As a parent, you regularly have to make tough decisions to try to help your child with ADHD. And now you've come to the big decision of what's better for your child - homeschooling or going to a traditional school? We have some information to help you decide.
Homeschooling ADHD Students
According to a 2016 post from the National Home Education Research Institute, ''there are about 2.3 million home-educated students in the United States.'' It's an option that many parents are turning to and for a variety of reasons. If you're considering this option but need some help deciding, our pros and cons may help.
Pros of Homeschooling
Let's start by looking at some of the benefits of homeschooling your child with ADHD. Below are some of the biggest reasons we think you might want to homeschool your child.
There are many aspects of ADHD that can cause students with it to need more individual attention. Some of these factors, as listed by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, include not being able to concentrate or focus, thinking of unrelated things and challenges grasping new materials. These can mean that a student needs more attention in order to be able to stay on track and be successful throughout the school days.
Obviously, if your child is one of twenty or more other students, there's going to be a limit to how much one-on-one attention the teacher will be able to give him or her. If there is a whole class to teach, the teacher may not be able to go over things multiple times with your child. But, if they're instead being homeschooled, they can get plenty of individual attention. If you know your child needs a lot of individualized attention, it's a strong indication that they could benefit from being homeschooled.
Greater Ability to Customize Content
Another limitation that teachers face is that they can't customize content as much as they might like to. When you have dozens of students to teach, it's just not possible to do something that works for everyone. According to the US Department of Education, ''effective teachers of students with ADHD also individualize their instructional practices in accordance with different academic subjects and the needs of their students within each area. This is because children with ADHD have different ways of learning and retaining information, not all of which involve traditional reading and listening.''
In a homeschooling setting, you're more likely to be able to use the ideal learning delivery methods for your child since you don't need to balance the needs of other students as well. For example, if your child does better if they can read something quietly to themselves right before it's discussed in class, you can make that happen. Every lesson can be designed to fit how your child learns perfectly.
Dealing with Disruptive Behavior
HelpGuide.org says that some of the symptoms of hyperactivity in children with ADHD are not staying seated when they're supposed to and having a ''quick temper'', while some of the symptoms of being impulsive are interrupting people and shouting out answers in class. These are all things that can be very disruptive to your child's classmates, not to mention being things that could regularly get them in trouble.
If these behaviors are happening in school, your child is likely to be disciplined, which can be frustrating for them and you to deal with. Some of these behaviors may be easier to deal with while homeschooling. While you still wouldn't want your child interrupting you or the person teaching them, it at least wouldn't have to result in potentially being sent to school administration or it hurting other student's ability to learn.
Can Allow for More Breaks
Another article by HelpGuide.org encourages giving students with ADHD ''frequent breaks''. You've probably noticed many times how challenging it is for your child to stay focused and sit still. Giving breaks throughout the day can help students with ADHD. However, depending on how their school day is structured, it may not provide the amount of breaks they need, or the types of breaks they're getting may just not be entirely effective.
While homeschooling your child, you can plan the most effective break schedule. You can also make sure you're using the specific types of breaks that work best for your child. In school your child may be given brain breaks while staying at their desk, but maybe they do better if they can get up and out of their seat for a little bit. By giving them the types of breaks they need you'll make it easier for them to get back to work afterwards.
Cons of Homeschool
Like most things in life, in addition to their being upsides there are also some downsides. So what are the cons to homeschooling your ADHD child?
Being able to have meaningful relationships with peers is very important for children with ADHD. In an article on Bright Hub Education, Dr. Anne Zachry wrote: ''Children with ADHD who lack meaningful relationships with peers are also far more likely to fail classes, quit school, and break laws. Conversely, ADHD children who manage to maintain a few good relationships will experience less stress and will be at a lower risk for developing psychological issues in the future. Because peer relationships are vital for a healthy self-image, parents and teachers should be as proactive as possible in encouraging positive social experiences for young children with ADHD.''
Students who are homeschooled may have far fewer chances to begin developing relationships with their peers. School may be the ideal place to find friends and work on improving their social skills, particularly if you live in an area where there aren't many other children around who are the same age as your child. If you decide to homeschool your child, you'll need to find alternative ways for them to interact with peers.
If you are the one homeschooling your child, you may not have the proper training that teachers have to complete. Teachers have specifically studied education and have hands-on experience working with children. They also are well versed in different teaching methods. These things can be important when dealing with the challenges of children with ADHD.
However, if you're concerned that you may not be the best fit for teaching your child at home, there are other options. You may be able to hire a private teacher or tutor, which could give you confidence that your child is learning from someone with education training. This is also a good option for parents who have jobs that would prevent them from being home to head the homeschooling.
More Stress on the Family
According to ADHDTogether.com, ADHD can impact relationships within the home in different ways. The site notes that it can cause arguments between parents as they deal with related issues and it can also play a role in sibling rivalry. This can all contribute to some stressful family times.
Adding homeschooling to the mix could increase the stress. It means more big decisions to talk through and additional work, like maintaining records of your child's schoolwork to make sure they are meeting all of their education requirements. If there's already sibling rivalry with one child thinking the child with ADHD already gets special treatment, they may be angry over this too if they still have to go to school. As you consider the homeschool option, it's important to think about how everyone in the family will react and see if it might be more additional stress than you're willing to deal with.
Less Help and Resources
Teachers in school have access to a variety of support services that would be available to help your student. They may also have access to technology, like smartboards, that you aren't able to have at your home. Getting extra help and resources could be easier in a school setting, so you'll need to think about if your school offers anything that you just don't want your child to lose access to.
However, that doesn't mean you have to do it alone with the bare minimum help. The Home School Foundation has a variety of grants and financial aid programs available to families who are homeschooling their children. This includes a Special Needs Children's Fund that ''may be used toward curriculum, equipment, test and specialized therapies and materials.''
Your Next Steps
You've started thinking about the reasons for and against homeschooling your child with ADHD, but what do you do now? Here are our suggestions for your next steps:
- Make a full list of pros and cons based on your individual situation. While more limited socialization can be a con, maybe your family interacts with many children in other situations so it's not as much of a concern to you. Making a more personalized list will help you as you consider this option further.
- Talk to your child about it. It will be important to see how your child feels about potentially being homeschooled. Find out their questions and concerns so you can deal with them in advance.
- Check your state's homeschooling requirements. Requirements may vary by state, so it's important to find out exactly what your home state requirements. The Home School Legal Defense Association provides information on homeschooling in different states.
- Talk to other parents of ADHD children. Parents of other children with ADHD will be able to identify with what you're going through and may be able to help you figure things out. They could be valuable sounding boards.
If you need resources to help homeschool your child, check out Study.com's complete homeschool curriculum. It's available in all subjects for grades 3 to 12.