Every year, like clockwork, I slide into a January or February homeschool slump. The excitement of the holidays – and the direction that provides – has passed. The enthusiasm and novelty of back-to-school energy has faded in the rear view mirror. The days are dreary and monotonous and without fail I start questioning my decision to educate my kids at home.
This year’s slump hit not shortly after the ball dropped in Times Square. I was reeling from the intensity of supporting my nine-year-old in her first year performing in the Nutcracker and I knew I was in need of some serious self-care. Here are some things that helped me right my ship.
Turn down the noise
Right after Christmas I removed social media from my phone. I find social media to be generally uplifting and inspiring. But sometimes inspiration can turn into overwhelm, especially when you’re trying to tune into what you really need and want or why what you’re currently doing is no longer working for you. It’s hard to put into words how helpful social media breaks have been for me at times when I’ve felt stuck. I don’t think of myself as one who compares myself to what I see online, but the truth is of course I’m susceptible to this. It’s easy to fall into a trap of feeling like I’m not doing enough with my kids or not doing the right things, when really I need to be tapping into what I want to do, what I think would serve us best. The more I allow our homeschool to reflect our values and interests, the better off we all are. But sometimes I have to turn down the noise to figure out what we need now.
I have put a huge emphasis on connection over the past month. After a busy holiday season, I needed to just *be* with the people I love. I’ve been doing projects with my kids and prioritizing date nights with my husband. I had a fabulous coffee date with some homeschool mama friends that I never wanted to end. We spent a long weekend with my parents with nothing on the agenda but playing in the snow, playing card games and sharing good meals. I find that the more time I spend connecting in-person, the more I feel rooted in who I am. I also find it so much easier to be vulnerable in person, to share the concerns I’m struggling with, and to find that I’m certainly not alone.
I usually get a bad case of wanderlust this time of year, and it’s usually the time of year we start planning our travel for the year. There are some trips we take every year, and it’s just a matter of figuring out where they will fit on the calendar this time around. But what’s really fun is choosing and planning a new-to-us vacation. This year it will be a Washington State roadtrip, and the planning is really so much of the fun. I’ve been reading articles and blogs about Washington state destinations and itineraries and the dreaming stage is really enjoyable for me. So, even though we won’t be escaping the Pacific Northwest’s dreary winter weather this year, planning something really does lift my mood. But if a winter trip to a warm location is feasible for you this year, I highly recommend it! We did Hawaii in February a couple years ago and it was fabulous.
Sometimes a homeschool rut surfaces because I’ve been putting too much focus on my kids and not enough on myself. Learning something can be as elaborate or simple as it needs to be – check out a book from the library on something that interests you, watch some YouTube videos or take a class! My parents gave me a sewing machine for Christmas and my mom has come over a few times to show me how to work it. I am planning on taking an actual class, but even just those sessions with my mom were such great spirit boosters in dark, monotonous January. I also got to spend some time with my sister-in-law early in the month, and she showed my 9-year-old and I the basics of crochet! This month I’ve been into the meal prep videos from the Downshiftology YouTube channel, doing online research about what Waldorf fourth grade entails (my oldest will be a fourth grader next year), and enjoying the daily tidbits offered by Heather Bruggeman‘s online Hibernate retreat; one of which was, actually, about this very topic!
Tackle a project
I love January for tackling a multi-day project. Often in spring through fall we are just too busy for big undertakings. But January is reliably slow. I spent a lot of time this month compiling an annual photo album for 2018. It’s something I used to do every year and gift to the grandparents for Christmas, but I hadn’t made one in FOUR years! I spent quite a lot of time sorting through photos and made the book on Snapfish. Five hundred and eighty seven photos later … ! Sometimes I think what I’m missing as a homeschooler is a clear sense of personal accomplishment. Like, I took on a task and completed it. Check! There’s just not a lot of that in homeschooling. Homeschooling is more like tending a garden. A garden is never ‘done’ and children are never ‘done’ learning. So I have to take it upon myself to gift myself that needed sense of accomplishment from time to time. Even if all we get at the end is a photo album.
I hope these ideas are helpful for you! And if you’re in the midst of a winter slump yourself, I hope you know it’s perfectly normal. We homeschool mamas don’t absolutely love every minute of every day. Some weeks or months are rough. Sometimes the pretty pictures on the school Web site or the kids playing at the local school playground look like the solution. I’ve been there. But I encourage you to take a deep breath, maybe make a list of the things you love the most about homeschooling and then take some time to get quiet and assess what you really need in this season of life.
I would love to hear what works for you … how do you unslump yourself when the going gets slumpy?