How I’m Helping My Kids Stay on Track for Homeschool During Quarantine

This is a picture of what I’m doing today to keep my youngest girls motivated to stay on task with their school work (it matters to me that they’re motivated, rather than forced, otherwise it’s miserable for all of us!) This has been the best strategy so far.

You don’t have to be an artist to create these simple hand-drawn charts to help track & visualize tasks for kids who are homeschooling.

You need anyb special print-off, just trace their hands and be clear about which actions earn them a sticker to put on them (or just have them color each finger or fingernail as they earn, if you don’t have stickers). You can be super specific or not. Just keep it fun! The girls tasks are breaking down into things like worksheet pages, 15 minutes on the math program, reading a short book, changing their clothes, clearing off their place at the table, etc.

Ten is still a pretty big goal number, so I threw in a little bonus for my littlest when she earned 5 stickers for the first hand, and the girls will earn a manicure from Mommy once they’ve adorned all 10 fingers. This system is better than what we were doing before, because it visually displays how they’re progressing overall, rather than waiting all day for any benefits, or receiving little rewards for each step in the right direction (usually I would just end up enduring the push-pull cycle!)

Traditional weekly fill-in-the blank charts were doing nothing for us, because they proved to be too abstract for a 5 and 7 year old. Of course, a chart will never “do something” for us. Strategies fail quickly when they aren’t backed up by effort. We have to refer back to reminder charts frequently, reminding us to do the “work”. Having a visual strategy can really enhance those efforts, though!

My kids’ school allows them to be self-paced, which has its own challenges, but I imagine visualizing a “countdown” could also be useful for those children who seem to have endless Zoom meetings.

I have a bonus tip which I’ve shared with some of my younger clients: Make tally marks as you listen to online lectures. Use two categories, label them something like, “Stuff I already know” and “Stuff I didn’t know before” ~or~ “New” and “Review”. This gives your brain something to scan for, and scanning requires a lot less effort (and motivation) than active listening does. Think of it like when you’re in an environment with a lot of background noise and you hear your name; suddenly you’re at attention! Your name is something your brain is programmed to scan for, without conscious effort.

Depending on the subject, your brain can be somewhat casually scanning for “novel information or application” in order to try to add up tally marks, which may be used to gauge how well you were listening. Extra credit if you actually write down what the new information IS!!

Have a better day!

I Need to Declutter & Here’s a Glimmer of Hope

Admission: I have spent several months with one foot in my business project, and one foot in being a stay-at-home mom (that was my full-time gig up until this year when my youngest daughter started preschool – now it’s only most of time!) I find myself not really being able to give my heart to either very effectively in the moments that I need to. Over the years I’ve become anxious of taking the plunge into ADD-hyperfocus mode, which has kept me just short of finishing some fabulous ideas which are sitting at about 90% done. I want to do more.

Today I started a Skillshare class, and it is REALLY good, you guys! It’s by motivational speaker and life coach TJ Walker, and he calls it How to Organize your Home Effectively. I knew I would get more motivated to tackle the house if I watched it listened to something on the subject. One of the important questions he asked is for us to define our “why?”

My why: I want to feel unburdened so I can start my blog/business without all the guilt. I’ve heard that clutter is a result of indecision, and I’m finding clutter also creates MORE indecision, since I can’t decide whether to work on the clutter or something more meaningful to me.

So now as I approach decluttering, I’m thinking it’s actually best for me to cultivate a mindset, not motivation and willpower and focus, or determination and endurance. I need to just get in the mindset of being decisive. I don’t even need to feel “inspired”. I don’t even need to do it for very long at once.

Being decisive doesn’t mean I know I’m making “the right choice”. It means I’m able and willing to handle the consequences of whatever choice I make. It’s kind of like being… Confident.

There you go, a little motivation for both of us and a blog post written in only 30 minutes! Write YOUR “why” in the comments; in other words, the reason you want to do this hard thing, whatever is staring you in the face, then go do it! đŸ„°

Update: Important realization – I still had to get myself used to the idea of doing it even once I made the decision. Once I started, I gradually gained momentum. Nowhere near where I want to be, but I can’t expect to do it all in a day (maybe that’s why I keep hesitating? Is that my unrealistic expectation?) I am glad to have the advice from any geniuses out there with suggestions for keeping up on papers!

What’s Next? (Don’t put it off!)

