HS 198: Homeschooling Boys with Monica Swanson
Monica Swanson is author of the book Boy Mom and host of the Boy Mom podcast. She has homeschooled all four of her sons on the Hawaiian island of Oahu where the boys have grown up surfing and spearfishing when they aren’t doing their studies.
Monica and her husband Dave love growing tropical fruit on their property, alongside their growing boys.
- Boy Mom, book by Monica Swanson (there’s a chapter all about boys and learning!)
- The Art and Science of Motivation, article by Andrew Pudewa
- The Joys of Boys, podcast conversation with Andrew Pudewa and Monica Swanson
- Between the tears, telling myself, “I can’t do this,” we fell in love with homeschooling. (Monica Swanson)
- Expose your boys to all sorts of good things… then tap into what their passions are. (Monica Swanson)
- Get your boys moving every day. (Monica Swanson)
- When we lay down what we think has to work, we might find what does work. (Wendy Speake)
- When we are healthy as moms and filled up with time with God, the spilled milk isn’t too much for us to handle. (Monica Swanson)
CONNECT WITH MONICA:
WENDY: Welcome to the homeschool solutions podcast, brought to you by Sonlight Curriculum and Homeschooling.mom. I’m your host, Wendy Speake. Here on the show every week you’ll get to listen in on some great conversations, with wonderful guests, all designed to equip us as homeschooling moms. And then once a month, we’ll be opening up the Bible together, applying God’s Word to our long, blessed, but often challenging days. It is my hope as we gather together in this space, we will encourage one another with some practical Biblical solutions. I’m so glad you’re here.
Before we start the show, I’d like to thank our sponsor, Sonlight Curriculum. Complete homeschool curriculum you’re guaranteed to love. And now, enjoy the show.
It is my absolute and most sincere joy to welcome to the Homeschool Solutions podcast, my friend, Monica Swanson. Monica and I met online four years ago, which doesn’t sound as strange today, to say that, as it did four years ago to say we met online. But now that’s totally common to say we met online. Monica and I were both writing for the same website at the time, aptly named, The Mob Society. The Mob Society stood for “mothers of boys”. And while it’s not around today, it just is…it holds such a sweet place in my heart because as a mom of boys, I met some wonderful mothers of brothers, I say. In that space, and Monica is one of them
Between Monica’s family and our family, we have seven sons, no daughters. One day, God willing, we will have daughter-in-laws that are just gonna be such a joy to us. But Monica and her husband, Dave, and their four boys, they live on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Actually, one of their sons is off at Westmont College near Santa Barbara so not far from us here in California. Monica doesn’t just raise and homeschool boys, she doesn’t just blog about it either. Monica Swanson wrote a wonderful book, simply titled, Boy Mom. She also has a podcast by the same name, and you’ll wanna check that out if you’re raising boys. And that is why we’re having her here on the show today. We are going to talk about boys today, and specifically, homeschooling boys. So, let’s get started. Welcome to the Homeschool Solutions podcast Monica.
MONICA – Oh it is such a privilege to be here and I’m grinning ear to ear excited to talk about all of this.
WENDY – Oh good, well I tried to keep the introduction somewhat professional, but the reality is that we’re actual friends. We really hang out in real life, as often as we can, which is not so often cause you’re closer to California than any other, you know, state here on the mainland, but it’s not easy for you to just hop on over. So when you’re over here for one of your kids' surf competitions, and we’ll talk about that later, we try to see each other then, and that’s always so special. So special.
But I didn’t wanna give too much away about your life, cause I wanted you to tell us about your life. Can you start by just introducing us to yourself, your family, Dave, your husband, where you live, a snapshot of your boys, and your life there on the island?
MONICA – Oh, I’d love to. Well, my husband Dave, and I, are both originally from the pacific northwest, Dave being from Oregon. I’m from a small-town south of Seattle Washington. We met in Oregon, and we got married, going on, it’ll be 24 years soon. And Dave went to medical school in Oregon, which, was the… adventure to start a new marriage. Diving right into medical school was pretty intense and then he wanted to do residency if possible, in Hawaii. They interview all over the place, but that was his top choice and I thought oh how exciting and… a three-year residency in Hawaii, like an extended vacation.
