The winter months can be rough for many homeschool moms.  The gray, barren days can follow one another like saltines in a box, making us feel about as drab as the view outside. If you find yourself in the midst of the winter doldrums, it might be time to do some self and school evaluation.

1.  How is Your Private Time with God?

If you have read this blog for very long, you have probably inferred that we think this is the place to begin any self-evaluation. How are you doing on having regular prayer and Bible study times?  If you have found yourself out of the habit after the holidays, now is a good time to get started again. Don’t wait until you have things perfectly quiet and organized before you spend some time in the Word. For inspiration, read this post about Susannah Wesley called Growing Moms.   If you need a jump start in this area, pick up a good devotional.  There are MANY wonderful ones out there.  One of my favorites is the classic My Utmost for His Highest.  If you have ever participated in the Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God Bible study, you might enjoy the devotional I am using this year called Experiencing God Day-By-Day.  I find it helpful to read the daily passage and the thoughts about it in the devotional first, then read the passage in the Bible itself (in the context of the chapter surrounding it).  Then I pray, asking God to show me what He wants me to see in that passage.  Having a journal to jot down what He tells me and other thoughts that come up is a necessity as well.  This time need not be in the morning, but I find it to be my best time before my mind is filled with my ‘to do’ list.

2.  Does Your Marriage Need Attention?

Valentines Day is right around the corner.  Instead of just stocking up on candy  for the…kids (see #3), why don’t you plan a special time to bless your husband that day?  A handmade valentine, a special dinner, or a babysitter for the kids and a bundled up stroll along the beach or a country road might be just the thing to help your husband know he is special.  Does he like to watch the game on TV, play golf, or putter around in the garage?  Maybe just sharing an activity of his choice would be appreciated.  We homeschool moms often need to work harder at getting quality husband-wife time into the schedule!

3.  Are You Paying Attention to Your Own Health?

Most moms are marvelous when it comes to keeping kids dressed warmly, drilling those math facts and doling out vitamins and vegetables.  BUT… what about ourselves?  Are you exercising regularly?  “They” say that thirty to sixty minutes most days is about the right amount of exercise, but that might be pretty difficult if you have little ones.  You can do something, even if it is popping in an exercise video during naptime.  Some virtual accountability might be in order to help you get and stay on track. My friend Cindy showed me this very handy website through Prevention magazine where you can track your exercise, everything you eat and even your mood.  Go to “My Heath Tracker” near the top right  of the page, set up a free account, plug in what you weigh and what you would like to weigh, what you have eaten that day and what you have done for exercise. It is very informative!   If you are already an exerciser,  The Daily Mile might be helpful.  It is an online social training log wherein you can find friends, log in your runs/biking/ walking miles or times, can blog about your thoughts and encourage your friends. It has Twitter and Facebook interfaces as well.  My college-aged daughter’s friends encourage each other in their exercise programs through this venue.

One other health resource I wanted to share with you:   As a 3 1/2 year cancer survivor myself, I am always reading about new ideas and research in the area of cancer prevention.  I came across this free report you might be interested in downloading and reading – it is a food guide for cancer prevention and survival.

4. Is Your House in Order?

I even hesitate to ask that question – I can hear the groans from here!  I mean in good enough order that you are able to function, and obviously we are going to have different tolerance levels here.  Personally, I find it very difficult to focus on school when the house is totally out of control.  Develop some routines and do your absolute best to stick to them.  My favorite resource for keeping the dust bunnies at bay is the Flylady routines.  She talks about controlling C.H.A.O.S. (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome :)) by dividing your home into zones and cleaning a little each day in that zone as well as working on general clutter. Go to her website and click on Getting Started for more information.  Make sure your children have age appropriate chores as well! We are big on checklists at our house.  Behind children’s bedroom closet doors is a list in a page protector that says “M’s room is clean when…..1.  All clothes are picked up off the floor and either put into the laundry basket or folded neatly and put in the drawer.  2.  All school papers are punched and put into notebooks and trash is thrown in the trashcan.” etc.  Build into the day a quick pick up before Dad gets home (see #2).

5.  How Many Out-of-the-Home Activities is Too Many?

Did you really enjoy Christmas and New Year’s vacation, in part because most or all of your outside activities ceased during that period?  Did the more relaxed schedule and extra time with your dear hubby and charming children yield better relationships between all of you?  Was it easier to keep the house under control and eat healthier because you weren’t constantly running from one thing to another?   Hmmm.  Maybe this means you/your children are doing too much outside the home.  They do call it ‘home’ schooling, y’know.  Give some hard thought to evaluating each of your and your kids’ activities and consider what you can cut.  Many homeschoolers choose one activity and/or one sport per child per semester.  Husbands’ insight can be helpful here.  My friend Jennifer recently gave me some godly advice on just this subject.  She said, “Lay everything at the feet of Jesus.  Only pick up what He would have you pick up.”  (See #1)

6. Is Your School Curriculum Working for You?

This is the season when we want to forget about this school year and just start planning next year.  :P  It isn’t a bad thing to start looking toward the coming year and making plans, but we do have to finish this year! Try to get energized about finishing this year well while you are dreaming and drooling over what you want to do next.  Getting your school records organized is a good start. I am a long time user of  Homeschool Tracker software.  They have an absolutely free basic package that you can download immediately, which I used for a few years, but if you plan on homeschooling during the high school years (and I hope you do!) spending the $49 and buying the PLUS version will enable you to keep much more detailed records, apply the weighted grading scale that we have to use in South Carolina, and use many more helpful features.  See the comparison between the free version of  Homeschool Tracker and the paid version here. If you decide you can afford the $49, that is all you will ever have to pay because they offer free upgrades. Additionally, the few times I have had questions not answered by the detailed online tutorials, their free software support has been almost immediate.  This software has been a valued tool in my family and has considerably cut down on paper, our family’s biggest nemesis.   Do me a favor and if you decide to purchase the Homeschool Tracker software, please consider typing this code in the Referral Information page of the shopping cart under “Make Selection – **Customer Referral (I have a code)”: FNZ9E .  If you do that, I will receive a small referral bonus.  I appreciate it!

Now, start evaluating your homeschool curriculum.  Most likely you have used it for almost a half a year now.  Is it meeting the needs of your family… or is the honeymoon over? I am not suggesting that you immediately ditch whatever you are using now–just take notice of how it works with your teaching and your kids’ learning styles.  Are you enjoying it?  Are your children enthusiastic about using it?  Does it motivate them to complete their lessons, and are they retaining the information?  Do they discuss it with your husband at dinner, or want to find out more about a subject or person that they learned about during ‘school’?  OR Do you have to hound them to get their work done?  Do they constantly denounce it as boring?  Are you having difficulty staying interested yourself?  Dialog with your children about what they think.  What do they like the best about school?  What do they like the least?  Why?  Children can give us some great insights if we would just ask them and really listen to their answers.  If you find that they are bored and unmotivated, adding some living books and more hands on activities might be just the thing to liven things up!  Try to hone in on their interests, as well. We have many well-written, high interest, living books listed on our Books! pages if you need some examples.  If you have a budding artist, instigate some picture study, or create a lapbook that dovetails with your studies.  Instead of your typical textbook book report, try assigning a Book Review.  Try a new, fun way to present or review material, such as the one suggested in this post, The Question Box, or this one, Make a Lapbook!

Use this opportunity to tweak things a little and you might find yourself out of those doldrums and excited once again.  Remember that Mom’s positive attitude sets the tone for everyone else.  I hope you have found some of these ideas and links helpful – I would love to hear your recommendations as well!

In His Service,

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