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The Beginners Guide to ADHD Homeschooling in 2021

When I first came up with the idea for Life in the Twenties, it was actually back at the end of 2019. A new blog, for the new decade, focusing on things like home education, sustainable living in an apartment setting, and how to keep a good homeschool-life balance. I had unenrolled my oldest from our local school the previous August and enrolled him in a public charter program that allows us to homeschool while receiving educational funding from the state to pay for materials and electives. We had received some fairly strong promptings from God about being prepared to homeschool him, but we had no idea that by the end of the school year every school in the US would be shut down and all children would be learning from home!

I have only been able to start this blog now in early 2021, but I believe it is more important than ever for moms to have a knowledge and support base as they navigate their children's education. This past year has been eye-opening for a lot of parents, especially families that are trying to use public school remote learning for their kids. The ongoing battle between parents and the Teacher's Unions to open up schools has been painful and disheartening. Parents are finding that their children's teachers are spending their education time preaching ideological values rather than focusing on educational standards. Videos are coming out regularly with school boards mocking concerned parents, teachers yelling at children on Zoom and undermining their parent's concerns, and straight-up teaching children that their parents are idiotic fools who don't know how to make informed decisions. Parents are saying "ENOUGH!" and they need help implementing changes for their families!

So why listen to me, when there are thousands of blogs out there about homeschooling? Well, I have a unique perspective on this: my husband and I were both homeschooled as kids, and as a Mom with ADHD I've learned more than a few hard lessons along the way about how to work with children who have this brain structure, AND how to be a better parent with ADHD. Because the behavioral and emotional issues associated with ADHD don't just disappear when we become adults! They stick with us our whole lives and affect the way that we run our homes and parent our children. I have a lifetime of experience living with ADHD, and because my oldest child has it, I have been raising an ADHD child since the very beginning of my motherhood!

What is Homeschooling with ADHD?

`Well, simply put, it's homeschooling children with ADHD! There are a lot of misconceptions about ADHD, and that can make life unnecessarily difficult for both children and parents.

First of all, just the name of the condition "Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder" is a bit misleading. We don't lack the ability to concentrate, we lack the ability to regulate our concentration. This is because the prefrontal region of our brain develops at a slower pace than the rest of our brain, and this affects what is known as "Executive Functions". We don't switch tasks easily, we can't look at a project and lay it out in reasonable steps, we become easily overwhelmed when we're asked to do more than 2-3 tasks in a row, and I could go on forever. The classic kind of "scatterbrained" view of people with ADHD is because of this delayed executive function development.

Second, people with ADHD are often viewed and labeled as "lazy" or "slobs" because we struggle keeping our lives organized and tidy, and while this ties into Executive Function, it is also caused by a chronic deficiency in Dopamine production. Neurotypical people will receive a sense of satisfaction when they complete a hard task - like cleaning up a messy kitchen - because their brain will release dopamine as a reward for hard work. With ADHD, our brains don't get that rush of satisfaction because we don't produce enough to begin with! So when we are faced with a giant mess, or a huge school project, or a difficult deadline at work... We often end up completely immobilized. We don't know where or how to start (EF), and we don't have any motivation to try (dopamine), so we end up frozen feeling guilty and ashamed.

This leads me to my Third point: Guilt and Shame are huge problems. We lack the ability to exercise age-appropriate impulse control; our emotions can spike up suddenly and without warning; we get easily overwhelmed by tasks that other people view as simple; and we end up only able to do things that interest us (there's the dopamine!) which gives people the impression that we just don't want to try. I spent my entire childhood and most of my adulthood not knowing that I have ADHD. I think my parents must have at least suspected, but in their desire to keep me from being "Labeled" with a diagnosis, I instead received and internalized other labels: Lazy, Selfish, Mean, Unmotivated, Poor Decision-maker, Slothful. Instead of getting an explanation for why I struggled to do things, I was just labeled as being deficient in my character. I felt guilty and ashamed about things over which I had no control.

Many parents fear getting a diagnosis for their children, thinking it will hold them back in life. Being one of those people who never got diagnosed I can say with a great deal of certainty: Not having a diagnosis has held me back from far more in my life than having a diagnosis ever would have done. If you know what's wrong then you can make adjustments to increase functionality. If you suspect that your child might have ADHD then please get them tested if at all possible!

