Those of you who share my experience of having a curious, engaged, enthusiastic little person (or people) around may also share my experience of frustration and distraction when being consistently interrupted by a well-intended-question-asker during a needed time of focus and concentration.  I had thought that I had set up my home system in a way to protect me from this productivity kryptonite (see my vlog post “COVID-19 homeschooling, day 0“) but discovered yesterday that my system wasn’t functional.

My son and my breakfast-time conversation went something like this:

Me: “I noticed that I was getting snappy with you yesterday when you were interrupting my work to ask questions.  I don’t want to be snappy with you.  It’s no fun for me and it’s no fun for you.  I’d like to do better today.  Here is what I’m thinking.  First, I will be more consistent about using this timer.  I wasn’t using it consistently enough yesterday.  I am also going to put it right next to me, right here, on the table, together with the “Questions” sheet, stickies and pens.  That way, if you have a question but see that the timer is showing that it’s still a focus work session for me then you’ll have all the resources right here to write your question down for me to answer during a work break, and you won’t have to walk to the door.  That sound good to you?”

Ehren: “Sure.”

giving a question a home
The space that I made for my son’s questions and for a shared understanding of my focus time.

Inwardly, I was unconvinced that this would actually work; but it did!  He approached me, he gave me a wry smile, then he directed his attention to the question sheet next to my computer, left his question, looked up with a smile again and walked away.  AMAZING!  I only skipped a minor beat with my work to snap a couple pictures (which I recognize was a self distraction, but also a much quicker and less distracting celebration than summersaults would have been).

15-minutes later, my timer buzzed, and I went to address his question.

We both walked away happy, not snappy.

This may seem like a small thing to some of you; but interruption management with an enthusiastic child can be a real challenge to do in a way that doesn’t involve irritation, anger or complete disregard.  I was super stoked for my win and hope that in sharing it I may be able to support others in bringing more ease and mutuality into this new co-working/co-learning experience.

Questions are beautiful.  They deserve attention and their own special place.  Here is to doing our work to help give a question a space and, in so doing, making a space a home.

Question sheet with my sample question on the right (Can I please wash the dishes?), Ehren’s joke questions in the middle that he added when I first introduce the concept to him (Can I have dessert? …yes…we’ve made plans to make oat cookies) and the “real” question to the left (Can I listen to the story that Mrs. Zook told online).

Copyright (2020) by Rachael D. Mueller according Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

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