The Art of the Pivot
The new year brings time for reflection on the year that has passed and time for regrouping for the year ahead. We take down our Christmas trees and bring out our homeschool materials. Trees are replaced with trigonometry, cookies are replaced with counting, and the work resumes.
After reflecting on the previous semester, sometimes we need to make a pivot in our homeschool. Many of us drag ourselves to the finish line of Christmas break. Sometimes the break is all that is needed to face a new semester with freshness, but other situations require adaptations.
A pivot is any sort of change in your homeschooling approach. Perhaps you’re switching curricula, or maybe you’re adapting your schedule. Maybe one child was overloaded with work last semester, or another is really begging to start doing school work. Your schedule could be stuffed and need relief.
Sometimes the curriculum needs to change. I have put away things that a child was clearly not ready for and then brought them out again a few months later. An added bit of maturity can transform something that was overwhelming into something manageable. Other things do not work and will not work for the child and need to be sold. Don’t be afraid to switch if it’s clear that the curriculum does not suit the child.
Part of the beauty of homeschooling is the ability to customize to each child’s needs. When a child needs more time to master a concept, I can give him the gift of time. When a child whizzes past what I had planned for the year, I can give him the gift of acceleration. While I thought one of my children was not ready for kindergarten work, he proved to me that he was and that he truly wanted to do it. There was no need to hold him back just because I didn’t foresee the situation when I did my initial planning for the year.
In our household, I need to rework the entire routine any time a child drops a nap. One of my biggest homeschooling mistakes was failing to do this. My daughter dropped her morning nap in November of 2021, and I had been using that time to teach my oldest son. Rather than moving school time to her afternoon nap slot, I tried to keep it in the morning. Furthermore, I expected us to have the same level of productivity with her awake that we had with her asleep. The absurdity of this is funny now, but we had a rough few weeks until I realized that something needed to change!
As my children mature, I strive to teach them to help with the house. Reasonable expectations of their help changes every few months as they grow and mature. It works best for us when I pick one thing at a time that I want them to learn how to do and make sure that they master it before adding anything else. The reality of the situation is that it is much more difficult to keep a house clean when there are always people in it. There is also a larger number of people living in my house than there used to be. Accepting reality helps me to adjust my expectations as well. When I have sensible standards for myself and others, it’s easier to be joyful.
When moving to a new area, it can be wise to try out a lot of different things and attend a lot of events in order to meet people. However, once you have established some solid relationships, you will typically find that you mesh better with some groups than you do with others. At that point, it’s time to pare down the schedule. Trying to attend as many things as possible is a recipe for burnout if it goes on for too long. I have to have time at home to homeschool.
If you have lost your joy in homeschooling, press pause. Take some time to assess and discern what has gone wrong. Talk to God and your husband about your struggles. I have a tendency to overcommit, and my husband is good at helping me prioritize where I’m spending my energy. Some things are beyond our control, but others can and should be adjusted.
It’s not too late to make adaptations to your school year. Making meaningful changes to improve the flow of your day benefits the entire family.
May your 2023 be blessed!
Laura McKinney Adams is a wife and mother of three. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Liberty University. While at Liberty, she met her husband, who is a fellow homeschool graduate. She writes about classical education, lifelong learning for moms, and homeschooling the early years at lauramckinneyadams.com.