HOW MY ADHD HELPS ME TO HOME EDUCATE

My two girls, aged 14 and 12, have never been to school. When my eldest was around 1-year old I started looking into alternatives to mainstream education, focusing primarily on Montessori and Steiner. Eventually, I steered towards home education, realising that there wasn't a single method or philosophy that could fulfil all that I wanted for my children. Instead, I could get creative about it and take bits and pieces that fitted our needs, modify bits that didn't quite fit and build entirely new methods to work for us.


In hindsight (I wasn't diagnosed until about a year ago), I realise that my ADHD was a lot to do with this decision and the huge efforts I put into researching it all thoroughly. My out-of-the-box thinking and my hyperfocus were paramount. Nobody I knew was home-schooling and there were a lot of doubters amongst family and friends. However, my impulsivity let me steam ahead with my decision.


A decision that I have absolutely no regrets about. Obviously, it hasn't all been plain-sailing but then raising children never is. We have our ups and downs but what is important to me is that we work through them together, as a family, with no third-party interference.


There is no 'typical' day for us because I am no 'typical' mother. We are free to do as we please. To follow our interests, to follow the weather and the seasons. We are free to allow each child to develp as an individual, learning in a style that suits them best. My girls have learned almost everything in completely different ways from one another. My enthusiasm and hyperfocus have come into play many times over the years when they have expressed an interest in something - horseback archery, flying trapeze, aerial straps, horseriding, piano, violin, ukelele, parkour etc. - and I have found some way to make these things happen. Humour, creativity and an openess to learn, all very typical for people with ADHD, have enriched our lives and made learning a fun and inclusive activity. We are not bound by convention and mainstream pedagogy. We can take each day as it comes - maybe it will be 2 hours of maths or maybe it will be a particularly beautiful day and the girls will decide that their time is better spent in the sunshine. They have lived in the countryside since they were very young and have enjoyed a great deal of freedom from this and developed a love of being outdoors.


Only time will tell if either of my children have ADHD but either way I am confident that I have given them the best possible start and from researching Executive Function (for my last blog post) I can see that many of the things we have done naturally, through home education, are beneficial to boosting EF. "Free play trains our inhibitory control and games practice our working memory. Playing an instrument trains our brain to process the notes, and to coordinate the right and the left hand simultaneously. When speaking or playing with others, we learn to control our emotions. Movement is great as well."[1] A huge part of my childrens' lives has been dominated by free play and continues now (even with my teenager). It is massively important and completely under-appreciated by schools. Much of our learning has been in the form of games. I am a very visual learner and have used this with my children to help them work through various topics. My kids' close friends are also home educated, they see one another at least once a week, often more, and I have seen how they have benefited from having this close circle of friends of different ages.


I was also very happy to read that, "One study showed that kids who walked barefoot each day for just 16 minutes improved their working memory. Because when they do, they need to keep many things in mind."[1] Neither of my kids were fans of shoes when they were younger (my youngest carried this on under fairly recently) both choosing to be barefoot regardless of where we were. I'm pretty sure this is not something that school would have allowed.


Recently, things have changed with my eldest daughter's education. Now that she is 14 she has started studying for IGCSEs and we have enlisted the help of some online tutors. With my time-blindness, this has taken a bit of getting used to but overall has been really positive and helps to ensure that my daughter will be on track for taking exams in 2022. Having deadlines to meet for assignments teaches an essential life skill, one that a mother with ADHD is perhaps not the best role-model for. However, I hope I have been a good role model in maintaining an open-mind and an enthusiasm for learning new things, along with the ability to stay flexible and creative - all thanks to my ADHD.


[1] https://sprouts.co.th/understanding-executive-function/