Without fail, it happens every year at just about this time. The Christmas holidays are a memory, winter seems to be lasting forever, and school has been in session since before you can remember. At least, that’s how it feels when March rolls around and all we want is to be sipping iced tea with a novel in the backyard while the kids play in the sprinklers.
The winter blues are tough for all of us; it doesn’t matter if we’re homeschooling moms, dads at the office, or children at our schoolbooks. We’re all tired, full of cabin fever, and desperately in need of some Vitamin D from that sun we haven’t seen in weeks—especially this year!
So, when the first thaw sets in, and the temperature finally rises over 50, and green starts creeping over the yard, it’s no wonder that the first thing kids want to do is escape out that back door. Schoolwork is just too complicated and requires far too much sitting still to be appealing this time of year. The problem is that life, work, and school wait for no one. We need some way to handle this spring fever. Fortunately, the counselors at
Seton Home Study School have quite a bit of experience handling the winter doldrums and spring fever, and are happy to share some of their advice with you.
1. Prayer: First Things First
The first thing to remember is: Stick to a prayer schedule. There’s no situation in life that can’t be made better with prayer. Indeed, beginning and ending each day with prayer helps you to stay focused and organized, provides opportunity to collect your thoughts and balance your life, and generally acts as a calming influence. This is so important for everyone, but it might be most important for moms, who need that quiet time to prepare for everything expected of them over the course of the day. Oftentimes, the moments spent in prayer are also the moments filled with the most practical inspirations, so taking your troubles to the Lord is likely to be a good strategy in battling spring fever problems.
2. Plan Ahead
The second thing to do is plan ahead. Since you know this happens every year, expect it and plan how you’ll handle it before it comes. Spring fever is a good time to focus on subjects such as science, geography, and history. If you plan your year accordingly, you might actually take care of two problems at once. Many moms wonder where they can cut back earlier in the year because they begin to feel overwhelmed with so many different subjects. Our message to the families is always focus on essentials first, and save less fundamental lessons for later. Religion, English, and math must take place every day, but you can save science for later. The advantage to this is that if you focus on fewer subjects at a time, most of the work in these essential areas will be completed by the time spring fever sets in, and all you’ll have left will be things like geography and social studies, which can be learned in creative and active ways at the fidgety end of the year.
When those winter doldrums start getting you low, invest in a season pass to a local museum, zoo, or aquarium. Take your science and history books to these sites, and do your reading right there next to the relevant exhibits. If the kids simply cannot get any work done inside, get out in the fresh spring air and take nature hikes to identify the flora and fauna studied in those science books. When the sun comes out, visit national battlefields, historic landmarks, reservations, and national parks and talk about how these places played a role in American history.
Of course, these are all just examples of another important rule, which is to be creative. Find ways to incorporate activity into the school day. Have your daughter jump rope as she recites her times tables. Have the boys plot out an important battle from their history studies in the back yard. Turn spelling lessons into a spelling bee for the whole family. Call local businesses to arrange tours and field trips for your children and some of their friends. Local business owners are often happy to tell children about what they do, and it is edifying for these same individuals to see children who are genuinely interested in what goes on around them. So call your local bank manager when your daughter is working on her economics class. Local newspaper and television stations often offer regular tours, or they will schedule a tour specifically for your homeschool group. Many factories also have tours, and if the factory makes a food product, you might even get a sample when you’re done. (To find factory tours near you, go to www.factorytoursusa.com.)
3. Don’t Fight It!
The next important principle to bear in mind is “don’t fight it.” Rather than waste valuable energy trying to overcome spring fever, find ways to work with it and turn it to your advantage. For instance, if the children just aren’t paying attention inside, take the classroom outside. Schedule more breaks than you might earlier in the year, maybe every half-hour, instead of every hour. When you do this, be sure to enforce the working time; the likelihood is children will be committed to their work when they know they only need to concentrate for another half-hour before getting to play ten minutes of catch, or basketball, etc.
Combine typical spring activities with lessons in religion and science. Many families begin planting a garden in the spring. That’s the perfect time to study the chapters on botany from the science books and a great way to get the children involved in the gardening work. How about using spring cleaning as a way to learn about some of the virtues or the Sacrament of Confession? When doing a lesson on charity, have each child clean his closet (drawer, toy chest, shelf, etc.) by sorting through it for some items to give to a homeless shelter or Good Will or the children’s hospital, or any other similar places. In one day the children will have done their lessons without feeling caged by their books, exercised the virtue of charity, and accomplished an important aspect of the annual spring cleaning!
Now it is possible that, for one reason or another, you feel you need to do a little catching up, and a big part of your spring fever is feeling the pressure of summer’s approach when you haven’t finished second quarter. Organization is absolutely essential here. A whole new article could be devoted to that topic, but suffice it to say that the important thing is to focus on the Seton-graded assignments, and make a point of steadily working through one assignment at a time, beginning to end, so you can start crossing items off the to-do list. Consider blocking, or working on only one or two subjects at a time. When the entire school day is spent on just one or two subjects, the work gets completed at an astonishingly quick rate by comparison with a typical day that is split many different ways. Before you know it, you’ll have entire subjects crossed off the to-do list. Be careful, though, not to try to do too much in a single day. More time on task helps, but only up to a certain point. Pushing beyond a student’s limit just results in frustration.
4. Keep a Positive Atmosphere
Last but not least, remember to keep the atmosphere positive. Use lots of incentives at this time of year. When major assignments are accomplished, students each in turn get to pick a movie for a family movie night, or go out for breakfast on Saturday with dad, bake something of their choice with mom, pick the menu for dinner, or any of a host of different things that are exciting for the kids in your family. Play good, uplifting, and happy music in the household. Cook favorite dishes or maybe something new for the fun of it. Make sure everyone is getting plenty of exercise to keep the blood flowing and spirits high. Get to Mass as often as possible. Mark the feast days with small celebrations. Go out of your way to be encouraging and complimentary. Your kids will follow suit. Finally, remember that this too shall pass. Spring fever isn’t forever; it’s just for the spring!