We’ve been homeschooling for almost three years now, from grade five to grade eight. I have a teenager now! Our school year runs from February to December but we generally do a few hours of ‘schoolwork’ most days all year (including weekends and holidays) and take a break whenever we want to do something else for the day. We’ve tested lots of different structures, styles & resources over the last three years. These are some of our favourite primary and middle school resources for active ADHD kids who love Lego and hate writing.
ADHD brains are much more motivated and engaged by PINCH – Play, Interest, Novelty, Competition and Hurry-Up (urgency). This is really helpful to understand when you’re choosing curriculum and activities. Trying to force kids to do activities they have no motivation for is a good way to give yourself grey hair and give up on homeschooling! Give yourself a fighting chance – use PINCH. Play can include games, humour and creativity. Try combining different topics – can you blend maths and knitting? First aid and Minecraft? Art and permaculture? Interest means aligning your activities to topics that your child is interested in or following their passions. Competition can be tracking their progress in an app or a sticker chart, awarding prizes for the first one to finish or entering competitions to win something. Hurry-Up or urgency can look like setting deadlines, using a timer or making it a race to clean up before a song finishes playing. Not all of these apply to every ADHDer – my child can sometimes be motivated by a deadline but more often his anxiety will kick in and he’ll get overwhelmed and panic, then his learning brain will switch off and the task won’t get done. Using a visual timer helps to make the abstract concrete – we got ours from a kitchenware store.
Novelty is one of the most important motivators for ADHD brains, which means most new resources have an appeal to start with but lose their shine pretty quickly. Bear this in mind when you’re browsing expensive curriculum; it can be tricky to maintain that buy-in after the ‘honeymoon’ period. Use the free trials and switch it up with a stream of library books, borrowed games and related activities to keep things interesting.
You can take advantage of novelty by rotating toys, games and books from storage to the main learning area; featuring different books each week in a book stand; strewing (leaving interesting resources lying around); joining a toy library; releasing special activities when goals are reached; keeping a stash of op shop books for downtime; featuring poetry, facts, country or vocabulary of the week on the fridge or display space; a frequently refreshed morning basket; cooking new cuisine; trialling new activities; hosting a swap party with friends (clothes, board games, meals!); visit new places locally or go on a trip; try out a new hobby; go to events; move furniture around and refresh the environment.
Resources that work for us usually feature movement, being outdoors, humour, fast pace, story and clear visual organisation. I don’t use resources that are religious (apart from Story of the World, which includes a bit of biblical history along with mythological stories). My son is a sensory seeker and learns by doing (kinaesthetic), so I try to give him a lot of experience testing things out in the real world – cooking, building, Lego, gardening, animal care, science experiments, excursions. He loves any edible science activity. He needs to feel things in his hands to understand it. He likes graphic novels about any topic and loves reading in general. We also like integrating games and singing into learning.
Flocab is a paid online platform that uses rap to teach most subjects, including language, math, science, HASS and life skills. The main premise is to teach the vocabulary using song & other activities. All the lessons have a rap video featuring the vocabulary for that topic, vocab cards, vocab game, a read & respond that you can download and print, a quiz that you can print and a lyric lab where you can make your own rap with auto-suggestions for rhyming words. They used to do a free Week in Rap current affairs summary but you have to log in to view those now. Sometimes they’ll put up free videos, like Black history.
It is super engaging and you can do a free month trial to see if you like it. I downloaded a heap of resources during that trial month, but of course you can’t watch the raps after the trial expires without signing up. I found this resource when I was searching for how to teach the scientific method – there’s a rap for that. We aren’t paid members at the moment but I plan to sign up this year when we have a month with no holidays or distractions. It’s $US99 a year and there’s no monthly option unfortunately. You can browse all the topics and view previews of all the videos without signing in.
I have started making playlists for various subjects so I can control which videos pop up on the sidebar, otherwise my son starts clicking on cat v cucumber and mucks up my algorithms, and it all goes downhill from there. YouTube is a great resource for HASS, science, art, technology & even math. Pretty much everything, although sometimes it’s difficult to find local Australian information. The only annoying thing is you can’t save any kid’s videos to a playlist, but mostly I bookmark general audience videos anyway. Some of his favourite educational channels are: Crash Course and Crash Course Kids (history, science, social science, business, media studies), Extra Credits (history, game design), Amoeba Sisters (biology), Mr DeMaio (catchy times tables video clips), National Geographic, BBC Earth, Pasta Grannies (cooking), ASAP Science (science concepts put into songs), Gravity Glue (rock balancing – call it technology), TEDEd (everything, especially the Demon of Reason) and Joseph’s Machines (technology). I have also learned a lot from How to ADHD.
