How to Homeschool the Inattentive Child

Tips for all the new homeschooling parents

Posted Apr 02, 2020

Shutterstock (FamVeld)
Working and parenting from home can be rough!
Source: Shutterstock (FamVeld)

I have been speaking with many parents who are struggling with homeschooling their inattentive children, some who have an ADHD diagnosis, and some who are just on the hyper side. Being a child psychiatrist who has lived through a week-long quarantine without my nanny (who may have been exposed to COVID-19), I am also struggling. 

I wear the hats of a psychiatrist, cook, cleaner, and teacher and it has been complete chaos in my home. I have learned to really appreciate the Dyson HandiVac. (Thank you, Dyson, for making such incredible products AND for stepping up and making ventilators. )

If you are in a similar situation and have an inattentive and energetic rugrat, here are some tips that might help.  

  • Set up a schedule for each child every morning. Write it all down on a whiteboard or print it out. Give the child a clock/watch they can read. This might help them stay organized. 
  • The schedule should include breaks for physical exercise. Exercise helps focus the mind. 
  • Don’t focus on time with the schedule, but focus on getting things accomplished. Assign content to complete before they take a break, such as a math worksheet or 10 pages to read in a book. Do this rather than obsessing about the amount of time spent. They will be more motivated to complete the task so they can spend the rest of that time scheduled to have some fun. My kids love the coding apps from the school and spend free time doing this activity.
  • Make sure they get plenty of sleep. In order to do this, focus on the wake-up time and not the bedtime. Make sure they are waking up at the same time every day. Then the bedtime will follow as they will get tired at night. No napping is allowed! That is very bad for sleep cycles. Anyone who has treated insomnia will tell you, the best trick is to focus on wake-up time. Don’t allow kids to do anything but read in bed. Screens in bed are a recipe for disaster. Keep the phone and other devices charging in a separate room. 

If they misbehave, give very quick and direct consequences. The best consequences are those that expire quickly, such as no screen time for one hour or the rest of the day (max!). 

Make sure they are studying in the same place each day. Set up a desk with everything they need. This will create better learning patterns as we are creatures of habit. If we get used to studying in a certain place, we will have less trouble doing that when we are in that place (same sights and sounds). This is a basic learning theory.   

These strategies have been very helpful for my 7-year-old and 9-year-old. Bribery (positive reinforcement) has also been helping. They have gotten a bunch of new board games and other toys for the independent completion of school tasks. I also reward them with things like using breaks to bake cookies or other fun tasks. These have been great reinforcements for them.  

To all you parents out there who are now teachers, I hope these tips help you do the impossible and to become Super Mom/Dad.

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