Can Christmas break last forever? Mid-year motivation for the winter-weary mom

Written by contributor Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane.

I can feel my body tense up as I say the words with forced enthusiasm:

“Ok, time for school!”

They say what I know they’ll say: Do we have to? And if I’m honest, that’s exactly what I’m saying in my own mind. Do we have to?

It’s December and I’m tired and my feet are cold and there is absolutely nothing inspiring about Saxon math right now. I want to sip cocoa and snuggle under a quilt and read stories to them.

All day.

The unschooler in me says, “Go ahead! Embrace the season! All of life is school!”

The classical voice in me says, “Press through! Persevere in discipline and they’ll be better off in the end!”

The delayed-educator in me says, “Do you really even need to be doing school at all right now? They’re so young!”

Then, as if my multiple personalities weren’t confusing enough, I add comparison into the conversation:

“So-and-so’s daughter is already doing such-and-such. Dutch is falling behind.”

“Well, Dutch’s reading is several grade-levels ahead. Forget the math and let him read all day. Focus on his strengths.”

And all this internal monologue makes me want to crawl back in bed.

We all have days like this, right?  If you haven’t, you’re not allowed to comment on this post. (Smile) I think we all have days where enthusiasm dips or uncertainty sets in or we’re tired or sick or it’s that time of month, or for whatever reason we just don’t want to do school today.

What do you do when you’d really rather allow Christmas break to last until, say, June?

Here are a few ideas for the winter-weary mom in the midst of the mid-year slump:

      1. Clean your school space. I know, I know. You’re thinking, Cleaning is going to make me feel better?!” Hear me out. Not that cleaning is that much fun, but I always find that when I tackle a trouble-area, dump some bins, organize some books, corral the craft supplies and unearth some long lost learning toys, the kids and I discover a renewed enthusiasm for learning.During one particularly cold week recently I rearranged our learning loft so we could all sit closer to the heater, and the new arrangement had them excited and enthusiastic for days. It was just the shift we needed to push through the slump.

Photo by Lacey Meyers

        1. Do the same stuff in a new place. Recently I asked my son if he’d prefer to do his math in a different area of the house. To my surprise, he was thrilled to change locations. Who knew?Even though we ended up doing the same work, the new space helped him gain new energy and feel as though he had a fresh start. For whatever reason, it really helped.Perhaps you take your workbooks to a coffee shop? Or throw a blanket down in front of the fireplace and do picnic-style school, on the floor. A change of environment can work wonders for the weary soul.Patterson-145

Photo by Lacey Meyers

        1. RELAX. I recently asked my mom, homeschooling pioneer of the 80s, if she remembered having hard days. She laughed, of course. Yes! Her advice? RELAX.Chances are, if you’re stressed out, anxious, and frustrated, forcing yourself to “get through” the prescribed schoolwork isn’t going to do a lot of good. Slow down. Talk to your children. Listen to them. Talk with them about how you all are feeling. Pray about it.Allow them to see you work through the struggle, while remaining confident, knowing that you are teaching and modeling for them how to handle difficult daysFrom that perspective, the hard days may very well be the most valuable days!

While this is the most wonderful time of the year, it can also be a difficult time. When it’s cold, dark, and often dreary, do allow yourself the grace and space to rest, talk, listen, and regroup. And remember, tomorrow’s a new day. What a gift!

Your turn! How do you persevere through difficult days? We welcome your words of wisdom!

About Kari Patterson

Kari Patterson and her family live out in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. As a 2nd-generation homeschooler she espouses the same philosophy her own mom did in the 80s: Cultivate a love for learning and one's education will never end. She bakes bread, brews kombucha, speaks at conferences & writes at Sacred Mundane. Her new book Sacred Mundane is available now.


  1. Even though I’m not a homeschooler, this is good advice for us all this time if year. Our kids have already put in so much time and energy. It’s hard for any of us to be fresh and energetic.

  2. I love this! My son goes to preschool two mornings a week and I work with him the inbetween nights. These are some really basic, practical instructions. I think he’ll like choosing a different spot in the house to do his ‘schoolwork’.
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  3. Your multiple personalities sound like mine. 🙂 These are great ideas.

