Homeschooling & Adult ADD: Building a Stronger Brain

Homeschooling & Adult ADD Building a Stronger Brain

Most moms agree, the work within the home is never finished. Even on our best days when everything has been clean, cleared, and decluttered – just wait until the next meal or snack time and there are more dishes, dirty clothes, and tasks that require more work.

The cycle of this work isn’t worth resisting. I’ve personally tried, and I can testify that the attitude of acceptance is the better mental path. Because I know from experience that even on a good day, I may have at least 6 things going on all at once:

  • Unloading and loading the dishwasher
  • Starting or switching a load of laundry
  • Supervising math lessons
  • Writing plans in my Bullet Journal
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Reading a recipe for dinner and/or baking a snack

There’s nothing wrong with this on days when I’m fired up and bouncing from one thing to another – productive, producing, and purposeful.

But then there are days when it feels like everything is wrong with this.

Those days when all the unfinished projects make me feel like I’m working in a dozen different directions all while getting nothing accomplished. Good intentions, starts in all directions, distractions, and burn out can make my home and my heart look and feel like a mess. 

Most times, even though I had checked a dozen boxes and started a lot of great projects, I still felt like a failure at the end of the day. Somehow starting a lot of good things didn’t feel good enough. I wasn’t satisfied with my work. I didn’t feel accomplished. I wasn’t satisfied with myself – who I was or who I was becoming. I felt stuck in action mode, constantly starting things and rarely being allowed to finish them in one setting.

Feeling torn by distractions, demands, and disasters made my brain feel over stimulated and under rewarded. 

Adult ADD is a powerful thing, and I’ve learned that it is impossible to harness this power by ignoring the urges or by giving into each impulse. Instead I learned a way of life that both harnesses my impulse and embraces the way my brain works by making little good decisions in the same direction over long periods of time.

In building a stronger brain and embracing my ADD moments, the following 7 things make all the difference:

Learning to plan. Does it really matter if I leave the dishes half loaded into the dishwasher to run downstairs to throw a load of towels into the dryer from the washer? Nope. There are no “universal household chores laws” stating clearly that all household chores must be started and completed in singular focus and without any distraction. (If that law existed, then I would all be guilty of breaking it every day. I have a toddler. The end.) I know this to be true, yet I have lost my mind over too many things started (by me, I take the blame) at one time. I’ve beat myself into a shame-crushed-pulp for my lack of ability to get things done by the end of the day.

Have you ever started so many tasks in the day that you’ve stayed busy and even productive all day long but by the time you’re ready to go to bed – nothing is completed? I get so angry with myself when I live like this. I don’t want to lack self-control. I don’t want to bounce from one thing to the next – constantly pulled, distracted, demanded, or tempted to change course. So I have to physically write out a plan. I budget my time and choose only the things that I can reasonably finish while factoring in all the real life stuff that has to happen. Learning to plan well has been a life saver for me – not because I never planned my days before – because I have learned how to feel time by using a time budget and therefore I can set myself up for success. This success allows me vision and patience. The ability to see where everything fits and the understanding that I can’t get to everything in one day.

Exercising self-control in noticing the things around me. I wish I could turn off my brain for how much the things around me stimulate me, but since I can’t I have to learn how to talk to myself above the stimulation. When the little things around the house, clutter, dirt, kids toys, books, papers, etc. all scream for my attention, I have to choose to take control of the outcome of the thought before I become overwhelmed. Self-control is calm and allows me to think reasonably about the one thing I should stay focused on. It helps me to not spiral out of control because that’s how I feel when it seems like everything is coming at me.

Allowing interruptions to have a small place in my plan without spending too much time recovering from starting another task. Interruptions come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes I’m the one to blame for interrupting myself by noticing everything around me and deciding at random that now is the time to take action. A couple Saturdays ago, I was in the bathroom when I looked at my glass shower doors and thought today’s the day those things are getting clean. Cleaning the shower doors was not on my agenda, and I was in the middle of several other things. But even though starting a task like cleaning glass shower doors interrupted my plan, I allowed it only because I was committed to getting right back at my original task.

Learning how to enjoy real rest. This has been a long work in progress. I don’t think I would have been able to learn as much about hard work over the past few years if I hadn’t first learned to discern truth from lie with regards to rest. The ADD brain is a tired brain for all the distractions, demands, and decisions constantly coming at it, and a tired mind doesn’t make wise decisions. Without truth and wisdom, my mind is an unhealthy, unhappy place to be. Learning to rest from ADD is a discipline because rest isn’t just sleep. To be able to cease from work and just enjoy the company of my family or the leisure of a good book without my brain firing in all directions is another layer of self-control. One that brings great reward for my tired brain.

Trusting my inner creative to be able to accomplish what I want to without having to follow the set of “rules” that I normally try to follow. Often I feel like my ADD brain wants to attempt a task from a weird angle and my fear of failure also fires and tries to correct this attempt which causes me to feel at odds with myself. I’m learning that if I trust my gut in how I want to approach a task then the fruit will be not only productivity but also a greater sense of self within the task. And if I do indeed fail at my attempt because of the way I went about it, then I’m learning to own it and quickly start over without allowing for regret.

Seeing the bigger picture. Before I started to harness my ADD, I couldn’t see the big picture in my life at all. I thought that was just a personality limitation; I could see the details very well and assumed that not seeing the big picture was just a weakness of mine. But as I mentioned that making little good decisions in the same direction had a profound effect on my ability to make wiser choices and balance my ADD, it also allowed me to see real progress and gave me hope for more and more finishing in my life. I look back now and see that my lack of ability in seeing the big picture was mostly due to my lack of ability to finish anything. I couldn’t step back and get a view for where anything was going because I didn’t understand what follow through in anything really looked like. But when I began to practice follow through in the little things, over a long period of time, I eventually began to see how I could incorporate that same self-control in other areas and eventually over my ADD.

