How To Homeschool A Boy

They’ve gotten bad press in the last two decades but I’ll add my voice to those who declare that boys are pretty wonderful.  Living in a culture that increasingly penalizes boys for being, well, boys, homeschool moms have an opportunity to see their sons, with all their masculine quirks, not as nuisances who ought to be more feminine, but as men-in-the-making, different and valuable.  They can and should celebrate that which is distinctly male, while also civilizing what is wild and potentially destructive in their sons.  This is no easy task but it begins with the understanding that boys learn differently from girls and need different things.  

And that is ok.

As I look back on my own homeschool journey, I see again and again that the times I struggled the most were those in which I tried to get my boys to behave more like my daughter when it came to formal learning.  I wanted them to sit still for long periods of time, to enjoy quiet activities like handwriting and dictation, and to focus when I offered lengthy, detailed explanations of things.  When they didn’t meet my expectations, I grew frustrated and disillusioned, as if this were somehow their fault.

The longer I homeschool the more I see that my boys need permission to move, to be heard and not just talked to, and to feel indispensable.  When I am able to work on meeting these felt needs in our homeschool day, I see the tension largely dissolve between my boys and me, and I watch the path to learning open up.

Boys need to move, often, especially when they are young.  We all know that most boys are bundles of energy, but we somehow imagine that when it’s time to “start school” for the day, they can and will transform themselves into little lambs.  But young boys are not meant to sit still for long periods of time.  This presents a real problem in the public school classroom, especially, because teachers must require children sit for long stretches in order to maintain order and discipline. In these settings boys are constantly penalized for squirreliness.

Homeschooling affords us the freedom to let our boys move—a lot–throughout the day.  This not only improves their moods but also helps them to focus in short, intense bursts.  Have your young son jump or jog in place while he recites his multiplication facts.  Or better yet, let him spend time outside to burn off energy before attempting to quiz him.  Think of seatwork in terms of 10-30 minute slots in the day and don’t be afraid to let your son take many, many breaks.  Even knowing a break is coming will help small boys concentrate better during intense formal learning times.

Boys need to be heard, not just talked to.  We’re used to hearing that girls should be encouraged to “speak their minds” and “tell what they know.”  This is true, of course.  But sometimes, in our effort to get our boys to listen to us, we forget that they want to know someone thinks their ideas are worth listening to.

When your son is sharing an idea with you, even if it is ridiculous or improbable, take a moment to look him in the eye and really listen, if you can.  Nod and ask follow-up questions if necessary.  And if it’s not a good time for a discussion (my boys will try to talk to me about anything and everything as we’re walking out the door, loading up the car, or when I am cooking) let your son know that, while right now is not a good time, later you will listen to his thoughts–before bed, or when homework is completed.

Boys need to feel indispensable, especially to Mom.  This is no surprise, really.  Men want to be needed by women.  They want to feel that they have something to offer, that they are important.  It only makes sense that little boys want to be “big” and helpful from an early age if we don’t squelch this trait in them.  Encourage this quality in your son by having him do regular household chores early on, which will help them burn physical energy, and teach responsibility.  

I’ll never forget my middle son’s attempt to help me carry in groceries from the car when he was three. There I was with an armful of canned goods and he demanded to “help” me carry in a gallon jug of milk.  I let him.  His little arms were not strong enough to hold it for very long, of course, and he ended up dropping the jug on the floor.  He was very upset and I was tempted to say, “See, buddy?  You should have let Mama do that.”  But somehow I controlled my tongue that day and said, “Thank you so much for helping me.  I’m glad you were there.”  That response made all the difference for him.

Don’t be afraid, homeschool Mom, to embrace your son as he is.  He is different from you and that’s not a bad thing.  Help him to respect you, and to learn, by understanding his need to move, to be heard, and to feel indispensable.

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30 thoughts on “How To Homeschool A Boy

  1. Rose says:

    I needed to read this. I have 4 boys and the oldest just gets under my skin sometimes with his explanations and crazy plans, and he loves to start the car. Lately he’s been sitting up front with me and talking my ear off in the car but I’m going to listen better and find more stuff he can do for me and follow suit with his brothers, though they don’t get to me in quite the same way. Thank you!! I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog today.

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  2. melissa says:

    Thank you for this! I have three young boys, the oldest of whom we started homeschooling for kindergarten this year. We are slowly figuring out that our homeschool isn’t going to look the way we expected, or what anyone else expects. These boys don’t stop! I appreciated reading this today.

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  3. You are spot on. I have 4 boys and KNOW they are very different from girls – most of them. I have often been criticized for some of my practices raising boys…but I have seen their need for movement and rough and tumble – even dare-deviling – behavior 🙂

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    • You are a mom I wish I’d known when mine were little. I was too careful with mine and too stifling. It made me miserable and them crazy, I’m sure. But having lived in a household of only sisters I just didn’t know any better!

