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.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

Advertisements
children, faith, parenthood

6 Reasons I Don’t Let My Children Work Problems Out on Their Own

I was a young mom with a toddler and a preschooler –the youngest of all the moms in the group– and a few of the older moms in the group ruled the roost.

They instructed the rest of us that when our very young children went outside to play, we were not allowed to check on them, not allowed to be outside with them, and not allowed to correct them.

If a child came inside and said “Tommy is being mean,” or “Amy hit me,” one of the older moms would tell the children to go back outside and work it out themselves.

If they came in again or if a mom dared to try to help them, one of the older moms would glare, lecture, and scold either the parent or the child.

This was a group of Christian homeschool parents, and I was completely blown away by the hands-off mentality and lack-of-concern attitude by the other parents –not to mention the adults who were basically bullying other adults.

I’m pretty assertive, but the older moms were absolutely firm and criticized anyone who went against them.

The children –dozens of them– would be out there for sometimes hours without any adult supervision.

There was no easy way to keep an eye on my children from inside the building; the play area was really just a 4-foot strip of bark dust and bushes at the back of the lot which was not visible from any of the windows.

After a few playtimes, I realized this was not going to work.

My 2-year-old was being bullied regularly because he couldn’t say his consonants yet, and the children would pester my 4-year-old son with ADHD and SPD until he had a sensory meltdown.

I put my foot down and started either keeping my children inside with me or standing alone outside to supervise the children while they played and the other moms ignored their kids.

It was hard enough to tell my little children that they couldn’t play with their friends, but I was treated like I was crazy and overprotective by the other moms who refused to step even outside onto the porch to oversee their own children.

I’m glad I was overprotective and trusted my instincts because –years later– I found out that younger children were being molested by older children in that back lot while the older moms intimidated the younger moms to keep them from being “overprotective.”

The resulting social interaction –having the children unattended outside for an hour or more and tell them to work it out on their own– was bullying.

It was really unbelievable to me, completely avoidable, and minimized once I was out there overseeing the children’s interaction.

Eventually, some of the other younger moms caught on and started bringing activities for their kids to do inside where they could see them, and they would play nicely on the floor with my children.

The rest of the ladies played along with the older moms, leaving their children to be bullied and mistreated.

Unfortunately, it was too late to protect some of the little kids who had already been touched inappropriately before their mothers chose to keep them inside.

The older moms were furious that we moms were not conforming to their hands-off approach to motherhood, and they tried many different tactics to try to get us to send out children back outside even telling us that we were wronging our children and depriving them of important childhood development by insisting that our children stay with us.

I’ll never get it.

I’ll never understand how you can expect your 2-year-olds through 6-year-olds to learn to healthily interact without you there to oversee and instruct them.

The older moms were using bully tactics to try to force the younger moms to allow a public school, playground-style social interaction –which included bullying and intimidation– to be forced on their children.

Isn’t this part of the reason they aren’t in a brick-and-mortar school?

So that we don’t have to deal with this nonsense?

So that our children are not exposed to this very unhealthy version of socialization?

The children of the bully moms grew up to be —imagine this— bullies.

Their mothers acted as if this was a healthy way to interact.

They may have taken their children out of the public school, but they still considered the public school social environment –which breeds antisocial behavior– to be normal.

I do not.

At all.

I homeschool for many reasons, and one of them is to get away from the unhealthy social environment.

I have special needs kids who are currently 12 and 15 years old, and they still often need me to be an arbitrator for their disagreements.

They are still –even now– struggling to find healthy ways to interact.

I think that so few adults know how to interact in a healthy way that they don’t even realize that how their kids are interacting isn’t healthy or biblical –just read public Facebook comments from those who claim to be believers and you’ll see what I mean about adults not interacting in a healthy way.

I remember asking my mother when I would stop being the arbitrator between my two children, and she told me “When they turn 18 –if you’re lucky.”

She also told me, “It’s part of your job as their mom.”

I am really glad she told me that because for a while I was starting to doubt myself. If you are told you are crazy long enough –no matter how confident you are– you begin to question your position.

We left that group a long time ago –we stayed too long, honestly, hoping we could make it work– but the things I observed in that extreme version of the let-them-figure-it-out-themselves approach to parenting left a huge impression on me and left me determined that I absolutely would not be using that method to train my children.

The following are 6 reasons that I absolutely refuse to let my kids work it out –which in most cases just means fight it out:


1. They lack the maturity.

Particularly kids of the age mine were at the time –between the ages of 2 and 4 have no concept of compromise.

For most kids, that won’t hit until ages 9 or 10 when they become socially aware –longer if they have special needs.

If you think children of any age are able to handle conflict resolution, take a look at your average interaction between high schoolers –that is telling, isn’t it?

Some children may develop this earlier, depending on personality and maturity.

Our children might be able to handle conflict resolution by age 16, if they are trained to do so, if they are taught to be unselfish, considerate, aware of other people’s needs –at the same time learning to stand up for themselves and for what is right– and if they see it demonstrated in their everyday lives.

