Homeschooling Children with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder)

This post may contain affiliate links which won't change your price but will share some commission. Read more here.

A veteran adoptive and biological mom shares her story of homeschooling children with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) with helpful tips included.

A close up of a book 

Trying to sum up 18 years of experience with homeschooling both biological and adopted children is a daunting task but here is my best advice for you mothers homeschooling children with Attachment Disorder. (You can read more about our journey parenting wounded children through my adoption archives.) 

Homeschooling Children with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder)

What are your goals for your child?

What do you want your children to look like/be/do/experience by the time they graduate from high school?

I have an overall plan for my children with goals for their lives at the end of their homeschool education. For every single one of them, I desire that their relationship to Christ be more important than any other and that they will walk by faith in determining God’s plan for their future.

We try to achieve that goal through Bible study, personal alone time with God, conversation, church worship and activities, friendships with other believers, and mission trips to list a few. This is not the only thing we do in our homeschool but it sets the foundation for what we believe is most important. 

Not sure when or how to ask for professional help with a personal situation? Blogger Marty's Musings shares a personal story of encouragement. 

Relationship or education? 

As much as your RAD child wants to push you away and sabotage it, this is the most important aspect of your child’s life. Learning about relationships and living with others is a key skill for adulthood.

For me, this has meant stepping back many (many, many, many) times and asking God what is most important for this day.

Is it beating those math facts over their heads one more time (and sometimes the answer is yes) or is it about stopping what we’re doing to address the heart issues? To try once again to overcome the fear of abandonment, the debilitating shame and anxiety that encompass their hearts. Letting the child know in that moment that he/she has my complete and total attention. Praying over them one more time that they will take to heart the blessing they are from God, chosen by Him for our family, innocent victims of a fallen world.

Homeschooling Children With RAD

Strive for excellence but accept limitations.

Whether your child is in a public, private or homeschool, the teacher can only pour into your child as much as the child can hold. Realizing that your child may not be capable of higher math or research papers is a part of the process. Just as there are classes for students with special needs in public school your child may have special needs that you are best equipped to address.

I want all my kids to be lifelong learners, to know how to research and experiment and find out where their gifts/interests lie. I want them to be godly, loving people who I still desire to experience life with. If my kids accomplish my primary goal I believe they will be all these things.

Homeschooling Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder - Marty's Musings

Don’t compare.

No one else is walking in your shoes so do not set yourself up for failure by comparing your homeschool to your neighbor’s down the street. They may participate in a classical education program, play every sport and at least one instrument while you’re just hoping your child will get out of bed without screaming at you.

Yes, I know from personal experience that homeschooling a wounded child is immeasurably different from homeschooling a biological child.

Let go of some of the control battles.

Realize as your child is healing (and yes, healing is possible) you will have a constant push/pull, especially with homeschooling. Your kids will probably sense how badly you want them to learn so they will make every day a struggle. It’s just one more opportunity to show they’re not going to do it your way. 

How am I supposed to light a fire for learning in my children when I wonder if they’d rather light the house on fire with me in it? It’s frustrating, exhausting, disheartening and stressful. I have to ask myself if it’s really worth the struggle today over learning the parts of speech and algebraic equations (or in earlier years, writing their name legibly and pronouncing a three letter word correctly).

The Day I Flunked my Homeschool Kid - Marty's Musings

The answer may be that it is because we have to push through. Diligence and perseverance are qualities we value highly. But those qualities apply just as much to diligence at winning my children’s hearts and perseverance to love them in spite of their anger and disrespect and manipulative games.

If you make every issue a control battle no one wins. Pick your battles wisely.

Homeschooling Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder - Marty's Musings

Teach your children about real life.

Being at home allows you to teach your children in ways they learn best. Real life learning is essential for children, but even more so with our RAD kids. Give them the practical skills of taking care of themselves, earning and managing their money and practicing the decision making process. Grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking, cleaning and laundry all count as life skills. Every day is an opportunity to teach my kids how to make wise choices and pick themselves up when they fall.

What does this look like for each child? Every child is different. Their learning style is different. Their emotional makeup is different. Their life experience is different. Their strengths and weaknesses are different.

Walden Family Vacation 2014 - Marty's Musings

(2014 Family Picture)

My relationship with each of them is different. My hopes/dreams/expectations for each of them is different. Part of homeschooling is knowing your child, showing them Jesus, knowing when to push and when to back off. Knowing when they’ve done their best or played dumb to push away.

There is no perfect curriculum, no perfect teacher, no perfect homeschool. Seeking Him in my inadequacies I allow God to teach me and mold me into a mother that can reach my child’s heart while stimulating the God-given mind and abilities he has been given.


Want to know about the day I flunked my homeschool kid?
What about the truth behind homeschooling?
Would you like to see more of a day in the life of a homeschooler?
How about the lessons learned in a corn maze?   
How do you know if you’re a mean mom or not?

