As the temperature plummets here in New England, I find myself longing for the warm days of spring. But I've learned that feeding this feeling of discontent can quickly turn into a cloud of sadness that stretches on for days and weeks, or until the snow melts and the sunshine returns.
The Danish concept of hygge is all the rage these days. It's considered a vital part of Danish culture where the winters are even colder and darker than here, but the rates of seasonal affective disorder and depression are surprisingly quite low.
Hygge doesn't have an exact English equivalent - the closest thing we've got is probably coziness - but practicing hygge is viewed as one of the main reasons Danes are some of the happiest people on earth despite their miserable winters. (A Year of Living Danishly is a humorous memoir on the topic if you'd like to learn more about how Danes embody hygge).
Here are a few of the ways we're seeking to keep our sanity by adding a little more hygge to our homeschool days.
1. Put on some fuzzy socks or whimsical slippers.Bonus points if you send your socks for a spin in the dryer first. Or if you buy funny slippers for everyone in the house. It's hard not too feel cozy when you have toasty feet.
2. Light some candles.The soft, warm glow of candlelight is an essential component of hygge. Aside from the coziness, I feel like adding a candle to our morning time or our lunchtime read aloud helps my kids focus and has a calming effect on everyone's mood. Twinkle lights or a Happy Light are also great ways to keep the winter blues at bay.
3. Add a warm drink.A piping hot cup of cocoa (with lots of marshmallows of course!) can turn almost any task into a treat. I'm looking at you spelling worksheet! While my kids definitely prefer their warm drinks to be of a chocolate-y variety, I find that a hot cup of chai tea makes almost anything bearable. Find your favorite and pour it liberally throughout the winter.
4. Share a favorite cozy story together.Cuddling up under some soft blankets with a treasured read-aloud is the perfect way to pass a dreary winter day. Right now we're enjoying Farmer Boy with its snowy treks to the barn to care for the livestock followed by sumptuous meals around the fire. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Mr. Popper's Penguins are some other wintry favorites around here!
Storybooks also make for a nostalgic, cozy read aloud no matter the age of your children. Right now we are enjoying Jan Brett's new wintry picture book, The Snowy Nap.
5. Wear a hat in the house.I'm a firm believer that hats aren't just for the outdoors. Nothing makes me feel more cozy than a soft, warm hat. Fleecy sweaters and comfy pants are also welcome!
6. Savor a special treat.One of our favorite ways to start a cold weather day is with a hot breakfast. This Baked Berry Oatmeal is my son's breakfast of choice - don't overlook the warm strawberry jam and yogurt toppings :) A delicious egg casserole like this Tomato Sausage Cheddar Bread Pudding is another hit and makes enough for leftovers.
An afternoon teatime is great way to add a boost to a dreary afternoon. This go-to Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe has never failed me yet. Sweet Potato Bread with Pineapple Butter is another of our favorite sweet teatime treats.
(If you'd like some inspiration on lovely ways to connect with your children through teatime discipleship, I'd recommend starting here.)
7. Force yourself to go out in the cold, even if it's just for a few minutes.Blessedly we're past the stage where it takes 30 minutes to bundle everyone up in their winter wear only to find that they want to come back inside after 5 minutes. Hugs and high fives to all of you mommas who are deep into that stage!
Even though getting out is easier these days, I still don't look forward to going out when it's cold or rainy. But even just a few minutes of brisk, fresh air does wonders for all of our moods and makes the toasty indoors seem all the more enjoyable.
8. Break out a board game or puzzle.Connecting as a family over a board game or a puzzle is a wonderful expression of hygge and totally counts as school! Some even build their entire homeschool around games. We're big fans of Melissa & Doug puzzles. All the different designs make it easy to find one that coordinates with our current topics of study.
9. Make a supper of hot soup and homemade bread.The only thing I miss about winter when the warm weather months return is the opportunity to have soup and homemade bread several times a week :) Our go-to bread recipe always and forever is this one. We go for more variety with the soups, but this is a current favorite.
10. Snuggle up for a cozy movie night.Winding down with jammies and cuddles and a fun family movie is an enjoyable way to bring your winter day to a close. The coziest movie in my book is Little Women, but my family can only stand to watch it so many times. We also love Mighty Ducks, Cool Runnings and Ice Age for some good family-friendly laughs.
If you're trudging through the cold weather months as I am, I'm raising my cup of hot chai to you and hoping you find your rhythm in the midst of these long, dark days!
If you need some more ideas on getting through this dreary season, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy and check out what's saving her life right now with lots more ideas in the comments.