Bringing up a boy.


John and I, roughly 7 years ago. It’s quite likely that the book was about dinosaurs and that he wanted T. Rex to hear it also. This past year John has seemed to have one of those sudden growth spurts. Not so much in size, although he is alarmingly tall in my eyes. But more in his overall growth. He turned 9 this fall, which someone pointed out to me is half way to being 18. An adult. To being gone. I’m sure parents of teenagers will roll their eyes at someone with an oldest child who is only nine waxing nostalgic, but it’s parents of teenagers who have prompted these thoughts for the most part.

Three times very recently I’ve been part of a conversation about teenage boys and homeschooling where a parent has made the comment, “At some point, they just don’t want to be home with their mother all day.” I might have smiled and filed this away with all the other well-meaning but naive homeschooling related comments (“You must be so patient.” “Where do they ever meet other kids?” ”How can you get them to listen to you?”) if it hadn’t been for the fact that the parents talking were homeschooling parents. In all three cases the parents have homeschooled or do homeschool their children but have chosen to have their sons go to school away from home for high school (or in some cases jr. high). In at least one of the families they do homeschool their high school aged daughter.

As an aside, I’ll say that I’m not a die-hard homeschooler. I firmly believe that it’s not the best option for every family. And within a family it may not be the best option for every kid. I’ve said before that we could envision circumstances where we might choose public or private school for one of our children. So the idea that homeschooling might not be the best fit for a particular student didn’t bother me.

What did bother me was the assumption in all these conversations (both by the speakers and the listeners) that there is something inherent about BOYS that makes homeschooling not a good fit once they get to the teen years. And unstated there seemed to be a implication that a boy who might be happy to be home with his mother is, well….a mama’s boy. It reminded me of that James Dobson book, Bringing Up Boys. I thought it had fairly good insight until I got to the part that said that boys had to metaphorically “kill” their mothers around the age of 3 so that they could properly detach. If they didn’t do this properly they would then never have a chance of going on to be manly men. Or something like that. I can’t actually quote the book because it annoyed me so much I got rid of it.

I don’t know what the teen years will bring, either as a parent or as a teacher. I’m sure I’ll embarrass them (boys and girl). I’m sure there will be many times they prefer to be with their friends than me. I’m sure there will be other adults in their lives who are cooler, smarter and funnier than me. I’m sure we will fight and argue. I do know that our relationship will change. Being the mother of a nine year old isn’t the same as a two year and I imagine that it won’t be the same as a sixteen year old. In the same way I imagine that teaching a high school junior won’t be the same as teaching that same 4th grader just like it’s not the same now as teaching him as a preschooler. But I reject the idea that the only good way for that relationship to change is for me to stop homeschooling.

John and I can’t lie down side by side on the couch anymore (we don’t have that couch anyway). That T. Rex is discarded in a bin downstairs. But tonight we went out to dinner. And over buttered noodles and tomato basil soup he told me the entire plot of A Phantom Tollbooth. Things change. But sometimes they are still good.

And sometimes they are even better.

4 thoughts on “Bringing up a boy.

  1. I relate to what you’ve said here, Alice. Although I spent my first six years of parenting not “worried” about this since I had no boys (& it “can’t happen” with girls 😉 ), now that I will have TWO boys gives me pause. I think there might be something to it, given the right personality combinations. (It’s something I think I’ve observed in my years of teaching high school and my years of homeschooling.). I’ve told Steady Eddie he can retire when our boys get that old (he will be able to about that time) and I’ll go back to work and HE can homeschool them. ;-). I jest (sort of).

    Parenting is hard. So many decisions!

  2. Like so many things, the idea that sons can be too attached to their mothers is a cultural construction, not a timeless truth. I like what Stephanie Coontz said in an NYTimes op-ed about the history of our cultural attitudes toward stay-at-home moms. She reminds us that in the 19th century “Americans… believed in ‘the empire of the mother,’ and grown sons were not embarrassed about rhapsodizing over their ‘darling mama,’ carrying her picture with them to work or war.” []

    I appreciate your thoughts about this. I don’t think there’s any more reason to worry about boys being at home than girls. People who say such things to you must think that the home is a more natural place for girls? An assumption I obviously find problematic. And as we say, homeschool kids in many ways are MORE out in the world, interacting with more varieties of people (not only mom or dad) than many conventionally schooled kids.

  3. Pingback: Homeschooling High School | Supratentorial

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