Homeschooling Boys: 5 Things You Need to Know

IMG_4136Homeschooling boys is an adventure. I’ve been homeschooling my seven sons for 22 years and counting. There are some unique challenges that are part of the process. To be successful isn’t hard if you take these five things into consideration.

Little boys really can’t sit still.  Research has proven that from birth, boys are more active than girls. Baby boys kick and squirm more than baby girls. When they get a little older….little boys still kick and squirm more than little girls. Watch a six-year-old boy sitting at a table. Usually his legs are in constant motion and if you watch long enough you will see that his bottom doesn’t stay on the seat very well. One of my boys adopted the position that worked best for him when he was trying to do school work at a table. One leg under his bottom on the chair and the other hanging over the edge of the seat. Much of the time he was actually standing and not sitting at all. It was as close as he could come to sitting still. He was at least in contact with the chair most of the time. I found if we took frequent breaks, his wiggles calmed a bit.

Fine motor skills are in no hurry to develop.  Boys tend to develop fine motor skills slower that girls. This means that they are slower in figuring out how to make their pencils and scissors work. They’d much rather throw or pound on something. These actions take gross motor skills which develop much sooner.  They’d rather throw the pencil or tap it on the table than write with it. Give them hands-on activities and be patient with the handwriting lessons.

Boys tend to think in “things” and not words. Boys are more spatial than girls when it comes to language. Girls think in words where boys think in objects. Boys are much quicker to understand directions that involve a demonstration while girls can read or listen through a list of instructions and get it. Again, the hands-on activities will be much more effective with boys.

Boys’ attention spans are shorter. It seems boys much work harder to concentrate on what they are doing. Actually, boys brains have been proven to still be growing until nearly age 30. It just takes longer and more energy for all that growing. They need to change activities often in order to stay engaged.

Boys can be reluctant readers. While this is not true for all boys, many times it’s hard to get a boy to be a willing reader. They would rather do things with their hands. They aren’t so interested in words. They can’t sit still and focus for long periods of time. All the things we just talked about contribute to this problem. One thing you can do is read aloud to your boys. I still read aloud to my boys at times when there is something I believe we need to cover and I know it will be like pulling teeth to get them to read it on their own. Since my youngest is now in high school, we can experience some rich, deep discussion about something we’ve read together. That wouldn’t happen if I handed him the book and expected him to read it on his own.

If you are teaching both boys and girls you will want to take these things into consideration. That way you will be able to adapt your expectations to their developmental stages and strengths. And of course, it is also important to see each student as an individual and leave room for adjustments that take into consideration their unique strengths and weaknesses. Every student can excel at learning in a homeschool environment. It is a custom designed experience that will bring out the very best that they have in them.

additional resources:

http://www.education.com/reference/article/similarities-differences-boys-girls/

http://www.education.com/reference/article/brain-differences-boys-girls/

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov04/vol62/num03/With-Boys-and-Girls-in-Mind.aspx

Ways to Get Dad Involved in Your Homeschool

IMG_5308My husband was all for homeschooling when we started in 1991. He was also trying to get his own business started and trying to help me deal with my mother’s terminal illness. He had his hands full. Very full.

I was the primary teacher from the beginning, partly because I had a degree in education and my husband felt like I would be more qualified to teach than he was. But mostly because of the time constraints already on him. He was interested, but not really participating. I wanted the boys to see that Dad was a part of what we were doing so I found ways that included him when he was able.

Here are some ways you can get Dad involved without overloading him with teaching responsibilities.

 

Show and Tell. Conversation at the dinner table about what was learned is always a great place to start. My boys were excited to talk about what they were learning. Dad was good at asking leading questions to get them talking. And when
Dad traveled, the older ones could send him emails telling him what they were doing. Email was a good tool since my husband traveled a lot for quite a few years. He was able to read and respond when he could focus and the conversations were very rewarding. And today, kids can use things like Skype to make it even more personal.

Involve Dad in well planned projects.  I was always looking for ways to get the boys some hands-on time with Dad. Since they were all in 4-H it was a great place to get Dad involved in helping with their projects. We also did projects connected to our science and social studies that worked well as a “dad-time” activity. One year we did a unit on architecture and took pictures of different styles and even build some models of homes. Dad helped with this and then we made a big display of all we had learned and invited the grandparents over to take a “tour” of our homes.

Tap into Dad’s favorite activities. My husband is a woodworker. You can be sure that he was always glad to have a young helper in his shop. He spent many hours teaching woodworking skills to our boys. Whether your husband’s interest is car repair, electronics, motorcycles, cooking, or something else, it is a perfect place to involve your children and create a learning environment with their dad.

Involve Dad in the actual teaching. If your husband really enjoys writing or history, look for ways to include him in those subjects. He could read essays and comment. He could take the kids to a history museum and share his knowledge. He could also take on a particular subject and teach that on a regular  basis. Maybe he’s the mathematician and you aren’t. Let math class be Dad’s domain, even if it’s just a couple times a week as he is able. You can fill in when he is unable to teach.IMG_3239

I know there are families where mom and dad can share the teaching responsibilities. The fact is though, that most homeschool families have one parent working and the other home with the responsibility to manage the education for the family. It is primarily, but not always, the mom who is home. But most dads are open and even excited to be involved in the learning process. Sometimes as moms, we try to manage it all alone and Dad feels excluded or even clueless about what goes on everyday while he’s at work. Why not find ways to get Dad involved and make it a family adventure? You’ll all be glad you did.