For the Homeschooling Mother
I am just a real mom with real children and we know how hard the winter can be for homeschooling families (not to mention during a pandemic). No one wants to go outside. Everyone is grumpy and bored and mom is about to lose it completely. Sound about right? My best advice is to start with you. Just like on an airplane going down, parents put on oxygen masks first in order to save their child. Similarly, in our home(schools) we need to prioritize our mental health so we can care for them well. Find time for yourself. Plan a little get away to your favorite spot. Order that new mother culture book as a treat for yourself. Or check out these 10 little tips that have helped us personally.
Remember, these are some of the things that we do during the winter. They might not work for your family but I hope there are a few that make life a bit easier during this challenging time.
1.) Community: Either in person or online support is so crucial. Message a friend when you’re overwhelmed. I had one wild+free mama come and take my toddler for a playdate for a few hours. (wow!) Children are real people, born persons, and they know when we are trying to push them off. Find the friends that will treat them with respect when we are having a hard time doing so ourselves. My mom will take one child once a week as well. She lives close-by and the children love to look forward to that time.
Do you have a Wild + Free Group? I’d encourage you to start one. Yes, even in person (see photo below). We meet once a week together outside with our children. Not everyone makes it every time of course but the option is typically always there.
Don’t have in-person community right now? Keep reading…
2.) Cozy up and hug them, a LOT. Do you have a fireplace? Everyone has blankets! Up the cozy features in your home. We use the fireplace a lot in the winter and in addition, we make little forts and reading nooks throughout the house. I usually set up the forts and nooks without them asking, I place a basket of books inside and suddenly, they’re tucked in bringing in all their dolls and toys to their new special place. And hugging has some real psychological benefits. They need more hugs, long hugs. We all do! Google it.
3.) Dance party, baby. A large Bluetooth speaker is probably the strangest suggestion I am sure you might be thinking but seriously, it has saved us. Throughout the day I am playing music. Worship music, hip hop, children’s songs (rain for roots, etc.). Anything we are all in the mood for at the time. Best part is when papa comes home from work. Then the real dance party starts. 😉
4.) Diet changes to promote mom’s mental health. This is also a strange suggestion but I’m simply sharing what has helped ME personally. I cut out gluten from my diet and started taking beef-liver and vitamin D supplements. My mental health has improved so much from last winter (when I was having dark and suicidal thoughts from staying home with four small children). Try it I guess, and see how it makes you feel!
5.) Try to limit screens to the afternoon (to post naps or quiet-time), but give yourself some grace and realize a bit more TV during this short season won’t kill them. I just know that mine go loco when I start the screen habit early in the day. I also don’t allow any and all shows. Most are too violent, too quick-paced, etc. but I do allow my toddler to watch If you Give a Mouse a Cookie right now (bigger kids like it too) and I let them all watch Wild Kratts and Odd Squad. But I try not to give in with screen time until later in the day but not too late. You know that sweet spot. When I let them be bored in the morning, with a few catalysts of open-ended tools, they get creative and play together. Give them an empty sticky note pad to make signs all over the house, a spray bottle of water and a cloth, they love to be helpful!
6.) Less formal lessons, and more sitting on the floor, (with them). It’s important to prioritize peace in the home during this time. That might look like doing less for the sake of more peace. I’d encourage you to stick to some sort of daily rhythm because children feel safe when they know what’s going on or what to expect, but our school time is going to look differently in the winter time because education is in part an atmosphere and I won’t sacrifice a peaceful home for an extremely productive one. So the next time they ask, be the patron in their restaurant or the patient to their hospital. They’re growing fast and we have beautiful opportunities to connect with them now. Hopefully our relationship will foster wanted connections in the future too.
7.) Surprise ice cream party, baking time, insert other special treat. I’d say spend the extra $5 for an instacart order of ice-cream on some days. Everyone is instantly excited and hope returns. Ha. Hey, use it to your advantage and make it nature-themed somehow and sneak in a little structured learning. 😉
8.) Try to get outside with everyone at least once a week. (at least once a day at home) I know it’s so hard, especially with really small ones, trust me I knooooow. But every time I make the herculean effort (I need another friend to go with or I’ll back out), it’s always SO worth it. So we go to the Aviary or another outdoor location at least once a week. We also have chickens and they force us to get out which has been GREAT. The children love to go check for eggs or let them free range. I often just go sit with the chickens outside in the peace and quiet while the kids are happy inside. I will put my oldest in charge and she loves that. Sure, I might have a sticky mess to return to but the time it gives me is so important. Fresh air and sunshine do wonders for our mental health! Even if it’s five minutes outside in the backyard with a couple kids, it improves their mood.
9.) Easy dinners and a (somewhat) healthy snack bin. (accessible to the children). You may be able to cook all the fancy meals this time of year and that is wonderful! But don’t beat yourself up if it’s frozen pizza, a charcuterie board, or take out sometimes! And speaking of food, we all tend to be a bit more snacky in the winter when boredom sets in more often. So I have a bin in the lower cabinet of the pantry filled with applesauce pouches, goldfish ziplocs, meat sticks, etc.. The children help themselves to snacks and it keeps me sane some days.
10.) Simplify the toys and rotate them out. They will play with their toys when there aren’t so many. So head to target and buy 10 cheap plastic bins. Organize some of their toys by category and put five up in one closet, and the other five in someone else’s closet. Then on a rough day, rotate some toys by pulling down a bin (with toys they’ve forgotten about and are now super excited to see again).
Lastly, remember that Spring will come. This is only a season. You can do this, friend. I’m cheering for you. I also have a blogpost (and podcast interview) titled “Homeschooling with Littles.” Check that one out too.