Staying off social media when my ADD is at its worst. When I start to feel like I’m losing my grip on the order and purpose of my actions, I need to avoid social media because I get lost in it. This “getting lost” feels like a break; it can feel like relief in the moment, but it isn’t. Social media is a tool not a replacement for rest. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the starts, projects, chores, and demands in my life I want relief but I need vision. And I’ve seen that when I have the other 6 helps for my ADD in check then I can enjoy social media in healthy ways and at appropriate times.

As a homeschool mom, I’ve desperately need to intentionally do what I can to strengthen my brain and harness the power of my ADD. My hope in sharing these helps today is to encourage other moms who are feeling lost in their starts, attempts, and tasks that you can make progress too. Homeschooling can exasperate my ADD and make my parenting purpose feel muddled, but homeschooling isn’t to blame. I can testify that all things in life are benefitted once I help my brain in these ways.

This post is not intended to diagnose or treat any mental conditions. Reading this post does not equate to seeing your doctor, counselor, or pastor if you believe you have the same struggle with ADD that I have. 

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#Back2School in #31Days: Day 10 – Planning: Big Picture

Home schooling is like designing your own puzzle. With each member of the family, commitment on the calendar, activity to be involved in, and all the daily routines of chores, meals, and play comes a piece to the puzzle.

Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

When I started to research home schooling, I relied on the good-ol’-standby-mirroring trick of looking at the “good pieces” of someone else’s puzzle and copying their pieces to add to my puzzle.

It took me years to realize that all I had was a mountain of pieces and no possible way to make one puzzle out of them.

My philosophies were mixed and conflicting, our commitments were more in quantity than quality, and I didn’t know what our goals were.

When I would read and watch other home schooling families, my attention was on the details – how do you teach reading, or when do you read-aloud? I never stepped back to see or ask what their big picture was.

All I had was pieces, no unifying picture to match them to. And more than that, I didn’t know what our big picture would be.

This is about the time (3 years ago) that I went to my first Great Homeschool Convention. Everything changed that year – in more way than one. I was pregnant with our third child at the time, and soon after the convention I went on bed rest. The amount of time I was given to think, pray, and ponder our big picture significantly increased because of this sacred time of rest.

Now, if you’re resonating with my puzzle piece but no picture dilemma, then hear me when I say that there is no fast and easy way to solve it.

For me, I had to move all the pieces I was collecting to the side and start by defining what the major pieces of the puzzle were. Kind of like finding the 4 corners to start the outline.

Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

For now, our 4-corners are: relationships, reading, real discussions, and rest. These are the categories that everything we do will be filtered through. So as I plan for what we will learn, where we will go, what commitments we have – everything comes back to these.


Relationships: my children are still young and building trust and bonds as a family unit are vital. A solid foundation isn’t established by accident. It’s important for my kids to know how much I value them. So even though it bothered me to put our kindergarten language arts curriculum aside, it was more important for me to build a bridge of grace to my daughter’s heart that was strong enough for the truth that “learning is sometime work and that’s okay” to reach her. Guarding our relationships from internal and external threats is a high priority of mine.

Reading: we have found it to be true that when we engage with good books we grow. Our minds are stretched, our curiosities are fed, and as Rea Berg said:

Good books will develop our moral imagination which leads to empathy and compassion. These build up the person from within and become the measure of success of an education.

She also said:

There are 2 things in life that will change you – the books you read and the people you meet.

Real Discussions: an easy thing to miss in life is the opportunities to have meaningful discussions. Often times with little children, they choose the most inconvenient times (from my perspective) to ask the important questions weighing on their little minds. Dr. Kathy Koch said that on average a 6-year old asks fewer questions than a 3-year old because they have learned that their questions don’t matter – that their desire to know more isn’t a priority. This is a tragedy. Curiosity is one of the qualities of a genius. So the reason this is 1 of the 4 corners for us is taking the time to fuel my children’s curiosities and build trust with them through listening to them. I want to honor their desire to learn even if what they are interested in has nothing to do with what was on my “schedule” for the day.

Also, real discussions includes talking about my life and choices, sharing and exposing in sensitive ways the hurts, failures, and sins have changed and molded who I am today.

Rest: we all need sleep right? Well, sometimes I forget to plan for real rest. This has been a personal area of growth for me, and I’m seeing how it applies to raising my children well. We all need a healthy balance of work and rest. Rest is commanded by God and fulfilled in Jesus Christ – so for our family I want to model and train my children to honor rest. To honor God by living well within the boundaries the He has defined. Rest plays a big part in our daily rhythm in balancing indoor and outdoor play, quiet time and silly-fun-music time. It’s important to teach what it means to be fully awake and aware of our surroundings too.

So there they are: our 4-corners for now. I’ve had to learn a lot of this through failure, and I still have gone back to mirroring other families a few times. But slow progress and baby steps are still better than nothing.

And making choices based on right thinking has a deeper and longer lasting effect than basing my decisions on how I feel – either on my own or by comparison.

I wrote this a little while back in the learning process:

Comparison is not only the thief of joy, but also the jailer locking you in inactivity. Just because my friend is able to set what I think is “higher” goals for her family, doesn’t mean that my goals are “lower” and inferior. The more I set goals that are attainable, the more success will inspire me to set higher and higher goals. At the end of the day, it’s not about how impressed you are with me – it’s how satisfied I am with myself.

This week it’s time to start planning, and my hope is that by sharing my big picture it will inspire you to examine both your big picture and the puzzle pieces that will get you there.

This is Day 10 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

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