Homeschooling Advice: Dealing with the ADD/ ADHD Child

In preparing to homeschool, I read 30 or more books on the subject. My husband would tell you, when I get my mind set on learning about something, that I put all of my time and energy into it. My quest was to learn everything about homeschooling was no exception. Two months after we made the decision to home school I came out of my self-imposed exile and from under my stack of books ready to use the information, I had learned. It was time to test the book knowledge with real world applications.

My first responsibility, as I saw it, was to figure out how my children learned. I realized that my children are complex puzzles that I needed to decipher. There was so much to consider. One needs to understand the way a child learns. From the way they are wired to their strengths and weaknesses, their moods at different times of the day, and even their sleep habits, you need to understand them fully.

I attended a seminar were the speaker, a woman gave a talk about homeschool record keeping. She actually turned out to be a bit of a local celebrity in the local homeschooling community and I was very inspired by her because she dispelled many of the stereotypes that I had heard about homeschoolers. She was not a flower child, smock- wearing, Birkenstock sporting, longhaired, cum-buy-yah singing, religious zealot, hippy freak after all. She was just like me. She was a mom, who was only concerned about giving her children an upbringing where they could be safe, comfortable, happy, and intelligent. I was so relieved.

At the seminar, the subject of ADD Children came up and I learned that the speaker the speaker of the assessed these children. I took some time afterwards to speak to her on this subject. She asked me to describe my child, asked her age and several other questions and said that my child sounded more creative minded (or right brained) than ADD. I realized at this point that I was not finished reading. I asked her to recommend some books to me on the subject, and she told me she could test my child sometime in the future if I was still having ADD type problems with her.

I ran home, and searched the internet frantically on information regarding “Right Brained vs. Left Brained learning” and “ADD”. I spent some time observing and testing my kids and myself to find out more. What I learned through several online tests and speaking to experts in the field, that I too am mostly right brained, but I have several left brained tendencies. The reason I feel I have left brained tendencies is the fact that I was raised to fight my right-brained tendencies. First by the nuns regularly smacked my left hand with a ruler when they saw a pencil in it, then my well-meaning parents who insisted I study “something I could make money from” besides Art. I guess we will never know how I could have further developed the right side of my brain if I had been left alone.

After evaluating myself, I then tested my daughter and she scored right sided on several assessments as well. (These tests consisted of me checking off her traits from a list, and then adding the score.) Then I found a site with a visual test and had her take it, and though she had previously tested right brained, I could see a struggle where she wanted to answer in a left brained way though the right brained answer was her first inclination. I had the same struggle when I attempted the test. I assume the struggle we both had is from our attempt to conform to everyone around us.

While we were at it, I checked my son as well suspecting that he was left brained like his father. However, I could not figure how his artistic ability and musical skill figured into the ratio. He flew through the same visual exercise that my daughter and I took and easily answered as a right brained person! Now I was confused. Was he right brained, or left brained, or whole brained (using both sides equally). Therefore, I read on until I came upon a new concept I have never heard before called divergent thinking. Simple put, it means that he is a creative thinker in addition to being logical! Which side of his brain is more dominant, I am not sure, but the kind of questions he normally asks fits the profile perfectly.

What I have learned since the seminar is while left brained people are described as logical, sequential, rational, analytical, objective, and tend to look at things in parts, Right brained people are described as random, intuitive, holistic, synthesizing, subjective, and tend to see the whole picture. Institutional education works best for those who are left-brain dominant because such that is the easiest way to teach a room full of children. Public schools cannot allow creative spontaneous experiments, and they cannot allow every child to answer questions until they have a ‘feel’ for the subject. To survive in public school children must be able to memorize disjointed facts instead of forming the whole picture. For many children, they simply cannot memorize, they must continue to ask question until a subject makes sense. This is how I know it worked for me and this is how it works for my daughter. My son however would have no problem in public school, as it seems he uses both sides of his brain equally and in the appropriate situations.

After dealing with the speaker that night and in following weeks, and doing the necessary research, I began to wonder if ADD was not a disorder, but an excuse to make the minority (the creative right brained child) like the majority (the academic left brained child), by drugging children into conforming, thus making teachers’ jobs easier.

I now realize, especially after spending these past few years at home with my child that ADD is not a myth, though I feel it can be an excuse. There is impulsively in some children that cause them to act before they think. This can be distressing, and even cause chaos in a classroom, but I still do not think it is necessary to drug all of these children with this condition into submission. These kids are told they are defective and are given drugs to prove it. For many children, ADD is controllable with diet, exercise and rest. I have also learned, it takes a certain amount of patience, and an awful lot of love to overcome the frustration that dealing with such an overly impulsive child can create. It helps a lot if that child belongs to you. When the child is yours, somehow, no matter how much you want to yell scream and stand on your head, you often find yourself doing the opposite.

While I believe my child does have some ADD traits (though I have never had her formally tested), I also believe that she has many right brained traits. Instead of focusing on her “disorder”, I focus on her abilities. She is energetic, creative, and quite talented as well. I encourage her to pursue her interests, and I never ever tell her she has something wrong with her. Instead, I tell her that she is special and unique.

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