One of the biggest challenges we face in homeschooling and life is distraction. There are many obstacles in the path to focusing on what really matters. And ignoring them is quite a challenge. But it’s possible! That’s what I want to share with you in this article.
But before I do, I want to invite you to engage in the distraction of Homeschool Sanity Circle. Yep, it’s on Facebook. But it’s an encouraging, supportive group. Have a question, a problem, or something funny to share? We are there for you.
Before we discuss how to ignore distractions, let’s define them. Distractions are anything unimportant that doesn’t help you achieve your goals in homeschooling. Let me give you an example from my own life. I have a newfound love of fashion after joining Get Your Pretty On. Read more about it here. As I was out for my walk one morning, I thought about adding a fashion section to this blog. Then I had another thought as though the Lord were consulting with me. What’s the end goal for that? Uh, I had no answer. I don’t intend to become a fashion blogger or Instagrammer or to make an income in the area of fashion. While fashion continues to be a fun hobby for me, it could serve as a distraction from my homeschooling and my homeschool business.
Hebrews 12:1 says “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” When I’m making a decision like whether or not to add a fashion section to my blog, I can lie to myself that I don’t know the race marked out for me. I do know it. I know that time with God, time with my family and teaching them, and time spent creating resources like Grammar Galaxy for homeschooling families is my calling now. That may change later, but right now it’s clear. What is also clear is that I do not have hours of leisure time to devote to another goal. If you don’t know how much time you have to devote to something else, use my schedule worksheet.
When we remind ourselves of our goals in this season and how our time is being allotted, it’s easier to recognize playing online games, watching the news, and scrolling social media for the distractions they are. But what about things like new extracurricular activity, a new job, or new curriculum?
How can we know if these are distractions or part of achieving our goals?
First, use your schedule worksheet to determine if you have time for the new option. If you don’t, what will you eliminate to make room for it? I didn’t have time for fashion blogging and I had no desire to eliminate my podcast to make room for it. You may also benefit from basic tracking of how you spend your time each day. It’s like a monetary budget that keeps you from buying a boat you can’t afford if you’d also like to pay off debt. Be sure to listen to the podcast episode I did on margin. Don’t underestimate the importance of breathing room in your schedule for your physical and mental health. Several people have told me that while they hate the pandemic, they love having a more relaxed schedule.
The second issue to consider with distractions is boredom. Many times, we get tired of the same old, same old and look for something new. In the meantime, we create stress because we add on commitments or get behind because we are spending so much time researching the new and shiny things. If boredom is the issue, make sure you have fun days and breaks planned into your schedule. That will reduce the need for you to look for a fun distraction that can get you off track. Making my afternoons and weekends unscheduled has helped a lot with my boredom. Family outdoor activities have helped, too. I have resumed sharing my daily outfits on Instagram at Psycho_with_style. Wearing a new combination each day is a way of preventing boredom that doesn’t take hours of my time that fashion blogging would.
Finally, are you facing a challenge? When we have a difficult parenting issue or we come to a concept that is difficult in a curriculum, our natural tendency is to escape and focus on something new and easy. The trouble is the problem remains and will eventually give us grief and will have to be addressed. Delaying rarely makes the problem easier. There are aspects of my business and home life that I don’t enjoy. One issue is website management. I’d like to skip that, so thinking about fashion blogging is a great escape. A better strategy is to deal with the challenges head on and get help if you need it. I hired a web designer to create a new website for Grammar Galaxy Books. Now I’m as excited about it as I am about fashion.
When you are tempted by something you know is a distraction from what’s most important to you, consider these tips:
- Take a short break. In my 3-hour Caveday Zoom sessions, we take a break after every 45-50 minutes or so. I am amazed by how invigorating the breaks are. But the key is what we do and for how long. In the past, I was using social media as a break. My breaks usually broke my focus and tanked my productivity. Now my breaks are active. We stretch, exercise, talk, leave the room, get a drink, and chat. But the breaks are very short. In no time we are back at it. If your distraction is calling, choose an active break instead and set your timer. When the timer goes off, get back to it until the next break.
- Give yourself guilt-free leisure time. If you feel guilty every time you scroll social media, you’re more likely to get stuck there. Instead, have blocks of time or even entire days when you can engage in your distraction without guilt. Most of the time, you’ll be less drawn to it. This principle works well for kids, too.
- Imagine how you’ll feel after the distraction. If you give in and start researching a new math curriculum instead of doing the science experiment, how will you feel? In most cases, you’ll be down on yourself for making that choice. This works for other bad habits like snacking when you’re not hungry, too.
- Make distractions more difficult. I keep my phone muted and out of sight when I’m in the cave, writing. When I plan to workout first thing in the morning, I wear my workout clothes to bed. I’m less likely to scroll my phone. Turn off your notifications. Use app blockers on your phone or computer. Unsubscribe from emails that are selling you things you don’t need or want. Let your friends and family know when you’re engaging in focused work and shouldn’t be disturbed.
- Recognize distractions for what they are. Ask yourself if you are bored or anxious. If you had a friend who was entertaining the same distraction that you are, what would you think? I have struggled with FOMO, fear of missing out. Reading that FOMO is really covetousness in disguise has helped me a great deal.
- Finally, meditate on Scripture and pray. Repeat this verse from Hebrews on throwing off everything that hinders. Read the New Testament accounts of Jesus not letting anyone or anything distract Him from what He came to do. Then ask the Lord to give you Jesus’ single-mindedness.
When you identify distractions, use breaks, have guilt-free leisure time, imagine the future, make distractions more difficult, recognize the real reason for the distraction, and meditate and pray, I believe you will overcome distractions in your homeschool.