That one word can evoke the greatest range of emotions amongst everyone, young and old; a range which grows exponentially if you have a child that cannot be neatly pigeon-holed, whose strengths and/or weaknesses stick out of the proverbial box.
For some, the box's name changes from mainstream to remedial and there is finally a space that holds those strengths and weaknesses in a neat fit.
In some instances, however, neither box works for the ADHD child who is too disruptive for the mainstream but not challenged enough in the remedial environment. While it may seem the choice must be made on the lesser of two evils, this is not the case. There is still the option to homeschool or go to a cottage school/small school/boutique school/learning centre/homeschool away from home (for existing homeschoolers, I know this is not a technically correct term).
I don't know why but homeschooling has such a negative connotation for most, conjuring images of a family who wants to seclude their children from the real world and limit their opportunities to make friends. The reality, if done properly, couldn't be further from the truth.
If we consider that one of the reasons children with ADHD struggle to concentrate for long periods of time is because their impulsivity is not kept in check by Noradrenaline (yet we know that an ADHD child is able to concentrate for long periods if they are engaged in something they enjoy thanks to Dopamine), then the 'simple' (nothing is ever so simple) fix is to find an environment that allows Noradrenaline to flow. Enter the homeschooling box. This offers the perfect environment to utilise a child's enjoyable tasks and teach through them, not just use them as rewards. As an example, imagine a grade 4 ADHD boy who loves lego: There is a design he wants to complete, for which he needs additional pieces. Through Google he researches the best price, calculates how much money he needs, puts together a plan on how to earn this money, calculates how much change he should receive, buys the lego and completes his design. In this one exercise he has covered the subjects of computer research, reading comprehension, mathematics and life skills - without mom and dad having to buy any stationery he will probably loose before using, or take part in what is generally a dreaded PTA meeting.
At the mention of homeschooling, most people's first thought is what about the social side? Interestingly, homeschooled children can have a greater social life as they have the freedom to schedule their learning when it suits them leaving time to engage in activities with a variety of children, not only those of a similar age. Club sports are an excellent way to ensure homeschoolers are out and about; there are also a multitude of social networks and support systems where outings can be arranged and friendships can be developed. Granted there won't be school sport's days and assemblies and the like, but if these are the concerns then your child is probably coping well in the traditional mainstream or remedial environments.
Once the social hurdle is managed, the next one is that both parents work. The provision made for homeschoolers by law1 is that the schooling must take place under the child's own roof; it is not required that the child be schooled by a parent. This means bringing in a tutor, or various tutors for different subjects is absolutely feasible, and often welcome, as switching hats between mom-mom and teacher-mom can be challenging.
But the social side...alright, if neither mainstream, remedial nor homeschooling are appealing there are cottage schools, which as the name suggests are small schools. Typically cottage schools are not registered with the department of education which enables them to operate differently from schools and offers children the benefits of homeschooling and typical schooling.
The next topic to cover then is the legal side: there is a legal defence fund called the Pestalozzi Trust which protects the rights of families to choose the education they want for their children as stated in our country's laws. A popular belief is that homeschooling or sending your child to a cottage school limits their tertiary prospects. This is untrue: going this route you have the choice of completing matric with the National Senior Certificate, or following the Cambridge exit or the American, both of which enable tertiary studying abroad as well as locally.
As nothing is ever as simple as we would like, there will be an unschooling process for parents and children when moving to the homeschool or cottage school environment; aptly termed it involves a change of mind-set where school rules and policies are replaced by a freedom to learn and engage, and lessen the anxiety many ADHD children associate with the word "school". The bottom line is you have the right to choose the best education method for your child; the one that is most likely to keep Noradrenlaine and Dopamine flowing; the one that has the best chance of helping your child achieve.
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About Delia Tranter
Delia is a Registered Counsellor passionate about helping children who struggle with school, regardless of the reason. Her years in private practice and working with children with reading difficulties at The Workshop Reading Centre has inspired her to start ICA Academy, a learning centre, this year.
Registered Counsellor BA Hons (Psychology)
Resident ADHD Expert on Health24
Founder of ICA Academy
Call: 072 279 1796
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1 Sec 51 of the SA Schools Act, read with Sec 3 of the Schools Act, Sections 28 and 29 of the Constitution and Sec 1 of the Children's Act