Sometimes we watch ERB (history) and thejuicemedia (politics & current affairs) but these both have very strong language warnings. The funnier and wilder events are, the easier they are to remember. So I look for funny, ridiculous, exaggerated videos that contain real events, dates, vocabulary, concepts, etc. If the content is inaccurate or fictional there’s no educational benefit, but plain videos with flat voice-overs and slow scene changes lead to my son slumping in the chair or not watching at all. He likes fast-paced, to the point videos. If I’m playing a corny science song of all the human body systems or elements of the period table, I start singing along and he will generally copy me. I particularly like Mr DeMaio’s times tables – they are set to popular songs with a catchy beat and he makes great video clips for them. We tried watching his other videos but they are full of lengthy product promotions for toys & food! So we just stick to the times tables. I often play them at the start of the day when he’s still bouncing all over the place.
We’re launching our own Youtube channel this year. It’s called Drop Bear Homeschool. My son named it. We haven’t put much on it yet but watch this space!
Kanopy and Curiosity Stream
Kanopy is a free video streaming service, via app or website, that you can access with a library card. Check if your local library has it. Children’s movies have no limit and adults can watch 4 movies per month. It mostly includes documentaries, foreign films, arthouse and culturally important films, with short films and a few TV series as well as full length movies. It’s great for watching a movie about another topic you’re studying, like flight or Egypt, without any ads. It also has a lot of The Great Courses (all sorts of topics including history, cooking, culture) and great selection of Australian movies from classic to contemporary, like Skippy and Bush Mechanics.
Curiosity Stream is a paid video steaming service but it’s pretty cheap – it starts about $US20 a year and often goes on sale. Like Kanopy, it has the advantage of no ads so you don’t end up down the Youtube rabbithole. The movies on this one tend to be full length, nonfiction and epic in nature – history on a grand scale or how technology is going to save the world. It’s easy to find topics. I let my son explore documentaries on this but it doesn’t have the same scope as Youtube, so we still end up back there. I’m not sure if I’ll renew the subscription for this one, as we also access movies on Youtube, Kanopy, library rentals, op shop DVDs and Disney Plus.
Thinking Tree Journals (USA) or Learning & Journaling (Aus)
Thinking Tree makes hundreds of themed journals for both primary and reluctant writer high schoolers that makes it easy to do unit studies or align all subjects to your child’s interests. We tried out a Minecraft ‘funschooling’ journal that covered all subjects. The postage to Australia was the same cost as the actual book, so it cost $50 to get it posted here, but it was a 400 page book that could potentially form the main book for the year. My child happily used it for a few weeks but then he lost interest (hello, novelty motivation) and resisted the writing sections, even as small as they were, and he doesn’t like colouring in so that meant he hardly used it. He may dip back into it in the future. Thinking Tree makes great Mum Journals as well, full of inspirational quotes and self-care reminders. Sometimes there are free downloads or sales. I made my own mum journal on Canva, inspired by the Thinking Tree journals, and this has evolved into my yearly planner. The first version I clipped together, the second year I put it in a ring binder and this year I made it beautiful and cloth-bound the spine. You can check it out here if you’d like to try using it too.
Learning and Journaling makes similar journals in Australia that you can download and print, including lots of Australia-specific ones. There are some freebies too, and frequent sales especially if you join their Facebook group. It covers from early childhood up to high school, as well as mum planners. They have all sorts of themes and are quite flexible. They’d work well with project-based learning. I tried a Weapons unit study for my son but it required quite a lot of writing. If your child likes writing, drawing or colouring they might like these journals.
