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When I was on Facebook for a bit over the summer, I saw question after question about how to homeschool, ahem, difficult boys.
And boy do I understand that struggle! (Pun not intended.)
The following are some of my tips for how to homeschool 6 (to 8ish, really) year old boys.
Of course these same tips could be applied for any child, 6 year old or otherwise. However, I have seen the question posed most often for younger boys, so I chose a title that would be most likely to be found by those mamas (or dads, or other caregivers)!
(Before taking these tips into consideration, be sure that you have properly deschooled.
1. Understand Your Child
The most important starting point in homeschooling any child, is to truly know them. What do they like or dislike? What is their learning style? What is the best time of day for them to get work done? What conditions do they work best under?
Sometimes you may have to get work done at the end of the day, if that is when your son is ready to give his best effort. Try a few different approaches and make some observations.
2. Have Realistic Expectations
6 year old children, girls or boys, cannot sit still for hours and hours. And it’s highly unlikely that they will completely convinced that completing whatever school work or project you have planned is the best thing they could imagine.
It’s much more likely that they will only be able to sit still for a few minutes of concentrated time. Chances are also good that they may have zero interest in whatever you have planned.
If you know ahead of time that your child is not capable of sitting for hours and that you won’t necessarily be able to get everything done, you will be less likely to set yourself up for failure.
Additionally, and I think this is way under emphasized, is that the child should have a say in what they’re learning. If you know your child is obsessed with baseball, for example, and you completely make all of your own plans and don’t include a single thing about baseball, can you really claim to be surprised when your child is disinterested in all of the things you are trying to teach them? Why not take into account the things that your child loves during the planning phase, in order to make it more likely (though still not guaranteed) that your kid will be on board.
This is an example of an activity I found for my (older) son, who was very interested in Titanic. You can certainly find something more age appropriate for your 6 year old, but at the time my 8 year old really liked learning about Titanic. It has questions like, how many potatoes did they carry on board? How many tons of sugar? etc. (Those aren’t literal questions, but something like that.) He liked it because it was about something his was interested in, and he actually wanted to know the answers to the questions. It was a great option because not only was it free, but it involved grade level specific math, that he was capable of doing. win-win.
For my actual 6 year old son, we basically spend copious amounts of time learning about dinosaurs, sharks, snakes, scorpions, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. Essentially anything that is powerful and/or scary.
3. Incentives, Not That Kind
Incentives can help a lot with this age group. Not the whole sticker chart for prizes kind, but incentives that sweeten the deal. If we finish this quickly, then we can move onto… If you can sit quietly until I finish this picture book, then… Most recently, one incentive that worked for me was to allow my son to use the scented markers to draw while I was reading to him. Think about the things that interest your child, and how you can leverage his or her interest to make sure that you are getting a best effort (for a short period of time). My son will not sit quietly and play with legos while I read, so the scented markers were a novel solution for us.
4. Take Lots of Breaks
What to do? Take LOTS of breaks. Every few minutes. What do breaks look like? Whatever gives your child a complete brain reset. It can be as simple as going outside to ride a scooter or a bike, or watching a short video on a related topic (or an unrelated topic that’s “educational” depending on your screentime rules), or doing something else altogether for a longer break. You have to meet your child where they’re at and make decisions based on the child before you, not the one you imagined they’d be. This is really crucially important for parenting in general. You can either live in reality or dwell in the imaginary, but only one of those is the healthy option, I think.
(Julie Bogart highly recommends 101 Brain Breaks, although I have a copy and it looks great, admittedly, I haven’t made good use of it, yet!)
5. Videos aka Outsourcing
This one may depend on what kind of learner your child is, and how they do with screentime. My 6 year old son loves learning via videos. In addition to watching the short videos mentioned in my science post, and the eons series (introduced to us by Blossom & Root, as part of Wonders of the Prehistoric World), we also recently learned of Scholastic Go! (part of a suite of digital products offered by Scholastic. Follow the link to learn more & sign up for a free trial)– which is currently offered through our homeschool charter.
My son likes to watch short (emphasis on short, over 5-7 minutes and he’s banging on the keyboard or carving into the table) videos about different subjects. Oftentimes, such as with our Beautiful Feet Around the World With Picture Books I , we’ll watch either one of the videos listed, or we will watch a related video on a different topic. For example, after we finished reading a book about Japan, one of the toys in the book was a Samurai kite, so you can bet we then watched several videos about Samurai. He and his brother also delighted to learn about Sumo Wrestlers (my boys often wrestle, sigh.)
For us it usually works best to integrate video into our lessons, rather than doing only videos, or only books, if that makes sense? This is especially true because this particular child does well with videos. It might be a different story for a different kiddo, you just have to try different approaches and see what works!
Sometimes, you just have to let go of your preconceived notions for what the day is going to look like. It’s not worth forcing your child to finish something when it has devolved into a battle of wills that is likely to end in tears. Sometimes pivoting looks like taking a big giant break. Sometimes it means switching to a different part of your school day. For example, we are currently reading Harry Potter together, for the first time as a family. In normal times, this would often look like packing up and heading to the library. Or the thrift store (unlimited books for my kids at $.29), or the park! Whatever!
Sometimes, if you’re familiar with Monty Python, the moment calls for something completely different.
Today, for example, we weren’t having a difficult go of it, but it occurred to me that my boys might be interested in watching one of my favorite new YouTubers, because she does large grocery hauls. Now, I don’t know about your kids, but my kids are obsessed with (1) groceries; and (2) how much everything costs.
E.g. this is one of my daughter’s favorite books. It shows families from around the world next to a pile of the kind of food that they eat. This particular child is very interested in anthropological type studies, and has similar books about how other people live, what their culture is like, etc.
SO, like I said, I saw the preview of one of my favorite new to me YouTubers, and I thought they might enjoy it, and they did! We watched through a few videos, and they liked seeing the insides of stores they haven’t been to in a while, they liked seeing the groceries she got, they liked guessing how much everything cost, and it was just something completely different! I never thought of sharing something I watch with them, and it was really neat to share it with them!
I hope you find some of these tips helpful in homeschooling your 6 year old boy! If there are other tips that have worked for you, feel free to leave them in the comments!