Everyone wants to quit in November and February


Written by contributor Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy

Before we even began homeschooling, I had the good fortune to hear Susan Wise Bauer’s warning: “Everyone wants to quit in November and February.”

Time has proven her right: these are the months when I feel like we’re just slogging through it, far from the excitement of the semester’s beginning or the relief of its end.

And these are the months when the days are cold and the nights are long, without the sparkle of the holidays. It’s easy to get sick, busy, or just plain stir-crazy.

November and February might not be easy months, but I can survive them a little better if I take the following precautions.

1. Take good care of yourself and your kids.

During these months, I have to remember to take care of my body the best way I know how. (This is the easiest way to make these months better, and the one I’m most likely to skip. Not this year.)

We all know what it takes: eat healthy food, take your vitamins, get some exercise, prioritize sleep.

My kids don’t mind the cold — they love to bundle up and head outside to get some sunshine — but I have to make myself go along, knowing I’m happier when I do.

(If you crave daylight like I do, think about trying a therapy lamp. I waited way too long to give this a try, but I’ve had better winters since I started using one every morning.)

2. Take a break if you need to.

I need to remember that homeschooling is not an endurance contest, and the ability to take breaks as needed is a strategic tool in my toolkit. I shouldn’t be afraid to use it!

And whatever I do, I shouldn’t feel guilty about taking time off. Sometimes taking a step back is the best thing I can do, for my kids and for me.

hit the road

3. Hit the road.

If we’re already taking a break, we’ll consider a road trip. There’s lots to learn in other locales — near and far — and November and February are inexpensive times to travel.

The first year we homeschooled, we went to the beach in November. We took a week off school, soaked up some sunshine, and spent hours playing outside. 

The year after that, we spent the week before Thanksgiving in Chicago. Hotels were cheap, many museums were free, and the city was already decorated for Christmas. Yes, it was cold, but it was worth it.

Of course, even “inexpensive” travel is pricey, and that isn’t in our budget this year. Don’t worry, there are other options.

time to get creative

4. Mix it up.

Sometimes taking a break from our regular curriculum is as valuable as a full stop.

I’m dreaming about spending a week reading kid lit classics or doing science projects. We love to spend the whole morning at the bookstore, or the pet shop. My kids want to visit the zoo and the library and the children’s museum.

These are the months to break out those art supplies we don’t often use (and study some famous painters, if we’re feeling ambitious). We might listen to some new music, read up on composers, and watch Swan Lake on DVD. We’ll bake, play at the park, hike a few trails.

What does your family like to do?  These are the months to do it — during school hours.

5. Know you’re not alone.

It was enormously encouraging for me to hear — in advance — that when I felt like quitting, it wasn’t because I was doing this homeschooling thing wrong, and it wasn’t because we’d made a terrible decision to pull our kids out of regular school.

Some months are just hard. If you know that going in, you can prepare accordingly.

How does your family get through November and February?

Originally published on November 13, 2013

About Anne Bogel

Anne is a certified bookworm and homeschooling mom to 4 crazy kids. She loves Jane Austen, strong coffee, the social graces and social media. You can find her blogging at Modern Mrs Darcy.


  1. I haven’t gotten burned out yet this year, but I do feel the winter blues affecting my personal goals. I bought a happy light a couple of years ago and it was a great investment. I have to remember to take my Fermented Cod Liver Oil to make sure I get enough Vitamin D.
    Carrie’s latest post: Do You Get Winter Blues?

  2. Exactly what I needed to hear today! I’ve been frustrated for the last week or so, unable to motivate my 8 year old son to do anything productive. We’ll definitely be mixing it up today!

  3. Thank goodness I’m not the only one! This is exactly what I needed to hear today. I have already thought about putting my 6 and 8 year old girls back in school several times this week. This too shall pass, right? I’ll be more prepared for “breakdowns” in February now that I’ve read this. Thanks so much!

