February is the shortest month of the year. So the calendar tells us. But homeschooling mothers know better.
We know that February is actually the longest month.
The weather is too cold to take the children out, and the children are way too restless to make even the roomiest mansion large enough. The bleak gray skies lower everyone’s spirits as the family stares out the window day after day, hoping for something more exciting than snow flurries. And you can’t even remark cheerfully that spring is just around the corner. It isn’t. Not until after March, and maybe not even then, depending on what part of the U.S. you live in.
How can we possibly brighten up the dreariest month of the year? Here are a few ideas:
Do St. Valentine’s Day up well. Have the children make homemade valentines for friends and family, using stickers, rubber stamps, doilies, etc. Short poems or spiritual bouquets make the valentines more meaningful. The children could make up short poems about St. Valentine or compose poems about the person to whom they’re sending each valentine. Heart-shaped cookies and maybe a skit about the life of St. Valentine would turn this into an unforgettable day. (Granted, we don’t know tons about St. Valentine, but there is a charming legend about his curing the prison guard’s blind daughter. Robert Sabuda’s picture book St. Valentine retells this legend for children, although I think it’s out of print. See if you can get it through Interlibrary Loan or buy a used copy off the Internet. Abe.com is a great resource for used books.)
Organize a treasure hunt in whatever language you’re teaching your children. Write the clues down in Spanish or French or Latin and hide them all over the house. The children can find them, translate them and find the next clue. At the end of the hunt, there should be a stash of candy or baseball cards or some little gift each child will appreciate. (You might be able to do something similar for other subjects if you’re creative. For example, write down math problems on each paper. When the children figure out the answer, they can refer to a secret code you’ve made up and find out where the next clue is hidden. This will take a little more effort but it should be fun! Clues can be written on different colored papers and each child looks for papers of one color so they can do math problems on their own level.)
Have a concert or recital just for the family. Children could memorize a poem, sing or play a song, perform magic tricks, or put together a skit. Do a small recital once every week or two until the weather hits a certain temperature, say 60 degrees.
Think of indoor field trips, such as roller skating rinks, museums, aquariums, pet shops, and historical houses, depending on your location and your budget. Some museums are free on Sundays. If you have a baby or toddler, find out if strollers are allowed inside before you go.
Set aside one day of each week in February for educational games, science experiments, and crafts. Surely the children will help you come up with ideas, or you can find a book in the library that will help. This will provide a little change to your routine, and give everyone something to look forward to, without sacrificing school time. You may want to continue this tradition into March!
Teach your children to dance — the polka will wear out the most energetic child — or have contests to see who can do the most jumping jacks or sit-ups. You’ll have to come up with a small but tempting prize to motivate the contestants. This will use some of that bottled-up energy for sure.
Find out what plants grow well indoors, and invest in a flower pot, potting dirt and seeds.
Some of these ideas will take a little energy on your part, but dealing with restless, argumentative children stuck inside all day takes more than energy — some days, it takes nothing short of heroic patience. At least this way, your energy is going toward something productive.
All of the ideas I mentioned, by the way, can count for either language arts, science, math, social studies, music or physical education so you can include days spent on these activities as part of your required 180 days of school. They may not exactly correspond to what we’re covering in our curriculum, but if they cause us to laugh, relax and return to our books with refreshed minds, then they’ve served their purpose.
In many regions of this great land, March isn’t much easier to bear than February. These ideas may help you muddle through March, too, and St. Patrick’s Day is certainly easier to celebrate than St. Valentine’s Day. Learn some Irish songs, do a skit about St. Patrick (there’s plenty of legends to choose from here!), memorize appropriate poems (each child could learn one verse of Phyllis McGinley’s “St. Patrick the Missioner” for example), have your own St. Patrick’s Day parade and finish it off with a nourishing dinner of corned beef, cabbage, and Irish bread (cupcakes with green icing or cookies shaped like shamrocks work, too).
One way or another, we can shake those winter blues!