We parents need to learn to be conflict resolvers ourselves so that we can model that behavior to our children.

If we can’t do it, how on earth do we expect them to?


2. It breeds bullying.

If you leave kids to themselves to work out problems, it just means that the biggest, baddest, most assertive, most aggressive, or most unkind kid wins.

This teaches our children that there is no reason to stick up for what’s right because whoever is the worst is going to win anyway.

Is that really what I want my children to learn?

That there’s no justice?

That no one will help them if they’re standing up for right?

That doing the right thing doesn’t matter?

That they should just roll over and let whoever is the worst person in their midst win?

That I won’t come help them if they need it?

This is absolutely not what I’m trying to teach my children and is the main reason that I will not force my children to resolve problems without adult help.

This is absolutely what my children learned in their limited interaction with the above-mentioned group.

It took some unlearning, but we did get past it.


3. It breeds anger and resentment.

If your child is being mistreated, they come to ask you for help, and you turn them away, why wouldn’t they be angry?

You are supposed to help them: that is your job.

You are also supposed to protect them: that is your job.

But in this environment, they are made into victims –unless perchance they happen to be the biggest and the baddest, and then they learn to walk all over anyone who they think is less than them.

You think bullies are happy?

They are the angriest and most unhappy people you will meet, just spreading that anger onto others.

It is bad for everyone involved.

Neither the winning or the losing child has matured through this process if they are left to themselves.

It has only left everyone wounded and hurting.


4. It’s unbiblical.

We’re supposed to raise our children up in the admonition of the Lord and teach them how to follow Jesus.

We should not expect them to figure out how to interact in a healthy, mature, and biblical way on their own.

Why would there be a command to raise them up correctly if it was going to happen without us intentionally doing it? Without us involved?

Even if we verbally instruct them to be kind before sending them out, more than likely they will not be able to do that without our guidance –especially in the beginning.

Even with our guidance and example, it may take years for them to learn.

Because, well, they’re kids.

They may me be able to handle situations maturely, but at what age will vary by child, so pray for wisdom before turning your children lose to resolve their own conflicts.

Until then, what they need is their parent with them step-by-step not only being an example but being a guide.

That will feel like you are a referee.

That’s okay.

That’s part of being a parent: it’s in the job description.


5. It’s unwise.

Proverbs says that a child left himself will bring his mother to shame.

If that’s what Solomon –the wisest man who ever lived– believe would happen if children were left to themselves, what makes us think that leaving them to figure problems out on their own will have any positive result at all?

The children in the story above, particularly those who were raised to be bullies, did not learn how to interact in a healthy way on their own.

They grew up to interact in unhealthy ways just like they were trained.

It was unreasonable for those women to think that they could leave their young children to train themselves and not have it bring about shameful and unfortunate results.


6. It makes our children think we don’t care.

Is it a lot of work to be a constant moderator?

Yes, absolutely!

It is a lot of work, and I think that’s why some moms choose to let their children fight it out.

But it was the work we took on when we had children.

We do not get to ignore or abandon that responsibility simply because we don’t like it.

How are they going to learn to interact in a healthy way with people that they disagree with if we are not teaching them?

If they are not seeing us resolve problems in our own lives?

If we are not helping them resolve problems in their lives?

Our children should never come to us for help and get either the direct or implied answer that we don’t care about them.

That is not okay.

If I absolutely cannot deal with the squabbling, I am not above threatening them with life and limb that if they know what is good for them they had better sit on their own ends of the couch and be quiet until I am done cooking dinner and then we will figure it out.

But I will never intentionally communicate to my children that I do not care about them or their struggles.

If I choose to communicate that I don’t care when something small comes up, then when something big comes up they will not turn to me for help because I have already communicated that I am not reliable to help them.

I’m not saying that you should never ever let your children play without you right there, but that you should encourage them to come to you with problems they can’t resolve so that you can guide them –and you may need to do some eavesdropping to make sure the conflicts they do resolve by themselves are being resolved in a good way.

A society without rules and arbitrators results in anarchy and chaos; the same happens in the home.

If adults can’t exist without rules and arbitrators –imagine a world with no government or laws, where you just took revenge when someone wronged you– how can we expect our children to function without them?

Without rule of law and arbitrators, children will become little anarchists because then we are training our children to take matters into their own hands — that’s exactly what happened in the group I was part of.

It’s not good enough to just have rules; someone actually needs to make sure those rules are understood, accurately applied, and followed.

In this group, if anyone tried to make sure the rules were being followed they were labeled a tattletale or a bad parent, but in the real world, this is expected: you call the police if someone is breaking the law by stealing or threatening bodily harm.

So why would we not expect our children to live by that same concept?

Part of the problem with the public schools, in my opinion, is that there are (some) rules but no one –or perhaps not enough someones– there to make sure the rules are applied correctly and followed.

And, we wonder why the schools are breeding anarchists and people with anti-social behavior. We wonder why the schools aren’t producing good, law-abiding citizens.

I know, parenting is really, really, really hard.

