Friday, February 18, 2011

Homeschooling a bipolar child

I have been thinking about a post on homeschooling a bipolar child for a while now. And since the kids have the flu and are resting.. now seems like a good time. First let me state that all children are different. Two kids living in the same house with the same parents can act differently even with a diagnosis of bipolar. Our neurologist told us that Bipolar disorder is like ADHD in that its the term doctor's use when all the symptoms don't fit into any other disorder and still meet the qualifications of Bipolar or ADHD. Did that make sense? My son has both. So life can be unpredictable.

For my son, the school day needs to be structured. It has to have a purpose. I can't just say okay we're going to work on this for a while. We tried that. It left alot of work undone and maybe some yelling (on both sides). So what I've learned to do to help him is make a full days schedule out the night before. Making it for more than a day or two does not work either. If for some reason I need to make a change once he's already seen it. Yikes! That can cause a meltdown. As long as it is on the list, he will do it. So everything has to be on it.
Here is an example of our list for the day.

Spelling - p 40 1-20
English - Read p 114-116, 1-5 Vocabulary p. 117
Science - Read pg 42-47 Vocabulary and review questions
History - Read p 4-7 Vocab and 5 questions
Math - P. 12 in workbook. Powers and Exponents
Read 30 minutes.. my choice of book

I use a teacher's blank book I bought and keep it all in a notebook.

A day goes something like this. We get up at 6:30 to get everyone ready to take my oldest daughter to pre-k. Back home around 8. Breakfast (if the other two didn't eat before we left) and then schoolwork. My son normally will just sit down and start working while I get my 4 year old started on something. Some days he starts easily and will get things moving without too much pushing from me. Other days it requires a bit more.. "sit down and do your work!!" from me. Or a few "no tv, wii, or games unless all the work is done". Let me say I am not a fan of TV, Wii or Xbox, or DSi but they have unfortunately become a part of my life. Lunch falls around 11am with a snack again about 1. Whenever his work is complete then his school day is over. I check work that night and correction work is put on the sheet for the next day. Or if there is something I need to go over, then we go over that before I hand him his sheet. I know that sounds like I don't do much teaching. Really he doesn't want a whole lot. He reads and does the work. I do tend to work with him over math. The powers and exponent worksheet required a bit of one-on-one. I suspect that as 6th grade approaches math will go back to being a teacher-led lesson.

You would think that sitting down and doing work with ADHD/Bipolar would be pure torture for a child. Honestly I don't torture him... I might revise that when he becomes a hormonal teenager but for now I swear its not torture. lol He really is pretty good at doing his work without too much moving around. He does talk his way through all the lessons. Usually the talking has nothing to do with his work. I'd love to see inside his head to see how his brain shifts from subject to subject. It doesn't interfere too much with schoolwork. The mood swings and craziness comes after all the school is done. I imagine that it would be that way if he went to public school also. Go to school, sit, be good.. Come home, go crazy, be loud.. Even with his meds there are some days when I think buying stock in Tylenol and earplugs sounds like a sound financial investment.

So there is a little bit about homeschooling at our house.


  1. Thanks for this post! I am also homeschooling my son with ADHD/bipolar. He's in first grade, so we're just starting out. How do you handle your son's hard days? Today was so difficult here that no school was done at all. I'm wondering how other moms deal with this! It's so good to know there are other moms out there going through the same things we are :)

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  3. I think it depends on why he is having a hard day. If he is getting frustrated easily over something, say math, we will skip it that day. Picking it back up the next day. If he just can't sit still, then I pull out one of the trusty science experiment books and we find something hands on to do. That's what I loved about homeschooling. Pushing an assignment back a day or two doesn't affect his grade.. doesn't put him behind. We don't have an agenda that we have to follow. In the end we covered everything I hoped we would.

  4. I am homeschooling my 15 yr old granddaughter who is bi-polar so I would love to hear more from those who have posted and anyone else with wisdom and encouragement.

    1. My son is now 20. He was only recently diagnosed as bi-polar type 2. Boy, does that explain a lot! I homeschooled him for a number of reasons, one of them being his behavior towards other children. It was a struggle sometimes, but it was well worth it. He decided on his own to go to the public high school as Freshman, and it was good for the most part. I just wanted to say keep going. It is SO worth it. I would do it again (regardless of what he tells me sometimes).

  5. How do you deal with the sleep issues? Or have yours not reached that age yet? Mine all stop sleeping at night at about the age of 12. My youngest already started at age 9.