Homeschooling & ADHD

I have been an on again, off again homeschooling parent for the last 7 years.  We started homeschooling when my now 15 year old started Grade 3.  He was academically doing okay with most of his marks landing in the 'B' range, if that truly matters in Grade 2, but he was struggling physically and emotionally with the school setting.

During his Grade 2 year we received a handful of diagnosis, ADHD being one of them and truly the most relevant to his life today.  At that time I had been volunteering in the classroom, reading with the children and it was apparent that my busy child was like a caged animal in this environment. Up and out of his seat constantly, easily distracted by any movement or sound, pale and exhausted by the demands on his energy...  he just looked ready to jump out of his own skin.

After many talks with him about what he was feeling - anxiety, overwhelm, pain (from the noise of a crazy room), and physical discomfort from having to be still so much - we decided to explore homeschooling.  It really was a foreign concept to me as all I could think about was, am I making a difficult situation worse?

To answer a few questions you may have about this:
  • Yes, we did ensure a healthy diet of whole foods and limited sugar and no dyes

  • Yes, he is on supplements like fish oils, B complex, magnesium and probiotics (not a suggestion for others as I'm not a medical professional, this is just what we do)

  • Yes, we have had numerous sleep studies and as is typical for children with an ADHD diagnosis he has irregular sleep patterns.  We manage his sleep with a solid bed time and when he was young a bedtime routine.  As directed by our Developmental Pediatrician he uses melatonin at night to help sleep onset.  We use a minimum dosage as more is NOT better with this.  We are aware that there is some conflicting information on the use of this with children and yes we have weighed this information against that of other prescribed medications for sleep and have decided this poses the least risk.  Sleep is too vital to just leave it and without sleep his symptoms are exacerbated.

  • Yes, we have had a recent assessment done to reconfirm the presence of ADHD in my son's life.

So with that out of the way we have done what we can to ensure that indeed he has this diagnosis and anything that can be done to better the situation for him has been done.  In coaching we would call this the 'Basic Needs' and we have ensured they've been met.
So what was left was figuring out who our child was...  unfortunately we don't always know this.  We seem to become a little disconnected from the WHO of our children once they enter school life.  What was important for me with the basics being covered, was to make sure our son reached his fullest potential with his self-esteem in place.

Homeschooling in that first year was figuring out his needs as a learner, what his strengths were and areas of difficulty to hammer out.  ADHD is a challenge of disinterest and so this first year was hands on, interactive and had very little sitting.  I needed to recreate what learning was for him and be willing to let go of my expectations and receive my child right where he was.

Some interesting discoveries came to the fore front quickly.  He was floating through school undetected with memory issues and was managing to compensate but it gave us an unrealistic understanding of him.  He was doing well in spelling, so said the school, but when I got him home I realized he had a problem understanding how to spell.  He was so clever though that he would remember the spelling list for the brief period he needed it and then it would flush out after never making it's way to long term memory.  I sensed he struggled with Dysgraphia, so we had tutoring with an Orton-Gillingham tutor for a year.  Without bringing him home we would have missed this from an early age and being able to help him like we did would have been lost.

Writing hurt his hand.  We had to explore other ways to manage information, while building this skill.  So we did A LOT of talking together about content.  He is a very intelligent child, he just needs to express it using an area of strength.  Without this ability to discuss content we would have lost a valuable method for receiving and learning information and build his self-esteem.  We still did writing but not to the extent that he was feeling any prolonged discomfort.  We did lots of fine motor activities to build this up so he could manage more with his hands as time when on.

He needed to work in sprints.  20 minutes of work and 15 minutes of activity to reignite his brain, especially for work like math which was and continues to be a challenge for him.

My child's memory is a huge challenge for him when learning uninteresting things, like math facts.  Getting things into long-term memory requires deep work with the subject and tackled from multiple modes for it to be sticky.  My child's memory is amazing, when he is truly interested by the subject.  He is not being difficult, he has ADHD and this is to be expected.

The list goes on and on but none of this would have been understood if not for taking the risk to home educate.  I know many families choose this to alleviate the stress, anxiety and struggle for their children and it is doable.  What it requires is a release of our expectations of our children and receiving them where they are.  Understanding how they learn best by watching for failure (and learning from it) and success (and building on it).  Being flexible and trusting that your child will help you find the way.  Asking questions like, "What about this is easy for you?" or "What about this is hard for you?", will help you to understand your child more and create the team environment your child needs to flourish.

