Students with ADD/ADHD can pose challenges for a classroom teacher. The same can be said for teachers, parents, or tutors who home school children with this condition.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a term used to describe an individual who has a difficult time concentrating on a myriad of topics or situations. Those labeled with the subcategory of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) will have difficulty staying on task, staying calm or being seated. Often, in a school setting, students with ADD/ADHD struggle academically or tend to get into trouble with the teachers and/or administrators.
Usually, these students need have distractions minimized and to work one-on-one with someone. For these reasons, homeschooling is an advantage. Still, this task is not as easy as it appears. The students will still have a few minutes of attention and be exposed to stimuli that can cause distractions.
When homeschooling students with ADD/ADHD, there are several tactics home school teachers must keep in mind. The most important one is that the timing, scheduling, and workload will have to be centered on the students. Pacing, choosing the right room, and patience are just a few tips that may help.
Pacing is about finding the right amount of time a student can pay attention and adjusting or accommodating assignments to compliment their condition.
Students with ADD/ADHD will have moments when they can concentrate on a given assignment. Some may be able keep that concentration up for an hour while others will have only a few minutes. It is imperative an educator knows how long their students can concentrate.
Case in point: Annie was a student at a local public school. She had terrible grades and a horrible disciplinary record to match. She was able to concentrate in small chunks of time before she was distracted by her peers, noises from outside or other matters that happened to be on her mind (a party on Saturday, next week’s doctor’s appointment, or any other trivial matter).
Due to safety concerns, the district made the decision to have her homeschooled. They gave her a teacher who visited her every day of the week to teach her various subjects. Although visits were supposed to be an hour, it usually took her longer than that to complete a certain assignments. Often, she had difficulty completing it on the day it was assigned.
While Annie was doing much better in this situation, she still had episodes of distractibility. A car on the street can sap her attention, or an upcoming family event could capacitate her thinking. It was not uncommon for her to do two minutes of work before her condition took effect.
In her case, pacing was important. The teacher realized that Annie was capable of only a few minutes of attention. Assignments were accommodated. Sometimes, the assignments were short enough for her to get through them. Other times, they were divided; she’d get a few math problems from an assignment on one day, and them given a few more the next day.
Also, home school teachers don’t have to stick to a schedule in which subjects will be covered in one day. Some teachers or tutors have only an hour or two with the students. Parents who home school may have plenty of time; however, if they have students with ADD/ADHD they’ll discover that’ll be lucky to get through two or three assignments per day.
The best advice is to cover one subject per day. For parents in this situation, keep it to two subjects in hour – or even half-hour – intervals. Again, this should be based on the students’ abilities to concentrate over a set period of time.
Find the Right Room or Place.
A classroom can be distracting, especially for students with ADD/ADHD. A home, library, or public meeting place used for homeschooling is not immune to distractions. As mentioned, Annie was easily distracted by cars or people on the street outside her family’s dining room window.
Finding a quiet place with little distractions is a key to helping the students concentrate. That place can be in the public such as a study room in a library, or it can be at the students’ homes. It can be a living room, dining room, den, or bedroom (although for obvious and legal reasons, this will not be a good place for educators coming to the home to teach. If this is an option, make sure the parents are at home and the door is wide open).
Sometimes, there has been an understanding among everyone involved. The place chosen for teaching should be agreed upon by the parents, teachers, and students. When it is time for lessons, other members of the family should respect this and minimize their use of that space during that time.
Homeschooling students with this condition can be taxing. When they get distracted it means more time has been spent or wasted on teaching a particular subject. There are times when the students are so off task that the educator has to either attempt to get their attention or wait until the students are ready.
Sometimes, tapping the on paper the students are suppose to be working on gets their attention. It forces them to look at the paper; it reminds them of what needs to be done. Other times, the educator will have to stop and listen. In many cases, the item or thought that distracted them had to do with a family situation or something serious (as was the case with Annie who had legal troubles and a court date on her mind). In either case, a little patience will go a long way.
There’s nothing easy about teaching, let alone teaching students with ADD/ADHD. Homeschooling may take away a few obstacles for the students, but it doesn’t mean they are free from distractions. These students are teachable, and many will excel in a homeschooling environment. Still, precautions, planning, and understanding the students needs and accommodations will complement their education.