Dear Harvey and Laurie,
I have a boy who manifests the following behavior:
1) Hates to hold a pencil and has terrible handwriting.
2) Isn’t motivated.
3) Does the minimum required — seems lazy.
4) Wanders around with seemingly nothing to do.
5) Has to be continually reminded.
6) Doesn’t read much.
7) Doesn’t like academics.
8) No project appeals to him.
9) Has a narrow field of interest.
10) Has a short attention span.
11) Often seems hyper.
12) Always has to be doing something with his hands or his feet.
13) Doesn’t want to do any of the things I suggest
14) If enrolled in a classroom school he might be labeled.
What do I do with this boy? I feel very frustrated.
Here are a few suggestions:
1) Keep the child on a regular schedule (flexible, but regular).
2) Make him repeat back to you what you’ve told him to do.
3) Work with him until you’re satisfied with his obedience. This is of the utmost importance.
4) Make a list of the things he needs to accomplish each day, and have him check them off as he does them, and hold him accountable daily.
5) Don’t pile on the formal academics until age ten or eleven. Read to him at least two hours each day. If he hates to write, allow him to dictate to you his letters and journal entries, or use a tape recorder.
6) Make use of the child’s one or two chief interests. Use them as avenues to other things. (e.g. Link guns to the second Amendment, to the Constitution, to principles of sound government.) Start him in his own business which involves his interests. For example, if the child’s interest is fencing with a sword, then you might suggest that he give fencing lessons to other children, develop a web page on fencing, write a newsletter or blog on fencing, do a display at the library on fencing, write an introductory booklet on fencing, produce fencing equipment, do a fencing seminar for 4-H. He can become the homeschooling expert on fencing.
7) Give him lots of physical work to do — regular household chores and special jobs. But don’t dump it all on him at once — he probably is the kind of person who is easily overwhelmed and frustrated. Break everything down into parts and meter them out one or two at a time. Use a chart to keep him accountable.
8) If possible, move to the country so that you can raise animals. Then there will be more outside work to perform (raise rabbits, goats, or chickens, display these projects at the fair, obedience train your dog and show at fairs, raise earthworms to sell or for your garden, raise berries to sell or barter, raise some specialty animal such as a certain breed of horse, and become the local expert on this breed, practice carpentry skills by rebuilding a small shed or outbuilding).
9) Involve the child in community service (visit the nursing home every week for one hour, cook meals for the elderly, do repair work for the elderly, pick up the trash around your neighborhood, make small wooden toys and give them to children in the hospital, make greeting cards and give them away, write letters to relatives or others).
10) If possible, have Dad take him to work once or twice a week.
11) Do unit studies instead of the traditional academic textbook approach.
12) Involved him in history re-enactments (Civil War, Buckskinners, Medieval, WWII), make costumes and equipment, and attend events.
13) Teach him to hunt and fish.
14) Buy him a good mountain bike so he can explore.
15) Keep him away from television, movies, computer games, sugar, and caffeine, and allow him only supervised contact with peers.
16) This suggestion we list last, but it is really our first — the child should be part of your daily family Bible studies.
Sometimes, if the child persists in refusing to be interested, then you must simply insist. The key is to recognize early on that your child is a late bloomer. You don’t want to wake up to this fact when the child is seventeen or eighteen and has already developed numerous unprofitable habits and wasteful ways of thinking. Motivating and molding a seventeen-year-old is much more difficult than motivating and molding a ten-year-old.
With any child you must build a solid foundation before you begin academics. With a late bloomer the foundation takes longer to build, and more patience must be used. But by the mercy of God, if you persist, the structure which is built on this foundation will be worth all the blood, sweat, and prayers.
Harvey and Laurie
I would underscore #15 which really could have been divided into 3 separate suggestions, each of which could have been their own essay or even an entire book.
Also about the food I’d add to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible, meaning to avoid processed foods. Avoid food dyes and transfats. Avoid junk foods. No processed sugar. Drink water not juice or (mix) iced tea or lemonade or any other fake drinks.
As for working the mind I’d suggest that he orally narrate to you back what you read aloud to him, such as read one chapter, then narrate that chapter back. If you want more information on narration there is a lot of info on the internet about it. It is one component that Charlotte Mason recommended (and others before her and after her).