School as we experienced it is not necessarily a 'bad' thing.  What it is though, is one dynamic on learning that for children with ADHD may not work.  These children are uniquely wired and need a 'unique to them', solution.  The purpose in this all is to say, you can teach your ADHD child.  You will have days of fear, frustration, or self-doubt and that is normal.  Your child will make you a little insane at times but you will learn how to better manage that with practice and knowing when to throw in the towel and try again another day.  It will take effort and a willingness to learn daily and to try and try again.

Without this experience I don't think my son, now finishing grade 9 in highschool, would have been so close to us and willing to communicate in an open and honest way about his struggles today.  He has the willingness to keep on trying and know it will be okay as that was his model growing up as a homeschooled child.  He still struggles and his Executive Function challenges are more pronounced as the demands are that much more in the higher grades.  What we have though is communication and the ability to know that we can figure it out.  He also has a firm belief he can do anything because we have told him that from the get go and caught it at home and made him aware of it when we saw him accomplish a difficult for him task.

So if you're considering this journey, just know, it's doable and for us it was invaluable.

The Value of Play... For Adults.

We hear a lot of messages in the media about the importance of play for children.  As an Early Childhood Educator, in a previous life, I give that a big, HELL YEAH!  Play is the work of children.  Here is a snip of information you will read in terms of why play is important for children:

Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development.46 It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers.714 As they master their world, play helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges.7,10,15 Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills.7,10,11,16 -

Pretty powerful stuff isn't it?

My question to you is, can you think back to when play stopped being a valued part of your life?  Even as I type this, I am trying to think back to when play was left off my dance card; it was left off and has been off for a very long time.

We get into highschool.  Then go to some post-secondary institution or jump into work directly after.  Perhaps find our significant other or travel the globe in search of ourselves and the world.  Whatever it is, we start to 'become' adults and learn in a more experiential way.  We make a mistake and derive information from that, we blunder at work and adjust our behaviour or conversely we do well and are praised and continue on that path.

Learning becomes about books, life, work and family.  We may have been lucky to hold on to or develop some hobbies along the way but those are seen as a little selfish and not something that has a permanent place for most people.  I realize - I generalize here but you get the point - we stop playing because we fail to see the benefit of play in our adult world.

What stops adults from playing?  Judgment, embarrassment, risk, it requires trust...  and perhaps it just doesn't seem valuable.

Here are some points about why play is so important for EVERYONE:
  1. Play is not anarchy.  Watch children playing at the park, it is organized and the members (for the most part) follow the flow. It forms relationships!
  2. Play has rules.  Without rules the play makes no sense, with rules everyone can part-take and be creative.  
  3. Play is divergent.  Meaning, it goes in many directions and is creative.  It is ever changing but the group will continue to build on it because it is fun and has an energy of its own.  
  4. Play is all about exploration.  If you were to ask a child if they were happy with the end result of their play session I'm sure you would get some very odd looks.  They are entrenched in the process, the exploration of the play.  While play is organized... "I will be the doctor, you have the broken leg and I'll fix it...", it is not edited or focused on the end result.  It is organic and unplanned.
  5. Play allows you to try on roles.  When children role play a possible scenario they are 'trying it on' to see what it could be without risk of having to assume the role in real life.  It also helps them problem solve a scenario in their life and find a solution in a creative way.
  6. Play teaches emotion.  It helps us to get into various emotional states.  "Okay you're the Mom and you're happy I'm back from school...".  Empathy is learned through play.  How many business owners wouldn't love to get in the mindset of their customer?
  7. Play helps form relationships.  Without play we have a missing link for connection.  When we take the risk of being vulnerable with another human being through creativity we feel a stronger bond and where there is trust and friendship, play becomes seamless.
  8. Play allows for mastery.  When we allow ourselves the chance to play with an idea or a skill-set we in turn start on the path of mastery or excellence.
As a YOUR Coach, we play.  Yes coaching is playing in a sense.  It is the time for YOU to focus only on YOU and explore possibilities.  To play with ideas in a safe and supportive environment, where judgment does not exist and what 'could be' is king.  This is your sandbox and the only limitations are the ones you apply to yourself.  It is my job to help you get out of the 'adult' role we fall into and look again at the wonder of what could be and make plans to get there.

