Homeschooling while in the Winter Rut

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We’ve all felt it.

Is he ever going to learn to read? Will she ever be able to grasp this grammar concept?Are these narrations ever going to lead to productive writing? Will my child ever learn how place value works so we can finally move on to double digit addition? Will my child ever do this chore right? Will my child ever go in the potty by himself?

Even I, a homeschooling mom of 7 years, still face these questions daily. I get frustrated, discouraged, and sometimes even panic especially as high school draws ever closer for my oldest son.

Will a dark winter season of homeschooling ever bear the hopeful sight of spring shoots?

This question weighs heavy as I wait out winter for the first signs of spring. Even as I sit here and type in the darkness of the last of winter mornings, I hear a bird chirping and my heart unexpectedly swells with joy. SPRING! The days may still be cold, the mornings may still be dark but hearing that first chirp is a very tangible reminder for me that darkness will quickly wane into the light of the sun kissing me awake and the feel of fresh breezes caressing my sleepy cheeks through open windows left open at night.

It is the same in homeschooling. It is in small, unexpected moments that I see growth, new shoots of understanding, and full blossoming of ideas that make my heart swell with joy as the tiny buds of learning unfurl.

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I found this poem. Just randomly penned in the middle of a notebook as I was looking for paper to write down some notes of my own.

Winter

Winter

With its cold, black claws

It freezes your face into nothing

And on your face

It feels like a saw

I sat there and read and then reread these words written by my, then, 9 year old daughter. I didn’t teach this. We didn’t have “poetry day” that ended up with this sweet little poem in her language arts notebook. I didn’t plan a day on reading winter poetry (although that does sound nice, come to think of it) and then have a creative writing session.

This poem sprung up on it’s own out of the fertile soil of her own mind.

I’ve watched this play out with other children too. This week I’ve watched my eight year old son finally make a leap with reading that I thought might never come. I heard about my twelve year old son talking logical fallacies with the elders from his pop’s church and have them flabbergasted that he could carry on an adult conversation on a topic they did not learn until college. My three year old boy is finally getting this whole potty thing. To me this is not bragging, it is celebrating. It is recognizing those moments when we see our kids blossoming into the fruit of our labor.

It is good for each of us homeschool mothers to search this out in our kids…to look for those tender shoots to emerge from the minds of our children.  Simply Charlotte Mason reminds us that,

“Children learn in order to grow, not just to know. And just as a winter woodland scene can appear to be bleak, so we go through some seasons with our children when we don’t see evidence of growth.”

But how do we remember this in the midst of our own seasons of winter?

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Consistency. We hear this word all the time right? With parenting, potty training, schooling, disciplining. But it’s true. A little bit consistently over the year will do more then the most planned out, well put together pinterest board on anything. This is true because we are there for them over and over and over again. It feels rough because being there everyday means we see all the mistakes, all the failures. Sometimes I like to beat myself up about not finishing that perfectly planned out pinterest – onenote- evernote board. We didn’t get to all the books. We didn’t finish all the assignments. We didn’t watch all the movies or youtube clips. But I sometimes (okay, a lot of times) forget that we did DO. Everyday. And all this doing adds up to a lot of fertile, nutrient-dense soil for learning to grow in.

Strewing. Strewing allows us to continually put a feast of ideas in front of our children. This is a natural carry-over of being consistent. It is not bad to plan. Planning allows us to allow for strewing. We may not have read every book I wanted to read by week’s end but one of my children will have, unprompted, picked up some book from some basket and read just because. Sometimes we don’t get to all my video clips I’d like to watch but one of my children will have picked up something just from me previewing during my planning stage. One day your daughter will walk downstairs and request the next Life of Fred book because she just finished the first and is dying to know where the story went and you didn’t even know she was interested in the Life of Fred books, let alone reading them. But here they were sitting around our house waiting for a child to discover their wonderfulness. While we must continue to set goals and design the track we want our school days to run on, I find that strewing sometimes blossoms into the most beautiful moments of unplanned learning.

Look at Past Growth Patterns. Simply Charlotte Mason reminds us that we don’t panic when the trees drop their leaves and appear to die in the winter. The reason we don’t is because we know from past experience that spring will come again.

