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Helping Kids Focus: Conquering a World of Distraction

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

Our brains are wired to multitask, but children are not ready for that! It is imperative we create an environment conducive to learning, so how do we help our little scholars focus on their work?

1) Eliminate excess stimuli. Look around your projected school area – Is it crowded? Dark? Cluttered? Heavily decorated? Visual stimuli can be very educational and reflect great beauty, both of which are important to our child’s formation, but too much is a source of distraction. How about noise? The sounds around the house may not seem like much, but the dishwasher, laundry, dog scratching at the door, beeps from the computer, and ringing of the phone add up to quite a cacophony for a working scholar. I have played some quiet classical music in the background to help soften the incidental noises of living in a large family, but other noises are eliminated or distanced to the best of my ability.

2) ROUTINE and schedule are not dirty words! I resisted a schedule for many years because I wanted flexibility, and we all had to work so much harder to get our work done and enjoy our time. Schedules should reflect the routines that are best for your family! Having a schedule in place allows everyone to settle into their work and further eliminate the distractions of clock checking or unrelated tasks. The known, established routine helps children know what to expect and when, thus letting their brains follow the body’s discipline. Aren’t you tired of all-day kitchen raids and begging for screen time? I sure as heck was!

3) Stay on the task at hand, Parents! We run so many directions during the day; it is easy for us to be answering a phone call while we’re transferring the laundry while the dinner is on the stove. Whew! While that is normal life for us, the children are watching us run all over. If you are reading with your child, then ignore the dryer buzz, put your phone in another room, and leave the dishes in the sink.

4) Let your BODY HELP your Brain! We all know the heart health benefits and metabolism boosts from exercise, but did you know that exercise also helps you concentrate? It’s true! A burst of physical movement promotes neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine, which actually promotes concentration. In our house we take breaks for jumping jacks and kids are invited to run a lap any time they feel frustrated or distracted. The burst of exercise actually makes it easier for them to stay on task for each subject. We punctuate each completed assignment or subject with the reward of moving your body for 5-10 minutes, and the payoff in accomplishment is huge.

5) Be consistent with consequences and flexible with requirements. Because you know your child best, you can set realistic goals! If you say that there are certain hours for school then there are no exceptions for screen time or snacking.

6) A quick note about screen time: I realize that computer use is an integral part of the school day for many students, but that it is also well-documented and shown to be a huge source of attention problems in kids. Eliminate ALL non school-related screens until ALL work is caught up and completed. In our house the screens live in the office until all school and chores are finished each day, then they can complete an extra goal for 15 minutes of screen time. You really can't afford to have the school day interrupted like that!

Finally, be assured that there are no magic solutions to make your day hum along smoothly. Those of us who have been homeschooling a long time are still tweaking and readjusting based on the needs of our kids as we go along. We set guidelines and limits and rewards and incentives with full knowledge that life looks different over time. Really, it comes down to the great privilege of KNOWING your child! You know what he or she needs, now you get to partake in what makes them THRIVE!

~ Kate T.

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