Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!

What to do when nothing seems to be going well.

On the TV sitcom Friends, there is this scene where Ross, Chandler and Rachel are trying to move a couch upstairs. Ross has drawn out a sketch of exactly what steps need to be taken to get the couch upstairs. The three begin the move with optimism. The problem is that the couch is long and the stairs are narrow and have several turns. Needless to say, it doesn’t go well. Ross is on the front end telling them to “pivot” while Chandler and Rachel get stuck between the couch and the railing. Eventually, the couch is so stuck that it isn’t moving any further. About then Chandler asks Ross what he meant when he yelled, “Pivot”.

This might feel like your first few weeks of school especially if you are new to homeschooling. You had a plan. You began with great optimism. You got a few steps in and encountered some difficulty. You gave some direction only to find out later there was a miscommunication. Pretty quickly the whole crew is at a standstill and you conclude nothing is going well.

So what do you do when nothing in your homeschool seems to be going well? When you think your homeschooling plans aren’t working? You Pivot!

Here are six steps to taking a fresh and critical look at your homeschooling plans:

1. What is going well?

No doubt there are some things that are going well. Maybe those items are few and far between but nevertheless they need to be acknowledged and kept in place. Maybe everyone is getting out of bed on their own each morning. Perhaps your lunchtime prep and clean up rotation seem to be working great. And reading with the Kindergartener while nursing the baby mid-morning is working well. Whatever is going well... write that list and enumerate those items so that you will remember to not change them with your revised plan.

2. What is going just ok?

Maybe there are some things that you thought would be so much better than they actually are. Perhaps your read-aloud time is shortened to 30 min instead of the 45 you had planned because it takes everyone a few more minutes than expected to wrap up their last subject and then everyone has to get settled before the reading begins. Or maybe your middle schooler seems to be working diligently but it is still taking them over an hour to do their math lesson. Keep these items on a different list of things that need to be tweaked. They aren’t perfect but they don’t need to be overhauled either.

3. What is going poorly?

This is the list of things that absolutely have to change. Maybe the science program you chose for one of your kids is just not making sense to them. Or perhaps the 2 yr old has you up and down too much while you are trying to do math with the 6-year-old. These are the things that have you at your wits’ end.

4. Keep doing the things that are working well.

5. Tweak the things that are just ok.

These are likely to be minor changes. Give them a little more time. Communicate your expectation. Create lists and routines so they don’t have to think and remember what you told them to do. Help them create good habits.

The above two categories are probably between 70-85% of your homeschool day. But it’s the 15-30% that is going poorly that most people focus on. Once you see what you can get working for you with minimal changes then you can relax a bit.

6. Take a week or two off of the things that are going poorly.

Spend some time assessing WHY those things are they going poorly. Do you need a different curriculum? Do you need to have a different schedule? If the student is old enough, you may ask them why they think it’s not working? They might tell you something that is an easy fix. Maybe they need a quiet place and they have been doing that subject in the main part of the house. Moving them to their bedroom for that hour may be all that is required so they can do the work. Perhaps they need more organizational help. Maybe they just need a break before beginning that subject. Take the time to figure out how you can adjust to make things work better for your family.

Often the parts that are going poorly really only need one or two changes and they can be running smoothly again. Take the time to analyze and figure that out and it could save you much grief in the end. Above all, remember that continuing to push through a difficult situation is not always best. You aren’t quitting or giving in when you buy a different curriculum or change a schedule around. Take the time to figure out if there is a way to improve the situation that is within your ability to do. If you can make that change then you should try it. You can always change it again. Each change you make you will learn something. Even if it took several changes won’t you be glad in the end that you kept trying different ways to make your homeschool work better? It is worth it.

Don’t just survive...THRIVE!