Homeschooling is challenging under the best circumstances; throw in an ADHD diagnosis, and it can often feel like a task best left to experts. But here’s the thing: regardless of your teaching experience, you are an expert––on your child. You are uniquely qualified to understand and respond to your child’s learning needs. Choosing to homeschool is rarely an easy decision, but don’t let your lack of formal teaching experience become a limiting factor.
Many children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are intelligent, intuitive, creative, and fun, but their unique challenges can make a traditional classroom setting feel more like a punishment than a privilege. One way to adapt your ADHD child’s learning environment to suit their learning style is by creating your own homeschool curriculum.
Benefits of homeschooling
Sometimes you don’t choose homeschooling, it chooses you. Whether you were forced into homeschooling by the pandemic or grew tired of negotiating IEPs and advocating for your child in a less-than-supportive public school setting, it’s okay if being a homeschooling parent was not your first choice. However, it is important that you move forward with confidence in your ability to provide your child learning opportunities and life skills that may not be available to them in a traditional school system.
Education is not a one-size-fits-all formula. The most obvious benefit of homeschooling is the ability to customize your learning space, teaching methods, and the parameters of your school day in a way that works for your learner. Let go of the traditional school model and be prepared to embark on a learning journey along with your child.
Here are some things to remember as you get started:
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While it’s true that a less formal setting is one of the many benefits to having school at home, it is also important to maintain some structure, so create a dedicated space for doing schoolwork. It does not have to be similar to a traditional classroom setting where your child spends all day in one spot, but it should serve as a “home base” for learning.
Find a quiet area and try to keep it clear of clutter or unnecessary distractions. Provide a large work surface and necessary supplies, and make some ADHD-friendly accommodations to support your child’s learning. Using an exercise ball in place of a chair can be helpful. Allowing, or even encouraging, some fidgeting, can also be helpful – make one or two preferred fidget tools available in the learning space. This learning space does not need to be your child’s sole work area. Part of the beauty of homeschooling is that lessons can happen at the kitchen table or while kids are jumping on a trampoline to get their “wiggles” out. Think of your learning space as more of an educational command center, and ask your kid with ADHD for their input about organizing their schoolwork and materials. Executive functioning-related issues are a common ADHD symptom, so helping your child establish the habit of getting organized and putting items where they belong can be an extremely helpful lesson that supports their future success.
Plan your days
As a homeschooler, you do not technically need a schedule at all; however, it’s good to put some parameters in place, even if it’s just to maintain your own mental health. First and foremost, remember that you are capable of teaching content more efficiently as a homeschooler. In a typical school schedule, there is extra time built in to handle administrative duties, changing classrooms, meeting the needs of multiple children, and attending elective classes that your child may not need.
Determine a reasonable amount of learning time for your child’s grade level, and don’t extend that just to match the school schedule. Frequent breaks and free time are important and can help diminish periods of inattention.
Determine the curriculum
The sky’s the limit when it comes to curriculum, which can be completely liberating and/or completely overwhelming. Again, don’t feel pressured for your homeschool curriculum to mirror what’s happening in your local school system. Do some preliminary research so you know what children in the same grade level are learning, and create a loose strategy for covering those same topics in a way that works with your child’s individual learning style and interests.
Be creative––certain video games can serve as educational resources for history, engineering, or basic computer programming. Legos can be helpful to illustrate mathematical concepts. If you have a child with a particular interest or passion, create unit studies around that topic that include multiple subjects and projects.
If you are not confident about your own ability to teach a specific subject, consider joining a homeschool co-op, which also provides opportunities for your child to practice social skills in a more casual setting than school.
The key to successfully homeschooling a child with ADHD is to have a predetermined plan but to be willing to adapt and adjust as necessary. Have a general idea of what your days will look like, what you would like your child to learn, and how to assess their personal and academic growth, but be patient. Trust the process, and don’t feel defeated if some days don’t work out as you had envisioned.
You know your child best, and having a teacher who truly understands your needs and is invested in your success is, by far, the most valuable element of any education––so, by leading with your empathic understanding of your child’s needs and learning style, you’re doing great before you even begin. Celebrate your child’s strengths and work on their weaknesses in a supportive and encouraging environment by creating a strategy for homeschooling to help your child thrive.