Cool cabin fever

January 25, 2002

Cool cabin fever


So far so good.

Winter has provided just enough snow to cover lawns, cling to branches and look pretty. That little bit didn't keep most people from getting out of the house and going about their daily routines.


But even without the excuse of a big blizzard, many people spend more time inside in winter. And many people don't do well cooped up all day with their families.

So how do you keep from getting anxious, tense and bored if you feel isolated from the world in the house?


How do you keep yourself - and your kids, if you have them - occupied and amused?

We asked some experts - parents who do it every day - parents who homeschool their children.

Barbara Martin is a contact for the Appalachian Regional Co-operative, an organization that has an e-mail newsletter, coordinates an annual homeschool conference and serves as an idea exchange for the local homeschool community.

Martin has "always been home" with her four sons who range in age from 8 to 16 years old. They are not often inside all day.

"There's no such thing as bad weather - just bad dressing," Martin says.

Martin and her kids go outside - even if it's really cold. They like to come back into the warmth to a treat of hot chocolate and backed potatoes.

But if kids are sick and the family needs to spend the day inside, there's plenty to do.

"Learning takes place all the time," Martin says.

Being inside is an opportunity to plan - for field trips or for volunteering to help with cleanup at the ice rink.

Playing games is a good occupation. Pit, a stock market game, is a Martin family favorite. Whoever wins gets to choose the next game - a little something that gives the kids some control.

The Martin family also cooks together.

So does the Copley family. Herald-Mail Assistant Lifestyle Editor Chris Copley and his wife, Yolanda DiFabio, homeschool their children, ages 9, 12 and 15. Working in the kitchen is a chance to teach basic cooking skills: measuring in a cup or tablespoon; boiling water for pasta or vegetables; frying safely; using hot pads, Copley says.

Other ideas from Copley:

Plan a children's garden for spring. Include bright colorful flowers that handle a variety of conditions and vegetables/vines that produce kid-friendly fare such as pumpkins (preceded by big yellow blossoms), potatoes, lettuce and sweet peas with pretty flowers.

Read together. Go to the library or bookstore for books. Let the children help pick books that interest them.

Read Shakespeare as a family. Divide up the parts and read aloud. If you want, create a stage area and act as you read. "Midsummer Night's Dream" is kid-friendly, featuring fairies, a dark forest, comical bumpkins and, of course, Bottom, the man whose head is temporarily changed to a donkey's.

Write letters to gramma, cousins or distant friends. Illustrate the letters.

Make valentines for giving on Feb. 14. Most craft stores have thick colored paper for scrapbooking. Use the paper to cut hearts and make simple valentines in white, pink and red.

The world of crafts is limitless. If you're feeling short of creative ideas, there are plenty more in books at the library or online at, self-dubbed the largest collection of free art lessons on the Internet.

Check out the "Top Ten Cures for Cabin Fever" at

Stay busy, stay warm, but stay cool.

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