It is probably the hardest thing you have ever done, and that means you are probably doing it right.

I am through most of my parenting years since my youngest is entering his teens in a few months.

And, although I don’t deal with meltdowns, spilled milk, or playground arguments much anymore, we certainly have our rough days.

They still struggle to get along sometimes, and I still struggle and strive to continually point them back to the Bible for our answers to how people ought to interact.

The following are a few of the verses I have used recently in my childrearing:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Romans 12:18

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment…. Romans 12:3

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. Philippians 4:5

Let us be diligent to train our children up in the way of the Lord, not to leave them angry and bitter —which is one of the only New Testament commands to parents.

Let us to be good examples in our relationships, and to try to always point them back to Jesus.

Let’s guide them by our example and oversight so that they can –Lord willing– have healthier-than-average relationships in the future –relationships that honor the Lord.

When in doubt, check your parenting against scripture.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

children, parenthood

I Burned the Babywise Book

Yes.

I actually did.

I burned the Babywise book.

15 years ago an adorable little boy was born with a full head of jet-black hair and deep-set dimples.

I wanted nothing more than to be a mom, and I was so happy to finally hold my baby.

But, something wasn’t right –or at least not normal– from the beginning.

If you’ve had a baby with special needs or who otherwise wasn’t “normal,” you probably noticed from early on.

He cried whenever I put him down –even as an infant. He was colicky, with constant tummy problems, and wanted to nurse nonstop.

He couldn’t sleep unless I was holding him.

So, I held him.

A lot.

Basically, all the time.

I even slept on the couch with him snuggled in my arms so his dad who was working swing shift at a lumber mill (which is some pretty intense manual labor) could get a good night’s sleep.

I was hardly sleeping. I couldn’t keep with house clean. I learned to cook and wash dishes with him in-arm.

Out of desperation, I drove almost two hours to get a baby sling to wear him –this was way before babywearing was even a thing here.

I was so worn out.

I tried everything I could find from those baby tablets that were supposed to help with sleep problems to something called Gripewater.

Nothing worked.

Around the time I thought I had tried everything, a friend gave me the book Babywise.

She swore by the book, and her 2-week-old baby was already on a schedule and sleeping regularly and predictably.

Well, goodness, if it works that well it’s worth a try, right?

So, I read the book and proceeded to try the advice given.

My son cried for hours.

Hours.

Not just cried: screamed.

I did what the book said, and it didn’t work.

I called my friend back and she said, “Oh, well, you just didn’t let him cry long enough.”

Really?

Well, I’m no quitter. On average, I’m the most stubborn person in the room.

So, we did it again.

He cried for over 4 hours one night. I sat outside his bedroom and sobbed.

I was 21 years old, this was my first baby, and I am the first to admit that I really had no idea what I was doing.

But, I knew deep in my soul that this was not right.

My 4-month-old deserved better than this.

This was bordering on child abuse.

Infants cry because their instincts tell them to cry in order to communicate that something’s wrong.

Not because they’re manipulative or disobedient.

I picked up my screaming baby, nursed him until he was calm, and put the book away.

I never used a single thing taught in the book again.

A few months later we moved to a lovely little wood-heated cottage on a long country lane. I was unpacking the books onto our bookshelf after the move and spotted the Babywise book.

“What a load of crap.” My then 22-year-old self grumbled to the empty room. “Way to make me feel like a complete loser: ‘You can’t even get your baby to sleep right.’”

I almost put it in the donate bag. My hand hovered —Babywise in hand– over the bag for a moment.

Do I really want to burden another mom with this trash hogwash advice?

Then, I jumped up and shoved it into the wood stove, slamming the heavy iron door behind it.

“That’s what you can do with your Babywise.”

I returned to my unpacking and soon heard my son stirring in his crib in the other room.

He did learn to sleep in his own bed.

Eventually.

In his own time.

He was six months old before he would sleep without me holding him.

That does not make me a failure.

It makes me the mother of a child who had unique needs that did not fit nicely into a formula.

not a failure babywise post


I am not a failure. I am the mother of a child who has unique needs that do not fit nicely into a formula. —Sarah Forbes


 

Today, he doesn’t have any sleep problems.

But he does have ADHD, a handful of learning disabilities, an anxiety disorder he inherited from his dad’s side of the family, and possibly some things we haven’t diagnosed yet.

Also, he has food sensitivities like I do. But, I wouldn’t learn about his sensitivities –or mine– until more than a decade later.

I am pretty sure the food sensitivities are what caused his ongoing upset tummy.

When he was ready, he started sleeping on his own.

No amount of pushing before he was ready helped.

This has been true his whole life.

I tried potty training him at age 2 when my friends were training their toddlers.

Completely and totally futile.

He potty trained when he was ready.

At age three and a half.

I feel like my whole motherhood with him has been learning to let go and let him be his own person.

On his own schedule.

My second born did most (but not all) things on schedule –or even early.

If I’d had him first, I’m sure that I would have thought all those moms with fussy babies were just doing it wrong.

