Home ADHD Survival Guide FamilyADHD Survival Guide: 5 Tips for Difficult ADHD Homeschool Days

FamilyADHD Survival Guide: 5 Tips for Difficult ADHD Homeschool Days

written by familyadhd

If you’re homeschooling your ADHD child or children, odds are you’ve had an off day … or 20. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Those days when 1 of 2 things happens–either your child sits and stares for hours at the work in front of him/her and takes about 6 hours to do 20-30 minutes worth of work or the days your child is adamant he/she knows nothing, winding themselves up to the point of being unable to complete the school day.

That was about 90% of our first school year his first year homeschooling (1st grade). I briefly discussed a bit about why we chose to homeschool and some of the events that led up to that decision, so it’s understandable that his first year was this difficult. His second year was better, but we still seemed to have those days a bit more frequently than I would have liked. This year, his 3rd year, we hadn’t had a single super difficult day … until today.

Today my oldest sat for twice the time it normally takes him to complete all of his work. Keep in mind, he wasn’t toiling away. Most of that time was spent staring at just about everything but the work in front of him. He had been going at a decent pace for the most part, but the second he hit his math work (his hardest subject by far) it all came to an end.

You may be wondering why I let him sit there instead of just giving up for the day. The reason being, so much of this is a game of wills. My highly intelligent, stubborn, independent, firstborn ADHDer will test the boundaries like the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park–systematically and calculatingly. The second he detests a breach in my will, he will take full advantage. Part of it is his age, part of it is his personality and part of it is a mystery to me. I can’t begin to understand what may have triggered today’s persistent lack of doing and you can’t actually make a child do anything (not in a healthy manner anyway), so what do you do?

Here 5 tips I’ve learned over the last 3 years on how to healthily and positively deal with those difficult ADHD homeschool days (many of these could be applied to homework time for those who aren’t homeschooling their ADHDers):

1. Don’t Get Upset

I repeat, do not get upset! It may be your first instinct and I get it. There were times over the last 3 years I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself in it, but it doesn’t help you and it doesn’t help your child. Tell yourself before and during that you will remain calm and positive (or at least unaffected) on the outside no matter what!

2. Don’t Take it Personally

I swear this should be tattooed on our foreheads and hands and painted on every wall. Often times with my guys, nothing they do is actually directed at us in a personal way. Not doing his work was not my son’s personal attack on me. If you take it personally you’ll react accordingly and it’s just not appropriate. Is it frustrating? Yes. Does it affect us? Of course. But is it really about us? No. Take a breath and tell yourself–it’s not personal.
If you need to, step out of the room for a minute or two to remind yourself before heading back to continue to work around the situation. That 60-second vacation may do you both some good!

3. Try to Determine if There’s a Reason for the Behavior

Not that it’s ever okay to adamantly refuse to do your work (whether quietly like my oldest or loudly by throwing a fit), but sometimes there’s a legitimate reason. Has something major recently occurred? Has something changed? Was your schedule today different than it normally is? We know how crucial consistency can be for these guys and sometimes the slightly little thing can make their entire worlds seem off. If you can pinpoint an issue and help them process it or move on from it, you just may get some work accomplished!

You should also consider if the actual program or curriculum is simply not working for your child if he/she can’t seem to progress through the materials. We’ve changed curriculum as needed throughout the last 3 years to adjust to our son. Sometimes what once worked or what worked for someone else just won’t work for you.

4. Find a Way to Re-engage and Re-motivate

Sometimes when your child puts that wall up and simply refuses to do their school work it can be hard to turn things around. If you can find a way to re-engage and re-motivate your child, you just may save the school day. I try positive reinforcement like reminding my son of what he’ll get to do once he’s done with his work. If that doesn’t work, I’ll set a timer with a reasonable amount of time and let him know that if he doesn’t get his task done by the time it’s over that there will be an appropriate consequence (such as not getting to play his game after). I’ll also make sure I give him the added incentive of telling him that if he finishes before the timer is up that he gets a special bonus (an extra few minutes off his bedtime, for example). This often does the trick. Not always, but sometimes!

5. Know When to Stop Pushing

While I obviously do not suggest allowing your child to always avoid finishing their school work, if your child has 1 off day once in a while and no matter what you try you can’t get them back on track and it’s been a decent amount of time past your normal school hours … think about giving them a short task and then allowing them to end the day without completing the rest. Getting any compliance is a positive, so it’s not as though you’ve completely let them have their way, but sometimes you’re just not going to get the volume of work out of them that you need. Sometimes you have to pick your fights and realize that everyone has an off day once in a while. How many times have you or your spouse taken a vacation day because you simply needed a “mental health” day? I think everyone needs a break once in a while. And thankfully, you’re homeschooling so you can give it to them! Better to keep their overall school experience mostly positive than to push simply for the sake of getting your way. 
You know your child. You’ll be able to tell whether or not they’re trying to pull one over on you or they’re simply having an off day. 
I hope these tips help! Honestly, there is no magical answer that ensures a beautiful homeschool experience every day with our ADHDers, but I think if we keep things positive, don’t take things personally and stay reasonable and realistic that we’ll meet success in one form or another.
Do you have any tips for dealing with those rough ADHD homeschool days? Share them!

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