Short answer: Yes.
Longer answer: It depends.
Both of my kids have ADHD. During the years they were in public school, we resorted to medication in order to control it. I wasn’t happy about it, but we had no choice – or at least, that was how it seemed. However, since we began homeschooling, we have been able to successfully take them off the meds.
Homeschooling does have some serious advantages over public school, and even private school, when it comes to ADD and ADHD. A few of the most obvious ways that come to mind are:
- Structure vs. Freedom: This argument is not as simple as you have freedom at home while public school has structure. Most kids with ADHD do better with a schedule, but there are always exceptions to every rule. And while homeschooling does give you a freedom that public school doesn’t, it gives you another kind of freedom: the freedom to create your own schedule and structure. The problem might not be sitting down and doing the work; it might be that your child needs to do it in the late afternoon/early evening, as opposed to the early morning schedule that public school requires. You can schedule in breaks that public schools don’t allow, or schedule with a block schedule (all math on Monday, all LA on Tuesday and so forth, as an example) as opposed to doing a little bit of everything every day.
- Treat ADHD the way you feel is best: Many parents end up resorting to medication because their child’s teacher tells them the child needs it, or the school is so fed up that the child is verging on suspension and the parent feels they have no choice (been there, done that). But maybe you’d rather try dietary changes or other methods of treating the ADHD. If you homeschool, you have the freedom to treat ADHD the way you want to, rather than the way you think you have to in order to make sure your child doesn’t get suspended or the teacher doesn’t get fed up.
- Teach the way your child learns: Some kids learn with the sit down, do the worksheet style that public schools have. Others learn by doing projects, watching videos, or listening to instructions on how to do something. Your child might even learn in another way not mentioned here. in public school, they’re forced to try to learn with the sit down, do the worksheet method – and that not only doesn’t work, but can make the symptoms of ADHD worse. By teaching at home, you can figure out the method of learning that works best for them and then cater to that.
- Teach what your child wants to learn: Have you noticed that your child with ADHD can’t remember the instruction to clean his room two seconds after you gave it, but when he is playing his favorite video game, reading his favorite book, or watching his favorite TV show, he can focus like nobody’s business? Many think ADHD means “can’t pay attention EVER”, but that’s not quite true. The truth is, the child with ADHD can focus – when they’re interested. And when you homeschool, you can ensure they’re interested. You can tailor lessons to the things they are interested in. Whether it’s video games, Barbies, Legos or lizards, you can find a way to incorporate those things into their learning. That will make them pay attention, and if they’re paying attention – they’re learning.
- Fish oil: This is probably the key thing we do. Fish oil has a variety of health benefits (I take it,too). When it comes to ADHD, it can help improve attention, behavior and focus. The best part is that it’s generally very safe and has no side effects (unless, of course, your child is allergic to fish – in which case, you can look into Omega 3-6-9 from other sources for the same effect). Taken regularly (daily), it does seem to work quite well for my children.
- Dietary changes: There are a lot of opinions on this. There’s the Feingold diet, which some use with great success. I personally just applied some common sense and thought about what foods might be most likely to contribute to their symptoms. I made simple changes such as cutting out processed foods (things like Hamburger Helper, boxed noodles and potatoes, etc.) and cooking from scratch. I bake almost all of our treats and snacks (cookies, brownies, cakes, etc.) from scratch, as well, which eliminates preservatives that might make things worse. Ice cream proved a bit more difficult, as homemade ice cream requires a bit of a commitment, but then I found Breyers. All natural, with no preservatives, it’s perfect for the child with ADHD – just make sure you don’t buy it too far ahead of time, since the lack of preservatives means it will get freezer burn relatively quickly. Instead of chips at lunch, give them Honey Nut Cheerios or something similar. Eliminate artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and other additives as much as possible.
- Green tea: It’s not their favorite thing to do, but green tea does seem to have something of a calming effect on them, when I can get them to drink it. Camomile can also help, as can Celestial Seasonings Tension Tamer tea. There’s been a study or two done, that indicate tea may help adults with ADHD, and since it’s all natural, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try it.
- Caffeine: It sounds wrong, but caffeine actually calms down the child with ADHD. There’s a few different ways to accomplish this, but the most common are coffee or soda. I keep a 12 pack of Mountain Dew on hand for this purpose. My kids won’t drink coffee, and when they need caffeine, I find that MD is the best way to get them the amount they need. The key to this, for us, is that we don’t use it daily. I only give it to them on days when they are “out of control”, when their hyperactivity is so much that I feel that nothing will get done unless I can calm them down. Since they got off their medication in August, I’ve had to do this one time.
- Physical activity: I get them physically active (a walk, a bike ride, jumping jacks, whatever) before we start our day. This gets their blood pumping, which helps them think, but it also burns off some of that “extra” energy. It’s a huge help to smoothing out our days. And if it seems like they need it during our day, I have them do some more. An afternoon spent outside after our school day is over wears them out enough that they are able to easily fall asleep at night.
Of course, before implementing these ideas, you should check with your child’s doctor.
Homeschooling and ADHD can go very well together – much better than public/private school and ADHD. If you’ve been considering homeschooling for your child with ADHD, you should definitely continue to research and consider going forward with it. You may find that it will be the best decision you ever make to help with your child’s symptoms.