ADHD, getting started homeschooling, homeschooling

You Can’t Force Your Child to Learn

Knowledge is the salary that a child receives from his time invested in schooling.

Just like money is the pay an adult receives for his invested time in a job, an education is the payment a child receives for his time invested in school.

The time and energy invested needs to worth the payment or –-just like an adult-– a kid will quit.

If a worker is forced to work when he doesn’t want to –against his will– that’s slavery.

That’s morally wrong.

Is it any wonder many children hate school?

They are forced –against their will– to do something that they don’t see as valuable.

To them, what they are receiving is not worth what they are being forced to invest!

Let’s be honest, eight hours a day, five days a week, for twelve years is a humongous investment!

Don’t fret if you have a child like this –one who isn’t thrilled with the current system.

You have the power to change this situation!

You can do these two things:

1. You can convince him or her to change what they’re willing to invest, by making your case and explaining the importance, by convincing them that an education is worth it, but …there’s no guarantee that this will work, and you cannot force them to accept it without the child feeling like he or she is a slave and stuck, like they’ve been wronged, and this will cause anger and resentment –it will make everyone miserable. So, you will have to convince them of its value –not just force your way on them. I hope you can make your case convincingly!


2. You can change your educational expectations to something that the child is interested in or something that they are motivated to learn –something that’s worth the time and energy to the child such as… letting them follow their interests, learning at their own pace, using media for school, unschooling, using delight-led learning, gameschooling, worldschooling, lifeschooling or funschoolingbasically changing the approach you use for their education.

Giving the child a voice in what they learn and how makes the child feel like they are not a victim of school: you cease to be a victim when you have power over your future, when you are investing in your own future!

The current method of forced education –which is used in both brick-and-mortar schools and profusely in homeschool— causes damage.

I’m less worried about the kids who scream that it’s not fair than the ones who don’t notice that they’ve been given no choice, the ones that don’t notice that the standard school system approach treats children like they no right of refusal –like they are just cogs in a machine instead of real people with preferences and personalities.

I am very concerned about children who just go along with it without standing up for themselves –more concerned about those kids than the ones who resist.

If you have a child who complains about this treatment, be glad!

You have a child who knows how to stand up for themselves and refuses to be mistreated!

We wouldn’t accept that treatment as adults.

We wouldn’t stand by and allow ourselves to be given no rights, no options, no choices, no individuality, and no respect.

So, why do we force it on our children?

Just because it’s socially acceptable neither makes it morally right nor in the best interest of the child.

Hey, parents, you are selling school –most likely homeschooling if you are reading my blog– to your child.

Your job is to convince them that the investment in education is worth their time.

How good are you doing at selling it?

Do you need to sweeten the deal?

Do you even know what your target audience (i.e. your child) wants?

Do you know what they see as valuable?

What’s important to them?

If the knowledge alone is not enough to motivate them to learn, what can you do to add motivation?

Aside from punishment which will just make them resent school and learning more.

Does your child need a reward system that will add to the payment of knowledge they are receiving for their time invested?

You’re not bribing your child; you’re treating them with the same respect you would expect from someone who is using up your time.

Do you choose to do things you hate with no benefit for it?

You cannot force a child to learn.

It may seem like you can, but even children who go along with forced learning are just learning the minimum to get by and quickly forget it.

I mean, truly, how many of those names and dates from history class do you really remember?

The only children who truly succeed in this system are the ones who comply and do what they are told without asking or caring why.

I don’t want my children to blindly follow and never question why they are being forced into things or why they are not treated with respect.

Learning is like eating: it is a voluntary act.

Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating. ~ Katrina Gutleben

Your child has to choose to do it.

Imagine the damage that would be done if we threatened our children when they didn’t eat –or worse yet if we force-fed them?

That would be child abuse.

And, yet, in our society, it is socially acceptable to force-feed children information against their will.

Then, we adults get upset and indignant when they resist the force-feeding, resent us, hate school, and don’t remember what they have learned.

We are aghast that by age twelve or thirteen many of them want to jump ship on a system that has been disrespectful to their opinions, preferences, and needs since they were very small.

Our current system is simpler for the adults to implement (i.e. a simpler way to deal with large numbers of children with little adult supervision), therefore the kids are expected to comply –even if it is damaging to them.

The problem isn’t with the kids –have you noticed that the smarter the kid the more likely they are to resist the status-quo method of education?

The problem lies with the expectation that every child be the same, be given the same education, learn in the same way and in the same time.

The problem isn’t the child: it is our approach and our expectations.

So, I dare you to change your expectations.

I challenge you to treat your child with the same respect you would expect and not force them into servitude to a system that does not have their best interest in mind but instead leaves them with a hatred of learning, an inability to see the value in choosing to learn, not striving for excellence, but doing the bare minimum to get by.

It is a system that does not value the child or the child’s needs.

Let your child choose to learn.

Give your child power over their own education –a say in their education.


Sarah Forbes

P.S. For my personal experience with the damage done by the brick-and-mortar approach to education, see this post about Deschooling.

For more information on how I homeschool, see this post about Delight-led Learning and Why Child-directed Education is Vital to Homeschooling.

For more information about letting children learn at their own pace, see this post called There’s No Behind in Homeschool.

Did you know that there are many ways to educate a child, and that the current popular system is neither best for the child nor the most effective? See this video for more information (and don’t let the title put you off –it’s a great video! But there are a few swear words, just a heads-up.).

faith, marriage

6 Things We Did Wrong When We First Got Married

If you follow my blog you may have noticed that I am posting late. I usually post on Sunday and Wednesday, but I missed last Sunday due to an allergic reaction. I could barely walk and talk let alone write anything. A few days later, and I am feeling a bit better but not 100%. One day at a time. In the meantime, here’s the post that should have been posted Sunday.

6 Things We Did Wrong When We First Got Married:

1) We made idols out of each other.

Even the very best husband makes a very lousy god.

We made the mistake of thinking that the other person could be our rock, our stronghold, our anchor.

Only God can truly be that.

I remember the pastor mentioning this in our marriage counseling –mentioning that this was not uncommon, but that we needed to watch for it and correct it.

We didn’t correct it for a long time, and it led to problems of feeling disappointed or even abandoned when we found that the other person had let us down.

