Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

ADHD, School and Homeschooling

Last night was the first support group meeting of our local ADDA-SR group. I was impressed. I don’t know what I expected out of it, but I was both surprised and pleased, and am so very glad that this is going to be a resource in my area.

Although I haven’t looked into it extensively, homeschoolers dealing with attention disorders don’t seem to have a lot of web-presence. My perception is that if you’re homeschooling an ADHD/ADD child, that’s no longer the focus of your day – you’re able to make the modifications to their educational program and style that are needed, and it’s not a ‘thing’ – it just becomes how you homeschool. After Googling it this morning, I did find a couple of interesting things – a lot of lip service about ‘being flexible’ and ‘incorporating action into learning’, but nothing was really specifically geared towards helping homeschoolers deal with attention disorders in the homeschool environment. I don’t know if that’s because we don’t find ADHD to be an issue when homeschooling, or we homeschoolers just have different issues that aren’t being addressed by the ‘experts’… maybe a little of both?

Something I did find interesting was this from Carol’s Web Corner:

1.  We don’t homeschool. What can we do?

Of course you homeschool.  You just call it helping with homework…For the child in the traditional classroom, you must appreciate how VERY difficult it is for our ADHD kids to keep control of their impulses in a room with many children. The noise level and the panorama of things in motion will elevate their level of excitability. The distractions are almost dizzying for them. They are almost destined for trouble. I’ve heard it said that a teacher trying to teach this child in such an environment is like trying to thread a sewing machine while it’s running.

This was a primary motivating factor for our decision to homeschool. LittleBoyBlue was not accomplishing his work at school, so we would spend hours doing homework. In effect, I was sending him to an 8 hour daycare, in which he received assignments, he came home and we ‘did school’ – only a very rushed and frustrated version of it because he’d just spent the previous 8 hours ‘doing school’, slipped some family time in before dinner and bedtime – only to do it all again the next day. No wonder we were all so very, very tired.

Being able to move at our own pace, which to some degree is motivated by the children’s natural rhythms, is much more productive for our family. One of the topics discussed at the ADDA meeting last night was that ADHD/ADD children generally have sleep issues – getting to sleep, staying asleep, getting quality sleep. I know this to be true for LittleBoyBlue. When he was a baby, he never slept more than 2 hours at a time, He woke frequently, and did not nap. He did not seem to need as much sleep as other kids, but he also tread a very fine line between ‘fine’ and ‘overtired’. If he slipped into overtired mode, then sleep was impossible to come by. I walked for miles to get this child to sleep most nights. When we were in school, sleep was imperative to his performance, and it was noticeable when he didn’t sleep well, which was most of the time. Being forced into someone else’s schedule was detrimental to his sleep cycle. Being told, ‘You HAVE to go to sleep!!” for several hours only added to his stress and inability to go to sleep, I’m sure (mommy fail moment)… homeschooling allows him to stay up later, follow his own routines and wake up naturally rather than being forced into a false time-table. I see this is hugely beneficial to his education.

Though attention disorders in homeschoolers exist, they’re not a ‘problem’ in the same ways that they are in a classroom environment, but it’s still an issue. How we as homeschooling parents deal with them is the main difference, I think. Homeschoolers aren’t bound by the need to balance the needs of 20 plus students – we may have only 2 or 4 kids and a unique understanding of our particular child, which goes a long way towards creating an environment in which the child can be successful.

I read most of Nurture Shock New Thinking About Children yesterday. I thought that this was an interesting book – not necessarily ‘helpful’ but interesting. Some of it was new info to me, other bits, I was aware of (or thought anyway). I was rather annoyed at the assertion that ‘following your instincts’ was really a product of societal conditioning; that’s a statement and stance that we’ve always taken with our kids and since our position on how to raise our children is in conflict with the vast majority of society, I fail to see how that applies… unless the book is written for people who fall into more mainstream ideas, in which case it makes perfect sense. One of the comments that a reviewer made on Amazon was that there’s a feeling of ‘so what?’ for parents. Even knowing these things about children and how they grow and learn, there’s not a lot that you can do about it in school. The school system is set up how it is set up and most are not open to change just because research suggests that this change might be in the best interests of the children. However, if you’re homeschooling, then you have a lot more freedom to change your child’s environment to match these needs.

One of the recommendations in Nurture Shock I found to be absolutely fascinating was the Tools of the Mind Early Childhood Education program. I found this book, Tools of the Mind – a Vygotskian Approach to Early Childhood Education, which I think  is the same program (but am not 100% sure). As a parent with an ADHD child, I really wish I’d seen this method years ago. Another topic from the meeting last night was ‘executive function’, which TotM is designed to teach. For us, this comes in to form of oral work, narration and short writing assignments, games, having finger fidgets or an activity for his hands while I’m reading aloud… meeting him where he is.

