What to Do with a Restless Little Boy?

I find it a rather interesting fact that 80% of all homeschooled children are boys. That makes a definite statement about the inability of most little boys to sit in desks and endure the regimentation of public school. Little boys are wiggles and adventure. Sitting in a desk for hours on end sounds like cruel and unusual punishment to an energetic little man.

What can be done with those particular little boys that can’t seem to do well in homeschool either? It seems that in the past 14 years of homeschooling my children, I have rotated in and out of having a restless little boy many of those years. It gets very tempting to consider public school, especially when I have a baby. Public school seems like a good solution until you really study it out.

Advantages of Sending Your Restless Boy to Public School:
1. He would be out of your hair for several hours a day, meaning you could get something done (such as homeschooling your more compliant children, cleaning house, nursing the baby, etc.)
2. The school schedule would discipline him to being on time and preparing his homework ahead of time.
3. The teacher would teach him to obey and follow directions.
4. He would have other children to play with and tousle with, teaching him how to act and get along while diverting some of his boundless energy.
5. He would learn academics, which would be more than seems to be getting through in homeschool.

Let’s Consider Each “Advantage”
1. He would be out of your hair for several hours a day, meaning you could get something done (such as homeschooling your more compliant children, cleaning house, nursing the baby, etc.)
Mothers are to be about the vital business of teaching and nurturing the precious children that God has entrusted to them. You love him more than any other person on this earth loves him, and you care about his daily doings. No teacher could rouse the same amount of interest or concern for his success. Just because he is out of your hair doesn’t mean that he is no longer totally your responsibility. Often the problems school creates only stress and strain your relationship further, putting more pressure on you. Your son can easily sense why he was put in school. Instead of feeling loved and wanted, he will feel that he is a problem too great for you to handle. Mothers, this kind of heavenly, motherly teaching takes lots of time and devotion, but it pays big dividends. Never give up!

Besides, maintaining your homeschool plus keeping up with the needs, demands, and homework of public school is extra exhausting.

2. The school schedule would discipline him to being on time and preparing his homework ahead of time.
Fat chance. If you haven’t been able to teach and guide your son to be on time and prepare ahead of time, the problem will only get worse with going to school. In homeschool you can be patient and lead him along. If he attends public school, it will be a mad dash to get out the door and a scramble to complete homework every school day for the rest of the school year. Talk to mothers who have their children in public school and ask specifically about the morning get-off-to-school stuff. I think you will hear that it is a crazy race to get out the door and that family prayer, a nutritious breakfast, hugs and kisses and other important beginnings to the day are often shrugged off in the hurry of it all. As far as homework goes, I spent several years helping my sons get their homework done after school before we discovered homeschooling, so I have a bit of experience. I firmly believe that it is much easier to teach them a concept in homeschool than it is to try to plow through their homework with them, explaining information (with no idea of how the teacher presented it in class) at the time of day when parents are most exhausted.

3. The teacher would teach him to obey and follow directions.
It is not the school’s job to train up your child. Besides, even if the school could accomplish it, you wouldn’t like the job they did it. Their values are very different from your Christian way of life. The job of training children is best done at home, at an early age. If your little guy is still struggling with obedience, you are the best teacher and home is the best setting. Whatever problems he has at home will just be magnified at school. He will be labeled a troublemaker or a difficult child. The fear of a new situation may make him behave for a few days, but then he will begin to struggle with the same behavior that caused problems in homeschool. Home is the place to learn obedience from a tireless, consistent, loving mother. (God grant us the strength!)

4. He would have other children to play with and tussle with, teaching him how to act and get along while diverting some of his boundless energy.
Although I think it is important to have other children to play with and interact with, don’t count on public school for enriching your child’s social life. For one thing, you can control the type of friends your son associates with while he does homeschool. But in public school, often children who are restless fit right in with children who have lower standards and less self-discipline. You won’t like the language, play or dress codes that your son will quickly pick up in school. Although it seems like it would drain his energy to roughhouse with other boys, generally it only makes them wilder. Constructive play such as rigorous sports or building a tree house can divert that restlessness. When my boys were young, they dug long tunnels and built teepees and forts. They dragged themselves in from their work/play exhausted. Boys thrive on heavy chore jobs such as carrying wood or hoeing the garden, masculine jobs that need a boy’s muscles and strength to complete. Hobbies such as tying knots, whittling or woodworking can also keep him busy and happy. These are productive ways to channel your son’s energy.

