Updated: May 16, 2020
Managing the new chaos of schooling from home.
I know that so many of you who are now “Crisis Schooling” are pulling your hair out trying to get your kids to FOCUS.
Or, like me, maybe you’re the one that could use some more focus now that your routine is shot to pieces. Good News! You don’t have to go bald!
The secret is to keep the ‘work spaces’ clutter and distraction free, and to build ‘intentional distractions’ in to your day. The tips below expand on ways to do this, and how productive even your ‘distractions’ can be.
After homeschooling my 4 children for over 15 years while running my own businesses, and teaching thousands of other kids both online and in person, I have developed some tried and true ways to help all of us focus on the task at hand. Give these a try before you set up the tent in the backyard for the kids to live in!
1. Change Your Surroundings
Use the extra time you have to shake things up at the house. While routines are good, we can all get into a bit of a rut at times. With everyone at home, space can get a bit tight, tempers shorten, and focus goes out the window.
Clean out that ‘guest’ bedroom (we won’t be hosting any guests for awhile!) and make it into a schoolroom or new office.
Set up some new areas for people to get their work done. With a corner desk, comfy chair, desk lamp, and supplies, it will feel like a whole new room!
Blank walls can be perfect for focus! However, if you want to provide some interest to change things up, buy a landscape poster or tapestry to add some calming scenery. Keep it simple and soothing.
For common spaces, spice up the walls with fun learning items. Our family’s favorites – Maps, Cursive Writing Posters, and the Periodic Table. Well, those were MY favorites, anyway!
Use the dining room table as the ‘discussion’, game, and/or puzzle table.
Take advantage of the nice weather and set up an outdoor ‘office’ or schoolroom. Keep in mind that this can be very distracting for some, but it can be helpful for simple tasks and a way to ‘reset’ our bodies and brains.
2. Play Classical Music
This is one tip that I have resurrected for myself! I can’t even begin to count the number of studies that have been done about how beneficial classical music is for the brain – at ANY age.
It is also a wonderful way to help you and your kids focus. When I tell people about this, I picture an old Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs plays classical music and immediately soothes a raging monster…Yep; it worked the same way on my kids.
How wonderful that we are able to put on headphones and listen individually when necessary, but look for opportunities to play it softly in the background so everyone can enjoy it at the same time.
3. Get Active!
This is what got my kids through their spelling, vocabulary, and math facts! This is especially true for my boys. I am not sure I would have survived long winters without our mini-trampoline in the house!
There are some pretty interesting articles on the difference between men and women’s brains, the ratio of grey to white matter, and how that affects cognitive abilities, but that’s for another blog. I just know being active works.
Try throwing a Frisbee, baseball or football while going through your kids’ spelling words or math formulas, or while you go over key points for a Zoom presentation.
Go for a walk while you talk through a particularly difficult history or government topic with your student, or while you work through a particularly difficult situation with work.
Play Ladder Ball or Corn Hole while your high school student discusses the book they read for English and help them outline their essay.
Use four square or basketball to run through vocabulary words and their synonyms and antonyms; or dodge ball where you have to spell a word before you can throw the ball.
There are SO many ways to be active and accomplish more than you can imagine!
4. Take More Frequent, Short Breaks
Most adults don't stay focused on something for more than 5 minutes, so how can we expect our kids too? Help keep them from getting fatigued by taking frequent 5-10 min breaks. This will help keep them energized and focused when they get back to work.
5. Keep Your Blood Sugar Steady
There is a reason that we start to feel so fatigued and unfocused around 3 o’clock. We have not been taking those short breaks I mentioned above, and we have not eaten for several hours. When our blood sugar goes up and down significantly, it causes us to feel sleepy, sluggish, and unfocused.
There are articles and podcasts galore on how to eat healthier, be more active, and avoid the afternoon ‘crash’, but one of my favorite health coaches is Alicia Schoolman at strugglestotriumphs.com. She recommends "balanced meals and snacks eating veggies, protein, and fruit together. You will feel more satisfied, and the synergistic activity of the different enzymes and other components in the variety of foods promotes optimal digestion and absorption of nutrients and phytonutrients." Alicia is a Nationally Certified Functional Health Coach and has TONS of suggestions on staying healthy!
We all ‘know’ what to do, but when we are at home ALL day, EVERY day, it is much easier to grab that very satisfying bag of chips, or those homemade chocolate chip cookies that you HAD to make with your kids to help them learn fractions.
Hopefully these tips will help you through this ‘Crisis Schooling’ period, and as the weather warms up, that tent in the backyard can be a fantastic intentional distraction!