What is one of the keys to helping teenage boys learn? Movement! Boys, no matter what age, need to be active. Some, more than others. Their natural inclination is to be moving and doing. One time I had about all I could take from my early teenage son and his inability to focus. I thought I was failing as a homeschool teacher; having him sit in a chair was like asking a frog to stop jumping.
I called a friend who was the mother of six boys, ranging in ages from 19-8 and told her the difficulty I was having. She invited me to come and see how she taught her active teens. The day that I went to visit changed my way of thinking of teaching my sons. Five of her young men were there and the house was bustling with activity. Not the kind of atmosphere that I was used to when we were in school.
Her two younger sons were sitting at their large kitchen table working on math problems, while her three teenage sons were all working on school in very different ways than what I was accustomed to seeing. One of her teen sons walked around the house while he was reading his textbook, another was listening to music on his headphones and reading a textbook, yet another teenager who had special needs was watching a documentary on animals, pacing the floor in the other room with the television turned up loudly enough that all of us could hear it. The two boys at the table worked for ten minutes and were dismissed for a short break to go outside and run around or shoot hoops.
My first thought was, “How could she, how could they, get anything accomplished?” Surprisingly, as I spoke to each of them later, each of the boys could tell me what they had learned that morning. Incidentally, the teenager who read while walking around also explained that he learned his multiplication tables while hanging upside down on the swing set.
Did I rush right home, let the boys listen to music, and walk around the house while reading their Algebra? No, because that was not comfortable for my teaching style, but I did have my extremely active 13 year old son run a determined set of laps around the house or shoot some basketball or play with a hacky sack when I saw him beginning to get jumpy, and it really helped! He was able to come back and focus for longer periods of time instead of me telling him to sit up, pay attention, badger him about doing his math problems, etc. No longer when I announced we were going to do math, did he fall out of his chair because I let him do his work on the living room floor (as long as he stayed focused and his handwriting was legible). As both boys grew older, they listened to music with headphones while working on things that didn’t require so much concentration (as long as they could tell me what thy had learned).
You know the level of concentration your son needs to accomplish a task, so don’t abandon everything you are doing. But, if you have a fidgety son who is having trouble staying focused, how about shorter lessons with breaks, a short physical activity, or doing schoolwork somewhere besides at a desk, such as the floor or the couch?