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Home Education Magazine

March-April 2002 - Articles and Columns

Questions and Answers - Laura Weldon

Bringing Home Your ADD Teen and Finding Volunteer Opportunities

Bringing Home Your ADD Teen

"This is my first year schooling my daughter at home. She is 13. We brought her home for several reasons, among them; she is ADD, the school district is terrible, and there have been several incidents of violence in her school, including the burning of one girl by two others. She is a very bright girl, but has barely passed most of her classes the past two years.

My question is this: By letting her lead her own way, pick up books when she wants to, avoiding math at all costs, etc, am I doing the right thing? I have read zillions of books that say it's okay, but my husband thinks we should be 'working' all day long. She reads a ton, draws, journals, writes letters and we do some volunteer work. She isn't very motivated right now other than to say that she wants to go back to school.

Am I really making the right decision by keeping her home?" -- Kat Pence

? "Your daughter IS 'working.' Judging by her grades, the school method didn't give her any sense of accomplishment or validate her learning style. You'd hardly want to go back to such a method. You can choose to let her ignore areas that are not of interest to her for awhile, and know she likely will get to them when she sees the need. If you aren't comfortable with that, talk openly with her (without coercion) about ways she might want to learn them. Math doesn't have to be an endless series of 'problems.' She can approach areas within this field which interest her. Give her an imaginary $1,000 to invest in stocks, let her track the stock earnings and see what happens to her money over a period of months. Keep up with new companies which seem promising. Maybe she'll be inspired to take babysitting proceeds and make her own investments through brokers who offer no-fee purchases to minors. Or have her plan several day trips to areas within your state. She can list the route to drive, mileage and necessary time. She can find out admission fees, average restaurant prices and other costs. Then you and she can choose These trips to take, inviting a friend of hers to go along if she would like, and compare her estimates to the actual mileage, costs, etc. These are just a few ideas to get math off the plain dry page and into life. Don't forget to have fun!" -- Lucinda

? "First, always remember ADD children are extremely bright! Has your husband been able to do any research on homeschooling so he knows what a variety of teaching styles are done at home? Remember he only has experienced the traditional school where you drill for hours every day. If he doesn't understand the other options available at home and how successful they are, it will be hard for him to support you. Can you get into a homeschool support group where he can go, voice his concerns and hear from other parents? You are both homeschooling your daughter, even if you are her home teacher. When you help him be a partner with you in this the rewards for you and your family are amazing! I read a very helpful guide which dealt with some of your experience de-schooling your daughter. It is normal for her to be resistant at first to the idea of homeschooling the first year after pulling her out of public school. The book is 'The First Year of Homeschooling.' (Editor's note: this classic resource is authored by HEM columnist Linda Dobson.) I found it in our public library. It discussed stories of so many children (including children with ADD) not succeeding in public school and thriving in homeschool. It discussed various families with their teaching styles in one chapter. In another chapter it dealt with the first year after removing your child from public school. Keep believing you are doing what is best for your child, listen to her learning desires and encourage them. It helps me to focus more on what exciting things I can do for my children-- less than on what I'm saving them from. I wrote a list of Reasons to Homeschool and have in on our fridge. It helps to read it on low days to stay in focus. Why don't you research learning, teaching styles and curriculum so you feel confident in what YOU CAN do for your daughter." -- Carol

? "I think your daughter says she wants to go back to school because she senses your ambivalence. Once she feels your confidence, and her father stops expressing his negative opinions, she will be free to learn without feeling that school is a better option despite its many downfalls. Right now she is crossing a bridge to a new way of learning. But she hears you wondering if the bridge is strong enough to support her and hears her father calling for her to turn around and go the other way, how can she cross with any success?" -- Lynn Wisniecki

? "It is hard to measure what your daughter is learning while doing the activities you have listed. That doesn't mean they have less value. Her reading, journaling, drawing and volunteering could easily be exposing her to concepts that will be important in ways she can't imagine right now. Part of parenting is realizing that our children are on unique journeys. It isn't up to us to dictate exactly how they take that journey, it is our task to keep them safe, value their unique direction, and hope they grow more fully into themselves." -- Lauren, Puerto Rico

Finding Volunteer Opportunities

"What kinds of volunteer opportunities are there for kids? I called to help stock food shelves at our hunger center and was turned down because my kids aren't over 14. The only other thing we've tried is nursing home volunteer days, and my kids DON'T want to do that again. I know it's important to show them a wider world of concerns beyond their own, but where can elementary aged children provide service beyond fund-raising?" -- Anniliese, Louisiana

? "Places like the food center you mentioned are regulated by state and federal laws that make it impossible for them to have kids working. Many homeschoolers have found the library to be a good place to volunteer; some already have homeschool volunteer programs or junior friends of the library programs in place. Organizations don't have to have an official 'program' if they are just willing to work with your kids. I've found it helpful to be available the first few times my kids are volunteering somewhere, and to make the volunteer situation a 'trial basis' -- if people don't feel locked in, they are more willing to cooperate. Other ways might be to help with a homeschool cooperative -- read stories or play games with littler ones, etc. Again, you might want to be available to supervise, depending on the ages of the children involved. Another way to volunteer is to fund-raise for a cause -- when our nephew needed a special wheelchair, homeschoolers in our area collected deposit cans and donated the money. Or they could hold a bake sale, collect pennies, the list is endless. Some homeschoolers sponsor a child from another country. The key is doing for others." -- Marsha Ransom,

