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Just Focus! Parenting-Teaching-Personality-ADD-Questions

Pulled this beautiful pic of my studious daughter from a few weeks ago.

Parenting is hard.  With home school I have no idea where the parenting and teaching line is.  One thing I know is that motivating my kids and getting them to work is WAY harder than actually teaching them concepts.  I am sure this is the way (traditional in-school) teachers feel as well.  I can’t imagine a room full of 20+ of my kids trying to get them to do anything beyond standing in a line.  Truly, teachers have all my sympathy.  Just having two should be simple right?

I write about the struggles of home school more than I would like.  Sorry.  There are lots of good blogs that paint rosy pictures and have lots of printables and kids dressed in costumes.  I like those sites, and I wish my house was more like it.  We do have our days.  This week we learned about Jane Goodall, painted African birds, are going on another ‘African Field Trip’ and learned how steel is made.  But lots of days just don’t work at all.

I have been struggling a bunch this week with my daughter’s attention span.  I would love to say it was just this week but it isn’t.  She spent from 12:00 noon until 8:00 pm (plus her 30 minute class time in the morning , and not including supper time) working on Math last Wednesday.  Total of 17 problems!  By 6:00pm she had gotten about 4 done.  It wasn’t the issue of her not knowing what to do, or having any questions to ask, or being distracted, or being upset, or being hungry/thirsty, or being tired, or being sick, or feeling un-loved, or anything else I could figure out.  When she did finally finish just before 8 she had gotten almost half of them wrong (8 of the 17).  Just silly mistakes, like copying down the wrong number or forgetting the final step or counting wrong.  There was no understanding issue.  Often I get upset (I shouldn’t) because I just want her to work and I don’t why it takes her so long.  This time I was patient and helped her have a undistracting environment and everything she needed.  I can’t deliver focus on a platter.  Wednesday night was date night and because she didn’t get her work done she couldn’t go anywhere, and neither could I.

It’s not just last Wednesday, it’s not just Math, it’s not just school.  (a few years ago she held a fork full of corn in her mouth for 7 whole hours …. through her well child doctors appointment… without swallowing it …. because she didn’t like it and I told her she couldn’t spit it out).

It kills me because she is so smart.  She can learn things very quickly and reads (and understands) way faster than me!  As a parent I want so much for her to succeed and she just seems to have this switch i her head that moves between Einstein and checked out.

So this week I found Dr. Hallowell through a Facebook post and have requested a bunch of his books from the library.  He does a bunch of writing on ADD/ADHD and sees it as asset instead of a ‘disorder’.  (which I love. This isn’t brain cancer so lets not label it negatively).

I don’t know if my daughter has ADD, she doesn’t have all the symptoms listed, nor do I know want her labeled as such.  She is a kid and most kids have trouble focusing.  She just seems to have so much trouble sometimes,  is incredibly distracted and struggles with some of the other areas.  I don’t want a perfect kid. I don’t think there are any.  Maybe I just want to make sure it isn’t me, something in how I parent or don’t parent.  Maybe that is selfish and self-centered of me to think that way.  I am just a perfectionist, this is my most important role in life and want to do the best job possible.   I want some new ideas to try because the positive/negative reinforcement, encouraging, soul fever techniques, consistency, one-on-one aren’t working that well.

I don’t want to be the hypochondriac parent, don’t want labels but I want my child to succeed and achieve her dreams in life.  I just want to make sure that I am doing everything as a parent I can to help that.

Lack of focus is a universal problem for kids.  Have you dealt with it too?


  1. hmmm, maybe she’s “strong willed?” i’m no expert, just trying to help you think outside the box. you’re right, parenting is the hardest job ever.

    • strong willed is the truth. It is a good thing. She will have the determination to stand up for what she feels is right and put effort into what she wants to do without giving up easily. …..peer pressure is not going to be as much of an issue. I am looking forward to reading this guys books because it sounds like he brings out the assets. I would love to help her grow in this as a strength…. but I still need her to do math..

  2. Carmen Carmen

    I have loads of thoughts on this post (I have shared this pain with homework, oh my!!!), but it’s date night, so will keep this short!