Subject Resources (Key Learning Areas)
My son is an avid reader, but if he wasn’t I would be making lots of comics, graphic novels and ridiculous writings available to him. There are lots of book series for kids who don’t like reading, including the 13 Storey Treehouse, Dogman, Geronimo Stilton, etc. He still reads all these as well as thick novels. I find some of these books pretty trashy but I was impressed to find out he was learning a little about classic literature in Dogman and the publishing process in 13 Storey Treehouse. He loves Garfield, joke books & any graphic novel. I look for graphic novels that cover science, biographies, history, classic literature, etc. Make sure you screen them for young/sensitive kids, because graphic novels have the potential to be more… graphic in terms of violence or sexual content.
We usually have one or two readalouds going, to read at bedtime or when things are going south during the day. Sometimes I read classical stories to him from a free app on the tablet. He listens to free audiobooks from library rentals or free audio book apps like Librivox. I’m currently reading Sophie’s World to him (novel, but a great spine for philosophy) and The Word For World Is Forest (sci-fi, violent but somewhat similar to Avatar – I’ll monitor his reactions as I read it). We just finished The Girl Who Speaks Bear, which was a beautiful, gentle book about identity and belonging, with stories inside stories. I shared our full grade 8 reading list here as a free download.
For writing, we discuss grammar, spelling, etc as we watch/read everything else. Some of his other subjects involve some writing (although he’s super resistant if it requires more than a few words). I ask him to write labels for preserves, shopping lists, party plans, recipes, signs for events and other everyday tasks. I encourage him to proofread my work and pick up errors in poorly written online texts. He much prefers to edit my work than his own!
Another writing activity that has a real purpose is creating a family newsletter each year. We send physical copies to grandparents and email it to close family. This is a great platform for writing articles, reviews, poetry and short stories. I use Canva to create them and each year my son writes longer articles and does more of the formatting.
Sometimes we do formal English lessons using worksheets for a particular topic. I use old workbooks I pick up at the op shop for a dollar or two. His handwriting is not super neat but he is capable of basic writing tasks so I’m not putting pressure on him to spend time writing for the sake of it. I also use a small whiteboard to jot down English lessons that deal with grammar or sentence structure. Instead of asking him to complete writing worksheets, I ask him to write shopping lists, letters, labels for preserves and other real life tasks.
He likes to do his spelling out loud, so I print myself a couple of Australian spelling word lists and read them out to him. I tick them off when he gets them right or make a note if he needs to practice it again.
We play Bananagrams, Scrabble, Kanga Words (this one was developed locally in Western Australia to help dyslexic kids and all ages enjoy word play) and other word games.
He’s learning to touch type on Typing.com and has found this really easy and engaging. It’s much more colourful than the grey program I used in high school. It doesn’t cost anything but does have some mildly annoying advertising on the side.
He also loves to use a typewriter! We acquired two old typewriters, and my son taught himself how to use every key, lift the keys, put the ribbon in and out, and even perforate the paper with a dotted line. He’ll often do his writing work either using new technology (speech to text app) or old-school technology (typewriter). None of this boring everyday handwriting for him!
This year we’ve just started using The Writing Revolution, which my son is really enjoying. I bought the teacher’s handbook and have found it easy enough to create my own writing lessons based on written content from science and history books we’re studying. It can be used from early primary school or as a catch-up curriculum for high school age students, and the exercises are clearly described for both scenarios. There are a pile of free resources on their website to go with the book. The method integrates writing across the curriculum, instead of providing meaningless drill, and starts from the basic unit of sentences before working up to paragraphs and then stories and essays. So far it’s working well for us, because it’s brief and relevant. Also I think my son likes the puzzle aspect of unscrambling sentences and solving things. I even managed to use Cards Against Humanity for the types of sentences activity. Did you know you can download free PDF versions of the adult and family editions on their website to print at home?
Last year we used a mental maths workbook, but I kept finding more and more interesting resources. Maths using story is more engaging for him than just doing sums, so we might try Life of Fred next year – I’m just holding off because of the cost (and it’s hard to source in Australia). You can access free read-throughs of LoF here. We might give this channel a go later in the year to test it out. I bought a couple of Sir Cumference books which give a great background understanding of diameter, fractions etc, but to buy the whole set is pretty expensive. It’s also primary school level, which is a little young for him now. I bought The Adventures of Penrose The Mathematical Cat, which covers middle school maths topics. This book is engaging enough for him to read for fun. He also like Murderous Math (sister series to Horrible History) and will read these books cover to cover. I might buy The Manga Guide To Statistics or The Manga Guide To Calculus in the future, but we’re probably not at that stage yet.
