You've seen it. The kids are at the table. They’re focused on their work. On task. Productive.
Then one of your little ones’ heads comes up. They start looking around. Tap their foot a couple of times. They reach over and poke their sibling in the arm.
And so it begins.
Their sibling stops doing their work, turns to them, and pokes them back. The third kid notices and joins in. They want a part of the action too.
Ugh. Here we go again!! Those darn fidgety kids.
Sometimes it’s a spitball or a bit of eraser. You can tell from what you find on the floor after homeschool's done for the day.
How did that paper clip and rubber band get way over there, to that side of the room? You never keep your paper clips and rubber bands there!
It can be so hard to keep your kids focused on their schoolwork!
It’s not that they don’t want to learn. Or that they don’t want to succeed or make you happy. You’re an important adult in their life. Of course, they want you to be happy with them!
But you’ve got to understand the nature of the beast. Kids are fidgety, playful, and silly. At the right time, it’s adorable. At the wrong time — for example, during homeschool — it can be quite frustrating.
What’s to be done?!
There are lots of effective teaching strategies out there that address this common problem. I’m going to share 5 of them with you today, with lots of examples.
The goal of these tips and techniques is to maintain momentum throughout your daily homeschooling time. The better you’re able to maintain momentum, the more positive an experience it’s going to be for everybody.
Read through these strategies. Pick one or two to try out. See how it goes. In time, integrate another. If you’re already doing some of these, good for you!!
If you’re doing most of them and maintaining momentum through your homeschool day, you’re a master. You’ve probably homeschooled a few of your kids into high school already.
Effective Teaching Strategies to Keep Your Kids Focused During Homeschool
Remember, no day will be perfect! Some days you’re going to lose your temper, blow your stack and send them all to their rooms. When that happens, forgive yourself and take care of yourself. One of the best things about young kids is how forgiving they are.
1. First, get organized.
Have all your materials gathered and in place for the day before you begin. The more organized you are, the fewer and shorter your pauses are between the subject lessons or activities. Less momentum is lost, and there’s less opportunity for the kids to lose focus.
Have a daily agenda, including the homeschool day’s schedule, set up and visible. This helps them keep focus because they’ll know what to expect and where they need to be by the end of the day. Make sure the agenda is attainable for them.
Give the kids their daily learning goals, if that’s not included in the daily agenda. This is information that you already have in your homeschool planner. If you share your plan with the kids every day, they’re encouraged to take ownership of their learning. This encourages focus and motivation. Daily learning goals will be unique to each of your kids, depending on their age or ability.
2. Watch your time and pace, or they’ll lose focus fast.
Limit timing and maintain an energetic pace. Remember the classroom scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? That’s an example of a pace that is NOT energetic.
Check yourself and check in with the kids to see if you’re talking too slowly or repeating directions unnecessarily. A pace that’s too fast or too slow will impact their focus and cause them to lose attention.
Stay on schedule as best you can. Don’t let a lesson run on longer than planned, even if your kids focus and are productive. I promise you that they’ll be watching the clock. They count on things ending at the designated time. Don’t we all?
3. Have a behavior incentive plan in place.
A prize kids can win or a consequence to avoid will inspire your little ones to do their very best to stay focused. If they can’t focus themselves, it can at least inspire them not to start poking their brothers and sisters. (See beginning of this post).
Start with a simple behavior incentive plan that addresses current problem areas. Add to it as needed. Experiment with simple prizes and consequences that are easy to follow through on. For example, an addition or subtraction of 10 minutes of t.v. time is perfect.
Younger kids will go nuts over any sort of prize if you announce it in an enthusiastic way. Pretend you’re a game show host announcing the grand prize. It’s not until they’re about 13 that they start to develop opinions about what kinds of prizes they get.
4. Put homeschool rules and procedures in place.
A simple system of rules and procedures prevents your kids from interrupting you and your other kids, causing everyone to lose focus.
For example, what do they do when they get done early? What do they do when they need your help, but you’re busy with another one of your kids? Do you want them to ask permission before they get up to go to the bathroom?
If the kids need to come to you every time they have a small question, it’ll derail your homeschool momentum. Everyone will lose focus over and over again throughout the day. A few rules and procedures prevents those small disruptions and keeps everything flowing.
5. Smooth transitions are a key teaching strategy.
Keeping the kids focused during a transition to a new lesson or activity is difficult. That’s the most common time that momentum is lost. Don’t underestimate the skill it takes to pull off a smooth transition!
Two techniques to help you during that transition time:
a. 10, 5, and 3-minute warnings. When the time to stop working on a lesson or activity approaches, give the kids advance warning. This technique gets the kids ready for the transition, and it’s effective. It will also save a great deal of upset if any of your kids are taking a timed test or quiz. Don’t you do this already at bedtime?
b. Foreshadowing. In addition to the 10-minute warning, tell the kids what you’re going to do next. This also prepares them for the transition.
These easy, yet effective, transition tips will go a long way toward maintaining momentum during your homeschool day.
6. Get physical! Work in some movement during your homeschool time.
If the kids are stuck sitting quietly at the same table for hours at a time, it’ll be impossible for them to stay focused. They need opportunities to move.
Put movement into some activities during learning time. This will allow the kids to get rid of pent up energy, get refreshed, and stay productive.
An activity that allows movement is a group discussion, where your kids can speak and share ideas. A change of setting, like moving outdoors for a lesson, also works well. Finally, a game like bingo or catch is another example. Base those games on answering factual questions from their lessons correctly.
To sum it all up
Everything I’ve written about today may sound like a lot for you to do. But the truth is, it’s not all that different from managing a household. Take what sounds good and works for you, and leave the rest for another time.
These teaching strategies minimize the time you and the kids find yourselves at odds with each other during homeschool. You and your kids deserve to have the most enjoyable homeschooling experience possible.
What are your strategies to keep focus and momentum in your homeschool? Tell me if you use any in today’s post, or share your own in a comment below.