Homeschooling Special Needs

How to Homeschool a Child with ADHD

I have a big heart for moms who are homeschooling children with ADHD because I’m one of those moms! I know the mission you’ve been given. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably one of those moms too.

School girl with a pile of books blurred

I am not an expert on Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, nor do I claim to be. I simply love someone who has it. It’s not easy to know how to homeschool a child with ADHD. It’s something you learn over several years with lots of trial and love. It was the love in my heart that kept me going. Because I knew, I just knew, that even though it would be a struggle, the school system simply couldn’t love my child the way I do.

5 things I’d do better if I could homeschool my ADHD child today:

I never planned to homeschool. My ADHD child is now 22 years old and on his own. I am so proud of him! I started homeschooling him when he was in second grade. I homeschooled him off and on until 5th grade and then through high school. I made lots of mistakes. And if I could do it again, I would do these things better and sooner:

1. Focus on routine and order of assignments instead of setting a completion date. 

He needed structure. I’m a good planner, but it was difficult to make a realistic schedule for him. I often thought we could accomplish more than it was actually possible to accomplish. This made me (and him) feel like a failure. But I wasn’t. After lots of struggle, I finally came to the realization that some tasks would just take us much longer than planned. I learned to write in my planner in pencil and focus on an order of assignments/information to learn/things to do instead of setting a completion date. I learned not to worry about when a certain skill was perfected or certain information was learned as long as he was making progress.

Picture of the author and her son in 1996.

Dan and me in Nago City, Okinawa in 1996.

2. Relax more and teach to his learning style.

We stress ourselves trying to do what everyone else is doing. Relax, and focus on doing what’s best for your child. Many ADHD kids are also gifted. My child was gifted in language and art. As a homeschooler, take advantage of being able to tailor your program for your child’s gifts and needs. My ADHD child ended up taking college English 101 in 11th grade and acing it.

This is the same child who, I had been told by “experts,” would never be able to successfully complete second grade without medication. (Yes, a psychiatrist actually said that to us!) I’m not against medication if a child truly needs it, but in my son’s case, it wasn’t necessary.

So try to identify your child’s learning style. If you can adjust your child’s assignments and activities to fit his/her learning style, that will be a great advantage! It doesn’t mean he or she won’t struggle with ADHD any more or that school will become easy, but it should help him or her enjoy learning a little more and help take some of the frustration out of it.

3. Write a goal-focused program that stresses academic progress instead of completion of text.

Cut out the unnecessary. Honestly, you’ll both go nuts until you adapt the program. Don’t try to do what a packaged curriculum assigns just because it’s been assigned. Assess your child’s abilities and then adjust the program as needed. Does he/she need more or less repetition than what is planned? What about using a different teaching method or style? Be bold and don’t look back. You’ll know if you’re making progress if you make goals clear and measurable. Allow your curriculum to be your guide instead of feeling like you’re required to do everything just as it’s presented! Do what works for your child. Approaching your homeschool this way will take the edge off the “get your work done” tug of war!

How to homeschool and ADHD Child | Harrington Harmonies
Dan and me today.

4. Teach more toward independent learning, starting early in the middle years.

I really failed in this area. (I’m not ashamed to tell you.) This did not hurt my child. It hurt me. I became really over-burdened by this to the point of exhaustion. Things really culminated when my husband deployed for a year. If you don’t teach toward independent learning once the foundation is laid, you’ll get burned out.

5. Address the power of the diet.

Starting out in the mid to late ’90’s there wasn’t much written was nothing written about diet and ADHD. In fact, everything I read said there was no proof that diet had any effect. Today, I’m completely convinced that making some changes would have improved my son’s attention and focus:


    • Food additives- anything modified, MSG, BHT, BTHT, and so on. If it’s in there, just don’t buy it. Look for natural preservatives- tocopherols/ Vitamin E instead.
    • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or anything with corn syrup in it. This is terrible for anyone, not just those with ADHD, and should be avoided!
    • Food coloring. Buy food that only use annatto, beet juice, or other natural foods to make coloring instead.


  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids. (Supplements can be a blessing)
  • Foods with good fats…nuts, good oils, and avocado are great.
  • High fiber foods, fruits and vegetables, whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa are good choices.

It will take a bit of work at first to make the needed lifestyle changes to control the diet. But it’s worth it because it’s good for you and your child (and your whole family!), and it’s worth optimizing even the smallest amount of focus.

About the author

Stephanie Harrington

Stephanie was a military spouse for 20 years and has homeschooled for more than 17 years. She and her husband of 25 years retired from the military and settled in their native state of Iowa where they continue to homeschool their youngest child. Her homeschool style is eclectic with Charlotte Mason and classical influences. She continues to encourage and support homeschoolers through her writings and curriculum development.
When she isn't teaching or writing she enjoys sightseeing, gardening, and cooking.

1 Comment

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  • Very good advice. One thing in our family we have noticed though, is that the natural color annatto causes headaches for one and mood changes for another. It’s a problem for many as an allergen.