When my oldest daughter was around four years old, my husband and I started shopping around for preschools. We knew we weren’t going to send her to a regular preschool, so we only visited private, independent schools such as Waldorf, Montessori, and Christian ones. We interviewed the directors and surveyed the classrooms. I observed classes while they were going on and wondered how our daughter would fare in these different settings. She was very active, smart, creative, and curious. Would any of these settings truly be appropriate for her? There were things that I really liked and didn’t like about each school. I loved the respect for the rhythms of childhood and the emphasis on imagination in the Waldorf classrooms, but I didn’t like that the Bible was treated as mythical stories and I didn’t like the new age feel. I loved the free but orderly Montessori classroom with its learning centers and hands on approach, but it also seemed rather artificial and very peer driven(not to mention the fact that some of the schools are not true to Maria Montessori’s methods and are very academic). The Christian school that we visited seemed cold and very similar to a regular school setting, just with a religious label attached. The price tag for these schools was outrageous and I began to feel that I could offer everything that they were offering in the comfort of my own home. Not long after that, I read an article in a natural parenting magazine that talked about a growing movement called home schooling.
As I shared in my other articles about diet for people with ADHD and herbs for ADHD, I have two children who have been diagnosed with this brain difference, my two oldest. Diet and herbs do help a lot, but sometimes respecting the child and offering a different learning environment can make the biggest difference of all.
The typical school environment requires a lot of sitting and a limited amount of time outside, if any at all. Recent research has revealed that prolonged sitting is bad for everyone’s health, but feels like torture to a child born to move. Homeschooling allows me to take my children to forest preserves, nature centers, arboretums and conservatories, zoos, and other outdoor places as a natural treatment for ADHD. This not only allows them to run around to their heart’s content, but they have the opportunity to learn in an open-ended environment rich in learning opportunities. We have created collections of leaves and twigs, insects, seeds, rocks, and shells. We have explored wetlands and bogs, forests and prairie, and of course, our own backyard, to find animals and their homes. After spending time in God’s creation, all of my children have developed interests and passions related to nature. They instinctively seek out natural sanctuaries because they say, “It makes me feel good.”
People with ADHD are often able to hyper focus on an area of particular interest. Indulging a child’s passion and giving him the time, tools, and space to focus on that passion is a gift that homeschooling allows. I felt that a collaborative learning model based on unschooling (a special variety of homeschooling) would serve my children best. I reasoned that, if they were encouraged to spend most of their time on something that they chose, this would help them learn to focus, to finish projects, and develop other executive function skills. Most of us are driven by our own internal desire to learn something that is relevant to our goals, such as learning how to program a computer so that we can change careers. Relevant goals are very important to motivating people with ADHD.
Another way that homeschooling can offer a natural way to help ADHD is that it is personal and individualized. I can sit with my son or daughter and be available to answer questions right away. I can choose materials that are interesting, fun, hands-on, and appropriate for that child. I have the flexibility to spend weeks on a topic that is difficult to make sure that mastery happens. I am my children’s tutor. What could be better than a personal tutor who loves and cares about her students?
Since my oldest daughter recently graduated and my oldest son is about to start his second year of high school at home, I have been able to see how things turn out. My daughter’s high school years were spent doing a lot of art and writing related activities. She was eventually selected for a special writing program with the Chicago Association for Women Journalists, participated in a design intensive, and is now taking classes in graphic design while trying to get a design career started. My son was a second place winner in a local entrepreneurship contest, is developing a business centered around 3-D printed objects, and has been spending a good deal of his time creating cool stuff on a modeling program, Blender. He will be doing work in computer aided design for mechanical engineering this year, among other things.
Homeschooling was the natural treatment for ADHD that allowed them to soar beyond their wildest dreams. Diet and herbs helped them get grounded enough to be able to see the possibilities. How do you feel about homeschooling kids with ADHD? Have you had any experiences with this? Please comment below.