Homeschooling and ADHD.
Can the two go together? As the mom of one child officially diagnosed with ADHD and a few others I suspect may have it, I’m going to answer that question with a big, resounding YES.
Not only can they go together, in fact, but I truly believe that it is the absolute best option for any child with this condition.
Let’s face it. The traditional school setting simply isn’t set up for children who have excess energy. As it happens, it just may be the antithesis of what these children need.
Shall we take a look?
Long, drawn-out lessons
No time to “let loose”
Assignments that don’t take into consideration a child’s learning style
Few, if any, breaks
6-7 hours of being seated with very few reprieves
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that these are nightmarish conditions for any child, let alone one having ADD or ADHD.
While it can be pretty simple to figure out that traditional schooling isn’t the way to go for these kids, that doesn’t make it any less scary for those of us who decide to take matters- and our children’s educations- into our own hands.
After homeschooling my large crew for the past nine years- including my son with ADHD- through trial and error I’ve come upon some practical tips for homeschooling children with excess energy (to put it mildly) that I’m going to share with you today.
8 Steps to Homeschooling Your ADHD Child
1. Incorporate your child’s interests.
I know, I know. You’ve seen this in just about every homeschooling post known to man, but it is crucial when you have a child who learns differently.
I remember back when my son was still in school, he had a learning support teacher who helped him with reading. One day she excitedly came up to me with news of a breakthrough:
“Good news! I’ve discovered today that if I let your son read a book about something he’s interested in, his comprehension skyrockets! Today he read a book on skateboarding, and he understood it perfectly!”
I stood there dumbfounded because I couldn’t quite understand how that wouldn’t have been obvious from the very beginning, but there it is.
Kids learn infinitely better when they are interested- especially kids with ADHD.
And I didn’t even need a teaching degree to figure it out.
2. Keep their lessons short.
Think of it this way- it’s so much more effective to get a good 10-15 minutes of your child’s undivided attention than 45 minutes of them struggling to sit still and remember what it is you’ve been going on and on about.
Be aware of what your child can handle, and use that to your advantage.
3. Incorporate movement and hands-on activities.
Now that your child is no longer in a traditional school setting, reap the benefits of having the freedom to let your child move!
Take lessons outside and on the trampoline. Go on nature hikes and to the creek for science. Keep your kitchen stocked with ingredients for kitchen chemistry experiments. Bake a cake to delve into fractions.
Learning doesn’t have to come from textbooks!
4. Follow your child’s cues.
Although hands-on activities can be a great way for a child with ADHD to learn, watch for signs when something is too much.
Several years back, I used to have my son (and his siblings) do lapbooking. Since my son enjoyed working with his hands, I thought it would be perfect for him.
I was wrong.
You see, in addition to liking hands-on activities, he was (and still is) a bit of a perfectionist. As he would work in his lapbooks, I used to watch him grow increasingly frustrated over what most people would consider the tiniest things- a wrinkled piece of scotch tape, a minibook that was glued in a tad crookedly, a picture that was colored ever so slightly imperfectly.
All of these “little” things always led to a meltdown. After a few lapbooks, I realized that just because something is hands-on doesn’t make it foolproof.
5. Allow them to fidget- IF it helps.
In school, fidgeting is a no-no. In a homeschool, I say why not?
However, the key is to make sure the fidgeting isn’t distracting your child. Some kids can listen better while doing something with their hands. Others become so engrossed in what they’re doing that they completely tune out everything around them. (Speaking from experience…)
Some fidgeting tools we use in our house are:
a drawing pad and crayons
If all else fails, let them chew some gum. Sometimes this is all they need to keep them stimulated!
6. Take lots of breaks.
This is another perk of homeschooling. Kids can have plenty of time to stop what they’re doing and take breaks whenever they need to.
Consider giving your child some free time after every lesson or two. This can be as long or short as you’d like, but it’s so important to give your kids the chance to get their energy out.
7. Be structured, yet flexible.
It’s not as much as a paradox as you might think. Oftentimes, kids with ADHD need some sort of structure to their day. It helps them “keep it together” when they have an idea of what will happen when. This also really helps them with their organizational skills, which many ADHD children are lacking.
The important thing to remember, though, is that flexibility is a must when you’ve got a child with this condition. You’ve got to allow for some spontaneity because it’s going to happen whether you like it or not.
Find a balance that works for both you and your child.
8. Consider unschooling.
If you’re comfortable with the thought of your child directing his own education, I strongly suggest you look into unschooling. This can be the perfect approach for a child who is curious, energetic, and wants to learn on his own terms.
While these are all tips I’ve incorporated into our homeschool, I do want to point out that nothing is perfect. There is no foolproof solution to homeschooling whether your child has ADHD or not. Some days will be tough. Others will be awesome.
Just remember why you’re doing this. Write it down if you have to for those harder days. And remind yourself that sometimes the most worthwhile things in life are going to challenge you.
But they’re going to bless you, too.
Watch my video for two bonus tips!
By Shelly Sangrey (See bio below the video)