I am a firm believer that students with ADHD excel in a homeschool environment. My son was in public school through the first few weeks of his fourth-grade year and he was sinking in there. He was always in trouble for not being able to sit still or stay focused, he fell behind in his lessons, and his self-esteem was plummeting. We knew we had to at least try homeschool and let me tell you, I wish I had started years earlier.
One on one learning is best
One on one learning is best in every case but especially in situations where your child has been diagnosed with ADHD. They simply cannot comply with a lot of the rules public schools demand and they often get left behind their peers or labeled the bad kid because they can’t sit still, or stay focused, or reign in their extraordinary imagination, or stop themselves from asking questions without raising their hands or waiting for their turn.
Their high intelligence is often not recognized because staying on task supersedes ingenuity. Their creativity and curiosity are often stifled as they are forced to hush and try to fit in. Worst of all their self-esteem and mental health are at great risk for damage as they are often stamped with ugly labels which sadly some learn to own. At least that was the case for us. Homeschooling was the answer.
But it’s not easy. You need to release the idea of recreating public school in your homeschool and instead invite in the idea of real-life education bristling with full days of high energy adventures, lots of hands-on learning, student directed subject focus, and tons of art and nature. I honestly think the public school system would best be saved if someone with an ADHD diagnosis had a chance to give it a full rehaul.
So here we go, my Top Five Tips On How To Homeschool Through An ADHD Diagnosis
There are a lot of small changes you can make inside your homeschool to restore peace and success in your studies when teaching a student with ADHD. These are special kids with a unique set of needs that deserve addressing. I have been homeschooling my son for six years now and have learned so much about what works and what does not. The ones below have made a whole world of difference in our homeschool, our quality of life, and for our mental health.
- Focus on the positive benefits of an ADHD diagnosis
- Lists – Lists – Lists
- Allow movement during study time – as long as you have eye contact
- Use relaxation and re-focus techniques (Music – exercise – breathing – meditation apps)
- Create a lot of hands-on learning experiences
Focusing on the positive benefits of an ADHD diagnosis.
Own ADHD as a gift because honestly, it is a God-given gift. This talkative, high energy, compassionate, funny, creative ADHD child of yours is sporting a superhero of a brain. These kids are often highly intelligent, extremely ingenious, persistent, problem-solving, balls of fun! Let them know that ADHD is part of what makes them so awesome.
Yes, an ADHD diagnosis will for sure bring in some obstacles that they will have to hurdle over, but people with ADHD are best equipped to overcome. Embrace it. Let them work it. See what they can do when the unreasonable expectations of public school have fallen away and they are free to learn their way. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.
Lists – Lists – Lists
One of the simplest things we do that has had a huge impact on our day was the addition of daily lists and our daily task board. Our daily lists include our personal goals for the day and help us to stay on target. Getting these down at the start of the day tends to center T and get us started on the right foot.
Our daily task board is a list of subjects we will be completing lessons on that day. T also suffers from anxiety (as a lot of children with ADHD do) and not knowing how close to completion he is can be really overwhelming for him. Without it, he spends all day wondering how much longer. Having this simple task board has helped him to calm down by easily supplying him a visual reference to his daily progress. He also loves to check each subject off. Each new checkmark also instills a sense of accomplishment.
Allow movement during study time – as long as you have eye contact.
One of the greatest struggles, when we started homeschooling, was that I soon found myself as frustrated as his teachers had been with my inability to just keep him still and focused while we worked through a lesson. It was agonizing for both of us. Fast forward and I know now that children with ADHD need to move and just because they are not sitting still does not mean they are not focusing.
Here is what I have discovered with T. He can be moving all around, standing up, bouncing from foot to foot, laying on the floor in some sort of yoga pose or whatever, and still be absorbing the lesson. So I am all about letting him move. However, I do insist that he remains open to eye contact, not turned away from me or focusing on anything else or I lose him.
So our rule is move but be looking at the material or the teacher while you are doing it. I ask a lot of questions while I am teaching so that I don’t get ahead of him if his mind decides he has to figure out which elements make up moon rocks while I am trying to teach him grammar. Keep the dialogue between the two of you going on the subject you are teaching and let them wiggle.
Use relaxation and re-focus techniques (Music – exercise – breathing – meditation apps)
When your student starts to feel overwhelmed, anxious, or simply cannot focus, try some re-focus techniques. Here are the ones we have the most success with:
- Adding softly playing music to the atmosphere works miracles. We use Classical music. Nothing with lyrics or the story draws him in.
- Take a three-minute stretch. If you can see that your child is not able to focus try walking them through some simple stretches. Three minutes stretching refocuses.
- If you have asked questions that you know your child knows the answers to and they just can’t seem to get them out, try a short breathing exercise. When T starts feeling overwhelmed he tends to shut down. Something he knew five minutes ago he suddenly, genuinely cannot recall. At these times we usually take a few minutes just to quiet our minds with some basic breathing exercises. We use 4-7-8 Relaxation Breathing. Learn how to do that here.
- If even that won’t do it, it’s time for a walk. Exercise and nature are the ultimate medicine for a child with ADHD. T and I often do our lessons outside.
What we never ever do is try to force our way through an unproductive lesson.
There is nothing more exhausting than teaching the same lesson over and over and over again. Or forcing yourselves deeper and deeper into anxiety or frustration. Take the time to refocus. It may seem like you are adding time to your long day but in the end, you will come out ahead. Your child will have some powerful tools to help him deal with his ADHD outside of the classroom, and the lesson time you spent will have been absorbed.
Create a lot of hands-on learning experiences.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much better T retains a lesson if he has experienced it in some way besides simply reading from the pages of a book. Even if you encourage something as small as a five-minute doodle note-taking session at the completion of a section, you will see huge leaps in retention. Children with ADHD tend to be very creative so adding some element of art to every subject usually meets with grand success.
Also, bring on the experiments!
T loves Science experiments and Social Experiments, and Art Projects best of all. Let them get their hands dirty. Try to create ways to learn in addition to reading a lesson. Find ways to invite them to actually experience that lesson in some aspect.
Take a lot of field trips.
I mentioned earlier that getting outside and getting moving is what really ignites the love of learning in a child with ADHD. Take them to the planetarium, the fish hatchery, the museum, the historic sites, the shows, the classes, the guided nature walks… A huge benefit of homeschooling is that weekdays, these places are often almost empty. Your child gets a ton of attention from the staff. You find experts that are truly passionate about the subjects they are teaching, you make friends that are experts in areas you are not, and you have fun. Fun… Learning… A match made in heaven. Just like a child with ADHD in a loving homeschool environment.
And there you have them. Our top tips for homeschooling through an ADHD diagnosis. I hope these tips help. I know it’s hard and I get it. Homeschooling has so much to offer, and I am so grateful for so many reasons for this opportunity. I hope I have encouraged you as I have been encouraged by other homeschooling Moms.
You’ve got this!
This is day 14 of the Homeschooling in the Midst of Hard Things Blog Series!. We are so glad you are here!
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