  4. Thank you so much for this, trying to school my girls and work part time is taking a huge toll on all of us. I have seriously doubted that I can even do this and just want to put them back in school knowing that certainly won’t fix anything. Right now we are just trying to get the generals in until December then we will do some fun unit things, and then I will be FREE no more work and hopefully our moods will be better equipped for learning.

  5. Could not agree more! Great advice!

  6. Oh, good I was starting to worry. I feel like a field trip is definitely in order here soon! I so appreciate your insight. Now I can be on the lookout come February. Thanks!
    Rita’s latest post: Kyle’s Great Grandma’s Pumpkin Cookies

  7. Wow! This week I was just feeling overwhelmed. I have dirty walls, dirty floors, clutter coming out of every crack and crevice. I feel disorganized and out of control. It’s just been a rough past year and I haven’t been able to keep up like normal. I think the guilt is weighing on me. My kids happened to be particularly independant and motivated the other day but tears welled up in my eyes as I sat at the table with them secretly envying mothers who send their children off. I just can’t seem to catch up! I really wanted to throw in the towel and I’ve been homeschooling for 6+ years.

    • Rawne, I feel for you! I’m in the same place and I’ve homeschooled for 18 years. Sigh. So, read this post again and figure out which of the helps might work for your situation. One of the things I’m doing to help sort it all out is choosing one big project to work on almost every afternoon till it gets done – maybe just 1/2 an hour or an hour a day, plugging away till I feel like I’m getting the chaos under control. Hang in there and do not become weary in doing well.
      Kim’s latest post: Hello, Again!

    • Rawne, I definitely have those “overwhelmed” days, too. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’d like to think all homeschooling parents do! Sincerely hoping you all hit your stride again soon.
      Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy’s latest post: What’s on YOUR bookshelf? (a link-up!)

  8. I’d have to say November and August here in Texas. February is actually sort of pleasant and our spring is early, too. In August, though, when it’s like 900 degrees and we stay inside because it’s too hot and bright, that’s when ye old cabin fever sets in. And, oh, how awful it is. (Love this post. Thanks so much for your wisdom.)
    Pamela Price (@redwhiteandgrew)’s latest post: Dear Parents: Here’s How to Survive & Thrive at the Holidays

  9. Oh boy, did I need to read this! This is my first FULL year of homeschooling. Last year I had a nightmare of a time with my son–he was three, and I don’t think I fully grasped his learning style as I was desperately trying to follow a curriculum I bought. So this year has been really great, but all of a sudden this week, I just felt blah. I kept thinking, “I just don’t want to do this anymore…” So these were very encouraging words with some great suggestions.

    • Tristine, I’m so glad to hear that. And by the way, I completely relate to what you said about starting out–when we first started homeschooling, I tried so hard to follow the “rules” of the curriculum I’d chosen, until I finally realized it was a terrible fit for my child! I’m glad for your all’s sake that you’re realizing that relatively early in the first year–I’m afraid it took me a lot longer than that. 🙂
      Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy’s latest post: What’s on YOUR bookshelf? (a link-up!)

  10. So good, Anne! And this is most definitely true for me. It’s around this time of year when I just put in time, ploughing through the routine—and then take a nice, much-needed Thanksgiving break. With anticipation that we will take ALMOST A MONTH OFF in December. Homeschooling for the win.
    Tsh Oxenreider’s latest post: DIY Autumn decor: fabric leaf tree

  11. Literally started crying just reading the title. Its so true!!!
    Jennifer Charboneau’s latest post: Holiday Survival Guide for Parents of Gifted Children

  12. Loved reading this. My first year homeschooling and I always wonder if I’m doing it right. Or will she fall behind and it will be my fault. Some days are tough.

  13. Good stuff! We are just gong to be starting our homeschool journey later this month, so I am bookmarking this for February!

    Thanks Anne!

