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Hi I have a 5 year old son and he's having problems focusing in school, he does his homework well and most times without supervision, but his teacher says he's not focusing in school and therefore all the work done in school is being sent for him to do at home. When he's in a quiet environment he's fine but when he's among his peers he forgets what he's suppose to be doing and studies what his peers are doing. He went from being in an "A" group in his class to a "C" group. I'm really hoping I get some ideas on how to deal with this situation.

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I'm just curious... homework for 5 years old? In which country are you? I didn't have any until 6-7 years old (and I think they even removed that now, but that's another topic...) –  haylem Mar 25 at 21:20
    
Hi I'm from Trinidad –  Arlene Mar 26 at 15:25

4 Answers 4

Two issues that we have come across:

Audiological processing:

For some people, when the background noise rises they lose the ability to discern specific voices. This has to do with how the brain processes the audio signal. This can be scientifically diagnosed using a figure-ground discrimination test by an audiologist.

If this is an issues, there are several ways around it:

  • A quieter classroom - this tends to be almost impossible for a 5yo's class.
  • Sit the child at the front so they can hear better
  • Train them by playing music (no words, we use classical) while they play at home
  • Work with the teacher, sometimes they might need to touch the child on the shoulder before talking to ensure they have the child's full attention.
  • Wearing headphones - we have several children at our school who wear headphones to reduce the ambient noise levels.

Visual processing:

Some children who have good eyes can benefit from a mild prescription glasses to aid the visual processing in the brain. Our lad (5yo) was diagnosed by a behavioural optometrist who found that, although he could see well enough, he required a lot of brain effort to process the signal. This would show up as him losing concentration during class. We now have him wearing glasses in class and when we do his homework, this seems to have help his concentration. He will now read 30~45 minutes at a time without getting tired. The validity of behavioural optometry is discussed here. It works for us, but YMMV.

Or it could be a lot simpler:

  • work is too easy, he's getting bored

  • work is too hard, he's getting frustrated

  • lack of sleep

  • a teacher not well suited to young children. My 5yo's teacher makes the kids to 15 minutes of exercise before starting work - it makes a world of difference to their concentration.

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Sleep and/or Nutrition Issue?

You may want to check that your son isn't tired and eating well. It could be that he's simply not feeling in shape to stay alert long enough, and that could be due to his sleep routine or eating habits.

I'm not saying it's necessarily a huge problem (though that could be a sign of a disorder or lack of a particular nutrient) and it's more likely a minor thing, but just make sure he's not lacking anything in his diet. Even more so if you have a specific diet (e.g. vegetarian).

Rewards?

Maybe your son simply didn't get what the general objectives are and where the reward lies for him. Basically, maybe he's not aware that he should be paying attention and doing these things, and he has no clue that he is doing it wrong (or probably knows something is wrong, but does not know what).

So it may help to tell him that if he gets home with all his school done he'll be rewarded in kind.

Also, maybe use the family time - dinner, bed time story... - to discuss what he's been doing during the day a bit more. Try to be excited about it and to relate to it ("Oh yeah I remember doing THIS! Did you also do THAT? Maybe we can do that some more together or with daddy/mommy tomorrow after school, or this week-end!").

I suppose you already do these things, but sometimes you may not realize if you have lots to do at work that you don't give them enough attention (or not the one they want).

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Thanks for your feedback, will definitely work on your strategies –  Arlene Mar 26 at 15:46

Can you spend a day or two in the classroom? This will enable you to evaluate whether the distraction level is very high (teacher can't control the room) or your child is more sensitive to it than the other children. You may also be able to observe some patterns and then suggest some strategies (later, when you're home) for your child to employ.

You can also gather information to make your conversations with him more fruitful. Say they are given a task to draw a shoe, and one or two children you can tell he is friends with start drawing shoes, and another child takes his shoe off and causes a distraction with it, while another child draws an apple and still another wanders away from the table and starts playing with the lego... these are now example children you can use in discussions about staying on task. You can even introduce this concept of being "on task" at home, and then later review who was on task and who wasn't during particular activities. This gives you vocabulary to be able to say "you have all this homework tonight because you weren't on task when this activity was happening in class" and generally to translate for your child. Children more than double your child's age still don't always understand the unwritten rules of the classroom, and teachers don't always explain them, so you can, using concrete examples drawn from your time observing the room.

You might also be able to spend a short amount of time looking at the older classrooms to see if this is a temporary situation that will simply be easier for him next year.

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most parents worry too much. i was like that as a kid. my dad allowed me to play and do whatever i wanted to do but i now hold a phd in economics. then came my son and my wife was constantly worried but once i knew my child was smart i asked the teachers to let him be. he should be allowed to do whatever he wanted so long as it he wasn't hurting another child. he was allowed and now he is the best in his class. play is important. allowing children to explore whatever they are exploring is important. let him be. if possible buy him puzzles and other mind games. those are what he needs right now. personally i think formal education at those early stages is overrated. he will focus at the right time

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