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How To Diminish Distractions and Get On With Learning

Homeschooling is both rewarding and frustrating. It gives you flexibility, but it’s hard to do. It gives you control over your child’s education, but it can make you feel completely out of control some days. One week you may feel as if the decision to homeschool was the best you ever made, while the next week you might think you made a mistake and that you are in over your head.

Educating at home is like a roller coaster. You will have your ups, your downs, and your dull and routine moments. One minute, your children are gathered around you, enrapt by your lecture on Medieval European history, and the next the baby is crying, the dog is throwing up on the carpet, and your washing machine is bouncing around the room spewing soap suds.

Interruptions are inevitable in almost anything you do. Kids who sit in classrooms at the local public school experience interruptions. Unfortunately, you and your children are in the perfect position to be sidetracked by these daily, sometimes hourly distractions. Sometimes, you simply have to put up with interruptions, but others can be controlled and managed to maximize your learning time and to regain focus.

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Embrace the Inevitable

Your homeschooling environment is also your home environment. You have only so much control over what happens in it, so be ready to accept the inevitable interruptions. If you expect that every day will run smoothly and nothing unexpected will occur, you are well down the road to disappointment. When you allow yourself to admit to and accept that you do not have full control over occurrences, your days will automatically run more smoothly and be less stressful.

Schedule, Plan, and Prepare

That being said, you do have a great deal of control over the flow of your homeschooling days. Time management and scheduling are topics for other articles, but when you take the time to address these, you will find that your days are less disrupted. Create rough outlines for how each month of homeschooling should go. Break that down into weekly plans that are more detailed. Finally, at the start of each week, outline the plan for each day. At the end of each day, reflect on what you accomplished and adjust the next day’s schedule accordingly. Don’t be too rigid about these schedules. If you treat them as fluid and changing, you will be less stressed out over the interruptions that sideline your plans.

You can also use your plans or schedule to address these times when you don’t get to accomplish everything you had hoped to get to on any given day. Always pencil in extra time in your weekly schedule. If life sidetracks you during the week, you can use this time as make-up. And if you have a miraculously distraction-free week, you can give your kids some free time.

Minimize the Obvious

Sometimes you need dedicated, interruption-free time to get through a lesson. With a little preparation, you should be able to create small blocks of time with a low risk of distraction. Think about the usual suspects and find ways to make sure these will not become interruptions during this time.

  • Put the baby down for a nap. If you need a solid hour for working with your older child, plan it for the same time that the young’uns go down for naps.
  • If you need some time and it doesn’t coincide with napping, give your toddler toys or an educational DVD that will keep him occupied for a stretch of time.
  • If the dog is becoming a nuisance, put her outside in the yard. If she stares at you with sad eyes through the window, pull the curtains. If the cat is feeling needy, shut the door and keep him out of the room.
  • Put your cell phone on vibrate or turn it off. Let the house phone go to the answering machine.
  • Work in a room without distractions. If you are working with little ones that are easily pulled away by toys or books, work with them in a different space.

Have Back-Ups Ready

Despite your best planning, sometimes interruptions will occur. And, sometimes these cannot be ignored. Maybe the power goes out, a pipe starts leaking, or the dog comes in from outside stinking of skunk spray. These types of interruptions require your immediate attention. If you have back-up activities and materials for your kids, these distractions need not halt learning altogether. While you attend to the problem, have them read, watch an educational program, write in their journals, fill out activity sheets, work on individual assignments and projects, or play educational games.

Turn a Distraction Into a Lesson

If you’re lucky, a distraction could become educational. If you find yourself dealing with a backed up toilet, for instance, use it as a teachable moment. Your kids should learn how to do practical things as well as academic subjects. They won’t learn how to fix a toilet in a public school! If Fido got into a porcupine and needs an immediate trip to the vet, bring the kids so they can learn about veterinarians and what they do. If you blow a fuse, teach them about electricity and replacing fuses.

When the Kids are the Interruption

Sometimes, it is the children themselves that cause interruptions and distractions. Maybe your little one finishes his work while you are teaching geometry to an older child. Or, you are discussing geography and little Susie keeps interrupting to say that she wants a snack. This kind of behavior is not uncommon, especially early on in homeschooling. Before your very first lesson, have a family meeting and discuss the expectations and rules for homeschooling. Make sure your children understand that there are certain times that are dedicated for learning, just like in school and that they have to behave appropriately during these times.

Look for Support

Chances are your spouse is out of the house during the day. If there were two of you at home to educate the kids, interruptions and distractions would cease to be a problem. The reality is that you probably homeschool largely on your own. This doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t find support and help from time to time. Some lessons for older kids could be saved for the evenings, for example, if you need your spouse to keep the younger ones occupied.

You might also consider looking into homeschooling groups in your area. With a small group of like-minded homeschooling families, you can help each other. One parent might be able to take your older kids on a field trip while you work at home with your youngsters on important lessons. You can return the favor by taking in their younger kids for the day to teach certain subjects.

De-stress at the End of the Day

Don’t forget to unwind at the end of a homeschooling day. No matter what interruption or distraction wrecked your day, avoid taking that stress to bed with you. The power of relaxation at the end of the day cannot be overstated. Whether it means having a cup of tea alone on the porch, watching your favorite TV show, reading a book in bed, or talking with your spouse, do something that makes you feel more relaxed before you hit the sack and get ready for another day.

Teach your children the value of relaxation as well. Make it a family affair by taking an evening stroll together or reading out loud from a novel that everyone will enjoy. When everyone in the family is relaxed and stress-free, each day of homeschooling will be smoother and more successful. The inevitable interruptions will seem much less disruptive.

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