When we are allowed to play, we are allowed to be creative, to explore and not be so focused on the end result but in the learning that takes place in the space between.  Play is not only the work of children it is the vital, lost, underappreciated work of adults too.

Parents of teens UNITE! We Need Our Own Mastermind Group!

I am a parent of two children, a son who is soon to be 15 and a daughter who is 10 years old.  It is a busy time.  Gone are the days when I can fix things with a simple hug and a kiss on the 'owie'.  The challenges these two young people face are all consuming.  These are the problems of becoming 'adults'.

They face social challenges of fitting in or not fitting in, they are pulled and distracted by various forms of media, they deal with the daily barrage of negative influence and sincerely trying to make the best choices they can.  And in the wake of all this serious business you have fretting parents just wanting things to be okay for their child and feeling a lack of control around the whole big mess.

This seems to be a time of transition for the family unit on the whole.  Children pushing up against the boundaries we have in place to be able to feel independent.  This constant tension is so hard for parents.  We can look back at our own break-away from the nest and think, 'yeah, I remember that', but it doesn't make it any easier being on the receiving end.  As our teens push against the boundaries they also peel away from us for a time.  It's such an uncomfortable change.

This change causes conflict at times as well.  I know in my house it has been the source of hard feelings and regret at times.  There just isn't a manual for this stuff, especially in the heat of the moment.  We get it wrong a lot and it seems like we learn along the way.  We fail.  We evaluate.  We try again.  This cycle is truly the same one we use in all areas of our life.

So what can we do?  It seems like once your children reach a certain age the lights go out in the community.  I try signing my son up for programs only to have them cancelled due to lack of interest.  Or even just trying to find him something new is a challenge...  it seems like once your child reaches pre-teen and on, you are just going this stuff alone.

How do we as parents get support?  How do we talk to our children in a constructive way and still keep healthy boundaries in place?  Who do parents of teens turn to, when the lights go out in the community?

I think we need to turn to each other.  Reach out to one another and say, 'Hey!...  this really sucks for me and I'm stuck, any ideas?'.  When we have this shared understanding we start asking each other questions...  What do you do when...  How did you handle ABC? 

Perhaps what's needed is a Parental Mastermind Group?  A time where we all get together in a non-judgemental space where we can be proactive and supportive of one another during this challenging time.  We can brainstorm and experiment...  As a coach I can provide questions to invoke the process of finding a way through the mud.  What say you?  Is this needed?

Discomfort is more than a feeling, it's a sign of change...

With change underway in a big way over here I have come up against one many or two mental road blocks along the way.  Many times I was really thankful for the blockers because they allowed me to stay stuck.

When we stay stuck we don't have to progress forward.  We get to hang on to our old beliefs and stay 'comfortable'.  Change can be a really irritating, uncomfortable, world altering time.

Pema Chodron, is an American, Tibetan Buddhist and an ordained nun. For those of you who are not familiar with her she is one of the most down to earth, has 'been there and done that' women on the planet.  Yes she is a Buddhist nun but she has also been married twice, has children and grandchildren and so in her own way understands what the populous goes through on a daily basis.

She recorded this 4 minute video (found below) about change and by how we speak, act and think we create our own possibilities (good, bad or ugly).  How to make friends with the discomfort of change, so change can happen.  Video quality isn't great due to a power outage they had at the time but the message is sound.

Many times, coaching brings about that discomfort she talks about here.  It is in that space though that we take the boundaries we have surrounded ourselves in and help them to expand.

Think of a baby learning to walk.  They get up and hang on, with wobbly legs, and take a step, and then two, three and so it goes.  Along the way they fall and it hurts, in their uncomfortable state though, they receive love and care and encouragement to continue.  Before you know it that toddler is off and running, and everyone else just needs to KEEP UP.

It seems though, the longer we exist on this planet, the more stuck we can become.  We get really uncomfortable with that forward movement and our ability lean INTO it.  What I would ask you is:   

How would your life be different if you were okay with being uncomfortable?
Coaching helps you to explore the barriers to change you have in place.  It empowers you, comforts you and motivates you to seek out the change you have been avoiding for so long.  So that you too will be that running toddler everyone is trying to keep up with!