Neither of us is perfect so even if we have the best of intentions, eventually, we will let the other one down.

In our premarital counseling, the pastor said that in the beginning of the marriage, it’s like all you can see is each other: you’re standing there holding both hands, only seeing the person you love.

But as you grow, you should turn and start walking toward God together.

I have found that this analogy is somewhat true but that sometimes walking together is difficult because you’re walking at different paces –it’s rare to find a couple who is walking at the same pace toward God.

If we make our spouse into an idol, we put the person on a pedestal.

And then they do what people on pedestals always do.

They fall off.

The only person who will never disappoint us is Jesus, so we need our confidence, our stability, our strength wrapped up in who He is –not what our spouse is or what we wish they would be.

2) We stayed up late fighting when we should have gone to bed.

The Bible verse that says “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26) is using an analogy which basically means “Don’t wait too long to resolve your issues.”

It doesn’t literally mean that you’re in sin if you go to bed instead of staying up until 4 AM arguing.

Oftentimes –for us anyway– the lateness only added to the problem.

If it’s midnight, the sun has already gone down: deal with it tomorrow when you’re not exhausted and when you can be more clear-headed about it.

Not feeling like we had to deal with it tonight has helped.

We still try to not let anger stew and become bitterness –because leaving stewing anger unaddressed will become bitterness– but dealing with it right now instead of waiting to cool off often opens a whole different can of worms.

The concept is still true: don’t let too much time pass before you deal with your anger.

But, I don’t feel pressure to deal with anger in an unhealthy way or deal with it when I cannot be calm and will only make the situation worse.

Often times, if I need to discuss something with Scott, I’ll write everything I’m upset about on a sheet of paper and then throw it away before I address the issue with him. I try to only bring up the big issue, not all the little stuff.

You can see the method I use in this post about Prayermapping.

3) We expected ourselves and each other to be perfect.

I have written extensively about this idea of the spouse living up to your expectations.

See: The Myth of a Perfect Husband

We often expect our spouses to not only be perfect but to never make a mistake and to always do what we would do or what we would want them to do.

Almost like we want someone who can read our minds.

We erroneously believe the myth that the other person is supposed to “make us whole” as opposed to the idea that marriage is supposed to make us more holy and mature in Christ.

Not even Jesus always did what those around Him wanted –and He actually was perfect.

Scott thought I would be steady and reliable like his mom; I thought he’d be outgoing like my dad.

Neither of us is those things naturally.

While I can improve my management skills somewhat, I cannot change how I’m wired; he isn’t going to suddenly be outgoing.

In fact, the things that drew me to him are directly connected to how he’s wired and why he’s not outgoing.

It just took me a while to understand that and to accept that he wasn’t like me, that he wasn’t going to change to meet my ideal, and that it was okay if he didn’t.

A key for us was understanding and accepting each other’s idiosyncrasies.

This is not the same as ignoring actual sin.

Learning to distinguish between sin and non-sin issues is important.

See more about that in this post about Judgements.

Learning to let myself be less than perfect — giving up my ideal of what I thought I should be– was even harder for me than letting him be himself.

I still have a view of who I wish I could and would be that I have to daily surrender to God.

He’s the Potter who can do with me as He pleases.

His vision of who I should be is way more important than my own.

4) We failed to forgive.

I’m not sure that we failed to do this as much as it took us a long time to learn it.

Forgiveness is important.

Holding on to every little issue and rehashing it each time you have a disagreement is very destructive.

We made an agreement that we wouldn’t dig up old issues and throw them back in each other’s faces.

This has been huge!

I know people who have been married way longer than we have and every time they argue, they dredge up every disagreement and slight and use it as ammunition in the current battle –even stuff that happened decades ago.

That’s just so destructive.

See my series on Forgiveness.

5) We made personal issues into marriage issues.

Not every problem that my husband has is my problem.

It’s not always about me, nor is it my issue that I need to try to fix.

We did not agree on everything.

What he chooses to do in his spiritual walk is between him and God.

It is not about me even if affects me.

I’m not the Holy Spirit, and it’s not my job to be his conscience.

Now, at some point, the issue is big enough that it needs to be addressed, but many issues are not big issues.

So many times we’ve made personal struggles into issues in our marriage when really it was just part of the journey one or the other of us were on and part of the struggles we were going through as we matured and grew.

I’ve had to learn to let him have his struggles and not take it personally.

6. We fought against each other instead of for each other.

In the beginning, I had a me-versus-him mentality.

I wanted to get him to do things my way instead of being willing to find something that worked best for both of us.

I didn’t realize that if it was best for me but not best for him it still wasn’t good.

For instance, if I want to go to a party and want him to go with me, so I argue for that and win, but he goes begrudgingly and is miserable the whole time, who really won?

It may seem like I won, but did we win?

Is our relationship better for it?

We’re in this together.

I’m fighting for us –not just me.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t stand up for myself.

On the contrary, we are the best we can be when each is emotionally healthy and knows they’re loved and accepted unconditionally.

To maintain a healthy relationship, I must stand up for myself in truly important matters but let less important matters go.

If the bringing up the issue would cause more harm than good, I let it go.

I’m learning to fight for him.

Not against him.

I’m fighting for us.

I’m still learning what that means and how best to do that.


Sarah Forbes

ADHD, homeschooling

Delight-led Learning and Why Child-directed Education Is Vital to Homeschooling

An introduction and a story

Let’s suppose that you are asked to do a job.

You are told that it is vitally important –but not why it’s important– and you will not get paid.

Not a penny.

And, it’s very hard work.

You start by moving a large pile of dirt from one area in the lot to another area marked by newspaper held down by rocks.

Load by load, you shovel the dirt into the wheelbarrow in the blistering heat and haul it across the lot, dumping it in the prescribed location.

By the end of the day, you are wondering what on earth is going on, why you are doing this, and if it is really worth it for no pay.

A few weeks later, you are called back to the site, and the boss tells you that today, you will be moving that same pile from where you were to down the road and putting it in the park in another area marked again by the newspaper and rocks.

You shake your head and remind yourself that this is vitally important.

They told you when you started that it was very important, and you want to believe them.

So, you grab your shovel and your wheelbarrow and head out to move that same silly pile of dirt from here down to the next newspaper-marked location.