Two physical maths tools he loves are the metre measuring wheel and a 100 place abacus. I bought these from an Australian educational store online. When they arrived we watched a couple of videos on YouTube to learn how to use the abacus. He’ll sit and do his maths book with his abacus on his lap. We’ve used the number wheel to help measure out stall sites for festivals. He also liked measuring how many metres it was to the neighbour’s house.
We also do heaps of maths when we cook, in building projects, board games and everyday life (eg. money, gardening, working at the shop). I don’t have GPS in my car so I give my son the paper map and he has to navigate using the grid. He’s getting really good at this. Battleship is another game that teaches grid skills. You can cover all sorts of maths using a simple deck of cards.
I bought the grade four curriculum because this was the highest level available, so we won’t use this going into highschool. It now includes fifth grade. I love how it gets kids outside in the early years and I think it would have worked well for my high-energy son a few years ago. Lots of hands-on stuff. I like the idea of a pocket outdoor maths kit, and we made one to fit in a pencil case but we haven’t used it yet. There are some activities we’ll try from this guide but I haven’t printed the whole thing.
We did a free trial with this and I love that it puts maths into comic book form. It only goes up to level six but my son was stumped on a couple of the concepts when we tested them out, so he could obviously benefit from it even though he’s in grade eight. Shipping to Australia is expensive so I just got the online subscription. It seems to explain the concepts a bit more than the free options like StudyLadder (we stopped using this website as it was too boring and sometimes had incorrect answers), and the comic style is super engaging. There are comic strips for each concept, videos to explain the concepts and extra logic games. It’s $96 a year which is currently about $120 Aussie dollars. It’s probably a good time to buy resources in US dollars!
We’ve been using Beast Academy for a year now and it’s worked really well. My son can mostly manage his own progress. I chose to unlock all levels, so he’s currently working at three levels at once. I can see a detailed progress report and it emails me every time he starts a new chapter, or if he seems to be getting stuck. I can also see how many minutes he spends each day on which activities, which is helpful when he claims to have done half an hour and has actually only done two minutes! It also makes it easy for him to do by himself when he visits his dad’s house. He just logs on and gets on with it, and I can check from my house whether he’s completing maths or not.
History and Social Sciences (HASS)
I bought a whole pile of Horrible Histories books three years ago and my son was lukewarm on them at the time but they are pretty engaging so he had read all of them before we started homeschooling. He’s now read most of them several times. Horrible Histories also has YouTube, DVDs and magazines – and Horrible Science, Horrible Geography and Murderous Maths. My son will read these over and over. The books are cheap new and easy to find secondhand. They are also easy to pair with specific topics, like Romans or human biology. For history, you can also visit historical sites and museums, talk to grandparents about their childhood, dress up in old fashioned clothes, cook traditional foods and make use of the library and Youtube. See below for Story of the World and Australian history resources.
The best way to learn hands-on geography skills is to go out and do things in the world. We also like using Google maps and zooming in on wherever we’re studying, to walk around on the street there (you can walk through palaces, swim with whales and go to the edge of a volcano!). Navigate using a map, go geocaching, plan a holiday, calculate how far it is to a family member’s city, look up where your food comes from or where current events are happening, mark sites on blank maps, map your own property, go bushwalking and observe weather, oceans, valleys and mountains.
We host travellers from around the world, so we have dinner conversations about life in other parts of the world and different customs. We’ve been Couchsurf hosts since my son was four so it’s all he can remember. We also host through Workaway, Couchers and HelpX. It’s been slower since Covid-19 but we’ve still had some travellers through 2020 and 2021. Sometimes we Google map their hometown and have a walk around before they arrive at our house. If I was organised we could have been marking every visitor on a big map of the world but we haven’t done that yet.
Another geography tool that we love is Tasty Geography. This is part of the Blossom & Root curriculum but the concept is simple. Choose a country every week (we didn’t manage a new one every week, but we did at least one per month), learn a few facts about it, find it on a map and draw the flag, then cook and eat something from that country. We fill in the same blank worksheet each time – you could easily make a template for it on Canva. We made mochi for Japan, Flemish stew for Belgium and dukkah for Egypt. If we have a guest that week, we’ll study their country and they are always happy to suggest or make recipes. Sometimes we buy typical foods if we have a local restaurant for that cuisine. We bought churros for Spain and gozleme for Turkey.
