How to deal with the winter homeschool blues

How to deal with the winter homeschool blues

Written by contributor Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Winter doldrums. Winter Blues. Cabin fever.

I was not going to write about this seasonal phenomenon because I’ve seen it mentioned on several other blogs recently. It’s been covered, right?

But I’ve been feeling a little blah myself lately. It hasn’t been as bad as I’ve experienced in the past, but enough to remind me that it’s something we all deal with…and I know a lot of moms have a worse case than I do.

So what causes the winter blues and how they be combated?

What causes winter doldrums?

Lack of sunshine

I think a big cause of the winter blues is simple lack of sunshine due to shorter, often cloudier days.

Studies have been done about Seasonal Affective Disorder and, while most of us probably don’t have full-blown SAD, it seems few of us escape some gloomy days, mid-winter, when we’re just ready for sunshine and spring.

Being cooped up inside

Another huge factor in the winter blues is the fact that we’re often stuck inside due to cold, snowy, or rainy weather.

Even introverts like me need to get out every now and then, so when we have those weeks in which it rains for days on end (we had 9 straight days of rain recently), I can feel myself getting edgy and moody.

Being so far from the beginning of school, but so far from the end

If you’re like me, you love homeschooling and can’t imagine any other way of life.

That being said, sometimes, around mid-year, you’ve lost the excited anticipation of the beginning of the school year, but the end of the school year – and summer break – still seem so far away.

School can start to feel like long, sunless, stuck-inside days of monotony.

Photo by Debra Shiray

How do you combat the winter blues?

Get outside

Getting fresh air can be vitally important to a person’s health and well-being. My family has discovered that “cold” isn’t necessarily “too cold” to be outside. As long as it’s above freezing (and you folks in colder climates can probably handle below freezing better than us Southern folks), we try to get outside. We’ve found that once we get moving it’s usually not as cold as we thought it would be.

I like to run outside at least once or twice a week. We also try to go to the local animal shelter to walk dogs at least once a week. It’s good for us and them.

Change things up

Last year, we completely changed curriculum in January. I’m not suggesting that everyone do that, but a big plus for us was that this January, we were ready for the next level in our curriculum. Starting the new stuff in January provided a little boost of that new school year excitement in the winter when we’re usually hitting a slump.

Even if you don’t want to make big changes, some little changes might be just the thing to add some fun into those dreary mid-winter days. This could be a great time to add some extracurricular studies, such as art, photography, or a foreign language.

Take a break

For the last couple of years, we’ve tried to take at least a week off in the early part of February. Even if we don’t plan anything exciting, it just gives everybody some time to look forward to doing something a little different.

Bring nature inside

Flowers make me happy…and, if they happen to be big, yellow sunflowers, that’s even better.

I often make it a point, during the winter, to make sure I’m keeping some pretty arrangements of cut flowers in the dining room where we spend the majority of the day. Thanks to greenhouses, I can enjoy a little bit of spring – in the form of fresh flowers – even in the dead of winter.

Just last week, I was feeling a little glum. I looked at my wall calendar, with its photo of those gorgeous yellow sunflowers I love, and realized that it was time for some fresh flowers. Sure enough, when I picked some up later that evening, they made me feel perkier and happier.

Get plenty of exercise

Exercise is a great mood enhancer. I’m a firm believer in getting 20-30 minutes of exercise every day, even if you don’t need to lose weight.

Exercise releases endorphins that improve mood, reduce stress, and help you sleep better (which also helps you feel better mentally). I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I’ve regretted a brisk walk, a few minutes on the stationary bike, or a good run.

The winter blues are probably not completely unavoidable, at least to some extent, but knowing some of the triggers and being armed with some techniques for combating them can help alleviate the majority of the symptoms.

Do you battle the winter blues? What coping techniques have you found to be effective?

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About Kris

Kris Bales is the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest voice behind Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She and her husband of over 25 years are parents to two amazing teens and a homeschool grad. Kris has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. She also seems intent on becoming the crazy cat lady long before she's old and alone.


