Multitasking or Mindful Single-tasking?

a messy stack of notebooks, note pads, and papers

How often do you find yourself wishing that you had more hours in the day? Hoping you can squeeze in a few more pages of your Read-Aloud while dinner simmers on the stove? Do you find yourself fluttering from the sink full of dishes to the math lesson at the kitchen table? 

As homeschool parents, we often consider ourselves brilliant multitaskers. Out of necessity, we juggle diaper changes and laundry piles, snack prep and science experiments. But have you ever stopped to question whether or not all the multitasking really serves your homeschool? 

Not All Multitasking is Created Equal

Consider this, Multitasking may actually prevent us from accomplishing our homeschool goals. Before we dive into the benefits of single-tasking, let’s take a peek at the layers of multitasking.

  • One layer of multitasking consists of household jobs like laundry, food prep and cooking, cleaning, and childcare. Most of these tasks lend themselves well to productive multitasking. You wash the dishes and set the table while your casserole bakes in the oven. You wipe down the bathroom sink while the kids play in the tub. 
  • Independent learning builds another layer of multitasking. No doubt there are activities that your children enjoy and are capable of exploring on their own. Art projects, reading, an online class maybe? When our kids are engrossed in their own independent learning, it is easier for us to manage the activity of several children at once. They only need occasional guidance. 
  • Still a third layer of multitasking is focused learning. In this category, we find the more in-depth activities such as reading instruction, math games and workbooks, and anything else that requires a parent’s encouraging presence. These experiences require us to be more present and less distracted than the others. 

Multitasking or Mindful Single-tasking? Each of these layers requires a different amount of our attention, as do the tasks within each layer. All you need to do is look back on the past day or two for a glimpse of the tasks that lend themselves to multitasking and those that do not. These will not be the same for each family, but despite each personal recipe for multitasking, the question remains: Is there a better way to build a productive homeschool day?

Multitasking or Mindful?

Studies have shown that single-tasking is surprisingly more productive than multitasking.

At first glance, it seems that having everyone sit at the kitchen table and work on their own math lesson will get us through more quickly. But, in reality, we find ourselves jumping from one child to the next, trying to extinguish the flames of frustration.

  • One child wanders off.
  • The tears of another remind you that common denominators need to be reviewed before moving on.
  • And another draws race cars across her paper.

Before you know it, your patience has evaporated and you want to call it quits for the day, leaving concepts unexplored and problems blank.

In another scenario, you sit with each of these same three children, one at a time. You focus your attention. A question arises. You are there—present and quick to answer. You notice when frustration is tip-toeing in even before the tears roll and you pull out the fraction bars to reinforce the idea of common denominators. You are mindful of where your child is in the present moment and you respond. Each child receives what he needs, the lessons are completed, and far fewer tears need to wiped away. 

Multitasking may temporarily ease of fears that we won’t get it all done, but the mindful approach actually makes it more likely that we will. And it feels much more peaceful!     

BookShark All-Subject Packages

About the Author

Angela Awald nurturedrootsAngela Awald is a homeschooling mama to 6, certified teacher, writer, and doula. Her days brim full of learning, loving, and laundry (lots and lots of laundry)!! She believes that nurturing children (and ourselves) means helping them to see that all of life is about learning – from our mistakes, from each other, and from great books! Angela blogs at where she shares the ways she is nurturing her family and inspiration for nurturing your own.