Helping an Easily Distracted Child: Part One


When A was two she taught herself all the letters of the alphabet, their sounds and diphthongs.  I was over the moon.  A was going to be such an easy child to teach.  I had visions of her turning three and having mastered reading, writing and long division all by herself.  This was going to be a doddle.  Only it wasn’t.  In fact, nothing could have been further from the truth.

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I’m still not sure why or even how she managed that first burst of learning at age two and yet has found learning to read and write so very difficult.  It is hard sometimes as a homeschooler, knowing how much we should be encouraging our children and how much is basically allowing them to learn at the speed which suits them.

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My first three children were very easy to teach, incredibly enthusiastic and found learning fairly easy.  All three were fluent readers by five.  However, over the years each of them have had their own struggles and the balance has always been tricky between expecting the best from them whilst still allowing time.

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In A6’s case I backed off entirely.  There was no way I wanted to do battle with her everyday.  So I made sure she was being exposed to lots of learning opportunities and kept it light and fun.  And for a while she thrived.

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A has always been my most laid back child.  She is very sweet, easy-going and very eager to please.  She rarely cries and has found life up ’til now really rather wonderful.  She adores her big sisters and is very protective of her little sister.

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Lately though, I had noticed her gorgeous smile wavering.  She would respond impatiently (almost unheard of) with her siblings.  She occasionally demanded her own way (again, very unusual), but it wasn’t until she began to be tearful over things which would never have bothered her in the past that I asked her what was going on.  She wasn’t able to express why she was unhappy, only that she was.

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A6 is very much like I was at her age.  My mum says it is like watching me grow up all over again.  My overpowering memory of my young childhood is that I seemed to get everything wrong.  Or at least, I never seemed to be able to meet the expectations of those around me.  When I look back at my reports during my elementary years I can see that I obviously had issues with concentration, which A has inherited.  I wondered if perhaps somehow she felt she was failing our expectations, as I had.  I needed to delve deep and really reflect honestly.  Was I expecting too much?  Were we, without necessarily being aware of it, making these expectations known to her?

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I decided to spend some time observing all the family interactions.  It’s funny.  I am with the children all day every day, yet this was a really interesting activity and certainly highlighted some areas of needed change.

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The first thing I noticed was that A6 rarely paid much attention to anyone.  My mum would have said she has her head constantly in the clouds (at least that is what she said about me when I was a child).  This meant that if I asked her to do something, she would effectively ignore me.  The girls (older) would then repeat to her what I said but louder to make her hear.  I could see her face drop as she realised she should have done something but didn’t know what because she hadn’t been paying attention.

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Secondly I noticed she spent a lot of time looking for something to do.  Unlike the rest of the family (including me even as a child) she was unable to occupy herself at all.  I could see that this was causing her to feel directionless and without purpose.

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Thirdly I think her lack of reading and writing was beginning to bother her.  We hadn’t pushed her at all but I think her natural intelligence was being stifled by her lack of basic skills.  I know at 6 she wasn’t necessarily behind her peers but it was clear it was becoming an issue for her.

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These three things were the most obvious points to come from my observations.  All three could be pinned onto her lack of concentration to some extent or another.

My next post will outline some of the things we did to counteract or work with A6’s lack of concentration.


  1. What a fascinating story! I can’t wait to hear more. I have similar stories about Ssm, who is still easily distractable but, you may be happy to hear, is a successful high schooler.

  2. Very interesting post, which I’m sure many parents can relate to! With your attentiveness and commitment, I’m sure you’ll find a solution for A. Can’t wait to read about it!

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