7 Best Tips to Homeschool Your ADHD Child
Starting out homeschooling can be really intimidating in the best of circumstances. Add ADHD on top of it, and it can seem like an insurmountable feat. There is a level of intensity that comes with ADHD children that neurotypical children just Do. Not. Have.
I'll give you an example: I was fixing dinner the other night, and my boys asked if they could have some sweet rolls we were given at the food pantry as dessert. I told them yes, but that I would be splitting each one in half (because they were absolutely HUGE). Each boy immediately proclaimed their long-term dedication and love for one specific sweet roll that had the most icing on it. I told them thanks for their opinions but I would be choosing which sweet roll they each split, and if they fought over The Best Sweet Roll then I wouldn't give it to any of them and I'd give it to their father instead. After a brief moment of protest from all the children where I had to clarify my meaning, most of them went back to tidying, but one child child instead stayed right there and had an epic meltdown for an hour. Can you guess which one it was? If you guessed my ADHD child, then you would be right!
What is ADHD, and why did we end up homeschooling?
ADHD is a behavioral disorder characterized by delayed executive function development, poor emotional regulation, and is often accompanied with symptoms like an inability to sit still. When children with ADHD are in a typical classroom setting, their symptoms can prevent them from being able to adequately learn and retain information, and also cause disruptions in the classroom. For this reason, many families with ADHD children choose to homeschool their kids so they can learn in an environment suited to their sensory and regulatory needs.
This is exactly the reason that my family decided to homeschool our kids. We put our ADHD child in Kindergarten because he had been begging to go, and while it was definitely nice to have a break from him for several hours a day, we started to notice that his mental health was declining. When he got home he could be moody or intensely hyperactive (or swing back and forth between the two), he would tell elaborate stories about how he was tied up in his classroom and set on fire (yes, this was a story we were actually told by him), and some days he would just be melting down all the rest of the day and shouting at me "I'M NOT A BAD BOY!!!!!" Now, I don't think his teachers or school was doing anything out of the ordinary to single him out or make him feel bad, but when you're the child who can't sit still or be quiet.... well life just begins to naturally feel like you're the problem, not the environment!
You've decided to give homeschooling a try, but where do you start?
First, if your child is enrolled in a local school then you need to follow your state's process for unenrolling them and informing the school that you will be homeschooling. In some states you can just tell the school office "My kid's not coming back, we're gonna homeschool", and in other states there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be filled out. So look up your state laws to make sure you won't get yourself in legal trouble by pulling your kid out. Home education is legal in every state in the US.
Give yourself some space and time to get things figured out. Find a couple of fun and educational things that your kids enjoy doing and let them have at it for a month or so while you get your home life adjusted to having kids around full time!
If you can qualify for it, make sure to find some type of behavioral therapy to get your child in so you can have some extra support through this process.
7 Best Tips to Homeschool your ADHD Child
● Tip 1: Expect your plans to go awry!
○ ADHD is unpredictable, and you may have a great week of education and activities planned, but find yourself dealing with meltdowns every day!
○ Make sure you have two types of plans - the "Things Are Going Great!" plan, and the "We Need to Back Way Down and Reset our Family" plan.
○ Be prepared to turn around 3 minutes away from a fun activity and go home because the anticipation has turned your child into a mess.
○ Just don't tell your kids about the fun plans until you're pulling up to it. Anticipation is a surefire way to get your kid into overload!
● Tip 2: Focus on developing a consistent family home rhythm first.
○ This should be your focus before anything else that you could be doing. Children with ADHD thrive in a predictable environment and they need to know what they are doing from one activity to the next.
○ Create anchor points to your day - mealtimes, outdoor times, bedtimes, and make sure that they are set in stone.
○ Do not let your bedtime be messed up more than twice a week, or else your children will begin to think that's just what bedtime is from now on!
● Tip 3: Use short lessons to capture your child's attention.
○ The Charlotte Mason method emphasizes using short lessons to keep a child's attention and build up the ability to concentrate.
○ I like to try and keep each lesson to about 10 minutes, and once we're easily doing 10 minute lessons, then I try to move us up to about 15 minutes.
● Tip 4: Utilize Habit training to improve behavior and attention.
○ Training in good habits is essential for children with ADHD, because it helps them to run on "autopilot".
○ Charlotte Mason taught that children with poor habits are left to the mercy of whatever whims pass them, and are less empowered to make good decisions.
○ Waldorf education emphasizes building up the "Will" of a child by working through difficult experiences and learning new skills. Practicing good habits is an example of Will development.
● Tip 5: Use games and activities to make learning fun!
○ ADHD people have an "interest-led" nervous system, which means that they need to be interested and engaged in something to be able to concentrate on it.
○ Use games, art projects, and handwork to keep ADHD kids interested in their learning.
○ Manipulatives, sorting activities, and skills like knitting and crocheting help to build neural pathways!
● Tip 6: Take time to get outside every day.
○ Spending time outside is a must for our family. None of us do well when we are expected to stay inside all (or most) of a day.
○ Time outdoors builds mental health - getting out in the fresh air and sunshine helps to create feelings of wellbeing.
○ ADHD kids can't bounce off the walls when there are no walls closing them in!
● Tip 7: Follow your child's interests to build academic strength.
○ Children with ADHD have the ability to hyper-fixate on a topic for weeks or even months at a time, so build on those intense interests to keep their minds engaged.
○ Any topic can have a variety of skills and subjects built into it. On any topic you can study history and language arts, the science behind why it works, and learn about ways that math helped in those situations.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about how to Homeschool Your ADHD Child
Homeschooling a child with ADHD can be challenging, but it is totally doable! With some perserverance and patience it is not only possible to do it, but to see your children truly thrive!
So tell us, have you considered homeschooling your kids with ADHD? Leave us a comment and tell us some of the challenges that you've faced!