-What would your life look like if you could get to work on time?
-What would it look like if you could makes steps towards getting a business going?
-What would it look like if you could honour yourself and your need for growth, as a stay at home parent?
-What would it look like as a person with ADHD if you could work WITH your unique brain wiring, rather than fight it?

All this to explore and more.  Like the quote below suggests our brain really wants to keep us safe from things which make us fearful/uncomfortable.  Pause and realize that not all discomfort is something to be avoided.  When we dig deep and find the courage to say, "I want more...", we arrive closer to our own truths.

Coaching Conversations ~ What can the Client expect?

Coaching isn't new per se, but it doesn't have roots like a therapy model.  So when you hear the word, coaching, we infuse it with our own flavour of what that could mean.

Coaching is centred around conversation.  I just heard all the introverts groan inwardly...  I am one, so the thoughts of that initially may have me (and you) running for the hills!  Fear not my friends.  This conversation is a structured, purposeful and meaningful dialog.  This is not the conversation you typically have with others.

This conversation has a start, middle and end.  The entire time is spent working on what YOU, the client, decides to bring to the table that day.  YOU set the agenda and can change that at any point, it's all about YOU baby!  We can set long term goals and chart a path to getting there or work on whatever ever arises during that week or a combination of both.  I keep the compass pointed in the place you need most.

This will be your time to problem solve, make plans, look at barriers to those plans, figure out why things may not be working for you right now, learn about yourself, and chart a new path or an old one more confidently.

Many wonder what can you be coached around?  This is a hard one to answer as anything goes.  If you have a hard time keeping your house organized or clutter free, we can work on that.  If you are having some barriers to eating well and establishing a plan, (Psst I am also a Certified Dr. Sears Health Coach), we can work on that.  Perhaps you just don't know what is happening with you right now, but you know you need change because things just don't FEEL right.

For my ADHD friends out there...  I can help you to understand about YOUR flavour of ADHD and how it manifests in your life.  So many times we try and fit a square peg into a round hole...  Well through coaching you can understand better about who YOU are and how that brilliance can shine through without SHAME or JUDGMENT.

What this is not is therapy.  We don't go back to the why of things...  that is more of a mental health model and if we find that's needed in our coaching sessions I'll support you through connecting with the right person to address that as well.  Many times clients will take a coaching break to work with a mental health professional and then come back and get their plans underway.  Again being human is individual and complex, there is no shame in seeking that which you need most.

I hold you accountable in the way you decide and I do call you on your stuff!  Many times the things we don't do are the things that require going back to the drawing board a number of times.  That is okay and part of the growth you'll experience through coaching.

This is work and will be uncomfortable at times, I am here to support you with that.  You are responsible for the outcome.  Many times this makes people shy away from that idea as it's a bold statement.  That's what it means to be 'coach-able', being ready to do the work required to meet your own change and goals as you see them.

My role is to create a safe and compassionate place.  To help you navigate these new waters with a hand to hold and to help shine a light on the things we at times neglect to focus on.  I am here for you and you alone.

If you want to experience what this feels or sounds like just contact me at for more information.

More on coaching in the days and weeks to come! 

The Down Low on Coaching - What is it?

When you hear or think of the word 'coach' or 'coaching', what comes to mind?  Do you think of all the coaches that you've had in your life who taught you how to dance, play hockey, play chess...  Perhaps you think of a teacher you've had during your life that made a big impact.  We all define coaching differently.  The word triggers many different thoughts and emotions based on our experiences around it.

My husband for example, is one of the best sport coaches of young people that I've ever been witness to.  I say this as a point of fact and not flattery.  He helps them develop to the best of their ability, supports their progress and setbacks, gives information that is personalized for the individual and uses humour and positivity to encourage and empower.  When those children think on what a coach is to them it's my hope they think of him and his positive impact on their life.

Somewhere along the line we've all been coached in some capacity.  So what then does Life Coaching look like and how does it differ from that of other types of coaching, like those mentioned above?

At the end of my training I will be Certified Life Coach who specializes in coaching clients with ADHD.  I am completing my training with the ADD Academy which is an International Coaching Federation (ICF) accredited program.  In completing this course I will have tackled 239 hours of study and coaching practice.  It is indeed a comprehensive program that takes the care of others very seriously, as do I.  Here is an definition of what coaching means as laid out by the ICF:

ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. Coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole. 
As a coach who also specializes in ADHD I help clients understand their unique brain wiring and how to work within that.  To discover strengths and values they weren't aware of.