Well when he got his dream and ended up in Hawaii, he decided about day one, we’re never leaving, if I can stay here forever, I will. Which I tried to accept that maybe a possibility, and sure enough, we never went back. We had one little boy when we moved to Hawaii, he was born in Oregon, Josiah, our college student. And then weeks after we moved to Hawaii, we had our second son, Jonah, who’s now 18. And two short years later, we had our third son, Luke. And by then my husband was finally finishing his residency program, so three boys, all during medical school and residency. I wouldn’t recommend doing this at home.
We survived with God’s grace, and then six years later when things started to even out, we were having a blast raising these boys. We had begun to homeschool by then, and we said, you know, maybe we should try for one more. Maybe we’ll get a girl this time. And nine short months later, our fourth son, Levi, was born.
And by then, we had moved out kinda to the country, on the North Shore of Oahu where the surfing is amazing. And all of my boys have grown up as surfers, water boys, watermen, and we got a little spot up on a hilltop, Wendy’s been to my home to see it. It’s kinda country out here, raising tropical fruit, a little skate bowl for our boys to skate in. And we spend a lot of time at the beach between surf contests for my younger boys, and the older boys still just love to surf. They’re just soul surfers.
And we did start homeschooling though before the surf bug took over. It was a decision we made when the boys were quite young, though I never dreamt I would be a homeschool mom my self growing up. Once we started, I was hooked very quickly. I mean, between the tears, between the ”I can’t do this”, I fell in love with it. And looking back it’s one of the very best decisions we’ve made as a family and I just love our lifestyle as, sometimes crazy and chaotic as it is, it is such a gift. And I love it and my boys love it too.
WENDY – That’s wonderful. I have a lot of questions for you. I get questions about homeschooling all the time and specifically about homeschooling boys because, that’s what I’m doing. I thought, goodness, there is nobody better to answer these questions. Cause I still have questions myself. Then I thought about you. And we’re gonna actually have, in a couple of months, Ruth Simons as well here on the podcast, and she’s homeschooling, goodness, how many kids does she have? Six boys? Right?
So, these boy conversations, where we are specifically talking about homeschooling these boys, they’re fun conversations to have. So, I’m really excited to have them with you. But I have so many of them. Let’s just dive right in. Let me see, where are we gonna start, let’s start with this one. Can we talk about motivating our boys to learn? Motivating our boys to learn. Some boys, man, they are just driven, right? But oftentimes, they’re driven about something, they’re not always driven to sit in a chair and get done a list of curriculum pieces. So, when our sons are resisting doing their schoolwork, for whatever reasons, do you have some practical solutions here on the Homeschool Solutions podcast? We like to say, okay, we need some solutions to these problems. And motivation for our boys can be one of those problems. I want them to fall in love with learning. So maybe that’s part of your answer. But also, just technically, sometimes they just need a little motivation to get the work done. So, however you wanna respond to that question, we will be blessed to hear what you have to say.
MONICA – This… I love this topic. And I was a little bit tricked because my oldest son was one of those who actually loved to learn. From the time he was young, he was eager to read with me, he was eager to find passions in all different things. From scientific things to outdoors, to great literature as a young boy. And so, he tricked me into thinking this might be normal.
And so, when I came across a couple of the younger brothers who weren’t so eager to learn, I thought, for sure, either something was wrong with me or with them. And it took me some years and certainly doing some research to find out that this is probably more the norm than the firstborn. And I have a whole chapter in my Boy Mom book about boys and learning because I do love this topic. And I’m such a believer that even if a boy doesn’t seem motivated when he’s young, over time, with a lot of intentional effort and prayer, we can instill in them a desire to learn. And you know, God can do a whole lot for us on our behalf because sometimes it’s not what we do, but it’s just time. It’s just them growing up and maturing and the influences that we place in their lives.
