I’ve dragged four sons through middle school. Four very different sons! In hindsight, there are a few things I wish I had known prior to middle school. One, I wish I had read The Wonder of Boys as well as The Minds of Boys. I’m not on board with everything author Michael Guerian says, but you will not find a better, scientifically sound explanation of how boys’ minds work and how boys function in general. As a mom, and a girl, finding these two books prior to middle school would have saved my family many struggles.
The reality is, boys are different than girls. If you, mom, are the main homeschooling parent, the older your son gets, the harder he can be to decipher. The shift in his demeanor and behavior shouldn’t be taken by you as a :::weep::: “He doesn’t need me anymore!” signal. Instead, it’s a signal that it’s time for you to start adjusting how you deal with your son.
Here are three tips that I’ve found hold true no matter what type of boy you have – rough/tumble, serious/cautious, extroverted/exuberant, shy/studious or any strange combination of all of those traits and more.
- Yes, he was serious when he did that. There is something about middle school boys that makes their moms insane. You survived the toddler years, the crazy 5-7 years and things may have come predictable. And then your son turns 11-ish. (Disclaimer – all boys are different your child my hit pre-puberty earlier or later than described. As far as I can tell the symptoms are about the same.) Just when you think your son is capable of keeping track of his stuff, making sane decisions and/or focusing on his schoolwork, he bumps into pre-puberty or puberty. Signs? You’ll notice he has lost that sweet, little boy smell. He reeks. You’ll find him bursting into tears – even your son the non-cryer. You’ll find yourself saying things like “I didn’t think I HAD to tell you the ceiling fan cannot support your weight!” All this and more. Believe it or not, your son is NOT trying to torment you. He really did think hanging from the ceiling fan would give him the feeling of flying! Judgement for the next couple of years is out the window. Predictable moods are out the window. The good news? Now you know.
- Your son is not doomed to a life of “You want fries with that?” Odds are he’s growing at a pace that makes you want to invest in disposable clothing. Remember how you felt when you were 7-8 months pregnant? Growing (a new person or an adult body) is hard work and something has to give. More often than not a body spends its resources on the growing, taking from the memory as it grows. Toss in huge, unpredictable hormone surges and you have a recipe for homeschool mom tears. It’s temporary. Your formerly bright child will return. In the meantime, take advantage of his good days and muddle through the days where math is a brand new subject.
- Build strenuous activity into every single day. I’m not talking about a leisurely game of homeschool dodge sock – this is a real thing. I’m talking about putting your child to work. Get him involved in a sport if he has an interest. If sports aren’t his thing, come up with a plan. Have him develop plans for and build a tree house – HIM, not you. He does all the work. Get him into long distance running or cycling. Middle school boys need, above and beyond everything else, to MOVE. Your middle school son should be physically exhausted by the time he goes to bed each night. His mood will improve, as will his ability to focus the more he is expending energy.
Talk to your husband, brother, or father about what life was like when they were 11,12 or 13. Odds are they will remember games they played, inventions they imagined and feeling awkward (too big, too small, too something). They won’t tell you about what they were learning in school or how they made their mother’s hair turn gray. Take a cue from their stories and try to build your homeschool around your son that suits his age. There is plenty of time and brain power in your future to cover the academics you might feel like you’re missing out on now.