  4. Haha, just cleaned the school space (with some very supportive Mother-in-law help!) and loved reading this….
    We live in the Southern Hemisphere, but I still want summer break to last longer.
    We start our school year in January and I always find it hard to get going when we just “have to” have one more beach day! But this is inspiring – I think we will have to try and take school to the beach.

  5. Perfect! I thought I was the only one with all those voices in my head.
    I was a public school teacher before I had kids. Now we homeschool with a Charlotte Mason approach. We also live in the boonies where time just isn’t the same as it was in the city. And I wonder if the kids are too young and Saxon is, well, Saxon, and you can imagine all my competing thoughts!
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  6. I needed this post! Thank you! It totally can get pretty dreary in Oregon, especially without the snow that doesn’t usually come see us in Oregon City!

  7. Thank you for being honest! I too have these same feelings and thoughts, probably way more than I care to admit. At this time of year, I am restructuring and evaluating some things that may need to change. With a 9 and 7 year old doing school and a 3 1/2 and 1 year old getting into everything, sometimes it does get a little overwhelming. Our upstairs schoolroom had become quite a mess, but as we were hosting our family for Christmas it was the perfect time to get it cleaned up and it already feels so much better. Now, I can start preparing for the New Year when we start back with our school schedule. A few weeks ago, we had some pretty cold weather (for Central Texas, it was cold) so we decided to bring the book downstairs to be near the fireplace. The coziness and change seemed to be what we needed the last couple of weeks before we took a break for Christmas. Thank you for this post.

  8. I found last year was SOOOO hard to get started, so I let my daughter pick a week long unit study to do the first week back. We’re doing a Chocolate unit study!!!!

  9. So loved this post! Thank you for sharing. 🙂 I thought I was crazy or perhaps more confused than I should be because I have those conflicting voices in my head, too. 😉
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  10. The cleaning idea is a good one.
    We ease back into school after Christmas holiday. I try and add variety to our days rather than focusing on “desk” work. I shoot for things like unplanned, local 1/2 day field trip, long walks on warm sunny afternoons and home economics – spending the afternoon working together to make freezer meals. All of these things are learning opportunities as well and I think its helps us here in the dark, cold winters in PA to be a little more active.

  11. Those all were my thoughts exactly! This winter break I am adding a few things to the school room that I haven’t had time to tackle, make and create. I am hoping those fun little changes can get us to Spring break 😉 What a fun time of life we are in with our littles and their schooling! And I love the wisdom of your Mom, she is such an inspiration!

  12. YOU ARE RAD!!!!!!!! Needed this so very, very, very much right now!!

  13. Sometimes this time of year is when I lose my patience the most because I don’t want to do school either and don’t seem to have all the patience tools in my belt to handle the lack of enthusiasm from my kids too. It was this time last Lear that I wrote “When Mommy Grew a 2nd HEAD”. Check it out on amazon. Here’s to hoping we can heed your advice Kari and find ways to get back to it with the right attitude.

  14. Thank you for this post! I can relate to a lot of what you said, but had one more to add: I have started to think about new curriculum… Trying to decide if what we are doing is working or if I should have a little more guidance. I guess the excitement and newness has worn off and now planning a new step seems like way too much work. Thanks again for your honesty!

  15. I think as a homeschooling mom it is totally normal to have those voices in your head LOL! Here in Puerto Rico is not cold and we have the longest Christmas (until January 6 or more). Thanks for sharing these really helpful tips, they will certainly come in-handy. Have a wonderful new year!
    Giselle’s latest post: How To Teach My Child To Read

  16. This is a great post, and totally sums me up right now! Right down to the conflicting voices. Thank you for the ideas on how to get back into the swing of things!

