While most children thrive on routines and knowing what to expect, this is especially true for most children with special needs and learning difficulties, such as children with ADHD. The problem is, however, I don’t know about you, but I want to have a laid back, don’t make me plan routines kind of summer. And that’s exactly what we do around here, for the most part. This makes for a need to transition back into our homeschool year and a life filled with more routines.
As a natural self-motivator, albeit a lazy one, I have had to figure out the best ways to introduce routines into our school day especially for my oldest son who as Asperger’s Syndrome (a high functioning form of Autism) and ADHD. I grew up just doing whatever needed to be done for school on my own without even a need for my parents to inquiry about homework being done or tests being studied for. It’s just in my nature. It’s not, however, in my son’s nature. That means that routines become even more important.
Ways to Transition to Back to School Time and Establish Routines for Your Child with ADHD (and Other Special Learning Needs)
Write your first day of school on the calendar (and then stick with it)
It’s easy during a lazy, relaxing summer to not pin down exactly what your start date for starting up your new homeschool year will be. A child who thrives on some kind of routine, however, will not be thrilled if you tell them one day, “We’re starting school back up tomorrow.” They need to prepare mentally for the change in their days with some warning.
Of course, sometimes there is a need to switch your start date. Just try to give your child a warning about it as far ahead of time as possible.
Use a set scheduled for your homeschool days
Now, maybe you’re like me and this sounds horrible. I’ve never been able to say, “We’ll do science from 1:25 – 1:50 pm each afternoon,” or the like. Even though I have to work to establish routines for my son, I also need to work within the parameters that are comfortable to my nature as well.
Instead, in our home, we just have school days that tend to run with the same rhythm each day. My son knows that we start our day with all of the kids together for a couple of items before breaking off into independent work time. The independent work time takes up much of our school day and what it really means is that they’re each doing different levels of the same subjects and I’m around constantly to help when people have questions or get stuck. Our school day always concludes with a couple more subjects that we do together. Even though there isn’t a time breakdown, my son (and the other kids too) know what to expect from this rhythm.
Post assignments or have an assignment book
The year that I decided to start using assignment sheets with the kids was the year that made my son the happiest. Even with a rhythm in place, he still would ask questions about what we were specifically going to be doing, which I will not so proudly admit that I sometimes replied in a frazzled state, “Just wait, we’ll get there.”
We now use assignment books and I write each child’s assignments into them one week at a time. All of the kids, whether there are special learning needs or not, love not only seeing what their assignments are for the whole day (and week), but they get a thrill from crossing off work as they finish it.
Pair up preferred and non-preferred tasks
One of the things that saves my son’s sanity during the school day is the fact that we have gotten into a routine of doing math first during independent work time, which often takes him a great deal of time and almost always necessitates me sitting next to him throughout just to keep him on task, and then he is free to do his silent reading time, which is one of his most preferred things to do even outside of formal school time, directly afterward.
By choosing this rhythm to our routine, it allows him to unwind from a more stressful time. It also helps him be able to gear back up to get ready for the rest of his independent work.
Just remember, however, every child is different, so only you can find the just the right routine for your child!
So, homeschooling families, how do you handle the transition back to your school year?
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Great post and very helpful! This year we are far better organized than when we started last year. Wish I had read this post back then. I really didn’t have an organizational plan in place (having never homeschooled before and preferring a more free flowing day) and the kids were kind of at my mercy as to what we did each day. It was an extremely ineffective way to facilitate learning, especially since both of my kids have certain gifts and certain learning issues that make learning a challenging journey.
One in particular has an issue that I hadn’t really anticipated being such a problem (mainly because I was ignorant of all the ramifications until we started trying to homeschool). Both of my kids are dyslexic and gifted but one is also dyscalculic. Because of this, besides having difficulties with basic math sense, my daughter has no sense of the passage of time. Reading a clock has no meaning to her. For example, she can be told that we need to eat by 11:15 am so we can get to an appt on time, see that it is 11am, understand that this means she has 15 minutes left from an arithmetic sense, but she does not have any internal sense of what 15 minutes from now feels like. It feels the same to her as if she had an hour or half a day. Therefore, she can’t determine if she has enough time to finish whatever it is she is doing before she has to stop to eat.