    1) It doesn’t sound like ADD/ADHD to me. Quite the opposite I’d say. How many people have the focus to keep a mouth full of corn for 7 hours?! Your lovely daughter is many things, stubborn being one of them perhaps 😉 Does she have much control over her studies/life, because it sounds to me like a control thing perhaps.

    2) We have a daughter that will let school work fill all the time available … and then some. She procrastinates, but can definitely focus when she wants to. It has taken me a few years to realise that she works best when she does not have the whole day to complete something.

    3) I’d want to find out why she lets the Maths drag on for so long. Is it boring? Too easy? Is she not remotely interested in finishing something because she’ll just get more of the same etc etc.

    4)Personally, I wouldn’t let her spend from noon till 8pm on it. I think deadlines help focus the mind. Perhaps allow her 30 minutes … and move on to whatever is next … regardless of how much she has done, or how accurate it is. I wouldn’t want to create issues out of Maths sums. And try not to let it ruin your evenings 🙂

    4) I’d create rewards. “If you can get x done in the next y minutes, we’ll have time to go to the park/library/ice cream store/whatever.

    5) I’d try to look objectively at how interesting the Maths is that she’s doing. There’s huge difference in doing a worksheet of say $146 + $763 + $36 = ?, than for example: a girl goes in to the store with $20 to buy 3 bananas (at $x each), 2 candy bars (at $x each) and a comic at $2.44, how much change does she get from the cashier? Plus the latter is helpful to life.

    Finally, you’re not alone. And try not to thing long term. I always approach these parenting ‘frustrations’ by trying to break the immediate cycle: how can we change things to have a better day, then week etc. “Fake it until you make it” helps me sometimes. She’ll be just fine, you’re so caring! And we all have bad (attention) days. x

    • Carmen, no worries. Thanks for commenting. I am not sure it is ADD, I was just going to look at some of it to see if there were tips. I think the biggest problem is my lack of patience and my desperate work on trying to practice it. She is far from behind in what she is actually learning. I just want her to be able to learn to control herself because that is way more important than math (or any other subject) Thanks for your suggestions. Have you dealt with this before? In response to your comment:
      1. I try and give her all the control I can with school. I tell her what subjects she needs to have and how many times a week and she plugs it into a schedule for herself. We usually change around things once or twice in the year if she wants to change. Lots of times I give her choices on what to do for a day in a specific subject. She has (almost) full control of her cloths and appearance.

      2 and 4. She has 30 minutes in the morning for math and the ‘idea’ is that she completes stuff during class time just like she would at school or it is ‘home work’. Most of the time it happens that way for most subjects. She had a rest time in her room in the afternoon that she often finishes homework in, but then I try and keep other activities till after homework. I use your #4 (or second number 4;)) all the time and it seems to throw her off, she becomes more worried about the time. Often times this is what does it in the end, but she could miss several rewards/activities and then hours later get everything done in 15 minutes.

      3. She does a few problems a day, but I make sure they are challenging for her. She is crazy good at math (she is working several grades past her level). Short and challenging is what I try and do with all my schooling. I hate busy work and think that it is a perk of home school to be able to teach like this because you can structure the assignment specifically for the kid at their challenge level…. with as few worksheets as possible.

      5. I probably could make it more fun. I struggle to figure out the balance in this though, there seems to be two different ideas. Do you teach the kid that some things just need to be done, even if they aren’t fun, and just to get them done well and quick so you can get on to something else (necessary in so much of life). Or do I try and make everything fun? Or how much each way? … can you tell I am a perfectionist 😉

  3. I’m so sorry you’re struggling with this! Have you considered looking into sensory processing disorders or autism spectrum disorders. Sometimes kids don’t get things done because they are focused on something else in their way. Our almost 4 year old is very much like your daughter. Stubborn as can be! However, I think he may also have a slight disorder as many things bug him, he tantrums frequently, and he will just not stay focused at home (like when it takes him hours to eat 3 bites of food). I say look into all of the possibilities. I hope it’s just pure stubborness, but I know that answer is no help. All we have found that helps is taking N to preschool. He’s a completely different child there! Good luck!! As someone with ADHD, I know how frustrating it can be, but I also agree that it’s one of my biggest assets too 🙂

    P.S. Love that you are teaching your kids about Dr. Goodall. I used to work for a program of hers and have met her on several occasions. She is an amazing woman 🙂

