ADD + Homeschool Math Curriculum = A Success Story?

In a recent article (9/22/10) in Time Magazine’s Healthland, entitled ADHD: Global Epidemic or Just a Bunch of Fidgety Kids? John Cloud asks if dosing children with stimulants like Ritalin may be an overreaction to simple fidgeting. Nearly 3% of U.S. schoolchildren now take stimulant drugs like Ritalin, most of them boys between the ages of 6 and 14. Removing your children from the classroom (and hence the need to sit still) to homeschool them may be a viable solution. And of all subjects, math may benefit most from a homeschool curriculum.

Cloud says, “The rise in ADHD diagnoses among kids indicates one of two things: either children are more fidgety and less able to focus these days, or parents and doctors have become less patient with the squirms and jiggles of childhood. Probably both things are true: there’s more to distract kids today… and parents have a solution to fidgety children not open to their grandparents: diagnose them with ADHD and treat them with Ritalin.”

Perhaps several different but related issues have come together to create this crisis. 1) The proliferation of distracting toys, electronic and otherwise, severely hampers students’ innate ability to pay attention and stay on task. 2) The standardization and rigidity of curriculum in the mainstream school system curtails teacher flexibility and creativity, and results in increasingly dry and boring lessons. 3) The cutbacks in non-academic subjects contribute to the widespread lack of interest and creativity. 4) Less and less parent involvement in all phases of child rearing.

Homeschooling puts you, the parent, back in the driver’s seat. All of the issues listed above are addressed by schooling at home. Parents can provide interesting, imaginative, creative, and engaging homeschool curriculum, while augmenting their academic programs with enrichment like art, music, sports… the possibilities are endless. A homeschooling parent’s involvement is a needed and welcome factor that strengthens every child’s general wellbeing and confidence.

Cloud cites ADHD research from the University of Central Florida that suggests that “acting hyperkinetic… is not always a sign that a child is distracted and not learning. According to psychologist Mark Rapport of UCF, squirming and fidgeting can be a way children maintain their cortical arousal – especially their working memory – when faced with a dull task. Rapport has found that kids with ADHD who are told to sit still perform worse on tests than those who are allowed to move around naturally.” Again, crucial reasons to consider homeschooling.

Math is perhaps the most challenging subject to teach children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. There is so much less room to be creative and interesting, so much temptation to teach math in a no-frills, all-drill format. This can be a recipe for failure with a child predisposed to inattention and boredom. A well-constructed homeschool math curriculum can be just the solution.

Your homeschool math curriculum allows you, the parent-teacher, the flexibility to adjust the curriculum to suit your children’s needs. Here are some simple, common sense suggestions that can enhance and enable any student’s (but especially ADD/ADHD students) success with math:

1) Use color to differentiate the 4 processes (i.e., green=addition, blue=subtraction, red=division, and yellow=multiplication).
2) Allow the use of charts to help with calculation, especially multiplication.
3) Provide manipulative’s for both teaching and math practice.
4) Have students use graph paper (or use lined paper vertically) to help with place value and number alignment.
5) Provide models of sample problems.
6) Teach all steps needed to solve problems and list the steps clearly.
7) Use art as a tool to help with visualization and to enhance creativity and interest.
8) Provide handy, concise card sets that delineate essential rules and concepts.
9) Use games for drills and practice.
10) Teach finger tricks for the more difficult multiplication tables.
11) Have students work in groups or teams.
12) Advocate active math. Add movement to all drills and practice.

Math By Hand features all of the above and more. Hands-on, experiential learning is the panacea for many of the ills facing our beleaguered students, classrooms, teachers, and schools. Consider homeschooling, and consider applying all of the above suggestions to your homeschool math curriculum. You and your healthier, happier, successful student(s) will see first hand that indeed, ADD + Homeschool Math = Success!