Thursday, September 3, 2009

Letting Boys Be Boys

I think as homeschoolers, we often feel like the eyes of everyone--homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers alike--are upon us.

It's sort of like those comparisons everyone makes about one another's babies. Is he sleeping through the night yet? Crawling? Standing, cruising, walking? How many teeth does she have? Cloth or disposable? Breast or bottle? Organic or non?

With homeschooling, it's questions about math, science, reading, or handwriting skills, and--ugh--socialization. It's enough to make us crazy and bring the insecurities creeping out, one by one.

I've noticed a theme running through a few blogs and forums lately, and that is one of little boys who can't sit still and concentrate. Moms are worrying if this will change, and I want to tell you...I was worried about the very same thing, and in my case, it changed.

The Son, when he was five, six, and seven, could not sit still for more than a couple of minutes at a time. Sit, stand, wiggle, hop, sit, stand, bounce, sway, sit. He picked up reading quickly, but he preferred to sing what he was reading, complete with operatic flourishes. Any discussion followed a rambling route with the topic changing faster that I could say What was I thinking, trying to homeschool him? Although he loved to draw and dictate stories, he abhorred actually writing himself.

So, we adapted. Sitting was no longer a requirement. The Little House made a terrific song. I practiced my patient listening skills while he made connections between things like the color red, his shirt, the cardinals, and squirrels. I stopped caring that his letters had no consistent form, that he refused to use lower-case, or that his letters were so large and bulky. As a matter of fact, I stopped requiring him to write anything at all.

The day I told him he didn't have to write anymore, his eyes grew wide. I explained he could dictate, and I would write the answers down in his workbooks, or write what he wanted in his journal. He made up marvelous stories about sheep lost in the city, and underwater explorers trapped in caves but rescued by sea creatures.

A few weeks later, he picked up his blank book and began writing a story about Star Wars. Sometimes he dictated, sometimes he wrote things himself.

The year he turned eight, he picked up the pencil and told me he could write things down himself, and to my complete surprise, his letters were legible, he used lower-case, and the sizing was consistent.

In the meantime, my friend's daughter was ten years old and unable to read. I admit, I fretted over this. Then one day, Her Daughter asked how to sound out words, and her mother showed her the correlation between letters and sounds. A week and a half later, Her Daughter was happily engrossed in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

This is when it hit home for me that it doesn't matter who does what when, or how they do it. What matters is the journey: learning, living, and loving. Who knows why The Son had such difficulty sitting still, or writing legibly. Maybe it was all a matter of cognitive development, maybe it was simply a matter of maturity. For whatever reason, he just wasn't ready, and forcing him to do things my way, on my time table, wasn't effective.

My challenge to you this year is to stop worrying about what other homeschoolers (or public schoolers) are or are not doing. Slow down and enjoy this process. Follow your instincts, and remind yourself that what children learn under duress is often not retained. Don't knock the love of learning out of your child by being too rigid. Everything doesn't have to be learned today, this month, or even this year. Enjoy the time that your children are with you, for the years go by quickly, and soon you will be wondering what happened to that sweet little boy who was so full of spunk and energy, who had ants in his pants and loved to spin a tale and and talk your ear off.


Kez said...

Thank you for this post. I'm saving it to re-read every time I need that kick up the bum! My just-turned-7-year-old son's writing sounds exactly like your sons was - mainly all capitals, large and all over the place. I'm trying to just leave it until he is ready, but its hard whenever he writes things to other people and I cringe wondering what they are thinking.. (especially the anti-homeschooling in-laws..) *deep breath* - it will happen!

Wendy Hawksley said...

Boys are definitely a challenge! With my son, I don't require sitting still during school. Or, really, anything EXCEPT his Taekwondo class (if he wants a sticker, he must "pay good attention" according to the Master. Wiggling and acting out results in no sticker. He REALLY wants stickers).

My son will be 7 soon, and I'm with Kez here. The writing is the same... Writing in large letters, all over the place... So we don't really force writing.

I LOVE the idea of having him dictate stories for me to write!

Even if I'm reading a story to him, I don't expect him to sit still. He can play with toys, bop around, roleplay the characters - whatever he likes. I try to go with the flow.

Yesterday he was more interested in jumping all over me and raspberrying my arm. I let him have at it until he was ready to do something else. :)

Stephanie said...

A wise homeschool friend told me something when I was first starting out..."there are no homeschooling emergencies".

Remembering this has helped me relax along this journey and is so true!

Susan said...

Great post. One of my sons needed to draw while I was reading to the kids. His brain just worked that way. (Sometimes he needed to stand on his head too)
It's worked out fine. Time is one very important factor for our homeschooled kids.

Mark Davis said...

As for your son: I remember being him! Totally.

Great wisdom in this blog, as usual. :)

S said...

My 8yo son writes the same way. :) He's also not a fan of reading, but loves being read to. When we first started out, I could barely finish a page before he was bouncing around. Over that first year he gradually stopped moving and would come over to sit next to me, all on his own. Now he can sit still for a couple of hours if he wants to (I never require it). I still wish he was more interested in reading on his own, but it will come.

Tigers Moondiva said...

I am so glad to have read this. My son is DEFINATLY wiggly - and does the singing thing as well. In fact - people have been screaming "autism spectrum" at me since he was 3.

He reads people VERY well - ironically those who were the most judgmental are the very same ones he STILL won't speak around. (Strangely, he won't EAT around those people either.... ) Sadly, that make up the bulk of my side of the family.

Saying they are "anti- homeschool" would be an understatement - and they are pretty angry at me at this point.

BUT - getting over the "going to school" issue has taken so much stress off of me.

Most of the time I really wish people would be more understanding and less judgmental. No matter what "your way" is - it may not work for everyone.

Sisterlisa said...

I agree. There are days when I just have to put the studies down and play outside with my little guy.
Your post is added to the homeschool carnival at my blog.

Anonymous said...

You are so RIGHT! My boys wiggle and snort and do all sorts of weird things (from my perspective, lol) that they really just NEED to do. I have a son who IS delayed and cannot write. I mean, he can do a very short (5-10 min) handwriting lesson, but to take thoughts and put them on paper literally IS impossible for him right now. He can dictate stories and all sorts of things... he just can't write them down. So what! That's what I say. I write it down for him or I let him type on the computer (which he CAN do). He practices handwriting just for a bit of skill, but his actual writing goes from his brain to paper, minus the pencil. :)

Cassie said...

Oh WOW!! I have 2 boys ages 8 and 9, and a toddler that soon enough will be doing "school" too! This was so timely for us, ty!!

SarahKate said...

I don't have boys, but I do sometimes feel the need to keep up with our girl's friends in their schoolwork. Your post is a really good reminder that I can let that go, I don't need to worry. They will learn all they need to know in their own time. Thanks for the reminder.

Marie said...

I don't homeschool (at least not yet, my husband doesn't like the idea as much as I do) but I wanted to thank you for this post because it fits my son's behavior perfectly. And I really need this reminder to let him just be himself and not have unrealistic and overly demanding expectations. I'm going to keep this post to remind me of that! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. It's probably the most important concept for homeschoolers to grasp -- that time will keep moving, and kids will change and grow over time. Time doesn't need us parents to tweak it. In fact, when you're going slowly, go slower!

Thanks again.