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Can you guess the theme from my title????
In case you can’t, this week’s question is "How do you teach the hyper/distractible child?"
Well, there are times when I’d say all of my boys are hyper or distractible. I think it is almost the nature of boys to be more active when compared to girls. And, it is this gender difference that leads to many in the traditional school systems being labeled as problems or recommended for evaluation with ADD or ADHD medications ultimately prescribed. I saw this a LOT when working on a research study at the University of Rochester. We went into the general population of the local public schools to evaluate for the occurrence of tics, ADD/ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder and other issues. What I found when interviewing parents of elementary students was that many classrooms had boys medicated. One mom I met was the lone parent of a boy that was NOT medicating her son for one particular classroom of kids.
All that is just to say that while my boys can be hyper or distractible, this isn’t about having ADD, ADHD or any other disorder out there. None of them have a diagnosis, although I suspect one would be recommended for evaluation if he was in a school setting. This is about them being boys and needing to be more physical than I needed at their age.
So, how do I handle their need for motion and ease of distractibility?
I’d love to say that I had found the perfect solution. Instead, we cycle through periods of time when things work well and periods of time when I feel like pulling my hair out.
A few things I have found help:
Let them get physical for a while BEFORE beginning school.
This might seem like an obvious thing to do. However, there are times when I totally forget to do it. One friend from back in Ohio had a therapist recommend her son jump on the trampoline for 10 to 15 minutes before she began school. It made a huge difference in his ability to focus.
We don’t have a trampoline (as Mr. O is adamant that we should not for safety concerns), but there are simple things you can do. You could have a mini-PT session (something my military loving boys can sink their teeth into.) Jog in place (or around the room), do some push-ups and sit-ups, maybe even teach the younger kids how to do jumping jacks.
Another ‘exercise’ I learned years ago at a conference is to wake up the brain. You touch your left elbow to your right knee and then reverse. I used to do this with the 11 to 15 year olds in my babysitting classes to help wake them up on a Saturday morning. They found it a bit silly, but it helped. And, when I did it during pregnancy, I felt like I’d just gotten a workout.
Begin your school time with prayer.
This one is simple and sometimes when the older boys start work before the younger ones, we will forget to take time to pray. On those days, things seem more chaotic. It doesn’t have to be a long time, either. In our house, we do three ‘formal’ prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be) followed by intentions. Typically, the boys have intentions to finish their work quickly at that time since it is top of mind. We might also read about the Saint for the day from one of our books.
Something God has placed on my heart in the recent past for this time is to have a Scripture verse for different character traits we want to work on as a family. We have not begun this, but I hope to start soon.
Find ways to use their need for motion.
If you have a wiggle worm, do not expect them to sit quietly at a desk to do all their work. As it is, they might do better and remember things if allowed to move. I’ve seen R doing math on the ground as he practically contorts his body into strange angles while he almost stands on his head.
Our math program (MUS) uses manipulatives to help with learning, so their hands are engaged while learning basic facts. For history, we’ve often listened to the chapters read aloud while they colored a page for that topic. The younger the child, the more likely they need to learn kinesthetically (think with motion!)
Take breaks as needed.
The beauty of homeschooling is that you can make your own schedule. If you have a child that can only focus for short bursts, then plan your day accordingly. Thankfully, my boys are old enough to work for longer stretches. However, they will sometimes announce to me that they need a break at times. Usually, it is a ‘play with Legos’ or something similar that they want to do.
Minimize distractions in the room.
If there is an area where we struggle the most, this is it! P is highly distractible. There are days when he complains that his younger brothers are breathing too loud. And, truth be told, Little J can be a big distraction as he often tries to engage someone in play when they are supposed to be working.
One thing we have done in the past is to use an ‘office’ to create a visual break of the landscape. It’s basically file folders made into a makeshift divider that mimics those study carousels found in libraries. You can keep them plain OR you can include different fact sheets (e.g. times tables, basic writing guidelines, etc.) It helps at times, but they often need to be reminded to use them.
Create workstations in different rooms.
This is something we’ve had to do and I am grateful to have the space that allows for it. We have a big room that serves as schoolroom (and playroom) with a desk, computer station, and a table where we can work together. But, I also have a student desk in the near by guest room where boys can work with a door closed if needed. And, some subjects are done upstairs in the main living space.
For some subjects, like reading, I will allow the boys to pick any corner of the house to do their independent reading. But, some times they need to be close to me for either supervision (sometimes it’s too much temptation to do computer work and click over to a game instead) or help.
Find a way to layout their work ahead of time.
For years, I’ve done checklists from Homeschool Tracker Plus. This helps them know what to do, but only to a point. Our best productivity was the 9 weeks prior to Little J’s birth. Not only did I get the schoolroom in super neat order, we also used workboxes. D had actual boxes as suggested in Sue Patrick’s book. R and P had work folders where assignments were placed. There was no question as to what needed to be done and my checking each afternoon or evening for completed work helped me to keep them on task. I really need to get back to this if I want to help everyone maximize productivity.
There you have it…some things that we’ve used to help minimize the challenge of teaching a child with ants in their pants or roaming eyes. Don’t forget to check out the other submissions to this TOS Blog Cruise after tomorrow morning by clicking on the button at the top of this post.