Homeschooling a child who is easily distracted can be a frustrating challenge, especially when you have other kids. Here are some ideas on how to keep your distracted child focused on their school work so that you can have a successful homeschool day.
11 Tips for Homeschooling a Distracted Child
1) Do Learning One on One
If your child is highly distracted, they probably do better in a setting where they are getting sole attention instead of in group learning where it is easier for them to allow their brains (or bodies) to wander around without getting noticed. Sitting them beside you and guiding their learning experience draws their attention back to what they are supposed to be doing.
2) Use Short Lessons
The shorter, the better. Don’t expect a child who can’t stay focused to sit through a long, drawn-out lesson. Short bursts allow a child to learn fast and absorb information before they think of something else.
3) Reward Successes
If a child manages to complete a task with limited attention loss, call it a win and give them a reward for their efforts. This could be as simple as free time, a snack, computer play, or hugs and high fives. Creating a positive response for success means that they will try to replicate that feeling again on their next effort.
4) Cut Out Distractions
In a houseful of children, it can be really hard to remove noise and actions that can be deterrents to focusing. If you can move to a quieter area of the house to work, where there aren’t windows to stare through (close blinds or curtains), screens to look at, or toys to play with, it can make a world of difference.
5) Take Breaks
Give them gaps in the schedule to allow themselves the freedom to be distracted.
6) Use Music
Try to listen to music without words that has a rhythmic or calming beat. This can trigger the brain to focus more clearly as it’s got something to keep it busy while the child is working on what you’ve given them to do.
7) Vary the Delivery
Doing the same thing over and over gets boring. Is there a way you can change up today’s lesson to catch your child off guard, surprise them, and gain their attention?
8) Use Highly Visual or Interactive Learning Opportunities
Videos and computers can be really fast paced, which is exactly what children who can’t stay focused need. The constant change in picture keeps their brains stimulated and wanting to see what’s next. Another idea is to get hands-on. If a child is trying to figure something out and loves what they are exploring, they can actually hyper-focus instead of letting their brains wander.
9) Find an Area of Interest
A child who wants to learn will be much more focused than a child who doesn’t. Find something they are curious about and you will see how much better they are able to learn.
10) Avoid the Rabbit Hole
Sometimes a distracted child will just randomly start a conversation about something completely off-topic. It becomes an obsessive topic that they want to deeply discuss right then. Try to find a way to direct the conversation back to the subject at hand, or take a note down of the topic with the promise to talk about it after learning time is done.
11) Exercise Before Focusing
Studies have shown that kids who spend time doing active exercising before they need to focus do better in school. Go for a run around the yard or up and down the stairs, use exercise equipment, or any other of your favorite morning fitness routines before you sit down to work.
It can be a real struggle to find the most helpful solution. Try combining a few of these ideas for your distracted learner and see what works best for your homeschool.
About the Author
Lisa Marie Fletcher is a homeschooling mom of 5 kids ranging from preschool to high school. When she isn’t learning with her kids or pretending to clean her house, Lisa runs The Canadian Homeschooler where her mission is to help connect homeschoolers across Canada with each other and with resources to help them on their journey.
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Stephanie Ferguson says
Really appreciate this post about highly-distracted learners. Boy have I got one… We have done some of the things on this list, & I was thankful to be reminded of a few I’d forgotten. I’m working toward a lot more structure for my distracted kid. The one point I am curious about is #9–that fast-paced, constantly-changing pictures that computers/video offers is “what they need”? Because I’ve been thinking this tends to have the opposite effect in the long-term–that they don’t learn longer attention bc they aren’t challenged, and that in fact he needs LESS fast-paced, constantly-changing pictures via screens? My goal is not simply to accommodate him, but to grow him in self-control, so that he not only can but WILL pay attention for longer & longer periods, even when it does not interest him in the least, or when it is very very difficult. I’ve been thinking he’s been OVER-stimulated & his attention seems to be worse after he’s had much screen time. Now it is true he seems better able to focus for longer periods when in front of a screen, but that does not cause me to think it is beneficial for him, rather I have assumed it’s merely because it’s easy, and all the things you read about dopamine responses and all that… Anyway I’d be interested in a reply to this. I don’t mean to knock what you are saying–but it is exactly the opposite of what I’ve been thinking for a long time, and so I’m curious what I am missing!!!
I appreciate I am at a crossroad in my homeschooling and not sure what next step to take to improve and move forward . So doing my research . Could use support or advice that I do not have to pay for .