Parents of children with ADHD know that homeschooling ADHD kids provides extra challenges. But if done the right way, ADHD homeschooling also provide extra benefits, too! Truthfully, I have received so much fulfillment from homeschooling my daughter with ADHD. Every day provides a chance to learn something new about ADHD, my daughter, and myself.
A successful ADHD homeschool acknowledges that the child has specific needs that are different from what a neurotypical child needs, but also realizes that these differences don’t have to be disabilities. Flexibility in teaching is the key to a successful ADHD homeschooling environment.
Common Traits of Homeschoolers with ADHD
There are three types of ADHD (inattentive, hyperactive, and combined), so your child may show all or just some of the symptoms outlined below.
- Cannot sit still
- Easily frustrated
- Wants to answer questions immediately
- Doesn’t wait for instructions
- Daydreams or stares off into space
- Forgets assignments
- Loses school supplies
- Rushes through work
- Self-esteem is based on achievements
- Interrupts constantly
- Is distracted by EVERYTHING
- Leaves tasks half finished
- In a multi-step task, will only complete the first step
- Talks constantly
- Gets frustrated if they have to wait
- Makes careless mistakes
- Has trouble with time management
- May fight authority and be extremely independent
- Often hyperfocuses on enjoyable activities
ADHD Homeschooling: How to Set Your Child Up for Success
While the traits of ADHD are usually seen as a learning disability, I think they can also be an advantage in certain situations. For example, I have ADHD myself, and when I worked in a high-pressure kitchen in college, I excelled at keeping up with the dozens of fast-paced, scattered tasks in that environment because my brain works that way already. The ability to make quick-fire, impulsive decisions is ideal for high-stress environments. Two of my ADHD brothers have excelled in a military environment. Another brother of mine entered the food service industry and was able to move into management much sooner than other workers.
So, the goal of ADHD homeschooling is to help the child first, learn to slow down and think, and second, to harness the natural traits of ADHD and use them for the child’s benefit.
Step 1: Find Your ADHDer’s Learning Style
If you know how your child with ADHD learns, you will already be a step ahead of the game. Most kids either learn by listening, seeing, or acting. In my experience, most kids with ADHD prefer to learn through doing. Instructions bore us and we feel like we can get a hold of a problem more effectively in our own way. This can (and does) backfire, but there is a way to allow some freedom for hands-on learning without allowing the child with ADHD to go completely off the deep end.
For example, I cannot allow Monkey to skip math instructions, but I can provide her with hands-on math activities that make learning it more fun.
You can take this test to help determine what your child’s learning style is. From there, simply look for curriculum that caters to your ADHD child’s learning style.
Step 2: Set Realistic Expectations for ADHD Homeschooling
Even though I have ADHD myself, I that I expected too much of Monkey. I’m not sure if all kids with ADHD are like our family, but we tend to dig our heels into the ground and refuse to do anything if we feel pressured too much.
When Monkey was learning to read, I remember fighting with her for about two hours trying to get her to sound out a word. In the end, we were both frustrated and upset and had gained nothing.
I’ve found over the years that it is far more profitable to set aside whatever is causing the difficulty at the moment and come back to it later than it is to try to fight to the death over a few vocabulary words.
If your ADHD child is behind, you can’t expect them to get up to speed within a few weeks or suddenly become a genius by the end of the school year. In the end, test scores are usually a poor predictor of future success, and it is how a child performs in college that matters the most. Your job when ADHD homeschooling is simply to get your child into college (or into the career field of their choice).
Step 3: Provide Interest-Based Learning
One of the biggest advantages that homeschooling families can give an ADHD student is a stronger focus on interest-led study. One of the hallmarks of ADHD is the ability to hyperfocus on things of interest.
For example, I grew up in a house with nine people in it. It was always loud and crazy. But I was able to completely block all that out and read for hours because that is what I loved most. Monkey does the same thing when playing computer games or reading about science.
You can use this ability to your advantage by providing topics of study that your ADHD child is truly interested in. That is why we do so many STEM activities for kids. Monkey loves them and cannot learn enough about those topics. Consequently, she is advanced in this area. If you can spark your child’s interest in a subject, they will be yours for life.
Step 4: Use Gentle Force, When Necessary
No one wants to feel like the bad guy, but when ADHD homeschooling, you will have to be the bad guy sometimes. You cannot let your child skip math for three years in a row, particularly if you have to participate in yearly testing.
There will be days when you face tears, temper tantrums, yelling, screaming, slamming doors, stomping feet, and epic shouting battles. These are natural consequences of ADHD homeschooling. If you’re lucky, these days won’t happen often.
On these days, I usually insist that Monkey do the absolute minimum in whatever subject she is hating that day. We try to catch up later when she is more willing to learn. I try to be as positive as possible and offer rewards for completing the subjects she hates rather than punishing her for not doing her work. On the worst days, she may lose a privilege or two. I’ve found that behavior charts work wonders to help motivate kids to learn.
Step 5: Routine is Essential
Nothing throws Monkey into a loop faster than a break in routine. I usually let her decide her homeschool schedule these days (we do most of our one-on-one work in the morning), but when we deviate from that schedule, she is off balance and lets everyone know. Days when we stick to the routine are so much easier and better. I’ll share more on creating a ADHD-friendly homeschool schedule later.
Step 6: Don’t Fight the Wiggles
As a person who constantly fidgets myself, I should know better than to try and insist that my ADHD daughter sit still during lessons, but I find myself trying to control her movements more often than I like. I know personally that it is extremely difficult to control ADHD fidgeting, and if you can’t have the freedom to move at home, where can you move?
I let Monkey stand during lessons, sit on the floor, move around, and take frequent movement breaks during our ADHD homeschooling lessons. But we also have stillness practice, because she will eventually need to learn to stay still in certain situations (like college and business meetings).
Don’t miss the rest of the posts in the homeschooling ADHD series!