After homeschooling two girls for nine years, it was a whole new world for me when I began teaching the boy. He had already taken his time learning to walk and talk. The pediatrician said it was because his older sisters did everything for him. In their defense, I have to say he was the cutest, living baby doll they ever had to play with and carry around.
But alas, the time came to begin kindergarten curriculum, and play time was put on hold, or so I thought. In no time at all, I realized I needed to shift gears when teaching the boy. If I were going to have any success in holding his attention, I was going to have to up my game.
Realizing more each day that God created most little boys’ styles of learning to be different than the girls’, I am constantly seeking His wisdom on how to best teach my son. What I have learned so far:
Boys like bite-sized learning
If it is at all possible to teach him a concept in three minutes instead of thirty, do it. I break down instructions into bite-sized pieces and he tends to grasp it better. He likes chewing on a little at a time until the full flavor of learning takes effect. When his attention span is short, teach in reduced segments. Later, you can gradually increase it. Overwhelm him with lots of details, lengthy explanations and long lists and you will see the boy fading out, zoning out, gone.
Related post: Ten Ways To Engage Young Sons
Boys like to move
If you want him to learn, he most likely will learn quicker if you allow him to move as he learns. Some examples: bounce a ball between you as you recite the alphabet. Jump rope as he learns spelling words or practices his counting. Another idea is to write math problems on index cards and disperse them in the middle of a homemade obstacle course. The boy must answer the math fact correctly before he can advance through the course. Every little soldier wants to work hard at finishing the course and earn his badge of courage for trying his best or his Medal of Honor for getting them all correct.
Related post: Busy Boxes For Elementary Boys
Boys like adventure
Incorporate some excitement into his lessons and you’re more likely to have a happy camper who enjoys learning. One example would be to write numerals on a dry erase board. Buy an inexpensive bow and arrow set that has suction cups on the ends. You call out one of the numbers, he takes aim and shoots the matching numeral. Points are given for correct targets hit. Each time he plays he will want to surpass his past highest score. Sometimes the boy will want you to hide the dry erase board in various places so he can go hunt for it before shooting. Another adventure idea is to make maps which can involve reading, handwriting, following directions and discovering all sorts of treasures.
Not Just Boys
These helpful tips might not just apply to the boy in your home. You might have an adventurous girl as well. My oldest daughter, now 19, has always been quite content with lots of reading and has tackled assignments with vigor. My middle child is a 17 year old girl who has always had an adventurous side. She would rather be outside than inside and her learning style is somewhere between her sister’s and her brother’s.
My precious boy, age seven, is quite capable and obedient to do seat work, but when we incorporate activity and adventure into his education he will actually smile while he learns. Realistically, I do not have the time, creativity (or energy) to turn every lesson into a jungle expedition. But the reward is great when I have a happy boy who loves learning, so I am always searching for little ways to add some action and adventure into our schooling each day.
So don your sauce pot army helmet and grab your broomstick sword! You should be able to captivate your boy, perhaps to the point where he is begging for more. Yes, it may require a bit more planning and time, but weren’t you getting a little restless too? Sitting at a desk and doing just book work can sometimes be plain boring. If you want to make learning really fun, teach the boy.
Sally Matheny acknowledges her own short attention span and likes to keep the learning in her home fun. She enjoys reading and writing but rarely arithmetic. Sally, and her high school sweetheart, Stephen, have been married for twenty-two years and find joy in seeking God’s will for their lives. They enjoy speaking and encouraging others in their life journeys. Living in North Carolina, they have homeschooled for twelve years—two girls and the boy.
This article was originally posted in the Summer/Fall 2014 issue of Homeschooling Today Magazine. Subscribe today!