Wednesday, November 4, 2015
There Must Be Something in the Water: Thoughts on Homeschool Mamas and Teen-age Boys
Last night I spoke to about 60 people at our homeschool support group meeting about homeschooling through high school. I covered a lot of different topics - touching on things like graduation requirements, high school testing, credits, transcripts, etc. and then busting some of the myths surrounding homeschooling through high school, such as "parents aren't qualified to teach high school subjects", "homeschooled students cannot get good jobs or go to college" and "they'll miss out on Prom". But it was the final topic I discussed that got the most response and comments after the meeting ended, and that was Homeschool Mamas and Teen-age Boys.
I have raised 3 boys of my own, and have talked with many, many mothers of sons about this topic, and it seems to be pretty universal and disconcerting! Somewhere around the age of 12, they discover that we moms have lost part of our brains. We go from being very smart, even brilliant, people who can solve almost any problem and fix almost anything, to suddenly not being very smart at all and also somewhat annoying. We don't know the answers, we don't know the best way to do things, and we don't have the right opinion on anything. In addition to losing our minds, we have also lost our looks. We were once beautiful and the women our little boys wanted to marry one day. Now they are embarrassed to be seen with us.
It must be something in the water, because we aren't the only ones who have changed. Our little boys who were once cuddly, enthusiastic, eager to please, and obedient ( okay, okay, that's a stretch - but true at least part of the time? ) suddenly become withdrawn, emotional, distracted, and disrepectful. They don't want to do their schoolwork. They talk back. They sleep all the time. They challenge your authority, your wisdom, and your fairness.
"Who are you and what did you do with my son?"
Some boys only show glimpses of this hijacking, but for others it is quite prominent. Suddenly our sons are taller than us, stronger than us, and they don't seem to like us or take us seriously. This is tough, uncharted territory for all moms, and for homeschooling moms it can cause a quite dramatic reaction. "I can't do this! He isn't doing his work. He isn't listening to me. He needs to go to real school because of course he will listen to someone else."
I do not have an answer and I don't know of a cure. But my encouragement to you is that it doesn't last forever. A few years. But not forever. This is a period of time when our little boys are growing into men, and for a while they just don't know what to do with themselves! They want to be treated like grown ups one minute, and the next they are crying, "I can't do that! I'm just a kid!" One minute they cringe when you give them a hug, and the next minute all 5'10" of them is crawling into your lap. Their bodies are changing, their brains are changing. Hormones make them crazy.
I think it is different with our daughters, because we can sympathize with them! We were young girls once, and remember the angst and the cramps and the discomfort and the uncertainty that those years brought, and can identify with them better. But young men are different creatures entirely; and that just reminds us that we don't understand our husbands half the time either, and now we have TWO men to deal with.
It might be time for Dad to take son out for a heart-to-heart about manhood, respect for those in authority, humility, God's order, and the consequences that will arise from his behavior.
Beyond that, I think we moms need to dish out heaps of GRACE! (unmerited favor) We need to be calm and consistent in reminding our boys of their boundaries and their responsibilities.
We can perhaps let go and give them some of the control they crave, at least in some areas. Let him stay up late and sleep later in the morning, or go outside without a jacket in the middle of the winter, or eat pizza and Doritos for lunch every day, or take a 45 minute shower. Ask if there is something he would really like to study this year, or let him choose between math curriculum A or math curriculum B.
We need to continue to be their cheerleader and biggest fan, because their disdain is really a mask. Our boys desperately want to know they are loved and accepted.
Don't stop pointing them to God and his Word. Remind him that God allows us to struggle so that we can be refined and grow stronger and closer to Him.
Read lots of biographies of good role models and watch movies that teach solid messages about character. Teach Godly character. Model Godly character.
Don't be stingy with hugs, backrubs, and smiles.
Maintain a sense of humor. Laugh with them. ( not at them. never at them.) Sometimes they are really funny.
Feed them a lot. Their favorite meal, even after a tough couple of days of banging heads, sends a strong message.
Encourage physical activity as an outlet for some of that aggressive energy. Team sports, running, biking, tae kwon do, swimming, rock climbing, jumping jacks!
These are just some suggestions. Pray and ask God to show you the best way to parent your child. Anger, insults, and a hard-nosed strictness are probably not the best reaction to this stage of your child's development. And my answer to "If they won't listen to me and respect me, won't they be better off learning from somebody else?" [ meaning "in school"] is "Is it more important that he get the essay written and the geometry lesson done or that he get instruction in righteousness and character and Truth and God's plan for us? Are you okay that strangers, whose worldviews you know nothing about, walk with him through this time of his life and mold him and direct him? Whose voice do you want him to hear on a daily basis?"
Don't give up! They do come out on the other side.
Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary ,and what is unseen is eternal.
I have found these resources to be very helpful.
Raising Real Men
Hal & Melanie Young are Christian homeschool parents who understand boys. They have written a book, and their website and blog also contain lots of helpful articles and information.
This site does not seem to have been updated in a while, but still has some helpful articles by a number of authors, including Mark Hamby, Barbara Shelton, and Terri Camp.
This is a newer blog, but I've read a couple of articles here that are very good.