Five Tricks for Blocking Outside Noise So Students Can Focus


Each student has an ideal ecosystem in which to learn. For public school students, it’s often a classroom for eight hours per day sitting in quiet with 30 other students. For online homeschool students, the learning environment is not a classroom but a living room or a study. It then becomes the parent or guardian’s responsibility to help each student find his or her best learning environment. It’s the student’s responsibility to honestly (and respectfully) communicate what variables in the environment are and are not working for them, all the while doing the schoolwork to the best of his or her ability.

Part of this ecosystem is determining what to do with outside auditory stimuli. Whether it’s busy traffic streets outside the living room window, a younger sibling being obnoxious in the other room, or a constant babbling brook that is slowly driving the student insane, parents and students need to work together to find the best method for blocking outside noise so the student can focus on schoolwork.


Method #1 for Blocking Outside Noise: Ambient Music

Ambient music includes soundtracks from movies, tv shows and video games, notably music that is calming and without lyrics. But before you YouTube a 10 hour video of Star Wars music, consider a few things.

First, playing music that you know well might actually be distracting. It’s difficult to learn a new math concept when you’re whistling along with the Imperial Theme. With that in mind, try a 10 hour soundtrack video from a franchise you don’t know as well. You’ll be less likely to get caught up in the tune.

Second, consider a soundtrack for a video game. That style of music is meant to enhance a situation, not distract. While playing a video game, how often do you get distracted by the music? Rarely. The soundtrack is meant to keep you going while remaining in the background.

Third, try different genres for a day or two and see what works best. You can try calming piano music one day and then electronic music the next. Once your student finds a style that works well, keep using it. I personally enjoy synthesia/piano tutorial music to tune out background noise.

Families have free options for finding desired background noise to block out undesired background noise. These include:

There are also some paid programs, such as:


Method #2 for Blocking Outside Noise: Familiar Entertainment

The concept behind this method is simple: something you know well will serve less as a distraction and more as comfortable background noise. If you can quote the entirety of A New Hope, having it on in the background may help you stay on target (dad joke intended). I used this method constantly during my undergraduate years while writing dense essays. Having a minor distraction helped me from burning out.

As with all methods, keep an open line of communication with your child. Consider allowing him or her to keep a movie or tv show on in the background, but only if:

  1. They are remaining productive throughout the day
  2. Their grades are consistent or improving
  3. They feel good about the work they accomplished

This method is a treat if it works, but if it’s getting in the way of school work then both parties should acknowledge this and move on.


Method #3 for Blocking Outside Noise: Good 'ol Fashioned White Noise

Webster’s Dictionary defines white noise as a “heterogeneous mixture of sound waves extending over a wide frequency range”. I define it as the noise in a horror film emitting from a television right before something bad happens. White noise can also be a stream of water, a running fan and the like.

Some options for testing out if white noise works for your student include:


Method #4 for Blocking Outside Noise: Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Noise-cancelling headphones are actually quite interesting. They have a microphone that measures the lower frequencies of outside sound. They then generate a waveform that is the negative of that sound to cancel it out. Higher frequencies are typically blocked by soundproofing in the headphones.

Further, noise-cancelling headphones often allow the wearer to determine how much noise to “let in.” The wearer can also listen to something else, such as music.


Method #5 for Blocking Outside Noise: a New Ecosystem

If your student has tried different options and they simply aren’t working, it may be time to try a new setup. Some parents have reported success from making minor tweaks like adjusting the student’s workstation (i.e. moving the student away from a window), to major changes like bringing the student to work with them and having them work at an extra desk in their office. That may seem like an extreme option, but it all comes back to trying different methods long enough to determine what is working and why, and maintaining a healthy, positive line of communication.

Enlightium Academy is a fully accredited online private Christian school that allows students to work from anywhere with an Internet connection. Our affordable tuition, individualized curriculum, and simple admissions process maintains the advantages of a home school education while also preparing students well for college. Additionally, Enlightium offers record-keeping and has worked with families in all 50 states to meet state requirements. Feel free to call us at (866)488-4818 if you have any questions about transferring to Enlightium Academy.

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