From Legos to a Diploma, Homeschooling our ADHD Boy

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My son arrived early at our home on July 4th to help set up for a party hosted by he and his wife at our house.  I told him the bad news, I had just tried to preheat the gas grill and the ignition switch was broken.

He said he’d have a look at it and in just a few minutes had it taken apart, cleaned… and fixed.  I joked (kinda’) that it looked like all those household items he took apart in childhood turned out to train him well.

However, I’m getting ahead of my story…

My son was born just days before his sister turned twelve, a mid-life joyful surprise child.  Although he was very hyperactive and had a difficult time sitting still in places like Sunday School, I wasn’t too concerned about him.

His Kindergarten experience was fine with a lovely, patient teacher who had been teaching five year olds for many years.  Then he reached first grade and it was a nightmare with calls and complaints from his teacher.  He was diagnosed as severely ADHD by a specialist and placed on Ritalin.

I shared with a homeschooling dad at church what was happening at school.  Our son was not only drugged but had been labeled a troublemaker since he could not sit still easily, found it hard to stay quiet, and was always having to touch everything around him.

Our friend became very serious and told me for the sake of our son’s future, we needed to take him out of the school and homeschool him NOW.  My husband and I talked about it and prayed a lot.  With our daughter entering college, we could use my paycheck and after all… she had a great experience in school (her learning style fit in exactly with the classroom).

Well, we did let him stay in through the rest of first grade but decided we’d give homeschooling a try for a year.

It was remarkable how he changed.  Not only was he not “coming off” Ritalin each evening but given the lack of distractions, he was able to learn in our one student-one teacher “a little at a time” way of  educating at home.

So we figured he was just naturally getting better and put him back into the public school in third grade.  While he had a much more patient and understanding teacher this time, she had an ADHD child of her own, he still had to be put back on Ritalin.  He was so easily distracted, he was getting behind in schoolwork.

Once again we let him finish the school year and then signed papers releasing the State’s responsibility for educating our child (the only official act required in our state) and brushed the sand off our education sandals… we knew we had to take responsibility for his learning experiences.

Thus began our adventure of education at home which continued until our son decided to spend his senior year of high school taking classes at the Community College (to better prepare him for entrance into the University).  We were so proud of him and ourselves… and very thankful to God for His grace… when he graduated with the other young people in ceremonies provided through our homeschool co-op.

I have titled this post From Legos to a Diploma for that was how we began this adventure and how we ended… almost.  I’ll get back to that later.  Once we made the decision to permanently educate our son at home (his sister was in college by this time), I began to read everything I could about homeschooling.

That’s when I first met Sally Clarkson through her books and listening to her tapes while watching my son at the playground.  Of course, now her talks are on CD’s so that tells you how long ago that was!

Along with Sally I read Diana Waring, Karen Andreola, Susan Wise Bauer, Gregg Harris, and many (many) other pioneer homeschool authors.  I knew if I was in this for the long haul, I needed to find a style of teaching and learning that would work for me as well as my son… while still being wife, mom, chef, laundress, gardener, and cleaning lady for the house in general.

There isn’t time in one post to give many specifics but I can say we decided to use “whole books” with lots of reading, math manipulatives at first, and for science we went outside whenever possible in the elementary years for nature walks.

I realized the first few years of homeschooling had to be spent laying a foundation in which my son would once again love learning.

Since my son was severely ADHD, we ended up through the years with a combination of Charlotte Mason and Unschooling.  I can’t say it was always easy for especially in the first few years there were a lot of tears… his and mine.  But then again… there are few things in our life God gives us to do that have no challenges involved.

As we grew into a rhythm of learning, we realized what worked and what did not.  For instance, in the early years I learned he comprehended what I was reading best when he was doing something with his hands… so we have a rather large Lego collection!

Bringing him home to learn also made it possible to help him “follow his bent” so to speak… to try different hobbies and learn skills at his own pace.  An early love was the computer, one he stayed with and became quite proficient with over the years until he was designing his own games before reaching the teenage years.

When one is learning at home, it gives time to become a proficient reader even when one is slightly dyslexic.  Math was a huge challenge, so much that we ignored it for a year.  No, really… it was getting in the way of other studies!  Did he catch up… oh, yes.

So, for the sake of brevity here, how did our homeschool experiment turn out?  Well, remember I said there was more to the story?  Not only did our son… who had been labeled stupid and a trouble maker by a teacher in school… receive his diploma… he went on to graduate from a top University in Computer Science.

Today he works as a Software Engineer, designing and writing code which becomes Apps for smart phones, iPads, etc. and he is married to our delightful daughter-in-law who is also a homeschool graduate (and public school teacher).

We now look back and realize the very same challenges of ADHD which caused such problems in childhood are what helped him develop an “out of the box” way of thinking and the creativity he needs in his work.  Not to mention fixing our gas grill.

These days as a homeschooling mother emeritus, there are times I truly miss those years.  However, I still get to talk about education at home with my daughter as she homeschools her five children.

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Comments

  1. Deanna says

    This is the beauty of education at home. A family who loves the child and can help them to learn in the way that they learn best! It saddens me to think of how many children, especially boys, have been labeled as stupid etc, because of being boys.

    Thanks for sharing your journey!
    Deanna

  2. Vickie says

    Thank you for sharing your story! I am “in the trenches” with a son like you described. It is good to hear that we can make it through this journey.

    • Brendacoffeeteabooksme says

      Vickie, Definitely! It isn’t always easy when you are in those trenches but the results are worth it all!

  3. Tanya Gordon says

    Brenda, this is so encouraging to read. I cried a lot as I read this post. Thank you for sharing part of your journey.
    Tanya

    • Brendacoffeeteabooksme says

      Tanya, I know the same challenges that make an ADHD child difficult can also make them gifted. Once their maturity catches up with the challenges, they can really blossom!

  4. Janet says

    I wanted to comment on this article even though I do not have children in school or out. I do direct a religious education program in my parish and have little ones from Kindergarten through 6th grade level every Sunday for an hour and a half. They are all enrolled in public schools. Most of our teachers are volunteers and just a few have some kind of educational background. (I, personally, am a HUGE fan of homeschoolers due to the experience I have had as a substitute teacher in a local homeschool co-op. I found the children calmer, more focused, and very respectful as opposed to some – not all – of the public school children I come in contact with each week.)

    I am not criticizing your descriptions of the teachers that your son encountered and I am sure that you are giving an accurate representation. But I would like to give you my opinion on “patient” vs. “impatient” teachers who complain about hyperactivity. Could it be that they are not trained in how to deal with this situation or that they do not have enough help to deal with it? I guess I thought that there was an element regarding this in teachers’ training, given mainstreaming, etc., but maybe that is incorrect.

    In my program, as I said, we do not have professional teachers so I try to provide as much information about this kind of situation as possible but I am not a professional teacher either. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have a full classroom along with children who have special needs given some of the issues that have come up in our program – and we only meet for an hour and a half.

    I applaud you and all the others who have taken on the homeschool challenge with their children. If I had a child today, I would be homeschooling today for many, many reasons. God bless all of you who do.

    p.s. I’m a daily reader of CTB&M, Brenda. Love it!

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