  14. I needed this today. I’ve been giving myself grace and allowing a nap time for myself!
    Amy’s latest post: Yes, You Could Do That

  15. February has always been the hardest for us. I try and plan one weekend getaway to a new place and in January I start a new school subject, activity, or project. This brings the excitement back a little. Last January we started Spanish and this year maybe typing or water colors.

  16. We’re in that funk right now! I love how you said not to feel guilty about it. I think giving us a little bit of time to breathe and recenter is just what we need to feel rejuvenated.

  17. Perfect timing-I gave each of my kids a choice on what “day off” they would like last week ( we do school Mon-Fri). Each picked a different day and just kicked back but no electronics till our normal time. Felt like we really needed to mix it up and the kids appreciated it, as well as me 😉

  18. November is a great time to collect leaves for art projects and for baking- we have pumpkin bread in the oven as I write this. Breaking away from the curriculum for holiday-oriented activities is fun; sometimes curriculum can actually coincide with this time of year. Next week we’ll be doing a unit study on budgeting money and stewardship, so the last day before break we’ll watch A Christmas Carol (that old Scrooge budgets a little TOO much). Then we’ll be off for 6 Weeks because we school year-round. Because of this, February isn’t too bad because we’ve had some time off. February is also the time that we stock up on art supplies and buy books for next year, so that adds some fun, too!

  19. When I was teaching, November was still fresh but February was always, always hard. I was ready for winter to be over, the fact that the month was short meant I was looking for it to be over quickly when in reality it went on and on. Once March arrived, with the promise of spring, I was able to get back in the groove.

    I’ve never really heard anyone else talk of this and can’t help but think this would have encouraged me to hear back in my teaching days.
    Caroline Starr Rose’s latest post: Those Pretty, Pretty Numbers

  20. At least its only November and February. Kids in real school want to quite many more months than that (their parents don’t even want to quit that in the summer)

  21. Just read this right after starting the registration process to put my girls (9 and 7) back in school at our local Waldorf school. It’s such a sweet school and they went there for 2 years…I was hopeful about homeschooling and it was actually working out really well with the girls for the most part, but we’re having a VERY difficult time with our 3 year old son in the mix …it has proven to be too much for our family. I’m either homeschooling and getting NOTHING ELSE done (like, we don’t have groceries, I have no time to cook, etc…all the important things) OR we don’t get homeschooling done. I wish I could say this has to do with just November, but I think for us we need to reconsider homeschooling and maybe try it again when our 3 year old is older. Either way though, I really appreciated reading this post knowing I’m not the only one!

    • Have you thought about maybe putting your son into preschool there a couple of mornings a week and keeping your daughters home? I know having a toddler in the picture totally makes things challenging, but that might be enough breathing space to let you feel like you’re more in balance – just a thought! I know Waldorf schools are so lovely for preschool. We have one around the corner from us here.
      Jamie~Simple Homeschool’s latest post: Everyone wants to quit in November and February

    • I homeschool 7 kids and have a baby, a 2yr old, and a 3 year old. I was having a tough time because of the little ones this year and started reading about more relaxed homeschooling. While I’m far from unschooling, I’m far less concerned about finishing every page of a curriculum, and I try to do activities the younger ones can participate in. I’ve set aside times where the kids and I will do housekeeping chores (3x a day), and I have specific times that meals are made. My house is far from perfect but is clean enough for my husband when he gets home from work. It’s okay to watch a movie or documentary sometimes. It’s also okay on those hectic days to let the kids just play. This is when discovery learning takes place! I just wanted to encourage you if you’re having second thoughts about sending them to school. Best wishes!

    • Oh, I hear you today, and for the past few weeks as well! I have a 2.5, 7 and 9 y/o. I struggle with when to do school because if we wait until naptime (which doesn’t always happen) I get unmotivated. I so needed to hear about November and February. I am worried here in MN it will be from now until April. I am feeling really scared!