When my sons needed social life, I looked for an older boy who was strong in the gospel for my boys to look up to, someone who could teach them new skills. When my son Daniel was younger he learned to operate a CB radio, connect to the Internet and compose music on the computer from older boys who appreciated having an interested listener and learner. Mark learned to raise chickens and grow a garden from men in our church who enjoyed sharing their wisdom. True socialization comes from following in the footsteps of someone older and wiser who models just how to behave.

5. He would learn academics, which would be more than seems to be getting through in homeschool.
There are more important things to learn than academics, such as the fact that Jesus loves you and died for you, that you need to treat your baby brother gently, to speak respectfully to your parents, to brush and take care of your teeth and health in general, to be patient and attentive to the sick and aged, to remember to feed your pets and be kind to animals, to shovel your elderly neighbor’s sidewalk without pay, and other crucial basics to a happy life.

In addition, consider how public school will teach your son academics. If much of the work will be listening to lectures or doing worksheets while sitting quietly in a desk, your child is likely destined to be a failure. Restlessness in homeschool can be accommodated by hands-on learning, frequent exercise breaks, and alternate ways of gaining knowledge such as watching a video, playing a math game, tutoring little ones or doing a science experiment rather than just reading and filling in worksheets.

Food and Discipline
There are a few other things to consider when dealing with a restless little boy. Food allergies can wreck havoc with a child’s ability to sit still and pay attention. Although I feel cautious about “blaming” food for such trouble, I do think it is worth observing. My 6-year-old son Ammon (who is currently the restless little boy in our homeschool) would pay attention and write his letters fastidiously neatly on certain days. Other days, his letters and numbers would be sloppy and backwards. After several weeks of watching, I decided that he was eating peanut butter and whole wheat bread for breakfast on the mornings that school went poorly. Removing whole wheat (difficult to do!) and peanut butter from his diet resulted in a more peaceful homeschool for Ammon, although it didn’t solve the problem entirely.

Lack of discipline and hyperactivity look very similar in behavior. I often think strictness and consistency on the part of the parents of restless boys might be more effective than Ritalin in many cases. Boys particularly seem to push limits and struggle with learning self-control. Without proper discipline, most little boys are a whirlwind. If you think lack of self-discipline is causing the problem with your little boy, help him learn little by little to control himself. I like reading my children a story from Little House in the Big Woods (pg. 87, chapter entitled “Sundays”) about what self-control little pioneer children were expected to have, to the point of not even laughing on Sunday. Talking about exactly what is expected behavior in home school helps too. For example, when my little guy sits upside down on the couch (meaning head down and feet up) during school, I tell him that had he gone to public school when I was a child, my teacher Mr. Bowen would have hit him with a hickory stick for that trick. Today’s school teacher may have sent him to the principle or held him in from recess. I am not excessively strict on how they sit or what they say during homeschool, but I do feel you must keep order and children must learn not to burst out with whatever pops into their head to say. Judging on some children’s actions that I observe at church, perhaps I expect better behavior than the public schools do.

Remember that your mischievous little boy is first and foremost God’s child, and God loves and values him greatly. Pray for help! If you don’t know what to do next, He knows. Lay claim to His promise: “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you” (John 14:17–18). “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” If we pray with full energy of heart, He will grant us pure love for our restless little boy. God will change our irritation and annoyance to understanding and charity. He will plant in our mind a strategy, ideas to help this child grow and become that man that He designed him to be. Remember you are the key figure in this plan. Mother forms and shapes the child more than any other influence. Your approval and love is crucial. It is true that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

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