By Kathy Kuhl
Last weekend as I spoke on helping distractible students succeed (at the Washington Homeschool Organization in Puyallup), a woman said, “I can’t let my sons use fidgets or some other strategies you suggest, because they distract me! What can I do?” asked this highly distractible parent.
A father in the room, who is highly distractible himself, had some good suggestions from the workplace:
- Let your children use a small fidget to keep their hands busy under the table. (He said he does this in business meetings.)
- Let the children earn the privilege of working in another room where they can wiggle more than you can tolerate.
When I started homeschooling a bright, highly distractible nine-year-old, I had many concerns. One was, “It takes hard work to keep myself organized. Now I have to organize him, too?!?” It was scary.
But parents who battle distraction can homeschool more effectively by following these three steps:
1. Recognize when and where you get distracted.
Did you stay up too late again, reading homeschool blogs, online forums, or catalogs, in search of the perfect curriculum?
Are your kids late again to swim lessons because you decided to squeeze one more thing in before you left the house?
Do you usually serve dinner later than you wanted to?
Maybe you have mastered these temptations, but struggle in other areas. Think about when and where you get distracted, and what distracts you. How much time would be freed if you learned to manage it? What could you accomplish instead? (I recently, regretfully, took a favorite game off my iPad, and voils, more time to read!)
Seth Godin’s blog, “Don’t Shave that Yak,” struck a chord with me. “Yak shaving” is a term coined by computer geeks at MIT. “Yak shaving” means the thing you ended up doing when you meant to be doing something else, but it required something else first, which meant you needed to do something else, … and so on.
2. Realize routine can be your friend.
(That’s “routine,” not “rut.”) Routines free your brain, rather than wasting time deciding minutia over and over.
A few of many ways to build routine:
- Set a weekly trip to the grocery store on your calendar, same day every week.
- Each week, write a weekly schedule for your homeschool on a whiteboard. My son liked being able to glance up and see if karate was today and what time Grandpa was coming to teach history.
- Every week, review the past week, and consider the week ahead. (Sunday afternoons or evenings are a good time for this.) Plotting the week out can help you be more realistic. “Sam’s starting with the new physical therapist this week, Katie’s got two rehearsals before her concert, so it’s time for easy suppers, and I’ll put that new book in the car so I can read while I’m waiting.
3. Enlist your family’s help.
“Whoa!” you say. “I don’t need them nagging me.” That’s my job. It takes humility to receive help.
Sometimes those who know us best can give us a hand. When we homeschooled, I’d often plan errands on our way to or from lessons. Whenever I planned too much, my son would tell me. Oddly, my distractible, impulsive nine-year-old was always right. Would I have the grace to listen? Eventually, yes.
My husband is chronically punctual. (Poor man, married to “just-a-minute” me!) Late in the evenings, he’s quit working and is reading in the living room, unwinding before bed. Meanwhile I’m dashing around the house, getting “just a few more things done.” Guess which of us is ready for bed on time? Guess who falls asleep faster?
So when I’ve got lots on my mind, I sometimes ask him to remind me at a set time to stop work for the evening. (To be fair, I don’t ask for this help if I’m feeling touchy. I try to sort myself out first, because I don’t want to shoot the messenger.) He sets a timer and is very patient with me.
So spot chronic distractions and let routine and family help you fight them.
What are your favorite strategies for beating distractibility?
(This post originally appeared on the Great Homeschool Convention website. Join me this weekend at GHC’s California Homeschool Convention in Ontario.)