Why You Should Homeschool Your Child with ADHD?

The possible benefits of homeschooling your child with ADHD are seemingly endless. It is by far the best option for so many children. However, this is not a common narrative you hear.  What you hear more often are stories of parents being made to feel that they have no business homeschooling their child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). You may also hear that they should allow professionals to handle their child’s education. You may have heard that your child needs the socialization of a traditional school setting (that is one of my personal favorites). There are many more lies that are told to parents all over the United States, and if you are familiar with them, just know they are simply not true. If you are one of the parents who listened to these comments and now your child is severely struggling in the public school system, you were lied to. This lie caused stress and complications for you and your child. For that, I am so sorry. In this post I would like to cover my thoughts on many of these controversial topics and set the record straight. I want you to feel confident and empowered in your ability and conviction to homeschool your child with ADHD.

Why am I talking about this?

As a former special education teacher and statewide special education coordinator I have spent a lot of time in the public school system. I have written and reviewed many IEPs. This post is not intended to disrespect or talk poorly about anyone who is in those positions currently. However, if there are any special education teachers out there, I hope you are able to see my genuine concern for the educational experience for many children, especially children with ADHD. My concern arises because I have witnessed so many children struggle to succeed within the public school system. The data (both raw data and anecdotal) across the country confirms that so many students are failing to thrive in the traditional school setting, especially since the COVID pandemic.   Like so many other Americans, I felt the pull to begin my own family’s homeschooling journey during the pandemic. Now, a few short years later, I am here to help. My goal is to help everyone see the potential benefit of homeschooling. I also want to empower homeschool parents to have confidence in their unique abilities to create a rich environment, a confident learner, and a safe and loving home for their children.

Finally, as a BCBA, I have spent a lot of time figuring out why children (and adults) behave the way they do. So many of the behaviors I observe in the public-school setting are directly correlated to the environmental context. It is very rarely the case that anyone is intentionally setting the child up for behavioral challenges. However, it is very common for the classroom structure and systems to actually be triggering some of those challenging behaviors. The more I experience homeschooled children with ADHD (or any disability), the more I realize how homeschooling is really the best option for most.

What do you need to know?

So, when my husband and I decided to homeschool our children, people were surprised, however, I did not have anyone questioning my ability to homeschool my children. So, when I hear the comments and judgements made towards other parents who are wanting to homeschool their children, it is very frustrating. This is why I have compiled the following list of information that I want you to read and process in order to empower you with confidence in knowing that homeschooling is the best choice for your family.

1. The highest quality education is one that is individualized based on accurate child development and the strengths and needs for that child. If your child has ADHD this can ring especially true. Homeschooling is the best way to provide an individualized homeschool program that is created to fit the unique abilities of your child. Now, some may point out that this is the exact reason there are IEPs in the public school system. After all, IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. So, why wouldn’t you utilize that as a resource for your child? Isn’t your child missing out on the professionals and services that the school district offers for free?  Well, I have written and reviewed hundreds of IEPs and visited so many school districts and the amount of individualization can never come close to the level a family can do in their own home for their child with special needs. Now, if that statement left you wondering about the realities of IEPs in the public school system, I have discussed more details of my experiences within the public school system on a different post, found here.

2. The next factor is challenging behavior. There are some students with ADHD who really struggle with some challenging or interfering behavior. This can be for a variety of reasons. As a behavior analyst, it is not surprising to me that challenging behavior often decreases when homeschooling. This does not mean your homeschool experience will be easy or perfect, but your child has so much more potential to experience success in a homeschooling environment. This makes sense because, at the end of the day, they have more flexibility to set their own pace, more autonomy in their daily routines, less negative peer or group influence, more time to build quality relationships with parents and siblings, extra time for task completion, and higher rates of reinforcement for positive behavior.

3. Finally, the best time to homeschool is right now. There are so many resources available to help families of children with special needs. Homeschooling has never had more support and resources available than it does today. There are homeschool specific extracurricular activities, online learning, curriculum guides, field trips, homeschool consultants, YouTube videos, printable resources, co-ops, and more. Plugging into your local homeschool community may be one of the most important steps in your homeschooling journey. One of the best places for local community is Facebook. If you search local groups, you will likely find a community of like-minded families, and probably quite a few who are also homeschooling their child with ADHD. If you are interested in the resources, we offer here at By Grace We Grow, feel free to visit our resources and services page, and contact us for scheduling.

Now, let’s talk about your child.

Now, let’s talk about why a homeschool environment might be the best option for your child. Disclaimer: This post is meant to provide considerations around a traditional school setting and a home education. The message of this post is not to portray homeschooling as the ONLY option. You should always consider your family context and discuss all matters as a family.  There are many reasons I believe homeschooling is the best option for many children, but I want to back up my opinion with some research-based support. There are so many facts that are taught in child development and early childhood education classes that are simply not supported in the way the public school system is set up. A few of the major flags that I have experienced is the disconnect between how children learn, the reason children “fall behind”, the daily school structure, and lack of flexibility.

How children learn. Children learn when they feel safe, comfortable, and loved. I am not saying that some students can’t feel safe, comfortable, and loved at school, but I do know for a fact that is not the reality for all children. So, if your child is one of the ones that does not feel safe, comfortable, and loved when they are at school, I promise you they also are not retaining the academic content to their full potential.

