If I’d been consulted, I wouldn’t have set the new year in January.

I wasn’t around when they were standardizing calendars and calculating leap years, so I didn’t have any say in the matter. Otherwise I’d have pointed out that it doesn’t make much sense to celebrate the turning of the year in the dead of winter.

Here in Virginia, we usually don’t get very cold weather or snow until late January or February. But we still live with that wan winter sunlight. It’s as if the sun hardly has enough energy to get to midday before it’s ready to head to bed again.

As a homeschool mom, I’m in full sympathy with the sun.

Since our family follows the traditional school calendar—starting in September, ending in May—January is the middle-of-school slump for us. By this time, we’re tired of the daily grind, and the cold weather and weary sunlight make me want to give up before I even get started. Since giving up is not an option, I’ve found a few strategies to help me push through this slump until we get to spring again.

Light therapy.

I rarely struggle with depression. As I’ve gotten older, however, the seasonal change to autumn and winter drags my spirits down. So I spend at least half an hour each day near a therapy lamp, which mimics the direct sunlight of spring and summer. The therapy improves my mood and gives me more energy. A bonus is that I can use the time to listen to music and work on a small creative project. It’s like a tiny sabbath in my day.

Keep the end goal in mind.

In January, I don’t want to do school any more than my kids do. But come June, I love our summer break as much as they do. So I keep the pace during these gray winter days so we won’t have to use up any of our precious summer break catching up.

Reasonable expectations.

Just get the work done—that’s our focus. Forget creative approaches or delving more deeply into a subject. We do the lessons, make sure the students have mastered the material, and call it good. Things will pick back up when spring comes.

Find time for pleasure.

Give yourself a break from the daily grind. That could involve having friends over, making extensive plans for a spring garden, organizing a closet, or finding an indoor sport for yourself or the family. As an introvert, I limit my outside activities and interaction; I like to make myself some tea, put on some good music, and settle down with a puzzle.

February School.

We can’t take off much time after Christmas (see: our love of summer break). So Darren began planning “February School” several years ago. We lighten the school load to only the essentials, and then focus on something fun. One year we followed the Olympics, ending with a meal that incorporated several different national cuisines. Another year we focused on cinema, and watched clips of many different movies.  It makes the slog through January easier, knowing that when we get to February we’ll change up the routine—while still keeping school going.

Every homeschool operates differently, so your challenges might not be mine. However, if you’re like me, and you find yourself dragging after the holiday rush—I’m here to encourage you. Keep moving forward, give yourself space, and you’ll get through these tired winter days.

Spring will come. I’ll raise my cup of tea to that.


Photo Credit: iStock