My profession by trade is as an educator. My last position before I left the classroom, was as an inclusion teacher. This meant that a certain number of my students had a learning disability of some type and my job was to help them learn despite this learning disability.
Although this group of students had different learning disabilities, they all had one thing in common they were all highly distracted by anything and everything.
I'd love to say that this helped to prepare me for homeschooling a highly distracted child of my own but since every child is different I've had to learn by trial and error.
The first most obvious this was to ask myself if she was just distracted because she was bored.
Warning: Boring Teacher Lingo Coming Up
Just like people have love languages, everyone has a learning style. If I am presenting information in a way that is not in her learning style she is not going to grasp the information and will sometimes be distracted by boredom.
Curriculum is usually very basic and straight forward. I do my best to see what she has to learn and then present it in a way that she will grasp the concept the best. This is where Pinterest and Youtube are my friends. Please don't imagine anything super spectacular though. I am pretty plain Jane when it comes to teaching. I just know when she needs me to spice it up.
I've included this link, if you'd like to learn more about the 4 different learning styles.
I use checklists to help her keep herself on track. I keep a copy of it with my stuff so I can remember what is on it, because let's be real, I can't remember anything after having kids.
Because she is extremely unorganized and lacks any sense of order, I had to show her how to use a checklist. I had to write it for her and show her how to prioritize. Now it's second nature to her and she has been known to make my grocery list for me.
No one ever showed me how to make a checklist, it was innate. Don't take that for granted with your child. Always teach first.
This year we implemented a planner. She is very artsy so she loves decorating it every week and making a plan. She writes her daily chores, her school assignments and any extra curricular activities in it. She checks things of as she does them and refers to it as needed throughout the day.
Often during certain subject, she struggles with the length of the task. Her brain gets tired and she literally stops focusing on what she is doing. She starts doodling and sometimes just stares. At this point I have her do some jumping jacks or even run laps through the kitchen and living room. Basically just get moving to get the blood flowing.
I think this year we may implement a type of simon says with her ballet positions.
A study done with adults showed that they needed a break every 50 minutes. Although our school day doesn't last very long, I try to give her a break every 30 minutes if I notice a lot of fidgeting or just that "stare".
Depending on the task she may have a longer sustained attention span, so I don't set a timer for the 30 minutes I just try to be aware of what's happening. Often I'm listening to a podcast in my earbuds while she's working, so I'll set my phone timer. When it goes off she can't hear it, but it reminds me to check on her.
Another study performed showed that peppermint during tests can help with focus.
If you are an essential oils person, then you know there are several benefits of peppermint other than focus. However, I have found peppermint to help tremendously for keeping focus.
I diffuse peppermint in the morning to set the atmosphere for focusing. I truly love the smell of peppermint so it makes for a happy mama too!
I also allow her to chew on peppermint gum or suck on candy canes if she asks. You would be amazed at the work she can get done. This also works as an oral fidget for her when she needs to just do something other than sit still. The rule is that the gum stays in her mouth and when she's finished with school it goes in the garbage. As for the candy cane, after Christmas I stock up on the mini ones.
Timed Tasks are Evil (her words exactly)
Timers truly freak her out and make her shut down. Some might say this is counter intuitive to how life works, but I truly feel this is a process.
I suppose this goes back to my teaching days and having students that had 504 plans. But I find that I get a more accurate representation of her knowledge by avoiding a timer.
It doesn't mean that we never use a timer. Sometimes we use a timer with flashcards. I try to use timers when I know it's something that she can be successful at. It builds her confidence in herself and gives me a point of reference to remind her that a timer isn't evil after all.
Eventually I'll wean her into timed tasks but for right now, the goal is her education not her ability to accomplish a task in a certain amount of time.
Keep Clutter to a Minimal
I myself can not work in a cluttered environment. My distraction is a little different though, I look at the clutter and want to organize it. My daughter looks at the clutter and imagines how she can use it with her toys.
Clutter also refers to decorations. Often times we want our houses to be pretty and decorative. If you have a designated classroom space a good rule of thumb is to have as little clutter as possible in that area. It will help them to have less to look at and less to distract them. It does need to look sterile just minimal.
This one took me a while to figure out. She was looking at me while I was speaking, she even nodded her head when I asked if she understood what she needed to do. I would go do something and come back to find her in tears or her paper doodled to unrecognizable. I'd ask what's going on and she'd say that she didn't know what to do.
In order to avoid this I started having her repeat what I said to her. If she could repeat it then, most of the time, she had a good understanding of what I needed for her to do.
Having her repeat what I said not only goes for school work but with everyday routines. I say things and hold up a finger for every instruction that I give. I try not to make it more than 3 at a time.
Homeschooling a highly distracted child can leave you drained at the end of the day. It can drain your patience and work on your last nerve. There have been days when I literally stop in the middle of the lesson and close my eyes and pray. I ask for guidance and for God to please help me to be slow to speak.
At the end of the day my ultimate goal is her heart. I want everything I do to always lead back to Christ. I want her to see Christ is my actions and in my words.
Teaching a child that is easily distracted is not easy but God chose you to do it. So trust him that he'll give you the strength to do it.
I'm praying for you!