I cringe when a neurotypical, healthy mom tells a mom who has health problems and special needs (or a family history of it) that if she just followed a schedule and did the Babywise thing her baby would sleep and be happy.

That’s not necessarily true.

For many of us of, it is not.

If Babywise worked for you, I’m happy for you.

More power to ya!

If not, it’s okay: you’re normal –most parents I talk to say it did not work for them.

If it didn’t help, feel completely free to burn the book.

I promise you won’t be the first.

By far.

And, your kid will still grow up to be fine without it.

He will grow up to be himself in his own time and in his own way.

Just like mine did.

Blessings,

Sarah


Because my children need to be able to develop at their own rate, I have chosen to homeschool and let them not only grow at their own rate but learn on their own schedule too. You can read more about that here:


There Is No Behind in Homeschool


So, You Want to Homeschool Your ADHD Child


The Challenging Child


The Testimony of a Strong Willed Child

 

ADHD, illness, parenthood

Confessions of a Horrible Housewife, Episode 2

Today is the last day to enter our drawing for a couple’s pass to the OCEANetwork Homeschool Conference in Portland Oregon on June 23-24, 2017! Click the link and follow the directions to join!

giveawayyyy


 

Confessions of a Horrible Housewife, Episode 2:

Very few things as a homemaker have caused me as much shame as this word: dishes.

I was never a huge fan of doing the dishes –I am a little OCD about germs.

But, in spite of my struggles with focus due to my then-undiagnosed-ADHD, I was determined to be a good wife when I got married.

I am still determined to be a good wife, but my definition of what makes a good wife and mother has changed over the years.

You will see what I mean as I tell my story.

I was a young mom with an-almost-three-year-old and a newborn baby.

After my son was born, I started bleeding.

And it just didn’t stop.

For over 2 years, I had one straight period with no break, and no amount of medication could stop it. (For some reason the medication made it worse.)

One day, it stopped on it’s own with no explanation, but I have spent the last 12 years, trying to get my iron levels back up as I have frequent relapses into unexplained and almost-untreatable bleeding.

So, I was severely anemic, and –although the doctor didn’t tell me– I had been diagnosed with Hashimotos (I wouldn’t learn about the diagnosis until a decade later when a different doctor reviewed my chart).

I would later learn that the Hashimoto’s had sent me into hypoadrenal (not enough cortisol).

So here I am, severely anemic, low thyroid, and low adrenal.

If you have never been anemic, hypothyroid, and hypoadrenal, you don’t know the real meaning of the word tired.

Add on top of that postpartum psychosis which included severe insomnia and paranoia.

Now, back to the topic of dishes.

It was during this very difficult time in my life that I was so weak and so stressed, I would forget to do the dishes.

Or, I would be so tired and weak, I couldn’t stand over the sink to do the dishes.

This was the first time I remember seeing maggots in our dishes.

We lived in the country across from a horse barn, and it was nearly impossible to keep flies out of the house.

The gestation period of flies is only 24 hours, so it didn’t take long for my avoidance of the dishes to be a big problem.

I had apparently forgotten to put dinner away before we went away for the weekend, and when we came back, there were already maggots in the bowl on the table.

I sat over that bowl of ickiness and sobbed.

I was such a bad mom.

Such a bad wife.

I was smart and creative, and I couldn’t make this work?

I knew women who were very mentally challenged who managed to keep a clean house.

What on earth was wrong with me?

I was just a failure.

I had this image of “failure” stamped across my forehead.

That’s how I saw myself for a long time.

Plus, this dish had been a wedding gift.

I washed it and even boiled it to make it useable again.

For a long time after this, I couldn’t eat rice because it reminded me of maggots and I would get grossed out.

My first solution to avoid maggots was to haul everything outside and hose it all out in the back yard.

But I would get so tired, so weak, and so distracted that I wouldn’t finish the job.

And the dishes would sit in the back yard.

So, I just started throwing dishes away.

I have almost no dishes left from my wedding for this reason.

I probably should have asked for help at this juncture.

But I didn’t know how.

Like, how do you go to your friends and say, “For some reason I can’t explain, I can’t keep up on the dishes and need help?”

I asked for advice by hinting that I was struggling and got advice from “Just do it.” to “Don’t go to bed until the kitchen is clean.” to “Make a schedule.”

I did all that and more.

None of it worked because none of it fixed the underlying problem: my health condition.

My sweet husband tried to help, but he was working full time and dealing with his own health issues.

I even emailed the Flylady and asked her for advice because I couldn’t even follow her plan; she said that she was sure there was something wrong with my health, but I dismissed that because I had bloodwork done and they didn’t find anything (the doctor who didn’t tell me about the Hashimoto’s).

Eventually, we hired someone to come in and do the dishes each week.

She always acted like if I could just get myself motivated and do what I was supposed to do I would be able to do this myself.

I was a smart, able-bodied woman….why was I just sitting there?

That only added more shame to the fact that I already couldn’t keep it together.

I got treated for the post partum depressions, and I have only recently started talking about the psychosis portion.

