I took a look at this topic for High Five Moms and
lamented pondered how I was going to share much of anything. My first son has always been a mellow little guy, easy with paper-and-pencil. My second son is more of a cowboy, but he is only five. And he also can handle a pencil just fine. What I’m trying to say is that I’m no expert here! So today I’m offering to you a guest post from my friend Amy of Buffaloes and Butterfly Wings. Her blog is always filled with the fun and interesting things she does with her boys (and currently….cutie pie pics of her new baby girl!). I know you will get great encouragement from her here, and I encourage you to check out her blog, too.
I began my homeschool career roughly five years ago when the oldest of my three boys reached preschool age. Almost immediately I found myself on a rollercoaster as I not only learned to homeschool, but to homeschool a B.O.Y.; I found out very quickly that hands-on activities were not only helpful, but essential for him. My lessons continue daily as I discover the challenges and joys involved in teaching boys.
The best lesson I have learned as far as hands-on learning and my boys has been teaching myself to be ok with less. Less sit down time. Less writing. Less pencil and paper work all together. When it comes to many boys and academics, less is truly more. When you spend less time frustrating your boy and yourself with traditional bookwork, you open up your time and his interests to a number of other learning possibilities.
This holds true for even the youngest of learners. As tempting as it can be to start ‘real school’ with a preschooler or kindergartner, it is often unnecessary or even counter-productive to do too much too soon with boys. Read books. Play with play dough. Do those fun art and craft activities you see on blogs. Play games. Little boys will sail into school work willingly and easier when you wait for them to be ready. (A few of the things we have done for preschool.)
For an older boy, it has helped me tremendously to greatly limit the amount of pencil and paper work we do each day. Choosing carefully and wisely only the minimum that is necessary allows me to require his very best without wearing him out on busy work that only serves to frustrate us both. His efforts are generally more productive and the finished product more consistently shows his best when I require less volume. Quality is truly better than quantity when it comes to boys and handwritten school work.
However, just because we are doing fewer worksheets and workbooks, doesn’t mean we are doing less learning. The possibilities for hands-on learning are endless, and I am a firm believer it doesn’t matter so much what you do, but that you do. That said, here are some of the things that we do:
Handwriting can be frustrating for many boys. We have found notebooking to be useful to help increase interest and give purpose to handwriting. Boys often are not interested in things they don’t see having a purpose. With notebooking, each page is part of a larger whole. My oldest has long enjoyed looking back over the pictures he has drawn and reading his narration (that he dictates to me and then copies onto his page) that goes with it. Many days, this narration / copy-work / notebooking combo is the only handwriting my young 3rd grader does in a day. Less is more. (How we do notebooking.)
I am blessed in that my very active and workbook, pencil and paper resistant oldest son is a voracious reader. I have learned to resist the urge to ‘supplement’ his reading with book reports and worksheets and the like. I let the reading stand alone. He enjoys it, he is learning from it, and that is good enough.Again, less is more.
For times when more writing is needed, it is good to consider a pen-pal, teaching your boy typing, and using a chalkboard or marker board.
Sometimes leaving formal academics behind and diving into real life is beneficial. Cooking, cleaning, gardening, helping with siblings, and helping Dad are all engaging activities that teach. Count these things as learning, because truly, your boy is learning when he practices these things!
Finally, don’t wait for hands on projects to be elaborate or craft-blog perfect. Just do it. The Internet is teeming with ideas for hands on activities for all subjects and disciplines. Adapt them to work for your family, and don’t worry about them turning out just right. The experience and variety alone will captivate your boy. Some of our favorites that may not earn a place in a homeschool magazine, but have made a lasting impression are:
Solar System Model
Native American Dwellings
Homemade balance scale
Shopping Game (Money)
Preschool Alphabet Book
And, just for good measure, some hands on math ideas.
Again, what you do doesn’t have to be spectacular and elaborate. It is the doing itself that makes memories and expands your boy’s love of learning!
Amy, from Buffaloes and Butterfly Wings
You can read more thoughts on hands-on learning for boys this week at other High Five Mom posts. Tell them I sent you!