Surviving the Doldrums: 4 Tricks to Keep You Hanging in There When You Want to Quit Homeschooling

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Doldrums n. (dohl-druh mz)

1. a state of inactivity or stagnation
2. a dull, listless, depressed mood; low spirits

Ah, doldrums. I remember first reading the word on a vocabulary list for The Phantom Tollbooth in the winter of seventh grade. And every year at that same time, between February and March, it strikes anew.

I once heard it remarked that “everyone wants to quit homeschooling in November and February.”

Well, having been at it for four years now, I’d have to say that seems to hit the nail pretty much on the head.

In November, it’s self-criticism and overwhelm I have to watch out for. The enthusiasm for a new school year that launched me head-first through September at warp-speed loses momentum sometime near Halloween, and by Thanksgiving, stick a fork in me. I’m done. I find I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, and rather than simply set a few of those superfluous extras aside, my instinct is to turn on myself.

You can’t do this. Why can’t you do this? IF YOU DON’T DO THIS, YOUR CHILD WILL FAIL AT LIFE AND IT WILL BE ALL. YOUR. FAULT. This is why sane people send their children to public school.

Once this inner Doubt Monster hangs out inside my head for a week or so, it outgrows its cage (i.e. my gelatinous, holey-as-swiss-cheese Mommy brain), and I wind up blurting out any or all of the above to my husband (changing the second person POV to first so as not to confuse him) at which point, he wisely demands that I immediately drop x, y, and z, thus returning our household to a modicum of sanity.

February is a whole ‘nother ballgame. If November is about overwhelm, February is it’s antithetical evil twin. In February, I don’t need a reality check. What I need is a full-on reboot.

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Overwhelm is one way we burnout at homeschoolers. The other side of the burnout coin, however, is the doldrums.

Getting locked into a rhythm that’s working (…mostly) but sucking all the fun out of life is just as dangerous as trying to do too much. Plus, it’s completely contrary to one of the uniquely awesome pillars of homeschooling: Freedom!

That’s it. It’s official, folks. I am officially renaming February as Homeschool Freedom Month. FREEEEEEEDOOOOOOOM!

(You’re imagining me in a kilt right now, aren’t you? And blue facepaint? It’s okay to admit it.)

So without further ado, here are 4 tried-and-true tips that can get your family a one-way ticket out of the doldrums.

1. Take a mid-winter break.

Traditional schoolers get one. Homeschoolers should, too. (My general rule of thumb is that there ain’t no good thing traditional school offers that homeschoolers shouldn’t have if they want it. That’s part of the perks of this gig.) Plan a getaway or a staycation, just make sure it’s fun and (most important) rejuvenating for all!

2. Sick days are for suckers.

Literally. I’m talking the lollipop kind. Stock up. Also have on hand some soup, Gatorade, and Saltines, or whatever your family likes to nurse when you’re feeling under the weather. The last thing you want to have to do is run out in a snowstorm when you all get nailed with the flu. But if you want to beat the doldrums so often brought on by the cabin-fever of sick days, go beyond the essential remedies and stock up on a few fun surprises. Candy for throat lozenges. Some educational DVDs or books on tape for headache days when no one feels up to reading. Maybe even a special art project you keep tucked away for a glum, goopy-nosed day. Nothing brightens a sick room like the unexpected. (And being prepared makes the magic possible.)

3. Play hooky.

Do you remember eating your cereal in front of the TV, just waiting for your school’s name to scroll up on the snow-day list? Homeschoolers don’t get snow days… Or do they? (This is where we cue blue-face Mel Gibson.) Here in Seattle, we don’t get much snow, but we usually do get some beautiful sunshine tucked into midwinter. Whether your region offers a day of sledding and cocoa or pre-spring picnic weather, take advantage of your freedom to play hooky. Even one day of shaking things up can really reset everyone’s mood for the better.

4. Do something crazy!

Serve your kids breakfast in bed. Have an indoor family campout. Roast marshmallows in the fireplace. Have a game night–in the middle of the night! Eat chocolate cake for dinner. Have a picnic in the living room–while watching a movie. Declare a wacky hair day where you design each other’s ‘dos. Let the kids teach for a day! Throw a great big crazy cog in the works and watch what happens! Because sometimes, a little crazy is just the thing to kick the doldrums’ mopey little butts for good.

Remember, February doesn’t last forever. Neither, at least according to Punxsutawney Phil, does winter. And the doldrums? There’s nothing about them that some good old-fashioned fun can’t cure.

How about you? What’s your favorite cure for the mid-winter doldrums?


  1. laura says:

    These are great ideas! 🙂 Let’s see, sometimes, once the weather warms up and there’s wetness everywhere, we take a puddle walk and LET the kids wade and jump in every puddle they see… they love it 😀 We start our garden plants in the basement… Which is fun just b/c it’s refreshing to see green growing things you’ll be able to eat eventually. We sometimes tackle a small (or big) home renovation project and allow the boys to help–especially if it’s dirty and destructive. We might try to do some of the more difficult science experiments for interest… I like adult, useful crafts myself, tho’ kids’ crafts annoy me, personally, but one the kids really liked was saving cardboard food boxes and making mini houses and furniture from them, painting them and playing w/ them.

      • Hawk says:

        João – The Eater of BooksLendo: AliceComentário: Minha maior decepção, achei que fosse um livro bonitinho e tudo mais, só achei sem pé nem ca&8#§abÃe230;.tô achando chatíssimo pra terminar, só a edição em capa dura que se salva.: S[]garotaquele Reply:October 25th, 2010 at 9:30 pmAlice é a maior piração da literatura![]

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