Would you, could you, homeschool your ADHD child?

I’ll give you my (non) answer up front: not sure. Maybe. Unclear at this point. Up until this school year, logistically impossible. Thinking I probably need to have my head examined for it…and yet, pretty sure it’ll be sooner rather than later that I homeschool my ADHD kiddo.
Here’s my situation in a nutshell: Up until this past June I was a school librarian at a local elementary school. I’ve been working in schools for about 15 years. I’ve worked at all levels and have been both a classroom teacher and a specialist. I loved my job – the kids! The books! Storytime! Computers! But didn’t love the extremely long hours, the poor pay (I live and work in North Carolina – ‘nuff said) and the increasing emphasis on testing, testing, testing and the micromanagement of school staff by the power-that-be. And while this won’t affect me because I’ve left the profession, I’m also really worried about how pay-for-performance is going to impact my children’s teachers. I can’t help but think there’s going to be a mass defection from teaching in a couple of years (a whole ‘nother blog post or blog, that), not to mention the impact on classroom size and student-teacher ratio as budgets continue to be slashed.
Things have really changed over the past 20 years in schools (I took several years off to stay home so there’s a gap in there of 5 years), and not necessarily for the better (again, a whole ‘nother blog or blog post). Suffice it to say that there is a lot less fun, autonomy, and creativity in schools now than when I started. This, despite the very best efforts of great teachers (I never, ever, ever dog teachers! Except for ones that have been bad to my baby, but that’s another story). Anyway, although I thought the school in which I worked was filled with many talented and hard-working people, there are some essential flaws in the system that disheartened me.
In the end, I didn’t quit my job because I was unhappy with the institution, I quit my job because I needed to work more with our family’s business and provide more balance for our household, including the ever-increasing stressful situation that is my ADHD+PDD child, LittleJ.
Here’s LittleJ’s situation in a nutshell: He is in 2nd grade and after a wonderful kindergarten year (and by wonderful I mean he had a great teacher – not that all things went wonderfully), a not-so-great 1st grade year, he is now in a great classroom with a wonderful, experienced, knowledgeable teacher and a teacher’s assistant who is also knowledgeable and experienced, as well as stern (love that for LittleJ) and glamorous (glitter eyeshadow, anyone?). Their classroom is calm, the children well behaved, organization and timeliness rules, and all grown-ups in the classroom are kind and patient.
But still, LittleJ has gone to the principal’s office 2 times already and his seat is removed from the cluster of desks where the rest of the children sit. Neither of which are unwarranted, given his set of issues, but neither of which are ideal. He is learning his 2nd grade skills but the “N”s (for NOT satisfactory) on the behavior part of his first report card far outweighed the “S”s. He doesn’t like school, gets a little panicked when confronted with worksheets with lots of text, and told me he hates recess because no one plays with him.
It breaks a mama’s heart!
A recent decision to send him out of the room for the first hour of the day to stare at a wall in another classroom (a holding tank, really) both excited me (because FINALLY this school is trying to do something with my child) and upset me (for obvious reasons) kind of iced the cake for me and my husband. We “solved” this by changing when he first gets his medication (we now get up at 5 a.m. to give it to him a good 3 hours before school starts) and then giving him a second dose later, but we’re certainly not convinced that doubling his already high dose of stimulants is a good answer for him in the long run. He is “under control” enough to be in a regular classroom. But he’s getting a really, really, really high dose of meds and in the past this high a dose has eventually brought his mood way down. And he’s also stopped eating. No appetite. It will get him through the day but I don’t think either we or he will be able to sustain the dosage.
This has been a really long post to explain/defend/justify WHY I am even thinking about this option for my kid. Not sure why I feel so strongly that I need to explain/defend/justify doing it. I know homeschooling is a good option for him, there’s a decent-sized secular homeschooling community around here (because we’d not be doing it for religious reasons), and I know I’m perfectly well-qualified to do it. But it also seems really out of the norm. And it also seems really, really potentially draining. But also potentially freeing.
What if I homeschooled my child and he got excited about learning about the world? What if he gained confidence? What if he became more curious? What if he was joyful once again? All possibilities.
But what if in homeschooling my child I lost any bit of time for myself that I’ve managed to carve out of my day? After leaving a structured work environment 5 months ago I finally feel like I’ve caught up with all the things I neglected when I worked full time out of the home. What if he hated it? Hated me? Worse, what if he didn’t learn?
Aaagh! What to do? What would you do? What have you done?
I may have to homeschool. It’s probably in the best interest of my child. But perhaps not in the best interest of me.