This is a resource from the USA for teaching world history. It covers way more than history in the Australian curriculum (and little to no Australian history but I use other resources for that) and suits many styles of homeschoolers from classical to eclectic. It starts just before recorded history, about 4000BC and tells stories of key characters & events all over the world in chronological order. This makes so much sense to me; much easier to grasp than jumping about all over the place from pyramids to Vikings as I did at primary school.
We liked it so much we bought the Activity Guide and Student Handbook as online downloads, and have started the first book again so we haven’t made much progress but we are doing most of the activities and some of them are quite involved. We’ve done an archaeological dig in the backyard, written cuneiform words in clay tablets and are halfway through mummifying a chicken (it has been in the corner of the lounge room for over a year without stinking, so it obviously worked!). He’ll do the map work in the student book and some of the other activities, but skips all the colouring pages. Sometimes we cook recipes from the Activity Guide or look up related resources.
We usually watch a couple of YouTube videos on the same topic during the week, and we use a speech-to-text app for my son to answer the review questions. So he’ll end up with a summary of the main concepts of the book in his own words, which is good practice at organising his thoughts in preparation for composing his own writing (he is not a natural writer). He doesn’t always do the narration part. We fail at classical homeschooling, it’s just far too much writing for him. We still like the reading and the parts he can do quickly (answering questions & map work).
It’s taken us two years and we’re still not through book one, so we’re trying to speed up. SOTW has 42 chapters, which is difficult to cover in one school year. Once we’ve completed book one, my son will read the whole thing through again in one sitting as review. Then we’ll start on book two. And after that we’ll decide if we have enough school years left to buy books three and four!
Australian History & Culture
Any Australian history should begin with learning about the First Nations people of your local area. Learn the names of your local places and the stories that live there. We have a great local Noongar shop called Kurrah Mia and I can go in there and ask questions in person, as well as buying picture books in Noongar and English. We’ve visited local ancient sites around our town including fish traps, lizard traps and some of the oldest continuously occupied sites in the world (Yorrl Park and Kalgan River Hall).
I collect historical fiction including Jackie French and the ‘My Australian Story’ series. We also read ‘Stowaway’, about the boy who stowed away on Captain Cook’s voyage to Australia. Sometimes I read these aloud but if my son gets hold of them he often gallops through the whole book. He loves reading, so historical fiction that puts facts into a story is an engaging method of learning for him.
We like the Australian series ‘Back in Time For Dinner’, each episode of which is set in a different decade from 1950s-2000s. It covers the food, dress, major historical events and culture of that time period and follows a modern family as they re-enact the daily life of the past. The second series, ‘Further Back In Time For Dinner’, covers 1900s to the 1940s, so you may want to start with the second series to watch it all in chronological order.
Australians Together is a great website that links Aboriginal culture to all areas of the curriculum from maths to health, with curriculum-linked teacher notes and activities for K-10. Many of these are hands-on. You need to sign up for a free account. It’s a great resource to integrate Aboriginal content across the curriculum (which you are expected to do as it’s a national cross-curricular priority).
Fun games that cover Australian content include Animoz, which is like Pokemon but with real Australian animals, Silverwood Grove (less science information but uses Australian animals and regions), Lost in Straya (more humour than educational content, same developer as Silverwood) and the cute little board games from Games Connect eg. Tree Kangaroo.
We scored a bundle of Horrible Science magazines at the tip shop and All About History, Double Helix and Scientrific at a book swap. My son devours these. You can probably access recent copies at your local library. Double Helix has a great free email newsletter. I bought a subscription to this magazine this year and he eagerly reads them every month.
My son’s favourite science activities are anything that you can eat at the end. We’ve done soil layers with lollies and milo, parts of blood with lollies and glucose syrup, and moon phases with Oreo biscuits.
