37 min read

How To Effectively Homeschool ADHD Children

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Welcome to one of the most robust resources for homeschooling ADHD children.  This resource is fairly extensive, so we've developed a clickable Table of Contents for you to easily navigate the post.  Enjoy!

Introduction
    1. Adjusting ADHD homeschooling expectations and teaching strategies
    2. Which Curriculum is Best?
    3. Understanding Your Teaching Style and Your Child’s Learning Style
3 ADHD Homeschooling Priorities
    1. Develop Reading Skills
    2. Develop Math Skill
    3. Develop Writing Skills
7 ADHD Homeschooling Methods
    1. The Classical Approach
    2. The School At Home (Traditional) Approach
    3. Unit Study Method
    4. Unschooling (Relaxed Homeschool) Approach
    5. The Charlotte Mason Approach
    6. The Technology Driven Approach
    7. The Eclectic Method

 


Introduction 

He dropped his pencil—again.

I take a deep breath and try not to yell as he crawls under the table to retrieve it—again.

I feel my hands reaching up to my head to pull my hair out. It's nearing lunchtime and we haven't accomplished much. And as he sits down with his pencil he remembers that he needs to go to the bathroom.

We are both still in our pajamas.

After teaching my older two kids I thought I really had this homeschooling stuff down, yet now I feel completely inadequate and we are both frustrated. Why can't he just sit still and complete this one crazy workbook page!

He just dropped his pencil--again.

For many of us, our brains just don't work as fast as our little student's brains do. It is so difficult for him to focus on a boring worksheet or textbook with pets roving, cars driving by, phones ringing, and siblings talking to Mom.

The FastBraiin student will turn any ordinary object -pencil, eraser, paper clip, tissue- into a useful tool for getting out of work. His mind is working so quickly that it is hard to slow it down to read text, listen to instruction, or complete mathematical computations.

The problem is inattention; the solution is in the way we educate.

Compare a racehorse to a plow horse. The plow horse will follow the farmer making distinctly straight furrows in the field. The farmer leaves for lunch and when he returns, his trusty plow horse remains right where he left him, ready to begin work again.

Now consider the racehorse. His innate drive is to run as fast as possible. The jockey’s job is to keep him on the right track, going in the right direction, to reach the right finish line. And they place hedges along the track lest this horse decides to take off into the stands.

1. Adjusting ADHD homeschooling expectations and teaching strategies

Your ADHD / FastBraiin child is like a wonderfully gifted racehorse. He was created with an inward drive toward speed. He cannot be expected to plow straight furrows through his education since he wasn’t built that way. Our strategies must allow this child's brain to do what it naturally wants to do--flow faster. We must do the hard work of placing the correct hedges along the path, channeling the child's passion and focus in the right direction.

Faced with the challenge of homeschooling these special racehorses, parents at some point, naturally have to ask..

Question: Is it even possible for me to homeschool my ADHD child?

The answer is an unequivocal and resolute, YES!

Fear not, weary educator-mom, you can teach this child if you have the right help, right curriculum, and implement the FastBraiin techniques. Whether you are a first-time homeschooler with not a clue where to begin or a seasoned veteran who needs a fresh perspective, this guide will help you meet the challenge of educating an ADHD / FastBraiin student.

That probably doesn’t answer all the questions running through your head right now. We will get to your questions, but first I want you to be encouraged and have hope that you can successfully homeschool your ADHD child.

This section of the guide will help to answer some of the questions you have as well as those you may be getting from well-intentioned family and friends.

Question: Is it legal to homeschool my ADHD child?

It is your constitutional right to educate your child in the manner that you see fit. This right is protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Your rights are not dependent on whether your child has a special ability or a special challenge.

Wonderful organizations like the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) have been defending and protecting these rights since 1983. Their website, www.hslda.org has valuable resources and helps should you feel unsure about defending your choice of home education.

Homeschool laws vary by state and include different legal requirements. In North Carolina, a “Home School” is defined as a nonpublic school which includes not more than the children from two families. The parents or guardians are expected to provide academic instruction but can receive help from outside sources as deemed necessary.

The administrator of the Home School must notify the State Director of the Division of Non-Public Education of her intent to operate a Homeschool at www.ncdnpe.org. They must also provide the school’s name, address, and the name of the chief administrator. It is noteworthy that the school’s name cannot be changed so care should be taken in its selection lest you become stuck with “Teeny Weeny Learners Academy” all the way through high school.

The administrator is required to

  • have a high school diploma or GED and should have it accessible
  • keep attendance records showing that the school operated during nine calendar months
  • have disease immunization records for each student
  • administer a standardized test for each student yearly. There are publishers who allow for testing at home by the parent. However, there are also community support groups who will gladly test students for a small fee if you prefer.
  • keep the results of testing for one year. It is important to note that the Division of Non-Public Education has no authority to enter homes or inspect any records except the standardized tests. Copies of the tests can be mailed to DNPE upon request

Question: Do I need an IEP?

You may have had experience with acquiring an IEP for your child in a public school setting. Or you may simply have heard the term used by friends and not even know what it means. The acronym IEP stands for Individual Education Plan. It is a document created by a team of professionals to assess a student’s educational and behavioral goals in a classroom setting.

The homeschooling parent essentially creates her own IEP each year as she selects appropriate curriculum and sets achievable goals for her child.

A runner without a clear finish line would be hard pressed to know if she had won the race. Likewise, a mom can feel aimless without a clear direction when trying to educate her special needs child. She can become mired in the daily trials and frustrations of homeschooling and begin to feel defeated.

