Executive Functioning & Why it Matters in Your Homeschool

Executive Functioning & Why it Matters in Your Homeschool

Executive Functioning a big “buzzword” in education right now.  If you have a child diagnosed with ADHD/ADD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Autism, Aspergers or a Learning Disability, you have probably come across the term Executive Functioning.  

So, how does Executive Functioning affect your child? Have you seen any of the following?
  • Easily frustrated – fights or quits tasks easily, melts down easily.
  • Anxious – worries about things out of their control, or about making mistakes excessively.
  • Worried or bothered by seemingly “little” things –  could by physical things or academic things.
  • Frustrated by sitting still – constantly on the move, needs to have hands/body moving
  • Following directions is arduous labor – can follow one direction at a time (well, maybe sometimes?), may have difficulty with more than one direction at a time.
  • Difficulty completing tasks – may start things and not finish, or gets frustrated and stops rather than ask for help.
  • Struggles with getting started in tasks – even seemingly simple assignments (or larger ones) are difficult to get started because they don’t know where to begin
  • Strains to keep track of the processes of math and reading – forgets to go back to the passage to help find answers or reread, loses their place in a multi-step math problem or with long division/multiplication type processes.
  • Easily bothered or distracted by light levels (high or low) or noise (too loud or too quiet) – textures, sounds, lights, cold, heat, blue skies, gray skies, dogs barking, someone says something unexpected – these and more distract and bother our kids at times.
  • Flexibility is an issue; may struggle greatly with being able to “switch gears” when life demands it.
  • Planning and prioritizing are difficult or impossible to the chagrin and frustration of the person.
  • Working memory can be faulty and frustrating.
  • Response inhibition (ability to control one’s own emotions) is a struggle or lost battle.

What is Executive Functioning?

The official definition from LDONLINE (LD Online) is: “The executive functions are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation.” This means that a lot of the above behaviors that are sometimes considered “careless” and “willful” can be traced back to issues with Executive Functioning.

In the course description for True North Homeschool Academy’s Creating Priorities Class for Executive Functioning, I describe it as it looks at my house… Perhaps your child struggles with executive functioning skills, as mine does. When it is time to do his schoolwork, my son loses his pencil, loses his worksheet, will solve the problem with blocks but forget to write the answer, disappears, jumps up and runs around the house, find a million other things to do, and then will finally sit down, solve two questions, and then he’s off again…. My son, like many others, struggles with executive functioning skills.  He doesn’t MEAN to be unorganized and distracted, but his brain just can’t help it. Like many people with a diagnosis, he also struggles with time management, self-control, memory and other cognitive issues; common for those whose brains are developing differently. As a family, we are working on many things to help him learn how to better manage his time and his work.

What can be done to enhance and teach Executive Functioning Skills?

You can focus on specific skills that may be lacking.  For example –

  • How to study – how to make outlines, study key terms, pay special attention to charts, summaries and footnotes, go over review questions
  • Using a checklist – provide younger children with a checklist of tasks (you might have to begin with 1 at a time and slowly increase), have them check off tasks as they complete them.  You can even work in breaks or “rewards” as tasks are completed.
  • Using a planner – older students can utilize a planner with assignments for the day or week to be completed.  To gain independence, allow students to complete the assignments in their own order. If needed, specify which tasks can be done on any day, and which must be done on specific days (if your child needs repetition in math, set the expectation that one math assignment must be completed each day instead of doing them all on a single day).
  • Using graphic organizers for writing, or reading – graphic organizers are great tools for analyzing fiction and nonfiction literature, and for brainstorming and organizing writing assignments.
  • Using anchor charts or a math notebook to show the steps needed to solve math problems – Math notebooks (classrooms usually also use anchor charts) are great tools to help students remember how to solve specific types of questions, and to follow step-by-step directions on more complicated math (like long division or multiplication)
  • Create vocabulary or sight word flashcards – index cards create great flashcards to review sight words, vocabulary for any subject or to create your own math fact flashcards.
  • Give choices (make sure all choices presented are acceptable to you) – A child who is easily frustrated or tends to “battle” you about schoolwork is sometimes feeling out of control of the situation.  So they work to regain control by fighting against what they see is the source of the problem (you). When you provide choices, it helps them feel back in control. The catch is, you only present choices that are acceptable to you. If it is not acceptable, it is not a choice.  If there is still an argument, write the choices down or draw pictures. You can’t argue with something that is written. If they continue to try to argue with you, you just point. Eventually, they will make a decision from the choices provided. (It might take a little while the first time, but it gets easier as you continue).

