Earlier this year I made the decision to take Reese out of public school. She was not getting the challenge she needed, she was getting into trouble for being disruptive, and she was learning at a faster pace than what the rest of the children could keep up with. It isn’t an uncommon challenge, after all, Reese has ADHD. In order to provide her with the education she needs at a pace that will challenge her and allow her to move quickly, I needed to take matters into my own hands. Here’s how I have learned to homeschool an ADHD child.
- Start their day simply – For many people with ADHD, it takes an hour or two after waking for their minds to be prepared for productivity. Do not pile the most difficult work onto the front end of your school day, instead, plant it in the middle. That way you have a gentle start, your work peaks midday, and you begin to coast as the day is coming to a close. It makes a huge difference in how the day goes. For us, that means starting the day with history because Reese loves history. We add math and writing in after lunch since she hates both of those, then, we wrap up the day up with something fun like photography or coding. I also split up subjects and try my hardest to not give her math, writing or Spanish all on the same day. We pick two and save the other one for another day.
- Work with their brain, not against it – The ADHD mind does not work like the neurotypical child’s and we do them a disservice when we expect them to behave as though they don’t have ADHD. Now, of course, there are requirements in the world and she needs to meet them to be a successful adult, but none of those involve her sitting still, stifling her creativity, or being silent just for silence’s sake. When you work with the ADHD brain instead of against it, you’ll find that your homeschooling process becomes a lot easier. Some days she’s just not feeling it, and that’s okay. On those days, learning looks a little different. We might spend the morning watching Spanish cartoons instead of tackling Rosetta Stone. Either way, if pushing is just going to cause a meltdown there is no point. No one learns when they are frustrated. We get personal days at work, so why can’t kids get personal days for school. This is the advantage we have homeschooling vs going to public school.
- Give them “wiggle” room – ADHD kids can find it impossible to stay confined to a seat all day long, in fact doing so can almost cause them physical pain. Instead of making Reese be quiet and still all day, I give her the chance to get up, move around, and get the wiggles out. Every half hour to an hour depending on what kind of day she is having, I allow her to get up and get some wiggle room. It has made all of the difference in her concentration levels. I also don’t restrict where she works. Some days she perfectly fine sitting in a chair, other days she’s lounging on her pouch, sometimes she’s hanging upside down from her bed reading a book. Either way, if she’s learning, I let it slide.
- Reward the behavior you want to see – Reese is a bright, energetic little girl. She is bright and curious – and she has ADHD. That means that sometimes she gets off task. Sometimes she starts a conversation instead of concentrating on her work. Occasionally she misses details that could change the correctness of her answer. It is really important to the ADHD mind to reward the behavior you want to see. That feels like rewarding children for doing what they should to some parents, but I’ll ask you this: do you work for free? No, you work for money. Everyone wants a reward for their hard work and kids, especially ADHD kids respond really well to rewards.
- Make learning fun – In public school, Reese was often bored and didn’t get as much out of the lessons because she was bored. In public school, there is no reward for learning the lesson quickly and well except that you now have to sit there quietly and not disrupt. Not the easiest thing for an ADHD child. They are impulsive and easily distracted and when you add boredom to the mix, that is a recipe for disaster. Making learning fun for an ADHD child is super important if you want to keep them engaged in learning and out of trouble.
- Use the flexible schedule to your advantage – Pulling your child out of school doesn’t mean that you can do whatever whenever, because of course the child still needs structure. However, even though there is a need for structure that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use your flexible schedule to your advantage. Reese and I toured Amazon the other day and had a great time. Do you know why? We were able to schedule during a time when everyone is at work and school because Reese is homeschooled and I am self-employed. Using the flexibility in your schedule opens your child up to new opportunities that the public school schedule just can’t offer.
- Don’t forget to connect them with other kids- The famous stereotype about homeschooling children is that they won’t get the social skills they need and nobody will be able to relate to them. I’m sorry, have you met Reese? She has the biggest smile and the kindest heart. To know her is to love her, she has NO problem socializing. But just to make sure, I find ways to connect her with local kids who are homeschooled. They have kids club at our amazing apartment complex, and, as if that weren’t enough, she still is a faithful girl scout. She’s also master the virtual playdate and at any given time there are 6-7 kids on these calls. The kid has more friends than I do and mama sometimes needs a break from all this socialization.
- Teach them using unconventional methods – Reese loves to bake. No, really. I mean the kid has her own baking kit, and they’re awesome. Because she loves baking so much, when it was time to teach her fractions, what better way to do that than in the kitchen? It was ¾ better than it would have been sitting her at a computer and making her digest the numbers in a way that didn’t engage her mind. I didn’t pull her out of school where she was bored and not learning so she could be bored and not learn at home. She absolutely loved our lesson and the yummy treat that followed.
Is homeschooling the only solution for an ADHD child? Absolutely not, but for Reese and I, it has been excellent. I get to teach her, spend more time with her, and show her the best ways to learn with ADHD by working with it instead of against it. She is excelling in a way she couldn’t at public school because they wouldn’t give her the room. I’m so glad she has it now.