    • Thanks! We had fun with Dr Goodall this week, she is amazing. Spent some time at the zoo yesterday and Lily drew a gorilla …. that came over the the window to sit… and pick her nose… and eat it… several times 🙂

      Sometimes I wonder if all the extra science for ‘disorders’ and stuff helps or not. It makes so many paranoid parents. I keep thinking that there were all these kids before and they were just kids… without fancy names. It is just hard as a parent to try and make sure you do the best job possible 🙂

  4. Carmen Carmen

    Lorilee – In my hurry to reply to your post that really tugged at my heart, I think I messed up the tone a little. Sorry, I was trying to empathise and be helpful, not belittle your fears about ADD etc. I’m really sorry if it came across that way.

  5. My kids are so much younger, so I am not sure I can add too much, but maybe take a step back and re-evaluate. Maybe let her choose something she is interested in for a week or so, and then work on math again. I am more unschooler though…so you may want to disregard everything I say 🙂 It does sound like strong will though, and maybe if you are able to step back a bit, work on crafts/music/reading more for a bit, it might help her. Or, find some more interesting ways to work on math. Do you have a specific program? Maybe look into changing it.

    • I think I am going more and more unschooling. Do you have a book you would recommend? I picked this program I have her doing because it isn’t full of busy work. I can add practice work if she needs, but otherwise she moves through concepts fast and is hopefully always challenged. We have started piano and do a bunch more art this year too because those were my thoughts. It is math one day and other stuff other days. She claims her brain ‘goes to China’ and she just can’t think. I don’t think she is being intentional, that is why it confuses me.

  6. Kari Kari

    Thanks for the honest post Lorilee. And thanks for everyone’s comments, they were great suggestions it gave me a lot to think about in my own homeschooling journey.

    Parenting is SO hard, especially when we want to do it right. Just keep moving forward…one step at a time. Be encouraged! The Lord knit Lily together a certain way and He will give you the wisdom to parent her and teach her. The Lord has great plans for her life that won’t be thwarted by math! 😎

    • yes, amen! thanks 🙂

  7. Carol Carol

    Being a grandmother who has been around kids with some of the above disorders and having met your daughter and having seen her on more than one occasion, I personally don’t think she has any disorder. First of all, I would suggest that no matter what you do, try not to push her to the point where she hates a subject. A child will always learn better if they enjoy what they are learning.

    I came across this blog tonight with a list of 10 fun things to do with math for kids of different ages. It is also full of links to other creative educational sites.

    I also came across this site the other day on the subject of unschooling.

    I wish you well

    • thanks!

  8. Carmen Carmen

    Lorilee: my thought processes are very similar to yours, particularly in terms of the fun vs real life element of having to get on with things we don’t particularly like.

    My husband and I tend to be in different camps on this one. His view is that very few people have ‘fun’ jobs (say that they would choose to do if they won the lottery) so it’s important that kids don’t get used to a life full of fun and adventure, because it only sets them up for disappointment as adults. I don’t believe we have to accept the status quo generally and fully believe in carving out a life that is packed with doing what you like and as little of what you don’t like as possible. (I should declare that I have the fortunate luxury of being a SAHM!)

    I have encountered your daughter’s issues of focus, but not from a home schooling perspective since both my kids go to school. I have looked into homeschooling though and also read a few books about unschooling (‘caus I love the philosophy.) My almost 12 year old is Queen of Procrastination. I think the fact that Lily can eventually get the work done in 15 minutes, shows that she doesn’t lack focus, but points to the ‘issue’ (maybe it’s not even an issue) being something else. It could simply be a phase. In the past, I have felt that my eldest needed more control over her busy life, hence my mention of control. Small, bit size chunks of time work best for her with homework. She gets at least 1 hour a night of that now. During the week, she gets it done quickly (there’s only so much time in the evening and she’s tired), but at the weekend, she drags it out if she has the opportunity.

    Your comment about Lily’s brain freezing up (I can’t recall how you put it exactly) made me wonder if a small amount of daily Maths would be better than more tackled less often. Up until the age of 11 (when we change school in England, end of grade 6) they do Maths & English every day, in the morning. Maths is the first lesson covered in school every single day. They start with mental maths (20 quick sums in your head that takes about 10 minutes), then a lesson and then a (usually boring) worksheet. One of my daughters loved this way of teaching (she is very gifted at Maths) and the other more creative child finds it utterly soul destroying (she’s also gifted, but enjoys other subjects such as writing, art & sport.)

    It sounds like you are doing a great job. I love the opportunities home schooling provides generally.

    • Thanks for all your help! Dealing with getting stuff done vs having fun with everything is something I have been struggling with a bunch lately. There are so many people who are making a living doing what they love and my husband and I are trying to work toward it now. I want her to grow up believing that whatever she is good and and loves is worth pursuing because the work/job market is going to continue to change so much. We were just talking the other night about how it seems that right brained(creative) people are more in demand now than left brain(logical) people. When for hundreds of years it was all about math and science. I don’t want my kid to just plod along working forever in a job she hates just to get by, I want her to create her life like I am trying to create mine. But there are still things, like paperwork and taxes, that have to be done and done right. It is so much of my ingrained beliefs fighting against how I am trying to learn and change and figuring out where they meet. … it would sure be nice to have kids after we figure life out 🙂

  9. Carol Carol

    Have been thinking about you and the challenges you are facing. Every child has ways they learn the best and ways that are not as effective with that child. One of the great benefits to homeschooling is the ability to be able to teach to each child’s learning style. Because of that a spark can be ignited that will give them a joy of learning thus giving them inetrnal drive and desire. Guess some of that is unschooling philosophy. On that link I gave you is among lots of other stuff, an online book entitled “Unchooling Math” full of stories.

    • awesome. I still need to go check it out. Today has gone awesome so far. I am learning and thinking 🙂

  10. Carol Carol

    Since I shared the link with you to the site of the man who coined the word unschooling, I came across this here and now site that is full of all kinds of information and links to other sites. There are discussions and presentations and, and…

    • Thanks for all the info. Really appreciate it 🙂

  11. […] to Friday!  Friday is simple home school day here on Loving Simple Living. … if you read last week, it isn’t always as simple as I want it to […]

  12. Donna o. Donna o.

    Oh, it sounds like there is the possibility of ADD. You probably won’t know for sure until around 4th grade, though. That’s when we figured it out with our daughter. Until that, her ability to memorize helped her make excellent grades, but by 4th grade she had to put “learned” material together. Math homework looked similar at our home, too. Oddly enough, by high school, higher mth and chemistry were her favorite courses. She actually tutored other students in the twelfth grade! (all of them made higher on the tests than my child!) She’s almost twenty three now, a delightful young woman, extremely bright, talented, optomistic, mature in different ways than her peers, and just landed her third job since graduating last May (at a whopping $10,000 a year more than the last job she was fired from for a lot of ADD reasons). Even though she graduated with a 2.25 gap, she’ one of the 10% of her class who is employed. She competed fairly successfully in pageants, making it to the Miss Tennessee/America pageant. All this even with me making ALL the mistakes. Your biggest challenge will be to find her talent and use it to help her stay positive about herself. Also, it will help if you find different ways to teach her math than the textbook method. Sylvan and similar programs are helpful. Lily will still make a lot of mistakes, but will learn the process. Find any info you can to help Lily use coping skills as the years progress.. Homeschooling should help her greatly in that area.

  13. Donna o. Donna o.

    As if I haven’t said enough, one more thing…let her use the computer as much as possible. It became my daughter’s biggest help, and her proficiency with it has become one of her greatest assets in her jobs.

    • Thanks so much for your comment. I love hearing other peoples experiences 🙂 She has been doing much better in the last few weeks. I am letting her create more of her day/learning. Right now she is sitting beside me knitting and reading book. So glad your daughter is doing good. I have read that ADD is different but can be an asset as well. From working in management and reading lots of business books I know that gpa and grades isn’t the biggest thing in hiring. Motivation, determination, creativity, and ability to work in a team all are much more valuable. Trying to learn how to teach and measure some of these intelligence would make a big difference in education (and individual self-esteem).

      oh, and yes, Lily loves the computer. I am trying to work on getting her going with a blog. She already looks up all kinds of information she is interested in.

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