    • My youngest turned 3 in January, and I’m honestly not sure how I could have homeschooled if we didn’t have some teenage help to play trains with him and read him stories so I could focus for more than 45 seconds at a time on math for 3 grade schoolers! Six months later, our home was much, much calmer. Of course every kid and every family is different, but I’m amazed at how much calmer things are now that he’s closer to 3 than 4. Hoping that things settle down for you too–regardless of what you decide to do for school.
      Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy’s latest post: Everyone wants to quit in November and February

    • My youngest is 2.5 and I have him in a delightful Montessori school a few mornings a week. The grandparents help out some on the other mornings. Getting him out of the mix to get some serious school done with my 8 and 7 year olds makes me feel so much more productive.

  22. Thank you for this big permission slip to rest, breathe, pause and shift. Right now my kids are playing happily together (Happily. Playing. Together). Lessons abandoned. Sibling collaboration feels like its own lesson for today.
    Rachel @ 6512 and growing’s latest post: the cycle

  23. This is exactly what I needed to hear!!! I have been feeling very burnt out this month and couldn’t figure out why. I am glad to hear I am not the only one and that this too shall pass.

  24. Love this. Well, I can’t say that I want to quit homeschooling in November, but typically do go fairly unschooly for the holiday season. If you can’t deal with school, plan a party. : )

    Now February, that’s a whole other story. I’m actually creating a retreat right now called Thriving! in the Doldrums. Those long dark months are challenging to a homeschooler’s heart. Swan lake sounds like love therapy though.

    I’m also a huge fan of Melissa Wiley’s Tidal schooling series. http://melissawiley.com/blog/2007/11/16/the-tidal-homeschooling-master-list/ Must read during those dark days….and light days too.


    Ann Brady’s latest post: Call to Enthusiasm. Let me see your homeschool light shine.

  25. Hi, Anne. Great tips. So wise to listen to those who have gone before. I just started formal homeschooling with my 5yo this year, and I haven’t experienced a slump yet. I believe this is because my nesting instinct is full gear, and my motivation is high for getting things done. I suppose that will pay off when baby comes in January, and we take a break for a while. Right now, it’s: “do all the things!” (picture that funny stick woman yelling it out). Ask me again in February! Ha! 🙂

  26. Jamie,
    Thanks for your thoughts! Last year was our 1st year homeschooling (3rd grade, Kindergarten and he was 2 years old) and I felt like I was at the end of my rope at the end of every day. This year he actually IS in preschool T, W and Th so we thought that would bring more balance and it would also keep us homeschooling. It has DEFINITELY helped, but things are still much more challenging than I ever thought they would be (he is one of those 3 year olds where everything is a battle-from socks to shoes to tags to not playing at all with toys (except he plays so beautifully at others’ homes or at preschool! He’s an angel everywhere except for at home…LOL…) I’m trying to “cram” homeschooling in 3 days a week while he is at preschool and that part goes well, but it is all we do(so nothing else gets done.) I would love to be the mom who incorporates learning into our everyday lives so homeschooling flows more through the day, but with his temperament it has not been possible despite our efforts! Hoping this is just a season and the fact that he is 3 🙂

    • Three is tough! At least it’s always been tough around here. (Three is charming and adorable and delightful, too, but “tough” is definitely the defining adjective many days!)
      Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy’s latest post: Everyone wants to quit in November and February

    • My, now 4 yr. old, is the exact same temperment. Very challenging at every step of the day. He is in preschool 2 days and I feel like we try and cram everything into those times and too wish I could create a more flowing “learning all the time” atmosphere in our home. When he is home he gets very angry when we try to do school things. He does not want his own things to do, just wants my undivided attention. One new thing I decided to try is doing more hands on learning type experiences the mornings he is not at preschool like baking, sewing, field trips, going to story hour, craft projects, etc. and then doing more sit down school work once dad is home in the evening and able to either play with him or help with school work while I give him a little one on one time. And I would echo Anne’s sentiments about 3 being tough! But I will say that we have watched our challenging 3 yr. old become more even keeled the longer he is 4. Hang in there!

