First question: Does your child really have Attention Deficit Disorder?
One homeschool parent told us this story,
When my daughter was three years old, she would literally swing from the chandelier. She’d push a chair over to the dining room table, climb up on the table, jump up and grab the chandelier. I’d come in the room and find her swinging from it like a little monkey. She thought it was really fun.
A special education professor who lived nearby was convinced my child had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. She offered to contact the clinic where she worked and moved up on their waiting list as an extreme case.
A week later when she asked me if I had contacted the clinic I told her, “No. I moved the table.”
When homeschooling your child with Attention Deficit Disorder, move the table
What I mean, of course, is to change the environment. For me, that started with boxes. I am so serious. Does this math time sound familiar?
Tell child to sit down at the table, desk, wherever and work on a math problem while I get some work done. Five minutes later, look up and child is nowhere in sight. Go searching for said child and find her in her room looking for a pencil. Hand her a pencil which has been hidden in the pencil holder that is on her dresser and march her back downstairs.
Go back to work.
Five minutes later, your child is once again missing in action. You find her in your office looking for paper but then she got distracted from her task by one of the games on your computer and is playing that.
So, ten minutes have passed by, not one math problem is done. You lose your temper, your child is crying and you feel like a failure.
The solution to homeschooling your child with Attention Deficit Disorder is a cardboard box
No, I don’t mean to put your child in it and ship them somewhere. Although, if that thought hasn’t crossed your mind ever, even for a second, you are doing pretty well in the parent department.
Step 1: Get a box for each subject. It can be a plastic container, but a shoe box or a large enough shipping box from Amazon works just as well.
Step 2: Put EVERYTHING your child needs for that subject in the box. A couple of pencils. A pencil sharpener. Paper. A calculator. Workbook.
Step 3: Sit your child down at a location, with the box, within sight.
Step 4: Set a timer. Don’t make it 20 minutes. Make it 2 or 5. Personally, I would start with 2 or 3 minutes. Tell your child you are curious to see how long it takes to do one math problem, that it isn’t a race, you have been wondering about this.
I’m going to assume that your child can do one math problem. If that is not the case then you likely have your child doing math that is above his or her level. We’ll look at that issue in a later post.
Step 5. Tell your child how long it took. Ask if he or she wants to take a break or do another problem.
Step 6: Offer your child a break for as long as the problem took. If it was 30 seconds, give a 30-second break. If it was 5 minutes, give a 5-minute break. Do NOT let the break be something your child wants to do that it will be difficult to quit doing when it is time to go back to the math. It doesn’t have to be something that’s onerous, just not something that will start a fight every time you need him or her to sit back down.
Suggestions for activities
30 seconds or 1 minute
- Match socks
- Pushups or situps
- The breathe app (Apple watch) or similar calming/ breathing app
- Put away some dishes
- Take clean clothes to room
- Pet the dog
- Jumping jacks
- Match socks
- Check out how your lady bugs, tadpoles or caterpillars are doing. You can buy Insect Lore kits to learn about science or go outside and catch your own (that would be a five-minute activity, see below)
- Decorate a SMALL SQUARE on the box. Outline these squares in pencil so you don’t get into another argument over not being done yet.
- Bathe the guinea pig
- Walk or ride a bike around the block.
- Wash dishes
- Write a thank you card
- Check out any of these arts and crafts kits or Hands-on Activities for your child’s age and interests.
- Walk to the mailbox and mail a letter
- Shoot baskets
- Catch some insects to keep in a jar or tank and observe for a science activity
- Play a CASUAL educational game- why a casual game is a post in itself, and what IS a casual game is another. In short, a game with simple rules that is playable in short bursts. Think Candy Crush but for education. Making Camp Ojibwe is an example of a casual educational game. Bonus: It’s free.
- Decorate a MEDIUM SQUARE on the box. Again, outline these squares in pencil so you don’t get into another argument over not being done yet.
Repeat this process until all math problems are done.
At the end of the math assignment, your child can do whatever he or she likes best for however long was spent on the math. If it took an hour, then that’s an hour of watching stupid youtube videos on the iPad .. Of course, for your child it may be playing Mario Cart.
The day will never come when I cannot outwit an 11-year-old (or, at least, today is not that day)
Your child may try to wait you out. When you first start getting into this routine, he or she could try taking as long as possible to do a single math problem. Your child may want to take a break after every problem. That’s fine.
Parent tip #1: When you start doing this, make sure you have a block of time, not right before your dentist appointment or when you host your weekly book club.
Parent tip #2: If, like many busy parents, you have a difficult time not being productive, find something to do while you are sitting with your child. Good suggestions for this are paying the bills, balancing your checkbook, folding the laundry, answering email. Also if, like most parents, you don’t have the world’s greatest supply of patience, this will help you not lose your temper. You aren’t just sitting there waiting for your child to get done. You are accomplishing something you need to do as well. At the same time, you are being a good role model of focusing on stuff that maybe you’d rather not do but needs to be done.