gone. Put some sparkle back in your day!

7. Throw a birthday party for Abraham Lincoln. And then ten days later, throw one for George Washington. Celebrate obscure holidays. International holidays are great catalysts for social studies discussions over lunch!

8. Pick a different subject to “hit hard” each day. Spend a little extra time on it and go deep. This will make it more fulfilling than just glossing over all of them, and you’ll get to all the subjects if you rotate.

9. Draw names for Secret Pals. Then throughout the day or week each member of the family does something kind and thoughtful for their secret pal. At the end of the allotted time, reveal who your pal was.

10. Use your meal times to discuss current events. Get into long political discussions with your children. Don’t sweat it if you’re still going an hour later. This is school, too!

11. Plan a field trip to the zoo or the fire station. Don’t make it complicated – just go somewhere and learn something new. Even high schoolers will have fun seeing how many obscure facts they can gather at the zoo to impress their dad with.

12. Write your children personal notes telling them how much you love them and praising their individual qualities. Leave them for them in special places, on their pillows, at their places at the breakfast table, in their literature book instead of their bookmark.

13. Go back to reading aloud as a family. It doesn’t matter what age your children are. Pick a book, set aside a little time each day and do it!

14. Make a game of decluttering your house. Tackle it in little pieces, but accomplish something each day. Include the whole family.

15. Go for walks in the rain. You don’t melt. Carry an umbrella if you must, but get out in God’s creation. Things look different in the rain. They smell and sound different, too.

16. Play Scrabble for “spelling” one day. Give extra points to whoever uses the special vocabulary word of the day.

17. Keep your focus in the right place: on God. Remember that He has given you the task of raising your children and providing for their education, and He will give you the strength to do just that. Make a point of sharing daily spiritual insights with your children.

18. Play historical charades. In the morning, each student picks a historical character to impersonate all day. At lunch, everyone can guess who the others are. If no one got it, guess again at dinner.

19. Do something as a family for someone else. Plan this as a weekly/monthly/whatever family event. Go to a nursing home and spend time with the residents. Take a special shopping trip for a family that has less than you. Leave a care package on their front porch, with no indication about whom it’s from.

20. Take some time to do Kitchen Science. Make some acid/base indicator by boiling some red cabbage and using the juice. Have the kids run around the house finding things to test. Make them hypothesize whether the substance will be acidic or basic. Find out what happens when you add a mild acid to a mild base (vinegar and baking soda are always great).

21. A small stash of dark chocolate is not a bad thing. J

22. Spend a minute looking through your curriculum for things to simplify. Is your student doing a specific writing curriculum on top of all the writing that she has to do in every other subject? Does your student really need to do every problem on the math page, or can he skip the ones he consistently gets right on the tests? Are you being redundant anywhere in the name of being thorough? Simplify!

23. Don’t be afraid to make drastic course changes if you need to. Don’t continue on with a mind-numbingly tedious grammar workbook if it’s just not jiving with your student. See if you can’t find something more appropriate elsewhere. Remember, one of the reasons you’re homeschooling is the ability to tailor the curriculum to each student.

24. Have a military day. Tell your kids to report to you in the morning for their assignments. When they do, have them stand at attention, salute and say, “Yes, sir!” Use military time (“breakfast at 0800!”). This is a lot of fun for little ones, and bigger ones get a kick out of it, too.

25. Have a day-long limerick-off with your older students: you write one, they write one in response, back and forth all day. Or do the same thing using haiku.

26. Plan a trip to the coast to enjoy the winter weather. Remember to dress accordingly – you’re going to get lots of rain and wind. But it’s worth it!

27. Pause in the middle of your day for tea time. Use it as a time to teach something totally different: manners! Keep it simple, but use your good china. And remember, this isn’t just for the girls. Your young men need to know how to handle themselves in formal situations, too!

28. Smile daily. Take pleasure in the simple things. Be thankful for little things. Thankfulness will put your focus where it needs to be!


(c) 2006 by Kate Karman. 

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