Because I don’t think people should be ashamed to talk about it like I was.

There is no shame in being sick –mentally or physically.

I was told that my postpartum depression was a result of not praying and reading my bible enough.

I wonder why I didn’t want to confide in those people about how I was struggling?

In the middle of all of this, an older lady at church scolded me for not ironing my husband’s work clothes –she had seen him on the job one day– and said that I was embarrassing him by not helping him present a professional front. (In my defence, my husband works construction, and I don’t think anyone has ever cared if his clothes were ironed.)

I went home and cried.

Now, not only was I a complete failure at home, but I was making my husband a failure at work too.

I started trying to focus on the things I could do right and ignore everything else, but that came with it’s own set of problems.

The housekeeper, around this time, suggested that we eat off paper plates to make kitchen clean up easier.

We have been eating off paper plates for over 10 years now.

This is one decision I do not regret.

I have a friend with a ton of kids and she did the math: it is cheaper to eat off paper plates than to run the dishwasher.

Eventually, I was diagnosed with ADHD which I am sure I have had since I was a child —I am anything but type-A and have always struggled with attention, focus, and emotional regulation (which may explain the amount of crying described in this post).

For the year that I was on ADHD medication before we learned about the hashimotos and hypoadrenal, I actually kept my house clean.

Then, the ADHD medication crashed my adrenals even further, and our house completely fell apart.

I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew I needed help.

I made the mistake of telling one of my doctors about the condition of my house when inquiring about possible health problems that could be causing my low energy.

I didn’t know that doctors are mandatory reporters or that the condition of my house constituted child abuse.

That was a whole ‘nother debacle that I will not describe in full here.

But needless to say, it brought shame.

A lot of shame.

And, it brought the condition of my house and my poor homemaking skills to the forefront as our friends and family tried to help us get the house clean to avoid having our children taken away.

I remember being barely able to walk, holding onto walls to walk through the house, on my hands and knees scrubbing floors, and sobbing.

I would spend days just crying and asking God for help.

What on earth was wrong with me?

Why did everyone else have it all together?

That was 2010.

It was a life-changing year.

After that, I got really sick.

All the stuff before was just a prelude.

Until this last year, I have consistently had to have someone come and do the dishes for me.

It got the point that I was too dizzy, too weak, and in too much pain to lean over the sink, pick up dishes, and put them into the dishwasher.

I have some pretty awesome friends and family who have chipped in to help with housekeeping.

Sometimes, I paid someone; other times friends volunteered.

And, I significantly lowered my standard.

I want my house to function.

If it doesn’t look really clean, that’s okay.

It doesn’t need to be magazine-worthy.

I don’t have the energy to be OCD anymore.

(I don’t actually have clinical OCD, but because of the ADHD, I would use OCD behavior as a coping mechanism to try to counter my distractibility.)

Within the last year, my children have gotten old enough that they now clean the house without me.

It is not perfect, but I am not completely mortified if someone comes to the front door anymore.

They do the dishes daily, and I only occasionally have to help with a special dish or a pan that is very difficult to clean.

I still deal with a certain amount of shame that I cannot clean my own house.

Shame that I cannot do and be all the things that I should do and be.

But I am learning to ignore that voice that tells me what I should be able to do.

I once told a counselor that I was a horrible wife and mother.

She looked at me and said that she did not see that.

“Really?” I asked, again through tears.

She said that if I divided up all the tasks I had as a wife and mother and looked at them individually I would be able to see what kind of homemaker I really was –that I was not a failure.

I am a homeschool teacher, a disciplinarian, an at home nurse, a conflict resolver, an affection giver, a cook, a housekeeper, a lover, ect.

I was good at every single job she talked about except I am not a good housekeeper.

Housekeeping is not the totality of who I am, but that was the gauge that I was using to measure my worthiness.

“Can I clean and do the dishes?” was the measure that I used to decide if I was a fit mom and wife.

But that was an unfair evaluation because I am so much more than my ability to cook and clean.

I am a good mom to these boys and a good wife to my husband: I love them fiercely and with my whole heart, and I give them as much of myself as I can everyday.

I can pay someone to do to cook and clean, but I cannot pay someone to love my kids and teach them about faith in a trial or grace under pressure.

I cannot pay someone to love them like a mother, to train them in God’s ways, and to point them back to Jesus every day of their lives.

No one else can do the job that I can do.

And this job has nothing to do with if the dishes are done.

My job is affecting the eternal in ways that doing the dishes never could.

I know women who have focused on the housekeeping and neglected the rest, and they have lived to regret that choice.

So, if you are reading this and you feel like you are an abject failure because you can’t keep up with the dishes, the laundry, the housekeeping: you are more than that and don’t you ever forget it or let anyone tell you anything differently.

And by the way, I no longer see myself with “failure” written across my forehead.

I understand that this is where God put me and that my job as His child is to be content with where He put me and find a way to make it work.

If I am not a failure in God’s eyes, how can I let any person here on earth make me feel like a failure?

