Fresh Ideas to Support Your ADHD Homeschooler

After distance learning last spring, we had hoped we’d be going back to school this fall.

No such luck. 

I kinda knew it was coming, but was still hopeful that my 9th grader would get to begin high school like “normal” and be able to participate in all his regular extra-curricular activities. 

There’s lots of disappointment all around.

But, like the rest of the world, we press on and I am happy to say that after 4 weeks of distance learning, I’m getting much better at it and have some fresh ideas to help support your ADHD kid who is learning from home.

My kids still range from mildly willing to extremely rebellious when it comes to doing their work.

And boy, am I seeing a lot of their challenges pop up on a daily basis.

Even as a parent and a teacher for 20 plus years, I am making some big discoveries about how my kids learn and the ways in which they struggle to complete certain tasks.

Are you making realizations about how difficult some things are for your kids?

It’s taken me a few weeks to figure out how to help them get through the things they hate to do.

But I have figured out several accommodations that are working for us at home.

Maybe some of these will work for your kiddos.

ADHD Accommodations at Home

Both of my kids have 504’s at school with many accommodations that are helpful for them in that setting.

But being at home is totally different.

We can not replicate the routine and natural social consequences of school.

But, thankfully, we can also allow for many things that could never happen at school.

Like chewing gum, for instance. Both of my kids work so much better while chewing gum. Their concentration and focus noticeably improves. I get Glee gum because it’s totally natural without synthetic sweeteners. My kids love it!

Most school days there are three of us on a computer in separate rooms of the house for the bulk of the morning. During breaks from my teaching day, I am checking in on my kids to make sure they are doing their work.

And, whenever possible I am close by as they are completing assignments. Proximity works well for my kids who get easily distracted, especially when they are on a screen.

Another way my kids stay on task is by having them read their work out loud as they complete it. Perhaps they are auditory learners or it just adds another “sense” into the mix. This sounds a bit weird, but boy, does it work.

Both kids read their math problems, science questions, and language passages – all out loud as they complete the work. It’s a bit of a running monologue that would not work in a class full of 30 kids, but at home it’s great!

If you have a kid who has trouble writing, sit and write their ideas down for them. It is amazing to me how much easier my younger son completes his written work when I act as his scribe. We also use voice typing on the computer. Both of these have saved us hours of tears and frustration.

Do the work with them. My oldest hates math and has anxiety before starting any new assignment. So I sit with my mini wipe board and do the problems as he does them. This works wonders for just getting him started and realizing the work is not that hard, after all.

Listen to music. Both of my kids play instruments and love to listen to different kinds of music. They can choose instrumental music and listen with headphones while working. I make sure they choose a long playlist on YouTube so they are not constantly distracted looking for new songs.

Their current faves are the soundtracks from Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Timers are a godsend around here — but I am adding a twist. My younger son’s slow processing speed really is a hindrance. So, I give him a reasonable amount of time on the timer to complete an assignment. Then if he finishes his work with time to spare, the leftover minutes get added to his game time that day… it’s not a bribe so much as a motivator to keep working!

Only complete half of the work… we have resorted to this a few times. Sometimes my kids get a full page of math or tons of questions and it just feels like too much. So we draw a line midway down the page and just complete half. We may go back to finish it later and sometimes we don’t.

Take laugh breaks!! We have been watching the Simpsons (from season 1!) and some of our favorite comedians on YouTube for laughter breaks… it really works!!!!! Laughter has so many benefits like boosting the immune system, releasing endorphins and lowering stress hormones. 

distance learning with adhd

Snuggle with a pet!! If you have a pet, getting a good snuggle in can calm and rejuvenate your struggling homeschooler.  Getting cats was one of the best decisions we’ve made as a family.

And last, but certainly not least… Prioritize your relationship with your kids over any work. If you find yourself doing too much forcing or arguing, just stop and pick up the next day. This is a very small amount of time in the big scheme of things and not a time to be spent fighting with your precious kiddos.

Prioritizing Connection Over Work

We’re feeling a little bit of everything.

YES. THIS. IS. HARD.

My kids are terribly worried. We are not able to see friends and grandparents. We have no idea when we’ll be back to work or school and able to resume at least some of our old existence.

And also, THIS IS WONDERFUL.

I feel so very grateful for what we have: Two working parents, a healthy family, good food to eat and lots of stuff to keep us busy at home.

And how wonderful it is to have TIME. We have time, lots and lots of time.

I realized right away that this time with my kids is just so precious.

I will, most likely, never have time like this with my boys again.

And so, I keep asking myself, when this is all over how do I want to have spent all this time?

Well, that’s an easy one to answer:

  • Reading aloud, doing jigsaw puzzles, and lots of creative projects with my kids.
  • Connecting virtually with grandparents, sharing what we can, like showing the wacky ways we are getting all the energy out.
  • Watching every Marvel movie (in the correct order.)
  • Spending slow days together and evaluating how we’ll do things differently when things get back to “normal”.
  • Being patient with my kids in the midst of all these ups and downs.

Yes, the instability can be draining — to everyone — but how do you want to come out of this?

What will you be happy and content in having done with your family during this time?

The answer may be hard to think about if you are feeling overwhelmed. Here are a few things we are practicing that have been immensely helpful.

First and foremost, give yourself a break. We could not have imagined this for ourselves and have had virtually no time to prepare. Realize that it is okay to go through an entire day and not get anything done. Strive for 10% better the next day.

Create a routine: With virtually everything erased from our normal routine, we’ve had to create a new one. Routines are so incredibly invaluable to serve as mini stress releases during our days, a moment kids can count on — adults too!

We begin school work by 9am, have daily walks after lunch, independent leisure time (see below) in the afternoon, and daily screen time from 4pm to 6 pm. We also have sporadic read alouds throughout the day which serve to quiet us all down and connect for a bit.

Find new ways to burn off steam. Allowing the kids to let off steam can be a huge relief for everyone. It can be tricky, but not impossible, when we’re inside a lot. Building block cities, having dance parties, and letting the kids take over the living room for a massive fort building project can be doable.

Creating an obstacle course can take days of planning, executing, and perfecting. We’ve been using our rolling scooter to create a course throughout the entire first floor of our home. Rugs have been rolled up, furniture moved, etc… but it does make for hours of energy burning.

See our all time favorite indoor energy burners in my most popular blog post HERE.

Institute independent leisure time: This is a tradition we have enjoyed during every long break from school since my kids were about 3 and 5. Basically it fulfills my need for some quiet time and has taught my kids to play by themselves (a wonderful skill to cultivate). We have time each day where we are relegated to our own space in the house – alone and without a screen. When my kids were little it would last for about 15 minutes and now they have worked up to over an hour.

Helpful tips to make it work: Its great to have a timer or clock with each child so they know how much time is left. This prevents calls of, “How much time left, Mom?” Also, save a few special items to be used only during this time — we loved audio stories, like Sparkle Stories.

Need some more tips for ADHD homeschooling ???

My fellow ADHD mama friend and author, Katherine Quie has some great ideas in her latest blog post. Check out 5 more ideas for getting ADHD kids through school work. While you are there, did you know I was interviewed on Katherine’s podcast, too? Check it out HERE.

I’d love to hear how you are shaping your days, what’s working for you and your kids. Join us over on Instagram for some daily inspiration.

P. S. Being at home makes it easy for my kids to take their supplements… vitamins are not a cure for any virus, but they do go a long way in boosting our immune system so we can more effectively fight off illnesses. I’ve added more vitamins D and C to our daily routine and we’re trying out a new probiotic.