My daughter has a hard time focusing.

by Wendy
(Hartland, Wisconsin)

This is our first year homeschooling and my daughter has a hard time focusing. Although I know it's going to be a bit of a transition for her, I'm frustrated by her lack of attention. She's not used to me being her teacher. She's not used to focusing on school subjects, answering questions and doing work at home. We just started and she's already complaining. I really want to create a positive learning environment and use lots of different activities but some subjects or topics need serious focus. How do I get her to stop wriggling, changing subject or doing something else and get her to focus on the task at hand?

Thanks, Wendy

Kristina's Reply to My Daughter Has a Hard Time Focusing:

Homeschooling is a great choice, especially for kids who have attention difficulties. So let me address both issues in your question. First of all, she IS used to you being her teacher. Don't kid yourself, you have been her primary and best teacher for her whole life! Everything she can do she learned from you. You taught her to speak the English language, to clean up her toys even when she doesn't want to, to eat her veggies even if she hates them, to brush her teeth every night, to count to 10, to walk, to run! You can most certainly teach her "school" subjects just like any other "subject" you've taught her over the years. Be confident about that and don't let her disrespect you while you're showing her how to do division or asking her questions about US history, any more than you'd let her disrespect you and ignore your questions when you're asking her to take out the trash or correcting a grammatically incorrect statement she made.

In order to foster the positive learning environment at home, I would do several things. I would make a rule of no TV/video games/etc. during the week, with that stuff allowed only on the weekends. This helps take away other distractions of unproductive and unhealthy things she might want to be doing instead of learning from you during the day at home. Secondly, I would make sure to do school subjects in short bursts. 45 minutes maximum per session is probably good. Interspersing these school subjects with physical activities is a great thing to do. Even assigning a "workout" for her between school subjects is great and it's fun and something she can track on her own! Say, for instance, after she spends a half hour on math, she has to run 3 times around the house, do 50 jumping jacks, do 10 push-ups, and spend 8 minutes playing on the swingset. (All this will depend on age, of course.) And then she can have a drink and a snack, and then sit down to work on some independent math homework. I would also make sure to be doing the subjects that require the most focus first thing in the morning. Kids are far fresher and more focused in the morning, and hopefully you'll be able to have all of your schoolwork done by lunchtime if you start at 8am. Homeschooling is very efficient and with one-on-one instruction, it gets done very quickly. Once she sees this, she will learn to LOVE her new-found freedom, and to focus and work hard in the morning so that she can have all afternoon to play. Lastly, I would make sure to have a "school" room or desk at your house that she can only sit at during school time. Whether she's doing homework or learning from you, that desk will tell her brain, "This is school time. Focus!" She should NEVER use that room or desk for play, to watch TV, to eat, or at any other time besides when she is doing school work. That will help her focus and stay organized. Eventually you'll be able to move her learning from the desk/school room, to a more dynamic and changing environment, and give her more flexibility. But at first, to reinforce your role as school teacher, the desk/room may be helpful.

Have fun, maintain your normal level of discipline with her regardless of whether you're doing schoolwork at the time or not, and stay strong! Homeschooling is such a great choice for students, it brings families closer together, creates more dynamic lifelong learners, and restores your daughter's childhood. It's worth the work on your part, and she will be grateful to you in the future!

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