The boys were all over the place.
One was jumping up and down on the antique wingback chair. “Get down right now!”
One was lying upside-down on the couch, feet waving where his head should be.
One was off in his own private world pushing little metal cars around the floor while the baby crawled after him.
Me? I was reading our history lesson aloud with the growing conviction that I was the only person in the room that heard a word. Why was I even bothering?
A few hours later, Hal came home to find the boys gathered around a pile of blankets and little toy block men. “What’s up, guys?” he said.
“Look, Daddy!” one cried out. “This is the Battle of Thermopylae Pass! See, these guys are the Greeks and these are the Persians. Leonidas is leading the Greeks!”
I goggled. Evidently, they’d heard more than I thought they had!
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Advice for Homeschooling Boys
That was long ago, but the lessons I learned that day helped along the way. The Lord gave us two more boys (and two girls after that).
Yep, you read that right. Eight kids. Six sons. In a row. The youngest is a senior in high school, still homeschooled, and the others have grown up, graduated, gone to college, and moved into their adult lives.
This morning, I was thinking about what I wish I’d known back then – what I could tell the young me about homeschooling boys. There are definitely some things I wish I’d known!
Busy Hands, Busy Bodies
Boys often learn better when their hands and bodies are busy or have been busy. Don’t be afraid to get them up and moving.
A hundred and fifty years ago, boys’ schools had desks that didn’t even have stools! It’s okay for them to do math standing at the kitchen counter – or on a big whiteboard.
If they get too wiggly, send them to run up and down the stairs or around and around the house. Get their big muscle groups moving and soon their brains will be moving, too.
Those little boys of mine heard every word I said even though their bodies were doing all kinds of crazy stuff. That’s one reason audiobooks are so great for guys – they can learn and do things at the same time.
It’s also a perk to homeschooling boys! We have the flexibility for them to move!
Wrestling with Knowledge
Have you ever had one of those boys that questioned everything? “Why, mom? Why do we have to do that? Why do we have to do it that way? Are you sure?” Boys love to engage the truth.
They want to think about, examine it, check for holes in the argument, and really understand it. That can feel like talking back (you might have to discuss how they ask those questions!) but usually, it’s just that they really want to understand.
Grappling and debating are tools of learning for boys. Animated discussions really help boys love learning.
Handwriting & Boys
Boys develop differently than girls; they develop large motor skills and spatial reasoning sooner, but their small motor skills come later.
That means a writing-intensive curriculum that was great for your daughter in the early years might leave your boy struggling – and he can’t help it! “A whole sentence??? But, it’s soooooo hard!!!” It really is hard for him.
You can relieve a lot of his stress and help him love school by doing as many tasks as you can orally. Why not? We’ve sent five kids so far off to college and no one has asked to see anyone’s first-grade worksheets yet!
He’ll do better writing when he’s developmentally ready.
Reality for Boys
If you want them to love learning, tell them how it’s used. Boys want to know that all this work has a purpose. They want to know how it affects their future.
When you’re homeschooling boys, you can motivate them by doing hands-on activities and field trips and, as they get older, by letting them start businesses, shadow adults at work, and get involved in the community.
If you want them to do their chores, explain what a difference it makes to the family, “Thank you for rotating the dishwasher. I was able to help another mom on the phone because you did that.”
It’s a little more challenging finding hands-on things as they get older, that’s why we created Craftsman Crate, our subscription box. It teaches artisanal skills on an adult-level, because…
Boys want to be men!
They long to be grown-up and doing those real things. I had to learn not to underestimate them. If you give a boy a little more responsibility than he thinks he can handle, he’ll be reaching back for advice instead of pushing you away. He’ll rise to the occasion.
It’s amazed us to see all the things our boys have been able to do when we believed they could – like the eleven-year-old Hal asked to cook breakfast for me every morning when I was on pregnancy bed rest and on a special diet. He got so good at omelets that he won awards for them!
Middle school can be tough when their emotions go crazy and their brains turn to mush. They’re distracted, school takes forever, and they meltdown at the slightest excuse – or none at all.
All those hormones that are busy changing them into men are also remodeling their brains, making it hard to focus, and taking a toll on their emotions, too. Our pre-teen sons need us to be patient, to be encouraging so they don’t feel like academic failures, and to protect our relationships with them. It’s worth it.
It will work out.
Those crazy, noisy, days are past now. That little boy that was jumping on the wingback chair brings his little boy to visit – and now he jumps on the chair! I don’t mind now, though.
The long days dealing with meltdowns, breaking up fights, dragging them through math, and disciplining our hearts out were blessed far beyond what we could imagine.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) Just wait until those boys of yours become men!
Before we go, we’ve got a FREEBIE for you!
Remember we mentioned the boy that cooked omelets? Well, we’ve put together a 25-page printable book to get your kids cooking meals, too. Click here to get Kids Cook Dinner FREE, complete with safety rules, encouragement and advice, and fantastic recipes, too.
This post was written by....
Hal & Melanie Young are the award-winning, best-selling authors of Raising Real Men, No Longer Little and Love, Honor, and Virtue and the hosts of the Making Biblical Family Life Practical podcast. They are publishers, writers, bloggers, and popular conference speakers internationally, known for their Christ-centered focus and practical, real-life stories. They are the parents of six real boys (five grown!) and two real girls and live in noisy, messy happiness in North Carolina.
This article is a part of our How We Homeschool Series; a collection of content from full-time, veteran homeschoolers sharing their own experiences on the versatility and diversity of homeschooling. You can read more about the series, and see all of the content, by clicking the image below.
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