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Homeschooling In Winter: A Canadian Survival Guide

The winter months can be challenging for homeschoolers, with shorter days, colder temperatures, and the temptation to hibernate indoors. But fear not! In this blog post, we’ll dive into a treasure trove of creative suggestions to not only survive but thrive during the frosty season and counter those “winter blahs.” 

A family playing in the snow during winter with text overlay that reads [Homeschooling in Winter: A Canadian Survival Guide]

What Are The Challenges That Canadian Homeschoolers Face in the Winter?

The first challenge that comes to mind is the notorious cabin fever that can set in during the winter months. With daylight hours dwindling, it’s easy for everyone, parents and kids alike, to feel a bit cooped up. 

In opposite to that, winter can really ramp up the desire to just snuggle in and stay put. The effort involved with getting outside or doing intentional extra things can be difficult. It can be easy to settle into the house and just not do much of anything.

Another is that winter homeschooling can really increase feeling of isolation, especially when the weather limits access to connecting with other homeschooling families and participating in community activities – whether due to the cold or unpredictable driving. 

In some places, the weather can also wreak havoc on internet connectivity, which can make it difficult if you are using online resources in your homeschool – whether that be a curriculum program, classes, connecting virtually with friends, or even just fun extras. 

Thankfully, though, all of these are manageable with some planning. 

How to Counter Homeschooling in Winter Cabin Fever

Being indoors for a long period of time can settle in a kind of monotony which really chips away at motivation to do things, to feel inspired and ready to try things, and to really engage in learning. We find this part extra challenging when the weather is just grey, dull, and cold without the snow – because it just feels…. well, blah.

Here are some fun ideas to help avoid those winter blahs. 

Head outdoors and play.

If the weather cooperates with snow and it’s not unbearably cold – Snow days are a real thing! Gear up and go outside. There are so many things that you can do on a winter day, like: 

  • Tobogganing
  • Making a Snowman
  • Build a Snow Fort
  • Having snowball throwing challenges (not at each other – at a target like a tree or a giant rolled ball, etc)
  • Make snow angels
  • Build an igloo
A backyard built Snowman with a red canadian cowboy hat and matching red scarf

If it’s really cold, you can still do some fun things – as long as you are wearing the right outerwear. Try doing some winter-only science experiments like making frozen bubbles.

Some people like to do a boiling water challenge, where they throw boiling water into the air to watch it instantly freeze into an amazing cloud. The temperatures need to be incredibly cold (near to -40C is ideal) and everyone needs to be careful because boiling water is dangerous

Try winter activities.

There are some things you can only do in the winter so why not use this time to give them a try? Cross-country or downhill skiing. Snowboarding. Snowshoeing. Skating. Winter hikes. 

Winter is a perfect time to look for animal tracks too! What kinds of creatures have been walking through the snow? 

Why not try a scavenger hunt? Everyone loves to hunt and find things – no matter the season. This game can be played on a walk or from the comfort of your car if you are heading out somewhere and need a distraction..

image of a winter scavenger hunt printable worksheet on a background of snow

Bring the Outside In.

Kids love to play with snow, even when it’s inside. Most of the time, playing outside in the snow requires mittens and gloves, so moving it inside is a terrific way to give them a chance to touch it with bare hands. Safe and fun sensory play. Simply scoop a giant bowlful of fresh snow and have at it! Throw in some spoons or other tools for extra fun. Make sure you encourage observations as the snow melts. 

But you can do more than just “add snow.” You can also bring in some winter-themed decor – like a potted evergreen plant or bare twigs to make a centrepiece. And who said it had to be only winter ideas? Try getting some indoor plants or growing your own. 

Add colour.

For me, winter gets somewhat depressing because it’s so dull. The outside world offers nothing much more than white, grey, and brown. So, add some colour into your day! Put some coloured water (mix in a bit of food colouring) into squirt bottles and let the kids “paint” the snow. Buy some flowers for the middle of the table.  Change out the blankets thrown over the back of the couch to brightly coloured ones. Do some big, colourful art projects to hang up somewhere you can see it. Whatever you can do add that special, inviting punch of life.

Learn About the Season.

Turn winter from a distraction into an educational opportunity! Design lessons around winter-related topics, whether it’s the science of snowflakes, Canadian winter traditions, or the poetry of falling snow. You can get a winter themed unit study to make it easier. Not only does this keep the cabin fever at bay, but it also adds a sprinkle of excitement to your homeschool day.  

Read More Books.

Winter is a great time to have a reading challenge. Usually, libraries have summer reading programs – which is fun, but with the sunny, warm weather and lots of possible activities, it can be hard to squeeze a book into the day. But winter…. winter offers a snuggly opportunity to up your book count for the year. Set aside some intentional reading time as a family, whether everyone reads their own books, or you read one book all together.

Stay Connected with Other Homeschoolers.

The winter months can be isolating, but the good news is you’re not alone in this journey. Make sure to be intentional about connecting with other homeschooling families, either online or in your local community. Share ideas, plan joint activities, or even organize virtual meet-ups to combat the sense of isolation that can accompany winter cabin fever. If you don’t know where you can meet in person, I’ve found that local libraries can be very accommodating – especially in the middle of the day when they don’t tend to have a lot of programming already. Give them a call to see what space might be available.

