*If you're hoping for curriculum specifics for the homeschool boy, this isn't the post for you... (but I hope you'll read it anyways) I want to speak to you today about your boy's HEART and SPIRIT... which is much more important than curriculum!
Homeschooling a middle school boy has been one of the most rewarding pursuits in my life.
Middle school boyhood is this magical time of inbetween-ness.... our boys are growing so quickly, yet they are struggling to remain young and boyish inside.
One day they are examining their armpits for the evidence of hair, and the next they are asking you to to snuggle on the couch.
One day they are smack talking on the football field with their buddies, and the next they are asking you to be tucked in at night.
This dichotomy is a beautiful thing.
We get both the glimpse of the little boy and the picture of the budding young man.
(Because one day soon, they will be in high school - and that's another animal all together!)
In my humble opinion, there is nothing more rewarding than witnessing this stage in any boy --- except possibly getting to HOMESCHOOL the middle school boy.
My husband has been so encouraged by Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis. It was given to us last year - just as we were beginning middle school.
I've also witnessed friends raise their boys, and I've asked questions and taken notes. We can learn so much from those who have gone before us.
Here we are in the thick of middle school and it's going very well - in fact I would say it's my favorite time with my son so far!
5 Tips For Homeschooling The Middle School Boy
Provide Male Role Models Who Aren't Dad
Yes, a boy needs his father as a role model, but in addition to that he also needs strong male role models that are NOT his father.
As always, you have to keep your eyes and ears open for these opportunities, and I'm simply amazed at the number of people in our communities that WANT to be involved in our homeschool. They want to pass on what they know, and they want to be involved in our sons' lives.
Over the past year my son has been learning to forge with a master blacksmith from our church. Grant gathers with other boys his own age, as well as with men of ALL ages and they forge crosses to give to others. Our blacksmith has a Purple Heart. He served in Vietnam. He is passing on ideals and values that our boys so desperately need and CRAVE.
What a tremendous blessing this is -- and how VALUABLE this in my son's emotional development (not to mention learning an ancient skill working with his hands).
As I see my son gift a cross to someone, I listen to him talk about how he made the cross, and I see the sense of pride and accomplishment in his sweet eyes.
This very tender gift was created by a very strong man. It's tremendously moving when you stop to think about.
Homeschooling allows us time to spend time with these mentors. It allows us to develop a creative curriculum that could possibly include a mentor. The sky is the limit!
Do anything possible to find strong male role models for your boys.
Keep a Close Relationship With Mom
On the other hand, our boys also desperately still need their mothers. Don't check out because your middle school boy is becoming more independent and maybe even pulling away from you.
I provide my son with MANY opportunities to help me around the house. I encourage him to always open doors for his sister and me, and to serve his sister in unexpected ways.
Just as our boys need the masculinity from the male role models, that need the feminine influence that will demonstrate to them how to treat their wives and children one day.
The way to my son's heart is through any kind of chocolate - so if I take him for a Frappucino he's quite satisfied. I'm amazed at the conversations we have during those times together. Our boys need us as a confidant, guide, and encourager.
Make time for this.
My son keeps me laughing constantly and is a complete goof ball - he knows that he can cheer me up in a way no one else can. It is important for our boys to have this close connection with their moms.
Every time he gets out of the car when I drop him off somewhere he gives me a kiss on the cheek with a quick "Love, ya, mom." I realize this may not continue forever, but I'll take it while I can.
Homeschooling promotes this strong relationship with our boys.
We are encouraging them through their ups and downs, and they are having the chance to help us in the day to day running of our homes. Don't underestimate the importance of this in your son's life. Many people want to give our boys up during these years (and I realize that one day my son may need more than I can provide at home), but for now I believe the benefits are many.
This close relationship with mom will enable our boys to stand on their own two feet as young men. We give them the security, love, and sense of purpose they need during their most valuable developmental time - and it WILL pay off.
Let Them Be Part of a Team
Team sports is a sticky subject.
On the one hand I fundamentally disagree with the time commitment and sometimes intense parental involvement that comes with team sports. On the other hand, however, I see tremendous benefits for our boys.
As homeschoolers it's sometimes difficult to find these team opportunities. Thankfully, middle school students can still participate in rec leagues. We've also had luck with an NFL Flag Football program and the Upward sports program, both of which are nationwide. We've also played on basketball teams at our local YMCA.
(I know a mother who recruited a couple of tennis coaches to start a homeschool tennis team, too -- if it's not available you can always start it yourself!)
My son transforms when he walks on the football field or basketball court. He is focused, determined, competitive, and driven. These traits, in healthy moderation, are good for our boys. It is also good for our boys to LOSE and to feel that things are UNFAIR. It is good for our boys to WIN and experience that sense of SUCCESS, too.
