Could Homeschooling Help Your ADHD Child?
Homeschooling appeals to parents and ADHD kids because it can be tailored to each child's needs. Find out how to make home-based education work for your family.
By Madeline R. Vann, MPH
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
Don't Miss This
Sign Up for OurMental Health & Mood DisordersNewsletter
Thanks for signing up!You might also like these other newsletters:
THURSDAY, June 20, 2013 —Your ADHD child forgot to bring his homework to school for the millionth time, and his teacher forgot his individualized education program. If only you could manage his education yourself. This kind of thinking often brings parents and ADHD kids into the homeschooling movement. The benefits of homeschooling education include flexible schedules, appropriate socialization, and a more personalized curriculum, but homeschooling can present significant challenges as well.
One of the biggest sources of conflict for parents with ADHD kids is getting the truth about homework and school participation. Clear, supportive communication with your child's teacher makes a difference, yet many parents don't have that or may realize that the level of communication has to be intense to be effective.
Melinda Boring of Ohio, 51, homeschooled all three of her children through high school. Two of them had ADHD. She began to look into homeschooling when she realized how involved she would have to be with the schools to make sure her oldest son received the education he needed.
"I thought, if I am going to put this much time and effort into my son's education, then I would prefer to set the schedule myself," she recalls. A children's speech pathologist and founder of www.headsupnow.com, an Internet resource for homeschooling, she was already familiar with the options for special needs children in the classroom, and she didn't believe that her son, who she describes as having severe ADHD, would be able to get through school with an accurate sense of his strengths and abilities. "I didn't want our relationship to be about school," Boring says. "His struggles were obvious. Homeschooling allowed me to build into him that he had strengths as well."
Homeschooling works best for ADHD kids with involved, organized parents, says Marie Limback, principal of the American School of Correspondence, a provider of online and correspondence high school curricula. "Parents get a kind of direct contact so they can see how the child handles the materials." But parents also have to stay on top of the curricula, expectations of the state and school districts (some of which require standardized testing or portfolios for homeschooled children), and create a social and athletic life for their children.
"If you have the time and the ability for one parent to stay home and work on homeschooling, it can be a really lovely thing," says Ruth Hughes, PhD, executive director of Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) and a child psychologist. However, she cautions, families with ADHD kids often have a lot of chaos and scheduling difficulties, in part because ADHD is inherited, which means parents may also be struggling to learn ADHD coping skills to succeed in their own lives.
"Home-based students need a lot of motivation to study," observes Limback. Those whose families are committed to their success have a chance to learn some very effective organization, time management, and coping skills.
Here are some of the steps you'll need to take if you decide on homeschooling:
- Create an organized, quiet space for working.The idea is to limit distractions so your kids can better focus.
- Modify space as needed.Boring realized that her children learned better if they were in motion, so they were allowed to study sitting on therapy balls, walking around, or even using fidget toys.
- Create a personal schedule.If studying in 10-minute increments is the most effective way to achieve the curriculum's goals, that's fine, says Limback. Boring's children did well with year-round schooling, and the unit-based curriculum she worked with allowed her to have each child working at their age level using the same foundational material. She was able to move them forward as fast as they were able or spend more time on subjects that challenged them.
- Invest in a "time timer."These specialized timers (which should cost about ) not only have hands that count down the minutes, but also have a red measure of time that gets smaller as minutes go by to give children with ADHD a visual sense of time passing in addition to the traditional "ding" when their time is up. This is important for ADHD kids, says Boring, because they often have no internal sense of time. Activities they enjoy fly by, those they hate drag on, and their schedules can get chaotic because they miss deadlines throughout the day.
- Develop a filing system.Folders for each class and logs that help keep track of assignments, due dates, and progress notes can really help. Color-coding is often very helpful for ADHD kids.
- Use the supports provided by your curriculum resources. For example, students and parents can consult directly with experts at the American School of Correspondence if they hit a wall with their studies.
- Explore homeschooling networks.Through local homeschooling groups, you and your children may find parents who have special skills, such as a second language or a science background, and can teach those classes. This allows peer interaction and helps your child learn to take instruction from other adults, but it does so on a limited basis.
- Look for parent-child activities.Boring's oldest son faced social challenges in addition to ADHD, so they connected him with a father-son group similar to Boy Scouts.
- Develop personalized reward systems.Learning should be its own reward, of course, but ADHD kids often respond well to additional rewards when they meet daily or longer-term goals. These can be education-related rewards, such as fun educational field trips, an "elective" course such as an art class, or a new book or music CD. Boring created point systems that allowed her children to work toward specific prizes. For example, her daughter could earn a thrift-store shopping trip for meeting summer reading goals, something she really enjoyed.
- Find appropriate athletic activities.Boring's son swam competitively, and all her children have martial arts black belts. She says both activities allowed them to be physically active, connect with teams of peers, and follow the guidance of a coach, and yet their competition was more about self-improvement than making it (or breaking it) for a team.
- Seek social outlets."The most common questions homeschoolers get are what about social activities, and do your kids go to the prom," notes Boring. Her daughter went to homecoming and the prom with public-school friends, and she says that she was able to create positive social experiences (through classes and peer activities) for her son instead of forcing him to sit through a social pressure cooker eight or nine hours a day.
- Invest in ADHD kids' strengths.Homeschooling lets you think outside the box a bit, so enjoy it with your child. Boring's children all had Saturday morning art classes, which unfortunately aren't always given the value they deserve in the public school system. She wanted her children to have a sense of their abilities beyond traditional academic disciplines.
- Consider overall "education."Boring emphasized learning skills of daily living, such as cooking and cleaning, and worked hard to encourage her kids' abilities to problem-solve on their own, all in preparation for independent adulthood.
Homeschooling for ADHD kids can be a positive experience for everyone, if you are organized, dedicated, and willing to seek help from experts and fellow homeschoolers.
Video: Helping Your Child With ADHD Succeed at School: Jennifer Mautone, PhD and Stephen Soffer, PhD
14 Best Crock Pot Recipes for Weight Loss
Cool, Pixie Haircuts for Fine Hair: Straight Hairstyles
Angry Boss Tell Him or Her to Hit the Gym
5 Workday Workouts You Can Do in Less Than 5 Minutes
The Best London Christmas Markets
How to Cook Brown Rice
Understanding Colon Cancer
Yes, You Can Still Wear Dark Lipstick in theSummer
J.W. Anderson and Grindr Hook Up For Some Fashion Fun
How to Defend Yourself in a Medical Privacy Violation Lawsuit
How to Remove a Live Mouse from a Sticky Trap
Take a Parenting Class to Help Navigate Divorce