A Day in the Life of an ADD/ADHD Homeschool Classroom
Teaching children who struggle with attention issues and hyperactivity requires a specific set of strategies to help them manage wiggles and outbursts and focus on their work. It also requires a lot of patience, love, and understanding. Those things can be difficult to find in a traditional classroom, making a homeschool set-up an option many families of kids with attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have embraced.
To enable parents to more effectively teach and enjoy the homeschool experience with a child with ADD/ADHD — or help them imagine how it might look if they’re thinking of trying it, for the school year or for the summer — I’ve put together a “day in the life” look with some practical suggestions. Tools you’ll need include a carefully planned diet, physical activity, play time, and a mix of material delivery methods to reach various learning styles. The right balance of these components throughout the day will help your child with ADD/ADHD excel within your homeschool structure.
Start with a healthy breakfast with plenty of protein, followed by a quick walk outside to burn off early morning energy. This will release any anxiety your student may have about needing to sit down and focus on schoolwork.
Begin the day by reviewing the daily schedule. Point out when snack time and breaks will occur, and discuss what hands-on activity your child has to look forward to, such as art, music, or games.
As you dive into the first subject, ask simple questions to make sure your child is focused and attentive. Having your child rephrase something you’ve said in his own words helps his mind stay active on the subject at hand. A hallmark of ADD/ADHD is that the mind easily wanders, so these frequent, friendly check-ins are important to keep your child on task.
Now and throughout the day, be sure to teach to your child’s learning style.
Allow frequent opportunities to get up and change the location and method of learning. For example, start by reading a short story and then go to the whiteboard to let your child take notes about what he just read or draw pictures. Then transition to a lesson on the computer, such as a video tutorial, learning game, etc. Movement and task-oriented changes help students with ADD/ADHD stay focused and keeps the lesson plans fun.
Continually look for ways to incorporate your child’s interests into the lessons. For example, in math, it’s easy to put equations and complex problems in terms of baseball stats, distance to a fun event/location she likes, how much volume of Jell-O he could fit in his favorite cup, etc. These small attempts to personalize the subject matter go a long way to helping your child enjoy the lesson and stay on track.
When your child feels overwhelmed or frustrated, take a break! Move on to something different and come back to this later after her subconscious has had time to chew on it for a while. Often if the answer isn’t clear immediately, kids with ADD/ADHD will get frustrated from the overstimulation and stress of the situation. Giving your child time to clear her head will give her more confidence to tackle it again later. Getting some fresh air in the afternoon will wake up a sleepy kid who is full after a big lunch.
End the day with a recap that includes the child reiterating his favorite learnings of the day. Have him take notes throughout the day and then read back to you the facts or lessons he is proudest of having learned or enjoyed the most. In this way, you reinforce continuous improvement.
• Keep snacks, stress balls, rubber bands, etc. on hand. Holding something or eating something while trying to focus can help kids with ADD/ADHD. Their nature is to be on the move; when they are required to remain still for a long period, it is very hard to do so without something in their hand to play with.
• Plan social activities, but allow your child to decide if he is up for it. Often too much socialization leads to overstimulation for kids with ADD/ADHD, so let them set the pace for the day and what they feel like doing. If you planned, say, a group swim lesson right after lunch but your child isn’t up for it, suggest a solo trip to the park instead.
• Leave enough time between school hours and dinner to relax and unwind. Just like adults coming home from a long day at work, children also need downtime to completely zone out, play a game, watch a show, or go for a walk or bike ride to reboot. This also plays a vital role in helping your child subconsciously organize all the new information she’s learned that day without feeling stressed about having to transition immediately to the next task. Times of transition are stressful for kids with ADD/ADHD, so be mindful of how tightly you schedule the day.
• Stay organized by putting together your daily schedule a week ahead and setting up the classroom in a functional, clean manner that will minimize stress or anxiety for your child. Don’t make him rifle through bins of stuff to find what he needs. The less chaos that is around your child, the less chaos he will feel inside.
• Finally, have fun and stay positive! No one can learn from a Negative Nelly, so be upbeat and offer praise or constructive criticism when needed. This will go a long way toward encouraging your student with ADD/ADHD to forge ahead. Negative criticism will leave your child with nervousness about coming back to homeschooling the next day, and you want her to enjoy this time and look forward to it. So help her by making the experience as fun as possible.