Their opinions do not matter.

Blessings,

Sarah

children, parenthood

Rerouting! The Parable of the Angry GPS Lady

Don’t forget to enter our giveaway for a couples pass to the OCEANetwork Homeschool Conference in Portland, Oregon!

Click the link below:

giveawayyyy

A friend of mine tells a story about a GPS unit they bought for her car.

The voice and directions were fine unless you made a mistake. If you went the wrong way, the GPS lady would get in a huff and angrily yell at you that she was “Rerouting!” with such attitude that you felt you were surely the biggest idiot in the world to have missed your turn and not followed her simple and explicit directions.

I think we parents are often like that GPS voice. When our children make a mistake or take a wrong turn, we, in our attitude if not our tone of voice and words, convey to them that they are big idiots.

We don’t take into account their immaturity and inexperience. We don’t think about all the trials and troubles that we faced to bring us to the knowledge and maturity that we have.

The truth is, we often lack grace, patience, and compassion in our interactions with our kids.

I know I do. It’s something that the Lord is really working on in me.

Continue reading “Rerouting! The Parable of the Angry GPS Lady”

parenthood

Why I’ll Never Say “Just Wait Until He Is Older!”

I will never ever tell you “If you think it’s bad now just wait until he/she/they’re teens!”

Why not?

First of all, it’s completely unhelpful to a mom of young children to put dread and fear in her mind of something that is probably a decade away and not written in stone.

Second, a lot of teens are not horrible vile monsters who are out to make their parents lives a living misery.

Many are sweet, kind, helpful, mature-for-their-age young people who blow you away with their mature behavior and attitude.

That doesn’t mean they never do stuff that makes you wonder or want to pull out your hair, but overall they’re not the nightmare that was foretold.

Thirdly, I refuse to do that to other moms, because it was repeatedly done to me; and it was very discouraging!

I remember how discouraging it was for me to hear that sort of prediction when my boys were really little.

When you’re really struggling, the last thing you want is for someone to say “You ain’t seen nothin yet!”

Why don’t we share hope instead of fear?

Now, admittedly, my son is only 15, but he’s a far cry from what I was told I would have in a 15-year-old boy.

This young man, when I was in so much pain I couldn’t put my own shoes on, put my shoes on me every day for a year a never once complained.

He picks up the slack around the house when I’m sick or struggling.

He and his brother a blessing.

It’s possible that things could go awry and he’ll get rebellious or something when he’s older.

But, from where I stand now, the teen years have been nothing but a huge blessing.

I know many, many Christian families who would say the same thing: that it’s not nearly as bad as those fear mongers say.

I actually think some people resent that their teens are so difficult and get some sort of glee out of predicting that a 4-year-old is going to make his frazzled mother even more miserable in 10 years.

Not everyone of course.

Some people use it as a warning of what might be, like “Hey, I just thought you should know it gets worse.”

But does it?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Only time will tell.

I’ve certainly had my struggles with my family, and my boys have gone through rough patches where I wondered what on earth I was going to do with these children.

But, overall, they bring me such joy.

I can’t imagine my life without them.

I don’t have any regrets.

I wouldn’t change a thing (except maybe have more children if that we’re feasible).

So, mama, out there with a screaming 3-year-old who’s determined to have his own way: stay strong.

You can do this.

I believe in you.

I believe in the plan that God has for this child.

I don’t believe you’re powerful enough to mess up God’s plan. (Sorry! You’re awesome, but not that awesome!)

And I will not put the fear of teenagers in you.

Rather, I implore you to pray for that child.

Pray for his heart to be open to the things of God.

Pray for him to choose the path of wisdom.

Pray that you’ll be able to win his heart.

Pray that he’ll heed correction.

Pray that he’ll make good friends.

Pray that he’ll pick a good wife.

Pray that he’ll have a servant’s heart.

Pray that you’ll be the example of Jesus to him that he needs to see.

And rest in God’s goodness.

It’s there.

I promise.

In the midst of screaming toddlers or even rebellious teenagers.

God is God of the storms.

Sometimes He calms that storm.

Other times, He asks us to believe that the storm is there for a reason.

So rest in Him, mama.

Regardless of what the future holds.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

parenthood

My Kids’ Opinion of Media Fast Week

On the last day of our media fast, I interviewed my children, asking about their experience and impression of the week.

Here are their answers. I found them both insightful and amusing.


Interview with the 15-year-old

1) At the beginning of the week, how did you feel about going media free?

Annoyed about another one of mom’s schemes.

2) How do you feel about it now?

It wasn’t that horrible. I wouldn’t want to do it all the time, but I survived.

3) What did you like, if anything?

The books and reading more. I’m slightly amused that my brother was so annoyed that he couldn’t watch anything.

4) What did you dislike?

Aside from the obvious? Not being able to Skype my friends. Not watching TV or YouTube was fine, but no Skype was an unfortunate thing.

5) Did you learn anything?

I learned a new game with Dad. I learned that my brother and I can exist together without having to have media — in the same universe interacting with each other. Also, I need to work on not being critical of others.

