Last week, we heard from Meg about homeschooling her oldest child, who has ADHD. Figuring out whether homeschooling is right for your family can be overwhelming. Checking in with Meg as we go, let’s explore a few questions you should ask yourself before taking the plunge.

home schooling

photo credit: Lynde Pratt

Do you have time?

ADHD is highly heritable. If a child has it, there’s a 30-40% chance at least one parent has it, too. We ADHD’ers are notoriously time-blind, making it hard for us to look before we leap.

You need at least one full-time homeschooling parent,” Meg warns. She works part-time managing her own business while her husband works full-time. For now they divide teaching duties to form two halves of a whole.

If you’re already feeling frantic, over-committed, or just too busy most of the time, something will need to give. Force yourself to imagine the day-to-day grind of your new homeschooling life. Do this several times, and with as much detail as possible. Fight your natural tendency to say “oh, I’ll figure it out.” ADHD severely impairs your ability to think through long-term consequences of your actions, and it’s your responsibility to counteract that.

“[Homeschooling] isn’t something you squeeze into your day,” Meg reminds us, “it’s a lifestyle.” Make sure that feels okay with you.

Do you have money?

You don’t have to pay for an expensive curriculum, but newbies may appreciate the structure at first, if only to teach them what does and doesn’t work for their child.

Don’t forget the other costs associated with homeschooling, either. Ideally, you’ll want to take your child on regular field trips, many of which cost money. Group activities, like karate or Boy Scouts, provide vital social outlets for homeschoolers.

And there’s that prickly time question again: will you need to hire help for household chores?  ADHD adults often struggle with household maintenance, and adding to your responsibilities at home may force the issue. Meg’s family discovered they’ll need to pay around $300 per month for cleaning help. “We have two other children and a large, old house/property that requires a ton of maintenance,” she explains. “There’s too much on our plates right now.”

Have you included your child in the decision?

If you haven’t read Vicki Hoefle’s Duct Tape Parenting, I recommend it before proceeding with your homeschooling decision. In business and in parenting, buy-in is critical — and too often overlooked. Your child, no matter his age, needs to feel like an important part of the process. Homeschooling is something you’ll do as a team. If he lacks ownership in this decision, you’ll have a very hard time indeed.

How’s your ADHD management?

Homeschooling requires some minor red tape, but it’s “no big deal,” says Meg, thanks to copious online resources.

Like so many things, poorly managed adult ADHD will make this easier said than done. In Pennsylvania, where Meg’s family lives,  you must keep records for 185 learning days each year (these can include field trip days).  Many families hire a certified teacher to review these records annually. Parents must also notify the school district of their intent to homeschool via an affidavit at the beginning of the year. These steps aren’t difficult, but you’ll need to remember to keep records and complete time-sensitive tasks every year.

Adult ADHD can also cause impatience, irritability, and strained family relations, not to mention poor social skills extending far beyond your front door. Be honest with yourself: will you be able to work with your child, often enduring intense frustration on both sides, while maintaining a healthy relationship? Will you be able to tolerate being together all day? Are you capable of making the necessary social connections with other parents to cultivate friends for your child?

Is school really the problem?

Even if you send your child to traditional school, you’re not off the hook: just ask any parent who’s tried to get everyone out the door in the morning. Then there’s checking in on homework, fielding teacher concerns, attending disciplinary meetings (my parents especially loved those), and helping your child develop coping mechanisms to succeed in a learning environment that seems utterly incompatible with ADHD.

It’s tempting to throw up your hands rather than tackle these challenges. Just remember, homeschooling won’t make the root issues go away, it’ll just give you a different set of puzzles. (I’m reminded of when, as a beginning skier, I got frustrated with the learning curve and decided a snowboard would solve all my problems.)

“I don’t have leisure or rest anymore,” confesses Meg. This is part of her motivation for hiring someone to help around the house. “It’s an unhealthy way to live…I don’t plan to live this way forever, but for now it is what it is. When you believe you’re doing the right thing, you make it work at any personal expense.”

Meg’s steadfast belief that this is the right thing for her son keeps her going when things get tough. If that’s the case for you, too, that’s great. But do some soul searching before pulling your kiddo out of school. Make sure you’re truly acting in your child’s long-term best interest, not out of desperation to offload a set of overwhelming challenges.

Have you considered homeschooling? What would you like to say to parents considering teaching a child at home?

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