Where can you go for help?

There are a lot of resources out there to get help.  Here are a few suggestions of things to consider:

Should I participate in NaNoWriMo?

Should I participate in NaNoWriMo?

(This post is a two-part series on NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.  Be sure to check out the first part of the series, What in the World is NaNoWriMo. For more information, check out the NaNoWriMo website.)

Should I participate in NaNoWriMo?

Before we begin, we have to establish a few ground rules. You have to want something specific.  It may be to get to a goal of finishing a writing project.  Perhaps you crave the specific experience of telling life to take ten and diving in head first to the creative genius experience. You won’t finish if you don’t want one of those two in some variation.

Should you participate in NaNoWriMo? See what we have to say about that at True North Homeschool Academy! #homeschool #writing #Nanowrimo

Next, creation has to be a passion. Reading, writing, telling a funny story, the literary muse has to be a thing for you. Without that passion, yeah you might finish, but probably not because you really loved it and the end result is likely to be stiff and formulaic.

We aren’t writing a mechanical engineering report, we’re setting out to create a story. Which is a dynamic, multifaceted thing that’s almost a living organism in its own right. And you have to take all these different pieces and stitch them together like doctor Frankenstein and zap it with the energy of creative frenzy, and then sit back in horror as it takes on a life of its own and quite possibly tries to eat you. (For those of you who’ve ever created a project bigger and more convoluted than a doctoral theses, you know exactly what I am saying here)

So how do we tame the beast?

How do we realize this mad passion without it being a suppressed lifelong obsession or a mad hobby that monopolizes all our time and makes us lose our job, girlfriend and get kicked out of school?

The answer is structured pursuit. Great novelists will tell you that consistency, dedication, and hard work are the key. Writing is a strange art in that you can’t just ‘make’ yourself feel creative. You have to have that muse.

But you can’t just wait around for your muse, we haven’t the time. Creativity is a tardy muse, and if you wait on his schedule then he’s going to arrive late, lush, and probably empty-handed. You have to go hunt him down with a butterfly net and a whiffle bat, stalk him up dark alleys and club him from behind, and hope you don’t catch his evil twin cynicism.

Writing is hard work. And it’s time-consuming. You have to do it every day to build the habits necessary to be successful. Creative genius best flows when you have a habit of writing and keep it on a schedule. An hour every morning. Thirty-minute word sprints after working out at night. A corner cafe where you always sit down with your back to the street twice a week. Consistency and dedication are what make the wheels spin.

But hard work takes energy. Emotional, mental and physical. So make sure, 1) you don’t forget to eat, or you’ll crash 2)+3) you have moral support and inspiration.

Here is where community comes in.

We are social creatures, and even when we are drained, praise from our fellows can give us a second wind, and commiserating with fellows who understand your struggle makes even the biggest challenges durable.

NaNo offers a clear goal with a finite timeline that is still large enough to work with. It offers you a way to track your progress and share with other like-minded people, which is accountability and encouragement, 2 things most novelists are lacking in their private lives. There are forums for brainstorming, sharing ideas that you love but don’t actually want to flesh out, or for you to pick up on other peoples ideas. There’s even a facet that lets you share a project with a friend so you don’t have to go it alone.

The NaNoWriMo community offers the structure, support and clear goal structure needed to succeed. It does a lot of the footwork so you can focus on the heavy lifting, and yes, the burden is still on you. You have to apply yourself, you have to challenge yourself, you have to make the commitment of time and energy to succeed.