I had a great conversation with Andrew Pudewa, of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, asking him about this too. Because we… you know, he’s an expert on writing, he teaches writing courses, but he comes across a whole lot of boys and he’s done a little seminar himself online, about motivating boys to learn. So, this is a big one, and I don’t think, like most things, there’s one answer to this. I think it’s gonna take us being open to the idea that, not all boys are wired the same. And we need to just keep trying.
One of my favorite things to do is just to read to those boys as much as possible. And I can speak to the mom whose boy is resistant because I think my youngest, who is just nine years old now, has been the most resistant. And part of that is because he has so much energy, which I think we might get to in a moment, but … and he always sees the big brothers doing things, going places, and he’s just so distracted by wanting to do whatever is most fun, or most exciting at the moment. So, for me to pull him aside and say let’s read this book, might sound really boring. But here’s the thing, I make him do it anyway. Sometimes he gets by the distraction technique, he’s good at it. But if I just get him to cuddle up with me on my lap on the couch and read… open a good book, and that was one of Andrew Pudewa’s suggestion is, you gotta find good books. You can’t expect them to fall in love with bad books. So, you’ve gotta find adventure stories that boys love, find books that will draw them in and make them fall in love with the story.
So, I would say that reading is a real open door to that desire to learn. And then another thing I would say, and you know what, I could probably talk a lot about this, is just exposing our boys to all different things. We don’t know what’s gonna be their passion. Some of my boys loved rocks when they were young, and actually still do. So if they have the chance to literally climb around our yard and find rocks that they thought must be crystals or gemstones, they would just find rocks, and then they would open a book or go online and try to figure out what kinda rock this might be.
Some of my sons fell in love with stargazing and they would look through books to understand the stars and the solar system. And then at night, we would look at the sky together. So, I think that tapping into what their passions are is so key, and it’s not always easy. It takes many … sometimes it takes trying all different things before we find something that really clicks. And then that might be that open door to falling in love with learning.
WENDY – Wow, this is so good. I don’t know if you can hear, but I’m scribbling down notes, and I hope you are too. And we’ll … I’ll put a bunch of these quotes and I’ll put links to the various resources that Monica mentions in the show notes today.
Monica, thank you so much. I’m sort of wanting to say, “and that’s the show for today”, so I can get ready for… my kids are all off at a class right now. Actually, I just got a message from my oldest right before we started this conversation, asking me to send him his social security number because the class that he’s gone to a local school for this afternoon is digital design, that he’s getting college credits for, and it’s his first college credit course. You know as a fifteen-year-old and it’s just so thrilling.
But it’s digital design. And so, that really was my experience with him, was, what are you interested in? And my go-to for my boys for education is, there are things you just have to get done. Like it or not, hey, I’m gonna do the best I can with trying to make it interesting, trying to order… you know, help you order your days, so that, you know, you just get these things done. But then you’re motivated because you also know that this fun thing is coming that’s more of your interest. But there are some things, hey buddy, you just gotta be able to do it.
I remember my first job, Monica, after college, was working… after college, I was working at a restaurant waiting tables, waiting for my “job” job, right? And somebody came in and they ordered a hamburger and I said, would you like the quarter pounder or the third pounder? And he said, which one’s bigger? And I’ve told my boys, you might not want to do like your mom… but I’m … I am so committed to you knowing that the half-pounder or quarter pounder or a third pounder… you’ve got to know which one is bigger. So.. yes, motivated or not, and you said, make them do it anyway. Yes, there are some things, buddy, you just gotta do it. And will I try to make it exciting for you? Will we try to make it interesting? Yes, but there are going to be some things you have to do that you just have to get done.
But when you flesh out their homeschooling days with things they do find interesting, then those that aren’t as interesting, well you know what, paying the bills isn’t so interesting either. Right? It’s not my favorite thing, that we just have to be able to do. And so, I don’t want to make everything so fun that they don’t learn to just, sometimes plant their little bootys in a chair and get the job done. And then let’s move on to something we like more because hopefully, that’s what life is going to be full of for you. Some of the things you just need to get done. Just some of the things, you know.
