June 22, 2008

My Experiences with Learning as a Child

Posted in ADHD, Posts by Renee, School, Self-Therapy at 2:42 am by bloggingawayadhd

I saw 2 posts on my ‘tag surfer’ today about ADHD kids and school. One was suggesting that ADHD kids would do well in military school, and one was considering special education. That started me thinking about my experiences in school.

My boyfriend always jokes about how I refer to experiences in high school while talking more than I talk about college or my current life – and I think that’s because high school was a great time in my development and I had so much fun and look back on it with good memories. I found college boring.

But let’s backtrack… to elementary school.

I was always a ‘sharp’ student, and excelled in all subjects, except behavior. My teachers always had to tell me to be quiet and always wrote ‘disrupts class’ on my report cards, along with notes about not living up to my potential (since I wouldn’t shut up and do my work). I even got in trouble for tutoring a peer during class once because my teacher accused me of doing his work for him (I really wasn’t, and I probably said some smart-aleck remark back about how I was teaching him something he didn’t understand from her instruction). But in 4th grade, things changed…

I had a really cool teacher named Mrs. Jones. She was an older lady, but fun. I also started in ‘Signet’, the magnet program in our school that ‘gifted’ 4th and 5th graders went to on Friday. We actually got to skip class all day on friday to go to this gifted class, with fun science experiments, mind puzzles, research, computers, and library time. Mrs. Jones was even nice enough to let us 2 Signet girls from her class do our spelling tests verbally in the hall each Friday before going (running) to Signet instead of making us make up the written version as homework, like other teachers did.

I LOVED Signet. I thrived there, and I’m sure my regular-class work improved, too. Fridays were a time to explore, be creative, push my mind, and learn about whatever I wanted to. I always wished every kid could do Signet one day a week – I didn’t think it was fair that only us ‘smart’ kids got to go, and I still look back and think most kids with behavior problems were probably just bored with school, and would do well in such a program.

I have to get some other things done right now, so I will write about high school some other time, but I wanted to leave a recommendation for parents of intelligent ADHD children – CHALLENGE them and allow them to explore and be creative as much as possible, even when they ‘should’ be doing homework for class. I think allowing a kid an hour of exploratory fun learning before the boring homework will put them in ‘learning mode’ easier than plunking them down at the table with a pencil until they finish their 25 math problems. Or, use the ‘fun learning’ as a reward for finishing their other work, and try to tie it into the subject their learning.

Here are some education-related things I used to love to do when I was young:

  • Go to the library with my Mom and explore, expecially the science magazines and the ‘hands-on’ craft and experiment books, like building birdhouses
  • Learn how to make circuits with my dad – we electrified our dollhouse with real lights made out of wire and beads
  • Build things with my Dad, like birdhouses, napkin holders, etc. (pretty much like middle school shop class, he even let me use some power tools)
  • Cook with my Mom – especially unusual snacks, like cake cooked in the microwave in an ice cream cone
  • Explore my yard, looking at the plants, flowers, bugs, mud, puddles, hammock, birds, etc. – then looking at the books in the library that could tell me what all of those things were (we didn’t have Wikipedia back then!)
  • Play games with my sister – she was very athletic and we didn’t always have things in common, but we loved playing games with each other, and teaching ourselves (or making up) new games
  • Read books – usually way above my grade-level. Michael Crichton books were my favorite, and I’d recommend exciting books like Jurrassic Park to any hyperactive kid! I also loved Madeleine L’Engle since the imagery in her writing just pulls you into her creative world.
  • Paint, draw, write, glue stuff together – my mom used to put me in my room with stuff to do that would keep me occupied (and out of her hair) and it was fun

and another thing I have strong memories of doing all the time was playing with these zany little cards with pictures of animals and pieces of sentences on them that you could string together into a long story…. and they read a lot like kids talk. The stories would be something like (I’ll separate the cards by dashes):

and the Giraffe – climbed a tree – and the Aardvark – got in the box – and the Peacock – drove away – and the Kangaroo – jumped for joy – and the Elephant – dove into the pond….

you could go on and on in seemingly endless combinations, and I know those silly cards kept me occupied for hours. I remember reading my mom a story I made with all of the cards that extended all the way down the hallway of our house!