So why NaNo? Is it a must. It’s not. But it is an invaluable asset and makes the noveling process a lot lighter, more fun, and not nearly so daunting.

Derek Nehring bio picture


Derek Nehring was homeschooled through High School, is in his Senior year of college majoring in Economics and Math, serves in the Nat Guard and enjoys reading, outdoor activities, coffee, and his sarcastic (very funny) family. 

What in the World is NaNoWriMo and Why Should You Care?

What in the World is NaNoWriMo and Why Should You Care?

(This post is a two-part series on NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, for more information, check out their website here.)

Autumn is always one of those special times of the year. Fall leaves swirling down around you as you walk down the sidewalk, dazzling in a brilliant display of reds, yellows, and pale greens. That light fog in the early morning adding an extra layer of enchantment to the morning, or breaking out the fuzzy socks and sweaters as you curl up in front of the fireplace with your favorite book.

It’s also a time for the back to school rush, twelve consecutive days of sleet and everyone’s favorite, slipping down the front steps on that first icing. Anyone can romanticize snow, howling winds or crazy fog conditions, but cracking your head on the concrete steps at twenty miles an hour, nope.

So remember to salt your steps. And while we’re waiting for jack frost with a parka and a gallon of anti-freeze, there’s an added element to the fall we enjoy. It adds an extra zing to the annual ‘stock up on tea and caffeine accessories’ of the fall. It’s the National Novel Writers Month.

NaNoWriMo - What is it and why should you even care? Come check out this post on the writing competition that homeschoolers love! #homeschool #writing #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy

What is National Novel Writers Month (or NaNoWriMo for short) you ask?

It’s an annual assemblage of nerds, novelists and book lovers galore who return every November to create the NaNoWriMo community. They usually spend the next thirty days scrambling over themselves to meet the 50,000-word goal by November 30th without forgetting to pay the bills or their name or to feed the cat and pick the kids up from the vet.

It isn’t always pretty. But it’s always fun, and it always brings the NaNo’ers back by the thousands. Is it worth it? Does anyone ever finish anything? Can you really get a novel written or even published by taking on this crazy one month challenge?

In a word: yes, you can.

If it’s worth it may be another matter. The successful NaNo’er is usually a closet thrill seeker who relishes in the extreme.  They often cut out an entire month from their life to detach from the world and pour into a single project, usually with several weeks ahead of planning, plotting, sometimes outlining, and always stocking up on that extra stash of tea and pre-made meals.

To the casual NaNoer its just a fun way to explore a creative interest or lifelong hobby, and make the fall that much more special. You get in touch with NaNoer’s from all over the country. Other adventurers and novel lovers who share your passion, challenges and secret dream to make that next great American novel. And while most won’t achieve that dream, they still get an opportunity to create, explore, and share whole worlds.

NaNoWriMo is that special time of year where all good nerds come together to defy reality and tell themselves they can. Despite the late nights, the crazy work schedule, managing the kids and the bills and the grad-paper, they cut out that odd hour or two a day to make their dreams take life on paper.

And while it may seem like a waste of time to the more sane members of society, to the literary of heart its the highlight of the season. And a lot of them do cross that finish line with their goals met and exceeded. And maybe just maybe, they are one of those lucky few who strikes gold and is dubbed a winner. But even if you’re not, to a NaNoer, the experience is the win.

Do you have a budding writer in your homeschool?  You may also enjoy our post on How to Start a Writing Club or our Mega-List of Writing Prompts.) 

Derek Nehring bio picture


Derek Nehring was homeschooled through High School, is in his Senior year of college majoring in Economics and Math, serves in the Nat Guard and enjoys reading, outdoor activities, coffee, and his sarcastic (very funny) family. 

Pursuing Interests through Homeschool Electives

Pursuing Interests through Homeschool Electives

When I first made the decision to homeschool my son who was just starting Kindergarten, I began to look at curriculum.  I soon discovered there were THOUSANDS of choices! And that was just for one subject! I soon found that there were favorites among homeschoolers – for example, the “Saxon-eers” and the “Math-U-See-ers”!

