100 Hands-on Ways to Homeschool

hands-on homeschool | 100 hands-on ways to homeschool

Homeschooling ADHD and dyslexia is just another way of saying that my kids are highly active, easily distracted learners. And while worksheets often seem like a time-saver, by the end of the struggle it has rarely saved us any time. Which means, I need to be constantly thinking of hands-on ways to tackle learning. Or, I put their ADHD creativity to good use and allow them to come up with the solutions for me. The result — over 100 hands-on ways to homeschool!

Just because a child is a “hands-on” learner, doesn’t necessarily mean he likes all the same hands-on options. One of my kids loves drawing and drama, another child loves songs and puppet shows, while the other loves crafts and cutting and 3-d Models. So I’ve organized these ideas by interest, that way you can quickly scroll down to the type of “hands-on” that your child enjoys. 

100 Hands-on Ways to Homeschool

Homeschooling through a Learning Anxiety

homeschooling learning anxiety

She slumps into the couch, “I hate this. This is stupid,” and she glares at her math sheet. What my child doesn’t say is “I’m scared.” But whether or not she verbalizes it, I’ve learned to recognize her fear. She’s afraid of failing. She’s afraid of writing, especially when things have to be in a particular order (i.e. spelling, math problems, fractions, order of operations, etc.) She’s weary from the effort of trying to sort things out in her dyslexic mind. But she rarely says any of this. Instead, she says, “I hate this. Why do I need to do school anyway? This is stupid.” Her learning anxiety often doesn’t look like anxiety at all, at least, not what I would expect it to look like. Sometimes, it looks more like a pout, a tantrum, even a rage.

It’s taken me awhile to figure this out. And sometimes, I forget and need my husband to remind me. “Ask her if she’s afraid,” he tells me as I recount my latest knock-down-drag-out homeschool day. So, in spite of what my child does or doesn’t say, here’s what I’m learning to say when her learning anxieties have us at a stand-still.

Five things to say when your child has a learning anxiety

I’m here.  I have to assure her that I’m here. I’m going to help her. She’s not alone in her struggle.

I have a plan. After assuring her that I’m here for her, I gently lay out my plan to help. “Here’s what this is going to look like.” I’ll scribe her math problems in much the same way I used to scribe her writing. I do 1/2 to 3/4 of the writing for her and have her try when she regains her confidence. I assure her that we will use the abacus or the calculator or another manipulative for the hard part. When we were struggling through spelling and writing, I found her a Dyslexia Aid app that translates her speech to text. My plan includes ways that she is going to find help for what is scaring her.

Remember when… I remind her of past struggles and past successes. “Remember when you used to be afraid to do this particular subject, and we tried this particular thing to help you. And now you aren’t afraid of that anymore.” Reminding her of what she has overcome in the past, gives her perspective. Yes, this is hard right now, but it won’t always be this hard. Yes, this is hard, but we will find the tools to help you. Yes, this is hard, but this isn’t the first hard thing you’ve done.

I’ll fight for you and with you, but not against you. This is my new line, the statement I use to put the ball back into her court. I can help her in many ways, but I can’t make the decision to try. She has to come to a point of decision. She has to stop resisting, get past her “I can’t,” and decide to try. I’m not her enemy. I am for her and with her. 

I’ll give you space. I WANT to push for a decision. I WANT to pressure her to try again. I WANT to get this done so that I can finish with my other two kids and get dinner on the table. But added pressure is actually the worst thing I can do for her learning anxiety. Trust me, I know. Sometimes, she needs me to back off and give her the opportunity to muster her courage and decide to try. Yes, this takes time. Yes, this often puts me “behind schedule.” But yes, this is sometimes the most helpful strategy of all. Again, it puts the responsibility of learning back into her court. Giving her space allows her to be in control of a situation that often feels very out of her control.

Other strategies to combat learning anxiety

Another strategy that has helped us to navigate learning anxiety are brain breaks. All that mental energy from trying to sort, decipher, and organize information can leave her brain exhausted and in a state of overwhelm. When she is working in an area of weakness, I have to watch her pace and give her brain a chance to break and relax. These breaks aren’t usually long, maybe 5 minutes or so. But yes, this takes extra time. Yes, it may put me a little behind. Yes, it may mean we don’t get as far in the lesson. What we do accomplish, however, is quality over quantity.

Sometimes our brain breaks require some physical activity. (We love Ultimate Brain Breaks for this.)