It is helpful at the beginning of each year to write down the goals you have for your student. These can include spiritual, behavioral, relational, and educational standards to be met during the year. They should be specific and achievable. These goals can be checked and reassessed during the school year to determine progress and regain focus.

Every parent-teacher experiences doubt and even burnout during the school term. Having written goals will allow you to reflect back and remember why you are home educating and what you intend to accomplish in the life of your child. It can also bring great encouragement at the end of the year as you see how far toward the goal you and your child have advanced!

Okay, so you believe homeschooling your ADHD child is best, and you are geared up to take on the challenge, but one big question still remains, which I regularly hear from parents...


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2. Question: Which Curriculum is Best?

I love curriculums, and I absolutely love textbooks! The teacher in me comes out in full force when I see that delivery truck pull up in my driveway with a cardboard box full of fresh books. I eagerly slice open the tape and pull out those shiny new covers as thoughts of happy days of learning float through my head.

I can just picture my children leafing through the pages, scribbling notes, and smiling happily as they absorb all that knowledge. Of course, reality collides smack dab into my fantasy when they gather to see what was delivered and in unison begin to moan and complain dramatically. Wonder where those drama queens get it.

Today’s homeschool parent has a sea of curriculum choices to drown in. It is tempting to seek out what friends are using and copy their "seemingly" successful model. However, what works for Susie Q and her brood may be a disaster for your student. Likewise, what was successful for your previous children may not work for your ADHD / FastBraiin son or daughter.

Choosing a curriculum that will work for your student is as important and complicated a matter as the individual is. How wonderful would it be to enter the search terms “homeschool solution for the ADD/ADHD child” into your computer and up pops exactly what you should use.

Unfortunately, that magic simply doesn’t exist. Budget, learning style, teaching style, interest level, and time-management, all play a role in selecting the best curriculum.

3. Budgetary Concerns

In those early years of teaching we were dead-flat-broke. I didn’t have a clue how I would find materials with which to educate these children. As my budget has increased and my children have grown, so my spending has increased. I will admit to being sucked into the promise of a perfect program only to find that it was a waste of our resources.

With growing recognition of the challenges inherent in educating the ADD/ADHD child, publishers are marketing new materials straight at you. Before you plunk down that credit card and make a grab for that glossy book, stop to carefully consider whether it is worth the investment.

Veteran homeschoolers know that many materials can be purchased used at local consignment stores or on websites such as Craig’s List. Many homeschool support groups will also hold curriculum exchanges where teachers can purchase from one another. Buying gently used books in this way makes sense because it saves you money and helps another mom afford her next year’s books.

One caution is to check that the publisher hasn’t produced a new edition in the last year. Purchasing an outdated edition means you will not have much luck when it comes time to sell. Also, caution should be taken with materials requiring the use of a computer disk. Check for scratches on the disc. The last thing you need is a frustrated student whose not able to get the cd working.

Some materials can be found absolutely free. Consignment stores may have a “free box” outside the store for materials that are completely outdated and/or incomplete. Using these materials takes some amount of imagination and elbow grease. It may not be neatly tied up as a complete curriculum, but can serve as valuable resources to fill in gaps.

I remember one year finding an ancient spelling text that had been rejected by the public school system. I used the basic lists, some of the activities, and my own creative juices to make a solid program of study.

Remember that your time is valuable

You can probably make math manipulatives, flash cards, and educational games from egg cartons and pasta, but it may save uncounted hours of stress to purchase them premade. If you have additional students in the classroom who need attending to, or little ones under your feet, then you will need to carefully consider where to best spend your time.

The internet is a terrific resource for the home educator and many resources can be found for free or at little cost. There are many sites that offer free reinforcement worksheets. Two that I’ve found helpful in the past are www.mathfactcafe.com and www.abcteach.com although there are many, many more. Many sites will offer a variety of free units or worksheets but require membership for full access to the site’s resources.

Don't fall for thinking free internet options will work

There are several books marketed to homeschoolers assuring that you can teach for free off the internet. I cannot more strongly disagree. Trying to fill all your child’s educational needs with free internet sites is like feeding him only french fries and expecting him to grow strong and healthy. It is also very time consuming for you as the teacher to gather all the parts trying to make one whole.

So, getting down to the nitty-gritty, you should probably expect to spend $300-$600 per student, each year. Much depends upon the grade level you are teaching. The older grades require more advanced courses, but have less consumable work and therefore can be resold. Online or distance learning resources will also be much more costly.


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4. Understanding Your Teaching Style and Your Child’s Learning Style

A happy teacher enjoys what she is teaching. It’s that simple. As much as I love textbooks, I also adore unit studies. When my children were in the younger grades I spent my school breaks compiling resources and ideas for unit studies that included science, history, language arts, literature, and art.

One memorable unit on the Medieval Ages culminated with a great feast! We invited the grandparents to be king and queen, family friends were guests of the court, and even the pet dogs played a role as the peasants. We prepared costumes for the kids and made a feast of chicken, duck, and turkey legs, all served on tortilla “trenchers” and eaten with only our hands.

You undoubtedly have a style of teaching that is comfortable to you, even if you don’t know it has a name. It may be a comfort to teach from textbooks because they are familiar due to your own experience in the public school system as a student. It could be that you enjoy the neatly woven unit study or the rigorous instruction inherent in classical education.

Whatever your style of teaching, it must be balanced closely with your child’s style of learning. It matters not that you are teaching up a whirlwind of wonderful information if your child is checked out and dreaming of summer break. Further, you may have strong convictions about the methodology you are using, but if your student isn’t learning you will need to reevaluate and search for solutions.