6) Would you choose to do it again?

Probably not. Maybe in a year or so. I might be interested in doing it again. Not opposed to trying in the distant future.

7) Do you think it was helpful at all –anything positive?

I guess it was character building. I learned that I need to be careful what I say to my brother.

8) Do you hate your mother for making you do it?

No, because I think my mom and brother suffered more than I did.

9) What was your favorite part of the week if you had to pick one thing?

Playing at the beach and completing a whole sand castle. Or maybe playing games with Dad.

10) Would you recommend a media fast to others?

I guess, yes. But only for 1 week. It’s interesting to try to understand life before video games, TV, and stuff.


Interview with the 12 year old

1) At the beginning of the week, how did you feel about going media free?

Ugh. Displeased. Hoping mom wouldn’t be able to go an entire week.

2) How do you feel about it now?

(Sigh) Alright. I’ve kinda gotten used to it, but I honestly might spend more time reading so mom won’t make us do it again.

3) What did you like, if anything?

I thought that going to the library was a fairly adventurous thing. I didn’t mind it even though we can’t read all our books in one week.

4) What did you dislike?

The fact that when we go home we couldn’t just lounge and watch media: we had to find things to do.

5) Did you learn anything?

I learned that our new game is really complicated. I learned that Slime Blocks in Minecraft drag all the connected blocks with them except intractable blocks and obsidian. I learned that the beach is only 45 minutes away!

6) Would you choose to do it again?

Sigh.  (Pursed lips) Probably not unless it was forced upon me again.

7) Do you think it was helpful at all –anything positive?

(Trying to find something positive.) Calvin and Hobbes is funny. –so, no, not really.

8) Do you hate your mother for making you do it?

(Hysterical laughter) No.

9) What was your favorite part of the week if you had to pick one thing?

Beach trip or playing with Dad.

10) Would you recommend a media fast to others?

Maybe? I don’t know. I can’t think of any time I would recommend it.


You can read about my impressions of our media fast here on a previous post. 

Blessings!

Sarah Forbes

parenthood

A Mother’s Day Message for All Women

To those who gave birth this year to their first child —we celebrate with you.


To those who lost a child this year —we mourn with you.


To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains —we appreciate you.


To those who experienced loss this year through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you.


To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment —we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.


To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms —we need you.


To those who have warm and close relationships with your children —we celebrate with you.


To those who have disappointment, heartache, and distance with your children —we sit with you.


To those who lost their mothers this year —we grieve with you.


To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother —we acknowledge your experience.


To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood —we are better for having you in our midst.


To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year —we grieve and rejoice with you.


And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising —we anticipate with you.


This Mother’s Day, we walk with you.

Mothering is not for the faint of heart, and we have real warriors in our midst.

We remember you.


– Anonymous

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

parenthood

Why I Recommend a Media Fast

No children were harmed in the making of this post.

I promise.

Although my children seemed quite emphatically convinced that they may not survive five days with no media or internet, I am happy to report that my family is all alive and well –and perhaps even better for the experience

Opinions vary on the matter –as you can well imagine.

When our laptops needed repaired last week, I saw the opportunity and put my no media plan in place.

It had been in the back of my mind for years.

Now that they’re older, it seemed like a good idea.

I kept saying, “We’re going to live like it’s 1995,” so much so that now I think my children think that 1995 I was a horrible year!

What I learned about myself follows:

 1) I tend to turn on a movie or social media when I’m overwhelmed instead of either addressing the issue that overwhelms me (if that’s possible) or praying about (it if addressing it is not possible).

2) Even with my notifications on Facebook set to very minimum I still received over 150 notifications in 5 days. That doesn’t account for email, WordPress posts, Instagram, or Pinterest. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it represents a lot of time –time that I could be used for other things.

3) There was no way I was prepared for five days without any internet. For instance, I use the internet for my Bible concordance, dictionary, medical inquiries, phone book, maps, dictionary, etc. In pre-smartphone times, I kept a phone book containing maps in my car. I had forgotten about this until I tried to find a house without internet. I gave up and just used my GPS. All our banking is online, and a few bills were due this week. My friends all use texting and instant messaging. So while this was a good exercise, it wasn’t practical. I called one friend and left a message on her voicemail. She replied my Facebook message. So not using internet was not really an option.

5) Book reading is very hard for me: it hurts my eyes. I didn’t know this before this week (I knew it was harder for me). Don’t ask me to explain the reason. By Wednesday, I had switch to reading online instead of my library books just to help my headaches.

6) My online world distracts me from what’s here and now. I’m constantly wondering what so-and-so is doing or if this person’s surgery is done and so I check Facebook.  But that also means that I’m not present with my family, I’ve heard other people say that, but I didn’t get it until now. This will need to be altered in the future so my children don’t have to compete with social media for my time and attention.

