Let’s face it, boys are different (in most definitely a good way). As a homeschooling mother to 4 boys I had to learn how to teach them differently. They’re rarely content to just sit and do workbook pages all day long. It has been a delightful adventure finding new ways to teach them the same concepts I learned in school sitting at a desk.
1. The number one way to help boys (and children in general) learn is to have realistic expectations. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to sit at a desk all day. I hate sitting through hour long meetings 3 times a month. So it’s unrealistic to expect our children to sit there and be happy about it. If we, as parents, don’t have realistic expectations for our homeschool, we hinder the learning that takes place. Having unrealistic expectations makes our home stressful, we put pressure on our children to meet those expectations and we they don’t, we get cranky. It’s much easier to adjust our plans and be FLEXIBLE than to try to push our agenda.
2. Let them wiggle! Is it really such a big deal if our 7 year old stands up while he does math? Does it really matter if he needs to dance around a little bit while he’s remembering his spelling words? I really don’t think so. Some kids learn better when they can move around. I know I did. I remember being in nursing school and being able to retain information so much better if I could read it or try to learn it standing up. I distinctly remember taping the flow of blood through the heart on the back of my closet door. If I could stand there and shift my weight back and forth I was able to retain it so much better.
3. Show them how to apply it. Very few people enjoy learning stuff they never get to apply. The same goes for our children. It helps solidify the knowledge in their little brains if they can learn about something in our school and then apply it in real life. For our boys, the excitement (yes I said excitement) for math comes when they learn a concept such as subtraction and then see how we use it in real life. Or in Bible when they memorize scripture, but later can apply it to a life situation or circumstance. How awesome that they get to actually USE the knowledge they’re getting. The same goes for the little guys. My 3 year old is delighted when he recognizes a letter we’ve been learning in school on a sign in the store. His eyes light up like it’s the coolest letter Z he’s ever seen!
4. Let them study something they like. While there is a time and place for them to learn the “boring” stuff, sometimes they should be able to learn about something that fascinates them. My 9 year old son just finished reading a book from Vision Forum called “Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction”. It was all about how to build these mini weapons out of household and “junk drawer” stuff. He collected stuff to build them, he built the weapons with dad and then tried them out on Lego guys and stuffed animals. It wasn’t in our curriculum but he learned some great lessons in trajectories, geometry and weights. We did have to set some limits on when he could break out the book, but it served as a great motivator to complete his daily work.
5. Take learning outside. Even if we’re just “doing math” the boys enjoy learning outside. When Otto was learning to add we took it outside. I would say “Otto! Go get me 3 rocks as fast as you can!” He’d run around the yard and find 3 rocks. Then I’d say “Otto! Go get 5 more rocks.” He’d run and get 5 more rocks. Then I’d ask “How many rocks do you have?” He would say “8” fairly quickly. Then we’d write the math problem in chalk on the sidewalk in front of us. If I would have just written 3+5 on a piece of paper in the house it would have taken 30 minutes some days to get him to do the problem, which resulted in frustration for both of us. We do nature walks when the weather is nice enough to be outside. We have really enjoyed watching our trees start to blossom or the seedlings sprout in the garden. Kids are meant to be outside. There is no reason they can’t be.
The most important thing we can do to help our children learn is to have fun with them discovering the world around us. Remembering that we’re not re-creating a public classroom at home, but we are learning at home, together.