Homeschooling is a beautiful thing. Every morning we wake up looking forward to a new day of learning. Watercolor paintings waiting to dry cover every flat surface in the house. The sun shines gloriously through the windows and the sweet song of birds creates a lovely background melody. I’m smiling, the kids are content, and the schoolwork is finished as peacefully as the kids went to bed the night before.
And then I wake up.
Um, yeah. As much as I would love to tell you that’s what our homeschool days look like, life just isn’t like that. Siblings bicker, scraped knees happen, and math frustration reaches a boiling point. Add a resistant child to the mix, and life can be pretty, well, interesting.
Out of my 11 kids, one of them is diagnosed with ADHD, and I suspect there are a few others who would be, as well. As tricky as homeschooling as many kids as I have can be, homeschooling a child/children with ADHD is an entirely different ball game.
It’s not that I question whether or not I should even try, because public school is probably the worse thing you can do to a child with a similar disorder, in my opinion. It’s just that it takes some extra patience, empathy, and resourcefulness- all things I’m willing to attempt in order to give my more challenging children the education they deserve.
Throughout this journey of finding out what works and what doesn’t, I’ve recognized:
10 Helpful Strategies for Homeschooling Resistant or Difficult Children
1. Let them have a say.
I know a good portion of homeschool parents who decide everything that their kids will learn about. When it comes to children who are “different,” this strategy may not work as well. The truth is, no matter the child, I think we can all agree that kids retain information better when they have an interest in what they’re learning. Ask them for their opinion. What would they enjoy learning more about? Not only will this help them to pay better attention, but they will feel as if their opinions matter- and they do!
2. Take frequent breaks.
Even as an adult, I have a hard time sitting still at times- especially if it’s something I really don’t want to do. You’re a homeschooler! Take advantage of that and use the opportunity to allow your kids to let loose every now and then, and take that free time to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee. 🙂
3. Don’t be afraid to modify things when needed.
If there’s one thing I learned from working with my ADHD kiddos, it’s that I’ve got to recognize when changes are needed- no matter how often that happens. Maybe your curriculum isn’t working or your child’s time table has changed. Be open to moving things around here and there.
4. Consider unschooling.
Very often, kids who are the most challenging to teach are the most curious when out and about on their own. Think of all the things they’re constantly “getting into” in their free time. This inquisitiveness lends itself wonderfully to the unschooling lifestyle- plus, there will be no more power struggles over school work!
5. Use a variety of approaches in your routine.
While it’s so important to take your child’s learning style into consideration when choosing curriculum, if you refuse to ever deviate from that one approach, it’s a recipe for distaster. To avoid boring your child to tears, include a variety of activities in your homeschool. Read-alouds, hands-on activities, and life learning are all different ways to learn, and they are a great combination for the child who may not be cut out for seat work.
6. On really bad days, drop what you’re doing and change things up.
Sometimes it may seem as if you’ve finally found something that works. Inevitably, though, there will come a day that everything seems to be going wrong, and you just want to throw in the towel. When that happens, forget about all of the plans you had for that day. Forget all the boxes you wanted to check off. Just drop what you’re doing and be. with. your. child. Go to the park. Watch a movie. Go out for ice cream. Yes, their education is important, but your relationship with them matters so much more.
7. Establish a routine.
As much as I’ve written about being willing to change things up, it is absolutely crucial that you do have some sort of routine in place to fall back on. Resistant children need to feel the order that comes with having an idea of what comes next. Yes, there will be days when your homeschool doesn’t even come close to resembling your supposed schedule, but implementing it on the other days will give your child a foundation they know is real.
8. Offer incentives.
I know there are some parents who dislike offering incentives to children for doing school work, and I used to be one of them, but sometimes you may reach a point where you’re willing to try anything. I’m certainly not saying to pay them or give them treats every time they get their work done. That would be ridiculous. Offering your child a simple reward for a certain period of time of doing quality work without complaint is something to think about. And the incentive doesn’t have to be anything big. My kids enjoy getting trips to the playground, slurpees, and even lunchables. It’s not what they get that matters; it’s that they feel a sense of accomplishment and recognition.
9. Keep lessons short.
Children- especially children with ADHD or something similar- can get frustrated very easily when expected to sit for lengthy periods of time doing seat work…and who can blame them? Keeping lessons as short as possible, maybe for no longer than 15 or 20 minutes (and even less for young children) will encourage kids who have a hard time sitting still because they know that it’s not going to take forever. And remember, kids who are relaxed learn so much better than those who are stressed out.
10. Be willing to use discipline when necessary.
Just as with all children, there do come times that “difficult” children will do something that requires discipline. I know there are parents who are hesitant to discipline their kids with behavioral problems because “it’s not their fault.” I assure you, there are times when these children can and do do things they know are wrong and could just as easily not do, simply because they know they have a better chance of getting away with it. Don’t let your child use their disorder as an excuse to get away with everything, including during homeschool time. I’ve seen it happen many, many times. They will never learn to get by as an adult if they grow up surrounded by excuses.
Homeschooling my children has become one of my greatest passions in life. Although there are difficult periods, watching my children pull through and succeed is one of the greatest rewards I will ever receive.
Using these 10 strategies has helped me to overcome so many obstacles we’ve come up against. Remember, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And when it comes to my children, I will always, always, find the will!
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