Okay, it’s officially February.
You know February: the shortest month of the year. The darkest month of the year. The month when homeschoolers want to run screaming to the nearest public school.
I have learned I have to plan for this phenomenon. If I plan, I am armed and ready to stave off the temptation to give up. It doesn’t make February any shorter or warmer, but my plans have gotten us through nine Februarys of homeschooling and counting. So without further ado, here are my suggestions for Managing the February Blues.
1. Get outside every day. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.
Corollary 1A: Make it easy to get to the winter clothes. Easy to dry them off. Put clothespins and hangars in the shower. Set up a drying rack by the front door. Whatever it takes, make it easy for the kids to wear their snow clothes and they will.
3. Plug on. February is always the month when I want to buy new curriculum. Different curriculum. Any curriculum that will be new and better and not what I’m doing right now. I’ve gone down that road before, and it doesn’t lead anywhere good. There is no magic bullet curriculum to prevent the February blues.
If you need a change, take a week to try a unit study. Have the kids pick a topic and study it as much as they can. At the end of the month, they can give presentations to the rest of the family on their topics. But don’t chuck the baby out with the bath water.
4. Make a book list. Somehow in the middle of February every year, I am convinced we have accomplished nothing. Despite diligent reading, we are still in the middle of our history spine. And the middle of a novel. And the middle of our Shakespeare play or poetry anthology (or neither, if it’s this year because my Shakespeare is still packed.) Take an hour, sit down with your records, and write down every book you’ve read. I promise it will be more than you thought, and you will feel better. (Even if you don’t have them written down, ask your kids: “What books did we read this year? Which ones were your favorites? Your NOT favorites? What did you read on your own?”) Our library has a function on the website that keeps track of the books I check out, which makes my record keeping easier.
5. If you must go on pinterest to see what everyone else is doing (who are we kidding– they’re not doing it, they’re just pinning it) do NOT compare it to what you are doing. Certainly don’t take on some gigantic project that will take days and require $375 of new supplies. In fact, February is the time to go into your supply closet, find all the stuff you bought on sale in August, and pull it out.
6. Let the kids make messes. Let them use those art supplies and cut up the old magazines for collages, or use up your yarn stash by learning to knit. Maybe they need to make a sledding hill on your front yard. If that mess buys you half an hour of free mental space, go for it. And at the very least, you will look at the mess at the end of the day and say, “Wow, what a huge mess! We must have done a lot!”
7. Light candles. Drink tea. Have hot chocolate and popcorn.
8. Care for yourself physically. If what you need is 3 miles on the treadmill every day, do it. Or if everyone needs a day to read books and write stories in their beds, take it. If you need to eat oranges or take fish oil or spend half an hour in full-spectrum light, admit that you need it. Taking care of you is not a luxury; it is the grease that makes your school and family run.
9. Recognize that you are not alone. As you read this, I am wondering why we started homeschooling in the first place. February is the month when your friends whose kids are in school are asking themselves, “Do I need to pull my kids out of school?” The teachers are waiting for spring break. No one feels confident about their choice during February, and that’s okay. It’s the shortest month. Soon it will be March and it will all make sense again.
10. Have grace. Grace for your children. Grace for your husband (or wife). Grace for yourself. Your worth is not dependent on when you finish today’s assignments, or on how clean your house is. Let this February be measured by the grace you offered, and the grace you received.