Dealing with Winter Cabin Fever as a Homeschool Family

a child with a woolen hat looks almost cross-eyed at a snowflake that has landed on her nose

After the rush and chaos of the holiday season is over, how does a homeschooling family—with its members already having spent the rest of the year together—get through a seemingly endless winter?

When cabin fever sets in, conflict can arise because we’re all indoors together. Winter also makes things harder because the weather can affect our mood, causing us to be not only less motivated, but more irritable—and that goes for everyone in the house!

If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow or ice (Minnesota, anyone?) those negative feelings can all be compounded by the fact that you literally feel stuck—the option to go anywhere has been taken away since driving can be treacherous and unsafe.

So how does a homeschooling family deal when cabin fever makes us feel cooped up, bored, and restless? Here my top tips borne out of plenty of cabin fever during long Minnesota winters with two sons!

Do the Unusual

My favorite way to defeat cabin fever is to do things you don’t normally do.

  • Drag out the books, games, art supplies, and other goodies that aren’t out any other time of year.
  • Make an epic blanket fort and try to connect it through multiple rooms of your house. Have a winter picnic inside your makeshift tent.
  • Finish the Science experiments you skipped earlier in the fall.
  • Stay up late. Take an afternoon nap. Make a change from what’s normally acceptable (for the sake of sanity)!
  • Cook. Bake. Turn your house into a restaurant. Let your kids help you come up with a crazy menu—it doesn’t have to make sense! French fries, spaghetti, and lemonade? That’s what we’re serving tonight. Have your kids design menus with silly meal names. Challenge them to sew server aprons.
  • Have a tournament or contest of some sort: board games, card games, video games, cake decorating, lip-synching,  or painting a self-portrait.
  • Make a hot cocoa bar and offer lots of toppings to choose from. And after you’ve made your big mugs of hot chocolate, snuggle under a blanket to enjoy a Read-Aloud or watch a favorite documentary. (And remember, calories consumed during school do not count. So…have another mug.)

Explore Interests

Winter is a great time to learn things you don’t normally have time to dive into.

Let your kids teach you about one thing they love.

Learn those things you haven’t had time to learn. Has your son or daughter always wanted to learn to sew but you’ve never had the time to sit and teach them because the rest of the year is run-run-run?

Maybe they’d like to look into woodworking, coding, photography, or knitting. Take the time to ask your kids: if given the opportunity, what skill would they really like to dive into?

Use Technology to Connect

Winter can be isolating. And let’s be honest—even if you’re an introvert, nothing good comes from days upon days of isolation.

Make use of online forums, Facebook groups, text, or phone calls. Interact face to face through sites like Skype or Zoom.

Try a Homeschool Cabin Fever Tweet Along—hop on Twitter and tweet for an hour (or an afternoon) about how you’re dealing with cabin fever (or not dealing with it), and encourage others to do the same. Remind people to use whatever hashtag you create for the event. At the very least, you’ll probably connect people by way of a lot of laughs. At most, you will get a lot of ideas for dealing with cabin fever!

Sometimes technology can be a lifesaver, and winter is definitely one of those times.

Get Physical

In a season when you just want to snuggle under a quilt on the couch, staying active is sometimes the furthest thing from your mind. But staying active helps our mood, and also helps you (and your kids!) sleep better.

If you are able to head outside and the snow is the right consistency, you can build a snowman or a snow fort. Sledding is also an option as well as ice skating or hiking through the snowy woods.

Dealing with Winter Cabin Fever as a Homeschool FamilyBut if the weather keeps you inside, try a few of these ideas:

  • Scavenger hunt: with lots of clues all over the house. Upstairs, downstairs, east side, west side. Make it a timed event and the race is on!

  • Dance Party: because you’ve all got the moves! Make it a contest to see who can last the longest. That’s sure to wear you out!

  • Nerf Gun War: set up targets (empty clean water bottles or pop cans work great!) and see who can knock the most down. Then, challenge your kids to run around the house for a minute, and try it again. Can they aim as well when they’re breathing hard?

  • Indoor snowball fight— use crumpled up paper or clean socks as snowballs. Build walls out of boxes to hide behind—or knock your opponent’s wall over!

When you think of all those things you wish you could be doing, write them down!

In winter, we tend to come up with lots of complaints about things we can’t do.

  • You could go for a walk in your neighborhood, but now there is an inch of ice covering everything.

  • You want to go to the museum in town, but last night’s storm dropped 10 inches of snow.

  • You’d love to enjoy an ice cream in the park, but that’s really not as fun when it’s below zero.

When cabin fever hits, we can usually make a list a mile long of the things we could do if only it weren’t winter. But the crazy thing is that when it’s not winter, we forget about all these things we wanted to do!

Every time you catch yourself saying, “I wish we could…” add it to your When Winter is Over list. It’s a sure-fire way to ward off the “I don’t know what to do!” that always comes after the excitement of warmer temps wears off. You'll have your bucket list for spring and summer at your finger tips!

Cabin fever is a common issue in the long months of winter, but with a little creativity, you can lessen the feelings of being cooped up, bored, and restless. Hang in there! Winter can’t last forever!

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Amy Dingmann

About the Author

Amy Dingmann lives in Minnesota with her husband where they have been homeschooling their two sons since 2007. Her hobbies include filling up her sons’ bottomless pits, drinking a lot of strong coffee, and smiling. Her least favorite subject is math. Her favorite subjects are everything else. She likes talking to other homeschooling parents and assuring them that even though they worry they’re totally screwing things up, they actually totally and completely rock.  Amy blogs at The Hmmmschooling Mom, and works as an author/speaker on homeschooling and parenting/family topics.