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Lots of families worry if they can balance homeschooling and ADHD in their child. After all, we’ve been taught that kids with special needs require a master teacher who has lots of experience. While most teachers are absolute GENIUSES at their job and deserve a million dollar raise, you should know you can do it too, with some help. Those teachers are primarily good at helping an entire class of students, and managing all their behaviors and needs at once. If you’re homeschooling though, you only have to worry about your own kids!
Let’s look at the top five ways you can be #winning at homeschooling with ADHD in the house.
1. Tailor the schedule
One of the hardest parts about public and private schools (for any kid!) is the seven or eight hours straight of work. There’s hardly any time to breathe, never mind wind down for a minute, play, or go to the bathroom. For most of my students with ADHD, what they needed most was breaks, and lots of them.
When deciding to homeschool a child with ADHD (or suspected ADHD), you need to start by making a workable schedule. For many, this will mean setting aside “work chunks” throughout the day and allowing your child to pause between them.
For some kids though, they love getting focused on a project or subject and don’t want to stop! For them, perhaps you want to set your schedule to follow a “Monday Math Day” or “Wild West Week” set-up. Let them leisurely explore subjects to their heart’s content, and you might be surprised by how much they learn.
You also can ‘do’ school based on whatever time works best for your family. I know a mom whose husband works odd hours, so they prioritized family breakfast together. Because of this, school might not start for them til after lunch! Or maybe your family is full of night owls (aka average teenagers) who would thrive if work time was from 6-11pm. Who knows? The world is your oyster when homeschooling.
Host a Family Homeschool ADHD Meeting
If your child has been formally identified as a candidate for special education services, you’ve been to a 504 or Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting. Why should you give those up just because you’re learning at home now? Obviously, you get to skip all the boring stuff and legalese at home, but meetings to discuss your child’s ADHD can still be helpful. Let your child share what they see as their strengths and weaknesses, what they hate about school, and their goals. Then figure out ways you, the family, and any other teachers can build on those strengths. Also, use this time to set goals to improve weak areas, and brainstorm ways to make learning fun for them.
If you run into problems you don’t know how to solve, reach out to your network, local professionals, or hit the library. Never assume a problem is unsolvable when homeschooling with ADHD just because a solution isn’t immediately obvious!
Research shows again and again the benefits of physical activity for kids with ADHD. This is one reason some homeschool because of ADHD- recesses are getting shorter, and gym classes are disappearing altogether! Also, since most modern kids spend time in front of screens (guilty!) the more motor breaks we can give our kids, the healthier they’ll be.
When planning out your homeschool, please plug in daily motor time and movement. This could be as easy as playing one song and having a dance break between subjects. You also might take Grandma’s advice and have them run around the house a few times before settling in to work.
It also might not be a bad idea to sign up for sports teams, join a rec league, or find a buddy family to hike with once a month. Not only does this mean your kids get excited about being active, but you can ‘double dip’ and tie that into learning about physics, history, botany, and more. I can’t tell you how many homeschool families I know who never “teach gym” because they do this instead. Their kids reported levels of engagement and excitement I never saw from my students changing up for pickleball (again).
Decorate your Homeschool for ADHD Success
Visual and physical aids are so important for kids with ADHD. My classroom would look different every year, but it always had plenty of posters, schedules, and reminders on the walls, desks, and even the ceiling. For my kids who were going to look around anyways, those visual reminders helped them get back on track without much time lost. Perhaps your child could benefit from one (or more) of the following:
- A schedule printed out and taped on the wall.
- A clock that has chunks of time colored and labeled.
- Anchor charts that walk kids through questions to ask when they get stuck
- Reminders of how to handle challenging emotions
- Written or drawn step-by-step procedures of tasks your child struggles with
You also can include physical aids and sensory toys in your homeschool. Yoga balls, rubber bands on chair legs, standing desks, and mini trampolines have all been hugely successful with previous students of mine. Especially if your child can’t focus without fidgeting, these are a must-have! Experiment with different sensations, levels of pressure, and motions that your child can utilize to really keep their head in the game.
Take a Deep Breath
When you homeschool your child with ADHD, a lot of your previous worries will go out the window. Now, you won’t have to fear another parent complaining about your kid’s “annoying pencil tapping” on the elementary school’s Facebook page. Your kid can’t fall behind in your homeschool class because the “rest of the kids” were going too fast, either. There are so many ways the ultra-personalization of the homeschool model just plain works better for families.
So breathe in, count to three, and breathe out. You’ve got this!
For more reading on this topic:
- Your Guide to Homeschooling a Special Needs Child
- Help My Child Focus Naturally: 5 Tried and True Strategies for Home
- Accommodations for ADHD: 25+ Tips & Recommendations
- 10 Educational Outdoor Activities (that you can try tomorrow!)
Hillary is a former teacher who went rogue and became a freelance writer. When not offering support and advice to homeschooling families, she tends to her own garden, family, and cat. You can connect with her on her website, homegrownhillary.com.