A few days ago I shared (on Facebook) the picture below of my daughter doing her math work with her little brother on her lap. He was happily coloring all over her worksheet while she tried to stay focused on the work in front of her. While she enjoyed snuggling with him during school time she also struggles with sibling distractions that slow her down and make it difficult to focus.
A Facebook follower asked if my older kids ever struggle with staying focused with all the little sibling distractions that take place throughout our school day. This mom mentioned that her own daughter had a difficult time focusing on school work when her little brother was making noise or getting in the way.
I can sure relate! My older children struggle with concentrating on schoolwork with all the little sibling distractions that take place each and every day. So what do I do to help my older children deal with sibling distractions? Is it even possible for an older sibling to learn when they are consistently being interrupted by the noises and activities of a little one?
Dealing with Sibling Distractions
I know how difficult it can be to get things done with distractions around so I understand my older children’s frustration with noisy siblings. Here are some things I do to help my kids deal with the chaos of having little ones at home.
- I acknowledge that it is harder to get things done when other people are making noises or getting in our way. I want them to know that I understand what they are dealing with and that I am doing my best to keep the disruptions to a minimum.
- I try to give instruction in difficult subjects while the little ones are napping, watching TV or playing with another sibling in another room. I don’t want to add to the frustration of a difficult subject by throwing in noisy siblings so I make an effort to do challenging assignments when the little ones are less disruptive.
- My older kids are allowed to grab a clipboard and head into another room or outdoors to do independent work if they are struggling to focus.
- Some days we just set aside school work for another day because the chaos is just too much for anyone to deal with. I don’t feel guilty about it. I don’t stress about getting behind. I just recognize that God had other plans for that chaotic day.
You can also check out my 11 Tips for Homeschooling Older Children with Little Ones Around.
Am I Causing Part of the Problem?
I have to admit that often times my own attitude toward my little ones rubs off on my older kids. When I view those little ones as a nuisance so do my other children. My older kids can easily read the meaning behind my words, tone of voice and actions. If my body language is saying that I wish my little ones would leave us alone, my kids are going to pick up on it and respond in the same way.
On the other hand, if I am delighting in my little ones and seeing them as a joy then my older kids often follow along. We can laugh at their cute behavior, thank God for the gift of life when we hear their noises, and pray for them when their attitude turns sour.
I have the ability to model compassion or frustration to my older kids when it comes to their younger siblings. I have noticed that as I delight in the distractions of my little ones, over time, my older kids are following along.
The Blessing of Sibling Distractions
One thing that I have learned over my many years of homeschooling with little ones around is that sibling distractions aren’t always a bad thing. I have found that those distractions can be the very thing my older kids need to grow in love toward others while allowing them to develop better study habits at the same time.
Difficult situations don’t cause us to sin rather they allow the sin that is already in our hearts to be revealed. When my older kids get frustrated with the distractions of their siblings, what their actions are saying is that their hearts were not right in the first place. These interruptions are an opportunity to teach my older children love, compassion, peace and kindness toward others (even when the other person does not deserve it).
These interruptions also provide my older children with opportunities to practice staying focused and tuning out distractions which is a skill they will need throughout life! So remember that those sibling distractions might just be a blessing in disguise!
What Happened When Little Brother Colored on Big Sister’s School Work
As you can see in the picture, little brother made good use of those crayons and eventually covered his big sister’s worksheet with a rainbow of color. It took my daughter twice as long to get her math work done with her brother in her lap so I allowed her to skip a few subjects for the day. What you can’t see is how big sister is growing in patience and compassion toward her younger siblings. She is also growing in her ability to tune out distractions and stay focused on a task even with chaos around her. This is a skill that will benefit her later in life whether she enters the workforce or becomes a stay-at-home mom.
I try my best to limit the distractions when difficult subjects are being tackled. I want my kids to succeed in school with minimal frustration and I know that challenging tasks usually require a quieter environment. I also know that my children will greatly benefit from having the ability to focus and tune out distractions. What better way to develop this skill then with ongoing sibling distractions? 🙂
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