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3 ADHD homeschooling priority

 

1. Develop Reading Skills

No matter which style of teaching you use, certain basics must be covered. Primary to any good curriculum must be a solid reading program. A good foundation in reading is vital to every other subject your child will encounter. A child who cannot read will face obstacles similar to pushing a boulder up a hill, especially in the advanced grades.

The early years of K-3rd should include a balance of phonics, sight words, and well-written reading materials suitable to the child’s ability. Some children, especially boys, may take longer to develop the skill of reading.

The nature of homeschooling means that you and your child can continue to focus on these skills and let him learn at his own pace in the first years. If however, he is still struggling by second grade then the concern is warranted. You may want to have your child evaluated by a professional to determine if a learning disability is hindering his progress. FastBraiin providers can do this if there is a location near you.

In the older grades, a child should be given more and more challenging materials to read. These should be followed by discussions for both content and literary analysis. I’ve had so many wonderful discussions with my children about characters, themes, symbols, settings, points of view, and imagery, all of which leave lasting memories for us. I’ve been so rewarded by seeing my children’s minds and ability to reason develop! Make sure your program of study includes rich literature.

Make sure your program of study includes rich literature.

An older child who is struggling with grade-appropriate reading materials should be given extra help. He may not have had previous difficulty, but you may now notice a lack of comprehension or an avoidance of the task altogether. For the ADD/ADHD child, focusing on longer, dryer text may create a real challenge.

Tutors who are trained in the FastBraiin Method can provide significant help before a stumbling block becomes a mountain. The FastBraiin Method is particularly geared toward helping ADHD children overcome their unique weaknesses and harness their unique strengths.

What does the FastBraiin Method for reading involve?

The FastBraiin Method for reading

in the younger grades includes:

  • Using recorded books when available. Give your student a hard copy of the book to follow along with whenever possible. This engages him on an auditory and visual level.
  • Summarizing after each paragraph or two to check for retention of materials. His active mind often drifts away to other things, so frequent checks keep the child from reading an entire chapter with no actual retention.
  • Using a reading guide (finger, bookmark, ruler, or window reader) to track his place in the text. The active mind of this child will make it a challenge to remember his place, especially if he looks up while distracted.
  • Partner reading. If the quantity of reading material is overwhelming to the student or if it is particularly challenging, a teacher can take turns reading sections with the child. He reads a portion of text, stops to discuss it or visualize it, and then his partner reads the next section. This helps eliminate anxiety and increase speed.
  • In using text with few or no pictures, or in listening to read-alouds, a student should try to visualize what is happening in a story. He can also draw a picture of what he imagines. This will show the teacher whether he comprehends the text and how many details he remembers.
  • The FastBraiin approach always includes the use of 15 minutes on, then 5 minutes off.  Our research shows that the child's brain loses focus after about 15 minutes, especially in the younger grades. The teacher will find herself struggling to keep him on task with little information being absorbed after that time. If your student has an aversion to being timed, try ooze tube or sand timers. He will undoubtedly be distracted by this at first, but will soon be able to use it to track his progress. A five-minute ooze tube can be turned over twice to equal 15 minutes.

The FastBraiin Method for reading

 

the older grades include:

  • The student should begin by skimming the headings and captions in a textbook and then reading the first sentence of each paragraph to get a sense of the flow of a text. Next, he reads the headings and first sentence of each paragraph. Then, he reads the first sentence and last sentence of each paragraph plus the review questions (if applicable). Finally, he reads the entire chapter or article. This will ensure that the student understands the flow of the text and his brain is on task in searching out the content. While this process sounds time-consuming, it will prevent repeated re-readings and solidify the information into the brain.
  • Visualization of the text. A student who struggles with comprehension and detail recall in fiction will benefit from this technique. He should stop after every few paragraphs or at the end of a chapter to visualize what is happening in the story. He will be making a movie in his mind as he links each section together. This is helpful for the student who loses comprehension due to speed, distractibility, or inattention. If this is a struggle, a storyboard frame can be provided so he can actually stop and draw what is happening in the story, adding details as the book proceeds. With practice, the skill of visualization will become easier and more natural.
  • Using a reading guide (finger, bookmark, ruler, or window reader) to track his place in the text. The active mind of this student will make it a challenge to remember his place, especially if he looks up while distracted.
  • Using recorded books when available. Even older students may benefit from being given a hard copy of the reading material while also listening to recorded text. This engages the brain in two ways increasing retention.
  • Older students should be able to focus for 20 minutes on task, then 5 minutes off. Use egg timers, sand timers, or ooze tubes for tracking this.

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ADHD homeschooling priority #2: Develop Math Skills

Another area of academic focus in any program must be mathematics. There are many approaches to teaching mathematics and many different publishers. The FastBraiin child will most likely do best with a program that is interactive and includes manipulatives, especially in the early years. Formal, systematic instruction of math is very important for the ADD/ADHD child.