MONICA – To make this real practical, and this is probably exactly what you’re referring to, but we try to just tackle those tough ones first thing in the morning. When everything’s fresh, before they’re tired and in tears. Let’s do the math, let’s do the language, let’s do the hard stuff, and then we get to get to the more fun stuff, or whatever your favorite might be, a little later. So we just try to tackle that stuff early and yes, it’s a requirement because, whether or not you understand, or whether or not you see that big picture later, you’re gonna have to trust us on this one. It has to be done.
So yeah, my nine-year-old told me earlier in the year that he’s ready to just quit school forever. Like, I don’t need school, it doesn’t make any sense. None of this is relevant. And I just laughed because obviously none of his brothers ever had that kind of push back. And so, for me to just say, trust me, just trust me, you do need school. No matter what direction you go in life, you’re gonna need this. So yeah, these are ongoing conversations still today.
WENDY – I heard a story years ago that I just love, especially as a boy mom. And not that girls don’t, maybe, have some of this, maybe soft work, “I know it already, mentality”. But the story goes that there was a young man and his father was sending him off to college. And the father said, I’m gonna pay for college, I’m gonna send ya to college, you’ve got my support. Just learn all ya can.
And the boy came home after his freshman year and the father said, was my money well spent? And the son said, Oh I learned so much. I learned so much. And thank you, dad. And then he went off for his sophomore year and he came back and again, the dad said, Was my money well spent? Did ya learn a lot? And the son said, Dad, I know so much more now than I did last year. And again, his junior, same message, same question, same answer.
And then he came home after graduating from college and the father said, son, do you know more than ya did before? And the boy broke down in tears and said, Dad, I don’t know anything. I love that because the more we learn from a humble place, we do want the boys to get to this wonder, this awakening that there’s so much to know. And so, I love little Levi’s, this isn’t relevant. Find out what I need Mom, I’ll just park me a van down by the ocean, right? I’ll be fine. I don’t need to know if the third or the quarter pounder is bigger. And we want them to grow up in this place of, Oh, there’s so much I don’t know. We’re… wonder is awakened in them. Sally Clarkson has a new book that’s about to come out, and it’s about awakening to wonder. And for learning. And I just… the title alone is worth the cost of the book, I think, because yes, that’s the goal. We want to awaken wonder for learning, even if there are some curriculum pieces that you just gotta put your head down and get through.
MONICA – Exactly. I love it.
WENDY – Well one of the biggest distractions for my boys is just their energy. But... ongoing, we need to get their energy out, and I remember learning that what we consider the traditional school system was actually established when America had a huge influx of immigrants and they needed to educate all these kids. And since it was during the industrial revolution, the government looked to the factories for a formula as how to educate lots and lots of people, and just crank ‘em through, right?
And because factories were cranking out lots and lots of products, we have a sort of conveyor belt model for schooling. And I think this model can be hard on our men, especially, our young boys. They’re wiggly, they’re out of the box, they need to flex their muscles to make their minds work. So how do you, Monica, because you got four very strong masculine boys. How do you help your boys with all their energy, all their masculinity, all their very big, big motor skill energy, that doesn’t always fit within four walls, let alone in a chair for hours at a time?
MONICA – Right. Yes, this is a big question and an important one. I think it’s more important than a lot of parenting, especially schools, recognize. And this actually was another topic that came up with Andrew Pudewa, because he was talking about how he has worked to encourage schools to allow kids to even stand up sometimes, to learn. To stand up to do their math. And sometimes these boys’ bodies do need to move, literally need to move.
And so, one thing we try to do is recognize that in our younger son, just for giving him a chance to move his body in some way, pretty much every day. So, it may mean, go outside and run circles around the house a couple of times. It might mean we get out that morning for a surf, or some, you know, sport activity. Go for a walk. It’s not always practical to do a full PE class first thing in the morning. Sometimes we’re like, you know you actually need to dive in and start school. And if that’s the case, then just about anything… you know, jump up and let’s do jumping jacks. Let’s do fifteen jumping jacks. And I think that alone can just give them that little outlet, get the wiggles out, and then they are more able to sit still and listen.