“Just as we have grown accustomed to the cycle of the seasons in nature—spring turns to summer and fall and then winter,— so we must grow accustomed to growth seasons in educating.” 

Growth will reappear and always when we are least expecting it. Ever watch your children walk outside on a cold, bleak winter’s day and go completely ecstatic over finding the first sign of spring grass poking through the bleak, barren, brown landscape? Then walk outside the next day and almost, as if overnight, the whole yard is dotted with the first signs of green. The growth appears almost instantaneously.

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Rest is Required. We must also remind ourselves that winter is a season of rest. We may not see growth but that is because resting provides the perfect environment for absorbing. We only have to look at nature for this.  Consider what the Colorado State University Extension has to say about roots in the winter:

The root system of a tree performs many vital functions. In winter, it is a store-house for essential food reserves needed by the tree to produce spring foliage. Roots absorb and transport water and minerals from the soil to the rest of the tree. Roots also anchor the portion of the tree above ground. It is important to keep the portion above ground healthy to ensure an adequate food supply for the roots to continue their important functions.”

Did you catch that? Winter is a time to store up. When we are consistent, we daily feed our child with the academic nutrients that they need. But they need time to be absorbed and sometimes that is best done during seasons of rest. For us as homeschool moms that means we need to ensure two things. First, that we don’t get discouraged during what seems like a season of not getting it. We need to be confident that they are still absorbing and all that information will be used in a season of spring growth when everything will just click. Second, we need to remember to give intentional times of rest. This may be a much needed school break for the holidays, the summer, or just because. It can also come in the form of taking a break from a subject that has been causing stress. I’ve had to do this with two different children who were struggling with reading. Even just a couple of weeks break provides a jump in their ability that forcing twice as much studying never would’ve done. REST. It’s okay!

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Enjoy the current season. One of my favorite things about homeschooling in the winter is the ability to enjoy its beauty. If I’m not having to get my children up in the dark of the morning, rush to get something warm in our bellies, bundle kids up and scrape icy windows or shovel driveway snow then I can look around me and appreciate the softly falling snow or the perfectly formed ice crystals on the window pane.

Not only can we very tangibly enjoy the actual season of winter (can anyone say pajamas and hot cocoa while doing phonics?), we can choose to see the beauty in our own seasons of winter for a particular child’s learning difficulties. Instead of sweating over the fact that this child is working on the same phonics sound for literally the 100th time, focus on the fact that he is home with you snuggled on the couch feeling safe and secure in his mother’s arms. Instead of getting frustrated over your child’s blank stare at the same math concept you’ve been studying for weeks upon weeks, focus on the fact that you get to be the one to build her up with words of encouragement. Or focus on you, the mother, who knows your child SO well that you get to slow down, speed up, or stay put as needed because you have the freedom to decide as teacher. Enjoy library days, field trips, arts and crafts and the fact that you can kiss, hug, snuggle, or high-five your child without a school administration sending you the memo on inappropriate teacher-student contact!

The homeschooling season, in and of itself, will be a short season of your life’s journey. So let’s get out of our winter rut and start enjoying the process again. It will be spring soon enough. You WILL see growth…new life…out your cold window pane and inside your child’s warm heart.

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2 thoughts on “Homeschooling while in the Winter Rut

  1. After reading these precious words from my grandchildren’s teacher, I am reminded how much she is loved by all of our family. She has inspired the children to find God in their surroundings. She teaches them, she disciplines them, she encourages them,…she loves them unconditionally. They are jewels she facets each day to find their utmost shining brilliance. They have complex and simple understanding because of her. They have a desire to learn and they share their knowledge with Pop & I when we are together. She shines within them and her influences make them a blessing to all of us. Yes, you are their teacher, sweet Amy Kathleen. But first and foremost, you are their mother and our beloved daughter. Our son fell in love with your first. We fell in love with you immediately afterward. Now, as each new grandchild comes into the world and under your spell, we fall in love with you all over, again. God bless you for taking this challenge upon yourself to teach them scholastically, and for teaching them lovingly through our Lord. We never cease thanking God for you. Love, your other Mom.

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