Guest Author: Homeschooling Through the Long Winter

Today’s post comes from Jen, writer of the blog Learning Patience. Jen is a young homeschooling mom who is an inspiring teacher, so I asked her to write something related to teaching children. I hope you are inspired by her thoughts! Be sure to stop by her beautiful blog to see what else is happening in her schoolroom and family.

I think I’m part bear. Really. And no, not because I’m grumpy often. (I may be, but we’re not talking about that right here, right now…after all, this is a guest post, and that just wouldn’t be very nice, now would it?!)

Anyway, when cold weather comes to my part of the woods, I am ready to hibernate. Mostly I stay awake for the holiday celebrations. Then January comes, and worse February, with their overcast cloudy skies and day. after. long. dreary. day. of motivating my school age children. By this time of the year, we’ve been doing school for a long time, but we still have a long time left to go before we are going to be “done” for the summer. A long time.
If that doesn’t make you want to hibernate, I don’t know what will!
When I was a teacher, these months were a struggle. Now that I am a mom who homeschools my children, I struggle again. How do I get everyone (including myself) motivated? How do I build momentum to get us going after that holidays (and all that blessed bad-for-you food), momentum that will keep us moving? How do I keep my kids motivated to actually learn, not just get the stuff done but really learn?
It’s a little presumptuous of me, but I thought I would offer up some of my ideas, then if any of you have any great ideas I’d love to hear them in the comments. I’ll be there, waiting with baited breath!
-Field trips! I usually do one field trip each month. I think we might just step that up a bit for the first months of 2010. I’m thinking we’ll be heading to the art museum for just an hour or two for a few weeks in a row. This will give us the opportunity to explore and then come home and “research” what we saw, and then return for more study. Our art museum is a little drive away, so we’ll be doing math and spelling in the car on those days. Maybe we’ll take our reading and find a quiet room in the museum where we can camp out for a bit and read.
-Exercise (for me and the kids) – The kids got a basketball goal for Christmas, and that is going to get a lot of use…but many days exercise might look like a few minutes of dancing around the school room, a few attempts at standing on our head, or just some jumping jacks – anything to get the blood pumping and the brain rested!
-Baths – My older kids usually take showers but I think I’m going to schedule a few baths into their routine in the coming weeks. I’m also going to load that tub with measuring cups and spoons. Then I think I’ll sit close enough to ask some strategic questions like, “How many 1/4 will go into three fourths? How many 1/4ths will fit into one half?” etc. and so on. It’s a silly little idea, but it’ll be a change in routine.
-Celebrating 100 days (or halfway through your curriculum) – eat 100 things (as a family), make a necklace with 100 Froot Loops, string 100 pieces of popcorn, put 100 stickers on a piece of construction paper (we did this, then had it laminated – we now use it as a placemat for craft activities), or look for Hundreds Day ideas elsewhere online. (Also did you know that Dr. Suess’s birthday is March 2; now there’s another great day to celebrate!)
-Snow days – While we don’t officially get snow days, I think we’ll take a break whenever our public school neighbors get a snow day – at least for part of the day. We’ll play in the snow, drink hot cocoa, and warm-up by a fire! There might even be cookie baking involved.
There’s my list – I can’t wait to see yours!

How are you going to keep your Homeschooling energy up? For those of us with kids in school, how are we going to keep them motivated to do their homework, memorize their spelling words, and perfect those math facts?

Build on Jen’s thoughts by leaving comments with your ideas.


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Sincerely Anna
    January 14, 2010

    Thanks for sharing your great ideas, Jen! Keeping up with school in the long dreary winter is such a challenge for me. I like your idea for the bath!

  2. Are These Kids All Yours?
    January 14, 2010

    Great ideas.

  3. Matt and Kristi
    January 14, 2010

    How about using bath crayons or those foam letters or numbers to do spelling or math in the bathtub?

  4. Mark and Wendy
    January 14, 2010

    Game days! Finish all the "traditional" schoolwork by such-and-such, and we can play a game together…whether it be an educational board game or Twister, their choice!

