Houseplants, Homeschools and the Mid-Year Blahs
It’s wintertime and I’m surrounded by fussy houseplants. The geraniums are pouting and the aloe is pale. If I hadn’t left the begonia on the front porch til it frosted, it would be shedding leaves and blossoms everywhere. Why do I let this happen to me every year?
As I make my rounds with the watering can, I realize that my houseplant woes are nothing new — we just have the mid-year blahs. Homeschoolers get the blahs too. You wake up one morning and everything feels stale. The lesson plans are limping along, but all the interesting books have been read and the experiments tried. All that’s left is squirming and math — not necessarily in that order.
Whose bright idea was this, anyway?
How long does it take you to reach that “whose bright idea was this anyway” point in your homeschool year? For me, it usually hit around Groundhog day. If you’re a first-year homeschooler, you may feel alarmed when it happens. You may even feel like a “bad” homeschooler. I know I did, but that was only until I talked with other homeschool moms and realized that we all hit the mid-year blahs sooner or later.
For what it’s worth, homeschooling can be challenging and it’s normal to have these moments. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed on some days, and it’s normal to wish for peace and quiet (especially if you’re an introvert). However, there are a few things you can do to banish the blahs. Here are nine ideas:
- Establish a daily quiet time. Include everyone in the family including yourself, and assign each person a different quiet time spot. Each person can choose any activity that is noiseless, such as reading, building with blocks or Legos®, writing, drawing, or listening to a story with headphones. The rule is that they must gather whatever they need for their quiet time activity before it begins. Once everyone else is settled for quiet time, you will be able to spend the time reading, writing, planning, or any other quiet activity you choose.
- Try a different school schedule for a month or more. It’s perfectly fine to school for four days a week or six weeks on and one week off, or to do math and science on Monday/Wednesday; literature, history, and the arts on Tuesday/Thursday. Sometimes just changing the timing makes everything seem fresh again.
- Teach a creative handcraft such as crocheting, knitting, drawing, carving, calligraphy, or anything else that’s quiet and creative. If you don’t know any crafts, ask a grandparent to share what they know or visit YouTube, where you can find videos to teach almost any craft. Take time to learn along with your children — you might find that you love it! Creativity can relieve stress and help with brain development. And it’s just fun.
- If you have a writing curriculum, do the writing assignments with content from other subjects. For example, rather than assigning two papers — a history report plus an essay on a random subject for the purpose of practicing the compare/contrast essay format, just assign a compare/contrast essay on an appropriate history topic. Your student will get to practice the new essay format while learning more about history. This shortens the learning day in a positive way, leaving more time for other things. (Charlotte Mason advocated SHORT lessons, and she was right.)
- Instead of the same old reports and assignments, do something creative. Have your students retell a novel as a graphic story (comic book style); write a newspaper-style feature article about a character or event; turn a poem into a story or a novel into a screenplay; or write journal entries in the voice of a historic or fictional person. There are endless ways to learn, and kids will often go above and beyond what is required if the project is fun.
- If you’re planning for the holidays, start incorporating bits of preparation into the school day. Let children help with handwork, baking, gift wrapping, and other holiday prep. Start early, as working with children tends to make everything take longer. However, they learn something from each new project, and you will make good memories together.
- Take a complete break between semesters. If everyone is weary of school before the break, it doesn’t make sense to drag it into the time that is supposed to refresh their minds. You need a break as well. I have a whole article on the blog about this, but for now, just trust me — take the break and you will all return refreshed and ready to start anew.
- Remind yourself why you’re homeschooling. Refresh your spirit by learning something new or fellowshipping with other homeschoolers.You can do this in person or by reading books or blogs, listening to encouraging podcasts, and going to homeschool conferences. When I was just starting out, For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay gave me a glimpse of how beautiful a home-centered life and education could be. Once I got going, Charlotte Mason‘s books became my go-to resource for help with what to teach and how to teach it.. Whatever resources you choose, just be sure to pick those that don’t make you feel more tired than ever.
- Finally, remember that “the sweetness of lips increases learning” (Proverbs 16:21). Learn to work with your own body’s energy cycles and get as much rest and good nutrition as you can so that it will be easier to be kind and patient. I once read that for children, what you do every day doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you make them feel. As homeschooling moms, we have an everyday opportunity to create an atmosphere of love and grace. We won’t be perfect at it, but every single morning we can wake up and try again.
The mid-year blahs may never disappear entirely, but when you know that they’re just a normal part of life, they don’t seem to last nearly as long. I still get tired of taking care of houseplants during the winter, but I enjoy having blossoms and green leaves when it’s grey outside. That’s why when I find myself, watering can in hand, wondering why I do this, the answer is, “Because it’s worth it in the long run.”
And that’s the same answer I’d give about homeschooling through the mid-year blahs. It’s worth it in the long run.
I wish you joy!