I raised a son and a daughter with ADHD. In addition, my younger son shows signs of mild ADHD and/or Asperger’s and my other daughter has an Asperger’s diagnosis. After trying a curriculum-based approach for a couple of years, I hit a wall. It just wasn’t working and I almost gave up homeschooling altogether. But then, God showed me another way and unschooling ADHD students became my new modus operandi. I learned a lot over the past 20 years and although it was hard, it was the best decision for them. Here are my reasons why.
Benefits to Learning
Great way to teach goal setting.
It’s a challenge for kids with ADHD to meet goals, especially goals set by someone else. They often lose steam or have trouble getting motivated in the first place. But, if the goal is one that they set for themselves, one that has personal importance, one in which they have a stake, they are more likely to reach it. Well, unschooling is the ideal style of homeschooling to help these children learn this important skill. Unschooling ADHD students means that they can set meaningful goals for themselves around their own interests and passions. It also offers the benefits of a personal coach and accountability partner who cares–mom and/or dad.
Unschooling ADHD students helps them learn self-regulation.
Children with ADHD often struggle with self-regulation. That means that they have trouble managing their emotions, particularly when they are frustrated or angry. And, since they also tend to have sensory regulation issues as well, they can be a powder keg just waiting to blow at times. Take a sensitive kid with low frustration tolerance and put them in a classroom with a bunch of yelling kids and brightly colored posters. Now, ask them to complete a difficult task. That’s a recipe for disaster! That’s why homeschooling ADHD kids is often a great solution. Then, you can teach them how to manage their emotions and challenges in a calm, more controlled environment using whatever tools you find useful, such as adapting subscription boxes.
Allows and uses more hyperfocus.
When my oldest son was little, I felt that I could teach him how to focus and accomplish more by allowing and encouraging more hyperfocus. Hyperfocus allowed him to get lost in a project and see it through to completion. My theory was that, the more he experienced it, the more he would learn how to use it to do more boring tasks. And, I was right to a degree. He still struggled with boring tasks, but he knew how to make them less boring so he could muster up some motivation. He also saw that he could accomplish hard things, which was very valuable in itself, especially when ADHD students often struggle to finish tasks.
Honor their visual-kinesthetic learning style.
Unschooling ADHD students allows them to learn in the way that they learn best and that means through movement. They can pace, swing in the backyard, run around the block, whatever. And, they can learn by doing and watching, which is usually their favorite way of learning. Other homeschooling methods also honor this learning style, but with unschooling, a child with ADHD enjoys a bit more freedom and creative license.
Less transitions, less anxiety.
With unschooling, there is less switching of subject matter than with a more traditional approach or even a Charlotte Mason approach. I love the twaddle free, living books emphasis of Charlotte Mason and I thought that the frequent changes would be embraced by my ADHD students. But, no. Even though these kids have short attention spans and like novelty, the frequent transitions exhausted them. They preferred to be doing something with their hands while I read for forty-five minutes. (Eating was their favorite, of course!) So, unschooling ADHD students turned out to be better. I could allow them to immerse themselves in a topic and relax more.
Unschooling ADHD students allows them to be their random selves!
These kids are the most creative, out-of-the-box people I know. Most people are linear. They think and work along a singular path. People with ADHD are random and often think and work along multiple paths at the same time, like a web. They often have multiple projects going at once. They also tend to skip over the basic, boring parts and go directly to the more complex, interesting parts, filling in what’s missing later. Scope-and-sequence doesn’t allow for this type of thinking and working. Unschooling allows them to bounce around among their ideas and projects, making new, and sometimes profound, connections.
Unschooling ADHD Students Also Makes These Things Easier….
Can try green therapy.
The benefits of playing outside are especially important to kids with ADHD. Research shows that nature calms them down and helps them think clearly. A school environment rarely allows for more than a half hour outdoors and it’s often a parking lot at that. If we’re not careful, our homeschool can become like that, too. Unschooling ADHD students allows for greater flexibility to spend as much time outdoors as possible, absorbing the negative ions from the soil, the healing rays of the sun, and the calming effect of the trees and plants. In addition, nature offers its own open-ended toy box for exploration by curious children and teens.
More easily control diet, allergies, and other sensitivities common among ADHD students.
Many, many children with ADHD have allergies and sensitivities. In fact, one of the key natural treatments for ADHD is diet. However, it’s really hard to control what your child is eating when he eats in a lunchroom with other children. He may trade lunches or throw away his lunch. At home, you can make sure this doesn’t happen and offer nutritious snacks. You also have greater control over sensory and/or chemical sensitivities that contribute to ADHD symptoms.
Unschooling ADHD students can help them learn social skills in a more controlled environment.
This perk isn’t exclusive to unschooling. Homeschooling generally means that children learn social skills from adults and siblings. This environment, of course, has an extremely low student to teacher ratio and is much more natural than therapy. Parents naturally teach their children how to properly interact with others in a variety of environments and are more likely to catch issues when they arise. Kids with ADHD often have trouble with non-verbal social cues, taking turns, and waiting to speak. A family setting can provide natural opportunities to practice social skills much more frequently than therapy and is often more forgiving than a group of kids during recess at school.
Coach them one-on-one in other decision-making skills.
Unschooling ADHD students also allows you to personally coach your child to strengthen other executive functioning skills such as time management, organization, and planning. Unlike other homeschooling styles that make you feel pressured to finish the curriculum, unschooling allows for more flexibility. It allows you to address character and habit training, especially for the child with ADHD, instead of overlooking it so you can check the box in the teacher book. And, while ADHD students tend to need some structure, structure doesn’t always look like a factory time card, with them clocking in at specific times to do specific tasks. It can look like block scheduling or even a family routine. Unschooling can help you think outside the box, too.
Unschooling ADHD students allows for a great deal of awesome possibilities and has the potential to heal your relationship with your child, unleashing their potential in ways not possible otherwise.