The myth of falling “behind”. You may have heard that your child is behind academically, socially, emotionally, etc. The issues with this sentiment are endless, but for starters, the grade level expectations and standards do not look at the whole child. In fact, they don’t look at any one child. They are a vague guideline that keeps pushing forward no matter how many children are struggling. This occurs because the system is making decisions with a 10,000 foot lens. It is making decisions for the entire country. Then, once that pace is set, it does not slow down to allow for children to “catch up.” This leads to academic and behavioral gaps.  So, when you hear statement such as, “If they don’t read fluently by 3rd grade they will likely never catch up to grade-level peers,” just know that it is probably true for many of the students who are in the classroom. This is because no one is pausing to fill gaps early and often. By the time a child may receive some type of intervention or support, it can be months or years after the gap was created. So, the simple missed skill has grown and grown into a massive knowledge gap between a child and their classmates. This simple skill missed can also lead to frustration in the classroom, which can also lead to challenging behaviors. You see the direction this is going?

The good news. If that last paragraph rings true for your child, there is definitely good news. Homeschooling your child gives you the time and ability to discover just what your child needs and spend the time learning the skills they need to be successful. Also, if your child is developmentally ready for those skills and it is presented in a way that is engaging, they can catch up at a “break-necking” pace, as Dr. Seuss would say. You can achieve more in a single day of homeschooling than a traditional classroom can in months instruction time.

The ADHD brain. Working with hundreds of children with ADHD over the years has only strengthened my stance on the benefits of a home education. What I have found to be most successful in working with children with ADHD in and out of the public school system is not a traditional school setting, but rather, consistency, small group or individual instruction, and visual supports. These strategies benefit all children. However, they seem to be an especially huge help to the ADHD brain. Even if your child is on an IEP and the team is doing their absolute best to provide consistency, individualized instruction, and visual supports, it cannot compare to the level of customization you can have in your home.

Basic Child Development. There are some things we know hugely benefit children’s development that are severely lacking in the traditional school setting. Three main concerns with mainstream childhood in 2024 are a lack of unstructured play time, increased time spent consuming entertainment on screens, and minimal time spent outdoors.

Unstructured play time allows for children to learn about the world. This is so vitally important in the development of a child’s verbal and receptive language, social skills, emotional regulation, imitation skills, attending skills, and so much more. This is what is taught in a child development or early childhood education class. However, in a society that values productivity and success, play time has lost its sense of importance. I can speak first-hand about the negative attitude towards unstructured play time in a traditional school setting. The more unstructured play time, the more problems that will likely occur due to behavioral conflicts. Therefore, it is avoided at all costs. Now, is unstructured play time the problem? Absolutely not. The problem arises when you have very large amounts of children playing for very short periods of time. A 15 minute recess with 30-100 children does not allow time for children to truly engage in anything.

Another factor that is negatively impacting child development is the high level of screens time. A large amount of schools across America have 1:1 devices all day for students. This alone is more than enough screen time for a child. However, the reality is that does not include the screen time before and after school. Research shows that when children are consuming entertainment or information through a screen it lowers brain activity significantly while increasing the amount of dopamine administered to the brain. In a nutshell, it is easy and addictive. Having screens in the home is not a bad thing, but not regulating the intake can have really bad consequences.

One of the most highly correlated indicators of childhood anxiety and depression is the amount of time they spend outdoors. This is completely ignored as an important option to help children who are struggling. It is also not used as a preventative measure in schools. Most children get under an hour of outside time on a daily basis.

That was a lot of hot button information just thrown at you. So, hopefully it helps you feel empowered to communicate your reasoning behind homeschooling your child with ADHD.

How to Make It Work

Now, you may acknowledge that a homeschooling environment may be the right choice for your child, but how should does your family make it work? While going into every hypothetical scenario would be impossible, I do know there are a few constants that I can reassure you with. It does not have to look like a Pinterest worthy homeschool room with 1,000 hours outside, sourdough bread, and chickens. Those things can be wonderful, but they are not a requirement. Your homeschooled child can experience massive success and benefits without all the fluff. If you prioritize this homeschool journey, you can make it happen. Here are a few ideas and/or reminders that can help if your family is worried about making it work.   

Your child struggles focusing? Having a homeschool program allows for frequent breaks and pauses without missing out on content.

Your child can’t sit still for long? Knowing your child’s learning style as well as their current strengths and weaknesses allows for flexibility when it is needed.

You work full time? Me too, read about how we make it work, here. You can homeschool before work, or after work, on the weekends, year-round (but only 3-4 days a week). There are options. Some homeschooling styles lend themselves to this scenario, as well.

You are worried being with your child 24/7? I get it, this was one of my biggest fears, as well. Read about how that turned out in my home, here. Start with a very strong why. Be so confident in your decision to homeschool that even when times get hard, you do not waiver on your commitment.

You don’t think you can teach your child? Can you learn WITH your child? Knowing all the content is not a requirement. Willingness to learn will take as far as you need to go! What a great opportunity to model being a lifelong learner for your child!

Worried about your state’s laws? Find my state-by-state handbook, here!

Now what?

My hope for this post is to provide you with some considerations to discuss as a family. I am the first one to admit homeschooling is not the right choice for every child or every family. However, I do know for a fact that many children with ADHD have an especially hard time in the public-school setting and could really benefit from home schooling. As your child’s parent I encourage you to see homeschooling as an opportunity to provide a holistic approach to their school experience. You can make decisions based on your child’s specific needs that school districts are just not able to do.  

If you are hoping for more resources, workshops, or consultation, visit our Services or Free Resources page.


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