The FastBraiin Method for mathematics includes:

  • Memorization of math facts. This is vital for improving speed and efficiency since children with attention difficulties have trouble concentrating on multi-step functions later. The student should have his addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts down pat. Then, when he encounters long division or pre-algebra, it will be much less overwhelming to him. It’s never too late to go back and memorize!
  • Moving beyond flash cards. In practicing math facts, get creative. The child can write them on a whiteboard and then say each fact aloud while jumping rope, tossing a ball, doing a jumping jack, or bouncing on an exercise ball. He should practice with only a small group of facts each day, working until they are mastered completely. This same technique can be used from little guys working with addition facts to older students memorizing algebraic formulas. The mind needs much repetition for facts to stick and be readily recalled.
  • Working for mastery. An inattentive student may encounter anxiety when presented with a new concept. He will find comfort in knowing that he will continue to work with the material until he has it mastered. The nature of homeschooling means the teacher can camp out on a problem area until he knows it backwards and forwards.
  • Two days after a new concept has been mastered, the student should review what he has learned. If your math books are not set up to do this, simply give your student a few review problems added to his new material. If he cannot complete the problems accurately, the teacher should return and reteach.
  • Graph paper. This will help the child line up rows and encourage neatness while helping him to show each step of his work. It’s an often overlooked visual help for many grade levels.
  • Using upbeat music while working. The FastBraiin approach always means using music whenever sustained focus is required. The student can use earphones and upbeat music to engage one part of his brain while the other part is working on the material. This is not a time for lessons in learning to love classical music.
  • Showing each step of the work. The ADD/ADHD child will often miss steps while working, especially in completing multi-step problems. He should be encouraged to show each step, then, if the answer is incorrect, he should go back over his work the next day to identify the error. While laborious, it will encourage him to be careful in future work and ensure that he understood the concept.
  • The FastBraiin approach always includes the use of 15 minutes on, then 5 minutes off.  Our research shows that your child's brain loses focus after about 15 minutes, especially in the younger grades. The teacher will find herself struggling to keep him on task with little information being absorbed after that time. If your student has an aversion to being timed, try ooze tube or sand timers. He will undoubtedly be distracted by this at first, but will soon be able to use it to track his progress. A five-minute ooze tube can be turned over twice to equal 15 minutes. Older students may be able to work for 20 minutes.
  • Utilize math games for review. There are several quality computer software programs which can turn extra practice into fun and games. Look for Math Blaster, Jumpstart, or Reader Rabbit Math. Spending a few minutes playing a fun math game can be a reward for your student and a break for the teacher.

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ADHD homeschooling priority #3: Develop Writing Skills

I also believe that any solid education must include spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and composition. These skills can be taught in as many ways as there are instructional methods. They can be taught formally or informally, classically or in unit studies. Sometimes the parent/teacher will need to experiment with methods to find the correct fit for the child.

One year we had very little money to purchase textbooks for our students. I found an old textbook that had been “aged out” of the local public school system. Using the list of words as my guide, I wrote and then narrated “Bill stories.”

Each week my children would anxiously await the fate of “Bill” as the spelling words did terrifically horrible things to him. They would write out the sentences I dictated, waiting to hear what would happen next.

Using this method we worked not only on spelling, but also grammar, listening, and eventually, composition skills as they added on to his tales of woe. The skill of dictation is actually quite difficult for the ADD/ADHD child, as it engages his whole mind to listen, spell, punctuate, and focus on good handwriting.

Using this creative writing approach we had fewer complaints when spelling time came.

The FastBraiin Approach to writing includes:

  • Repeated exposures to the words throughout the week using a variety of activities. It takes many times for information to be stored in the brain and later easily recalled. Try using a dry erase board and dictating the words to your student, using magnetic alphabet letters to spell them out on the fridge, or spelling the letters on your child’s back with your finger, in addition to more traditional methods.
  • More practice. Try engaging the child visually, tactilely, and orally by writing the words on a dry erase board and spelling them aloud while bouncing on an exercise ball, throwing a ball in the air, or jumping rope. The exercise releases endorphins into the brain while the movement is cementing the information.
  • Graph paper. The child can now see the shapes of the words. Is the letter two boxes tall or is it a short one box tall letter? This technique is especially helpful for children who have difficulty with spatial reasoning.
  • The FastBraiin approach always includes the use of 15 minutes on, then 5 minutes off.  Our research shows that the child's brain loses focus after about 15 minutes, especially in the younger grades. The teacher will find herself struggling to keep him on task with little information being absorbed after that time. If your student has an aversion to being timed, try ooze tube or sand timers. He will undoubtedly be distracted by this at first, but will soon be able to use it to track his progress. A five-minute ooze tube can be turned over twice to equal 15 minutes.

After a solid foundation of reading, math, and writing is underway, continue adding other subjects.

Once these foundational skills are identified, the teacher then must add into her program: history/social studies/geography, science, literature, and any electives such as Bible or foreign languages. (Many Christian homeschoolers will believe the study of the Bible to be foundational and not an elective.)

Like the framework of a house, now you know the bones of your educational plan and have your goals for the year in mind.

The following is a brief explanation of the most popular homeschooling methodologies and the pros and cons of using them with the ADHD / FastBraiin child. You must decide which is right for your child, your style, your budget, and your family.

Remember to keep flexibility in mind.


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ADHD Homeschooling Method #1: The Classical Approach

With its serious sounding name and roots in ancient Rome and Greece, the classical method of teaching is as challenging as it is misunderstood. The classical curriculum, which usually has a Christian worldview, will follow the model of the trivium. This is a three part approach based on the intellectual development of a child over the course of his education.

Children in grades K through 6 are considered to be in the grammar phase. This is a time for a strong focus on memory work in all areas of study as well as an exposure to great works of Western literature, art, and music. Classically taught children memorize a large bank of facts through repetition and recitation which they will be called upon to use in the later grades.

Many programs using the classical method will also begin teaching basic Latin and Greek during these early years. This is thought to be very helpful with vocabulary skills and acquiring other foreign languages.

The dialectic stage comes next, covering grades 7 through 9. During this time, the middle school student is exposed to formal logic and writing composition. This is where the child begins to apply the facts acquired in the earlier years in defending his beliefs and identifying fallacies. A continued focus on all other academic areas of instruction is also continued along with increasingly challenging works of literature.