? "Volunteering with kids in tow can be a wonderful experience. We have been delivering Meals on Wheels for several months now. Our kids (13, 10 and 8) enjoy forming bonds with the folks to whom we deliver. Most Meals on Wheels recipients are recovering from surgery or have other health-related issues. The vast majority are responsive, friendly, and eagerly welcome our children with broad smiles and open arms. If your children like to make crafts, the folks from the Meals on Wheels route would relish receiving them. We have delivered painted mini-pumpkins for Halloween, and refrigerator magnets for Christmas. From meal pick-up to tray return, it takes us about 1 1/2 hours to deliver our meals. I believe that delivering Meals on Wheels has helped our children gain empathy for the sick and elderly, and enhances their ability to communicate with folks of all ages and stages." -- Holly Alexander

? "I have worked in four museums in both Boston and Chicago. In the two children's museums, staff was very receptive to older children volunteering to be in the exhibits to interpret for younger visitors. I've seen young volunteers absolutely blossom. One was a troubled youth who came whenever he could, became knowledgeable and grew to be an institution there. New staff came to him with their questions and he was very proud of his work. Museums and nature centers are great sources for teen volunteers." -- Anne Fasano

? "Three years ago, I had the same concerns. I wanted my children to contribute to their community in some way, to include service to others in their learning. We discovered the Unitarian Fellowship here in Kelowna, BC, Canada, and this liberal religion has offered us a welcoming community of diverse individuals, a spiritual home, and plenty of opportunities for our children to be of help to others. My oldest, who is now 9, shovels the snow off the paths in the winter, helps in the garden and grounds in the summer and offers his services washing cars and doing yard work at the Goods and Services Auction. Both he and his 6-year-old brother have helped make soup and deliver it to a center for the homeless, and picked up litter around the city. All three of my sons (the youngest is 3) are expected to participate fully in whatever activities we do." -- Nikki Newington

? "My kids and I have been volunteering with a cat rescue group for 1 1/2 years. We do everything from cleaning the adoption cages that the local pet store loans us to display our cats to doing 'home visits' and adoptions. We also 'foster' stray cats in our home until they can be adopted. Having someone in the group who is free during the day has been invaluable to the group and the kids love it. My kids have learned so much about compassion and responsibility, as well as learning everything there is to know about cats! If you are an animal lover, check with your local shelters and rescue groups." -- Sally McGinty, Lansdale, PA

? "My 13-year-old has been allowed to read to a class of first-graders one Friday a month at our local public elementary school. It took some convincing but they have a thing called pizza day and use it as a fund-raiser for the school. It turns out to be the best day to read to the kids. We also have a children's story hour at our public Library and the children who attend it on a regular basis think my son reading to them is the biggest treat. Just pick random days to read that the library OKs and have fun." -- Angela Ballard, Stockton Christian Homeschool

? "Our local library has an 'adopt-a-shelf' program where adults keep the books on certain shelves in order and alphabetized. I asked if they would mind my 9-year-old daughter doing it under my supervision. They were skeptical at first, but soon came to value her weekly dedication to the Carolyn Keene shelves (which she chose because she loves reading Nancy Drew books). She soon decided to add all of the J and K authors. I no longer need to check her alphabetization skills and she feels proud of the job she is doing caring for our library." -- Mom in OR

? "I have some suggestions about the volunteer opportunities for elementary children. First, you might try becoming active in a church that emphasizes missions. My children do at least one project each month. Also scouting offers lots of age-appropriate chances to do volunteer work. On your own, you could lead them to help the environment by picking up trash along the roadways or weeding the flower bed at the library or raking leaves for an elderly person. Let them brainstorm things they like to do and think of opportunities that might involve some of those things. By all means, don't give up. We need to lead our children to reach out to others." -- Cathy Routh, Helena, Georgia

? "My daughter got us into volunteering at animal shelters when she was seven, and we were both welcomed. I found a no-kill animal shelter, and she saw the damage first hand of poor nutrition and abuse. However she also saw how caring people were working hard to make the lives of these animals better, and she was part of that!" -- Allyn, Charleston

? "Get a list from a church of elderly people who are in need. Some communities or churches have an adopt-a-grandparent program where you regularly visit an elderly person without family close by. If your child is old enough to stand for a long time you can be Salvation Army bell ringers during Christmas. Something as simple as picking up garbage in parks is a help in your community -- even though it's probably a thankless job without recognition, your kids will be learning to take pride in their community. My kids (10, 6 and 3) and I, for the last 3 years, go with the Salvation Army to nursing homes during the Christmas and Easter seasons and visit with each resident. I can see why your kids don't want to go back to visiting nursing homes -- some of the people are very somber, it smells and you just don't leave feeling too good, but I tell my kids sometimes we do things because we should and it's good to serve others even when we sometimes don't want to." -- Yolanda

? "Look for groups serving children, those are already set up with children in mind. You might plan a game night for kids at the local battered women's shelter or family shelter, or just baby-sit while the moms have a meeting. My family spends a half-hour every week doing a story and craft time at our local family shelter. You might be able to tutor math or reading for children just a few years younger than yours. Maybe you could serve as a consult team to an impoverished child for a science fair project. For lower commitment you could help a family around Easter or Christmas. Most groups offer adopt-a-family opportunities at the holidays. As you try to find the right thing for your family, think about your interests and do something related to that. Call the group and find out what they need. Take a tour and read any materials they might offer to find out how they work. Then come up with your own idea of what to do. I've been stymied lately about what to do for one group we wanted to get more involved with until it dawned on me that they didn't have a Web site, and a Web site is something we can do! I also suggest that you start by picking a small one shot project and not sign up to work every Tuesday for the next year. Keep it open so they aren't counting on you and, if you hate it, you don't feel obligated." -- Patricia Ashley

2002 Home Education Magazine


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March-April 2002 - Articles and Columns

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