Every January I start going through the homeschool blues. Sometimes they last all the way until the end of the school year. What can I do to avoid, or at least lessen the intensity of, the homeschool blues?
When my six children were younger, I also went through the homeschool blues come January of every year. This was how my cycle would go…
Come June of each year, I would spend the first month of our summer vacation decompressing (while my kids did a month of summer “edu-fun”). During July, I would begin formulating (at least in my head) a plan for the upcoming school year. During August, I would go through intensive planning and organizing to get our new school year ready. By the time September came, I was convinced we were going to have the best school year ever!
September and October would go by fairly smoothly. Then November and December would come. With all the holiday planning in the midst of homeschooling, the homeschooling end of things would pretty much derail by the time Christmas came. Come January, the blues would creep into my spirit - mainly due to me constantly being on a self-induced guilt trip because I could not get our home school back on track to the level of efficiency it had been at prior to the holidays.
There were several years of derailing of cataclysmic proportions and me feeling pretty beat up after the holiday wonderment wore off (the winter blues had pretty much turned into the winter black-and-blues). It was then I decided that during the late fall/winter holidays, all of our homeschooling would “be” the holidays. Beginning at the end of October and running until our two-week Christmas/New Year’s break, we would learn through baking and crafting and harvest/Thanksgiving/Christmas themed inductive Bible studies, etc.
Now, while this helped prevent the annual derailment during the holidays, it did not address the January blues. In fact, in some ways, it intensified the blues. After two months of holiday homeschooling, who wants to go back to “regular” schoolwork? So while our homeschooling did not crash and burn from derailing, it also never went full steam ahead again once the holidays came and went. Because of that, the homeschool blues would still creep back into my spirit come the New Year (again, mainly from my feeling guilty that I could not regain my “beginning of the school year enthusiasm” declaring this one to be the best school year ever).
That’s when I knew something had to drastically change. After much prayer, the Lord impressed on my heart that I needed to phase into and phase out of our homeschooling holiday seasons. Beginning that year, I built into my homeschool plans that starting with the last week of October, I would phase into a holiday homeschool season that would last until Christmas. Then after our two-week Christmas and New Year’s vacation, I would spend the rest of January phasing out of our holiday schedule and back into our regular homeschool schedule.
Basically, this is what our homeschooling looked like. The last week of October, I would begin our holiday season by having our “formal” homeschooling focus on the three R’s (Reading [including Bible reading], wRiting [including Bible journaling], and aRithmetic). I would also drop one “other” subject (like science, history, geography, etc.) each week until they were all temporarily phased out. I would also add in appropriately timed holiday-themed unit studies (harvest themed, then Thanksgiving themed, then Christmas themed) during those weeks.
Once the new year began, we simply dropped the holiday unit studies and added back in the other subjects, one subject per week, until we had phased back into our regular homeschool schedule by the end of January. By not completely abandoning every aspect of our more formal homeschooling during the holiday season, it was much easier to transition back into our regular schedule come the new year. This, in turn, prevented me from going through the guilt trip based winter blues.
While this method may not work for every homeschooling family, there is one thing I can assure you. Just as God laid the idea on my heart in response to my asking Him for wisdom on how to solve my winter blues dilemma, He will give you a working idea for your family if you also ask Him for wisdom.
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” James 1:5-8 New Living Translation (NLT)