This repeats a few more times, and as the summer heat skyrockets into the 100-degree mark, you sigh again, reminding yourself that this work is vitally important.

They said it was: they said to trust them, that it is making a difference.

But, how does moving a pile of dirt around the neighborhood make a difference?

And, how can you justify the amount of time and energy is going into this when you have no idea what is going on and nothing to show for your work?.

“Trust me: this is important” is no longer sufficient.

You decide that this stinks, and you don’t want to do manual labor for free, not matter how “vital” it is.

So, you set down your shovel and go home.

A few days later, the job leader shows up on your doorstep and asks if he can have a few minutes of your time.

He walks you down to the lot where you first moved the dirt pile around.

In the dirt, you see little lines of sprouts and labels of various vegetable names.

The square is labeled “community mini garden.”

He explains that all around the neighborhood, a group of thoughtful people had been planting and tending little gardens that would yield produce and be handed out and shared with the community –particularly with those who needed it.

Your work was vitally important: you were killing off weeds with your dirt-piled newspaper patches.

You laid the foundation for 6 gardens before you decided you’d had enough.

The problem was that no one had told you what was going on.

No one had explained the reason this action was valuable.

No one explained why it was vital, why it was important.

♥ ♥ ♥ For my fellow moms with ADHD, I want to apologize ahead of time for the length of this post. I try to keep my posts to about 1000 words, but this one is very, very long. Someone asked me to explain how and why I use delight-led learning, and I didn’t feel I could do it justice in a shorter space. I added labels, italics, and breaks in hopes it would make it easier for my shiny friends to navigate. ♥ ♥ ♥

Story application

Without a reason to do work no one —not even adults— will work hard.

For most adults, they will even do a job that they completely hate for enough money –because they have decided that the money they need is worth the hassle, aggravation, sweat, and tears the job takes from them.

The value is in the results, and they are willing to work for the results.

Once the job becomes more hassle than the money is worth, adults stop doing the work and move on to a new job.

This is human nature.

The task has to have value.

Children are no different.

When it comes to learning, they need to see the value in what they are doing.

How many times in school did you think “Why on earth am I learning this?” or “When am I ever going to use this?”

Story 2, my own experience

I remember in 7th grade, I had just aced a test in homeschool.

We were using a video program, and I had memorized all the countries and capitals of Europe and gotten 100% on my exam.

In my enthusiasm, I promptly recited them all to my father as soon as he walked in the door from work.

He started grinning and chuckling –much to my confusion.

“SallyBeth,” he said –that was his nickname for me, “Most of those countries don’t exist anymore.”

He was right: the video that we were using for history and geography had been taped a few years prior –before the fall of the Iron Curtain.

I can still recite it: Bonn, West Germany; Berlin, East Germany; Prague Czechoslovakia; Sofia, Bulgaria; Athens, Greece; Moscow, Russia; and so on.

But, it was mostly useless information even then –just taking up space in my brain.

I was told to memorize it, and I did –just like I was told –trusting that if the teacher said it was important, then it was.

Believe me: it was not.

Not one time in my entire life have I needed to know the capital of Czechoslovakia –a country that doesn’t even exist anymore.

Now, if Dr Who picks me up and time-travels me back in time to Soviet USSR, I might be glad that I know where Czechoslovakia is.

But, since I don’t see a trip on the TARDIS happening anytime soon, I have filed that geography test in “Useless Things I Was Forced to Memorize.”

There needs to be value in what our children do, and they need to see the value in what they are doing.

Or they will resent it, just like I resented the amount of time and energy it took to memorize completely useless and out-of-date geographical locations.

I never expect my child to learn something without first explaining the value of what they are learning and how that will apply to their lives later on.

If I can’t prove that it will be valuable –like memorizing every bone in the hand at age 8 just to be able to say you did it– we don’t do it.

If your child wants to be a doctor and loves to memorize the names of bones, then that is a completely different issue because —to that child— this information is valuable.

This is what I mean by child-directed education: an education based on their needs and interests.

Children resent a valueless education.

Our culture worships education.

It is the altar at which we throw thousands and thousands of dollars and are even willing to sacrifice our children’s emotional, psychological –and sometimes even physical– wellbeing to because we have been told that it’s worth achieving this ideal of knowledge.

I do believe that an education has value, but only when it doesn’t damage the child.

Many of our current methods are quite frankly damaging.

Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.” ~ Katrina Gutleben

When they are young, it can be really challenging to show the child the value of doing hard things.

It is too much to expect a young child to do hard things.

That is why I advocate for keeping learning fun and as enjoyable as possible when they are young.

Until maybe age 9 or 10, most of what a child needs to learn can be taught in an enjoyable way.

Remember that homeschooling was started by people who thought formal book learning should wait until the child was age 9 or 10.

Before that, you want to teach them that learning is fun!

It doesn’t have to be book learning and sheets of paper!

Forcing children to learn using only text books is like showing them a travel brochure and calling it a vacation.

We want to teach them to value learning.

The acquisition of information is the currency that you will use to pay your young workers for their time in education later on.

So, that acquisition of information needs to be seen valuable –and the time invested needs to be worth the reward to them.

It will not be seen as valuable if your child has never experienced the joy and love of learning.

This is absolutely key to child-directed learning and to having a peaceful homeschool experience in my opinion: you need to instill a joy of learning in your child at a young age or deschool the child if the school system or homeschool system killed his joy for learning.

See more about deschooling here.

All kids love to learn; it is we adults who either nurture or kill that joy.

Children are born with all the curiosity they will ever need. It will last a lifetime if they are fed upon a daily diet of ideas. –Charlotte Mason

Example 1 of child-led learning

I started out with a more traditional approach to homeschooling, and in our early days classes including math, grammar, reading, and writing were non-negotiable.

That was before I knew about my son’s dysgraphia.

Writing caused him pain and panic attacks, and —to save this mama from losing her ever-lovin mind— I had to back off.

I backed off entirely unless he could do it without freaking out or unless he asked to do it.

I stumbled into delight-led accidentally because my son’s struggles necessitated it.

You can struggle for weeks to teach a child to identify colors before they are ready or you can do it in a few moments when they are ready to learn.

It was his choice when we did writing –I encouraged him to try every once in awhile to see if he could do it without pain.

