State laws and regulations dictate what children must learn, regardless of where they are enrolled in school. One of the advantages of homeschooling is the ability to choose how these basic lessons are taught and individualize lesson plans based on the needs of the child. All children can benefit from individualized instruction; however, it is a necessity for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Their attention spans tend to be shorter and they often have difficulty sitting still for long periods of time.
Making your child’s interests part of the curriculum will help him stay focused and engaged for longer periods of time. It will also create a more meaningful and memorable experience for your child. One way to do this is to create theme studies. Ask him to help decide on the theme. Keep in mind, his interests could change weekly or monthly, so continue with the theme until he is no longer interested. Base the entire curriculum around the central theme. For example, if he is fascinated with insects, incorporate insects in each subject. Read books about insects, teach the history of different species, examine insect life cycles and anatomy for science, create a real or collage habitat for art and use insects in age-appropriate math equations.
Keep assignments short, allowing your child enough time to complete the assignment before losing interest. Break up longer assignments or projects into shorter work sessions over a period of time. Alternatively, if he is deeply involved in the assignment or lesson and wants to continue, be prepared to do so for as long as it holds his attention. Allow short breaks between activities or assignments.
Provide hands-on activities for as many lessons as possible. This will allow him to keep his hands busy and is more likely to hold his attention for longer amounts of time. When strict book or lecture work is necessary, alternate short time slots of lecturing and hands-on activities. Allowing your child to hold an object, such as a stress ball, to fidget with during instructional periods may help him pay attention to the material. Avoid allowing toys or other objects that may become more of a distraction than a help.
Children, especially children with ADHD, have difficulty sitting in one place for long periods of time. Incorporating field trips and outings into the curriculum provides a hands-on learning experience while decreasing the amount of time he has to sit at a desk or table. Consider field trips that relate to the current lesson or overall theme. Outings can include a museum, a nature center, the public library or other activities in the community. Many communities have resources for free children’s activities. Check with the library or local homeschool group for additional resources.
- “AD/HD Parenting Handbook: 2nd Edition”; Colleen Alexander-Roberts; 2006
- When Traditional School Fails: Homeschooling May Be a Better Option; Lynn Ticknor; AdditudeMag
- Teaching Students with ADHD; HelpGuide.org
- Top 10 Tips for Teaching ADHD/ADD Children; Carol L. Barnier; Westfield Academy
- Experiences of ADHD-Labeled Kids Who Switch from Conventional Schooling to Homeschooling or Unschooling; Peter Gray; Psychology Today
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images