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  4. JoAnn says:

    I am going through this exact thing with my oldest son!! He is still in public school only because we can’t afford to pull him out and homeschool. I am fighting a losing battle with the teacher and the school to adjust to his need to move around and take breaks. They want him medicated. I just don’t know what to do anymore. It’s good to hear that my son isn’t so different than other boys.

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    • Not only is he not different, he is acting normal! I hear from lots of moms who are being asked to medicate their boys into compliance. It’s a worrying trend…The world needs people who are on the move!

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  5. Me says:

    I so get irritated and frustrated w my 4 yr old sometimes. He cannot even sit still to eat a single meal. Sometimes the only way I can get him to eat is put him in front of the tv and hand feed him myself or buckle him in the car and drive. He will eat that way sometimes. He just won’t sit still unless he in front of the tv or playing the phone or ipad. Believe me I HATE video games but I just can’t take his constant rowdyness and constant moving. Is this normal? I never believed in ADD OR ADHD until I have a kid whom I feel may need some help controlling his self. Help. :/ thank you in advance.

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    • I can’t speak to your specific situation but I do know this: Little boys are rowdy. They need a ton of exercise. And they WILL eat if you let them get hungry enough. What if you didn’t offer food to your little guy until he asked you for it? It might take a while but eventually his stomach would send powerful signals to him that he needs to EAT. He won’t starve, I promise. And, although I don’t know you and can’t say for sure, I think time will most likely calm him down. He’s very young.

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    • Karen says:

      Self regulation (the ability to control one’s own behavior) is an important life skill. So is eating when you’re hungry. If your son is only allowed to eat while sitting at the table, then when his body tells him he is hungry, he will learn, little by little, to sit at the table and eat. It will take an adjustment period if he has become accustomed to using an outside control such as TV or car rides to make him sit while you feed him, but like the author here says, I promise he won’t starve himself. He will protest at first of course, self control is hard work, but he will learn that you have faith in him to learn new behaviors and to grow. Then he will have this same faith in himself.

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  6. Lori says:

    This is so good! I am finishing up year 1 of homeschooling my oldest son, who is 7. I have never considered myself a control freak until I started homeschooling! I realized it right away and have been making a real effort to let him he exactly who he is and not feel compelled to try and force him to be a docile little lamb. He is a very energetic, creative kid, and I just love that about him. It can be frustrating when he just won’t (read: can’t) cooperate with my grand plans for the day, but I am learning to go with the flow and not be so uptight. It is a privilege to teach him at home and I want to do it right! Thanks for the insight.

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  7. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this insight! I have struggled with the idea that my almost 10 yrs old son needs to read ferociously like my older girls, and sit still while doing it. What a disillusion! He is so precious and I need to guide him to be what the Lord has called him to be. Your words of experience have encouraged me today, God bless you!

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  8. “boys need permission to move, to be heard, and to feel indispensable…”
    That is just silly! ALL children need and want those things. Hope she does not have any girls!!!! ( BTW she is a home schooling children and spelled indispensable wrong.)

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    • Thanks for catching that misspelling. By the way, I do have a daughter whom I love dearly. She’s different from my boys but special and unique in her own right. And while you’re right that both boys and girls need love, attention, and exercise, there is no question that there are differences between the sexes in how they learn. As an aside, have you homeschooled both genders? Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. 🙂

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    • Crazy grammar lady says:

      Just because someone homeschools their children doesn’t mean that they won’t occasionally make spelling mistakes. And your sentence structure in your BTW is a bit of a mess.

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  9. A brilliant blog. I have been saying this for years to anyone who will listen, but not in written format. Your techniques can be used no matter what type of school setting a boy is in – how I wish more people understood these things about their precious boys – and and some girls.

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  10. Tina S says:

    Mae ..YOU need some schooling …. your sentence structure sucks!
    Also, you obviously don’t know anything about raising boys! Go troll somewhere else because we don’t want you here 🙂

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    • I’m happy to hear from everyone. I would just hope that our discussions are kind and to the point. Also, if someone has not personally experienced what we’re talking about, he or she should offer a *cautious* opinion. Experience is a great teacher.

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  11. Lee says:

    I am really liking hearing others joys and struggles with their boys.
    I will begin homeschooling my 6 year old son next year for 1st grade.
    He has trouble sitting still at home and at school.
    He is academically advanced but is still a spirited little guy at heart, and I think I would do him a disservice to send him off to a full day of “Sit still! Be quiet!”
    I may not always homeschool, but next year will be a gift for us all, I think.

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  12. I went to drop one of my kids off at Sunday school and a teenager said,”Oh boy! It’s a Harris!” He was being funny, I guess, in a rude kinda way. I replied that I like my men a little wild and a little bad. He was shocked. Another mom came to me later and said she really appreciated that comment because people seem to want boys to be too calm and quiet and tame. I explained that I was raising 6 men and I want them to be world-changers, not punks. Obviously they need to exert self control and also respect their parents, but… I like my 6 boys wild. I also homeschool them all and they work hard and play hard.

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