It has been a struggle to help her feel in control of her day. When she sees a long list of items to do for the day, she cannot judge how long those items will take to complete so it seems overwhelming and frightening to her. However,if she has no list at all, it feels like her day never ends since she has no sense of time passage and it seems like we just keep doing more and more schoolwork. She wants a checklist, but doesn’t want to feel overwhelmed.
My son has no issues with time sense and wants absolute control over the flow of his day. He wants thorough checklists and cannot stand not being told all the minute to minute details of what will be happening each day. He hates surprises and he loves the sense of working ahead.
I didn’t meet either of their needs last year. For this school year, I will be providing the full checklist for the week for my son to manage (4th grade) and with my 7th grade daughter I will be using a series of shorter lists, each just covering a small period of time, where I show her what we are doing next, have her look at the clock to see the start time, then look at the clock again to see when we finished. We plan to write the elapsed time down for each item each day, staying with a stable routine as much as possible, to help her develop some idea of roughly how much “time” each item will take to complete. Effectively budgeting time is a skill that will become increasingly important as she gets older and trying to help her achieve that has been challenging.
We are starting school with a limited curriculum this week (Wednesday) to get used to new software for math and music plus our typing program we neglected for a month, then our full curriculum on Monday of next week. I would love to put off full school for another week, but I told them we would start next week and I plan to stick to that for many reasons, including what you mentioned above. Reading your post has made me feel better about that decision.
Since we are using Trail Guides to Learning as our primary curriculum this year and it has 6 units that go in 6 week cycles, I plotted out our year based on that format for all our curriculum, trying to give us a week off between units to regroup and work on outside interests. I found that being able to see our entire year laid out gave me tremendous freedom to move around certain extras we hope to do and place them in time frames that will work better. I don’t like tons of scheduling, but this big picture concept has been great for planning. I wish I had done it last year. We will even be able to take our family vacation at a great breaking point in our curriculum and when prices are cheaper…
Good luck to everyone this school year.
Thanks for the great post.
Mama Fry says
I used POE last year and loved it. BUT due to family issues and scheduling, we only completed 3 units by the end of May. We had areas where my two girls wanted more time on some of the items we were learning with POE, so we took it there. Don’t be afraid of that.
I spent the first year out of public to just relax and learn the children’s learning styles. We did do lessons, just not full curriculum and I learned a lot. Also that was the year we used to break and make habits.
Many blessings in your second year.
Oh how I remember those days (daze?) ! My son had “severe A.D.H.D. and bipolar disorder. School was not good to him, so I brought him home. This was the beginning of our homeschool journey. Great post!
CeAnne @ Sanctus Simplicitus says
Your story is so familiar to me. We have three children on the ADHD spectrum high on the ‘H’! We try to keep all the curricula very hands on to handle all the energy that seems to flow. The two boys are in school and half way through last year we started using a children’s planner. Prior we were using the work box system but that was a lot of work on my part and there were still some times questions. The planners worked great for my youngest but the oldest struggled some, mostly forgetting to look in his planner for the details. Hopefully he does better this year. The planners in general were a great help though! We had been sharing our downloads of them free and they became so popular that we decided to start selling hard copies this year. You can check them out by visiting http://www.AllTheSaintsBooks.com and clicking on the education link. They are called Crusaders for Christ and Maidens for Mary. Thank you for the wonderful blog point and I’m glad to see the same tactics work for another homeschool mother!
Mama Fry says
I have a 12yo daughter with Asperger and ADHD. We are in 7th grade and I have increased our load of curriculum this year. I looked at many planners for her and found that none were exactly what we needed. I created my own from looking at this one and that one. I believe it will help my girls (the other is 10yo) with their school year. We used a crude and basic one during the summer and it worked great for them to check off their assignments.
I tried to use the workbox system and found it too cumbersome for us. The girls are responsible for writing down details, but I have given them the basics and work to do on the sheet.
HELP! Three weeks into our current school year, my husband and I decided it was finally time to bring our kids home to teach them. The main reason being my oldest who is 9 and starting the 4th grade. He has some quirky traits along with his sensory processing disorder and the traditional classroom setting just wasn’t working. This was something we knew was coming but I wasn’t prepared for it to be sudden and now have the year looming ahead of me and have no clue how to start. I’m frustrated and already feeling the need for a schedule and am overwhelmed to even know where to begin. This blog looks like an excellent place to start! Thanks for any advice!