Electives are sometimes harder, though.  Everyone is looking for core curriculum, but electives are based on interests, which can vary widely. While classes and activities are readily available, the sea of information can be overwhelming at times.  

Personally, I am a big believer that our children should have some choice in their homeschooling, especially if there are struggles in one or more academic area. That is some of the benefits of homeschooling, and it helps prepare them for making choices and career decisions as teenagers and adults.  

Here are a few ideas for pursuing interests through homeschool electives. Some are free, the others are worth every penny…

Homeschool Electives for the Child that Loves Animals:

Does your child love animals?  Does he love to go to the zoo, visit the animal shelter and pet shop?

  • Science classes – classes are available on all kinds of topics – oceanology, zoology, entomology…these and more would be subjects this type of child would be interested.
  • Pre-Veterinarian classes – hands-on experience by volunteering for a local veterinarian or horse ranch
  • Unit studies about specific animals – there are lots available online, or make your own by pulling resources together.  For ideas, visit SPED Homeschool’s Curriculum page on Pinterest
  • Volunteering at the local animal shelter – Help train and care for animals to help them find their forever home
  • Visit zoos and national and state parks – so much can be learned by watching and seeing animals in natural and man-made habitats! Most zoos offer educational programs and classes, and state parks often include educational tours and information.
  • TNHA’s Biology Class – an awesome class for learning about animals down to the cellular level.

Homeschool Electives for the Child that Loves computers:

From Powerpoint to coding, the computer can make schoolwork seem a lot more fun!

  • Hour of Code – from pre-reading through high school, a great resource to explore and decide if this might be something you enjoy.
  • TNHA’s C# Programming Class – a hands-on class for ages 12 and up!
  • Game Design – Love computer games? Learn to design your own with this great class (12 and up).
  • Loves Designing and Building – This is my boys – the Future Engineer and the Future Architect!!!
    • Lego Club (check your local CO-OP or Library to see if they have one or start your own – Legos build problem solving skills and spatial awareness.
    • Variety of Building Blocks – From magnetic blocks to tinkertoys, having a variety of blocks allow children to explore how things might fit together under different circumstances.  
    • TNHA’s Digital Art and Design – as our world becomes more digital, this is a growing and necessary area to explore and become familiar with!
    • TNHA’s 3D Modeling – Pre-recorded awesome class students can complete on their own time schedule! Great ½ credit elective that his fun and exciting!

Homeschool Electives for the Child that Loves Languages:

Languages help us to understand English better, as well as gives us access to the world.

  • TNHA’s ASL I – Hands-on kinestethic language that is fun and useful in so many career and recreational applications! (Used by police officers, firefighters, scuba divers, etc).
  • Hebrew Classes from TNHA – Learn about the language and culture of the Bible! By understanding the context, you gain a deeper meaning and appreciation for the Word.
  • TNHA’s Latin Class – Latin is the foundation for many languages, it can help you to understand and appreciate many other languages including Spanish, French and Italian.
  • Flip Flop Spanish – Conversational, visual Spanish curriculum (See It Say It begins at age 3) – Now also offers a High School Spanish Course – Spanish Geniuses!

Homeschool Electives for the Child that Loves to cook or Loves Food:

Explore the world through food – try new things and have fun!

  • Explore cookbooks together – From Mediterranean to Rachel Ray, cookbooks can be a great learning experience! By trying new recipes, you can explore cultures and foods from around the world.  Broaden it into a unit study to explore more about the geography, influences and other factors that go into determining why foods are preferred in different regions of the world.
  • Volunteering at the local food bank or food kitchen – Community service can be a great way to meet people from around the world and from all walks of life.  It is also a way to teach a giving spirit and a humble heart.
  • TNHA’s Culinary Arts class – Fun to do together with your child, or allow your child to explore basics on their own!