From a purely physical standpoint, our boys also need this energy release!
I've heard of people giving up on homeschooling because their sons need greater sports opportunities.
I think this is a shame - because there are opportunities available, and in many places public schools are now allowing homeschoolers to participate in their sports teams.
It IS possible to give our middle school boys a team sport experience, and I believe it is good for them.
Encourage Fine Arts (instead of video games)
Does it seem that every middle school boy out there wants to talk about video games? There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to play video games, but when this interest becomes an obsession and crowds out things of true BEAUTY, it is a problem.
When we homeschool our boys we have the perfect opportunity to instill in them a love of the arts, and how these have been given to us to come closer to our Creator. We have the opportunity to FLOOD THEM WITH BEAUTY.
Let them play an instrument, encourage them to take art lessons, take them to museums and the symphony.
Homeschooling allows us to provide a FEAST of beauty for our children - and you never know what might speak to them.
My son loves to play the piano and loves jazz in particular. We went to see the Atlanta Symphony play a program of Gershwin and Copland. I will never forget the wonder in my son's eyes when the soloist for the evening began playing Rhapsody in Blue -- these things inspire our children. They put them in touch with something deep inside of themselves.
On a recent trip to Florida, we had a rainy day and I decided to take the kids to The Ringling Museum of Art. Grant wasn't excited about this (I think he wanted to go to the movies instead), but I persisted and we had such a memorable visit.
As you can see, "boys will be boys" -- we got a bit silly in the Dwarf Garden, but in the process learned a lot about John Ringling and how he had brought these statues to Sarasota from Italy.
We also saw the world's largest collection of Peter Paul Rubens' paintings - which was an incredible experience. The conversations I had with my son about the symbolism in the paintings, as well as the history behind them, was quite frankly astonishing to me.
Back to the video games: I'm not saying our boys should NEVER play video games, but keeping them to a minimum is wise! I am just like you and struggle with my son wanting to play Minecraft and MLB The Show at every opportunity. But I'm not giving in easily and I'm fighting tooth and nail to expose him to beauty!
Our boys are capable of such depth of thought and feeling, and by homeschooling them we can give ample exposure to the fine arts, which nurtures these characteristics.
Make Them WORK
When you homeschool your tween/teen boys you have lots of time to make them WORK.
They can unload the dishwasher, cut the grass, vacuum the living room, and yes -- cook dinner.
They get to work at things that MATTER, where they might normally be sitting in school working on a worksheet (which in all likelihood doesn't matter!)
Getting your middle school boy involved in volunteering is the perfect thing to do at this age. They are extremely capable of serving and being of valuable assistance in many cases. My kids both volunteer for a mobile food pantry in our area, and I'm always jumping on any opportunity that comes our way to WORK.
By giving your son the gift of WORK you are helping them step outside of themselves (and let's be honest - most middle schoolers tend to be somewhat self-centered by nature).
When you homeschool your middle school boy you can give them the valuable gift of WORK!
Give Them Plenty of Time To Be Alone
(This is bonus tip #6 -- because I just couldn't keep it to 5!)
Children in our day and age don't know how to be bored.
Homeschooling gives our children PLENTY of time to be alone and bored, and I like that.
While I do believe in academic rigor, I also believe in building in time just for NOTHING.
Our middle school boys are going through so many intense changes. They are growing exponentially and it seems like they are too big for their bodies (anyone else's son fall going up the stairs or bang their head getting in the car?!?). Giving our boys time and space helps them learn to be alone and helps them process these many changes.
Time for NOTHING also encourages creativity and innovation.
And by NOTHING I don't mean sitting and playing on an iPod!
(And yes, my son has an iPod, but he has to ask before he plays on it and his time is limited. I realize most 7th grade boys have a phone at this point, but we're weird parents and don't allow that yet.)
Some of my son's favorite things to do when he is alone are:
- build LEGOS
- sleep (not kidding -- my son actually will take a nap in the afternoon because he's growing so much!)
- organize baseball and football cards
As I watched my son playing in the water before a gorgeous Southwest Florida sunset, it struck me how happy he was being ALONE. He was playing all by himself in the water, stopping every now and then to just float on his board and appreciate the sunset - and in the next second running up onto the beach to tell me about it.
God gave me the affirmation I needed that evening - the affirmation to stay the course and keep investing in homeschooling my son.
Our boys are such a treasure. They are future leaders and innovators. They will one day lead their households and shepherd their own children.
What we do in the middle school years matters. It matters greatly.
Through homeschooling we have a unique opportunity to make a difference - what a tremendous blessing and privilege that is!
Resources for Homeschooling Middle School Boys
Some of these resources are for the parents - and some are for our boys.