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Five Ways to Beat the Mid-Winter Blues

By Shelley Noonan
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #80, 2008.

Five ways to beat the blues during the short days of winter.
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Shelley Noonan

The Mid-Winter Blues are as real as the low-hanging January clouds, icy streets, and dirty snow. It can be described as a feeling of sluggishness, malaise, and lack of motivation. This annual malady strikes like the flu during the first weeks of January and lasts for the next three months of the year.

If this is your story, here's help. If not, here's help you can offer others who struggle to cope during this time.

Why Folks Get the Blues

Our family homeschooled for 13 years and I found the endless Nebraska winters to be brutal. For me, the first months of the year were the longest, hardest, most grueling and monotonous of the homeschooling year!

There are several reasons the blues hit many of us during this time. One obvious reason is as a natural response to the letdown after the holiday season; the first symptoms hit when the last ornament is put away. Or perhaps you are suffering from a more severe affliction called Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) that affects 10 million people. (If this is your problem, research shows that adding fish oil capsules to your diet, getting more exercise, and getting outside in the winter sun can help a lot!) But I think the sheer monotony of teaching reading, writing and 'rithmetic day after day just catches up with some of us. For such people, the hope of spring is a distant glimmer on the horizon.

Blues Buster

Often, I would respond to my annual Winter Doldrums like I didn't have a choice. For many years it seemed inevitable that I would feel the gray fog of lethargy surround those months and not give a thought to how to cure it. I looked at this occurrence as if it were a bad case of influenza that had to be endured. That attitude didn't help me, but I discovered one that did.

Here are five ways that you can beat the Mid-Winter Blues. Discover how the B-L-U-E-S can be good for you, by using them to provoke needed changes in your life.

B - Break the Routine

If what you are doing is not working for your family... why continue to do it and hope for things to get better? May I be blunt? That's crazy! As the famous quotation says, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Stop the insanity and break your routine. Do something different! Have school at a different time. Who says your school must be from 8:00 to 3:00? Start earlier, start later... rearrange your school time to what works for your family.

Here are some ideas:

  • Add "mini-courses" into your already established curriculum. Take a subject that you and your children enjoy and explore it thoroughly for a week or a month.

  • Move your classroom. Do you always study at the kitchen table? Set up an area in your basement, living room, or dining room as your "new" schoolroom.

  • Add more physical exercise and movement. Extra points if you can find a way to get outdoors!

L - List Goals

There is something about a list of goals that can grant your life new purpose. Susanna Wesley, mother of "Great Awakening" leaders John and Charles Wesley, had the right idea. As the primary teacher for her children's academic and spiritual education, Susanna held a weekly meeting to track each child's progress.

  • Ask the Lord to show you one area He wants to work on in your child. (Ask your child, too... he or she might have some great ideas.)

  • List the goals.

  • Set up a weekly meeting with each of child and discuss victories, progress, and problem areas that need to be worked on. List the results of each meeting.

U - Use Gifts

Every family unit has certain gifts that can be used to serve others. For example, our family loves to exercise hospitality and enjoys using the gift of hospitality to minister in a variety of different ways such as Bible studies, meals, or even overnight respite for travelers.

  • Ask God to show how your family can serve others with its unique gifts.

  • Discuss this concept of family giftedness. Service, encouragement, hospitality, teaching, are some examples. (Hint: a "gift" will be something you enjoy doing and may even find so easy and fun to do that you can't imagine anyone else would have trouble with it.)

  • Look for ways to exercise this gift weekly.

E - Examine your Attitude

While we can't change how much the sun shines, the outside temperature, or the moods of our students, we can change our attitudes... with help from God and others. Remember, a bad attitude is as contagious as the common cold!

  • Meditate on Psalm 51:10-13.

  • Ask the Lord to point out one area of your attitude that He wants to work on. (Hint: crankiness and complaining is a great all-purpose starting place!)

  • Find a friend to keep you accountable.

S - Say "NO"

Like the 80's slogan about drug usage, it is now time for moms to just say "NO" to the narcotic of busyness. My final challenge is to just say "NO" to over scheduling. Say "NO" to doing a project that doesn't fit in with the your ministry of home education. Say "NO" to the dozens of requests you receive weekly!

  • Don't answer the phone during school hours, meals, or after 9:00 P.M.

  • Answer emails only once a day.

  • Never say, "Yes" immediately when someone makes a request. Take time to pray about it evaluate if it lines up with your ministry.

Follow these simple tips, and watch as your "Mid-Winter Blues" transform into a "Mid-Winter Blessing"!

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