Coaching is a relationship.  I am your safe space, the listening ear and the witness of your unique talents and strengths.  The difference between this type of coaching and the sports coach is, while I may share some nuggets here and there, YOU are the expert on you.  My role here is to help you clear the noise and confusion.  Traditional coaching has you as the student learning a skill.  The difference here is that YOU are the expert, what we do is bring an awareness around that so you can employ skills you weren't aware of.

So many times when we go looking for help, well meaning people (myself included), have instructed.  I am not the person who provides instruction; coaching in this capacity helps YOU to arrive at the answers you have questions around.  It's only when we can be AWARE and CLEAR that we can start making plans for ourselves.  I help you attain that clarity.  My purpose as your coach is to help:

- Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
- Encourage client self-discovery
- Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
- Hold the client responsible and accountable
This process helps clients dramatically improve their outlook on work and life, while improving their leadership skills and unlocking their potential.
This is not a self indulgent service.  So many times we struggle with different areas in our life: family, children, work, business...  We can't see the forest through the trees.  I help you step back to take it all in.

The Building of Reserves

Reserve: to make arrangements so that you will be able to use or have (something, such as a room, table, or seat) at a later time - to keep (something) for a special or future use - to choose to do (something) at a later time.  "Reserve." Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
Reserve is an important word.  As you can see above, it's defined as something in which you make arrangements to have for later.  Something you want or require being tagged for later use, so when you need it, it's there.  The idea behind reserving something is to give you a security around the idea that I don't need to think or worry about the reserved item as I have already made plans to have it there waiting for me when it's needed.

Reserves can also be looked at from the perspective of having so much of something that there are no needs around that thing.  Lets take a simple example of toilet paper.  This is one item we use daily, and something we need to buy all the time.  Think about when you run out...  as we tend to do from time to time.  Think about how much head space and energy is required to remember to correct that, and if you forget to remedy it how much more energy you expel at the lack of it.  This is just a simple thing but we have all felt the impact of not having it.

Picture source:

Now take this same scenario and instead of buying what you need for a few weeks, what would it feel like to have a years worth of toilet paper?  Compare the running out, to the idea of I don't have to think about this for a whole year.  What does having that reserve create for you?  I know for myself I was feeling like it was one thing off my list.  I can let it go and focus on more important things.  I have so much that my need of it becomes a non-issue; I have a years worth.  I may put it in my calendar to check closer to the years end, but I don't need to give it any consideration or energy for at least a year.  It's a freeing exercise.

Lets now consider what a reserve would look like in terms of love, friendship, opportunity, knowledge and finances.  These are pretty big areas.  Each of these have a high importance in our lives and many times we run these areas without reserves.  We feel drained by them because we don't have enough in reserve, they are a constant thought or work in progress.  What would it feel like to have a reserve of money?  What would it feel like to have enough that you didn't need to worry about it anymore?  For many this is an area of strain and strong feelings.

What small changes could you put in place today to build up a reserve in this one area?  Perhaps you could look at your finances and really know where your money is going?  Become completely aware of how much you spend on certain areas of your life.  Just get curious about why there isn't a reserve here currently.  Is it that you spend a lot on coffee, tea, going out (guilty, guilty, guilty) and if so can you put in one small rule to start going every other day and the money you would have spent on those items will now go in a jar or an account and become your reserve?  Is it that you have hit the ceiling of what you can earn and can't squeeze anymore from it?  Could you maybe look at some cost-effective online courses (i.e. Udemy, Coursera) to better your skills to give you more reserve in areas of knowledge and opportunity so that you have more choice about your employment and salary?

The idea is you create an awareness around important areas in your life and find small measurable ways to create more surplus (reserves) in those areas.  It starts with awareness, pausing to understand where you are and getting curious about how you'd like to proceed.  You'll know instinctively where you are running a deficit.  Just listen to your thoughts and feel your body when you think of the areas I listed above.  Change won't come in one big swoop; it comes in the form of small steps, moving forward.  Create reserves and, in turn, ease the drain of energy you feel in your daily lives.