The final phase is called the rhetoric phase in grades 10 through 12. Now the high school student focuses on communication skills especially in the area of debate. The student is expected to clearly analyze and articulate his views on topics using the facts and skills he has acquired. This may culminate in a senior research paper during his final year.

Classical Resources

There are many resources for the parent who wants to learn more about the Classical approach to learning. A solid resource is The Well Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. Information can also be found at www.classicalhomeschooling.org.

Three of the more popular curriculum choices are Tapestry of Grace, Classical Core Curriculum from Memoria Press, and Classical Conversations. Tapestry includes teacher plans and materials in core subjects such as history, writing, and literature with a variety of electives included. It combines the elements of the classical method in a 4-year unit study approach. Memoria Press, a textbook approach, offers grade level sets for all the core curriculum subjects including Latin.

Classical Conversations is another popular choice. Once a week students gather at a central location to learn from a “tutor” (a parent trained in the method) and each other. This is where they can practice presentation skills, work on group projects, play educational games, and practice memory work. In the grammar years, this involves only a half day each week while in the later grades it increases to a full day.

A child in a Classical Conversations class will need a “tutor” who understands the challenges and strengths of this special student. She can help him learn valuable social skills such as not blurting out answers, listening to instruction, and working cooperatively. Look for an active group that understands the needs of this child and can encourage his potential.

Some parents using the Classical Conversations method find that the upper grades are too academically rigorous and time-consuming for their child. The structure of subjects allows for less accommodation and individualization. A parent should keep in mind that she knows her child best and can custom design his program of study no matter which methodology she uses.

Classical Conclusion

The ADHD / FastBraiin child will most likely find the classical method academically challenging and engaging. The structure and routine will appeal to some and the daily repetition of memory work will help this student acquire facts in the grammar phase.

The classical parent will need to be flexible with expectations of her FastBraiin child. While some may absorb information easily, others will need more time and reduced work expectations. Using the FastBraiin approach means she should remember to keep lesson periods short, 15-20 minutes, followed by a break. Literature can be divided between silent reading, by the student, and reading aloud, by the parent, with frequent checks for comprehension. Written work can be typed on a computer which allows for a quicker pace.

Whenever possible the parent should engage her child in active learning. Memory work can be done while throwing a ball, jumping rope, bouncing up and down on an exercise ball, or doing jumping jacks. When it is necessary to focus quietly on textbooks, the parent can provide earphones and allow the child to choose music he enjoys. This will stimulate one part of the brain while allowing another part to zoom in on the material at hand.


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ADHD Homeschooling Method #2: The School At Home (Traditional) Approach

When I first began homeschooling my little ones, I was a told an amusing story about a well-meaning mom. It was her first year and she was worried about her children missing out on, what she considered to be, the fun aspects of going off to school. She packed up little lunch sacks, got her children neatly dressed, and had them walk out the door, down the sidewalk, and back again into the house. For her, the Traditional method was undoubtedly appealing.

Most of today’s homeschooling parents were educated in public or private schools. The structure and format of textbooks are familiar and comfortable, especially for the new teacher. She wants to capture the best aspects of the public education while eliminating the negative elements and allowing for more flexibility for her child.

I’ll admit that I wanted my children to have the best of my public school experience as well, leaving out the bullies, endless homework, and the smell of playground dirt. I set up my former dining room into a miniature classroom, complete with an alphabet strip, bulletin board, and tiny desks. My first two children thrived in this environment. They did not have ADD/ADHD. My third child sat in his little chair—on his head.

My third child sat in his little chair—on his head.

As its name suggests, the Traditional approach uses textbooks and workbooks for teaching core subjects as well as electives. Some companies had their beginnings in publishing for private schools but saw the benefits of opening up their resources to the homeschooling community. These textbooks usually come with detailed instructions for the teacher’s use, colorful graphics, and solid information. Most will approach subjects through a Christian worldview.

Traditional Resources

Some of the more popular publishers include; ABeka, Alpha Omega, Switched on Schoolhouse, Rod and Staff, Calvert, and Bob Jones University Press. The parent can purchase the entire grade level for her child or choose which core subjects she wishes to focus on. Many of these publishers include suggested schedules for class time and guidelines for how to cover the material. Several other publishers provide subject-specific textbooks.

The Traditional student usually attends to his school work at a desk or the kitchen table, reading and writing in workbooks, for one subject at a time. A good program should also include fun projects and application activities that are easy for a parent to prepare. In the younger grades, it should include tactile components such as math manipulatives, flash cards, and educational games.

Traditional Conclusion

The ADD/ADHD child will find comfort in the routine schedule of the Traditional method as he will know what to expect and what is expected of him. He will do better with books that contain colorful graphics and allow for variety and active learning opportunities. Look for materials that include enrichment ideas to keep the child engaged and provide opportunities for discovery learning.

Teaching using the traditional method may be easier for a parent, however, she will have a challenge keeping this student on task. She should remember that the FastBraiin approach is to keep lesson periods between 15-20 minutes, followed by wiggle breaks.

The parent must find creative ways to check for retention of material as this child can appear to be attending to his work but is actually thinking of other things. She must build repetition into her schedule because the FastBraiin child often needs multiple exposures before he retains information. She should also look for ways to incorporate other resources such as videos and web-based learning where possible.