Our speaker asked how we teach ‘listening’, pointed out that the ADHD child has no internal monologue to help them self-regulate, and that they get confused when too much stimulation is thrown in their direction. We covered the differences between ADD (inattentive), ADHD (hyperactivity), ODD (which is completely different from ADD/ADHD) and behavioral and personality disorders. Many symptoms overlap and each disorder can mimic another – so having the correct diagnosis for your child is crucial to successful treatment. There was a lot of emphasis on medication for treatment; I remain unconvinced that medication is a first step treatment option. Based on what I have read about medication (any meds/all meds to date), long-term research either shows detrimental results or has not been conducted to my satisfaction with results that indicate that the risk of not taking them would be less than the possible side effects or long-term effects for us. I am not ‘anti medication’. I am anti-medication for now. We have avenues of treatment that have not been explored yet. Obviously, your mileage may vary – this is merely my position on the subject relating to my specific child. You’ll get no judgment from me if you’re contentiously medicating!

As a homeschooling parent, I don’t find my son’s attention disorder to affect our homeschooling day in a way that we can’t adapt to most of the time. I wonder how much of ADHD’s bad rep is because of our unrealistic expectations for our children – to think that a 5-year-old little boy can and should sit at a desk and be still and quiet is unreasonable. It is beyond the reach of the vest majority of small children, yet we routinely strip them of their coping mechanisms and heap even more expectation and stress on them – no wonder attention disorders are on the rise!

Of course I do recognize that there are chemical components to ADHD that need to be addressed. But for us, regulating sleep, adjusting our environment and expectations, not pressuring our child to do or be something that we know is outside of his capabilities – those steps have been enormously helpful in ‘treating’ the symptoms we see. Using a checklist, he clearly has attention issues but homeschooling allows us to accommodate him and makes him less aware of them, which makes them… less of an issue.

Overall, I am extraordinarily interested to see what this support group offers over the next few months. Though the group seems to be geared mainly towards teachers and professionals, parents are most welcome, and homeschooling parents, I think, are an underrepresented group in this dynamic. If you’re a homeschooling parent to an ADHD child, I’d recommend looking up a group in your area and seeing what they have to offer.

Warmly,

~h

P.S. Sorry if this is a bit disjointed… the tag isn’t called ‘rambling thoughts’ for no reason! {wink}

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5 responses

  1. Nurture Shock has been on my reading list for awhile, but I haven’t gotten around to it. I think mostly because I keep thinking that it will probably annoy me in some way or another. It doesn’t annoy me so much to say that our instincts are shaped by society. I think some things – like parental tendency toward baby talk and thinking infants are adorable while they’re literally vomiting – probably are literally instinctual and some studies seem to suggest they are. But baby talk is a good example because, while people all over the world use it, what it sounds like is greatly influenced by the language you speak. I often feel like there’s an over simplicity and a danger in the way some AP parents I know tell fellow parents to “just trust your instincts.” I mean, sometimes my instincts tell me to act in ways I’m sure aren’t best for my kids.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:22 pm

  2. I see what you mean… and I think that’s what they were trying to point out. When I say ‘trust your instincts’, I don’t mean ‘react’. I am talking about a gut-level feeling about this being wrong or right for my child. That takes more examination and listening and discussion and feeling than merely acting or reacting as we’ve been societally conditioned to do.

    I thought it was an interesting book. There were other chapters that I think were BS, but it did have some thought-provoking ideas. I plan on reading through it more thoroughly though.
    ~h

    September 21, 2010 at 4:33 pm

  3. Interesting. I don’t know about the whole diagnosis thing. If your child is in school, it’s definitely important, but my daughter has symptoms borrowed from several different conditions (we, along with her ped, have considered, ADD, Aspberger’s, SID, gifted, and a few others), and it was all so confusing and frustrating. In the end my instincts were screaming at me that it didn’t matter. We brought her home and dealt with the symptoms and read about all of them to find coping strategies that worked for us. We saved her hours of interviews and diagnostic tests and even more anxiety than she already had. Of course we discussed it a little with the ped, but since her symptoms are on the mild side, we saw no need to push the issues. Bringing her home helped a lot of the problems AND eliminated the need for an IEP.

    On the other hand, I can see how having a support group would be immensely helpful.

    September 22, 2010 at 8:31 am

  4. We had a similar thought. We were right on the verge of going through all the testing again (we had him evaluated for ASD when he was 3) and then decided that most of our issues were stemming from being ‘in school’. Taking school out of the equation – that didn’t change his ability to focus; he’ll always have trouble with that. What it did change is that now, he’s being taught in a manner that works with him instead of against, and he’s learning coping mechanisms that will help him get what needs to be accomplished done.
    I think that’s a huge fail on the part of school – yes, meds might help, but it’s not a solution…they never go beyond medication to teach children with attention difficulties any way to work outside the form.
    ~h

    September 22, 2010 at 6:31 pm

  5. Pingback: Kids and Labels | This Adventure Life

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