I was having a conversation the other day about how hard it is lately for me to focus. It’s like my brain is pulled in a million directions at once. Sometimes I think doing anything for more than fifteen minutes is a chore.
Part of it, inevitably, is the shallows of the internets. I’ve been cutting back for Lent and thinking of detethering myself from parts of it. But it’s still a great tool. And a source of happiness and enjoyment much of the time. Like everyone else, I know I’m looking for the right balance.
But another part of it is the nature of this stage of homeschooling, at least the way we’re doing it here. I spend a huge chunk of my day sitting at a table with my kids running around doing, doing, doing. I have to be there. If I’m not there, a huge amount of the school work that needs to be done can’t be done. While the boys have slowly gotten more independent with much of their work, we still read aloud, watch videos and discuss them together, do poetry teas, and have me doing direct instruction for spelling. I still sit next to them to help walk them through math lessons and check their work as they go. And even though they’re often doing things like piano practice and math drills on their own, I’m always working with one kid.
I don’t regret that a bit. I think really being with the kids, one on one, is one of the benefits of homeschooling. I don’t think workbooks and fill in the blanks are the best way to learn. I think interaction is key for most kids. That’s a huge part of why we do what we do. Especially for things like writing and math, I think you get out of it what you put into it.
The thing is, the vast majority of the time, I don’t need to put my complete focus on the kids. If I try to read a book or even a long, involved article, there’s no way I’ll get very far without my concentration being broken. I can’t organize things or write more than a few sentences. I can’t get up and sweep the floor or do the dishes. I can’t start sewing or painting something. I suppose if I knew how to knit, that might be useful. Mostly, I can browse social media, play 2048, do sudoku or crossword puzzles, and just… wait. I wait to be needed, wait to be asked a question, wait for my moment to walk someone through a tricky math problem or work on revising a piece of writing. And huge swaths of my time are spent this way. I don’t wait long, but it adds up.
It’s not just in schooling either. I wait at soccer and ballet because it’s not long enough to go anywhere. I wait at art class. I wait at the park while they play in the creek in the middle of a nature walk.
When we’re home, not doing school, the kids are pretty much self-sufficient. But they still come interrupt me. It’s still hard to know that I’ll have that whole hour without someone coming to ask for something.
Part of it is just the stage, but I’m finding it frustrating. I’ve always been a person who needs to waste time in order to give my brain room to be creative or focused. I’ve always been someone who needed to veg with TV or play Tetris on Gameboy before diving in to write that paper or finish that thesis or prepare all my lessons. But this feels different. I’m out of practice with determination and focus. I don’t have a job to go off to or a project that has to be done by a certain time.
Having plenty of time that is all in tiny little chunks isn’t really helping me value when I have longer chunks. It’s killing my focus.
I’m not sure what the conclusion of this rambling post is. Mostly I suppose, just a recognition of how oddly difficult and disjointing my life is at this moment, even though I don’t have the excuse of a baby or a crisis or being overly “busy” that having kids, even big kids, still takes a lot out of us and I need to learn to shut the door to them more, and fight to find the space I need. And the focus!
“If you would shut your door against the children for an hour a day and say; ‘Mother is working on her five-act tragedy in blank verse!’ you would be surprised how they would respect you. They would probably all become playwrights.” – Brenda Ueland
Just reminding myself with one of my favorite quotes.