I was ecstatic when I stumbled upon a page describing delight-led learning –which is what we were doing even though I didn’t know it was a thing with an actual name.

It showed me that we can wait without damaging the child.

There are even plenty of studies that show the benefit of starting later for many topics and classes: I have seen studies showing kids learning everything you could learn in grammar between 1st grade and 9th –with no prior grammar experience– learn everything from those 9 years in only one year because the child was older and able to learn it all at once.

The spiral approach isn’t the best or the only way to learn, but the public school has to fill up 8 hours a day for 12 years with learning; we do not.

What I didn’t expect was the damage that was done by me pushing him when he wasn’t ready.

When the flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which the flower grows, not the flower. –Alexander Den Heijer

Even with delight-led learning, I did not remove my expectation that the three Rs would be done regularly –not daily because we don’t actually do school books daily: it is more like 3 or 4 days a week.

Adherence to the 3Rs is what makes my approach different from unschooling, even if I am not rigid in my adherence.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the 3Rs, that’s the basics of any education: Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic. (I know: it is not really 3Rs, but I didn’t make it up. That is just what they call it. The OCD part of me rolls my eyes at the misuse of R and moves on.)

I simply had to adapt the 3Rs to what was doable for my child.

Not all children are ready to learn the same thing as the same time in the same way. –Kathy Walker

For writing, he would dictate things to me, I would write them, and he would tell me how to punctuate it, so he was still getting sentence formation practice.

Or, we would draw on the sidewalk and work on motor control.

Or, we would trace giant letters I had made on card stock with glitter glue.

But, I didn’t push handwriting (cursive or print) again until he was ready.

He came to me one day and said that he wanted to learn to spell and write better.

He was about 12 years old.

He had a basic ability to write before that, but it was very tedious and took him a very long time to form even one word.

When he decided he was ready because he saw the value, we moved forward with learning to write better.

Even with a learning disability, you don’t want to emotionally scar the child over learning by pushing.

This is an extreme example– professional help may have been better but it was not available in our area– however, this shows that children can and do learn at a different pace than we expect and that their direct involvement in choosing to learn can have a huge impact!

By the way, he is 15 now and can write his name, write a sentence, etc.; although, he still prefers typing and probably always will –just like I will never prefer to mental math, but I can do it if I have to.

Example 2 of child-led learning

With my younger son, I have had to apply the child-led philosophy a different way: in math, he gets overwhelmed very easily.

Unlike me, I don’t think he actually has a math-based learning disability, but think he has slow processing problems.

For this reason, it can take him a long time to do math.

I stopped assigning a whole page of math to him (like I did his brother) in about first grade and haven’t since.

He has to do 3 problems or as many as he wants –if he wants to do more, that’s fine.

Sometimes, he does more.

Sometimes, he comes to me and says “Mom, my brain isn’t working today. Can I just do one problem?”

I am a benevolent dictator, and have pity on my poor struggling subjects who actually like to learn but have ADHD, hyperdrive brains that sometimes do not cooperate.

If today is not a good day, we try again tomorrow.

It’s better to wait until later if their brains are struggling then to cause damage by forcing learning when their brains are shutting off.

It doesn’t matter how fast they are learning as long as they are learning.

It shouldn’t matter how slowly a child learns as long as we are encouraging them not to stop. –Robert John Meehan

Making a big deal of how slowly they are going is the opposite of encouraging them not to stop.

Check your state laws before implementing this idea because some states dictate what must be learned when and– though I don’t agree with that philosophy– I also don’t want you to get into trouble.

Children don’t learn at a steady pace like we want them too.

Children do much of their learning in great bursts of passion and enthusiasm. Except for those physical skills which can’t be learned any other way. Children rarely learn on the slow, steady schedules that schools make for them. They are more likely to be insatiably curious for a while about some particular interest, and to read, write, and talk, and ask questions about it for hours a day and for days on end. Then suddenly they may drop that interest and turn to something completely different, or even for a while seem to have no interests at all. This usually means that for the time being they have all the information on that subject that they can digest and need to explore the world in a different way or perhaps simply get a firmer grip on what they already know. –John Holt in How Children Learn

My children do not learn the way I expected them to when I started off on this journey called homeschooling.

I thought that I would be the mom who was in a room set up like a classroom, with a chalkboard and vintage desks, doing regular lesson plans, and creating lots of papers to show for our work.

It turns out my children hated –loathed —is there a stronger word than loathed?— learning that way.

They had a visceral hatred for worksheets.

My classroom now is my children teaching themselves, mostly on a computer –because that is how they like to learn.

They chose their classes.

They also chose not to stop once summer started this year.

Yes, you heard correctly.

I gave them the option to take summer break, and they chose –much to my surprise and amusement– not to stop for summer break because they decided they had not learned enough this year to justify a break.

If I had forced them into my mold of education instead of following what worked best for them, I can guarantee that they would be fighting me right now and not taking charge of their own education.

This is unschooling-ish but not quite as extreme.

If you are familiar with unschooling, you will see that some of my ideas are similar to unschooling, but I do not believe in letting the child have complete control over their education.

For example, that is why we have set classes that must be taken –the 3Rs we talked about earlier.

Everything else is completely delight-led –unless I am feeling well enough to actually lead and teach a class which happens from time to time.

Reading, science, history, and Bible is usually interest based: they ask questions, and we find answers.

Or, they watch (approved) Youtube or Netflix videos on topics that interest them.

Or, we they read as much about the topic as they can find –Google is our friend!

I have a ton of robotics-related books because my oldest was completely obsessed with robots as a grade schooler and we bought every book we could get out hands on –choosing that over the library because we could never return books on time.

If I had made an assignment, divided up the book, and scheduled how much he had to read when, I would have killed his joy of reading and learning about it.

I can just imagine how frustrating it would have been for him in school if he had gotten in trouble for reading ahead in his favorite class like I did: that’s the way to squash any joy a child has in gaining information, in seeing the value in learning.

Letting him read it for the pure joy of reading it and letting him read as much as he wanted to meant he was pursuing his own learning and learning to love the joy that learning brings.

This is preparing them for harder learning.

The argument I hear all the time is “How will they learn to do hard things if you don’t make them do hard work when they are young?”