How to get started Homeschooling with ADHD

Homeschooling children with ADHD is challenging but very rewarding. To get started you will likely need to inform your local school district that you're pulling your child out of their school. If your kids are too young to start school then you're in luck! Just start doing what you want to do with them. Most states in the US have different laws about reporting that you're homeschooling, so I suggest visiting Home School Legal Defence Association (HSLDA) to look up what your specific state requirements are.

Some families choose to use a specific curriculum for their homeschool, some like to focus on a specific method (or blend of methods), and others like to choose a more eclectic approach and use bits of everything that works with their families. My family uses a blend of Waldorf and Charlotte Mason methodology and we pull our curriculum from Waldorf Essentials and The Good and the Beautiful. I also add in a hefty dash of Classical Unschooling (what I like to call it, to differentiate from Modern Unschooling) from time to time when we're feeling too boxed in by what we've got going on.

One essential for us is to make sure that we spend enough time outside every day. I try to shoot for at least two to three hours outside every day during Spring, Summer, and Autumn. At least. Most days I try to make it longer, but 2-3 hours is the basic minimum for us. Winter is a little more difficult for us, because we live in an area with heavy winters, so during the winter I shoot for 60-90 minutes playing outside over the course of the day. Time outside is essential for kids with ADHD. It's hard to bounce off the walls when there are no walls to bounce off of!

Tips for Success in ADHD Homeschooling

  • One of the biggest tips for success that I can give is to be kind to yourself and your kids. Starting homeschooling is a big adjustment, and when you add ADHD on top of it, well... let's just say you need a hefty dose of patience for yourself and your kids.

  • Next, limit screen time! This one is so important because ADHD brains are especially susceptible to developing a screen addiction. Most days my kids each get about 40 minutes on the table to use Reading Eggs and Prodigy Math, and then about 40-60 minutes in the evening to watch PBS kids while I make dinner (the equivalent of 2-3 episodes of a show.) I'm pretty strict about what I let them watch, and my main criteria are that the show can't be overstimulating or really noisy.

Common Questions about Homeschooling with ADHD

Is Homeschooling Good for ADHD?

  • Yep. A lot of the problems that students with ADHD face boil down to the way that educational instruction is set up in the public school system. With homeschooling, you have the ability to cater the lessons to your child, and give them the ability to move and fidget as much as they need!

Do I need to report to my State?

  • Possibly. It just depends on the laws in your state! Some states have no reporting requirements at all, and others insist that each child that you homeschool needs to have a complete yearly learning plan turned in every new school year, and detailed records maintained and turned in at the end of the school year. So your best bet is to visit HSLDA and preview their guide of each state's homeschooling laws.

We are Low Income, can we still Homeschool?

  • YES! My family is low income as well, and we are homeschooling our kids. Before we moved to our current state, we were entirely self funded, and this meant that I had to be really intentional about what I put our money towards with our homeschooling. I went to a lot of thrift shops, and found some truly incredible deals (like the one time I found the "Little House on the Prairie" boxed set for $5.00!). We left a lot of stuff behind in our move, and I've had to start over finding things, but a lot of our thrift store buys are still used on a regular basis here!

Are there any charter programs that we could use?

  • Again, YES! What is available will depend on each state, but my family is currently using a tuition-free public charter school program that allows us to homeschool and still have access to some of the funds that my children would receive in a regular brick-and-mortar school. Some people get nitpicky about this and say it's not "actual" homeschooling, but the way I look at it - my kids are actually at home, I am the one who is actually teaching them, and we are using a curriculum that I have actually chosen, so I'm pretty sure we're actually homeschooling. There are a few trade-offs like we need to do the state testing every year, and I do have to turn in a learning report twice a week, but I honestly appreciate having some type of outside accountability to keep me on track. Plus, my kids get the added benefit of having a legitimate transcript if they ever transferred into a public school. Thus far, we have really appreciated having access to this program, and we support options like this that give families greater school choice!

The Last Thing You Need to Know about Homeschooling with ADHD

Homeschooling can be both challenging and fun, so give yourself some space and time to get used to having kids at home full time, and working through the curriculum on your own. If your kids have been in public school for a long time, then you may find that your family needs a bit of a "detox" period, where your children can rest and recover from a system of coerced learning. Children with ADHD especially need to be engaged in "interest-led" learning so they can maintain a love of learning!

If you want to know more about homeschooling kids with ADHD, and how to homeschool on a budget, then follow me on Pinterest for more tips and tricks!

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