Make things warm and cozy.

Even if your house is heated, there’s something special about curling up next to a fire. So change things up once in a while and do language lessons by the fireplace. Or have hot chocolate while doing math. Or read aloud in a blanket-fort. Adding a little bit of snuggle to school time and make a difference between groans and grins. 

Do something unexpected.

At my house, when we’ve all be too blah from being trapped indoors and sitting around on screens too long, I like to sneak up on my kids with a bag full of pretend snow balls or balled up socks and have an indoor snowball fight. They jump up and get in on the game pretty quickly!

Another thing we love to do is have an unexpected surprise snack. Pull out a gingerbread house set in February. Have ice cream sundaes on the coldest day of the year. Make s’mores over the toaster. Whatever you can do to shake things up and make the day fun. 

Have a video game day. If I let them set up their system in the living room and then settle down to play with them, my kids go crazy. They love having game day together and that just perks everyone up.

Go to a winter festival.

Lots of communities have some kind of winter event which can be a fun way to change things up. See what’s near by you. These can be huge events – like Carnaval in Quebec which has multi-day activities from ice sculptures, massive slide hills, concerts, parades, canoe races, and much more. But they can also be small community events which offer a day of games and family fun. 

Pause the curriculum.

If things are just dragging, it might be a good opportunity to try something fresh and different for a short period of time. Try a short unit study or focus on books. Watch a documentary or nature series and discuss. Have a whole week of just art or just science experiments. Bake or cook together. Do gameschooling instead (and sneak in some fun learning!) A change can do everyone good. 

Do some random acts of kindness.

Helping other people and finding ways to make others smile always lightens you up. How can you help? 

  • Shovel neighbours’ driveways (I’m always amazed at how winter brings communities together while they shovel snow!) – especially if the plow just went by!
  • At the grocery store, help gather up the shopping carts that are scattered across the lot and return them to the corrals – make sure to line them all nicely to make the cart person’s job easier. 
  • Make some warm soup or hot chocolate and deliver it to someone.
  • Use grocery store points to buy food for the your local food bank. 
  • Make some scarves out of fleece (no knitting or sewing required) and hand them out to people who seem cold. You can even trace a hand shape at the end of each scarf and cut them out to make them “hug” scarves!

Need more ideas? Check out this list of 99+ Random Acts of Kindness.

Take some time for yourself.

When the days are short outside but feel long inside, it’s important to find some time for you to rest, recover, and stay energized. Homeschooling is a hard job, especially since its so intertwined with parenting. You need to have something for yourself. It could be a TV show you love to watch. A hobby. A craft. Reading. Listening to music. Long showers or baths. Taking a class. Going out for a walk with a friend or all alone. Dancing in the living room with loud music. Whatever it is – enjoy it. 

Winter may bring its challenges, but with a bit of creativity, flexibility, and a positive mindset, you can turn your Canadian homeschool into a thriving oasis of winter learning fun – both indoors and out.

Wondering how some other Canadian homeschoolers handle winter? Here are some bloggers who share their experiences.

Lisa – Homeschooling Through the Winter

What does our homeschooling in the winter look like? good question !

Alexandra – Homeschooling Through the Winter

Homeschooling through the winter can be difficult at times, especially in Canada. The weather is often very cold, the snow might be pretty but isn’t always inviting, but spending too much time inside can lead to “cabin fever”.
So, what can we do? 

Lee – Winter Homeschooling, Yukon Style

We live in the Yukon, which means that in any given year winter can go from mid September until mid May… That’s 8 months or 8/12ths of the year or 66% of the year – ACK!

Amber – Lake Effect Snow in the North: Homeschooling During the Deep Freeze

Homeschooling … can be challenging in January as we are in the deep freeze until the end of February when it starts to warm up. Thankfully we know this will happen and so aside from jumping deeper into our studies we use some of our rare free time to explore other things.

 Andrea – Homeschooling Through the Winter

 Just when you think you’re out of the cold grasp of winter, it grabs hold of you and reels you back in for what seems like eternity. By February, cabin fever can set in, and your school year seems to be dragging on, or unraveling right before your eyes!  Here are a few suggestions or tips, to make it through the winter when you’re homeschooling.

 Joelle – Winter Homeschooling

[T]he lack of activities during the winter months do not affect us as much. It is life as usual. As a matter of fact we get more done during the winter months, especially that we run a year round kind of homeschool schedule.

Kimberly – Homeschooling Through the Winter Doldrums

Have you hit the dreaded winter doldrums in your homeschool yet? You feel like you can’t go another day without the sun and daydream about Disney, the kids have cabin fever, it’s difficult to get the them motivated to do their homeschool work, and you’re all on edge and snapping at each other! I’m right there with you, right now! I’m writing this as much to encourage myself as you.

This post was originally posted in January 2015 and has been updated in January 2024. It originally included a giveaway for some winter-themed resources.

Lisa Marie Fletcher
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