Developing The Habit of Attention in Your Homeschool


The word ATTENTION gets a lot of focus in the education world: either a child has it or they don't.

If they don't have a good attention span they are given a label. If a child DOES possess good attention, well then you, the parent, are lucky.

Yes, I believe there are true cases of an attention deficit, but I also firmly believe that attention is a habit that must be practiced, developed, and constantly refined. 

It's come to my attention (no pun intended!) recently that being in Classical Conversations has been WONDERFUL for training that habit of attention. The very nature of memory and drill work lends itself to an increased attention span. 

We can just add this to another one of the myriad of reasons I've fallen in love with Classical Conversations.

This week I watched closely and sought examples of how we've worked on cultivating this habit of attention over the past few years in our homeschool.

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A Nine Year Old Boy's Habit of Attention

My son is fairly typical of a nine year old boy. 

He is wiggly, talkative, and truly WORKS at self control. Some days he is very successful - other days he is a work in progress.  

Here are a few scenes from our week that help develop his habit of attention. 

Vocabulary Drills: We are using IEW in conjunction with the Essentials program. Each day I have Grant spend at least 20 minutes reviewing his vocabulary words. He goes through them physically, and also reviews them on Quizlet. 

Saxon Math: Wow. Some may argue that you must possess a lot of attention to even make it through an entire Saxon lesson. Stick with me here. Each day Grant completes one Saxon lesson. Every day the routine is the same. Drills, read the lesson, practice with mom, then complete the 30 required problems. 

Is this tedious? Yes. Is it repetitive? Yes. Does it build a habit of attention? YES!

(I have an entire page here devoted to Saxon Math.)

I am always nearby while Grant is doing math - most often sitting at the table doing some work of my own. He knows that he must stay in his chair until his lesson is COMPLETE. No exceptions. This wasn't easy in the beginning, but with perseverance and hard work he accomplishes this task each day.

This week was a huge milestone - he completed Saxon 5/4!  Next week is NO MATH WEEK for Grant! 

Read Alouds: Sitting with mom for a read aloud builds the habit of attention. Grant always has something to keep his hands busy (most often LEGOS or coloring), but I check for comprehension every now and then and he's getting it. We read aloud EACH DAY.  (Our current read aloud is Minn of the Mississippi.)

Copying Grammar Charts: Each week Grant has grammar charts to learn for Essentials. I have him copy one chart each day. We keep them all in his notebook - he loves to see his collection of charts grow!  This builds the habit of attention and also burns those linking verbs, prepositions, and whatever else we are learning about into his memory. 

Reading Alone: We've had to work up to 30 minutes of read alone time. Grant only likes to read for information (sports magazines, World Record books, etc...) but I'm having him read chapter books as he gets older. Reading alone time always comes AFTER he has taken a break - which usually consists of shooting baskets or riding his bike. He comes inside, grabs a snack, and sits down to read. 

Drawing: My son LOVES to draw. He loves Art for Kids (tons of free tutorials) and can sometimes spend HOURS with the white board and the iPad. I believe following these drawing directions has been a wonderful way to develop his habit of attention. 

 The Habit of Attention in Middle School

The one thing that stood out to me in our homeschool this week was how much studying LATIN has improved Anna's habit of attention.  (In case you are interested, you can read about how we learn Latin, too.)

(The Classical Conversations Challenge program is also quite an attention builder - spending one hour each day on each of six seminars translates into a lot of discipline. After over a year in this program I seeing the fruit born of so much effort.)

First, let me preface this by telling you Anna recently had a beautiful desk put into her room. There is space for her to spread out and store all of her supplies. She has a haven that is her own and this has helped so much with her concentration and attention. 

Studying Latin requires so much discipline and patience. It also involves a lot of detective work. 

Anna spends an hour each day working through Latin exercises. Many times these exercises seem pointless... why would you copy the declension of a noun THREE times EVERY DAY? Again, this burns information into her memory and shows her that with hard work comes great rewards. 

I always had heard that the study of Latin had so many other benefits than just learning Latin itself and now I am a firm believer in studying Latin DAILY.  

Other things that have helped with attention in my middle schooler:

  • Saxon Math
  • Drill and Repetition (Geography, Logic & Latin)
  • Research (Science)
  • Lots of reading
  • Piano practice


Do you have any tips for building the habit of attention in homeschoolers? Let's support and encourage each other in our homeschooling journeys! 

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