When Traditional Schools Fail: Homeschooling May Be a Better Option

If your child struggles in school because of her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), homeschooling can be a great alternative to help her succeed in math, reading, writing, and more!

Homeschooling ADHD Kids © istockphoto/thomas_eyedesign

The traditional approach to learning -- a teacher standing in front of children sitting behind desks -- is not the most productive for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) children who get bored easily. If your child is demoralized by his poor grades, receives detention for forgetting books, is looked down upon by teachers, or is bullied by classmates, he may be a candidate for homeschooling.

Melinda Boring, who started Heads Up Now!, a company that supplies information and products for parents, teachers, and therapists who work with hyperactive, distractible, and sensory-challenged children, home-schooled her daughter Beckie and son Josh, both of whom were diagnosed as having ADD/ADHD. “Josh rarely followed directions, and he became agitated when asked to sit still,” says Boring. “Sights, sounds, and even odors that most people didn’t notice bothered him. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to do what teachers asked of him, he just couldn’t.”

Josh graduated from home high school in 2006, and is working full-time and taking college courses. Beckie is a junior in home high school, and takes classes at the local community college. She earns A’s at both schools.

The Benefits of Homeschooling Your ADD/ADHD Child

Each family has to decide whether homeschooling will work for their ADD/ADHD child. In some cases, leaving the work force or juggling work and homeschool is easier on a family than continuing mainstream school that is not working for a child.

“Several parents told me they home-schooled to reduce the stress in their life,” says Kathy Kuhl, author of Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner, and an ADD/ADHD coach. “One mom I know left her job as a teacher’s aide because the stress of trying to get services for her son was damaging her health.”

Other homeschool benefits include:

  • Avoiding those mad dashes to catch the bus.
  • Holding parent-teacher conferences at the dinner table -- or the nearest mirror.
  • Knowing exactly what your child is learning and when he is goofing off.
  • Having free time for creative play, such as art and music appreciation, which have been cut from many schools.
  • Incorporating a child’s need for movement into the day.
  • Being able to move quickly through material that comes easily and to spend more time on subjects that are difficult.
  • Gearing the curriculum to accommodate a child’s strengths and weaknesses.

How Does Your ADD/ADHD Child Learn?

The number of homeschool teaching methods is overwhelming. Kuhl suggests that parents identify academic goals for their child and plan to achieve them by an individual learning style. “Don’t duplicate mainstream school at home. If it didn’t work there, it won’t work at your kitchen table.”

The Charlotte Mason method teaches through “living” books -- written in story form by authors who have passion for their subjects -- rather than textbooks, and cultivates habits of character.

The Unschooling method is guided by the child’s curiosity, allowing her to choose what, when, how, and where she learns.

Unit studies use a hands-on approach to learning that presents a topic from several angles. If a student studies water, it will be explored as chemistry (H2O), art (a painting of a beautiful waterfall), history (the Red Sea), economics (a bill from the water company), theology (baptism), and so on.

Whatever the chosen method, parents should use techniques that work with their child’s learning style. If a child is a visual learner, use highlighters, colored pens, and eye-catching graphics to teach key concepts. If the child is a kinesthetic learner, games, experiments, field trips, and role-playing would be effective ways of teaching a subject.

“Some parents gear math and language arts around their children’s passions, whether it be horses, reptiles, robots, or medieval history,” says Kuhl. One of the benefits of homeschooling is the freedom to choose what is learned and how it’s taught.

“Homeschooling allows you to teach in several ways -- auditory, visual, tactile, and kinesthetic,” says Boring. “Even if your child is mostly a tactile learner, using all of these approaches helps a child retain the information and keeps the curriculum fresh for brains that need stimulation.”

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This article appears in the Spring issue of ADDitude.
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Are you homeschooling your ADHD child? Do you have tips for other parents? Share them in the Parents of ADHD Children support group on ADDConnect.


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