Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Homeschooling Modifications

Last year was such a nightmare for me in the area of homeschooling, that I was desperate NOT to repeat it. Too much emotion, too much chaos, too much going on, not enough effective teaching, not enough peacefulness. It was a year I wish had not even been a blip on my radar.

So in an effort to make things better, I've done several things to modify our learning experience.

First and foremost, I took my 12 year old daughter and 7 year old son to a Pediatric D.O. to have them tested for learning difficulties. I have already discussed our findings in my posts here and here.
With those findings, these are some of the modifications that I have made to our homeschooling efforts:

1. Ever since my 12 year old daughter (ADHD-inattentive Type) was in the 1st or 2nd grade,
I had been using the ACE (or School of Tomorrow) curriculum with all of my children.
Now, I was in a Christian school my entire school career that used ACE, so I
am completely comfortable with how that program works, and
how to use it effectively. It was GREAT for me.
With that being said,
it was a DISASTER for my ADHD children.
They just absolutely could NOT work on their own and I about went clinically
insane trying to figure out how to get them to complete ALL their work!!
We tried everything from yelling to privileges being taken away to losing recess time.

SO, after consulting with other homeschooling parents and researching some things
online, we've switched to Math-U-See for........Math.
Can I just say right now.....that it is a GOD-send!!!
My children ALL love it.
I'm using the Primer Level for my 5 and 7 yr. old.
My 9 yr. old is in the Gamma Level,
and my ADHD 12 yr. old is in the Epsilon Level.
Every lesson has a video they can watch to learn the concept, then they have worksheets
to go along with the new concept
(which are not overwhelming in length which has been a great change for us),
PLUS there are these amazing manipulatives they can keep their hands busy with!!! Check it out at

We have also started using Shurley English for ........English.
I have a wonderful, amazing friend who recognized I needed some direction
and some help with my children,
so she graciously volunteered to tutor my ADHD-ers this past summer
because they had fallen so far behind.
She used this English curriculum with them and my daughter just FLEW
through this stuff.
So I'm using it with all my children this year.
My 5 and 7 yr. olds are using Level 1,
and I'm using Level 4 for both my 9 and 12 year old.
My 12 yr. old is pretty familiar with this Level because of the tutoring, but
she forgets things more easily, so I'm fine with the repetition for her!!
Shurley English uses a different approach to teaching English which includes
little "jingles" to teach the parts of English and sentence construction. I think it's
really concentrated so they are learning more.....faster!!
Check it out at

I always start our school morning with "chapel time" where we go over our monthly
scripture passage we are memorizing together, do our pledges,
hear a Bible or Character story, and do some singing. This captures everyone's attention
and gathers them all together in one place. Then I can go right into lessons with my younger
ones, while my older two keep an eye on the two babies (3 and 20 months), and clean
up the breakfast dishes. Then we switch after lunch. So far, it has been working okay.
We still have some attention issues to iron out, but we're only into our 7th week of school.

Finally, once we get our new core curriculums firmly in place, I plan to add some
History, Bible, and Science lessons using a method called Lapbooking.
Have any of you ever tried this?
Some of the things I want to teach with this this year are:
Texas State History
Little House on the Prairie Series
The Chronicles of Narnia

2. Another thing that we have implemented is a "new" system of discipline. We have tried lots of positive reinforcement type chore charts, behavior charts, etc. This idea is similar to that and not created by me. It's a ticket system where the children earn rewards for good behavior
and chores completed, and loose tickets for poor behavior or chores not completed. I found this idea here and have modified it to fit our family's needs. Grant has especially responded well to it
and is like the ticket POLICE now. He's very aware of his sisters infractions and enjoys looking for ways to earn more tickets.

