If you have kids, you’ve probably read the children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie or one of the others in the series by Laura Numeroff. My family often jokes that we all have the same problem as the main characters in the books: namely, we are supposed to be working on something, but it reminds us of something else, and before you know it, the day is gone and we haven’t finished anything even though we were busy the whole day. This is probably because most of my extended family deals with various degrees of ADHD, with impulsiveness and failure to complete a task as our biggest challenges. I have two kids with ADHD; one has graduated and is in the Honors College at her university and the other is still in elementary school. Here are some of the strategies that we’ve employed to overcome those challenges.
If you aren’t familiar with workboxes, it’s basically a system of numbered boxes or bins with one task placed in each box. A typical day of boxes might look like this:
Box 1: math flashcards
Box 2: math worksheet
Box 3: printout to color while listening to Story of the World
Box 4: Story of the World activity
Box 5: quick card game with mom
Box 6: science reading
Box 7: supplies for a science experiment
Box 8: free reading book
Box 9: spelling activity
Box 10: grammar game
Workboxes work especially well for younger children and those who need lots of hands-on activities. We also used a strip with Velcro dots to show what came next in our daily activities. So the strip might have cards for: breakfast, morning chores, boxes 1 to 3, 15 minutes of play time, boxes 5-7, lunch, dentist appointment, boxes 8-10, supper, Boy Scout meeting, shower and evening chores, bedtime. For more information on workboxes check out this blog or search for workboxes on Pinterest.
I spend about a week each summer typing up each child’s lesson plans for the year; print them out and place them in a 3-ring binder. As they complete an assignment, they can highlight it. This visual aid works really well for older kiddos to see what they’ve accomplished, what they have left to do for the day and as an added bonus, is a great record-keeping system for moms, too. For younger kids, I highlight their tasks after they’ve completed that workbox item.
For most school tasks, I’ve let my children sit/sprawl however they’ve needed, but there are times when being able to sit in a chair without falling off of it are necessary. We found that using a flat balance ball type of seat cushion helped with the constant wiggles. There are special “therapy” cushions made for this, but we just used an exercise type balance ball with some of the air let out.
My kids are visual learners and they struggle most with auditory listening skills. I know that most traditional university classrooms are based on a lecture/note-taking style, so to help them prepare for that I started a couple of different strategies when they were young. First, I let them have a special toy to fiddle with while they were listening. My daughter especially liked the Tangle Jr. but other quiet toys, like a squishy ball, work well also. Second, we listened to audio books while we ran errands and drove to extra-curricular activities. Our favorites are Jim Weiss/Greathall Productions and Hank the Cowdog books.
We’ve found that hands-on curriculum works really well at holding our attention. We try to avoid workbook style curriculum as much as possible. My kids love lap-books and we’ve even used them in high school for art appreciation and Apologia science. Educational videos are also a popular choice. If you have a Netflix subscription, consider joining the Facebook group “Homeschooling with Netflix” for thousands of educational film recommendations. Last year, I taught American History through Film class for high school through our co-op, which was very successful with my visual learners.
Rewards and Consequences
Finding out what motivates your individual child requires lots of trial and error, but I think the blood, sweat, and tears involved is worth it in the long term. One of my kids responded well to rewards for completing tasks, but never cared if privileges were taken away for not finishing a task. Another child just needed to sit with nothing to do until ready to finish (usually took less than 5 minutes, sitting is no fun!). We used chore charts as a visual reminder of what needed to be done; some days they need a significant amount of verbal redirection, other days, they are able to check off the tasks unsupervised. I discovered that oftentimes they were unable and/or unwilling to start a task because they believed it “would take too long.” On those occasions, we would play a game called “beat the timer;” I always set the timer for two or three times the amount of time the task should take in order for them to be successful at beating the timer. It gives them a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to win! One of my son’s favorite rewards for getting a certain number of school tasks completed is to play a game with me. We love Gamewright brand games, such as Feed the Kitty and Wig Out!, because they are easy to play and usually don’t take more than 10 minutes.