  27. I love the idea of switching gears for a week. There are days when I feel like if I have to say the definition of a pronoun again I might die. A week of lazy bookstore mornings and other outings might be just what we need!

  28. I do agree that August in the Deep South is really horrid. I have yet to meet a mom who schedules afternoon playmates in August (and sometimes even September). The humidity makes breathing hard for anyone and it’s just terribly oppressive. But as far as wellness and motivation (my oldest is not even three yet), I totally agree with November and February.

    Thanks Anne! I will keep my chin up when we start homeschooling in a few years. 🙂
    Suzette @ jambalaya’s latest post: Five Favorites

  29. I feel so much better reading all of you posts. Thank you!

  30. Heather Dunham says:

    This is spot on. This year, for myriad reasons, it seems like finding our rhythm is taking forever and I look at the calendar and start to panic. Plus, in Maine, it’s cold now! Then, I remember to breathe. I remember that education isn’t all about a curriculum and that sometimes just living as a family in the moment is all that is needed.

  31. This is my first year homeschooling ( my kids are third grade, first grade, a very busy, active, impulsive 5 year old, 2.5 year old and 4 month old), so I haven’t survived a February yet. However, I absolutely adore the Olympics. Love, love, love them! So I am planning to completely ditch our regular curriculum and try to plan a lose unit study around the Olympics for those entire two weeks. Watching them, of course, but also studying the history behind the games, learning about the sports, the countries, etc. Graphing the wins, writing a newspaper about the event. Making recipes from the different countries. Crafts and lots and lots of library books. I absolutely cannot wait!

    I know the Winter Olympics only comes around every 4 years. But if this works well to keep is out of a slump, maybe we can do this every year with a differnt topic.

  32. Thank you so much for this post! We have been having a difficult week, no one is feeling very well and though we could be doing school we just haven’t felt up to it. I was feeling like a failure for not forcing us to do our lessons! Thank you for reminding me it is okay to stop and focus on other things when we need to!
    danielle drown’s latest post: Have I become a granola crunchin’dirty hippie momma?

  33. Oh my gosh… I sooo needed this post. We’re in our second year of homeschooling and I do not regret that decision for one teeny tiny second, but some days (or weeks!) I think I’m going to lose my mind and I wonder how on earth we’ll continue this for the next ten years or so. LOL!

    Thanks for some perspective and some great ideas. It makes me feel like I’m not alone! 🙂

  34. I loved this post the first time I read it, and I loved it again today. We take care of ourselves by taking December off of “regular subjects.” Crazy I know. A whole month or even six weeks of no school, but it really breaks up our winter. We also have “Grace days” My kids can ask for them or I can claim them. A grace day is where we take a break and try and focus on doing something we will all enjoy together, be it playing with Lego’s or diving into a new chapter book. We may even plan an impromptu field trip. The point is taking time to remember we love home school and we love each other.
    Rita’s latest post: Finding Gratitude and Grace In Motherhood

  35. I’m so happy I read this before we start homeschooling next year! I’ll remember it, too, come November 2015. 🙂

  36. Totally agree. They are the best months to go. MIs kids have changed schools last year. And we travel in February.

    Regards. Mar Villas

  37. I have a new one to add! Have a baby that month! We have a new one in the house as of last weekend that really shakes things up! Science is really easy as you field questions of how the baby gets out of mom’s tummy! And Dad is doing school for the week! Love it!

  38. I felt exactly completely discouraged today and your post expressed how I felt exactly.
    My only remaining issue is that I DO feel guilty for not following our usual schedule bc I’m so worried the kids are behind anyway. They’re 9, 7, 4 and 2. We do a set curriculum in the mornings and learning through crafts/cooking/chores/friends/outings in the afternoons. At the moment my kids are reluctant to do the curriculum and everyone’s advice is to let it go for a while but as I said I’m really worried they’re behind already so letting go feels scary.