    Spelling in the snow…get squirt bottles filled with colored water, set the bottles to "stream," and spell away! Could do math facts that way, too.

    Movies! We have a Netflix subscription, and we use it primarily to rent travelogues or IMAX documentaries to compliment our geography studies. Great motivators to get through the "blah" stuff.

    Okay…looks like I'd better go take advantage of both your ideas and my own-cuz we're definitely in a slump here! Thanks for sharing!

  5. ACK
    January 14, 2010

    How far is Ethotia from Haiti? Are Homeybee and your friends alright?

  6. Thankfulmom
    January 14, 2010

    ACK, thank you for asking. Haiti and Ethiopia are very far from one another, so they are all fine. I keep thinking of friends who are adopting from Haiti and others whose children have family there…it must be very, very difficult.

  7. jen
    January 14, 2010

    Oh, what fun ideas! I might just have to pick up some squirt bottles when I am out this weekend; then I'll have to pray for snow, so we can write in it!

    And, yes, spelling in the tub – will do – thanks!

    Thanks again, Lisa for sharing your space with me!

  8. Shonah
    January 15, 2010

    I love hearing all of the ideas!! Here in Chicago it is cold and getting outside is hard to do so these ideas are just what I need.

    Here is one thing that we like to do as a family:

    Mad Libs, these are great fun and help kids identify their parts of speech.

    Thanks for the great ideas!!

  9. tiptoeapple
    January 18, 2010

    I'm on my 1st year, so still learning (and still have fresh ideas that haven't been used before on the kids:)I think as the years go on, it might get harder?

    We are in Michigan, and inside ALOT. We do try to get out, go sledding, make a snowman.. breathe in the air.

    We get in the van and DRIVE! Sometimes days will go by and I'll realize we haven't left the house. We get mental health by taking a trip to the grocery store, or anywhere really, for a change of pace. School can happen anywhere!

    The schedule has gotten tighter. Instead of a low key schedule, we make a chart for every hour. Even just going from reading, to playdoh, to dancing, to math, to cooking, to quiet time.. it keeps the day moving.

    We visit with grandparents. We go to the library story time once a week. We schedule in play groups with friends. We go to church.

    Also things as simple as movie night with popcorn (veggie tales or something with a theme to talk about) or game night.

    We rotate date nights with the kids once a week. We make forts, we act out stories, we write letters to people, we help eachother with household chores.

    Can you tell I'm running out of time right now? 🙂

    I've gotten most my ideas from books, moms I know, and my children. For me, if the kids pick what they are going to learn, they are much more involved, and we all have a great time!

    My kids are 5,4,2,2. (2 of them adopted last April from ET)

    Looking forward to reading everyone else's ideas!!

  10. jen
    January 19, 2010

    Thanks Shonah and Jen for your ideas!

    Here's another quick idea that we have done recently – not because I'm brilliant, but because it was part of our curriculum: make and try foods from different places. We work together to pick the recipes (things that are from other countries but sound like foods we might like) and make a grocery list. Then we all work together, kids measuring and mixing and generally making a mess of my kitchen to make the meal. Then we have the meal and talk about what we like and don't like or would do differently. We have tried Israeli and Indian meals; Chinese is next. (We have had many of these foods out, but it's a whole different ballgame to make them ourselves.)

  11. Jon and Jamie
    January 20, 2010

    we make sre to take swim lesson sat the YMCA, if you have more than 3 kids they will give you a private lesson at the regular rate, and there is nothing better than being someplace warm and humid when it is nasty out for long periods.
    we also do game time, sometimes a whole afternoon of it, dance parties are great too.

  12. chalkinscriptions
    February 23, 2010

    We don't have long winters, but spring comes early and then all we want to do is play outside in the sunshine and wear flip flops by February! So it's a struggle to stay focused so I push hard the first semester knowing the second semester is a little more play! Regarding field trips – I joined a fabulous homeschool group (I live where homeschooling is very supported). There are so many field trips that we only go to two a month so that we do not lose our focus homeschooling. Who said homeschool kids are not socialized? Quite the opposite and we have to make sure we don't do too much of it and get behind in our studies!


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