Winter is my favorite season. After growing up in Texas, there is nothing better than cozy fleece and flannel, twinkle lights, and the possibility of snow. But even with all the wonderful things about my favorite season, there is still one thing that hits me hard every year: the homeschool winter slump.
This is our sixth full winter in the Midwest. Every year, right around Thanksgiving, we all get a little sluggish and grumpy when it comes to schoolwork. Honestly, I think it’s the time change. When it’s completely dark at 5:00 p.m., it’s hard not to feel like you spent the entire day doing school — even when there’s still hours to go until bedtime.
For brand-new homeschooling families, these new feelings might feel alarming:
- Has the shine worn off already?
- Am I doing something wrong?
- Are we not meant to be homeschoolers?
Don’t worry — the homeschool winter slump is normal and very, very common.
If you are struggling with homeschooling during the winter season, here are some tips that have worked for our family:
- Take breaks! We take four weeks off during November, December, and January: the week of Thanksgiving, two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s Day, and the last week of January. That leaves three weeks in December and three weeks in January, which is just right for us!
- Focus only on the core subjects. When our kids were younger (elementary-age), we would do math, language arts, and a family social studies or science unit study during the winter months — and that’s it.
- OR — conversely — you could not do ANY of the core subjects and do something FUN for a couple of months, like holidays around the world or animals in winter. There are so many seasonal topics that could informally incorporate reading, writing, and math.
- Try passive learning for a few weeks — watch documentaries or listen to audiobooks while working on puzzles or building with LEGO bricks. This post has some of our favorite ways to keep hands busy: https://rollingprairiereaders.com/read-aloud-quiet-activities/
- Read a book together and compare it to the movie version (or TV adaptation). You could do The Polar Express with young children, The Mysterious Benedict Society for middle grade readers, and something more advanced like The Lord of the Rings with teens. (We plan on watching Anne with an E over the winter break.)
Just to be perfectly clear — if you are feeling less-than-motivated about homeschooling this month or season, there is nothing wrong. Our bodies were meant to react to seasonal changes. We were never meant to “push through” and give more than we’re physically able.
In our own homeschool, we ebb and flow with the seasons. During the autumn, we are highly motivated and spend our weeks setting up routines and making progress through our lessons. In winter, we slow down again and focus on indoor activities. By the time spring comes, we’re ready to spend hours outdoors, working in the garden. Summer is a time for our individual projects and family travel.
Every family’s homeschool experience should be unique. It may take trial and error to find a rhythm that works for you, but that is part of the journey.
What do you do in a homeschool winter slump?