If I can do it, anyone can
I dreaded remote learning.
I love my son and I love watching him learn.
I am also trying to run a business from home. I feared that ADHD, plus home office, plus homeschooling was a recipe for disaster.
My son and I are like two peas in a pod, we are so much alike. We both have ADHD and dislike the intense structure of schools. It was inevitable: we would be butting heads within the first hour of homeschooling.
I have never been so happy to admit that I. Was. Wrong.
(Don’t tell my husband).
The first time schools went into code red and all students were learning from home, my son and I actually had a blast.
We were incredibly lucky that we had just switched to a new, independent school that has amazing educators. They had Google Classroom up and running immediately and provided a large variety of flexible, hands-on lessons from which to choose. They encouraged parents to do what worked for their families, and offered ideas for modifying each lesson based on each learner’s different interests and needs.
Like I said, we were lucky.
Fear not! As schools in Winnipeg and Brandon Manitoba return to fully remote learning once again, we’ve got your back. Even if your school is not super fantastic, you and your child can still school rock this learning-at-home thing, one lesson at a time.
Because honestly, if I can do it, anyone can. Here’s how:
Identify the learning goal of the lesson
What is the teacher hoping the students get out of the lesson? Identify the main learning outcome.
Sometimes educators try to lump a whole bunch of learning outcomes into one lesson. This does not work well for most ADHD and twice exceptional learners, and is really not the ideal approach for a lot of learners, it’s most effective to focus on one or two main points.
Find a way to connect material to your child’s interests
Is your child into Minecraft? Basketball? Comic books? Music?
Make it fun by using your child’s interests to hook them into the lesson or activity.
Make it Hands-On
All people learn better by doing, especially children, and most especially children with ADHD. Find every way possible to turn that boring worksheet into a game, an activity, or a hands-on project. Turn a math sheet into a board game, a science lesson into an experiment, or make reading comprehension questions into a quiz show.
If you’re like me and not very creative, you can search online for various ideas. Lesson plans and education materials can be found for free or very low cost on websites like teachers pay teachers and education.com. You can then meld those ideas with your classroom teacher’s lessons to make something your child will actually enjoy doing!
Keep it Short and Sweet
Your child may spend 6 hours per day physically in school during normal times, but this ain’t normal times, and I guarantee you they don’t receive instruction for anywhere close to 6 hours.
One hour is dedicated to recesses and lunch breaks and at least one hour should be dedicated to physical education, music, and other movement breaks. Then consider time spent coming in and out, getting organized, dealing with behaviours, waiting in line-ups, announcements, bathroom breaks, water breaks, etc. It also takes a lot longer to explain a lesson to a classroom of 30 students than it does to one or two (or a few) children at home.
Remember our optimal attention span is somewhere between 20–30 minutes, and even adults are advised to take a break at least once per hour. Young children need very frequent breaks in order to sustain attention. A handy rule of thumb for a child’s attention span is approximately 2–3 minutes per year of their age. So my 8 year old son with ADHD should likely only be expected to sustain his attention for about 16 minutes. It may be longer if he’s truly interested and engaged, but shorter if he finds something tedious or boring.
In terms of their full homeschool day, here’s a chart to help guide approximately how much time in total a child should spend on academics each day:
Of course, there will be individual differences, but please do not expect your 10 year old child to sit at the kitchen table and do school work for 3–4 hours in one day. Our son is 8 years old (with ADHD) and he can work for about 20–60 minutes, depending on how interesting he finds the activity, and then he gets a break. We do this for about 3 hours in total between 9am-12pm, giving us approximately 2 hours worth of school time.
Some days we do more and some days we do less, depending on how difficult the work is, or simply based on how the day is going for us both. That’s the beauty of learning at home, there is more flexibility. We even sleep in once in a while and start a bit later!
I highly recommend it.
Around noon we break for lunch, and then we spend the afternoons playing outside, going for walks, climbing trees, building things, or playing games. Our son loves complex board games, so even though they’re fun, they still provide plenty of opportunities for learning.
This brings me to my next point: do plan ahead. Especially if you have ADHD and/or you are trying to work from home like me, you’ll want to have some sort of structure and organization to your days to keep you (more or less) on track. You don’t have to plan an entire school year’s curriculum, but do plan a day or two at a time. That said, don’t hold yourself or your child to a strict schedule or rigid expectations. Be flexible and go with the flow. Do what works best for you and your family.
Something that has worked well for us is I create a daily or weekly “menu” for my son with activities and lessons to choose from, and I let him decide which he wants to work on. This means I have to have a few things prepared in advance, but it also means I am not flying by the seat of my pants… because if I don’t plan ahead… well, then I’ll probably forget my pants altogether.
Learning is Happening All The Time
We are always learning. Children especially are learning from every interaction they have with you, with others, and with the world around them. Gardening, cooking, woodworking, auto mechanics… share your skills and passions with your child, and allow them the freedom to follow their curiosity.
Don’t be afraid to play games and have fun with your child! You’re not slacking on their education — in fact, they likely learn a lot more from those experiences than they ever do from any worksheet (can you tell I don’t like worksheets?).
Social-Emotional Learning IS Still Learning
Social-emotional learning is so underrated and undervalued. Yes, academic skills such as literacy and numeracy are important, absolutely — however, people who are incredibly skilled in these academic areas, yet don’t have strong problem-solving or interpersonal communication skills, may have difficulty expressing their brilliant ideas. They may also struggle with their mental health if they don’t have the tools and resources for self-care and self-management.
As you may have heard many educators and mental health experts say over this past year or so: focus on the relationship right now. Prioritize your own mental health and that of your family. If students get a little behind in their academics they can get caught up. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your child during a time when many of us are already feeling stressed and anxious.
© Jillian Enright, ADHD 2e MB
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If you do need or want additional help for remote learning, please do not hesitate to contact us. We have extensive experience supporting students with ADHD and other diverse learning needs. We can help you adapt your school’s online material to meet the needs and interests of your child, while still following the Manitoba curriculum, and meeting the desired learning outcomes.