“What We Learned by Homeschooling Our Struggling Child During the Pandemic.”
“I learned a lot about Noah while homeschooling him. He loved the one-to-one attention, and he learned better with music in the background and video instruction. We learned lots of math with YouTube videos, and he did not need any of the tools and supports he used in the classroom. My sons were with me all day, every day. I was exhausted — emotionally, mentally, and physically — but we learned to be with each other.”
When we walked into our son’s classroom for the parent-teacher conference, we immediately noticed the school principal waiting for us – not typical for a Kindergarten conference.
I knew there had been a few issues with Noah, but the extent of his problems was never clear. “Noah is such a sweet, sweet boy, but he’s had a really hard time playing with friends,” his teacher said. “He has been hiding under the desk and covering his ears every day. He’s been crying every day.”
The mere suggestion blew my mind. Could they really be talking about my son? There is nothing wrong with him! As a nurse, I had a decent understanding of ADHD and Noah didn’t fit the picture. I kept jogging my memory, wondering if I did something to cause this. I sat in the car after his conference and bawled my eyes out. There were no answers to my questions.
Noah was eventually diagnosed with ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and anxiety. His diagnoses marked the beginning of a really hard road for us. I dove into all the research on his conditions. I wanted to try everything BUT medication. Oh, the judgement I got from both sides of that discussion. I did not feel comfortable giving my child medication at only 5 years old. I wanted to try everything else first.
We ended up moving and enrolled Noah into a smaller school with only 12 kids in his class. He had an IEP, and we met twice a year for evaluations. The IEP included speech therapy, occupational therapy (OT), and a pediatric behavioral psychologist whom we saw twice a month for a year. At the suggestion of his OT, Noah wore a gravity vest and noise-cancelling headphones, and he used other tools to help him in the classroom. I also bought an indoor trampoline and eventually an outdoor trampoline, changed his foods, and learned my own way of parenting Noah.
First and second grade went well. He was thriving, and we continued to use all the available tools and supports. Then, we got to third grade.
A switch flipped. Things seemed to be getting worse for him. Noah became more emotional and his grades started to slip. In response, more tools and support were implemented. Noah eventually reached a point where he was wearing a heavy vest, utilizing headphones, and using a rocking chair in the classroom.
My heart almost stopped the day I saw my son drag his rocking chair into an assembly in front of the entire school. My blood instantly boiled. This was not okay. He had done fine this long without it. His self-esteem was plummeting, and he knew he was different. I told his teacher I did not want him to use the chair anymore – period. I strongly considered homeschooling him at this point.
Then the pandemic hit. Just like that, I got my chance.
It wasn’t easy. I was working full time, pursuing my degree, and homeschooling Noah and his younger brother, all in the middle of a pandemic. We were so terrified of the illness that I didn’t leave home for months.
I was pretty strict with both of my boys. I did not accept excuses. No exceptions, no whining, no “I am too tired,” or “I don’t get it.” We figured it out, sometimes doing schoolwork as late as 9:30 p.m. because that was the only time we had.
I learned a lot about Noah while homeschooling him. He loved the one-to-one attention, and he learned better with music in the background and video instruction. We learned lots of math with YouTube videos, and he did not need any of the tools he used in the classroom. They were with me all day, every day. I was exhausted — emotionally, mentally, and physically — but we learned to be with each other.
Not too long ago, we were fortunate enough to go back to school in person. His fourth grade teacher recently told me that, while she did not know what I did while homeschooling, Noah is a different kid now. He is using almost no tools in the classroom; he does not need them.
My mind wonders what middle school and high school will be like for Noah. Will he be ready? I’m not sure, but I do know that we will figure it out together.
Homeschooling ADHD Students: Next Steps
- Blog: “I’ve Been Homeschooling My ADHD Brood for Years. Here’s What I Want You to Know.”
- Q&A: How Can I Realistically Homeschool Kids of Different Ages and Needs?
- Download: A Sample Schedule for Learning at Home
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