6) I found plenty of things to do without the internet. I was worried because before we had the internet I filled my life with many activities that I cannot do now because of my physical limitations.  I used to paint, garden, bake, scrapbook, ect.  All those cause pain now. But, I can listen to the radio or an audiobook just as easily as watching Netflix or perusing Facebook.

7) My 3 hour IV doctor appointments are very boring without the internet. I had the joy of listening to three men debate politics down the way instead of being on the internet watching Netflix. Yeah me! (Not so much really.)

8) The upside to media is that it quiets the busyness in my brain (the ADHD –a million thoughts and ideas all that once), and it allows me to focus and calm. Without media it’s hard to have the same Brain Breaks. (Upon reflection, and after an hour or two with media again, I think no media can be overall calming depending on what’s going on around you. So the jury is still out on this.)

 9) Even without media I can’t stop writing. I almost filled 100 pages in my spiral notebook in 5 days.  I simply wrote blog posts out longhand for future use. My hands hurt though. because I’m not used to writing longhand like I used to. It strains my hands more than swyping or typing.

Here are four reasons I think a media fast is worth a try:

1) It forces you to find hobbies or rediscover them. Stalking people on Facebook isn’t really considered a hobby –or at least it shouldn’t be.

2) It allows you to reprioritize. Four of the five days, I was able to spend more time in prayer and Bible reading because that was the first thing I reach for each morning…instead of checking to see if my article for the day had posted properly on WordPress which is what I normally do. I spent more time with my family. We ate at the table, talking more instead of being in different rooms on our mobile devices watching TV

3) It shows you how much time, energy, and focus you actually spend online (our TV is actually online). This could be good or bad, but at least if you are aware of how you’re spending your time, you can adjust if you need to. I definitely plan to adjust the amount of time I spend online and plan to take more time away from media devices.  

4) You learn that you can get other things done! We haven’t been to the library in years (mostly due to my health). I read five short books this week. I learned a bunch. We found the bottom of my sink for the first time in a while. We took a trip to the beach, and we learn to play a new game –all in five days.

Tomorrow, we have post that’s a tribute to moms, but Monday, we’ll continue our talk about a media fast, and see what my kids had to say about their media free week. I had fun interviewing them. Some of their responses were amusing and surprising. That tends to happen when you tell kids to be totally honest. Apparently, honesty is not a problem at my house.

Have you tried going media free for a short period? While I found it challenging, I also found it rejuvenating.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

featured, illness, parenthood

I’m a Real Mom: Coming to Grips with Disabled Motherhood

I got up before my children this morning and made breakfast for them.  

This happens about 3 or 4 times a year.  

I usually don’t have the energy to do this.  

Mornings are not my best time of day.

Today –for just a little while– I felt like a real mom.

The mom I wish I could be.

The mom I want to be.

The mom I would be if the illness hadn’t taken over my body.

It has been difficult coming to grips with my disability.

As a mom, I have spent a fair amount of time watching cartoons.

Whenever I feel like saying, “I am a real mom!” I am reminded of a line in the cartoon Shrek when Pinocchio is getting turned back and forth between a wooden puppet and a human boy.

The first time he gets changed into a boy, Pinocchio says “I am a real boy!”

And then he gets turned back into a wooden boy again for comedic effect.

I feel like that is my life.

I have a second or two of normal functioning, and I cry, “Hey, I am a real mom!”

But it only lasts a short while, and I am back to being a sick mom again.

Now, of course, I am a real mom even if I can’t do mom stuff.

But it doesn’t feel like it sometimes.

Sometimes it feels like my children are parenting me because of how much care I require.

In an ideal world, children wouldn’t have to care for their sick mother.

But we do not live in an ideal world.

So, when I get overwhelmed feeling like I am failing as a mom because of my illness, I jokingly declare, “I am a real mom!”

It makes me giggle.

I do regret, sometimes, not being able to do what “normal” moms do.

Even yesterday, I tried to go help a local non-profit organization.

I just sat a table sorting and bagging food.

And today I am in pain.

I just wish –sometimes– that I could decide to do something and go do it.

That I could do what is necessary without being in pain or without ending up with health complications.

I wish my children didn’t have to forgo things because I cannot help or support them.

I wish they didn’t have to help me.

But this is my reality.

This is where God has put me.

I can’t exactly claim to have come to grips with it entirely.

Accepting it means that I might stop striving to improve.

But what I have done is stop resenting that this is where God put me right now.

Even in immobility and poor health, I can still do something.

What I can do, I do.

And I pray that it will be enough.

I am determined to shine here where I am, even if it’s not far and wide.

Once upon a time, I thought I would change the world.

Now I am trying to be content to just change me for the better and influence the souls around me for Jesus.

I think coming to grips with my disability has come down to these (in no particular order):

–being thankful for what I have

–finding humor in life

–bring okay if things aren’t perfect

–trusting that God knows what He is going

–being humble and honest about what is really going on

–ministering as I can to those around me even if it is just my own family or friends on Facebook

“My fire is not large, yet it is real, and there may be those who can light their candle in its flame.” –A.W. Tozer

13151498_1204206922925703_7751416601686331887_n

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes