Sharpen your vision–don’t get distracted!

  For lots of us, there is tooooo much going on that keeps us from focusing upon what's important.  We could take a tip from how a telescope or binoculars work: they block out everything except what they're pointing at.  The objects appear closer than they are and you can see details you might otherwise miss. 

Telescope_eye_blink_lg_clr The same principle could be used when struggling with homework.  Kids think they can study with lots of noise in the background–they think they can multi-task.  Unfortunately, research suggests that if you learn data or information while loud music is playing in the background, you'll need that loud music in the background when it comes time to access the information–like on a test.  Since, most teachers don't allow multi-media background "noise" during testing, it makes sense that kids should not be studying with it.

In addition, the homework focus is diluted when the TV is on…or when music is playing…or when family interactions are more entertaining than what's being studied.  It makes sense that it's more difficult to grasp the finer points of a History issue or a complex math problem when senses are bombarded with noisy "data".  So the experts suggest doing homework in a quiet place with few distractions. 

Following is an experiment to prove the point: 

 [Try this yourself, so you'll know what it "feels" like and how it alters your focused attention]  Look across the room and focus on a single item (book, picture, magazine cover, etc); in your mind describe it in detail like colors, shapes, size, words, etc.–for the experiment, you might even write down the details you notice.  Now, look at the same object through a tube (ie a toilet tissue role or a "tube" of rolled paper).  What do you see?  It is likely that with the focused perception and the removal of extraneous visual data, you'll "see" the object more clearly and with greater detail. 

When you are ready to include your child in the experiment, don't discuss the reason or the expected outcome before you try it…you'll "contaminate the results" (very scientific!).  The point of the experiment is to suggest that homework is more effective without visual or noisy distractions…and kids probably won't want to hear that.  Engage your fellow "scientist" and  suggest: "I want to try and experiment I heard about and see if it works for you". 

Here's how to share the experience with your child: Place an object (a book, a drawing, a photo or magazine cover) across the room, point to the general direction of the object and ask your child to describe it.   Ask him/her to stay seated and "describe the ______ over there".  Ask for "details"–color, shape, size, words, etc.  Then ask your child to look at the same object through a tube (you know, the toilet tissue role or a "tube" of rolled paper).  Ask if he/she can see the object better through the tube or looking without the tube.  As a scientist, what can you conclude?

Now, gently (without lecturing), ask if distractions might also affect homework and studying.  Expand your experiment–"Let's try to do homework today at the table and turn off the TV."–or the like.  Let's see how long it takes you to do it and if it's easier for you to do.  And, with all behavior changes (and experiments), it takes more than one or two tries to really evaluate the outcome.  So don't give up after just one try!

Binoculars If you want to get really "crafty" for this scientific experiment, there's a nifty description about how to make binoculars.  Check out:  Make your own binoculars .  It's brought to you by Simple Kids Crafts  …you can "follow" them on Twitter ).  They've got more clever ideas than you can imagine!!!

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