School at home is rarely quiet. For those of us who have multiple kids we are schooling, we know that noise is an inevitable part of our day. Many parents have pulled their child out of school because the child has trouble focusing in the classroom and they feel that the home environment will be more helpful for the child to have the quiet he needs to work well. While I am an avid fan of homeschooling and a homeschooling mom of 3 myself, I will say that there is something bad that can happen from this. An environment that is too quiet, can actually harm a child’s ability to focus and concentrate. Yes I did just say that.
As a processing skills and motivation expert for almost 30 years, I can say that the kids who learn to work in a noisy environment will be much more able to handle the noise in the future and not get put off of their work by it. This does not mean I am advocating a classroom over homeschool as I am aware that homeschool has many, many benefits. I am simply saying that keeping it too quiet can harm a child's learning. Somewhat like the parents that are super quiet for their baby sleeping and they can’t understand later why the child needs perfect quiet to sleep. Many will tell you that having some noise around is a benefit. This does not mean I want you to flood your child with noise while they struggle and feel overwhelmed. Quite the contrary, I am talking about a supportive training that if done right can get rid of the overwhelmed feeling around noise.
But what kind of noise and how much? If your child is learning in your quiet kitchen and the sound of the tv and dishwasher is all he has to contend with, his distraction tolerance is going to be very low and when he gets out in the world, he will have a much harder time acclimating to noisy environments and continuing to work. There is a real tendency these days, with so many kids being diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger’s and Autism, to make the environment a perfect one for the child to feel comfortable. To make it so contrived and artificial that it becomes unrealistic. The problem becomes that this perfect environment does not stay perfect or controlled later on in life and that can create some bone crushing frustration and unhappiness as well as failure.
Since the time ADHD became a diagnostic category, I have seen a move in too many parents and teachers to take these kids out of stimulating environments and put them into controlled ones. I believe this cripples the child further as training to live and work in a perfectly controlled, quiet environment is not realistic and is just way to kick the can down the road to a place where frustration and lack of distraction tolerance skills can be much more limiting and worse and the costs much greater.
My way of doing things is to train kids with the correct support, to be able to handle all noise and activity around them while they work so they can learn to take it in stride. If they are able to handle noise while they work, their distraction tolerance goes way up. This is a training that is done in a specific way with specific timing so kids can acclimate without too much frustration. Not just throwing a bunch of stimuli at the kid.
Kids in classrooms of 35, don’t really have a better advantage over homeschooled kids because that is too much activity and too much noise and usually these days, not under much control.
Homeschoolers have a bad disadvantage though, when they work with little to no noise, because they go out into the world trained for that, and many times, that is just not possible. After working in a quiet or quieter environment for a number of years, when faced with too much noise or activity, these kids can feel very overwhelmed.
Making sure a child is trained to be able to handle the noise and activity around him or her while working can make the difference between a child having many options for their future or just a few. I’d rather train them young so they can comfortably handle whatever comes their way as opposed to needing the continued special environment for their lives.