Adrienne Ehlert Bashista is the co-editor of and contributor to Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories, and is also the author of two picture books about Russian adoption. She’s had stories, essays, and articles published in a variety of journals, both print and on-line. She is the owner of DRT Press. She was a school librarian for many years before giving it up to devote more time to the rest of her life. She chronicles her adventures raising her son, recently diagnosed with FASD in her blog, A Square Peg, a Round Hole. She also writes for the blog for Easy to Love but Hard to Raise and her writing/speaking website is adriennebashista.net. She lives in central North Carolina with her husband, two sons, two dogs, 21 chickens, and a lot of bees.

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About the author

Adrienne Ehlert Bashista is the co-editor of and contributor to Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories, and is also the author of two picture books about Russian adoption. She’s had stories, essays, and articles published in a variety of journals, both print and on-line. She is the owner of DRT Press. She was a school librarian for many years before giving it up to devote more time to the rest of her life. She chronicles her adventures raising her son, recently diagnosed with FASD in her blog, A Square Peg, a Round Hole. She also writes for the blog for Easy to Love but Hard to Raise and her writing/speaking website is adriennebashista.net. She lives in central North Carolina with her husband, two sons, two dogs, 21 chickens, and a lot of bees.


  1. Anonymous says:

    All good questions, I too have often thought of homeschooling and who knows still may one day. I am certain your son would learn if you home schooled him. In fact there are probably god given gifts/abilities within him that would blossom out given the opportunity to learn according to the way he learns. I believe that homeschooling could be an adventure that you would never turn back to even think ,”Would I ever go back to the traditional classroom.” You may also find that even his medications could be reduced significantly due the the stress of the traditional classroom being eliminated. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can teach your child according to the way he learns. Would it be a lot of work? Certainly, but you could probably be finished homeschooling by early afternoon. One of the main reasons I keep my son at his school is that I want to see him learn how to survive in the world. Could this be done homeschooling? Possibly, but in a different degree. He wouldn't learn that you have to follow other peoples rules, and respect them. He wouldn't learn that not all people are nice in this world and how to deal with that. He wouldn't learn that when the chips are down, you need to get back up. He wouldn't learn how to have to carry on even if you don't feel like it. He wouldn't learn that there are deadlines. He wouldn't learn how to be a self advocate for him self. And it could go on and on… It's a hard call, but one you need to examine all the pro's and con's of and do what you think is best for your child's self esteem, his emotional state, his well being.

  2. Carrie says:

    I DO homeschool mine. I can't imagine having to deal with 504 plans, IEPs, conferences, etc.

    A few things that you're not taking into account….

    1. You know your kid better than anyone.
    2. You can do school at whatever time of day works for your family. AND whatever time of YEAR, for that matter.
    3. Homeschooling is considerably more efficient. For a second grader, a couple of hours a day would be plenty of time to make daily observable progress in each subject area. Subtract out announcements, lunch breaks, jackets on, jackets off, getting all the kids to be quiet, dealing with other kids' questions, passing out papers, etc.–it's VERY efficient!

    If I were you, I'd request a free catalog from Rainbow Resources, check out some library books from Carol Barnier, and give it some serious consideration. My kid would be MISERABLE in a traditional classroom setting. She doesn't love “doing school” each and every time we do it, but it's over with quickly and then she can go back to her day. I know when she “gets” something and when she doesn't. I know what needs more work and what will allow us to move on.

  3. I often run through this same would I/could I scenario about homeschooling too. I have been known to say that I give my son medication so he can be successful in school. Then I think, “well, if I homeschooled him, he wouldn't have to take medication.” But that's not true. He'd still need medication to do the work and to be open to learning, at home or otherwise. Besides that, he'd feel like it's a punishment. He'd be very socially isolated and that would be miserable for him. ANd even if none of that were an issue, it isn't financially feasible for our family.

    Now, would I love to change the public school system? ABSOLUTELY! I would make it more hands-on and interactivity, more community-centric. But I am one woman and I make this big of a change.

    So, still in this crazy conundrum. I do think you'd be great at homeschooling if you choose to do it. Your mini-farm is ripe with science lessons and your love of books is sure to translate well.

  4. Betsy says:

    I've had the same questions, and so far DS is still in public school. I've considered private school at times, but have some major concerns about going that route as well. I've decided to take it year by year, depending on … well, everything – and just do my best to find what's best for him. We've had one year that was horrible, and if I had it to do over again I would have pulled him out and homeschooled him for that year, but hindsight is 20/20. I also know that DS will be on his medication as long as I can keep him on it but that it will need to be constantly monitored and adjusted as necessary . It never ends, but I've got an amazing kid who is worth it. hth!

