As I struggle with my oldest child to stay on task during school lessons, I have to admit that he comes by it honestly. I was a born piddler. My mother loves to tell the story of when I was first born and still in the hospital. Apparently, all of the other newborns finished their bottles long before I was done. It is told that I would sip a little, then stop and look around, then sip a little more and continue this pattern until I was satisfied. The doctor told my mother I would be a piddler all of my life. Oh, how right he was!
Piddling begats piddling. My daughter tries do everything as fast as she can, so I think it's safe to say she did not inherit this habit. (Although she is only 3 right now and has not started formal lessons.) My son, however, will be the child to carry this on. And so, this brings me to our current situation of getting through our school lessons in a timely manner. I truely understand that, at 5 years old, he is still young and easily side-tracked. I don't expect him to behave and be as attentive as an adult should be. (I say 'should be' because I know many adults who don't pay attention very well, either.) But, it should not take all day to finish kindergarten - or 1st grade - level work.
It is important to understand sometimes why the piddling is happening. Sometimes, it's just pure piddling, with no other reason. Other times, however, there may be something else going on. My son is a perfectionist, of sorts. He can get so hung up on trying to make his letters or numbers look exactly like the computer generated examples. He will write and erase, write and erase, and so on. You can see frustration building. I constantly praise him for his efforts and try to remind him that as long as he does his best, that's good enough. I don't expect his writing to look like mine or someone else's that's had many more years of practice. It is hard for him to understand this, though. So I tread lightly, and sometimes on egg shells, in order not to push him to never be satisfied or to just never try at all.
Other times, the piddling flows out of his creative side. He has quite an imagination and flare for creativity and it eventually has to come out somewhere. If I have not provided enough activities for him to use these gifts of God, then he will start making curly-swirly letters and 'bubble' letters, as he calls them, to just simply write his name on the top of a page or when he's supposed to be working on his handwriting lesson. Obviously, the more complicated you make it, the more time you are using. His imagination also comes out in the form of questions. For instance, his reading curriculum has a workbook with illustrations for the words he is to work on. The other day, one of the words was "take." The drawing was of someone 'taking' a gift from someone else, with rather determined expressions on their faces. Instead of just circling, writing, or whatever the direction said to do with this and going on to the next, he started asking, "Why is he taking that from him?" "What are they fighting about?" "Is he angry?" I had to make up reasons to satisfy his curiousity over this simple little drawing. Since this drawing was used on every page for the word "take," I had to answer questions like this on every page and he would not move on to the next word until I answered him. Again, more time was taken than I would have liked.
So, my first suggestion in dealing with piddling, is to figure out what is causing the piddling. It could be just that-piddling. It is a normal childish behavior to some degree, especially in younger children. But, as you can see, there might be other explainations for "taking forever." If your child comes home from school with a lot of homework, you might need to let them get their creativity out before they start on their homework. This might also include physical activity. Perhaps you have a perfectionist on your hands that you need to be sensitive of. I hope to study more about how to handle perfectionism in children and perhaps share that with you some day. Maybe there is some other reason for your child's piddling. If you home school, spend more time watching them, talking to them, or whatever it takes. If your child goes to school elsewhere, talk to their teachers to see what is going on in class, as well as talking to and spending time with your child. If we know our children and what is going on, then we can better help them.
To keep this post from become too lengthy, I'm going to put this subject in two parts. I hope these insights, so far, might help you in any way. Please read part two for practical ideas to help with your piddler.