How to home school boys that can't sit still is a question I get repeatedly. Getting boys to be still and focus on school or learning can be challenging for a lot of moms and dads! In this post I'm not going to tell you how to get them to be still. In most cases, you just can't! I know, that's not what you wanted to hear. But I'm not about deception here. After all boys will be boys (not in the getting into trouble sense but in the high energy sense). However, I can share my experiences in homeschooling three boys and maybe share a few tips or insights that might make your day go a little easier.
Let me just give a quick disclaimer here. There are always exceptions to the rule! I'm sure there are some very calm, quiet boys out there in the world (I've never met one but that doesn't meant they don't exist...) and some very active sweet girls running around wearing out their moms and dads. This post is not about stereotypes. It's simply about my experience and the questions I get asked.
First some background, I have a brother and a sister. So the girls outnumbered the boys in my home when I was a child. As a result, I grew up to be a girly girl without much interference. Right up until close to the time I got married I thought boys were germ filled, crude, messy neanderthals. Growing up, my brother did his best to reinforce this notion. Welcoming the birth of my first son wasn't really a problem. To be honest, I had not really made the connection that my sweet baby was one of those "boys" until he was a few years old, and by that time I already had a second son and a third one on the way (There are only 3 1/2 years between my first and third son). So when the realization came that I had three of those germ filled, crude, messy little humans it was a little overwhelming, especially since my husband is all boy and was raising his three sons to be all boy along with him!
1. Accept that boys are high energy. This is just a fact! They aren't necessarily mischievous but they often can not sit still for long periods of time. Most of us who choose to homeschool were not homeschooled ourselves and even though we want school to be different than what we experienced, it's sometimes hard to make that happen across the board and in every detail. Take math for example, math doesn't have to be in 20 minute blocks (like it's laid out in a lot curriculum). It can be done in 5 minute blocks. It also doesn't have to be done sitting down at a desk. You can do it while jumping on a trampoline. The point I'm trying to make here is that you might have to adjust your energy level to your boy(s), at least during instruction time.
2.Think outside the box. You can teach boys math facts on a trampoline but when it comes time to actually write the numbers a trampoline isn't going to work. This is kind of a controversial area, I don't like to teach my boys something before they are ready to learn. So my first answer to this problem would be wait until they are ready. But I have known boys as old as 8 or 9 who just couldn't sit long enough to write anything. I had a friend tell me that she put her son on one of those exercise balls (The huge ones you use for Pilates). You have to exert a good amount of energy to sit up straight and balance. It worked for her son and he was able to focus on his work. Another idea is to let your boy stand while he does some written work, either at a desk or at a white/chalk board. It's the same concept as the exercise ball - standing takes more energy than sitting so you get more focus and less fidgeting.
3. If you can't beat them join them. This is my favorite! Sometimes you just have to give in and let them run around. It's so much more fun for them if you let loose and run around as well! There have been studies done about how boys express affection through roughhousing. When I first learned about this it was frustrating (I don't want to roll around on the floor, I'm a girly girl!) and alien (really, attacking someone is affection???) to me. But as the years pass I see the value in it and how much fun my boys have horsing around. If you are involved you can teach them boundaries (it's not ok when someone gets hurt), compassion (you really need to let your little brother up before he pees on the floor), and good sportsmanship (he had the pillow first, it's only right that he gets to hit you with it). You might find that you get a stress relief out of horsing around too.
4. Find your family's rhythm. Every home has what I call a rhythm. The boys are really energetic after they eat lunch (not a good time to try and have them sit for any length of time.) However, when they've played for 30 minutes they are a calmer and happier. I can usually sneak a bit of quiet time/instruction in. At night they are well behaved, calm, attentive and eager to please, mainly because they don't want to go to bed, but you can sneak in a little reflection on the Bible or a subject like history. Find your families rhythm and use it to your advantage.
5. It does get better. Boys are able to sit longer as they get older. Ten years ago, I would have ended that statement with, "Thank, God!" but the truth is that I will miss the energy when it's gone! My oldest is 13 and I can see he is calmer and gentler as he becomes a young man. Once again, my boys have changed me and my ideas of what "should be." I guess this is my very sentimental way of saying you get used to the energy a boy brings into your life! And with reflection and prayer you learn to value the energy of those germ filled, crude, messy boys!