Decorating Tips and Hacks
Get my FREE guide: How to decorate your home for practically nothing!
Featured Image

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. I would like your perspective. I am considering quitting my job to homeschool my RAD kid. She is a beautiful 13 yo Chinese girl we’ve had since she was 1. She lives to play & socialize & be around other pp but is easily influenced to sink to the lowest denominator. We have not really done much re: RAD but it is getting harder to manage her due to her anger, attitude, & behavior. I’m wondering if being together more will win her or drive us both over the brink. We are a Christian family but very busy. I wonder if you have any advice for me/us or could communicate w me. I would be grateful.

  2. Thank you so much for this post! A friend referred me to your blog, and I can’t wait to read more. We are four years into homeschooling our adopted children who have attachment issues. This week has been one of the hardest yet, but I know the Lord is giving me some encouragement through your writing!

    1. Hi, Katie. I’m so glad you found my blog. I checked yours out and saw that your husband is at SEBTS. My daughter-in-law graduated undergrad in 2014 from there and my son has about one year of undergrad left. They worship (and my son plays in the band) at Summit in Raleigh.

      I hope you will be encouraged from the adoption posts on my blog. There are many! Hard to read and difficult to live through, but transparent in a desire to glorify God through it all. If you ever want to chat just email me! God bless you!

  3. Can you recommend a high school curriculum that can be mostly “self taught”. I am going to try to homeschool my 14 yr old RAD daughter next year. But, I know the less involved I am, the more successful she will be.

  4. I am considering homeschooling our adopted son who is 13 and has RAD. I home school my three biological children who are younger then him also. What do you recommend when a child with RAD won’t answer simple questions while homeschooling? I think taking him out of the crazy public school life is best but I’m afraid he will try to be manipulative and defiant every step of the way. And I noticed above you said you try to give your RAD kids lots of one on one attention but I’ve read on other websites that you shouldn’t do that. How does that work for you normally?

    1. Hi, Bethany. Your questions about homeschooling a RAD child are valid. My kids have never been in public school which has been the best thing for them because it has given us years to bond and they didn’t have the stress of fitting in and academics on top of that. We did a lot of copywork and worksheets through those early years, such as the math facts and scriptures just to fill their time and to give them a foundation of learning. They were also required to read a lot. A lot. But I didn’t give many book reports and if they never read at least they were occupied. You can’t force someone to do something they don’t want to . We were more on relationships through the years more than on learning a particular skill. Unbelievably, mine are caught up grade wise and firmly attached and maneuvering the teen years well.

  5. on; Homeschooling Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder: We adopted our son 3.5 years ago at the age of 9. It has been incredibly difficult and painful but always full of hope because of the Lords hand in our life. We have 10 children, two of them are adopted. One has completely merged into our family. The other was just diagnosed with RAD, Post Traumatic Stress syndrome and is having testing done to determine what other mental impairments etc. we are dealing with. I laughed out loud throughout the article and cried. It is so true!
    I now see that I should have sought help sooner. Thank you for your article!

    1. Hi,Jennifer. I’m so glad you took the time to tell me about your family. I can tell you know firsthand the joys and trials that come with parenting wounded children. If you read through my adoption archives you can tract back the story. It’s been a hard 13 years but we see so much change in our youngest two, now both teenagers. We are estranged from our oldest adopted daughter.

      If you ever want to connect with other moms just let me know. Blessings!

    2. Jennifer you sound like me. I have 6 kids in all and 2 of them are adopted. One has completely merged with my family and his brother was diagnosed with RAD and PTSD back in 2008. We adopted them 2 1/2 yrs ago and it has been the hardest struggle I have ever faced. I’m not sure if you have read the book by Nancy Thomas called “When love is not enough” but it may give you some ideas to try also. It’s so awesome to find other mom’s that have gone through this and understand what it is like, as most of the world has no clue. Be warned a lot of people will think your the crazy one but please know that you are not alone.

  6. Thank you for sharing this. I have 3 bio and 1 adopted child who is 9. I just figured out this last year about RAD. There are frustrating days and tear-filled days, but all in all, we are seeing progress. Thanks for the post.


    1. I am so glad this post was a help to you. Parenting an attachment challenged child has many difficulties in itself but throw in homeschooling and it’s one more control battle. I hope you will stay in touch and find support through my blog. Blessings!

  7. Hello:

    I have been doing internet searches for RAD and homeschooling and found this. I am a grandmother who has just started homeschooling a 14 year old grandchild with RAD. The story of how she came to be a “RADish” is long and not important at the moment. But it is nice to know I am not alone – not alone in teaching a child with an attachment disorder and not alone in my cautious hope and heart full of love.

    I’ll be praying for you.

    1. I’m so glad you found my blog. What a daunting challenge you have ahead of you, but I will say there are more and more people blogging about it and talking openly about it. Please feel free to let me know of any questions you might have. I want to be a support to other moms (and grandmoms) teaching and loving their children. Blessings to you.

  8. Thank you for sharing! What a great resource. Thanks for linking up to TGIF! Looking forward to seeing you linked up again tomorrow =-)