  17. I have horrible seasonal depression and so in these grey months I often struggle with the desire to do school. I am lucky though and so far my kids remain enthusiastic for school and seeing them excited to learn gives me reason to go on. We school year round too so we can take a break when we feel we need one. Thanks for sharing this, it is nice to know I am not the only one who feels like I just want to take a month where we go on a field trip everyday!!
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  18. Great article & perspective! I suspect many of us are struggling with motivation right now. I am both motivated & a little stressed b/c we recently moved from one state to another & I just had to notify our local school district with a plan of instruction/curriculum & will have to put together a portfolio for the first time to be reviewed in June! I am a former teacher & trust it will work out, just trying to get my boys motivated to do what I know they are capable of

  19. Thanks for sharing. This is my first year Homeschooling and it’s been interesting but definitely struggling with those thoughts. Very helpful reading all your thoughts

  20. Kathy Hartman says:

    My school room looked like a library . All of the clutter made me not want to be in there . The books distracted me . So my husband and I moved all of the books to the hall upstairs . We put a couch in this room and prettied it up a little . Now the stress is greatly reduced .The walls are painted my favorite color . I put a lamp in 3 corners. I believe we will enjoy having school in here. Needless to say a lot of cleaning took place . I am REALLY enjoying this time off , but also feel ready for school to start in a more peaceful atmosphere. P.S Another thing that really got me thinking about the distractions of books, was walking in to a public school room with a friend’s kids. There was SOOOO much on the walls and in every corner that I wondered how any child could concentrate. So then I thought about my house and how I could make it better for my distracted students .

  21. Thanks for posting…really needed to read this right now.

  22. This is our first year homeschooling… And I have spent the last 3 weeks debating putting them back in school after Christmas break. This was refreshing to hear, knowing that I am not the only one and it doesn’t mean I have failed at this endeavor! I will press on… with a few tweaks to the system 🙂

  23. This was so funny! And true! This is our first year homeschooling our 8 year old daughter and after Holidays seem to be the hardest! I find that not letting her be on break as her public school buddies works best for us. There seems to be less of a struggle if the time away from learning is less. And., for the record., I ALWAYS feel this way when it comes to MATH!!! yick. 🙂

  24. Those voices!! I have them too! 🙂

  25. I love your post…it’s like you are reading my mind! I was chuckling quietly to myself while reading this. Great to know my emotions and experienced are shared by others. I’m glad to have read this because your suggestions confirm my thoughts on how to get ready for the second half of the year. In fact, today I will tackle my desk! That alone will help get me ready to start again next week. Thank you for sharing your experience and your wisdom.

  26. Thanks for this! I’m homeschooling my last child of six and he is now 16! I get tired and weary! I know I will be doing some cleaning of our school stuff!

  27. I really needed to read this. I am in my first year of homeschooling my 10-year-old son, and up until about mid-November, I was loving it. I planned a big medieval feast for our co-op, and after that, I was burnt out. In the past couple weeks, I’ve been having thoughts of putting him back in public school or maybe our local Christian school, but this definitely helped me realize I am not alone. One of the things I am tweaking is history and science curriculum.
    I decided to use a curriculum that my friend (with homeschooling experience) suggested. While it is an *awesome* curriculum that incorporates a variety of subjects, it is a curriculum that requires a lot of planning and gathering of resources and materials on my part. It took me a while to admit that I needed to do something simpler that was a little more planned out for me, and I will supplement with the hands-on ideas from the curriculum I originally used. I am hoping this adjustment is what I need to make me feel less overwhelmed! =)

  28. Thank you so much for this! I’m a first year home school mom and I was just telling my husband last night, that I was feeling like this. Exactly as you described! My son (usually super excited about school) is already saying “do we have to?” I’m going to try your tips to get us motivated again! I was just happy to know I’m not the only one feeling like this! Thanks again!!!! 🙂

  29. Cleaning up a bit, especially between holidays, always helps me! It keeps me from feeling overwhelmed with everything that has been displaced (thanks to my OCD) and helps motivate me more to get on with the daily schedule. The holiday season can make it so hard to stay motivated, because as you said, all you want to do is just sip cocoa, wrap in a blanket, and read.
    Homeschool Literature’s latest post: New Release: Little Bunny’s Own Storybook

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