I have even been accused of spoiling my children –an idea which I fully reject.

With delight-led or child-led learning, they learn the value of learning young, and they they are willing to trade their time for the valuable commodity of information when they get older.

Play –especially when they are young– is teaching them the value of learning!

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. –Mister Rogers

My 15 year old has spent hours upon hours painstakingly typing instructions for a game he made.

Writing is not his forte, but he sees the value in learning to spell, write, etc so that he can create his game rules.

I am supposed to be helping him edit it –except I forgot about it until I just wrote this sentence (oops).

That is teaching him to pursue things that he wants to do.

To pursue hard learning because it is valuable to him.

I am honestly not a huge fan of college because of the school model it follows –my educational philosophy differs– and because of the enormous expense, but if one of my children chose to pursue a degree I have no doubt that they could do it because they know the value of learning.

It’s so much more than just letting the kid do whatever the heck he wants.

It is channeling the child’s passions.

What to do if they are behind

First of all, I reject the entire idea of behind and wrote an entire blog post about it.

You can read that blog post here: There’s No Behind in Homeschool.

But if perchance your child gets to the graduating age, and the child isn’t ready to graduate?

There are a number of options:

1. Let school last longer than 12 years. Who said school had to stop at grade 12? The same people who arbitrarily decided that children belong in rooms of all the same age group and should learn the same info at the same time. The same people who set up the entire system of education that is failing thousands of students resulting in the mass exodus that is the homeschool movement. If you don’t trust them with your child, why do you trust them with their schedule? Do what works for your family. We will graduate when my children think they are ready to graduate. Not a moment sooner.

2. Send them to college for classes to fill in the gaps. No one –not even public school teachers –teach the child everything they needs to know in 12 years. Anyone who tells you that the school can give the child everything they need is drinking the kool aid. Spit it out: it’s poison. Tons and tons of kids take basic classes in college, and there is no shame in that. This is especially true for children with developmental problems or learning disabilities which make learning more challenging. If you are going to let your child learn at their own pace, that means that you have to allow for them to be “behind” if that is where their pace is.

3. Let them graduate anyway. Unless you live in a state that dictates what you must do when and how many classes a child must have to graduate, let them move on. This is a lifestyle of learning, and you have trained them in this way of life. I know that this a completely different way of doing things, but you have to know that they will keep learning. If you teach them to teach themselves they will just fill in the gaps as they need it. In this age of the internet, they have practically the entirety of the knowledge of mankind at their fingertips. If they want to know, they can learn! A child who truly loves to learn isn’t going to stop.

Your job is not to teach your children everything but to give them the skills to learn on their own. —Meaghan Newell

So, what does a school day at my house look like?

At our house, my children get up and start school as soon as they have eaten breakfast.

We save chores until afterward so that they can focus their energy on learning.

My 15 year old does school at the kitchen table, and my 12 year old does school on the couch.

We have a classroom that we do not use– it currently contains boxes of craft supplies.

These are the classes they chose to do for the summer:

Reading (at least 10 minutes of anything they want),

Math (my older child is doing CTC math online; my younger child is doing online games until I figure out how to sign into Math U See… I procrastinated again),

And typing/writing (the older child feels like he needs more spelling, so he types out lists of spelling words he finds online; the younger child is currently hand writing the book of Proverbs because he likes writing the Bible verses).

This takes them about an hour or so.

We watch educational TV shows, and they spend the afternoons right now educating themselves about Minecraft via YouTube (only approved channels like Stampy Cat and Etho).

They have daily chores they do usually around dinner time, and a list of chores they do a few times a week to earn video game time.

I consider all of it –the Youtube time, chores, book work, shopping, going to doctor appointments –to be part of school.

The best education is the one that prepares you for adulthood –and let’s be honest: the public school system does a poor job of preparing students for adulthood.

My children are living and growing beside me, learning as my apprentices.

I know for a fact that my 15 year old can run a house –because he cooks and cleans when I am unable to.

This and more are things that he would not get sitting in a classroom for 8 or 10 hours a day and they are vital parts of his education.

What did a school day look like in grade school?

I will be honest with you: I did this –delight-led learning– when they are in grade school but thought that I was failing miserably by following their lead and not making them do school work like I was “supposed” to.

I was sure I was ruining them for a while.

But I was wrong.

It worked so well, and they were learning way more than I thought they were!

So, when they were littler and if I wasn’t too sick, I would read them a section from “Leading Little Ones to God.”

If I was too sick to read, I would have the older one read to the younger one.

Then they would do math.

We did Math U See, so on Monday we would watch the DVD and play with the blocks if necessary to explain the concepts.

The next few days they tried to do a whole page, but often didn’t get the whole thing done. I would circle every other problem on the page, and if they got those done, they didn’t have to do any more.

This worked really well for the older one but not the younger who really does better with a few problems a day as described above.

We just did the next page –no schedule– and this is still how we do it: schedule is a bad word at my house.

I don’t care if they get the whole sheet done.

I care if they understand the concept.

For many ADHD people once they get the concept they don’t need to do 50 more problems.

If you make them do 50 more problems after they get the concept you will kill any enjoyment they have.

I tried grammar with them at this age, and it did not click.

I would explain things, and they just stared at me.

This was hard because I love grammar —I know: I am weird.

So, we focused on phonics until they were older, closer to 4 or 5th grade which was fine with me because I didn’t even have grammar until 4th grade.

For phonics we use Spelling to Read and Write, but as a person with ADHD, the curriculum was completely overwhelming.

I used just the flash cards, and we made games out of it that I combined that with some of the games in the book “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.”

If it got too hard my anxious child would have panic attacks so that was my radar for when it was getting to be too much.

I couldn’t justify pushing him when I knew his anxiety would go through the roof. (We tried medication, but that is a long story.)

Reading was always mandatory… they had to read something.

But I didn’t care what –the bible, the dictionary, a comic book, or a novel.

Just read something.

Sometimes they even weasel in Minecraft Wiki for reading –I roll my eyes and go with it.

It is still reading –even if it isn’t my kind of reading.

I also read out loud to them when they were young.

I didn’t always require them to read by themselves if I had spent an hour reading to them.

We read the entire Little House on the Prairie series and a few other books.

For a while I couldn’t read out loud due to complications from my illness, but I recently started again.