Since we are not in a school classroom, we can scoot our chairs away from the table, and get moving. Spelling words can be said orally while jumping, bouncing, having a student stand on his head. A wonderful way to remember tedious facts is to toss a ball to a partner. Each time it is caught another fact is stated. Picture how much more engaged this student will be in his learning.

Keep in mind that most textbooks are not intended to be completed entirely. The teacher can choose which sections are most important for her student instead of trying to cover all the material. Trying to complete every workbook page and reading assignment will exhaust both parent and child where focused learning of a few selected chapters yield results. If each school day is a battle, it may be time to reconsider which parts of your program are working well and which parts are not working at all.

Many parents use a combination of traditional textbooks and other teaching methods. This allows for a directed study of core subjects during part of the day, and more active learning during the other. The teacher should remember that she is in charge of her classroom, not the textbook publishers, and she is the one who knows her student best.


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ADHD Homeschooling Method #3: Unit Study Method

I’ve already confessed my love of Unit Studies. It is in my blood to find connections and organization in the world around me. I found great pleasure in choosing a topic such as the Mayflower and pulling activity ideas and songs from the web, books from the library, and foods from the grocery.

We ate beef jerky, spelled words related to the voyage, wrote good-bye letters to our Puritan relatives, and did mathematical computations about our supplies. We even built a badly constructed model ship. It probably would have been less trouble to have actually sailed on the Mayflower itself.

The Unit Study method focuses on active learning. Children are thought to learn best by exploring and doing. The child also sees the connectivity of subjects instead of experiencing them as compartmentalized bits. They are often encouraged to express what they’ve learned in some sort of presentation such as a play, movie, report, or project.

Unit Study Resources

There are good, solid publishers of Unit Study materials. These studies can usually be purchased as a kit which includes all resources, or just the teacher lesson materials. In the latter case, the teacher then has to collect the books from various resources such as the library or bookstores. Unit studies can include any number of curriculum subjects depending on the publisher.

Konos is an activity based publisher whose units are thought to be complete and comprehensive.  They are formed around character attributes such as attentiveness, obedience, and orderliness in grades K-8. The older grades have units such as the ancient and medieval worlds.

Another popular publisher is Tapestry of Grace. These units provide a classical education, presented in a unit study approach, and organized around world history. The students in K-12 cycle through all of world history every four years, beginning with the lower grammar phase and ending with the rhetoric phase. (See Classical Approach for more information.) This award-winning program seeks to meld the best of a classical education in a unit study format.

My Father’s World is yet another excellent publisher whose units combine some elements of Charlotte Mason, and classical education organized around historical time frames. Other publishers to consider are Five-in-a-Row and the literature-based Sonlight program.

Unit Study Conclusion

The FastBraiin student will enjoy the variety and active learning involved in a unit study. The looser structure will allow him to focus on the aspects of a subject that interest him and may hold his attention longer than other methods of instruction. The more relaxed atmosphere of this classroom allows for plenty of wiggling and moving around which will appeal to him.

The purpose of a unit study is to present materials to the child in a way that allows him to discover learning instead of being directly instructed. This may work well for the active learner who can engage materials tactilely, visually, and orally. With most curriculums, the teacher is expected to use additional materials for the core subjects of math and grammar. These are usually more traditional textbook learning times.

A Unit Study teacher working with her FastBraiin student may have trouble ensuring all subjects are covered well. He probably won’t want to stop to memorize his multiplication facts or practice his spelling when he could be creating an igloo out of sugar cubes. Yes, we did that too. He will, however, need direct instruction and daily review in the core subjects. He will also need to be challenged, as he will undoubtedly do the least amount of work possible.

If the classroom contains multiple students, the teacher may also have difficulty ensuring that her attention is not consumed with this more active child. Unit studies are often marketed to families as a multi-grade, cooperative choice, where students can learn from the same materials at their own levels. However, because it is not designed for independent learning, the teacher may find it difficult to keep her FastBraiin student on task while working with the others.

Accommodations to each student’s special needs are usually encouraged in this method. If writing a report is overwhelming to the child, the teacher may allow him to present the information in another format. Reading materials can be less stressful when accomplished with partner sharing. Project expectations must be clearly communicated, and goals must be challenging enough to strengthen him academically without overwhelming him. The intention should always be to target areas of weakness while allowing his strengths to shine through.


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ADHD Homeschooling Method #4: Unschooling (Relaxed Homeschool) Approach

Imagine a child, steeped in a learning-rich environment, surrounded by quality books of fiction and non-fiction, willingly seeking knowledge about something that has sparked his interest. Imagine him digging out the information he requires, working on related projects, and asking his parent to facilitate the learning through hands-on opportunities.

Facilitating, not directing, the child's pursuit of knowledge is at the heart of the unschooling method.

There are many ways to implement the unschooling approach; however, universal to all is a deep respect for the ability of a child to make educational gains while pursuing areas of interest. If you picture a homeschooling spectrum with the textbook method at one end, the unschooling method would sit squarely at its opposite. The parent is seen as the educational facilitator, instead of teacher, and learning as gained through natural discovery, instead of direct instruction.

In any unschooling method there is also a strong sensitivity to the readiness of the child for learning. The student must demonstrate this, especially in areas of reading and math. It is thought that instruction before readiness will bring about frustration and squash a future desire to learn more naturally. Time is seen as an ally instead of a master.

Zooming into our homeschooling spectrum we see that unschooling has a spectrum of its own. At the far left is the parent who keeps no schedule of work and provides no textbooks unless specifically asked for by the child. She allows him to have complete flexibility in choosing what he will study and how he will accomplish it. In this thinking, a day exploring Legos is thought to be for spatial reasoning.