So, find a way to help your kid love learning, and get joy and excitement out of topics that may be boring in school by adding fun twists to them outside of school, and let them do things that seem more grown-up than their age level. I know I enjoyed history a lot more once I learned what really happened in our country, and that the Europeans’ relationships with the Native Americans was a lot longer story than eating Thanksgiving dinner and sharing corn!

Anyway… hopefully I made my point and gave some parents some ideas other than special ed and military school! If you have any questions for me about my experiences growing up, feel free to ask!




  1. bloggingawayadhd said,

    Some ideas I thought of for fun ‘warm-up’ activities related to specific subjects –

    Math – tangram puzzles, origami, fractals (search online for interactive software), logic puzzles

    Foreign Languages – CDs with kids songs in other languages, Rosetta Stone software (available in some libraries), use foreign language as ‘code language’ to communicate so other family members won’t understand

    History – books about ‘real’ history, not the kiddie versions, classic movies, documentary shows about historic events, museums

    Science/technology – Popular science magazine, discovery outdoors, nature museum, zoo/aquarium, computer research and online learning games, factory tours


    Thinking/logic – strategy board games (battleship comes to mind), card games, scavenger hunts

  2. bloggingawayadhd said,

    Oh, 2 other ‘educational’ computer games that entertained me for hours as a kid are ‘Lemmings’ and ‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?’ (that one teaches a little bit of geography, too).

  3. Candy said,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. The public school system is still attempting to find out “what is wrong” with my son, be it ADHD or Autism.. or whatever other name that want to label “Being bored as heck sitting inside, filling out worksheets, on a gorgeous day.”

    He’s a different kid when he’s learning things he’s passionate about. Interested, engaged.. when we go “on location,” or even just take the learning out to the backyard.. it’s much easier to keep him focused and on task. Indoors, he’s like a restless bird banging against the window just trying to find his way out.

  4. bloggingawayadhd said,

    Glad you enjoyed my post! I just wrote from my heart about what I remember feeling, and what excited me. I did love learning, just not school :)

    I’m so glad you’re open-minded about your son’s behavior – don’t let the public school system put him in a box! ADHD wasn’t well-known 20 years ago when I was in elementary school, especially not in girls, so I luckily was never medicated. I actually ended up doing pretty well all the way through school once I learned how to challenge myself and figure out my own way of doing things.

    I’m not sure how old your son is and whether this would help at all, but the book I’m reading right now (Finding Your Focus Zone) explains a neat trick to finishing bored tasks – treat it like a scavenger hunt to get what you want. The things you find in a savenger hunt are usually silly and simple items, like sunglasses, or the Sunday comics, but you have to collect all of those things in order to finish the hunt – so some days when English class or Math just seem pointless and boring to your son, maybe it would help him to remind himself that he has to ‘collect’ things he learns in all of these classes in able to get where he wants to go in life, even if he won’t end up using a certain skill in his future profession.

    I’m just so glad to read your comment! Thanks!

  5. bloggingawayadhd said,

    I just clicked on your link to view the blog, and what a cool Mom you are! Wow, your kids are learning so much and having fun doing it!

  6. Joan said,

    I enjoyed this post also! Thanks for the ideas and you let me know that I’m on the right track with my son, cause I try to make learning fun and conceptual. Heck, I get excited about some of the things we do or the idea of him learning something different. My son is 6 and I really want him to have a love for learning like I do. We have the Everything Science Experiment book and he ask’s “are we going to do some science today?”.

    I’m going to have to check out Finding Your Focus Zone, cause I’m having an absurdly hard time finishing up certain projects at work.

  7. bloggingawayadhd said,


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