If you have boys at home, you probably already know that most boys are experiential, hands-on learners. Most boys have little patience for worksheets; they much prefer real-life learning. So why not make your home (and homeschool) boy-friendly?
Here , then, is my list of the 10 Essential Supplies for Homeschooling Boys:
1. Blocks. A good set of wooden, unit-based blocks can be expensive, but they’re oh-s0-worth it! A set of blocks will inspire your sons’ imaginations for years. (My 30-yr-old brothers still have block building contests with my sons.) They also lay a firm foundation for the study of math and geometry.
2. Tools. Every boy should have access to a hammer, nails, scrap wood and tape measure. Also useful: screwdrivers, screws, wrenches, sandpaper and safety goggles. Working with tools is a great way for young boys to develop fine motor skills (try handing your preschooler a large bolt and some nuts). It’s also another way to bring math into the real world. The tools can be used to take apart old appliances too, which can lead to all sorts of interesting mechanical and electrical investigations.
3. Playdough. Whether you make your own or buy it in a can, playdough provides infinite hours of educational fun. Your boys can experiment with color mixing (science) or create various shapes to see if they’ll float in water (more science!). They can practice writing in playdough or craft letters (language arts). They can create sculptures (art) or “bullets” (yes, my boys did this once, but it was a fine bit of imaginative play!). My boys once even spent a whole morning making and “selling” playdough food (math, language arts). Working with playdough is a great way to strengthen the small muscles of the hands too. (You know, the ones that are important for writing).
4. Maps and globes. Want your boys to learn with almost minimal input from you? Hang a map in your bathroom. You’d be surprised what your sons learn! My boys have a pretty good grasp of geography –and have learned to read some pretty complex words — from the world map that hangs in our downstairs bathroom.
5. Cardboard boxes. In the hands of a young boy, a cardboard box can become anything. We once used a bunch of old boxes to play a real-world version of the Oregon Trail computer game. We’d been reading about the Oregon Trail, and the boys loved the game. So we pulled a bunch of boxes down from the attic, labeled them with prices and titles (“Salt Pork,” “Flour”) and has the boys “pack the wagon.” We’ve also used cardboard boxes to build solar ovens and boats.
6. Playing cards. Almost all of my boys learned their numbers by playing the classic card game, War. A simple deck of playing cards can be used to reinforce basic math skills as well. When the boys got older, War got harder. We’d each play two cards; whichever player’s cards added up to a higher number won the hand. Card games also teach critical thinking, memory and basic statistics. Some boys love to build with them too.
7. Dirt. Give boys a plot of dirt and the freedom to play and explore, and watch your budding scientist or earthmover get to work. My boys have planted seeds and watched them grow. They’ve carefully investigated the soil and its inhabitants. And they’re created all sorts of ponds and streams and dams — real-life, real-world experiments that taught them a ton about hydrology.
8. A library card. Get your son a library card as soon as possible, and let him check out books of his liking. Don’t set too many restrictions, either. Some kids are ready to check out books from the adult section. (My oldest loves fishing books; my 11- yr-old loves a HUGE compendium of baseball cards). Your sons can also access all kinds of music, DVDs and ebooks at the local library.
9. A computer. I realize that this “essential” might be controversial. It is possible to educate your son without a computer. However, I’d argue that you’re doing him a great disservice. Computers are here to stay, and odds are good that your son will need to interact with a computer almost every day as an adult. Computers, like library cards, are also a window to the world. (But I don’t have to convince you, do I? You’re reading a blog, online).
10. A loving, caring adult. This is THE single most important item on the list. With a loving, caring adult nearby, a boy can learn anything. Listen to your son. He’ll tell (and show you) what he needs. Pay attention to his interests, and do your best to nourish them. If you know nothing about his chosen area of interest, hook him up with other people who do. Learn with him. Love him! A boy who is loved and supported is able to learn and explore.
Jennifer L.W. Fink lives and works in southeastern Wisconsin. Her four boys are now 13, 10, 8 and 5. Jennifer blogs about boys, education and parenting at Blogging ‘Bout Boys. Her writing can also be found in Home Education Magazine, Scholastic Instructor, Parents and other national publications.