I started out my homeschooling adventure with 4 boys before we had any girls. We ended up with 6 boys in all and 8 girls. As each child is different, so it goes with boys. My first born son was very self-motivated, loved to set his own goals and beat them, and devoured books. My second son, however was very different.
He was a hands-on learner and books didn’t hold much interest for him in the early years. He was too busy. He grew up to be an extremely competent, coordinated boy who could learn to do anything from building to playing the piano.
I’ve had the quiet, compliant type, the extremely distractable but cheerful, the steady, playful type, and the logical, thoughtful learner as well as the struggling learner. One of my sons would often start the “school day” with a griping attitude. I learned that just tickling him, playing around a bit helped to lighten his attitude and he was usually then ready to buckle down and get it done. Looking back, I think he was thinking of all the things he’d rather be doing than schoolwork. My REALLY distractible son needed me to often sit near him and keep him on track. It was so easy for him to think of anything but schoolwork. It’s not that he even disliked it. He was just so distractible. No noise or conversation or interruption of any kind escaped him. I needed to be there and remind him what to focus on at the time. He had to be shown. I also had one who would have been labeled something. He was brilliant but just not on the timetable schools prescribe. With all my children, I let them progress at their own rate in each subject, but this son just couldn’t grasp reading. The skill of decoding sounds with all the exceptions in the English language caused him one day to say, “Maw, the guy who wrote the English language, had a pencil in one hand and a jug in the other.”
I read his history, science, and literature to him. He was very quick to learn everything bo reut that one skill of decoding letters. When it finallly clicked he was about 14 years old and from then on you would never know he had been “slow’ to read. He actually then was able to read very complicated subject matter. So each has been a different type of learner, but some things about teaching boys have been pretty consistent.
One thing is that boys have lots of energy, even the laid back one, like Tuck. Almost every day, my son Tucker will ask me if he can take a break to go outside and jump on the trampoline to wake himself and his brain up. IT WORKS! It is extremely hard for boys to sit still for long periods of time. They just function better if you break up their time with exercise. Even when they were very little, I would let them stop studies and play with play dough if it was raining outside. They would make cows with their molds and then proceed to butcher them wth their plastic knives. They just needed to do something active. I remember them quoting their Scripture verses while sometimes standing on their heads or pacing around the room! The activity helped them to think. For preschoolers it is best to have maybe two or three 10 or 15 minute periods of book type study broken up by active periods rather than trying to do 20-30 minutes of concentrated book time.
Another thing about boys is their competitive spirit. I always tried to channel that into breaking their own time record or goal rather than letting them compare themselves to their siblings. They were each created so uniquely that some subjects come naturally to one that are a struggle for another. Therefore, comparing themselves to their siblings is like comparing apples to oranges. If one child has strengths in a certain area, he can cooperate by helping his brother in that area. Maybe his brother has another area he can help him in. To cooperate in finishing means they can both be free sooner to get on to the afternoon’s pursuits, which in our family were those areas of interest each child had at the time, maybe building bookcases or a bird house or grafting a tree, etc. Boys need to learn to appreciate each other’s strengths without feeling inferior, and forbear each other’s weaknesses to carryout God’s plan for each. They combine forces to accomplish special projects they have in mind to explore.
Boys also tend to be inquisitive. I think it’s part of God’s plan for man being the leader. They aren’t afraid to set off in a new direction. I tried not to squelch this trait, but just direct it in safe boundaries. We want our boys to have a love of learning and exploring. They just need to be taught to have discretion as they do it. Our son Tim was so interested in how things worked, we gave him broken appliances such as blow dryers, tape recorders, curling irons, toasters, mixers etc. when they broke. We figured if he could figure out to fix it, fine, if not, nothing is lost anyway. He amazingly often fixed them and soon had people from church bringing him their broken stuff to see if he could fix it as well.
Boys also need motivation for buckling down to learn. For handwriting we would often have our sons write to senators, Congressman, letters to the editor, etc. Instead of fruitless exercises in writing, give them something important to write. We even had them write letters of gratefulness to folks who’d impacted their life, letters to a chamber of Commerce in a town we planned to visit to find out what historical sites were available, etc. Our boys wrote to the President and received responses.
I remember our son Rick wrote to Ted Kennedy and shared with him the plan of salvation. Whatever you are teaching them whether it be handwriting, or math, or science, or history, let them know why it’s important and why they need to spend time learning the skill of excellence in pursuing it. If you can’t give them a reason, reevaluate and see if it really is worth their time expenditure after all!
Teach your sons to be question askers, not question answerers, as the government schools do . We need to raise thinkers, not responders. Real men think and lead and guide others down right paths. Let your son know that God had prepared him to be a leader.