We finished The Little Pilgrim’s Progress last fall, and we were reading Swiss Family Robinson, except the version I have is in very complicated English which requires extra function from my mom-brain.

Afternoon time

After those subjects were done, we had free learning time.

Everything I could get my hands on for sciencey books and history TV shows (age appropriate, of course) was allowed during this time.

We did Mythbusters, Cyber Chase, Liberty’s Kids, Drive Thru History, etc.

It all counted as school in my book.

If I knew they were interested in a topic, I would track down books, movies, audio books, puzzles, and games —whatever I could find-– to encourage them to learn.

But, I never forced them to learn –it was their choice.

I would say, “Now’s reading time. Choose something off the shelf to read,” but, never, “You will read pages 16-20 of ACB Science between now and 2 PM.”

I have wondered if I was doing my children a disservice by educating them this way, because let’s admit it, moms: no matter what we do or how good we are, we have doubts.

My son told me once that even when I was too sick to do school (which I have a whole post about, here) they were still learning.

He says they learn the value of friendship and to be brave from watching Lord of the Rings.

They learn to be noble and stand up for people by watching super hero cartoons.

When properly chosen, the TV and all media can be a useful tool –especially for ADHD children who learn really well via that means.

Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. –C.S. Lewis

In conclusion

This method might not work for everyone.

I am not saying it is the only way to homeschool.

It is just the way that has worked for us.

It seems to work really well with ADHD children who need to be able to use their hyperfocus to motivate them to learn more because they can follow whatever their passion is.

It has motivated my children to take control of their own education.

When there is a class my teen doesn’t want to take, we discuss if it will be necessary for his path in the future, how hard it will be for him to learn the information later if he needs it, and we have a discussion.

I do not force classes because I don’t have to.

I also don’t think I have the entire say in his education.

It is his life, too.

If he doesn’t want to take advanced math and doesn’t think he needs it, I will not argue with him.

I respect his opinion too much to force my way on him.

If I disagree, we will have a conversation about it, and come to a compromise.

This –the ability to have a rational and civil conversation about something important –above anything else that we have done– is truly preparing him for real life one day.

I feel like there is more to say, but this post is so long that I am going to stop here. Maybe I will write a part two at a later time.

Hopefully, that gives my readers insight into what I mean by delight-led learning

If my ideas seem completely odd and original to you, I promise they are not: there are even brick-and-mortar schools that have embraced the idea of putting the child in control of their own education. You can see more about it in this YouTube video.


Sarah Forbes

Sarah Forbes

ADHD, homeschooling, parenthood

Principles to Help in Homeschooling ADHD Children (Originally Written for My Facebook Groups)

The following are principles that I compiled for our homeschool groups for parents of ADHD children and homeschool moms with ADHD on Facebook.

I am posting it here in the hopes that it will be helpful for those who are homeschooling children with ADHD or working with ADHD people in other venues.

When you are homeschooling or working with an ADHD child, it is not like working with a neurotypical child because ADHD children have developmental delays –even if they are intellectually advanced or gifted. Because of this difference, you have to alter how you work with them and what is expected as explained in the list below.

There are certain principles that our groups stand for. If posts and comments in our groups do not reflect these standards, they may be deleted. This list is subject to change at the administrator’s discretion.

We endorse to the following ideas:

1. Parents are the best educators of their own children as they are most invested in and dedicated to their children’s future and success.

2. While parents should be able to homeschool their children without government involvement, parents should also be able to get help from the school system for their children’s special needs if help is needed and not be shamed for choosing what is right for their own children.

3. Homeschooling is defined for the purpose of this group as “any child who is at home and not in a brick-and-mortar school at least half of the school day.” For instance, a dual enrollment in homeschool and college or a part time charter school is still considered homeschooling in this group.

4. The only wrong way to homeschool is any way that causes emotional and psychological damage to your child.

5. Lifeschooling is the education a child gets by living life in a family and in the course of living in the world and being among adults and peers. It is part of school and a viable, important part of a child’s education that should not be underestimated or underappreciated. The whole world is a school, and children are learning even when we are not teaching them. We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of play. Play is the work of children: it’s how they learn best.

6. Socialization is a non-issue, a farce created to try to scare parents away from homeschooling. Homeschooling offers the best possible form of socialization —far superior to that of the public school— because children are exposed to people of diverse ages and backgrounds, they are being apprenticed by adults on an ongoing, one-on-one (or nearly one-on-one) basis, and they are not stuck in a classroom with children of their same age and similar background all day long for years on end. A 14 year old boy will not learn how to be an adult by being around other 14 year old boys.

7. ADHD is a real condition, and all ADHD people need accommodations. Each ADHD person will need accommodation that is uniquely suited to them whether medication, supplements, grace, a low stress environment, coping mechanisms, changed expectations, etc. We fully reject the idea that it is wrong for a parent to accommodate an ADHD child. We also reject the idea that medication and help is a “crutch” that an ADHD person does not need.

8. ADHD is not a learning disability, it cannot be corrected or “fixed,” and it is a medical condition which the child will live with for his or her entire life. ADHD is not a disease, but it is a different way that the brain develops, thus it is a developmental disorder and a neurological disorder.

9. External motivation in the form of rewards, prizes, praise, etc. are not bribes but are in fact “carrots-on-a-stick” that help the ADHD child with the focus and motivation problems which are caused by the delayed development of their frontal lobe as backed by scientific research.

10. Letting your child learn at their own pace is ideal because children develop and learn at different rates and pushing them to adapt to a stereotypical educational model is damaging.

11. Just because a child is in a public school room for 8 hours a day does not mean that they need 8 hours of homeschool time. The actual learning time that happens in a classroom is closer to 2 to 3 hours –even at the high school level, and homeschool students need approximately the same 2 to 3 hours of education time.

12. Following your child’s interests is the easiest way to teach an ADHD child because it allows them to use their ADHD superpower –hyperfocus– to their advantage and allows the parent to not fight against the way an ADHD brain is naturally wired.

13. The goal of homeschooling is to create lifelong learners who have a joy of learning and seek to continue to learn long after the homeschooling is over. This is important because no teacher —not even a public school teacher— can teach a child everything they need to know. So, a joy of learning will enable the child to fill in these gaps with self-directed learning as they get older.

