• Mara Shanahan

Homeschooling and Getting Through the Winter Slump

Updated: Feb 19, 2021

Well, Groundhog Day has passed. Phil saw his shadow and the declaration of six more weeks of winter has been broadcast. That proclamation doesn't matter much where I live - winter will end when winter wants to end. Even then there may just be another surprise snowfall, just to keep us on our toes!


With the excitement and hustle-bustle of the holidays behind us and the hope and change of spring still distant, this is that time of year when we slow down and just let our bodies and minds do the things they need to do. Like a hibernation. A wintering, if you will. There's something wonderful about that slow time, especially this year as I'm home with my boy. It feels like a renewal. A rest. At the same time he's learning and thriving more and more each day. The wintering is doing us good.


The celebration of the return of the sun is six weeks behind us, yet the days are still short and the nights cold and long. It will be a while yet. I've never been a real lover of winter. Even being the nature person I am, I'd rather be by the fire with a book, or in the kitchen baking, on the coldest of days. Of course, I know it's in our interest to make the best of what winter has to offer. We'll often don all our gear and get outside for a couple of hours, and that makes the return to the fireplace all the more pleasant!


Nature and outdoors is an essential piece of my son's homeschool curriculum. That doesn't mean that it's always practical or desirable to get out. Coupled with the fact that we're still trying to be responsible self-isolators during the current surge of the pandemic, this means that at times I have to look for alternate ways to fill the nature gap indoors. Here are some of the ways we "Winter".



Move Your Body

It can be so easy in the winter to spend more time than normal letting your body rest (see above). However, it's so important for the health of our bodies and brains to keep moving. This goes double for active little 6-year-old boys. I make sure that we start each school day with an exercise video, for about 25 minutes. Our favorites are the fun yoga adventures on Cosmic Kids Yoga and the upbeat and fun HIIT workouts with PE with Joe by The Body Coach. These really start our mornings off well.


Make the Best of the "Good Weather" Days

New England weather can be all over the place, especially in the winter. This winter, in particular, we didn't have any snow for pretty much all of January, but it was cold. The landscape was grey and brown and bleak and uninviting. We did have a couple of "warm" - meaning above 40°F - days, but no snow to play in for a long time.


So, when the good days come, I scramble our school schedule and get outside to do something fun.

Recently we had a warmer day - in the upper 40s! thaw my frozen heart! - and we made the best of it by going on a walk at our favorite National Wildlife Refuge. It's wonderful what a little sunshine and nature does to your outlook.



The other thing that makes us joyful to be outside in the winter is a good snowfall. We had a big one yesterday - more than a foot! Today, after a few school things, I've promised him that he can have all the snowplay he wants. I'm sure a fort and maybe a snowman will be completed by sundown.


Winter Nature Study

When we can't easily get outside for nature study, I like to supplement with books and some videos. We have a big collection of books, and I'm lucky to be able to borrow from our town library. There are also some great educational videos out there on YouTube or even on some of the streaming services. We always start with books, but there's something about watching a quick 5 minute video on a subject that really ties it all up neatly in the brain. We like SciShow Kids and National Geographic Kids on YouTube.


Some of the subjects we've been touching on so far is the science of snow, animal tracks in the snow, hibernation/wintering of animals, and geology/rocks & minerals (this is in his homeschool curriculum that we follow, but it's excellent for the winter months because we have a very large collection of rocks in our house already. That's not to say that it couldn't be enhanced by outside study, but we've been able to manage with what we have on hand).


Check out my post on Our Favorite Winter Themed Nature Study Books!



Cozy Up

Now, as essential as moving your body and getting yourself outside is, there's something to be said about that feeling of getting cozy. Warm. Safe. It's ok to just let yourselves enjoy this particular aspect of winter. Get on the Hygge bandwagon, if you will.


During our homeschool hours, if we're not at the table doing work, we're on the couch in front of the fire reading books. Sometimes we'll even bring a lapdesk over and do our work in the warmest part of the house, if it's a blustery day.


If we're not on the couch or at the table, we're in the kitchen, baking! Baking with your children is a wonderful way to teach some math and science. And you get goodies at the end! We made Butternut Squash Muffins yesterday. Mmmmm, good!


Another cozy and fun way to spend an afternoon is Poetry Teatime, a quiet time at the table spent sipping on hot drinks and reading. We usually have hot cocoa. Sometimes we just read fun books, and sometimes we read poetry books. Sometimes, even, we'll get out a fun game instead. It's a delightful ritual that brings calm and connection at the close of our day.


Day Visits to Museums, Etc.

I'm adding this section here because some day, hopefully soon, we'll be able to safely visit these places again. Being in southern New Hampshire, we have easy access to many impressive institutions. The venues we are most eager to return to are the Museum of Science, The New England Aquarium, The Butterfly Place, The Children's Museum, historical museums such as Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth and the Louisa May Alcott House, as well as so many other historical landmarks in New England. It pains me that I'm home with my son but I can't take advantage of this time and visit these places right now. Perhaps in the spring...


Dream About Spring/Summer

The one certainty about winter is that it's not going to last forever! Spring will come, and summer will follow. In the coldest days of the winter, it's good to remind yourself of that. During this slow and restful time, we like to plan and dream of what we'd like to do once the weather is warmer. Camping trips, the garden, summer camp, beach days, hikes, days at the lake... They will come! It's good to get things on your calendar so that everyone has something to plan for and look forward to.


How do you like to make the best of winter? Are you outside people, no matter the weather? They do say there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!






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