Homeschooling children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? While this may seem overwhelming at first, you can take heart – you’re definitely not alone!
The number of children with ADHD has increased over the years, with estimates ranging between 5 to 11 percent of all American children (ADDitude Mag). Sometimes people with ADHD don’t recognize they have it until they are adults and are tested for the disorder.
As with many situations, homeschooling can look different for each family based on their specific needs. These tips can help you adjust your homeschool to fit the needs of your children.
1. Reduce or eliminate sensory distractions.
Sometimes you may not even notice the factors that are distracting your child. For example, consider the noises of a fridge turning on and off, background traffic, and other sounds that may keep students with ADHD from focusing.
Other distractions could include outside movement from a window, or people coming and going within your house.
One mom recommends creating visual screens within your “school workplace” so your child can tune out these outside distractions.
A school workplace also helps reinforce the mindset that “this area is the place where I do school.”
2. Keep items separate to specific tasks.
For a child with ADHD, a stack of books can overwhelm their senses before they even start!
Instead of providing a general overview of everything they’ll cover, take away everything that’s not strictly necessary. For example, cover up all the parts of a math workbook except for the one problem they’re working on. Give them just the books they need for the current subject or theme.
Break down projects into bite-size chunks that have a predefined start and end.
3. Try (noiseless!) fidgets.
Sometimes children with ADHD can focus longer if they can hold something in their hands. If these fidgets don’t squeak, so much the better.
Children may not always like to hold the same fidget for long, so explore different options to keep the lesson short, new and as interesting as possible.
4. Incorporate physical activities.
Thanks to the flexibility and freedom of homeschooling, your kids don’t have to sit all the time while they’re learning!
By helping them burn off high energy with jumping jacks, rebounders, and other exercises, you can help them refocus. For the more lethargic students who like to daydream, these activities can actually help them perk up and turn their energies toward learning.
5. Cover up parts of the page as needed.
Sometimes the presence of too much ink and other “busyness” (bright pictures, colors, and text) can overwhelm a sensitive child. Take a blank piece of white paper and block off all the sections that aren’t needed at that time.
For example, if your child is working on just one math problem, they don’t need to see all the other math problems on that page!
6. Help your child develop a sense of time.
Sometimes timers can be your best homeschool friend! By helping set times (5 minutes for spelling, 10 minutes for math, etc.) and manually entering the timer on a clock, you can help your children break down “impossible” tasks into more managable chunks.
BONUS tip: Visual timers with a red countdown can especially help children see their time ticking away. You can browse this Amazon selection for more ideas.
7. Set limits for completing assignments.
This tip doesn’t apply to times when you’re working on comprehension issues. Sometimes you really need to explain a concept before the child understands how to complete assignments.
Rather, this tip apples to those times when your child knows how to complete the assignment but is just goofing off! If you don’t set constructive boundaries, you could end up wasting your own time as well as theirs.
8. Actively look for and reward their attention.
Sometimes we get so caught up in correcting our students (i.e. children!) that we forget to point out the moments when they do focus, complete something well, and finish their tasks on time. Try to look for, and celebrate, their wins as much as possible.
9. Check in on your kids even when you “think” they’re focusing.
As homeschool moms, we’re constantly juggling a stream of other activities, often during school time. (Yes, who hasn’t unloaded laundry and pottered around the kitchen while also trying to answer a dozen class-related questions?!)
However, at times we need to ensure our children are still on track with their schoolwork, even if they’re being quieter than usual. In fact, especially if they’re being quieter than usual!
10. Work on repeating instructions “back” to teacher.
One of the best ways to ensure understanding is to encourage your child to repeat your instructions back to yourself. For example, ask them, “What did I say?” or “Can you repeat what I just said?”
If they can repeat them back, you know they heard you correctly. Sometimes just the effort of recalling your instructions can give your children a follow-up question, or they’ll ask for further clarification on their own.
11. Make lessons as interactive as possible.
If at all possible, make sure your children can touch, taste, and smell in the classroom as well as see and hear. For example, hold insects and other small creatures that you learn about in textbooks; cook food from a different culture or time period; and find crafts or science experiments to incorporate into your curriculum.
Our guest blog post, 21 Outdoor Activities For KC-Area Homeschoolers, can help give you some great ideas!
Thanks to Melinda Boring, one of our conference workshop speakers, for providing the framework for this blog post.
If you think you may need professional help for your child, we recommend a number of resources. Jean Wetherilt, our Special Needs Coordinator, is a retired homeschool mom and founder of the PossAbilities Children’s Therapy Group clinics in both Merriam, KS, and Lee’s Summit, MO.
Our homeschool conference and curriculum fair also features a separate workshop track just for “Struggling Learners,” or children with special needs such as ADHD. These include gifted and twice-exceptional children. Feel free to plan for coming to our next conference, and leave refreshed with helpful, encouraging strategies to give your children the best educational success they can have!
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