  5. I feel like we're trying to allow the least damage to Javi while shuttling him through elementary to middle school. The elementary schools here are okay, but the middle school offers differentiated learning and tons of enrichment — all things that have been cut at the elementary level. I've considered Montessori, but I'd have to sell my home, my car, and my body to afford it.

    I do know several homeschoolers who go the collective route and work together. That allows for a balance in talents and the kids get lots of socialization. If that is available to you, it would be worth a shot. You could probably arrange for days “off” where Little J goes off to someone else's house for the afternoon.

    Where there's a will, there's a way!

  6. Thanks so much for the comments. I wish that instead of explaining *why* I'm thinking of homeschool I had given the *hows* of it – it would address some of the things you all point out, specifically the “problem” of social interaction (which Penny mentions)- I put it in quotations because a)my child gets into trouble for interacting with other kids socially at school and b)given the active homeschooling groups in my area I don't think it'll be an issue.
    @Anonymous: I'm not really sure how homeschooling wouldn't teach him to get along in the world. As adults, do we all function within a work/social environment that's like a public school classroom? I sure don't. It's my hope that my child will actually become more autonomous and more responsible for himself if I do it this way.
    @Carrie – Thanks so much for the resource suggestions! I have done a bunch of research as part of my thought process but I've yet to choose actual materials (that is, if we actually go through it). So any and all help in that area is super helpful.

  7. @Penny – I wouldn't be homeschooling so I could take LittleJ off of his meds entirely, but we definitely give him more meds than we would have if we weren't so concerned about school. I have always been very pro-med for my child but there comes a point when he's on the max dose of everything (and has been on the max dose of every past med, only to see it eventually fail) that a mom starts questioning. I know you know what I mean!
    @Betsy – I've also thought about private schools and last year we went for a visit/interview at the only one nearby that seemed like it might fit, but I got a strong feeling from them that they wouldn't accept him. We ended up pulling his application before I found out what answer we'd get, but since we were asking for the max financial aid and since they clearly saw he had some issues interacting/behaving I really didn't feel the love. Plus, we couldn't have afforded it even if they'd given us financial aid. I live in a fairly rural area – I could drive 45 minutes each way and try other private schools, I guess, but then it would be a quality of life issue.
    It's really hard, isn't it! But you're right, our kids are worth it!

  8. @Kelly – I will definitely check out the Lee County homeschool groups in this process – I'm sure they'll be a great resource for us, too. It's funny that you are holding on until middle school – in our situation I definitely feel like I have to take action before middle school. My older son is in middle school now and while there are some great things about it he also has soooo much time on his hands – during which time he's supposed to “read quietly” or “take notes” or whatever – unless something changes drastically that will be a recipe for disaster for LittleJ!
    I didn't write this in my original post, but if I homeschool LittleJ I'll probably be homeschooling his older brother (BigJ!) as well. BigJ, a gifted, good student, is bored to tears at school

  9. Julia L. says:

    I think about it all the time, and I have to say that if I had to, I know that I could. I would prefer that my 10 yr old ADHD kid be able to move through the school years only slightly scathed – but I will say that if at any point in time I ever feel like his self worth and well being are at risk – as much as I am not interested in home schooling, I'd do it to protect him.

    It seems scary for me because it feels so “isolated” – and I often think that if homework time is such a struggle, how in the world would we survive each other. But from talking to other moms, and reading/researching on the internet – I realize that there are groups that one can join, sports activities, art classes, music classes, etc. that can fill up a day like nobody's business. I know one mom here where I live who somehow gets her son's music lessons paid for by the school district because of the way that she has filed the status of her schooling – they pay for enrichment programs too. I've thought of it often and even more so now that we are approaching middle school. Someone told me of an online program called “K12 online” – I've thought of checking it out just to get an idea of what the curriculum is.

    I do know that if I were to homeschool, I would have to find a way to build in breaks from each other – maybe sign him up for some enrichment classes outside of home – and hire a babysitter once or twice a week!

  10. Jill says:

    the idea of homeschooling to me isn't so bad. i can see a lot of positives and have friends/friends' kids who love it. my husband says often that he would homeschool our daughter if he could. but since he makes way more than i could, that's not going to happen.

    i could not homeschool my daughter. about a minute into homework (literally), my (i think) patient personality is thrown out the window, never to return. i don't know at this point how much is adhd, attitude, personality clashing, something else…but unless something miraculous happened, i could not homeschool my daughter even though i wish at times for her sake i could really do it.

