I previously wrote about my discovery that I have ADHD. My brain doesn’t work the same way that “normal” brains do. I’m not even sure what that means but I do know that not every homeschooling strategy or tip has worked for me. I’ve had to experiment a lot with finding the right balance and schedule for homeschooling my three kids. There are lots of recommendations out there for how to homeschool a child with ADHD, and I have some recommendations I’ll be sharing with you all later. But we often forget that ADHD is not just about your child. As a mom with ADHD, I wanted to take a minute to share some things I’ve learned over the years.
1. Respect that you will have good days and bad days.
That’s okay! When making your lesson plans, list some low-stress activities you can do with the kids if you need a backup plan. Also, have a list of possible field trips available for days when no one can sit still and focus. ADHD makes contingency plans necessary.
2. Choose curriculum that works for you and your ADHD.
It is important to find the right balance of high-stress and low-stress curricula that work for you and your family.
A low-stress curriculum is one where you do the next page in the workbook or read the next chapter. It has everything you need in the book or kit. There is no setup, just the book, the child and you to get the lessons done.
A high-stress curriculum is one where you have to get supplies, plan things in advance and provide the right space to do things. This could be art projects, science experiments or historical recreations.
The high-stress curriculum requires that you prep for every lesson and block out more time. As a result, I find I can only be successful at one high-stress curriculum at a time. The rest of our work needs to be low stress.
I took this idea of balance to heart when writing the Level Orange: Full-Year program. Each week has a selection of both low-stress and higher-stress activities to choose from.
3. Alternate tasks and lessons in a way that makes sense to your ADHD brain.
Some families do their best homeschooling in the morning and save the afternoon for chores, classes, and hobbies. Other families find they do best having whole days they don’t leave the house and other days they go out to classes and park days. Work to find the right balance for you and your kids. Consider some version of block scheduling or alternating subjects on different days of the week to create a rhythm that works for you.
4. Remember that the curriculum needs to work for both you and your child.
Other homeschool moms may be able to force their family through a curriculum that is a bad fit, but not a mom with ADHD. If your child starts to sabotage, avoid, or whine, you will find yourself also putting off this dreaded subject. Don’t do that. Instead, recognize that the curriculum you chose, no matter how expensive, is a bad fit.
Talk to your child about what the next curriculum needs to do differently. Does it need more videos and less writing? Or more hands-on projects and less reading? Sell the thing that isn’t working and find something you will all enjoy more.
5. Figure out a housework routine that works for you.
If you are high energy, you may be happiest cleaning the house before the kids wake up for the day. If you are low energy, you may do best having a couple of days of the month you just cancel school work and have the kids help clean the house. Assigning the children chores can be extremely helpful if you can find ones they can complete with minimal supervision. Kids with ADHD do best with simple, clear tasks, like taking out the trash and cleaning the toilet. Large tasks, like cleaning the school room, will require parental supervision and help. A mom with ADHD also works best with clear simple tasks. Break down the big tasks of “cleaning the school room” into the smaller, more manageable parts. You’ll be more motived when you have clear goals and can mark a task as done.
6. Create routines and storage space.
One of the challenges of homeschooling is the stuff. You need to be able to get it when you need it. Set up a bookshelf or big basket to hold your school supplies. Be sure to put them back after every lesson. Other homeschool parents may be able to leave the history book beside the reading chair and find it tomorrow but a mom with ADHD shouldn’t chance it. Putting it on the same shelf or in the same big basket of items will save you time and stress.
7. Make lists, posters, and calendars to help you stay organized.
Write on a wall calendar, so the kids can also see what classes or activities they have each week. If you want to schedule your subjects by day of the week, post it on the wall! You may have the best plan in the world, but without a schedule posted, you may accidentally skip art, history, or poetry tea time because it slipped your mind. Homeschool parents have a LOT to remember- write things down.
8. Keep records, journals, and planners.
Being a mom with ADHD means you need to take time to plan and check in on your plan regularly. Everyone should do this but for a mom with ADHD it is extremely important.
At the start of the school year, write down your goals for the kids, the curricula you plan to follow and all your big ideas. You have wonderful ideas! Now put them somewhere you can come back to and write updates throughout the year. Your perfect amount to update may be daily, once a week, once a month or even less. All of those are okay. A plain notebook or an inexpensive teacher’s planner may be a good place to start. You may also enjoy a bullet journal to make your own planner.
I keep a 12” x 12” x 3” plastic box for each kid. I put certificates, work samples and notes on how they are doing in the box as they come up. This is a simple, record-as-you-go way to keep a record of our learning. Having a single box per child keeps down on my clutter and the risk I will lose important papers.
9. Enjoy your creativity and passion!
Your ADHD makes you more likely to plan a random field trip, drop everything to do a messy art project or get excited about your child’s new hobby. Feel free to drop the plans for the day sometimes, and indulge in those things. There is nothing so fun as waking up a child who expects spelling and math tests and telling them to get on a swimsuit we are going to the beach instead. Spelling and math will still be there tomorrow, and you and your child may have a much better attitude about them after a fun break.
10. Let go of the guilt.
As a mom with ADHD, your house may not be the cleanest and the history book you planned to use may have been missing for a month, but you are enough. Your kids love you, and you have a lot going for you!