Homeschool Electives for the child that loves space:

The moon and space seem so mysterious and far away, bring them closer with some awesome resources!

  • NASA has videos, articles and other resources – a great way to explore about the universe and what we know so far
  • Hubble Telescope Images – see pictures taken from space and what we are learning about our universe on a daily basis!
  • Visit an observatory or planetarium in your area – Most offer educational tours and great resources for learning more!
  • Loves Books – From classics to new, books open doors and allow your child to explore different universes!
    • Check your local library for reading programs – ours include great prizes for children and even adults!! Also, check your favorite restaurants to see if they have a reading club or would be interested in starting one!
    • TNHA’s C.S. Lewis Club – Explore these incredible books in this fun club!
    • TNHA’s Classics Club – explore Greek and Roman life through this fun and exciting club while being engaged in some fun projects!

So what do you think?  Do you believe in pursuing interests through homeschool electives?  What are some of your favorite choices?

Amy Vickrey is a homeschooling mom of a six-year-old and almost two-year-old, and the wife and caregiver of a disabled veteran who struggles with health issues and PTSD.  She holds a Masters of Science in Education, Curriculum, and Instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University.  Also, she spent 2 years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language and Generalist (early childhood through fourth).  

Do you believe in pursuing interests using homeschool electives? See some great ideas on how to combine interest led learning with your homeschool elective choices. #homeschooling #electives #interestledlearning

Education: Power tool of Character & Virtue

Education: Power tool of Character & Virtue

Scalia Speaks

I hadn’t known the late justice Antonin Scalia was an advocate of education until the cover of the recently released Scalia Speaks caught my eye at a local bookstore. Just a few moments with the book revealed his thoughts on the deterioration of American schools, the sinking standards of higher education, and the need for learning based on scripture and civic responsibility. Drawing on his experiences in law school, on the bench, and with the younger generations he mentors, he warned urgently against following the veering moral compass of our nation.

Scalia drew his opinions extensively from the words and writings of the earliest Americans, challenging me to examine my parent’s motivations in their decision to teach me at home. Each phrase directed me to the firm understanding that knowledge was worthless unless grounded in faith and virtue. An excerpt from Noah Webster’s On the Education of Youth in America impressed me so deeply that I pondered the meaning through the rest of the day. “The virtues of men are of more consequence to society than their abilities; and for this reason, the heart should be cultivated with more assiduity than the head.”

On the Education of Youth in America

I later found a copy of Webster’s entire essay, where he outlined the subjects he believed a child must be taught in school. He emphasized a rigorous study of law, history, and ethics, seeing these studies as not merely the acquisition of knowledge, but of virtue and character.  Along with Scalia, he believed schools should place a higher importance on forming a strong character than a brilliant scholar. Furthermore, Webster did not suggest teaching these subjects to produce a successful career. He believed instead in forming citizens qualified to take their place in governing society.

Character Formation

The message resonated with me as I recalled my parents, who valued the formation of their children’s character first and foremost, guiding their decision to raise a homeschool family. They believed in education as the transmission of Christian virtues and culture to their children, and saw home education as a powerful tool in achieving this goal.

Technology, Skills, Character

In our technology driven world, a person’s knowledge and skills are incredibly important. Yet it is character that determines how those skills are put to use. A child’s moral grounding will provide the rudder to steer through career development, civic duties, and family life. My parents were confident that they could give adequate instruction in the practical skills of learning, and that they would also be in a better position to court the developing hopes, dreams, and character of their children.

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good: and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth that which is evil. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.~ Luke 6:45

Sarah Frederes is a homeschool graduate and a Dakota Corps Scholarship recipient, which allowed her to attend and graduate from college debt free with a Summa Cum Laude and a BSN. She is the oldest of eleven children and has a love and passion for music, parrots, writing, gardening and photography. You can find more of her writing and lovely photography on her personal blog All That is Gold 

Spring Semester Classes & Clubs: Civics: Constitutional Studies, STOA Forensics and Speech, Creating Priorities for Students & Parents! Dismiss

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