Interruptions in our school day - are they simply a fact of life that we have to put up with or are there things we can do to control them? I believe the answer for both questions is: "yes". In many ways, interruptions are just a fact of life: the baby gets sick, the insurance man stops by or a glass of juice gets spilled. These kinds of interruptions are usually unavoidable. However, there are many interruptions in our day that can be avoided. Let's look at some of them - along with some possible solutions.
Perhaps one of the biggest interruptions is the telephone. For this interruption, answering machines and Caller I.D. can be very helpful, making it possible to only answer the most critical calls. If friends or relatives are calling, explain to them that you will not be available during certain times of the day and ask them not to call during those times. The goal is to set appropriate limits, not to become totally isolated.
Lack of a schedule in the homeschool can also bring many unwanted interruptions. Don't be afraid to set goals for the day and stick to them. In order to stay on task and accomplish our goals for each day, I had to think of that time in the same way I would an outside job. If I were working an outside job, I wouldn't be using my time at work to talk on the phone with friends, go to non-related meetings and appointments or do household chores or crafts. In the same way, during the hours that I had scheduled for school time, I did not allow for time with friends and relatives, appointments, meetings or housework - unless it was directly related to our school goals.
Some interruptions can be used in a positive way to build character in your children. For instance, dealing with toddlers and preschoolers, while teaching the older ones, will bring many character building opportunities. The toddlers and preschoolers can learn that certain behavior is expected at certain times and that they need to wait their turn, not interrupt and sit or play quietly for a period of time. Likewise, the older children can learn to cultivate patience and the ability to stay on task - even with some interruptions. Neither of these will happen overnight and will take training from you - but they are worth the effort
Here are some tips for dealing with infants, toddlers and preschoolers while you teach the older ones:
- Baby's nap time is a good time to focus on older students. Adjust the school schedule to take advantage of nap times.
- Set aside special "school" toys that the toddler or preschooler is allowed to play with only during school time.
- Find something similar to what the older children are doing for the little ones to do at the same time. For instance, if the older children are writing, give the little ones paper, crayons and an "assignment". If it's math time, give the little ones their own manipulatives to sort, count and stack.
- Have older children take turns reading or playing with the younger ones so that you can direct your attention elsewhere for a time.
- Invest in some good audio story CDs (or get them from your library) and use them to occupy the toddlers and preschoolers for 15 to 30 minutes at a time.
Let's face it; there will be interruptions during school days. Some you can control (the phone) and others you can't (a sick child). Try to look at interruptions as opportunities to teach and model "real life" for your children. Handling interruptions with flexibility, as well as the ability to stay on task in spite of them, will teach your children important lessons for their lives well beyond their school years.
Charmaine Wistad has successfully homeschooled her own two children from pre-school through high school. Now she is turning her attention toward helping other homeschool moms. Through personal coaching, Charmaine helps homeschooling moms thrive. not just survive! Visit her website [http://www.victorycoaching.citymax.com/ no longer exists] to try a complimentary no-obligation telephone coaching session.