Did you decide to homeschool because your child was distracted in a large classroom setting? That was one of our main reasons for starting to homeschool. However, I found that even though my son was less distracted at home than in a large classroom, I wouldn’t exactly describe him as ‘focused’. Here are some tools and strategies we use to help his brother and him stay focused on their school work.
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Eliminate Visual Distractions
For children who are visually distracted having lots of posters and pictures on the wall is not a good idea. One way to have information close by and in a way that is not distracting is to keep a 3-ring notebook full of different anchor charts and information one might need. Keeping school supplies and learning materials in baskets can also be helpful.
We are lucky enough to have a walk-in closet off of our school room and we have made that a small work area to also eliminate distractions. If this is not an option, think about placing your child’s workspace so it is facing away from possible distractions.
Sitting in a chair where your feet can be on the floor and your knees and hips are bent at 90 degrees is really helpful to staying focused and getting rid of the wiggles. But, I am sure we are not the only homeschool family that works at an old or current kitchen table. And frankly, kids aren’t going to fit those well until they are close to or in the middle school years. The old kitchen table was just not cutting it for my little guy so we found an adjustable desk and chair for him so that he will always have the correct seating!! And something else awesome about it? He was able to put it together almost all by himself….life skills! (Click on the picture to learn more.)
Another item that has been great for getting rid of the wiggles is a stability cushion for the boys to sit on. They use it on the floor or in a chair. (In a chair, it is important that a child’s feet touch the ground or it will only make things worse!) Without it, my youngest ends up in all sorts of strange positions, which look awfully similar to yoga poses.
A third item that can help with the wiggles is a weighted lap pad. You can purchase one of these, but personally we used a 5 lb. bag of rice for a long time-LOL!
Control Sensory Input
Many children who have trouble focusing often pay too much attention to sensory input around them, such as a ticking clock. Listening to music can be really helpful for these children. Music without words is best, but I am sure neither of my children would choose that on their own. I sometimes put the Classical Focus Station from Amazon Music on during our school day and nobody complains past the first minute!
Essential oils can also improve focus, especially lavender, cedarwood and vetiver so I often have a diffuser going during our classroom time. Gum chewing and fidgets are also recommended to help children focus. I personally have a love-hate relationship with both! The gum is fine until I find it somewhere it doesn’t belong! And I feel the fidgets can sometimes become a distraction rather than help with focus, but I am going to experiment with them more this year with my little guy.
Another item that has helped my guys focus are whiteboards and dry erase markers. I am not sure this technically falls under sensory input, but they are way more focused and motivated during spelling and math if they can write on a dry erase board. We have inexpensive 9 x 12 boards, but we also have the slant board shown below (click for more info.), which research has shown improves reading and writing. Not only can you use a dry erase marker on it, but you can also clip paper to it and write with a pen or pencil.
Another key to staying focused is taking breaks! Some research shows that children should take a quick break after 20 minutes of work. If my children need a break this quickly, then we take a 1-2 minute movement break. Sometimes this means my oldest plays Nerf Basketball and my youngest hangs upside down from a chin up bar, but sometimes it is more structured. Read How to Use Movement to Help Your Child Learn to learn some specific movement breaks especially geared toward keeping children calm and focused.
Do you have any other ways you help your children focus? Comment below!
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