It’s getting chilly up here in Massachusetts—enough so, that the toddler wanted her hat and shawl this morning when she went out! (Don’t you just love the snuggliness of a bundled up little one!) We’ve had a couple of light frosts, and it’s time to start thinking about how we are going to handle to long, cold days that are coming and prepare for the winter homeschool. When the children are shut inside, once “the wiggles” take hold, it can be difficult to get anything done!
This whole life is kind of a process, isn’t it? The weather, the time of year, the number and ages of the children, and many other varied factors are continually making us re-evaluate, adjust, and go on with life until something else changes and we adjust again. It can be quite tiring, and we can feel perpetually unsettled—a bit lost within our own lives—while the changes and adjustments push us from one challenge to the next. Just when we think we have the whole thing figured out and life is running smoothly, we find that soccer season has started, or someone has grown out of all their clothes, or the calendar (or the budget!) need to be adjusted!
Naturally we find ourselves growing stressed, frustrated, and a bit put out because “nothing ever goes the way it should”! And it’s true, things often don’t go the “way they should” and, really, why do we expect that they would?
After all, we’re not making widgets on an assembly line. We’re interacting, in a thousand different, daily interactions with unique individuals! Of course, they do things their own ways! They were made to create, and our job is to guide them into being the best creators they can be, without forcing them to become creators in exactly the way we are creators. It’s a tough job. We have to balance teaching them morals and ethics with letting them explore their creativity and learn who they are called to be in Christ. Somehow they need to be given space to grow, while still having boundaries and guidance.
In some ways it’s not too hard to give them space. In fact space—mental and physical—is one of the beauties of homeschooling. When lessons are done, we send them out to run, play, and explore. Simple, when the weather is decent.
What about when the weather is bad? How do we continue to give space, when the physical boundedness of the house sets the household introverts and extroverts at odds?
For one thing, we must realize that growth is a process, and then have a plan for the introverts who need space and for the extroverts who need action. Here are few tips for doing just that:
Build a Habit of Courtesy
As mothers, we have to set ourselves to the task of building habits of courtesy among the members of the family, so they have habit to fall back on when they’ve been in the house for a week and it’s raining again. Constantly insisting that they respond gently to one another is tiring, but eventually they will begin to show that they can think of others’ needs above their own.
Make a Plan for Indoor Days
I keep several boards on Pinterest with those weeks in mind. One is just general indoor activities that everyone will probably enjoy. Others are specific to particular interests of particular children. When I do my weekly planning, I check the long-range forecast and make sure that we have the supplies on hand to do something new or interesting if the weather looks crummy.
Get Outside Anyway
I also try to send the children outside every day unless it is really nasty out. Yes, they may only stay out for ten minutes, but even that will freshen up minds and attitudes. For everyone, we invest in good boots, wool socks—good quality ones will last a long time, especially if they are always worn with shoes or slippers—and snow pants. Even when we lived in Virginia, the children wore snow pants outside in the winter. They were warm and waterproof and often meant that they could play on a wet or rainy 40-degree day for an hour before they got cold.
Five children (including a toddler tornado!) means that we just have to be careful to pick up after ourselves. It’s not so much of an issue in the summer, when most of the toys go out onto the screened porch, but in winter, the living room and basement quickly become too messy to be useful if we don’t clean up several times a day. I’m writing this during our afternoon “quiet time” and thinking that when we get up in thirty minutes, it will be time to clean up the living room and basement before anyone goes outside to play. It’s not bad, but the blocks and tracks were used during the morning lesson break, and ten minutes of picking up will keep us from having thirty minutes of picking up at supper time!
In many ways, I look forward to the coziness of winter… to having everyone close by, and focusing more on creative tasks and less on running, jumping, and shouting. I know by spring I’ll be longing to send them all outside for hours at a time, but that, too, is part of the process!
This article originally appeared on the HEAV website and is used with permission.