14. ADHD children have frontal lobes that are developing up to 6 years behind their peers of the same age causing emotional and regulation delay. For this reason, it is unreasonable to expect our ADHD children to perform tasks, finish school work, and accomplish chores on-level with non-ADHD children of their same age. If your child is acting emotionally and developmentally younger than they are by 4 or 6 years, this is actually normal for an ADHD child.

15. ADHD children should not be blamed or punished for the parts of their conditions, disorders, or disabilities that they cannot control such as being impulsive, hyperactive, forgetful, distracted, emotional, restless, etc.

16. ADHD people and other neuroatypical people are far more likely to be traumatized by things that do not seem traumatizing for those who have neurotypical brains. Therefore, parents need to be gentle, understanding, and gracious in handling of their ADHD children especially –but not limited to– how they discipline.

17. ADHD children should be told that they have ADHD lest they grow up feeling broken and knowing they are different but not knowing why. The damage to the child of not knowing about ADHD can have a significant and lasting impact and is far less damaging than the stigma of labeling a legitimate medical condition.

18. Pushing school work after the child’s brain has become overwhelmed or shut off does more damage than good and causes trauma. We should never sacrifice the child’s emotional and psychological well being for our goals, plans, or schedules. We should never let our fear of failure push our children beyond what is best for them. It doesn’t matter what they are learning or how fast they are learning as long as they are learning.

19. There is a Rule of Attention which states “Double the child’s age, and that number is the total minutes you can expect a child to focus on something that they are interested in.” An ADHD child will be able to pay attention for even less time. For example, a non-ADHD 6-year-old child can focus for 12 minutes on a certain topic before they need a change or a break according to this rule. But, an ADHD child of the same age will be able focus for less time than their neurotypical peers unless they are ADHD hyperfocusing. Hyperfocus is a superpower that allows ADHD people to pay extra attention to topics they are interested in, but it is very hard to control –even for ADHD adults.

20. Along with ADHD comes beautiful gifts that can even outshine the ADHD if we are willing to look for those special talents. We often cannot see those gifts until we go looking for them. The gift is most often connected to what the ADHD child is passionate about, but what they are passionate about can change quickly, so it may be hard to tell what the gift is. Keep encouraging them to look and try new things until they find their special talent or something that they are passionate about. Support them even if that passion keeps changing.

21. No amount of pushing, medication, therapy, or shaming will make an ADHD person be normal because they have abnormal brains. Normalcy should not be expected, but rather they should be allowed to be their own person –even if who they are is abnormal to the world around them.

22. The “cure” to all neurodiversity and neuroatypical behavior including ADHD is acceptance. We teach children to accept people with different eye color, hair color, and skin color, and we should do the same with people who have brains that operate differently. Neuroatypical (abnormal) brains should not be forced into the mold of a neurotypical (normal) brain.

23. Along with ADHD can also come an array of other health disorders, mental health conditions, and learning disabilities which can cause just as much if not more problems than the ADHD itself causes. Often the ADHD symptoms become less significant once the comorbidities have been addressed.

24. The most common comorbidities are anxiety, Sensory Processing Disorder, and depression. Statistically ADHD people are also likely to have mood, anxiety, eating, impulse control, and even addiction disorders.

25. ADHD children are very likely to have additional learning disabilities such as auditory processing disorder, dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia. These will significantly affect their ability to succeed in traditional methods of education. If possible, these learning disabilities should be diagnosed, and the child will absolutely need accommodation.

26. Celiac, gluten sensitivity, and food allergies are legitimate conditions that are common with and can exasperate the symptoms and treatment of ADHD. The best way to find out what food allergies or sensitivities your child has is with an elimination diet.

27. Traumatic Brain Injury, PANDAS, seizure disorders, Sensory Integration Dysfunction, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and many other conditions are often misdiagnosed as ADHD as they have similar symptoms (but for the purposes of our group, parents of children with those conditions are still welcome).

28. Many ADHD children who do not receive help, accommodation, unconditional love, and understanding spend their lives in self-loathing, self-destructive behavior or even end up choosing suicide. Therefore, ignoring or downplaying ADHD is not in the best interest of the child’s physical or mental health and is a disservice to the child.

29. ADHD children should not be made to feel like they are less, broken, or inferior for having ADHD. They are different not less.

30. Parents of ADHD children have a responsibility to learn about their child’s conditions in order to better help them. An informed parent can help their child better than an uninformed parent.

31. “You win more flies with honey than vinegar,” meaning the best way to convince someone to consider your point of view is to explain your position politely and clearly.

32. Bullying, name calling, hurtful sarcasm, passive aggressiveness and other means of unkind communication do not have any place in a respectful group like this. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is a good guide for this group.

33. We support each other in this group. Support means that we “help others bear the weight” not adding to their stress, and we “give assistance to” not making it harder for them to get helpful answers.

34. The best support happens in a drama-free, low-stress environment where members feel free to be honest and seek answers without judgment and criticism from others.

35. When the approach the parent is using to teach does not seem to be working, it falls to the parent to try a new way of teaching. The ADHD student should not be forced to adapt to learn the way the parent wishes they would. Parents should adapt to meet the needs and learning styles of their special needs children and not just expect them to try harder or to figure it out.

36. “Try harder” is one of the most damaging phrases you can tell ADHD child because they are already trying way harder than those around them realize. Saying “try harder” means you do not understand the struggle that they live with on a daily basis.

37. Parenting a child with ADHD is hard —very hard— and parents of those children need encouraged, not criticized.

38. The science of ADHD is in its infancy and ever-changing, but we encourage parents to be informed with facts and to not believe the myths and misinformation that permeates the internet. The number one myth we reject is that ADHD is fake. The number two myth we reject is that ADHD medication causes addiction. Science shows and brain scans confirm that the mind of an awake ADHD person has the same activity level as an asleep non-ADHD person. The stimulant medication helps wake up the ADHD brain so that the activity levels are closer to that of a non-ADHD person.

39. The deciding factor of what is allowed in the group belongs to the admins who have the prerogative to remove posts, comments, or people from the group as they see fit and without warning or explanation.

40. The most significant thing you can do for your ADHD child is give them unconditional love and acceptance. There is no damage to a child like the damage of not being loved without conditions.