At the far right, the parent/facilitator provides a few hours in basic course work such as math and grammar, and then allows her student to focus on his area of interest. Often, there is an overlap with the unit study approach here.

Relaxed Resources

While there are obviously no publishers with materials for the unschooling method, there are several books which explain it more fully and provide practical helps for its implementation. Dr. Raymond Moore and his late wife Dorothy Moore, sometimes called the “grandparents of homeschooling,” have written many books including, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook. Another book with many practical helps is Dr. Mary Hood’s little book, The Relaxed Home School.   Finally, for a good laugh reading about a mixed-up family where unschooling goes wrong, I recommend, Surviving the Applewhites, the fiction novel by Stephanie S. Tolan.

Relaxed Conclusion

There are many pitfalls in teaching the FastBraiin child using the unschooling method. The lack of structure and routine will be a huge challenge for him since he thrives on both. While he can be tenacious in pursuing an area of interest, it will probably be at the exclusion of many other areas of needed study. He will also flit from one interest to another as distractions come into his mind.

The FastBraiin child is likely to do the least amount of work possible in order to accomplish what is asked of him. He needs to be constantly challenged and even pushed to do more than he believes he is able. He needs direct instruction and daily repetition to learn and retain information. This lies in direct opposition to the theory of the unschooling method.

For these reasons, I cannot recommend this method for teaching the ADD/ADHD child.


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ADHD Homeschooling Method #5: The Charlotte Mason Approach

Charlotte Mason was a turn of the century educator, whose deep respect for the nature of children and belief in their innate desire to learn, challenged the thinking of educators in her day. The approach by her name lies in the middle of our imaginary continuum right between the traditional textbooks and the unschooling explorers.

The Charlotte Mason Approach is sometimes referred to as the “living books” approach because of its strong focus on quality literature and “whole books.”

The key to this method is the use of narration. After reading a section of a book, the child is asked to restate the passage in his own words. This is believed to replace needless questions and assessments by the teacher. It also helps the student grow in vocabulary and speaking skills while cementing the passage into his mind. Copy work is another tool which is used to strengthen spelling and grammar skills. All of this is accomplished through the use of literature.

Charlotte Mason did not approve of what she considered “twaddle” in textbooks for children. She respected her students’ intelligence and quick minds. She felt that morning lessons should be quick-paced and engaging to keep the brain active. Once students began to lose focus, they were to take a break and return again, refreshed. After morning lessons were done, Mason advocated time for children to play, use their imaginations, and explore nature in the outdoors.

Far from being unschooling, however, the Charlotte Mason approach focuses on keeping a brisk schedule, creating good habits, and being organized. She thought children should be trained in one habit at a time and that repetition would cause it to become ingrained. She wanted her students to have a firm foundation in core subjects, a focus on the fine arts, and a concentration on nature study. The key to her method was to go outside and conduct nature sketches thereby training the child in art and observation.

Charlotte Mason Resources

A homeschool teacher who is interested in a more detailed analysis of this method should read, For the Children’s Sake, by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. Other options include, A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education, both by Catherine Levison. While there is no complete curriculum package for sale in this method, books and unit studies which incorporate Mason’s method abound in every subject. Look for programs that incorporate the key elements of: narration, copy work, nature studies, and hands-on learning.

Charlotte Mason Conclusion

The Charlotte Mason approach will be a good fit for your FastBraiin child. As he already possesses an incredibly fast mind, the quick-paced, directed morning lessons, with breaks when attention is lost, will work well for him. The knowledge that he will have free time to play outside in the afternoon will help motivate him to stay on task. However, since he will tend to rush through lessons, the teacher must remember this method’s emphasis on the formation of good habits, such as neat handwriting and careful work.

The narration of literature will help the teacher to discern what he is learning in a way that capitalizes on his strong verbal skills and ensures that he is attending to the book. It will be much more pleasurable to discuss what is happening in the story and to take the time to imagine the scene playing out before him, rather than having to write a dry book report. Less enjoyable for him will be copy work.

I prefer the method of dictation, which requires intense concentration but incorporates the auditory sense as well. He will then compare what he has written to the original copy and correct his errors.

Nature studies will also be a challenging task for this child and will also grow his ability to observe the world around him. It will help him learn attention to detail, which is often lacking in this busy child.  For a short time, he will have to sit outdoors, listen, smell, and watch the world around him. Then he will be required to draw some small leaf or snail which will help him to notice things that escaped his attention.

While Charlotte Mason works well for children K-8, older students will require a more vigorous education. Obviously, students must devote more of their time to serious study and less to outdoor exploration. The essentials of quality literature, writing, and other core subjects, along with a foundation of good habits early on, will provide the groundwork needed for more challenging studies.


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ADHD Homeschooling Method #6: The Technology Driven Approach

It sometimes seems to me that this generation’s children are coming from the womb hardwired to use technology. In today’s world, they will need those valuable computer skills to meet the demands of our ever-changing job market. Consequently, a growing number of curriculum publishers are marketing computer-based education programs to the homeschooling community. The options are varied in scope and design. This section examines a few of the current trends.

Virtual School

Comprehensive in design, the publishers of these programs will sell you everything you need to teach your child using their technology-driven curriculum. Some publishers also offer evaluative testing services to help the parent place the student in the correct levels. Most companies offer the choice of DVD or video streaming to accommodate the needs of the individual families.

In the DVD program, a student receives a series of DVDs that they can simply put into a player. It often requires no internet connection or computer skills. The child chooses the class he wishes to attend from a menu of options. He watches the teacher go through that day’s lessons, and then he does his work from the corresponding textbooks. Video streaming works similarly with the exception being that the class is streamed into the home via satellite verses sent through the mail.

