All of life is a journey, with a thousand twists and turns and detours and unscheduled maintenance stops. And while some families may have a journey that looks like a road trip across Texas or Ohio (think miles of nothingness), ours feels more like a roller coaster. And just when I feel like it’s time to unbuckle and get off, it lurches forward again.
In our latest hair-raising episodes, we’ve encountered the full impact of an ADHD diagnosis. Without names, just think multiple family members, and you’ll start to get an idea of how life-altering this has been. It’s been a nightmare and a relief at the same time. A nightmare to realize what lies ahead, and a relief to understand that there are solutions to our difficulties.
I know this is a highly charged and controversial diagnosis, and I’m not about to debate any of that here. For a fantastic overview of what it is and how it can affect a family, visit BenandMe.com’s blog series on ADHD. It’s amazing, and has been a tremendous (not to mention, timely) encouragement.
Needless to say, this has meant some huge changes in our family-life, parenting style, and homeschool. And it’s meant that I’ve lightened up on some of my extremely idealistic expectations to provide a little relief for us all. Here’s a sneak-peak at what has worked so far.
A New Homeschool Routine
If you know anything about ADHD, then you’ll understand how crucial structure and routine are. But I needed a routine that was on one hand structured, but on the other hand capable of flexing with our high demands. The solution…drum roll…
Mornings are reserved for exploration and activity; discipline subjects (think phonics, spelling, math) come after lunch.
So after our chores, our mornings include things like a nature walk, a read-aloud and art project, music lessons, or Latin videos (Song School Latin). I don’t “schedule” these activities (other than our Tapestry of Grace history lessons). Instead, I suggest the next thing on the list during the next opportunity we have. If chores take too long, we miss the extras. But if the kids have been diligent and we have time, I look at what’s next to offer up. If it’s a pretty day, I suggest a nature walk. If I’m having trouble with my Littlest, then I suggest a Kinderbach lesson or the Latin video.
After lunch, we have a rigid system that pretty much never changes. It’s time for discipline. Oldest does his Reflex Math, copywork, mapwork, and some reading while Middlest does math and reading with me. (Littlest is fed and happy and pretty content to explore on his own during this time of day.) Then, we switch it up. Middlest does Reflex and plays with Littlest while Oldest does language and math with me.
It takes us roughly two hours. And I’m done by 3. Which means all the kids go to quiet time and leave me in as close to absolute silence as we can possibly acquire. I’ve insisted: mommy needs quiet time or mommy becomes a momster. And after proving that out a few times, they’ve pretty much gotten the idea. Lol!
A New Evening Routine
Evenings are our “witching hour” in every sense that the parent books warn about. My children never outgrew this. It’s absolute chaos. Plus, it’s time to make dinner. Which means that inevitably, my husband walks into a storm.
Here’s where I’ve relaxed my ideal. I have allowed a daily cartoon time while I make supper (horror of horrors!) They watch cartoons until I have supper prepared, and my husband can sneak into the house and transition himself to “family time.” My rules are as follows: if you come out of quiet time, you will lose your cartoon time. If you whine or pout when I say time is up, you will lose your next day’s cartoon time. So far, there have been NO infractions. Amazing!
A New Chore System
Chores have been a nightmare. And I’m not Cinderella’s step-mother: most of my children’s “chores” are brushing their teeth, making their bed, cleaning their room type of tasks. But between HIGH-distractibility and extreme emotional melt-downs, chores have been a Twilight Zone.
Until I went searching for a chore app with a reward system. What I needed was a chore system that ran itself and offered rewards for tasks done. If it depended on my husband or myself to resupply the rewards or come up with the cash or whatever, I knew it would fail. I knew our limits.
ChoreMonster has been a dream come true. First, it’s free! (Hallelujah!) Second, the chores, point system, and rewards are all customizable. I enter the chores and equivalent points earned for each child. I enter the rewards and points for purchase. I customize whether or not the chore needs to be approved by me (getting dressed does not but cleaning a room does). And the app literally runs itself.
My kids have their own login to check off the chores they finish. For each chore finished, they get a spin on the monster wheel that will either win them a new cleaning monster to add to their collection or something monster-ish like dirty underwear, a banana peel, an empty soda can, or a jar of farts. They love it!
For rewards, they can earn video game time, a movie night, a bubble bath with no time limit, a candy bar on my next trip to the store, a new lego set, and other items of varying value.
I’ve included good character as “chores,” if they show responsibility, a servant-spirit, a great effort during a difficult situation, or excellence in school (attitude and focus), they earn points as well.
It’s been a huge success! And a huge relief.
We still have a lot of changes to make. But just to catch my breath from the chaos has been such a blessing. And knowing what it is I’m up against has been the greatest blessing of all.