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Alternative Education and the ADD - ADHD Child
A recent article in USA Today reports that home schooling has been on a steady rise for the last five years. There are now 1.5 million children being home schooled, up 74% since 1999. A desire for religious or moral instruction, formerly the number one reason to choose homeschooling, is now the second most popular reason. The first reason is safety and avoidance of peer pressure and exposure to drugs. Third is the dissatisfaction with academic instruction and fourth is interest in nontraditional approaches.
Current statistics indicate that the number of alternative educational/school choices, not including religious based schools or military schools, is somewhere around twelve thousand. That is the largest number of choices ever to exist outside the traditional public school system and the number keeps growing.
Obviously, the selection of public versus private includes many factors, among them the practical aspects of cost, location, transportation and does the alternative represent a basic ideology that the parent feels would be detrimental to the child. What follows is a look at some of the factors in choosing an educational format.
Determining the educational goal, as a parent, is an easy way to eliminate whole groupings of alternative educational choices. However, a parent might be wise to avoid automatically eliminating, for example, religiously based schools because they are simply not of the family's religion. A school might be quite passive about religious "recruitment" of the child, as are many Catholic private schools, or they may be very active, even aggressive, in the "recruitment" of a child, as are many more fundamentally based religious schools. In one case, a parent chose such a school because of its educational quality but did not fully understand the aggressiveness of the school in converting her child to its belief system. At least not until her child started coming home every day, in tears, begging her mother to convert because she would go to hell if she didn't. Upon further questioning, it was clear that the school had made the child responsible for the task of converting the mother. The child was nine. The mother moved the child the following week.
Next, we want to look at the child. It is imperative to look at the child from multiple perspectives, not just does he/she have ADD/ADHD. Because ADD plays out differently based on learning style, processing style and communication style, the parent should find the school that either actively teaches in a variety of styles or specializes in the styles that best enable his/her child to learn. The parent should also consider aspects such as the child's emotional age and if the child has already found his/her passion(s) in life. If the child is brilliant in computer programming and development and could possibly be the next Bill Gates, the parent would be wise to enroll that child in a school program that specializes in dealing with technically gifted children, as long as all the other bases are covered. Personality and gender also play a role in the whole child. Finally, it is important to gravitate to schools that interweave the development of critical thinking with the development of personal responsibility.
Other things to consider:
· Does the child need structure or is he/she self-structuring?
· How well does the child function independently?
· Does the child have difficulty dealing with change?
· Does the child relate better to a male or a female teacher -- or does it matter?
· What is the child's social skill level with peers and, if this is a challenge, how does the school deal with those kinds of issues?
· What kind of participation is required of the parent, and is this level of participation possible within the framework of the entire family?
If the parents are investigating home schooling, there are some pros and cons to consider.
On the positive side, there are many educational support programs for home schooling currently available and more coming on line all the time. They vary in participation level needed by the parent. Just like shopping for a school, the parent needs to look for an education support program that will best work with the specific child and with the family. Home schooling can allow a child to learn at his/her own pace and can be creatively modified as the child goes on.
On the negative side of home schooling is the stress on the parents. Does the home schooling parent have a flexible teaching style and can that parent switch between the teaching and the parenting roles easily? The teaching parent should currently communicate well with the child and have been successful in helping the child learn new things and to develop new skill sets. As a simple measure, how has the parent done on helping the child with his/her homework to date? There may be resentment between parents caused by the time, energy, and effort required for teaching, on one hand, and by the resulting relationship with the child on the other. More effort will be required of the parents to ensure that the child gets both sufficient social interaction and is exposed to the diversity that the world has to offer, including opinions other than the parent's own. Finally, can the parents help the child to develop the skill sets to manage well in the world when the home schooling ends?
Home schooling is a viable option. If the parents live in a big enough area, they are even likely to find local home schooling groups that do things together. The home schooled child may also attend a class here or there in order to fill out the educational experience. The parents need to make an extra effort in the area of social skills, to be wary of creating an unhealthy attachment or dependency on themselves and to guard against becoming insular in a way that limits the child in dealing with the ever-growing diversity of the world.
The key to finding a successful educational format for the child is for the parents to do their own homework! They need to determine what their educational priorities are and to diligently investigate their options in light of the whole child regardless of ADD/ADHD
Dr. Kevin Ross Emery is the author of "Managing The Gift: Alternative Approaches for Attention Deficit Disorder." Dr. Kevin is a Doctor of Divinity. He travels internationally, offering lectures and workshops about ADD, ADHD and related conditions. He also helps set up supportive, non-medical protocols for children and adults with ADD and ADHD. Dr. Kevin's primary practices are in Phoenix, AZ and Haverhill, Massachusetts. Visit Dr. Kevin at http://mydrkevin.com