3. Something that I've read in my ever increasing research on ADHD is that these children NEED a routine. I still don't completely understand why because they are so distractable and can change what they are doing in the blink-of-an-eye, but nevertheless, THEY DO. There is a particular comfort in knowing what is coming next hour, when the next meal will be, when bedtime is, etc. So I have tried being much more strict about our daily schedule. I try to have all my children up, dressed, fed, some of our chores done, and at the table for chapel time by 9 am. We're not always successful, but usually pretty close. Then I immediately start working with Grant and Abby at the table for a little while, give them some time to run around outside, and then get back at the books. When I break their lessons up into smaller chunks of time and give more outside breaks, Grant does a LOT better.
This last week when I was sick and not staying on our schedule, he was awful almost everyday.
I found that I HAVE to be rigid or we all pay the price.
Reading time for these two is usually at bedtime. Grant learned to read this past summer with
his tutor, and is so much more confident with himself and actually ASKS to read at bedtime.
Lexi is reading at bedtime too. I like her to be in my bed by 9:30 pm (or earlier) so she can read for an hour. She NEVER falls asleep easily and I've even started giving her about 1mg. of melatonin before bed to help her sleep. She has now read all the Little House on the Prairie books, many of the American Girl books, the entire Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, and is now slowly making her way through The Fellowship of the Ring.
Ashlyn (who is 9) has been plodding her way through some of the Boxcar Children books.
Bedtime is a great time to get that reading in.
Another thing that I've read is that ADHD children need their SCREEN TIME LIMITED. That is so hard with a son with ADHD because they typically LOVE their computer games. Grant would sit there all day and play online monster truck games or skateboarding games, etc. So I've experimented to limiting his time on the computer to ONLY on Saturday for about an hour, and maybe some during the week if he's earned it. He also doesn't see but MAYBE a half hour of TV in the morning before lunch, and then some at night after dark. That has actually been a big help for him too!!

4. Finally, the biggest modification that I have tried this year is moving our house arrangement around. Our house is much smaller than you'd probably think it to be (1400 sq. foot), so my space is extremely limited. I needed more space for all my homeschooling materials, and just couldn't figure out how to squeeze more storage into my already crowded dining area.
So I switched my dining furniture into my living room and my living room furniture into the dining area.
We have actually adapted quite well to it, and enjoy have a cosier reading room type effect in our new "family room".
I also moved the existing bookshelves from the living room into our (my husband and my) bedroom and then purchased another set to put into the new school room on either side of my china cabinet. This gave me loads more storage space and opened up a roomier place for our table to be. We have much more space for schooling now, plus the little ones are sort of kept together better in the back of the house closer to the kitchen and outdoors too!!
This has helped relieve some of our space issues.

Not the prettiest room on the block, but much more functional for us!!!

Working at the table together.....peacefully....a rarity!!

Our flags for pledges, flanked on either side by two of our favorite past presidents!!

Organization is a HUGE issue for ADHD children and this is my attempt to teach them
how to organize their school folders.

With all this being said, I want to be sure to communicate that our struggles are not completely
eradicated!! As I mentioned before, if we get off schedule for whatever reason my son is horrid.
I can't explain the reason why, but I think it has to do with some of his anxiety issues.
I'm still looking into some dietary changes for us to see if that helps him to calm down more too.
He also is so much calmer in the house if he can spend LOTS of time outdoors. I'm considering figuring out how to get more outdoor play equipment in our backyard to lure him out there for longer periods of time. He loves being on a bike, scooter and skates too. I'm also desperate enough to see some changes in him that I'm thinking through maybe, someday, in the future, not this year, but sometime, possibly getting a small dog for him. He loves little animals.

A great resource that I also recently joined that I want you to know about is:
This website has an email list you must join to ask questions and find support from loads of other parents who are homeschooling or just trying to raise their children with ADHD. I have found lots of ideas, and found lots of encouragement in this online support group.

I want to encourage those of you who are homeschooling children with special learning needs or not, it's always a challenge. I have always had to be 4 steps ahead of my children and it's exhausting and overwhelming most of the time. But the tiniest of victories are so sweet, and I know that this is what the Lord has called our family to do. I know that He has a plan for my children and I can only do the best I know how to do with His leading and then get out of His way and watch Him do the miracles in their lives!!!


Amber said...

LOVE the organized shelving idea in the dining room! How in the world do you keep the little ones off of it and from taking it all off the shelves???

Brenda said...

You know, I haven't actually had a problem with the little ones getting into stuff. They did try to climb the shelves at first and take some books off, but after being told this was important school stuff, they have left it alone.....remarkably!!

Alice said...

Hi Brenda
Thanks! I've been finding your blog really encouraging! I completely agree about needing a routine - this bit made me laugh! My DS is so much better now we've got more structure.

Anonymous said...

Hey Brenda :). You are such a trooper! Enjoyed reading this and what an encouragement to me! Nisha (Still can't figure out this posting thing, so I clicked the "anonymous" button. It requires a URL and I'm illiterate when it comes to computure jargon, so I have no idea what an URL is!)