We also dissected a chicken heart (from a rooster I killed for meat) in the backyard, bought a UV light and experimented with what glows under it, tested the pH of various household substances and backyard soil, dissolved an eggshell in vinegar and froze ‘ice core samples’ in a chip cylinder. Lots of hands-on science. A couple of small tools like the UV light, clip-on microscope for your phone, spring scales and pH test strips are pretty cheap and allow you to explore the world in a new way. I just bought an oximeter, as recommended for covid household preparation, which will also be a fun way to measure blood oxygen levels and heart rate before and after exercise or deep breathing. I recommend choosing one with a warranty and a brand name on eBay, but they start at about $20 so that’s pretty affordable (much cheaper than the chemist). The UV light and microscopes were under $5 each on eBay. I bought spring scales and pH papers at Modern Teaching Aids – they have lots of super cheap things in their sale page like blank dice. Imagine the games you could create!
We have signed up to various citizen science projects – Bird Count, Soil Your Undies, Wild Pollinator Count, etc. These are a great way to contribute to real scientific study, access support and quality resources, learn how to collect accurate data and focus on a topic for a few hours, days or weeks. We use Frog ID app or website to identify frogs from their calls.
Science with Mr Q looks like it would work well for ADHD brains – lots of jokes and pictures, small amounts of writing and not too much on one page. You can download the Life Science for primary school from his website for free to see if you like it before you purchase the other books. I have it but haven’t printed it yet because it’s 440 pages for the student book and 470 for the teacher manual! We might try that one this year.
You can also find science biographies as graphic novels or manga science books. I just found The Manga Guide To… series and have ordered The Universe to see if it works for us. Most of these books follow a couple of female students who don’t understand the subject and embark on an adventure to explore it and cover the content in an interesting, funny way full of story and emotion. They cover high school or entry university level, and include dry subjects like statistics, databases, relativity and other maths and science topics. Fishpond and Booktopia both stock this series.
This is American (so the measurement units, currency, seasons & wildlife will be different) and the highest grade is grade five. We used the grade four curriculum bundle for grade seven last year. Their science covers more content than the Australian science curriculum and we went into more depth as needed. Their grade four science unit covers physics, technology & human biology so it ticks off Australian science (no earth science or chemistry but more depth in physics), technology (not digital technology but that’s easy to cover with other activities) and some health topics (human body) as well. There are options for families who prefer crafts & projects, book baskets, visual learning, ‘table lab’ and outdoors; and even a ‘minimalist’ option which is a great idea for busy weeks! It’s a really flexible and encouraging curriculum. I like that it’s hands-on, secular and inclusive, with lots of suggestions for female and BIPOC scientists, artists, etc to research instead of just white men. Each topic in the science curriculum is called a ‘wonder’. The main important ideas are clearly laid out at the start of each section, with clear guidance for parents to run the activities. This curriculum goes on sale at certain times of the year, often in December which is good timing for Aussies!
I usually read the ‘big ideas’ for each science wonder out loud, while my son is playing Lego, swinging in a hammock or cuddled up with me. Because he’s older than grade four, I sometimes pause and ask if he already knows the next word. Then he watches some Youtube videos on that topic (a clickable list is provided with the PDFs). Sometimes he reads some library books on that topic too. He has a page to fill in in the student workbook, and we usually do at least one suggested activity. There are suggested scientists to look up each week. We only do these every so often.
We also use Blossom & Root for English, art, nature study and geography (see Tasty Geography in HASS). The literature selections for English have been excellent. Some of them we read as readalouds, and some my son just read himself. At the start of the year, he did many of the student pages but by the end of the year he just read the books without writing. Using a younger grade worked for him because the writing level was lower, but it was still too much after a few months. We did some of the extra projects suggested for English, but less as the year progressed. He learned about the stages in the Hero’s Journey, and enjoyed watching movies from the suggested list.
We didn’t use much of the art curriculum, although I found it interesting and the projects seemed doable. The prompts are thoughtful and the artists diverse. It included nine artists, to study for four weeks each. I might pull these out again in the next few years. The nature study part for grade four is based on a vegetable patch in your backyard, which quickly grew boring for my child. He doesn’t like to write or draw about what he’s done or seen.
Overall I really liked this curriculum. It gave us a great core science program and useful materials for the other subjects too. I plan to use their literature selections as a base list for English books to study.
