“Mom, I need help on my math,” my daughter calls from the other room.
I stop folding the laundry and go in to help her. After reviewing fractions with her for a couple minutes, the 4 year old’s timer goes off, signalling the end of his screen time for the morning. I enforce that and deal with the resulting behavioral issues.
“Mom, what do I need to do for English?” my older son asks from his desk. While giving him directions, the notification alarm whistles on my phone. I see it’s an email from hubby asking me to take care of something for him.
In the middle of doing that, the mail truck drives up and I want to see if that magazine finally paid me for my article.
When I come back inside from getting the mail, I walk past the laundry room and remember that I need to finish folding the laundry.
Then my daughter needs help again. In the middle of that, the 4 year old says he’s hungry and announces that the “leg bone is connected to the butt bone” which disrupts any quiet we may have had as the older two laugh at the little one’s silliness…
I’m left with half a dozen tasks half completed and my brain in a fog, not knowing what I’m supposed to be doing next. The above scenario really isn’t an exaggeration, either! This is an area that I’m really struggling with lately and am trying to change. I certainly don’t have it figured out, but here are some things I’ve been trying…
1. Mute the smart phone notifications. I have found that I’m particularly thrown off course by auditory distractions and that little whistle on my phone is a huge one! I like knowing when hubby emails me from work, but I really don’t need to know the very second the email comes in. I also don’t need to know when something else horrible happens on the news or when some other ad appears in my email inbox. Texts and facebook notifications definitely fall into that category as well. It’s so tempting to see if there’s something fun or interesting going on, but it throws me off track big time. If I mute the phone at least during our main academic time, I do much better.
2. Teach the kids not to interrupt. We’re still working on this (and probably will be for a while), but I’m trying to teach my older kids (ages 10 and 12) that when I’m teaching (or correcting) the 4 year old, they need to wait for my help until I’m done. Many times the “I need help!” turns into a “Never mind – I figured it out” five minutes later. I’m trying to train them that if they’re really stuck, to move on to something else until I’m available to help them. The same thing goes for the 4 year old. If he’s supposed to be playing independently, he can’t interrupt my working with the older kids every five minutes to ask for a snack or just be silly to demand attention.
I’m also trying to train my kids to get up and come to where I am to ask for help rather than always calling for me to come to them. If I’m folding laundry and they have a math question, they can come to the laundry room with their math book and usually I can answer the question while still folding laundry. That way I’m helping them without physically leaving (and therefore forgetting) what I was doing.
3. Have paper or an electronic version ready for “squirrel!” moments. You’re teaching a child a history lesson and suddenly remember that you need to add apples to the grocery list, you forgot to pay a bill, or a brilliant idea for something pops into your head. Keep paper and pen handy, or the electronic equivalent. I like using Evernote, Toodledo, and Out of Milk for my notes, to do lists, and grocery lists. It’s handy to have everything in one place. There are plenty of other options as well.
4. Everything has its time. Just as the “a place for everything and everything in its place” is so handy for keeping track of physical things, the same idea helps me when managing my time. If I know that I plan to do my writing during the kids’ silent reading time, then I don’t have to worry about when I’m going to fit it in. It already has a place. If I plan to do housecleaning chores during our mid morning break at 9:30, then I can put it out of my mind other times of day because I know it has its time to get done.
How about you? What tricks have you developed to keep from becoming too scatter-brained during your school day?