Sometimes, you just need kids to do what they're told. To give you a minute to breath while you know they're doing something productive.
Some days kids can’t pull their mental stuff together. You spend your wheels and never go anywhere. All you end up with is frustration and wasted time.
So how should we handle those days?
Use these days to concentrate on teaching life skills like cleaning, home, or car maintenance. Use these days to model self-care. Use these days to bond.
I would like to point out that only about half homeschooling is learning academics. The other half is learning character, self forgiveness, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal skills.
This is a time to focus on keeping your cool. These days are the hardest. We question our competence, desire to do this, our methods, our sanity.
If this means you gotta park each kid in their own space with quiet toy, so you can sneak into a room to regroup, don’t feel guilty.
SuperMom doesn’t exists. Focus on finding what productive things you can get accomplished and running that smoothly.
Where to start?
Evaluate possible causes and treat them.
Every change of seasons presents a challenge for my family. They each bring their unique mix of weather, sights, smells, animals and activities for experience.
How active have they been? Studies show active kids retain more and are more engaged during school after having a lesson outside.
I find that a quick trip outdoors to explore is well worth the investment of time.
Also, a tired, hungry, anxious, sad child can’t concentrate.
Has there been a recent change in the child’s routine or other aspect like the birth of a sibling?
Some of these are easily solved like feeding a hungry child or separating kids that distract each other. Others are not, and you must allow time to find a new rhythm.
What if you don't know?
Start with fun. Get everybody up and move. Have an impromptu dance party. Have a family race. Sing “Heads, Shoulders, Knees, Toes”.
Go outside (I really can’t stress this enough) and play. Set a timer so you can get back to school in a reasonable amount of time; however, be sure to give transition warnings.
With kids that need help calming after activity, make sure to save time for some calming stretches and deep breathing exercises to ease the transition.
If activity doesn’t help, try engaging the child with connection. Touch the shoulder or give a hug, then look into their eyes and ask if they need help.
Often an overwhelmed child reduces their effort which looks like refusal to work.
Avoid abstract instructions like "Do you work." Instead be very specific, "Start by reading the instructions."
The term executive function is about our ability to divide a large task into smaller tasks. Children don't have strong executive function, so it can be really effective when we help them break down tasks.
Sometimes, you may need to scrap academic work for the day. In my house, these days are still productive. We clean together or do other household type chores.
I don’t frame this as a punishment but rather a way to harness the power of activity to help us concentrate and improve our lives.
So instead of learning multiplication, my kids may learn how to fold laundry or mop. All are valuable skills.
I also use this time to reinforce our character traits like diligence.
When I decide to quit school, I would say something like, “Let’s be done for today. You are having problems staying focused. It’s ok to take a break. Let’s go outside for 20 minutes then come back in and clean.”
After coming in, “We still have to work today because work keeps our home clean and tidy, so we can be well. It’s our responsibility to clean. Let’s be diligent so we can be done quickly.”
When it’s a long term problem
If trouble concentrating is a long term problem, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your doctor.
Last, anxiety (and depression) are affecting much of our youth, but because these insidious disorders manifest quite differently in kids, most are going undiagnosed and untreated.
A professional can screen your child for these mood disorders and teach both you and your child coping mechanisms and how to tweak your routine to reduce anxiety. If you want to hear about how we reduce anxiety in our homeschool, please leave me a comment!
Every child will have times when they can’t concentrate. Don’t sweat the occasional setbacks. If it becomes a predictable pattern, talk to your doctor to explore causes and options.