We’ve learned Japanese, French, Auslan and Noongar at various times. My son finds the Duolingo reminders emotionally triggering. The little birdie gets sad if you don’t study daily. Apparently this is a common reaction, especially among people with rejection sensitivity dysphoria (often part of ADHD), because we found a few memes about it. We were able to sign up for Mango for free through our local library, which usually costs money. This app is great and has a lot of languages on offer. My son decided to start with Latin. This week we discovered that you can even learn Klingon on Duolingo, so that has seduced him back to Duo. The Australian curriculum officially lists 17 different languages under LOTE, including Auslan, Aboriginal languages (like Noongar) and Classical languages (Greek & Latin). Sadly Klingon is not on the list. I’m sure if your child spent time learning a non-approved language, you could argue it’s valid!
For Auslan, I print materials from Twinkl (if you sign up they will periodically send you a free download link that you can use for any resource) or Teachers Pay Teachers (search ‘Auslan’ and then select ‘free’ on the side menu for over 50 free downloads including Auslan Battleship and Auslan Uno!). Or we watch videos on Youtube or Signbank. We practice our fingerspelling like a secret language at noisy events. Sometimes my son teaches his friends, which is a great way to cement it in his brain.
For writing Japanese, we’ve used Smile Nihongo Academy, a website with free hiragana and katakana lessons delivered via clear, simple videos. I have some Japanese dictionaries and teaching books that I picked up at op shops. My son likes watching Japanese movies and sometimes we watch them with the Japanese soundtrack instead of in English; especially movies we’ve seen several times. This week I wrote all the hiragana onto milk bottle lids so I can create words with them. I’m teaching myself hiragana too, but when he sees me learning he often joins in.
Health and Phys Ed
We mostly cover health topics with conversations. I talk to him about mental health, consent, drugs, relationships, emotions, puberty, all the things. For embarrassing topics I corner him in the car, where he can’t get away. I’ve bought him some books about puberty and consent which he does his best to hide from any visitors who might be horrified.
We look up topics on Youtube as necessary, for example what happens if you don’t brush your teeth. We cover first aid as it happens. I tried to cover the standard topics in a St John first aid course this year but he finds it quite scary to imagine those scenarios.
He covers phys ed with trampoline play, ball play with friends (I am not skilled or enthusiastic about ball games), bike riding, swimming, bushwalking and archery. I recommend archery for ADHD kids; it’s great for focus. The child’s bow we bought him at a local camping shop was supposed to be fairly safe but it still put several holes in our Colourbond fence. So he treats it with due respect.
I made an ADHD-friendly outdoor learning recording sheet for nature play or bushwalk days that you can download and print.
We are working on incorporating movement breaks during long screen days. He’s old enough now to set himself a task, like ten star jumps or a fast trampoline session. I’d like to have some regular routines that include movement or brain gym, but we don’t do routines here. Recently I’ve been doing solo jiu jitsu sessions, which are a lot like brain gym for adults but more interesting and intense. I might be able to entice him into this in the future, especially if he starts attending regular martial arts classes with me.
We use mental health and sensory tools as appropriate eg. cold packs for calming, wiggle cushion, deep breathing, fidget spinner, sitting in a box of packing pellets, popping bubble wrap.
Art & Music
This is probably the weakest part of our homeschool, because my son is not interested in arts. The most appropriate art activities for him are messy, outdoors and technical. He likes building things and experimenting, so if I can incorporate that then he’ll usually participate. I actually studied fine art at university so I would love to be doing more art with him, but he’s a different person to me.
He does like to experiment with digital media, so we utilise apps (Logo Designer, Stop Motion Animation – we upgraded both of these), Youtube, ABC Education and Canva. I am able to access a .edu email address with membership to my state homeschooling body HEWA, so this year we’ve set up a Canva Edu account which is fun. I have a classroom of one and I can set him assignments or send him worksheets.
We attend lots of concerts, exhibitions and plays. We talk about what worked and what didn’t, what we liked and didn’t, how the artist or performer achieved that response. We often read a book and then watch the movie or see the play. Afterwards we discuss the similarities and differences. Sometimes I get him to write a brief review, but I don’t expect this every time. Maybe once or twice a year.