  11. I homeschooled my older kids and they were not ADHD. I am a teacher with years experience and love teacher. However, I have to say that teaching my ADHD kiddo at home would put me in over my head (or comfort zone). He has pretty good teachers and great friends. Not the best idea for me & I realize it. http://www.charlottesadhdweb.blogspot.com

  12. dmd says:

    I don't think homeschooling would work for us, although I dearly dearly wish I could be home in the afternoon for homework. I've always felt I was good at back up. But now DH is home with DS in the afternoon. Some days go well. Others (like the days he has chorus or the day he has therapy) go less well because there is a time crunch. By the time I get home, either homework is done or it's all gone to heck in a handbasket and it's too late to start over.

    I think I'm too easily frustrated with DS to be his main teacher, although I like the idea of him getting direct one on one attention.


  13. Topsy says:

    I've always homeschooled my two boys (one with Tourette Syndrome and one with Anxiety/ADD/Dyslexia) and I can tell you that on any given day, no matter how much of myself I've had to give to “make it work” it is still a privilege to spend all that time with these amazing kiddos I've been gifted with. Watching learning happen is like nothing else in the world, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. When you are ready to trade in the stress and worry of the classroom for the stress and joy of homeschooling, you WILL find the strength and ability to handle it. Just trust yourself. A resource that has helped us: http://www.time4learning.com/ADD.shtml

  14. Colleen says:

    I just stumbled across this post, and wanted to offer some encouragement… I, too, have degrees in education, taught in an elementary public school setting and as a gifted intervention specialist. My husband teaches 1st grade and, while we've both watched the deterioration of our public schools from the inside, we NEVER thought we'd do anything else with our kids. And… began homeschooling our son in February of his 1st grade year.
    It's not all sunshine and roses. He's still medicated, though at a much lower dose. He balks at activities that require writing, and gives me a hard time about school often. But, we can get through a daily workload in an hour and a half to two hours when he’s “on.” We decided to HS our daughter, too. Once you get started, you'll realize that some of the things you worried about are non-issues. It's a dichotomy shift if you've never considered it before, and a tougher one *I think* if you come at it with teaching experience. Remember, you used to teach and manage a group of kids. You were forced to keep kids shuffling along their “benchmarks” at a prescribed pace, regardless of their developmental ability. Now, you can tailor your son's lessons to his interests, tapping into an innate motivation that a classroom teacher can never utilize. Legos for geometry… videos, mud and cooking for science… trips to the park trails (to expend ADHD energy) for recess and PE. One last word of encouragement for any of those who mentioned that they could not HS their child because they are frustrated with homework…We battled DAILY over homework in K and 1st before HSing. I thought the same thing, for the same reasons. I was REALLY hesitant, and dreading the experience at first. HSing is extremely different than doing homework with a kid. When you do homework with your child at night, you're taking a child who has been gone for 6-8 hours, forced to sit and attend for most of the day, and making them do more work. In some cases, it's what they didn’t get through or something your child is not “getting” or it's drill work. Hsing your child is much different than doing their homework with them. Actual “work time” is surprisingly short with all of the interruptions of school removed, and you're left with a large chunk of the day to enjoy your kids like you did when they were little — parks, play dates, museums, shops, imaginary play, cuddling up with books or movies… Good luck, Adrienne, with your choice. No matter what you decide, it will be right. You, and anyone else who feels that HSing may be the answer for your kid, CAN and WILL find the strength and ability to do it. If you, or anyone else visiting this blog, feel that public or private school is right for your kids, then it will be right too. NOBODY knows or loves your kids like you do, and nobody can make a better decision for them like you can.

  15. Megan Sierks says:

    I am struggling with this same issue right now and am so relived to find someone else asking the same questions. My son was just “diagnosed” as being ADHD, and I say that with quotations because in my rural community it seems to be a diagnosis they hand out quickly. He is 6 yrs old and in 1st grade, and from preschool I have heard about how he doesn't pay attention or has trouble in a typical classroom setting. I have considered homeschooling as a way to recapture the little boy who is so curious, instead of struggling to make him conform to what the teachers think he should be doing.
    My husband is not supportive of the homeschooling option and believes I won't be able to accomplish it. I am scared that it could blow up in my face. But what if it works?
    After this past week, and all the thinking I've had to do about meds, behavior charts, discipline and school, I am ready to fight and find a solution. Any thoughts or suggestions are welcome!

  16. @Colleen – THANK YOU SO MUCH! I really needed that comment tonight. It's not a question of IF any more, but when.
    I might contact you with questions, if that's ok.
    And @Megan – I completely understand what you're saying and I don't agree with your husband! I don't know you or him, obviously, but it seems to me that if you have the time and desire you can't help but be successful. Keep me posted.


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