  1. Before we started homeschooling, a wise woman told me that “EVERYBODY wants to quit in November and February.” Just knowing that feeling that way is normal and not a sign that we’re screwing everything up has been so very helpful to me!
    Since it’s February, thanks for this one!
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy’s latest post: Maybe I Should Read Less

  2. My doctor told me to take Vitamin D3 this winter, and I have to say, I really feel the difference. We haven’t gotten a lot of snow up until recently, but even so, I’ve been content to just be home. I haven’t felt those “winter doldrums” that always crop up for me come February.
    Tammy’s latest post: ~Felt + Glue Gun = Flowers~

  3. Yes – winter claustrophobia can set in if we’re not careful! We usually start our plant science units about this time – in fact we have things sprouting in jars on the window sill right now! We start planning our garden and make and hang bird feeders. And we find ways to play in the snow – and daily exercise and activity is a must with so many boys in our house – a family pass to the ice rink, creating a mini-gym in the basement, and today it is indoor rock climbing at the local college.
    Chris’s latest post: Imagination Regulation – The New Business of Schools

  4. I love this post because it’s such a real challenge. All these suggestions are practical ones that help me too. Exercise helps, getting outside (especially on those nicer days to start working in the garden), I have fresh flowers on our island right now. January was rough this year, but things are already looking up. Sometimes I have to remember to give myself some slack too and in January, if we’re climbing the walls or my husband’s working late again, or I’m just out of energy after a long day, I let the kids watch a movie or recorded pbs show at night and remind myself not to feel guilty about it. Sometimes in January, it’s all about surviving. 🙂
    Charity@TheHomeschoolExperiment’s latest post: { rest }

    • well-said! I agree! I love wintertime, but since having kids I find that I look forward to Spring and the days we can be outside in the sunshine. Long, hard winters will last for a short season … it’s hard to imagine going through winter and the kids not needing me to help them dress in their snowsuits or bundle them up for outings. I think being needed more by my children for these things zaps me some days.
      April Emery’s latest post: The Truth About Sports Drinks (And An Alternative Choice)

  5. For me, change is the best thing I can do. Whether it be changing subjects in school, the pace of school, or changing the scenary by going away. Something, it seems, must change, else everyone one in the house suffers! (if mama’s not happy and all that…..)
    Thanks for all the great ideas, although I’m thinking the running is still out of my league!!
    Claire’s latest post: Homeschool Blahs

  6. I just wrote a similar post. Right now making read-alouds a big focus helps a lot. Tossing curriculum that is not inspiring even though it cost money and planning time. Lots of weekly fresh books from the library for the book baskets. Pursuing interest-led topics
    Aimee’s latest post: The Sustainable Homeschool

  7. Oh I have this right now. I can’t wait for spring. Its VERY cold here and so that makes it hard. We go outside most days if we can. There is the odd day we simply should not, its that cold. The past few weeks- its eyes only showing. We can manage about 10-20 minutes (I have littles). The funniest thing was yesterday my 4 year old was crying about something and she then got upset because her tears froze on her eye lashes! 🙂
    Reading out loud lots here.

  8. Winter blues can affect anyone, even those of us who don’t homeschool. Thanks for these great tips! I used to buy fresh flowers this time of year to help lift my spirits; it’s high time I resume that practice!!
    Julia’s latest post: No Bake Gingerbread Smoothie

  9. Greetings! I agree with Tammy above ~ Vitamin D3 is AMAZING.
    I used to get the winter blues each year but not anymore at all now that I am taking
    Dr. Douillard liquid D3 drops (very economical and best quality). See his wonderful site filled with free articles on everything at Livingspa or google John Douillard.
    Vit..D3 (not 2) is not a vitamin at all but a vital hormone that has a receptor for each cell in our body. See The Vitamin D Revolution for more great info on the much needed supplement! If you want to be happy ~ take Vit D3.

    Always maintain only a joyful mind, – – Pema Chodrun

  10. Thank you so much for this post. It is well-timed. I have had an awful winter. I am not sure if it’s the homeschool blues as you describe of if it’s something else (burn-out, depression, fatigue, stress, etc) but I did find this article helpful in my life.