I found a really neat book at my local bookstore called Organic Artist for Kids. It shows you how to make your own paints, charcoal, crayons, ink and other art materials. You can cover history, science and technology along with art as you smoulder willow sticks over a fire, crush rocks or melt wax. We tried making acorn ink and were fascinated to watch it turn black with a little vinegar. This book is a great resource for wild nature play and experiential learners.
Youtube is a great source for art tutorials. If my child was interested in visual art, we’d probably follow along with some Youtube videos for exploring techniques as well as experimenting with different media and flicking through some art books.
See Blossom & Root under Science for a review of this curriculum.
This subject is the easiest to cover for us. My son does technology every week without me teaching him or asking him to. It might be Lego, Meccano, setting up a Youtube channel, creating Minecraft servers, servicing his bike, making wooden shields and swords, cooking, building cubbies, sewing a Death costume, chatting with friends online, calling me from a payphone or visiting a Hobby Expo. He helps out in my business and enjoys using any sort of computer or machine.
Blossom & Root covers technology in their science curriculum. My son prefers to teach himself as he goes. I buy him real adult tools, starting with hand tools and progressing to power tools. He knows to use a dust mask, safety goggles, gloves, shoes, etc when appropriate. When he wants a new tool over $100, I get him to research online and write down three prices from different businesses. He now owns a rotary sander, drills, jigsaw, wood burning tool and circular saw. He can read the instruction manual (a skill he learnt from putting together many Lego sets) and will experiment carefully to find out what each tool can do.
We collect wooden pallets for woodwork, making sure to only pick up ones stamped with ‘HT’ for Heat Treated (do not use ‘MB’, these ones are impregnated with methyl bromide and will remain toxic for handling). He’s taught himself how to lever planks off, how to extract and straighten nails.
I buy construction kits for him as rewards for goals reached – he likes Lego, wooden kits, cardboard kits. We have various electronic kits that I bought secondhand. He has a huge amount of Lego to tinker with. You can use Lego to teach most subjects – make a Lego maze and code an algorithm to solve it, use Lego blocks to teach place value, use different colours for each element and join together to make molecules or compounds, incorporate it into stop motion animation videos. Three years ago my son won a prize for his Lego entry at our local agricultural show. He loves to watch Youtube videos of Lego ‘food’ or huge builds. This year we visited an exhibition about shipwrecks that were recreated in Lego models. You’re never too old for Lego!
I consider cooking to come under technology, at least in the younger years. I bought my son a basic cookbook a couple of years ago and he’s steadily cooking his way through it. He loves to create meals that are better than the takeaway equivalent, like fish and chips. He still prefers store pizza, though! He is motivated to cook challenging things because he can control the amount of sugar in it, and he knows if I cook it I won’t include all the sugar. He’s made his own birthday cakes two years in a row (Nutella cheesecake and mojito pie). He’s been using sharp knives since he was a toddler (he started with butter knives and a wooden knife and progressed to sharp knives). He’s never cut himself badly with a kitchen knife. I think the aspect of danger helps to keep him focused and motivated. He likes using gadgets, grain grinder, slicing machine, sausage mincer, mortar and pestle. Last year I took him to the Italian Club’s sausage making weekend, and he stayed up until 11pm cutting up and mincing meat then begged to return the next day without me to stuff the sausages.
If you’re not confident cooking, look up some Youtube channels (Nat’s What I Reckon is a sweary, high interest one!) or get some books out from the library. I recommend to buy cookbooks secondhand rather than new – all op shops have a huge section of cookbooks!
Any time your child is pairing devices, using apps, assembling new furniture or tools, repairing items, socialising online or using an auto checkout system, they are covering technology. Provide them with real tools and involve them in the running of the household and garden. If you can source some special tools like a typewriter, wood burning tool or drone, all the better but you can cover everything you need to with basic cooking gear, a computer or phone, hand tools and craft supplies.
You have so many options! Remember PINCH and test things out before you spend lots of money! Be prepared to rotate your resources – don’t get discouraged if your child loses interest. The best part about homeschooling is the flexibility; do what works for your family, and switch it up when you need to. Don’t be afraid to use a different grade level, mix and match curriculum, use different curriculum for each child, only complete parts of it, change your schedule or let resources go if it’s not working for your family. I hope you found some useful ideas for ADHD homeschoolers here!