Bob Jones University Press, A Beka Academy, Veritas Press and Alpha-Omega’s Switched-On Schoolhouse all offer DVD and/or video streaming options. These educational choices are designed for highly independent learners.  They may appeal to parents who feel comfortable with the traditional approach and want to ensure all educational bases are covered. Most companies will allow the choice of full grade or single subjects and accredited or non-accredited programs.

Virtual Conclusion

The FastBraiin child in the elementary grades will have difficulty with this method as he is not independent in nature. He will also find it challenging to watch a virtual classroom and focus on the material being presented without the ability to interact with the teacher and students. Further, he will then be expected to read his textbook and focus on the day’s assignment. The time needed for each subject could be better spent using a different method with greater effectiveness.

The older child may be able to use this method for classes that are beyond his parent’s ability to teach. Advanced mathematics, for example, may be taught effectively using this approach. It will require the parent’s close supervision to ensure the student is on task. A co-op or supporting teacher in the area that also offers the same class would be a better option, if available.

Online School

Another choice in using today’s technology is online school. Children enrolled in these classes log onto computers at regularly scheduled times for a live class with a teacher. The student then independently completes all assignments and projects. Often, the teacher is responsible for assessments, tracking grades, and alerting parents to academic concerns. Calvert School Virtual Academy, Freedom Project Education, Veritas Press Scholars Academy, Alpha Omega Academy, The Keystone School, and K12, are all examples of online schools. There are many others to choose from as well.

K12, in particular, has aggressively marketed their program in television ads. They are uniquely situated as offering a free education option for homeschoolers through the public school system in at least 32 states. Where this option exists, the homeschooling family is given online access as well as all necessary books and supplies for the year. This is particularly appealing to parents whose children are coming straight out of public school. In the remaining states, K12 can be purchased as a whole curriculum package or as individual classes.

Using any of these full subject/full grade programs, a parent must be made aware that is giving up certain controls over her child’s schedule and academic plans. She should look closely at which programs allow for accommodations and adaptations and which are more rigid in structure. Another consideration is that cost can be significant when choosing these options. Finally, the family must determine which programs align with their worldview and belief systems as they can be vastly different.

Electives

Finally, technology can be used to supplement existing curriculum choices. There are many publishers who specialize in subjects areas from foreign languages to computer programming. These can be a valuable resource for parents who want to enrich their academic plan. Since the ADHD/FastBraiin student is naturally drawn to computer-based activities, it makes sense to use this valuable tool to make the child more productive.

Youth Digital, a Durham, NC company, provides interactive, on-line courses in game and app designing. Rosetta Stone will allow the student an intrinsic way to learn a new language.


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ADHD Homeschooling Method #7: The Eclectic Method

I love to go shopping for clothes. Feeling the texture of the fabrics, matching up patterns and prints, and scoring an especially good bargain is a thrill. I remember long ago when I was in school that what we wore was very important. It made a statement about our style and sometimes our attitude. Some schools expect children to wear uniforms, often for very important reasons. Everyone fits the same.

Imagine what it would be like if education was like a school uniform. Instead of textures, colors, prints, and individuality, there is sameness. Perhaps it squeezes here and pinches there. It doesn’t fit. Wait, isn’t that one of the reasons we chose homeschooling for our children in the first place? We wanted to give them an education that is a custom fit.

Today’s homeschooling teacher has a wealth of methodologies and curriculum options from which to choose from. She can choose to teach from textbooks in some subjects, in some grades, and choose a unit study approach in others. What about co-op classes for certain subjects, on-line computer courses for others, and an afternoon of relaxed school to focus on an area of interest?

Even some of the publishers in the preceding pages have chosen a mix of ideas. Tapestry of Grace is a classical unit study, while My Father’s World leans toward Charlotte Mason. Veritas Press Online Academy offers classical on-line courses and Bob Jones University Press offers an on-line textbook approach. Each one has its own promise in helping a student reach his or her potential.

I suspect that most homeschoolers are eclectic whether they like to admit it or not. Walking into the curriculum fair at a homeschool conference a parent can be overwhelmed with options. Many materials are created by the pioneers of thirty-some years ago who found a need and filled it with a blend of creativity and experience. Why would we limit ourselves and our child’s educational experience to just one fabric?

Why would we limit ourselves and our child’s educational experience to just one fabric?

Homeschool Approaches Conclusion

The teacher of a FastBraiin child has the opportunity to custom design a program that fits his individual gifts and needs. She can examine her teaching style, his learning style, the budget, time constraints, and needs of other students to create a program that works. That is the joy and blessing of homeschooling!

A cautionary note in being too overly eclectic is that it is possible to miss the important stuff while doing all the fun stuff. Publishers each have their own unique emphasis without knowing your child. Therefore, it is your responsibility, as the parent-teacher, to craft a well-balanced educational diet for your child to thrive.

Three variables you should consider when crafting your child's homeschool curriculum;

  1. You. What can you feasibly do or implement in a productive, consistent manner? Don't bite off more than you can handle, either financially or in practice.
  2. Your child. What are your child's strengths and weaknesses? Their learning style? What keeps him engaged and learning, neither bored nor overwhelmed? What are your child's passions?
  3. Material to learn. What is it that you must teach your child? What tests or programs are you aiming for? We've already discussed that reading, writing, and mathematics must be at the top of the list. What are the additional areas of interest and study that best fit your child and his or her context?

The best curriculum for your child will likely be a healthy blend of these three variables.