Other times I give her an art break to go create something. Art is her strength. In essence, what I am doing is giving her a break to do something she’s good at, to relax her and restore her confidence before tackling the hard thing once more.

We try an entirely new learning strategy. Sometimes, you’ve just got to come at it from a completely different angle. My dyslexic child forces me to be a better teacher. She forces me to research and improve how I present things. She motivates me to do what I wouldn’t have otherwise tried to do. Together, we both learn to do hard things.

Need some more help and motivation? Check out my other posts.

When Homeschool Morning Time doesn’t work

homeschool morning time | homeschool routine

I keep seeing posts hailing the miracles of morning baskets and homeschool morning time, and honestly, part of me feels a little left out. The pins and Instagram posts make homeschool morning time look so idyllic. But I sigh and scroll past. It’s a “been there, tried that” moment for me.

Morning time is not an ideal homeschool time for us for a number of reasons. ADHD is a huge one that ranks top of the list. ADHD and mornings don’t mix. Throw in there that I’m not necessarily a morning person either, and I give any morning time routine a maximum of two weeks at our house. Mornings typically involve a lot of reminding and referee-ing. Lots of fighting and moodiness characterize our mornings. It always has, for years. And believe me, I’ve tried everything I can think of to derail this trait. As breakfast improves the moods of my three kids, the distractibility sets in. There is no focus. Getting dressed is hard enough, let alone trying to get school squeezed in there.

Because any kind of disciplined learning (math, for instance) is out of the question with all the distraction, I abandoned structured morning homeschool for a more relaxed morning routine. For awhile, I embraced whole family learning that involved creating and listening to a read-aloud, similar to homeschool morning time. But even then, I could barely get through a story without someone upset that someone else was sitting on their paper scraps or was too close to their personal space or happened to grab the wrong colored pencil or couldn’t figure out the craft or a thousand other possible scenarios. Now, I keep everyone separated with their own tasks, or we head out to one of our extra-curricular activities.

So what do you do when homeschool morning time doesn’t work? When the latest and greatest homeschool strategy seems to crash and burn at your place, what next? You pick yourself up from the rubble of that failed experiment, dust off, and move on. Homeschooling is meant to be as unique as you are.

  • The curriculum everyone raves about may not be the curriculum that works for you.
  • The routine that takes social media by storm may not fit your family or your lifestyle.
  • The latest “homeschool hack” may hack more than you had in mind.

We are different. We recognize those differences. That’s why many of us have chosen to homeschool. So when we don’t fit the homeschool mold, it’s okay. We homeschooled to break out of a mold. So here are some tips to navigate a failed homeschool morning time (or any other failed experiment).

What to do when homeschool morning time doesn’t work

  1. Recognize a failed routine doesn’t mean you are a failure. We jump to this conclusion so quickly. We feel failure rather than reasoning through it. A failed routine is just that, a routine that didn’t work out.
  2. Evaluate who you are, who your kids are, and what is likely to work for you. On most days, we start homeschooling after lunch. Sometimes, we’ve actually homeschooled in the evening. Occasionally, we scramble through some morning assignments so that we can head out to an afternoon activity. One thing about ADHD kids (at least mine), they love to be busy. They love variety and a change of pace. Find a structure that fits your family’s personality.
  3. Be willing to try something that may not work. Failing can tend to make us afraid of trying something new. But one of the greatest lessons you can teach your kids as you homeschool is how to fail well. There are few things I know for certain about my kids’ futures. But one of those things is that my kids will fail. It’s okay for them to see me try things and then admit it failed—and it’s no big deal. When I try something and fail, it takes the scary out of it for my kids. So give it a try.
  4. Remember that every homeschool family has their challenges, whether or not they are posting about them on social media. You are not alone. If your homeschool isn’t peaceful and beautiful and quiet, you are in good company. Mine isn’t either. And I talk with enough friends to know, there’s isn’t either. Homeschool is life, and life is messy.

Who says you have to homeschool in the morning? Who says you can’t start the day with a morning hike or a morning video? Who says you have to read out loud to your kids? Get an audio book instead. Go on field trips. Sleep in. Homeschool at night or in your pajamas. These choices are not necessarily a lack of discipline or a lack of structure; they could very well be the structure that breathes freedom back into your family life.

What if homeschool morning time doesn’t work? Then post on Instagram about your “homeschool afternoon time” instead, and rock it!