    I have considered taking a month off to just enjoy time with my kids without any agenda behind it. I think they can tell that mom “isn’t right” right now and I need to loosen up and laugh with them. Coming from a traditionally schooled background (K thru college) I am on a huge learning curve with homeschool (it’s my 2nd year). I have to keep reminding myself that IT’S OKAY to change things up mid-year … IT’S OKAY to take a break if I need to regroup … IT’S OKAY if our school time doesn’t look like anyone else’s. IT’S OKAY. 🙂

    Thanks again for your encouragement. It meant a lot to this mama today!
    April Emery’s latest post: The Truth About Sports Drinks (And An Alternative Choice)

    • Take some time off! Even just a week of something different can help. When I’ve felt like this I plan to take 1 week off and see if I feel ready to start back to school the next week. I’ve also found that in the week I take off I try to plan only 1 outing with the kids, 1 day to run errands, and try to stay home all the other days. We make one day a fun day at home and I take one day to spend time working on a project I want to do or just reading a book. Call your time off winter break and then skip spring break if you take a lot of tome off now 🙂
      Suanna’s latest post: In School This Week…

  11. So funny – you talk of winter blues but here in FL we suffer it in the summer when it is just too hot to be outside. We intentionally homeschool year round so we can enjoy the amazing weather we are having now in Feb instead of sitting at home in July with nothing to do. Stay warm!

    • Yes! I’m originally from Houston, where you don’t go out because it’s too hot in the summer. Moving up along the Mid-Atlantic has been quite the change. I have definitely had like a depression during lazy, hot summer months.

  12. I can relate to the things mentioned here and by April. I too am a second year homeschooling momma, having been public schooled k-college as well. I often find myself thinking I’m not doing enough, or that I shouldn’t change this now. I too am learning and are getting a bit better about it all. I recently changed our language curriculum to Michael clay Thompson after not being satisfied with anything we had seen or used. I was worried about changing mid year, but it will actually only take us half the year to finish the first level.
    Just this week I was having the blues as well. So we took the week off and have played, done some catching up on chores and just hung out. It has really helped! After reading this I don’t feel so bad.
    Reading the comments reminded me that I should take some vit D too, as my levels tested real low last winter too, and my doctor told me that it was from not getting outside much and that it was a big contributor to the winter blues.
    Thanks for helping make me feel better today. This couldn’t have come at a better time.
    Dianna’s latest post: Swag Bucks is a Great Way To Add To Your Savings

  13. I just experienced the winter homeschool blues. After much deliberation i decided to set aside my super structured curriculum. The one that was the same every day. And in the same order. I decided if i was going to fully enjoy this homeschool journey i was going to branch out and change things up a bit. Wow! Who knew… don’t have to do what they tell you every day for 170 lessons! Today after Bible & reading my little six year old created her own play. We rehearsed HER script & put the production on this evening for her Dad. That is one example of many. We are joyfully surviving mid year/ mid winter crisis and loving our schooling again! 🙂
    Kelly’s latest post: How to deal with the winter homeschool blues

  14. Exercise and Vit. D make a huge difference!
    Martha Artyomenko’s latest post: Menu for the week

  15. Be careful with Vitamin D, too much of it can be toxic. Always talk to your doctor before taking it.
    And just to add some information, D3 is animal based, whereas D2 is plant based (for vegans).

    Hope this helps!

  16. We do the same thing: the sun is shining… we are outside, in jackets, but outside!
    We also take breaks. Do lots of fun read out loud, or audio books, fun movies or tv series. and we DANCE a lot!! I have a dancing family. Everyone gets dressed up in their favorite outfit or tu-tu and we dance!!!

    for more of what we do to combat the winters blue, check out my blog. 🙂
    tereza crump aka mytreasuredcreations’s latest post: Learning Log of January 2013

  17. One of the perks of homeschooling is off-season vacations! We have often saved to allow for even a short weekend or one night get-away in February/early March. Here in cold snowy Michigan places such as indoor water park hotels have great winter specials.

  18. “Being so far from the beginning of the year and still nowhere close to the end” about sums it up. 🙁
    Purva Brown’s latest post: A Homeschooling Mom’s Burnout Journal

  19. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder so this was an issue for me for years. I first really noticed it after moving to North Carolina where they have four seasons. Now that I’m in Maryland it’s even worse. I have a light that seems to help. I also try to make my home feel extra special and cozy. I have also found that making a plan for each day helps me not to get the blahs. I’m planning to write a post about this… so there will be one more!!
    Sarah’s latest post: My KonMari Capsule Wardrobe

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