It's easy to get discouraged visiting some home school blogs, It is full of parents who seem to have it all together.
There are the ones that have tips for building the perfect planner. These parents know that once these perfectly organized planners are filled, it's going to be a fairly accurate representation of their year. It will not need to be constantly erased, revamped and changed almost weekly. In other words it's not gonna look how my planner looks.
There are ones with beautifully coordinated unit studies complete with costumes, food and foreign language lessons. I tend to always feel like I'm playing catch up because I always plan way more than I can possibly manage. The tasks seem so daunting and I often find myself without needed materials on hand or forgot to get them until after they were needed and have to back track.
There are the ones with the perfectly scheduled routines doing the same things at the same time every week. While routines are dire in our household they can't be that rigid. Depending on how my son is feeling we often have to shuffle around the subjects day to day in order to keep him engaged and working at his best. This constant shifting consistently causes us to forget stuff or fall behind and need to catch up on less desired subjects.
I have ADHD, Dysgraphia and Anxiety. The combination of these made me think the prospect of homeschooling would be an insurmountable feat for me. Well at first anyways.
Having a child with learning difficulties is hard. Teaching a child who has learning difficulties is challenging. Teaching a child who has learning difficulties while also dealing with your own learning difficulties can seem impossible, but it's not you can do it.
I only have two kids, but trying to stay organized and on track seemed beyond what I could manage. There were always multiple things that all seemed equally important for me to do. I was constantly distracted with the shiny new item (curriculum) , with no real motivation to complete what I had already started. I had to teach myself how to do things that seem to come instinctively to others. You know like organizing, being consistent and knowing how to prioritize.
Is Teaching With ADHD Really That Much Harder?
Yes! Teaching with ADHD is far more difficult than teaching without ADHD. It may be hard but there are ways to cope and overcome. Don't lose hope, you can do it.
The signs and symptoms of ADHD all seem to contradict the list of what makes a good teacher. you know like being organized, disciplined and time management. People with ADHD tend to exhibit the opposite of all those traits.
Impulsivity: I have a very hard time not buying a new program when it comes out, or when I discover something new that I think might work better. I feel the need to interrupt what we are doing to see if this new thing may be better. I am constantly finding things I "forgot" and add more than we have time to do.
Hyperactivity: Doing math problems or reading aloud to my kids is difficult when my mind is racing with all the other tasks I need to get accomplished that day. Staying in one place for so long is excruciating. Now add a ADHD kid in the mix as well and you are both fighting the ants in your pants.
Problems Prioritizing: Having to decide what to do next, first or even the dreaded what has to get left out can send me into a tailspin.Everything feels equally important so how do I make that decision, and am I making the right one. What makes this even harder is when feelings and priorities change day to day and even minute to minute.
Disorganization: As hard as I try to be prepared, ahead or even just kind of ready, It never fails that something is missing or forgotten when I go to start. Like forgetting the one thing I need from the grocery store for our science project, or forgetting to do an entire subject for several days in a row. Even with my three planners, yes you read that right three planners one for my purse, one stays in the home school and the one in my phone I'm still queen of the struggle bus.
Poor Time-Management Skills: While planning is already an issue not allowing adequate time for each activity makes it worse. We seem to consistently going under or over the times I allotted for each activity. We more consistently take longer than we should putting us in a constant state of catch up. I also have serious OCD and Anxiety about not being late so we often spend valuable time waiting in the car because we got there early. This is time that could have been better served finishing an assignment.
Difficulty Making Decisions: Most days I feel like every decision is a huge decision. Even something as simple as deciding when to take a break can be anxiety inducing. Each day having so many choices about what to start first, when to start and what speed we can go involves so many factors that choice seems impossible to make. All I can see is the details and there are hundreds of them to consider. Then I get to second guess every decision I make, sounds fun right.
Struggle With Follow Through: Then sometimes it isn't hard to start a new project after I've agonized if it's right or not. It's the actual finishing of said project that often doesn't happen. Finishing a project never seems to give me the same satisfaction as starting something new, which often leads to lots of started but uncompleted projects.
Racing Thoughts: I was an adult before I realized that most other people don't think the way I do. When I try to explain it people often state that it sounds exhausting. I become so easily distracted by outside stimuli I can literally work hard all day and it seem like I accomplished nothing. Like when I go to clean my living room and see a stack of books for my kids room so I take them there. Well my kids rooms a mess so I start that and find dishes. I take those to the kitchen and well that needs some work. Can you see where I'm going with this? This is how my brain works I am constantly bombarded by racing thoughts, each one leading to another all competing against each other for my attention.
