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 that child focused on their school work so that you can have a successful homeschool day.
12 Tips for Homeschooling a Distracted Child
1) Use a Timer
Timers can be a great way to teach your child to stay focused. As long as you set a realistic amount of time for them to succeed, having that visual cue to stay on task can really help. Knowing that when the timer goes off that they can stop what they are doing often means they put effort into that time frame.
2) 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.
3) 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.
4) 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.
5) Cut Out Distractions
In a houseful of children, it can be really hard to remove noise and action and business that can be real 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) or screens to look at, or toys to play with – it can make a world of difference.
6) Take Breaks
Give them gaps to allow themselves the freedom to be distracted.
7) Use Music
Try to use music without words that has a rhythmic or calming beat. This can trigger a brain to be able 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.
8) 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 and gain their surprised attention?
9) 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.
10) Find an Area of Interest
A child who wants to learn will be much more focused than a child is doesn’t. Find something they are curious about and you will see how much better they are able to learn.
11) 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 that 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.
12) Exercise Before Focusing
Studies have shown that kids who spend time doing active exercising before they need to be focused 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 favourite morning fitness routines before you sit down to work.
It can be a real struggle to find a 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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