    • God bless you, Mia! I think we’ve all been there at at least one time or another. My recommendation would by checking out A Thomas Jefferson Education if you haven’t already done so: http://www.tjed.org It could be the philosophy-shift that gives you a little freedom and breathing room. Take good care!

    • Shaunte O. says:

      Thanks for posting this…I don’t feel like giving up, but feel stressed….this is our first year and my 6th grader started out rough then got into the groove and now has reverted back last week. He is taking way to much time to do his studies and its driving me nuts. I to just like Mia feel that if we don’t follow our “schedule” then he/they will fall behind. My 1st grader is loving homeschool, he gets started right away and gets things done. I don’t know if its because my 6th grader spent 5 yrs in public school or what…..

  39. We’ve handling it this month by sewing Christmas decorations, ready for when the tree goes up in December. It’s productive-ish but a nice change of pace from the usual. Napping (when I can sneak it in) is pretty helpful too 😉
    Erin D’s latest post: The Dreaded “Should”s – AKA don’t beat yourself up, Mom

  40. I just enrolled my son in public school kindergarten after homeschooling him for the first half of the year. I felt compelled to make this decision because he had a few acquaintances, but not any friends he saw on a daily basis. Driving 30-45 minutes to actives isn’t very practical either. It’s unfortunate that in public, most homeschoolers obsessively talk about how socialized their kids are. I’ve found that behind closed doors, many of them worry that their kids haven’t really made any close friends. Also, I felt it was unfair to say homeschooling was a better option than public school when my son had never been to public school. By trying out both options, one will likely emerge as better, and we can make a more educated decision about schooling options after he has actually tried them.

    You can read my post about our decision to quit homeschooling at http://lisabrowndesign.blogspot.com/2014/12/from-homeschool-to-public-school.html
    Lisa Brown’s latest post: The New Year, Book Clubs & The Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge

    • I understand where you’re coming from on the socialization side! This is our first year to homeschool (grades 2 & 5). It’s been a huge blessing…but we’ve had to work very hard to continue our girls’ friendships. And I don’t know that we’re doing it well. Just last week my 2nd-grader came downstairs after bedtime crying because she missed her friends. So we had a playdate this weekend! I know very few backwards, shy homeschoolers…but when your kids so only their siblings, day in and day out, they do miss out on those relationships! Yes, my girls are better friends than they’ve ever been…but they need other friendships too. Yes, they have friends at church, but they only see them twice a week. They are used to being surrounded by friends all day long in public school, and this is quite a change for them. We’re muddling through it, one day at a time!

  41. I’m so glad I came across this article today! I’m seriously thinking God led me here. We’re in our first year of homeschooling (grades 2 & 5 and I have an almost-3-year-old) and I work part-time. It’s been a huge blessing to us, and the girls are doing very well. But February is ALWAYS a tough month for me. Then a job change for my husband (a positive thing) has led to him being out of town for several days at a time, three weeks in a row, in February (a negative thing!). I’m really dreading it. I’m already trying to find small, fun things to do close by to help break up the monotony and gray days…but it helped to read this and know I’m not alone! I’ve not been very good at incorporating science into our days, but we’re way far ahead with spelling…so I was thinking about taking April off of spelling and doing Science intensively. After reading this article, I’m thinking about maybe doing that this month! Hands-on experiments sound really fun right now. Thanks for the encouragement!

  42. I have learned to take it easy in November. We school year-round and our best heads-down work is done in January and June-July. Fall seems like the right time to slow down for us, so I embrace it. We are doing minimal seated work. I love it.
    Purva Brown’s latest post: What Crossfit, Paleo and a Bicyclist Taught Me About Homeschooling

  43. Your article inspired me to think about how I like to avoid burnout! One of my favorite ways to avoid wanting to quit is to focus on learning more myself, especially by finding new ways to approach homeschooling.
    Melissa R Wolfe’s latest post: Avoiding Homeschool Burnout

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