A child's learning environment is such a crucial element of their overall academic success, but its importance often gets lost in the shuffle as we go about our daily homeschool life. None of us do this on purpose, of course. Most of us are managing multiple kids of varying ages, many of us are working from home, and all of us are taking care of a family and a household. It's easy for us to forget that our child with ADHD may be having a harder time completing schoolwork because of distractions in their learning environment.
So, let's take a little time today and talk to our kids about it. Ask them some specific questions.
Question #1- Do they prefer comfortable or uncomfortable seating (or do they like to stand) while working?
This may seem like a strange question. However, as I interviewed homeschool students with ADHD, I was surprised that almost all of them felt very strongly about this, one way or the other.
Some wanted to be in a comfortable spot, like the couch, a bean bag, or even sitting on their beds. These students were distracted by the uncomfortableness of sitting at a desk or on a hard chair at the kitchen table. They said they focused more on how uncomfortable they were than the schoolwork they were supposed to be doing.
On the opposite end of the spectrum were those who preferred to sit at a desk, on a hard chair, or even stand at the counter to do their work. The reason? Being a little uncomfortable kept them more focused, so they could get done with their work faster. For these students, being in a more comfortable spot made it too easy to start daydreaming or even fall asleep when they should be working.
Of course, some kids might need a combination of different seating types throughout the day. They may need to switch things up for different subjects or different times of the day to maximize their focus time.
Question #2- What are the things in their learning environment that distract them the most?
External distractions cannot be completely eliminated. But, if you can identify the things that bother your child the most and try to minimize those, it will make a big difference for them.
What are some possible external distractions?
• Siblings (Need I say more?)
• Household activity (Mom got a phone call, somebody's looking in the pantry, the dog barked)
• Digital devices (How many tabs do you have open right now?)
• Wall art (Or well-meaning educational material on the wall)
• Toys or video games (They're just sitting there waiting to be played with, right?)
• A bed (Just seeing it makes me sleepy sometimes)
• Food (If I see it...if I smell it...I need it)
• Outside (As I look longingly out the window and begin to form a story in my mind about climbing that tree...)
• And the list goes on, and on, and on, and o-o-on (You're singing the song now, aren't you? You're welcome.)
Question #3- Where can your child work with the least amount of distractions?
Sometimes, as homeschool parents, we have a clearly defined vision of what we want our homeschool to look like, especially when we are just starting out. I remember our first year. I worked so hard setting up a "homeschool room", and I was so proud of it. But, it didn't even last a whole semester.
I was trying to re-create a traditional classroom at home, and that wasn't what my kids needed. You see, like many of you, that's the only learning environment I had ever known. I went to public school growing up. Then, I became a public school teacher. Then, I became a public school counselor.
I had been taught what education was "supposed" to look like. With all my years of training and experience, surely I would know what my kids needed in a learning environment, right?
It wasn't long before our homeschool started spilling out of that perfectly-planned room. One kid wanted to move their desk to their bedroom, so they wouldn't be distracted by the others. Another would be sprawled out on the living room floor in a sea of books, papers, and supplies. And we all found out that our favorite time of day was when we all piled on the couch to see what happened next in whatever book series we were enthralled with at the time.
My idea of what our learning environment should look like didn't match my kids' needs at all.
Now, I'm not saying that a homeschool room is never the right fit. I'm sure some of you have had great success with a designated homeschooling space, and I'm not trying to diminish your experiences at all!
My point here is to get you thinking outside the box--to have you examine your child's learning environment, whatever that may currently be, from a new perspective. Is it possible that changing up the learning space could give your kid a better chance at academic success?
That's where Question #3 comes in. Talk to your child about where they may be able to work with the least amount of distractions.
For some kids, it might be their bedroom. They can get in there and be by themselves without the distractions that may be going on in other parts of the house.
Other kids may be more distracted in their bedrooms because all of their stuff is in there tempting them (toys, video games, their comfy bed).
I know for some of you, it may be important to keep all your kids in the same area, so you can keep up with them and what they are doing. That is a legitimate concern. If that's the case for you, you might want to consider some other options to minimize distractions for your kids.
For example, room dividers or even those cardboard dividers that you can set on top of a table might give your child the visual separation they need.
Noise-canceling headphones can be a game-changer for kids who are distracted easily. I know it may be frustrating to not be able to easily get their attention when they are wearing noise-canceling headphones, but the extra effort you have to put out for that will be completely worth the return in value you will see in your child's ability to focus!
The SOUL SYNC ANC noise-canceling wireless earbuds are a really good choice if your child prefers earbuds. (affiliate link)
But, you can also get a pair of over-the-head ear protection muffs (used by hunters or carpenters) or even a pair of earplugs will help to some extent.
For many of us, computers or other electronic devices are part of our daily homeschool. Whether your child takes online courses, uses a computer program for math, learns a foreign language through an app, or simply listens to music while they are working-our devices have become a vital part of our day.
Although these devices can be immensely helpful for learning, they also have the potential to bring a lot of distraction and wasted time into our kids' lives. One way to combat this is to use a device management app.
My favorite is Freedom.
Freedom can be used across all your devices to block everything that could be a distraction for the amount of time you specify. (affiliate link)
You want to make sure your child can only access CTC Math for the next 30 minutes? No problem. You want to turn off social media for the duration of the school day? You can do that, too.
Freedom actually frees you up from all the distractions that steal your time and attention during the day, so you can be more productive. And it can do the same for your kids!
So, those are some tools that you can use to help create a more distraction-free learning environment for your kids with ADHD.
Like I said at the beginning of the lesson, there is no way to completely get rid of every distraction. But, I hope I've given you some solid points to discuss with your child that will help open up the line of communication about what they need regarding their learning environment.
Day 2 Assignment
Discuss these three questions with your child.
• Do they prefer comfortable or uncomfortable seating (or do they like to stand) while working?
• What are the things in their learning environment that distract them the most?
• Where can your child work with the least amount of distractions?
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