Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources
Tips for Teaching Active Boys (Girls Too!) - by Mary Kay Clark

Tips for Teaching Active Boys (Girls Too!)

As a homeschooling mother of seven sons, and growing up as the oldest in a family with five younger brothers, I had a good amount of experience with active boys. Mothers of active children must learn pretty quickly about the ways such boys learn and about the ways to adapt teaching methods to active children, both boys and girls.

Active boys and girls need movement while they are learning. They like moving at the same time they are studying. They like to bounce a ball or even roll a ball back and forth while they are doing their memory work.

Sometimes as they do their schoolwork, they continuously tap a pencil or shake a foot. My boys sometimes would jump-rope while they were memorizing math tables or spelling words, or answering catechism questions.

There is nothing better for active boys and girls than to have Dad interested enough to take them fishing or hunting or to baseball games, or whatever activity they enjoy together. They can play cards or chess, even standing up. This kind of close relationship makes boys and girls become more accepting of Dad teaching them some of their academic courses, but Moms sometimes need to accept Dad’s “active” methods of teaching!

Start by Standing

Most active young boys and girls don’t like the process of handwriting or printing because their fingers are not quite adept at writing small letters on a piece of paper and they don’t want to take the time! Have your child stand as he is learning to write large letters on a large surface, maybe on a white board. Start your children writing letters even earlier than kindergarten, if possible. Use colored markers to attract the active student. As soon as your child has learned enough phonics to write a single word, have him start printing the word on a board, and then write lists of other words that he learns to read.

Hopefully, by the end of first grade, your child can write a sentence on a board using the words he has learned in his spelling and phonics lessons. Encourage your child to make up sentences using the words he knows. Give your student a sentence and ask him to write his own second sentence which might logically follow the first sentence. You want to encourage your active child to be interested in developing his own ideas and put them into “action” on a board.

The first three or four years, from Kindergarten through Grade Three, are critical to develop the proper attitude toward writing as well as to develop a confidence in the ability to write and to think creatively. If we neglect teaching our young children to write, there can be serious difficulties in logical thinking in all subjects in the years to come.

In the second and third grades, your child should be writing three to five sentence paragraphs. He can write his own complete paragraph, or you can give him a first sentence and then ask him to write logical following sentences. You need to insist, or pull or push or reward or whatever it takes so your young student writes every day, at least one paragraph each day. This develops his thinking skills more than we can know. Help your active child to be proud of his original ideas in his paragraphs. Give him an activity when he completes a sit-down assignment; for instance, he can ride his bike five times around the basement or house for every paragraph he produces.


Active boys and girls like to get things done quickly, and often don’t worry much about being accurate or writing legibly; they just want to get it done! Consider allowing your active boys and girls to grade their own work; they may discover they cannot read their own writing. We can allow them to work quickly, but we should insist that their work must be done accurately and neatly.

Consider this: Have your students grade their math and other answers as they finish each problem. Impatient students who have several wrong answers are frustrated and unhappy when they must go back to redo several problems, and often become even more careless. It is more difficult to re-learn the correct concept if the student has repeated the incorrect concept for a whole page of problems. It is better for your student to correct misunderstandings immediately.

Since most active boys and girls have a short attention span for their bookwork, recognize just how long your son or daughter can stay focused. Consider breaking up a subject into two class times a day. Assign reading or studying a subject in the morning, for instance, for only fifteen or twenty minutes, and then assign the written work for the same subject in the afternoon.

Many active boys and girls like looking at pictures, graphs, and diagrams, but don’t want to take the time to read the text. Before your student begins a new chapter in any textbook, join your student in looking at the illustrations, but read some interesting related sentences from the text. Help your active student develop a curiosity in the subject and become interested in some specific ideas in the chapter. And think about this: There is no rule against reading while walking around the dining room table!

Making Learning Fun

Because boys tend to use fewer words than girls, both in speaking and in writing, Moms must do whatever it takes to help their sons and daughters become better speakers, better readers, and better writers. Challenging crossword puzzles will help develop vocabulary and improve reading, writing, and thinking skills. Word games, like Scrabble and Word Find, can develop speaking, reading, writing, thinking, spelling, and vocabulary skills.
Many active boys and girls like the challenge of quiz games, especially if they can be on their feet while they answer questions. Help your active sons and daughters to a challenge with fast, objective, one word answers while they stand or “take a giant step forward!” For instance, read a definition from a science book and ask what it defines; or read a description of a battle, and ask who beat the enemy. See who can answer questions first. If you don’t have time, ask your husband to help out with these one-word-quick-answer games.

Some homeschooling support groups have spelling bees or geography bees, or debate clubs that offer a challenge for active boys and girls. Encourage your son or daughter to participate. Such activities help students gain confidence in public speaking and learn leadership skills. Active students love science projects and often will find rather unusual projects of their own making in your basement or garage. This is just what is wanted by many active boys and girls with a natural bent for an active challenge.

Playing a musical instrument is important for active children because it teaches patience while being active. Music lessons teach listening carefully to notes and rhythm. They teach active students patience as they learn adeptness with fingers, which ultimately helps with small muscle skills for handwriting. Playing a musical instrument teaches concentration and paying attention to very small details, such as quarter notes and half notes, and reading notes on a musical scale. Statistics show that public high schools which require music classes graduate 20% more students than high schools which don’t require music classes.

Active boys and girls can be a challenge for homeschooling moms, but once you discover how to entice them into using their minds with their natural active dispositions, they will be successful students for you, and for their future.

About Dr. Mary Kay Clark

Director of Seton for more than 25 years. Dr. Clark left Mater Dei Academy and began teaching her children at home at seeing firsthand the opportunities and the pitfalls of private schooling. Meet Dr. Clark | See her book
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