Sunday, January 17, 2010

winter homeschooling

If you are an experienced homeschooler, you know what's coming- the 'February blahs'. Rather than dealing with it when it happens, the last couple of years we have actively tried to avoid it. Has it worked? Not perfectly, but things definitely went more smoothly than in previous winters.

We school very much like Lissa describes in her Tidal Homeschooling posts (please do read them all!), combining Charlotte Mason, a few aspects of Waldorf and the Brave Writer Lifestyle, with 'low tide' strewing and seasonal studies.

Schizophrenic? I guess so (and it's hard to answer the question, "How do you school?"), but the combination is a perfect fit since we pick and choose the aspects of each style that work for us.

And what does our schooling style have to do with the February blahs? We make our way through the dark (and cold!) winter months with a variety of studies and activities that keep us engaged and busy (in a good way!), but with flexibility and enough down time to keep burn-out at bay.

Sheesh, what an awkward paragraph. Oh well, moving on...

::some fun reading during a morning break::

Our first term (September- November) is usually pretty heavy academically, then we take a break in December to focus on the season- reading, crafts, making presents, baking... Our break usually takes us into the beginning of January, and we don't rush back to the academics. Hubby has holidays, I have a birthday, we usually have visitors, and the house is a wreck. All of that is done for this year, though, so we feel ready to start up a regular rhythm again.

One focus will be keeping the house tidy and clean. Since we're stuck indoors most days, we want our surroundings to be peaceful, warm, and uncluttered. This is a challenge for most of us since we are not naturally organized people (with the exception of Gracie), but with the steady picking away at our decluttering and simplifying projects, things are becoming more manageable.

Another focus will be seasonal studies. Animal tracking, feeding our wild birds and bunnies, scavenger-hunt nature walks, the science of snow (and weather in general), and the Olympics are on our list this winter.

::some helpful planning books::

Our morning academics will be streamlined and simplified, with fewer subjects but more depth. We will continue to tackle the three R's first thing when we are fresh and the morning sun is streaming through the family room/ library windows.

::working on the 3 R's::

We'll have a rotating list of readings and notebook work without days or times attached, giving us the freedom to draw a lesson out over as many days as we need (or want), or to do a couple of lessons on the same day if we have the time and inclination.

::very simple planning- a whole week on one page- and a random elbow::

This 'schedule' worked well for us last winter with the surprising result of going farther in almost every subject than I would have planned.

Afternoons will be a bit more unpredictable and depend on the weather and homeschool group activities. We have the option of playing shinny three times a week, with other group activities (art classes, rock climbing, field trips...) that come up on fairly short notice. We don't want to be so busy that we are out of the house more than home, so it will be an ongoing balancing act. We do want (and need) some afternoons free to add in the extras that make homeschooling a good fit for our family- art, nature study, living math and math games, family read-alouds, handwork, etc.

::our reading corner and read-aloud basket::

I am confident that we will get through this winter just fine; our new schedule and rhythm fit with my personal goals and our family motto for this year.

And to think- it only took me ten years to get it.
For more ideas for short-circuiting winter burn-out, see Sarah's Loveliness Fair at Amongst Lovely Things.


  1. Welcome Back - I have missed you. Our life, too, has had many ups and downs over the past year or two and I have neglected my blog - almost decided to dump it. Still not sure what I will do about that.

  2. Hi Coffeemamma--took a couple of days for my blog reader to catch up with you. Glad to see the fresh start! --Mama Squirrel

  3. So nice to hear from you, Tootle! It's so hard to share on a blog when things are a bit of a roller coaster, I know.

    Mama Squirrel- I'm glad you found us ;-)

  4. I found you too! Via my sitemeter—thanks for the kind words about my tidal hs'ing posts. The rhythm continues to work for us, too.

    Loved the photo of the children snuggled in that lovely big reading chair. Perfectly captures the warm cozy delight of it.

    Wishing you well and grateful for the peek.

  5. Thanks, Melissa! That chair is the most sought-after in the house! I abuse my authority and claim it as my read-aloud chair during school time ;-)

  6. I like the idea of keeping the home peaceful by focusing on cleaning. Thanks.

  7. You are right -- it takes time! Things beat us over the head for about a decade and then we get it! :)

    Love the pictures...two kids in one chair, reading...that's what it's all about!

  8. LLMom, I think the cleaning is just about the most important blues-buster around here. None of us can function well with clutter and mess around us, and it's doubly hard when we are indoors so much during the winter. We're mostly messy people here, so it's work, but worth it.

    Leila, I like the term 'seasoned homeschooler' rather than 'slow-learner' ;-) And yes, when I find those two curled up there nearly every morning I'm tempted to do a fist pump- that really is what homeschooling is all about.

  9. Thank you, Jamie! We're very happy with our little family room/ library now that we have seats enough for the whole family (three big, comfy chairs and a window seat ;-)

  10. I love your reading area and your basket of books. It looks very cozy! Thanks for sharing!!