Learn what organizational strategies you can use in your homeschool to help your distractable child with ADHD better focus and learn while homeschooling.

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As a homeschooling mom, you’ve probably read the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff and seen some of the parodies and poems based upon it. My family often jokes that we all have the same problem as the Mouse in the book. That is, we are supposed to be working on something, but it reminds us of something else, so we start on the next thing and before you know it, the day is gone. We haven’t finished any single task even though we were busy the whole day.

We get distracted just like the mouse with the cookie because most of my extended family deal with various degrees of ADHD. My family’s biggest challenges are impulsiveness and failure to complete a task. My background as a Speech Language Pathologist and experience as a homeschooling mom since 2001 have helped me to come up with some ways for myself and my kids to combat the distractions. Even though my oldest has struggled with ADHD, she was admitted to Honors College at the university of her choice and has since graduated. My younger kids with ADHD are still homeschooling at the high school, elementary, and preschool levels and we are always striving to learn more ways to overcome distractions.

Here are some of the organizational strategies that we’ve employed to overcome those challenges of ADHD.

Work Bins or Work Boxes Strategy

If you aren’t familiar with work bins, it’s basically just an organizational system of numbered boxes or bins with one task placed in each box. Sue Patrick originally came up with the strategy of organizing school work in workboxes for her son with special needs. A typical day of work bins might look like this:

  1. math flashcards
  2. math worksheet
  3. quick card game with mom
  4. science reading
  5. supplies for a science experiment
  6. free reading book
  7. spelling activity
  8. grammar game

If your family has a morning basket time when the family does their “together” work, then work boxes will fit into your routine perfectly. Just toss the independent work that each child needs to complete for the day into the bins. Work bins work especially well as one of the ADHD strategies for younger children and for those who need lots of hands-on activities. They are also a wonderful way to encourage independence as kids can go through and complete their work without having to continuously stop and ask mom “what’s next?”!

daily task cards printable

We use our work boxes along with a chart of daily task cards. Attach the cards to the chart with Velcro dots to show what comes next in your daily activities. For example, the chart might have cards for: breakfast, morning chores, morning time basket, bins 1 to 3, 15 minutes of playtime, lunch, bins 4-6, dentist appointment, bins 7-8, supper, Awanas, shower and evening chores, bedtime. Using the chart has also helped my preschoolers with the pre-reading skill of scanning their chart from left to right. Get your own {FREE} copy of the daily task cards and chart from the Free Resource Library! To learn more about work bins as one of the organizational strategies for ADHD search follow my ADHD Strategies board on Pinterest.

Assignment Notebooks Strategy

I spend about a week each summer typing up each child’s lesson plans for the year; print them out and place them in a 3-ring binder. As they complete an assignment, they can highlight it. This visual aid works really well for older kiddos to see what they’ve accomplished, what they have left to do for the day and as an added bonus, is a great record-keeping system for moms, too. For younger kids, I highlight their tasks after they’ve completed that work bin item. You can read about how I plan our lessons for the whole year here and get {FREE} printable planner forms here.

curriculum planner

Sitting Strategy

For most school tasks, I’ve let my children sit/sprawl however they’ve needed, but there are times when being able to sit in a chair without falling off of it are necessary. We found that using a flat balance ball type of seat cushion helped with the constant wiggles. There are special “therapy” cushions made for this, but we just used an exercise type balance ball with some of the air let out, like this one.

Listening Strategy

My kids are visual learners and they struggle most with auditory listening skills. I know that most traditional university classrooms are based upon a lecture/note-taking style, so to help them prepare for that I started a couple of different strategies when they were young. First, I let them have a special toy to fiddle with while they were listening. My kids especially like the Tangle Jr. toy but other quiet toys, like a squishy stress ball, fidget spinner, or a fidget cube, work equally well. Second, we listened to audio books while we ran errands and drove to extra-curricular activities. Our favorites are Jim Weiss Audio Collection and Hank the Cowdog books.

Curriculum Strategy

We’ve found that combining as much hands-on curriculum as we can find along with a morning together time works really well at holding our attention. We’ve used family style unit studies and lap-books from preschool and elementary levels all the way to high school for art appreciation and Apologia science. Educational videos are also a popular choice if screen time doesn’t adversely affect your child’s behavior. When my oldest two were in high school, I taught an American History through Film class through our co-op, which was very popular with visual learners.

Reward Strategy

Finding out what motivates each individual child requires lots of trial and error, but I think the blood, sweat and tears (kidding/not kidding) involved is worth it in the long term. One of my kids responded well to rewards for completing tasks, but never cared if privileges were taken away for not finishing a task. Another child was willing to complete any task if I added in coloring or painting as the last task of the school day. We used chore charts as a visual reminder of what needed to be done; some days they need a significant amount of verbal redirection, other days, they are able to check off the tasks unsupervised.

Find the Reason Behind the Behavior

The biggest thing I discovered about my kids with ADHD is the reason behind their frequent unwillingness to start a task. I just couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t just do it, instead of staring at it! I finally figured out that they believed it “would take too long” to complete, so they didn’t even start on it. Once I understood that, we would play a game called “beat the timer;” I always set the timer for at least two or three times the amount of time the task should take. Mainly because I wanted them to be successful at beating the timer. It gives them a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to win!

One of my son’s favorite rewards for getting a certain number of school tasks completed is to play a game with me. We love Gamewright brand games, such as Feed the Kitty and Wig Out!, because they are easy to play and usually take less than 10 minutes.

organizational strategies to help adhd in homeschooling

I am a licensed Speech and Language Pathologist, but I’m not YOUR CHILD’S Speech and Language Pathologist. If you have a concern about your child and ADHD, please contact your pediatrician. Neither Whole Child Homeschool nor its agents are rendering medical advice.

This is an updated and revised version of an article I originally wrote for Homeschool Helper Online. Reused with permission.

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