This list applies to the following groups where I am an administrator:

Help! I Am Considering Homeschooling My ADHD Child

Homeschooling the ADHD Child Support Group

Homeschool Moms with ADD/ADHD

But, I hope it will be helpful for others as well.


Sarah Forbes

ADHD, illness

Could Mold Be the Root Cause of Your Physical or Mental Illness?

I was unintentionally exposed to mold this last week.

Here were my symptoms within an hour of mold exposure:

  • Headaches
  • Irritability (way more than normal)
  • Restlessness
  • Anger outbursts
  • Crying (more than normal)
  • Joints stiff and cracking
  • Muscle spasms and aches
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Brain fog was back
  • Upset stomach
  • Trouble falling asleep (the supplement I’ve been successfully taking stopped helping)
  • Weird vivid dreams
  • Waking with a start, unrested and unsettled
  • Anxiety
  • General uneasy, queasy feeling
  • I had to take 2x the normal amount of muscle relaxant to get the pain in my back to go away. I’ve never had to take that much
  • Ankles swelled to the point that walking was painful and difficult
  • Energy level was completely depleted even though I’m taking medication for my adrenals which was giving me tons of energy prior to exposure.
  • Aches and pains returned, aches and pains which had been present previous to taking Naltrexone (to minimize autoimmune inflammation); the mold exposure was like I wasn’t even taking the medication anymore.

I am also taking high doses of antitoxin supplements (Parotid and Chlorella) just to be able to walk, think, and talk.

In less than 24 hours, my son (who was helping me move the bed) had a hyperventilating panic attack for the first time in four years.

Here’s the thing though: I didn’t even attempt to clean up the mold.

I only moved the bed 6 inches away from the wall to see if there was mold.

There is mold behind our bed in the master bedroom. The bed has been in the same place for 8 years because the room is too small for rearranging. I would have to move the dresser out of the room if I wanted the bed in a different place.

The mold was between 10 and 24 inches high and about 8 feet long (4 feet along each side of the bed that was touching a wall).

We did not even touch the mold or go behind the bed.

But, we still had reactions.

The mold actually had little arms growing out of the wall and into the mattress and box springs!

I didn’t even know that was possible!

I don’t even want to know what sleeping on that is doing to our health!

Mold is a neurotoxin.

Black mold is a myth: the toxins can be present in any kind of mold, and not all black mold makes the toxin.

With over 100,000 kinds of mold, there’s no way to know if what you have is toxic, but is it really worth the risk?

Yes, we are taking precautions:

1. I have an air conditioner/humidifier running in the house to dry the air. Wet air means mold can grow so we are drying the air.

2. I’m keeping all ceiling fans and box fans running to keep air moving. Stagnant air and pockets of moisture allow mold to grow.

3. I’m running a HEPA filter in my house. This kind of filter can take particles as small as mold out of the air.

4. I’m defusing tea tree oil, thieves oil, and purification oil from Young Living as well as frankincense to help with our overall anxiety levels in the house since the mold exposure. Tea tree oil is known to kill mold. Mold cannot grow in the presence of thieves oil. I’ve seen tests with my own eyes that show this. Purification was recommended to clean the air.

5. We are using Thieves cleaner from Young Living on a patch of black mold in our living room window sill. It is working really well! I’m planning to use the same thing in the bedroom, but I need breathing protection first.

5. I ordered a non-toxic mold cleaner from Amazon that has great reviews (provided you follow the instructions). The thieves cleaner doesn’t seem to be enough for the mold in my bathroom because of the ongoing presence of moisture. I’m going to try this spray in the bathroom on the tile shower surround that has ongoing mold problems due to daily moisture.

6. I’m looking to hire a professional who can find the mold that I can’t see. I know that many of these symptoms started years before I could see the black mold I’m dealing with now. Since our house was “flipped” (bought and fixed up for the purpose of resale) before we bought it, I’m concerned that the previous owners may have painted over or walled in problem areas rather than deal with them properly.

7. I am following my doctor’s directions on how to handle the mold exposure. I am blessed to have a doctor who is knowledgeable about mold and has helped people heal from mold toxicity before.

Although many of my health symptoms existed before moving into this house, they didn’t exist to this extremity.

I had far fewer and far less extreme symptoms at our previous house.

Within six months of moving into this house, I was having trouble walking.

Within one year of moving in, people were threatening to take my children away because I couldn’t keep my house clean –which is hard to do when your whole body is screaming in pain and you can barely move.

I know this is just anecdotal evidence, but it makes me go “Hmmmm.”

Most houses have some mold.

Could the mold you see –or that you don’t see– be contributing to your illness? Or anxiety? Or increased ADHD symptoms? Or depression? Or be prohibiting you from seeing improvement in your health?

I was surprised how quickly and extremely the mold affected us and also how many houses statistically have mold of some kind.

Some people react more extremely to the mold than others –I was told this has to do with our genetics and that there are even tests that can tell you if you are susceptible to mold.

My doctor said that she didn’t take mold seriously until she had a patient who found mold, got rid of it, and saw remarkable improvement in her overall health.

After that, she went to a continuing education class about mold and learned what a huge deal it can be.

Mold toxicity is not something that is an alternative medicine issue which regular doctors don’t recognize.

It’s listed on the government and standard medical sites as known toxins.

I have a friend who was repeatedly told by ER doctors that her house was going to kill her if she didn’t get out of it. This was because of how severely she was reacting to the mold.

It’s not nothing.

I’m not sure what all we’ll be doing to get rid of the mold.

But, I’d be lying if I said that the thought of moving into a tent or camping trailer in my front yard until all the mold is gone had never occurred to me.

I need a concrete house with a tin roof.

Maybe that would help.

But, I’m not going to stand by and let the house slowly kill me if there’s something I can do about it.

A special thanks to my cousin Cathy and my sweet friend Leanne who have gently pushed me toward answers and repeatedly answered my questions about their experiences with mold toxicity. Cathy saw remarkable improvement within just weeks of getting out of their mold-filled house.

If you’re sick and have unexplained or increasingly worsening symptoms, don’t discount the impact that mold could be having on your illness.

I will update this post as I learn more about the mold and how to deal with it.


Sarah Forbes

Image courtesy of:

Bruno Nascimento