Friday, November 16, 2012

"Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails"

I am 10 or 11 years old. I am walking down the hallway at school. The previous few years had been tumultous ones for my family, in part due to the Vietnam War and my father being over there for a good part of those years. I see a small dark curly haired boy in a desk in the hallway all by himself. He is crying. It is my younger brother.

His teacher was frustrated with him. He was too active for her classroom. In the 1960's and early 1970's, the education establishment did not understand how to deal with active little boys. The diagnosis of ADD or ADHD wasn't on the horizon yet. So it was easier to isolate them and put them out in the hallways, where they didn't bother anyone else, including the teacher.

At my young age, I realized something was terribly wrong with this picture. I still remember my first impulse after speaking to him. I wanted to march into that classroom and tell that teacher off. I hurt for my brother. Realizing that would not be the best idea, I did not do that, but did let my mother know what I had seen in the hallways that day.

Besides the socialization question, the number two frequently asked question during all those years of homeschool calls was about those energetic little boys. Note, I am not saying those hyperactive little boys. Many studies have been done regarding the differences between the genders in learning situations.

From my own experiences with my own two active little boys, sitting and being still is hard for them. And not to be too biased here, I did have one very active little girl too and one more sedate little girl. With that said, adapting the homeschool environment for lots of getting up and moving is an easy thing to do. Even just getting up and tossing a ball back and forth while quizzing for multiplication tables can turn the atmosphere into one of fun while learning.

Another area we implemented has already been mentioned in another blog. Give the active child some control over the learning agenda. Allow him/her to pick out areas of interest to learn about. Build as much of the curriculum around the areas of interest as possible. All of this is fairly easy to accomplish in the younger years when the activity levels are at their highest. Even people diagnosed with ADHD when young often end up with just the ADD diagnosis as they mature. My sons definitely slowed down as they hit their teenage years.

Years ago, I sat in a seminar with Dr. Raymond Moore (considered to be one of the grandfathers of the homeschool movement in the United States). He gave an example of a mother whose son had dropped out of school. She was desperate to keep him going in his education. He asked her what he was passionate about. The answer was he was passionate about motorcycles. He then advised her to build a curriculum around motorcycles. Not just the simple things you first think about, but to take it to complicated levels. She did that and returned to thank him within a year or two. She kept her son's brain turned on and there ended up actually being much math built into the curriculum. He told the audience to remember, KISS....Keep it simple, sweetheart! He was a kind man. Please google to obtain a list of the books he and his wife, who was a reading specialist, wrote. You will benefit from their books, I promise!

While I am not going to get into the disciplining area of active children, I will say this. If you don't teach your children to behave within societal boundaries, other people will. The people who fall into disfavor quickly in homeschool groups are those whose children are so out of control, that everyone has to worry about them on the fieldtrips. When on a fieldtrip, it's best to teach your children that you are there as guests and to behave accordingly. I remember one place that uninvited our homeschool group from future field trips due two misbehaving children whose parents were oblivious.

Teaching active children to behave appropriately in various settings obviously takes time, so it's best to begin when they are small. Talking to them beforehand about what behavior is expected before the situation and praising them after is important. If they are inappropriately touching something in a setting, it is best for you to correct your own child before another adult feels obligated to step in.

I will also tell you what I told so many homeschool moms and a few fathers along the way. A parent of a very active child needs breaks too. Getting replenished and coming back with a different perspective can make a world of difference. If you sense you are building up negativity for a child, recognize it, take a break and make a list of all of your child's wonderful qualities. Parents need to be a team to parent these children. If mom or dad is always the one disciplining, it is going to lead to trouble down the road. If mom or dad is in the background undoing the consequences that the other one is handing out, a manipulator is being created. A child is being done no favors with parenting like this. Mom and Dad need to get on the same page of the notebook, even if they need to obtain some counseling in the process.

Active children can be just as much fun as calmer children. Recognize the challenge, come up with your plan and enjoy that excitement with them!

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