Mood Swings: My brain is so busy, all day long. I am constantly shuffling through thousands of thoughts, all of which seem at the moment the most important. With so many thoughts taking front and center multiple times a day, it is hard to not have your mood effected.
How Can I Even Teach With ADHD? How Can I Do It Successfully?
With all of my daily struggles, you may think I can't enjoy homeschooling. You may assume I have a extremely difficult time teaching. That however couldn't be further from the truth.
Yes, I do have my share of struggles. Yes, having a child who also has ADHD makes things a thousand times harder. I have though, with the help of my husband and friends who are more experienced, managed to develop some awesome coping techniques. Homeschooling often times is my favorite part of the day. When I have a well planned schedule, and a great routine set up, less concerns and reduced racing thoughts. I am able to relax and enjoy being with my children and learning along with them.
Having a schedule or a guide vs. winging it is just what I need. I choose to go with box curriculums vs. unit studies or making my own curriculum so everything is laid out for me. I break down each assignment in smaller chunks to give us all a chance for breaks when needed, to get those wiggles out.
Here are some tips to help curb the symptoms of ADHD in your own home school.
Disorganization: Instead of allowing my disorganization to consume me. I have instead taken to being over prepared and always having extra supplies on hand, just in case. When supplies run low I order online so I don't have to try and add it to the grocery list, which is an already stressful task. I have multiple planners one written and one on my phone so no matter what, I am where I need to be when I need to be. I can keep on task because I know what is need to be accomplished that day.
Problems Prioritizing: Color-coding, bins and sticky notes help me prioritize very important things from the less important ones. I keep master lists in my planner to help keep track of everything. I have one planner just for school and another to keep track of everything including bills, errands and future appointments. My notes are often very detailed and can sometimes be pages long but it's what I need to keep on track. I work best when I can cross off items on a list. It helps to keep me motivated and gives me a feeling of accomplishment.
Hyperactivity: Build wiggle time into your day. Give you and your kids a time to get up and move. Brain breaks are key to making sure you can stay focused and not get bogged down. We love using one and two player critical thinking games, Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty and just putting on some music and dancing around a bit.
Impulsivity: Use the power of your impulsivity to your advantage. When the desire to do something different strikes add it to the end of your list as a reward for finishing all your work. Rewards work wonders to help keep you on track.
Difficulty Making Decisions: I often let my kids help make less important decisions for me, so its one less thing I have to decide. I let M pick what we have for lunch. I'll let A pick which order we do our subjects for the day or vice versa. I let them take turns deciding how many chapters we will do for our read aloud each morning. I already have so many decisions to make everyday and each week taking a few off, even if they aren't very important make me feel lighter.
Difficulty Focusing: I and my children work hard to reduce the number of distractions we have everyday. When I am in the middle of a lesson with their sibling they know they have to raise their hand and wait their turn. They both have difficulties with distractions so they've learned to be courteous of each other. If we have a longer project we set timers and take breaks every 20-25 minutes to help refocus our brains and keep us on track.
Poor Time-Management Skills: To me it is better to have more time than I need instead of feeling pressure to work faster because of time constraints. Because of this I often find myself in places earlier than I need to be, or with extra time left over. I always plan a few fun activities or have some trivia to do to fill in those gaps when needed.
Struggles To Complete Tasks or Follow Through: For us routine is the key to success. We like to start and end our day with more desired activities or subjects. We squeeze in the less desired ones in the middle so we have a reward for completing those not so fun tasks. My kids work best with rewards so we also have a punch card system where they can earn rewards for things like staying on task or reaching a new goal.
Frequent Mood Swings: It is hard to teach your children. There is a difficult balance we have to be careful of, as to not damage relationships that need to be first priority. We each have a code word we can say when we feel we are losing our patience or we feel someone else is, we can say our word which makes us all pause, step back and take a break. We separate for just five minutes to do a quick reset. Our relationships as parent and child and them as siblings are more important than any lesson they will ever learn. A quick time out helps us to check our moods.
Racing Thoughts: I learned through this process that when I'm reading to my children or listening to them read that my thoughts slow down. We get engrossed in the stories and and the discussions so that everything else melts away.
I still have areas of weakness I need to work on, but I feel feel I have overcome quite a lot with these techniques. None of this has or does come easily. I still have to work on it everyday. My abilities to overcome have developed overtime. There has been a lot of trial and error as I've made these tricks to help me. I'm sure there will continue to have setbacks, but with effort I will overcome!
By using some of these techniques, you too, can home school your children and even find peace and joy in doing so. Don't let ADHD define you or hold you back. You can do it! It may look different than everyone else, it may be a little harder and it may even take a little longer. Rome wasn't built in a day.
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