I’m going to walk you through my mental process of creative problem solving. Of course all the mental dialogue took place in seconds, but I’ll slow down the pace a bit to keep it comprehensible. 😉 Here we go…

Problem (aka circumstance): Last night I really wanted to start in on my latest recording project *but* I knew that I should get back into doing my evening routine, since my routines had been neglected for the past several days. All week I had the driving thought, “How much can I get done with this little piece of time?” “Ooh, here’s a dull moment, let me escape into this, my latest obsession…” (Classic ADHD thing)

Realization: I stopped a moment and recognized that everything I wanted to do was part of a rather endless project. (How many times have I told myself? “Don’t start projects at bedtime!”)

Resolution: Endless projects cannot be allowed to fill all available time.

Initial Solution: So, I turned my internal dial to “slightly more responsible”, and instead asked myself, “What is it I’m supposed to be doing right now?” 

Setback: That’s a complicated question, actually. I often get stuck in a hamster wheel of what am I supposed to do now? What am I supposed to do now? (Classic anxiety response to an ADHD thing)

Better approach: I found it to be more helpful to ask myself, “What’s coming up next?”

I used to think people only said, “What’s next?” when they had accomplished everything they needed to and were ready to move on, but I’ve observed that “what’s next?” is a question that organized people regularly ask themselves, even when they’re NOT finished yet and NOT quite ready to wrap things up or move on. Hmm, curious…

Good advice: They check in frequently just so they can be ready for what’s coming.

Solution: I can do that. Since the thing that was coming up next for me was bedtime (a couple hours hence) I thought, “What do I need to do before I can start getting ready for bed?” I went through a mental checklist;

  • Drink lots of water
  • Set out medications and breakfast dishes for tomorrow
  • Be sure there are clean dishes for breakfast
  • Be sure there is no wet laundry waiting for me
  • Lock exterior doors
  • Check THE TO-DO LIST

Setback: UGHHH… My natural instinct is to feel overwhelmed at facing whatever is coming up next, even small things such as calling the doctor, emailing a teacher, setting up that darn voicemail (again!?) Sometimes I feel totally lost, unsure what’s expected of me, but other times, like tonight, I know what I need to do next and I inwardly groan, because I know I’m behind, so I don’t even want to think about it. 

**Dangerous thought! Quarantine it when found!**

Better approach: Thinking about a problem is the first step to solving it – don’t avoid that first step! What is it exactly our brains are protecting us from by steering is away from thinking about what’s uncomfortable? Be willing to ask yourself hard questions even when you’re NOT feeling “ready”. Seriously, just thinking about something can initiate the stress of being in the middle of the situation, and our brains seem to think everything will be catastrophic. (Classic anxiety thing)

**Getting into a habit of ignoring problems exacerbates the problem.**

Solution: With that thought in mind, I knew it was crucial for me to really face my upcoming responsibilities tonight, not just go on in blissful ignorance until I’m slapped upside the head by the panic monster after they become due.

Action: I sat down and began planning the next day, and eventually planned for the whole upcoming week (for the first time in a while!) I hadn’t felt very much like “adulting” when I started, but I accepted some temporary discomfort, and motivation showed up as I got into the groove. I reminded myself not to be afraid to merely think about something. I coached myself as I might coach a client:

  • Some of these to-do’s are more urgent than others, focus there.
  • Some things are already past due (oh THAT’S what I had been avoiding) but that does not mean I am a failure. No shame in imperfection.
  • Some things do seem daunting, but that doesn’t mean I’m required to feel overwhelmed. I have a choice.
  • Affirmation: I’m experienced enough – with breaking tasks down into smaller, bite-sized pieces – that I can really have faith in the process.

Result: When I was done planning I felt so much better! I knew that I had made a map that I could follow, and all was not lost.

Bonus: It’s a more wholesome pleasure to spend a few minutes outlining a blog post now with my responsibilities behind me, rather than having them looming large ahead of me.

Moral of the story: This is one of the most critical things for people with ADHD (or for anyone, really) to learn: When we are facing a potential conflict, like needing to decide what’s for dinner, or have a delicate conversation, or plan an event, our brain is wired to protect us from whatever it is that we fear, whether it is worth fearing or not. Have you ever noticed that?

Avoidance is so stressful! Living in the  moment is not what “being present” really means. Ease and instant gratification are only fleeting illusions. Living without regard to the future is a recipe for stress, disappointment, anxiety, and continued avoidance.

Better approach: We all can learn to recognize that not every fear crossing our mind is valid. When we live mindfully, we can notice those feelings that pop up, and we can scrutinize them. I would encourage you to get into the habit of cross-examining yourself when you feel like escaping.

Embrace those fears, look at your calendar for tomorrow, see what is coming up next week and beyond, and make a habit of actually doing it! (That’s a subject for another post!)

Tell me, what is it that you are avoiding right now? Is it something that’s coming up, or something that’s been building up?