How we Homeschooled my Kiddo with ADHD - The Early Years

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Do your kids struggle with attention issues?  Or are they very active, have difficulty concentrating, or show signs of adhd?

When my daughter was young, she was a very active child, who had adhd tendencies.  She had difficulty concentrating on verbal directions.  She also had some sensory processing issues, and was a sensory seeking child.  

Homeschooling was ideal for her, as it allowed me to adapt things to the way she learned best.  With her difficulty with auditory processing, ie concentrating on verbal directions, if she had to listen to the teacher talk, in public school, that would have been all wrong for her. 

We wanted her to have the daily support of learning at home.  I did a number of things to facilitate her learning, and through the years, these issues became less and less of a problem.  

As my regular readers know, my daughter is now 19, is a sophomore in college, and doing very well!  She made Dean's list her first year there, and is studying in their honors program. 

How we went about homeschooling her, when she was young... that is what I would like to talk about today.  

During the early years, preschool to 2nd grade, we focused just on the 3 R's, and did not concern ourselves with science or other subjects until later.  Not that you need to do that, that is just how we approached things....

First I'll be sharing about the curriculum we used during these early years.  Then I'll talk about how we set up our homeschool day......with those all important breaks, and more.

So let's start with the beginning, with how we did phonics.....           


We chose Explode the Code (ETC), starting with the Primers. We usually did these together at a table.  My daughter quickly learned the routine of the ETC lessons, as each lesson followed the same pattern.  

Doing this phonics program semi-independently, really helped to develop her self esteem, along with her reading, phonics and spelling. Each morning she would ask for her Explode the Code book!  She loved it, and we continued with ETC through 5th grade. This built her into a very strong reader.

The approach used in ETC is great for visual learners, and my kiddo. It eliminated the struggle that we had with phonics previously, when her learning was more auditory (listening) based, although we did some auditory work, too, as she learned her sounds.


My daughter wanted to be independent in things, even before she knew how to, which was a challenge sometimes.  

We started with the Bob Books Readers, after she finished her ETC primers.  She loved the funny little simple stories in these very early readers.

We then moved to the "I Can Read"series, and then just continued with their next readers, also picking from what they had at the library. Going from one reader level to the next really helped to gradually build her reading and comprehension skills.  

For fun, my daughter loved getting audio books from the library, which helped her to feel independent.

We also liked some of the workbooks from Evan-Moor.  These provided a helpful structure and fun hands on activities at the same time.

We set up in a special reading corner........with a shelf that blocked out other distractions in the room.  My daughter could snuggle up with a book, anytime. This was also a help when she needed calming time.


My daughter didn't struggle with handwriting, but lots of kids with sensory processing issues do.  We chose a Handwriting without Tears book, but always put it aside whenever she was frustrated.

We used a multisensory approach to handwriting, included making letters in finger paint, cutting, play dough play, etc.  She began to use more "mature" grasp of his pencil, called the "pincer grasp". when we tried using short crayons. Click here for 9 Fun Ways to a Mature Grasp)

For more fun and easy ways to help with handwriting, to build up the small muscles and more, here are the posts from my series called Handwriting Helps.......


We used Math U See, after spending our preschool/K years just doing math using manipulatives, math play, and making patterns. 

Learning to make 2 or 3 part patterns introduced her to the patterns of math. This was done with beads, etc.  We did much of our math work and play on the floor.  Giving her lots of control in her lessons, with guidance, helped a lot.

Numbers and Patterns - another fun math resource

For more information on manipulative math, please go my post on math play here.   "Seeing" how math works is the ticket, but "Doing" is the best for early math, counting buttons, making cookies, and the fun of subtracting them. lol.  That is how my daughter learned to love math!


And don't forget art!  We did a lot of arts and crafts, fingerpainting,clay work, and some  handwork, too.  One year, we worked on simple weaving or hand sewing every Thursday.

These were our go-to activities for fun, and for when we had a hard day.  All of these activities helped to build my daughter's attention span and concentration skills, while giving her a creative outlet.  We even did some knitting, also great for building task skills.

Setting up the Day

My little one did better with short learning periods, such as 15 or 20, or 30 minutes at a time.  I gave her a break in between each session, as needed, where she played, watches an educational show on tv, etc.... But when she was on a roll, then, of course, we continue.  

She also liked to earn stickers, which she chose each week or two from the book store.  Earning stickers gave her a concrete reward. We always went over her sticker chart at the end of the week, to give her extra attention for her efforts.   

Every so often, we went to the dollar store, and got little toys that she then earned with her stickers.  Nothing like stickers to build up and instill motivation for learning and completing one's work.  And it has stuck in college...we are so glad about that!

 Direction Following  

Whenever there are directions to be given, I always had my daughter play with a small toy for a figet.  This helped to lessen his anxiety and her concentration tended to improve.  

When there were two part verbal directions to be given, such as for simple chores, I would say the direction first, then ask her to repeat it to me.  Later, when she was older, she preferred to write down any directions that were given.  That technique helped her all the way through middle school.

Kids who have difficulty with verbal direction, tend to be visual learners.  That is why homeschooling worked so well for her!  I could set her work up so that she could learn visually, instead of the way it would have been done at ps, with the teacher giving multiple verbal cues and directions all day.

Taking Active Breaks

My daughter was one to climb all over the couch, and do handstands off of it.  She loved spinning in her dad's desk chair and jumping on our small trampoline.

During our homeschool day, we built in ways to meet her needs for physical activity, taking active breaks often.  That meant running around the backyard, spinning in a little spinner I got from a consignment store, jumping on the trampoline, and doing cartwheels  across the living room.

These were done in between lessons.  Sometimes we would also use a large exercise ball.  My daughter would sit on the ball for her lesson, then bounce across the room afterwards.  This was our most popular PE activity for quite a while.

The important thing that I did was to structure her day, to fit in these active breaks, and control the amount of  them, and then help her get back to her work. 

Later, we started gymnastics classes, turning her need for physical activity into a strength.  She continued with gymnastics for many years, and that built up her self esteem.

Taking Restful Breaks

Then there were also the all important restful breaks.  When there was some anxiety of some sort, or a need to calm, I would add in restful breaks.

Some kids like to use weighted blankets, and find that that helps calm their nervous systems.  Even regular blankets can do that. This can gave some deep pressure, which could be very calming.  Some kids also benefit from weighted vests, which can provide that same deep pressure.

For more information on homeschooling kids with special needs, check out this great group post, that I hosted at The Curriculum Choice - Special Needs Homeschooling, and I would love to hear about your homeschool, too.

Happy Homeschooling!


Betsy blogs at BJ's Homeschool, where she writes about high school, collegeand all the fun of homeschooling the early years, too.  As a veteran homeschooler, and a former OT, Betsy offers homeschool help to families 

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  1. Such a helpful post! Thanks for sharing at the Homeschool Mother's Journal blog link-up at NextGen Homeschool, we're glad to see you back! :)

  2. Thanks, Renee Gotcher, of the NextGen Homeschool blog! I'll be back at the #homeschoolmother'sjournal soon,


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