I’ve shared a bit about Noah’s journey in college and want to offer the continuation of that saga for those interested. First of all, good news: he passed both his classes winter quarter! After his difficult first quarter, he was relieved and we were thrilled. Then during the spring break, he went through diagnostic testing through the learning center. We found out those test results yesterday.
Before I share the results, I want to make a couple of comments. Because Noah has been homeschooled his whole life, our primary sense of who he is and how he learns has always been that he’s incredibly bright and a deeply engaged learner when interested. He is self-taught, for the most part, in the areas he cares most about. We’ve given him his head in learning, as a result, following his lead, allowing him to study the subjects that interested him, fanning the flames of those interests by supporting them with enthusiasm, finances for books or memberships, time listening and facilitating, lessons, etc. In looking back, I would do it the same way. Through interest-directed learning, Noah has developed competencies in surprising areas. He also has a very strong sense of what he likes and doesn’t like. That means that when he likes something, he is much more willing to work hard than when he doesn’t. Because his life has been guided by his interests, he does know what interests him and he knows what happens when he’s interested and when he isn’t. I can see now, at nearly 20, what a gift that is!
On the flip side, evidence of what has finally been diagnosed has shown itself since Noah was eight and nine years old. My concerns about some of his behavior back then were: his fits of inattentiveness when disinterested, his level of frustration when he couldn’t solve a task, his self-criticism when he couldn’t match the expectations of a particular setting, his distractibility… These led me to wonder if he had ADD. At age ten, I took him to an educational specialist. She had worked with him all year in a once per week setting. Her response, “No I don’t think Noah has ADD. However, he would probably benefit from some of the techniques that parents use with ADD kids.” She also gave me some articles on brain development that showed the power of learning subjects by full immersion in six to eight week bursts rather than six subjects in short fragments every day.
I checked out ADD books from the library and followed some of their advice. And I immediately changed from our Sonlight style homeschool to unschooling. In six months’ time, Noah taught himself rope knots, origami, developed a website of WWII tanks, watched about ten WWII movies and read a slew of library books about the topic. He learned all his math facts without a book and listened to books on tape nearly constantly. He organized and threw a Gold Rush party complete with sewing individual bags for fool’s gold mined from a sand pit, creating pin-the-nugget-on-Sutter’s-Creek, writing out notecards of Gold Rush period characters for each of the invitees and sending out invitations. (This project took us a full six weeks to create and it was a huge success.) He went from a kid who had declared one morning, “I hate my life” to a kid who woke up every day excited about living.
The ADD tactics were really helpful too. I learned to give him one thing to do at a time.
“Noah, go upstairs and make your bed.”
When he finished that, I’d say, “Now put on your clothes.” I had wondered why he couldn’t remember to make his bed, put on his clothes and brush his teeth all at once. I’d send him up to do three things and instead, he’d complete a Lego creation in his boxer shorts on his unmade bed. Why? Because he saw the Legos and they looked fun.
Still, since Noah was the oldest and there was no official diagnosis, I kept assuming that as he got older, he’d pull this distractibility into focus, that he’d learn through time and maturity how to manage himself. And in many ways he did. As a teen, he held jobs successfully, he starred in several Shakespeare plays learning all the lines and making it to rehearsals without prompting.
But underneath, all the time, there’s been evidence that in a traditional schooling format, he would not thrive. Yet his ambition is to be a linguist! (Not exactly the career path of someone without a college degree.)
I won’t bore you with all the ins and outs of the years leading up to college where we alternatively wondered if he had ADD and yet were reassured that he did not have it. Once he hit college, the symptoms became much clearer. And as of this week, the diagnosis is ADHD (inattentiveness). One of the side effects of so many years of ambivalent diagnoses (“he manifests the symptoms in some ways but we don’t think he has it”) is that it took him two quarters to be willing to look at the possibility that he might have this condition. In a reverse kind of way, he started to think that there really shouldn’t be anything wrong with his brain wiring and almost felt guilty imagining there might be. Still, in the end, we are happy to report that with this diagnosis, all the help he needs will be offered to him and he is very happy about that.
His current class load suits his temperament to the tee. He’s studying World Performance Music (which includes banging African drums and playing a thumb piano!), the history of language (how language developed over time worldwide), French 3, and a philosophy course which he raves about. He dropped a class because his mind wandered while the teacher spoke (right on!).
The learning center will provide notes, untimed testing, tutors and study groups and access to teacher power points/lecture notes. He is also able to make use of someone who will help him with time management.
One of the most powerful changes we observed is that his computer broke down last quarter. That means he can only use the on-campus computer which has meant he has not had the distraction of the computer at home when he studies. He told us it has made a world of difference! Isn’t that interesting?