There are myriad distractions that can disrupt the homeschooling process: the decibel level of little children who are competing for your attention, the inexplicable disappearance of pens and pencils, or the dog demanding to be re-admitted to your home.
But as we parents sit down to help our children with their homeschooling, I think we would have to admit that some of the biggest distractions are often the ones inside ourselves—the ones that keep popping into our minds as we attempt to teach.
I became aware of this the other day during a conversation I had with my sixteen-year-old son, Demetrius.
That afternoon, Demetrius informed me that he had asked me a question earlier that morning, and I took about ten seconds to answer it. The problem was during that ten seconds, I was thinking about a lot of other things. When he asked me a question, my mind had to “clear the queue” before I could address his interrogative. When he told me that he had actually counted to see how long it would take for me to answer him, I felt really bad. Because no parent wants his or her children to feel like they are competing for their parent’s attention.
It is pretty obvious that mental presence for your children equals mental presents for your children. Children are frustrated when we parents are distracted, but are appreciative when they know they are getting our full attention. So maybe the best way to homeschool better immediately is to clear the queue.
Specifically, here is an idea that we can all try.
It seems that each of us has a list of at least five things we have been putting off for too long. Whether it’s cleaning your walk-in closet, getting a cavity filled, filing your taxes, going to Confession, helping your son fill out his college application forms online, sending an overdue thank-you note, or fixing an appliance—we all have a mental “to-do” list. And it tends to drag us down. But there is a way to solve this mental bogeyman.
Write down these items on a piece of paper.
And then go do them.
Not tonight after you watch a Columbo re-run.
We create a lot of stress in our lives by thinking about all the things that we have to do. These things become ogres in our minds. We may sit down with our children to help them with their history or mathematics, but we’re really thinking about other things. That’s not fair to our kids. It’s not fair to us, either. Ironically, stress and worry are only increased by further pondering—but they can be eliminated by doing.
Clean your closet, schedule an appointment with your dentist, drop by your parish church.
Clear the queue, and become present to your kids again.
(Enjoy John Clark’s writing? Have a Kindle? Take a look at the Kindle version of John’s book Who’s Got You? Observations of a Catholic Homeschooling Father.)