Reschedule, Refocus, Regroup

I am convinced that the first thing dogs learn in Puppy School is how to get leaves and grass to stick to their tummies while they are outdoors and then how to sneak back indoors with those leaves and shake them off. Extra points if they can do it just after you have vacuumed. No matter how much time I have just spent cleaning the carpet, as soon as the dog makes one pass through the house, my progress seems non-existent. I pick up the leaves and bits of grass. I adapt and keep making progress.

Remember that time you were running late for an appointment, and you discovered a road closure between Point A (your house) and Point B (your destination)? Whether the closure was due to a street repair crew or a traffic accident, it still caused you to change your route and find an acceptable detour to help you reach your destination by your deadline. You had to adapt to keep making progress.

How many times could your baby be counted on to spit up all over your clothing just as you were going out the door (usually on your way to church)? Now, a little spitty-ness is to be expected, but I am talking about a major drenching. Back inside for a quick change. Adapt and keep making progress.

Today you find yourself mid-way through your homeschool year, perhaps even close enough to the end of the year that you can see The Finish Line coming in to view. However, just like the leaves scattered on the clean carpet, just like the roadblock when you were running late, just like the need to make a complete wardrobe change, you have obstacles hindering your progress. Your schedule has gotten completely out of whack, and you desperately need to get it back in whack. It is time for some serious mid-year rescheduling. You need to adapt so that you can keep making progress.

Each fall, I would lay out my plan of action for the coming school year, detailing which pages of which books should be done by which days. [See Guilt-Free Lesson Plans and Scheduling] I always seemed to be very ambitious at the beginning of each year, so much so that I scheduled way too many things for my students to actually complete. Each spring, I would revise my plan, reconciling it with the reality that had taken place over the past few months. Some years, the plan was revamped more than once. Illnesses happened, tragedies occurred, and difficult lesson concepts played havoc with the best-laid plans. My mid-year rescheduling time would remove the burden of over-commitment from my students and make their assignment charts look do-able again. I recalculated the number of pages to be completed for each day and adjusted our charts accordingly. Some subjects were finished early, giving my students extra time in their schedules for the subjects in which they were lagging behind. We adapted in order to keep making progress.

As I did, you planned your year’s work with the best of intentions, but you could not foresee the things that would prevent your students from completing that work. You have all done the best you could under the circumstances. Even if you have a student who has been flat-out lazy and neglected his work, heaping guilt on him will not be a strong motivator for progress. Cut back his assigned schedule to an amount that he can reasonably accomplish and help him gain a foothold on success. Once he has tasted the victory of a finished job, he will see things differently. So-called “lazy” students or those who do not work “up to their potential” usually suffer from the curse of perfectionism: I can’t get it right, so why bother trying? I know; I used to be one of them. Scaling back assignments to a manageable level or reducing projects to bite-sized tasks can make a huge difference in whether or not a student succeeds. [See Learning to Walk — Seen as a New Lesson] You need to adapt so that he can keep making progress.

It can be very helpful to sit down with your students and discuss what projects they are enjoying the most, what they would like to continue doing, and what they would like to drop. There may be some half-completed projects on your schedule that no one really cares about anymore. Perhaps the lesson has already been learned and dedicating further time to a certain project is pointless. You may decide to speed through the current section to allow yourselves to spend extra time on an upcoming set of lessons. Maybe an activity can take the place of several lessons, allowing you to skip over a portion of the planned bookwork while still learning the concepts. You will want to identify the most important tasks, lessons, or books so that you can focus on finishing them. You may decide to carry a subject over a few weeks into the summer to keep it from being too burdensome to finish on the same timetable as the other schoolwork. You need to adapt so that you can keep making progress.

We also began to prune back our social commitments each time the calendar promised that spring was approaching. We wanted to focus on our lessons and tie up all those loose ends to finish the year instead of running around to boring club meetings or uninteresting field trips. We reprioritized, rescheduled, refocused, and regrouped. We dropped out of activities if they had become more pain than gain. We did it all Guilt-Free, knowing that we were ranking things according to our own priorities, not anyone else’s. We adapted so that we could keep making progress.

I have a favorite line from a movie that I have quoted to my students when encouraging them to persevere in the face of a difficult task. The movie, Heartbreak Ridge, is hardly commendable because of its abhorrent, R-rated language, but the message of the film is nonetheless very inspirational. Clint Eastwood portrays a no-nonsense Marine sergeant, doing his best to turn raw recruits into something The Corps can depend on. The line I quote is his anthem throughout the film, “Improvise! Adapt! Overcome!” He continually changes the rules on his platoon, forcing them to think, to improvise, to adapt, to overcome, to succeed. When they find themselves isolated in the midst of a fierce battle, it is his bizarre training methods that enable them to survive and emerge victorious. Their ability to adapt allowed them to keep making progress.

As you sense the end of this school year sneaking up on you, take some time to evaluate your progress and revise your plans. Pinpoint the things that are most important and work toward completing them. You wrote your schedule: Guilt-Free Homeschooling allows you to change your schedule. A re-tooled battle plan can bring a tremendous boost of adrenalin to sagging students and a tired teacher. You need to adapt so that you can keep making progress.

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