The other thing with that though is when we’re doing school if there’s a topic that… say I’m reading aloud to him or he’s listening to a lecture, he did some of his work on video… giving them an opportunity to move their hands, even. So, whether that’s some Play-Doh or some putty that they can be working their hands. If they need to lay down on the floor and kinda roll around a little bit. As long as they’re listening… I use to think, oh, they’re not listening, I can tell they’re distracted, they’re looking around the room… but when I quizzed them and asked them a question about what they just heard, they actually seemed to be able to recall it better when their body’s moving. So, I think that kind of proves that point about boys. So, giving them an opportunity to move hands, even doodle while I’m reading, it felt so wrong to me the first time I started letting them do it, but it actually works really well.
WENDY – Yeah and I’ve heard that so much from people. And it feels so counter-intuitive for me. I can’t focus if my eyes aren’t on what I’m focusing on. I mean, I’m the front pew sitter at church. And not because I’m holier than anyone else, but because I can’t focus on what the Pastor has to say if I’m not in the front row.
So, if my kid’s eyes aren’t on me, or on the page, or whether I’m talking or I’m reading, I feel at times, like it’s disrespectful. And I feel at times like they can’t be focusing. And yet, that’s not always the case. We’re all different learners. Not everyone’s gonna learn like me. So, do I want them to be respectful? Absolutely, of course. But I think sometimes my ideas about what respect looks like needs a fresh coming out, you know? It doesn’t need to look like this.
And so yeah, doing a little bit of, let’s have a conversation. Put your hands in that dough. Yes, doodle. I’ve heard other parents say, for the younger children, that they have a, like a box of small fine motor kind of toys. Little plastic toys or puzzles or whatever, that only come out when it’s read-aloud time. Because just sitting there is asking too much of the little ones. And so that’s their quiet play. You know, it’s quiet toys, but they’re listening. Or they’ll doodle with their read aloud on a book. And even an audiobook. And I always thought … counterintuitive, that’s not gonna work. But if we’re willing to lay down what we think has to work, there’s a better chance for them to find what does work.
MONICA – And as far as the large motor skills, getting out, and exercising, I know I live in Hawaii, and people will say oh easy for you to say your son can go outside and run circles. We live in the snow. Or you know, it’s just not an option where we live. One tool, one product I’ve heard is super helpful, and I would love to get one myself, is just a small indoor trampoline. It doesn’t even take up much space. But if you can get a little boy to bounce on a trampoline for a minute or two before the school day, I think that’s been proven to be very effective in kind of releasing some of the wiggles.
So, things like that. Indoor activities work too. But of course, I love to push my son out the door when I can. And I grew up in rainy Seattle area, so I remember bundling up and getting outside. It’s doable just about anywhere.
WENDY – Well, and you know, if you have the space for it, ping pong, or foosball, or something like that too, inside, and that takes space. One of the things that we’ve done, cause we’re in California so we do have more sunshiney days, and warm temperatures, is we don’t have any great basketball players, but we do have a hoop, and we do shoot baskets. And my go-to especially when they were young was to do a game or horse or pig, depending on how much time we had to give it, you know. Horse, if we have more time, pig, if we have a shorter amount of time.
Actually, right now I have a jammed… I think it’s just a jammed finger. I don’t think it’s broken. Because of playing basketball the other day. It was worth it, and to me it feels like a sacrifice, because if I’m giving them my time during the learning portion, I feel sometimes like, no, this is my time now. This is a break, right? It’s a break for me too. But this break investing in the relationship and not just in the learning, doesn’t just get the wiggles out. It binds our hearts together, it gets us both feeling fresh. Cause there are times where I’ll send them out to get their wiggles out, and I’ve never gotten my body moving. And that’s something that you are a really good example of, for me. So just take a moment to talk to us about how important it is for us to maybe get our bodies moving. So this is a message for the boy moms, that mom’s need to get their bodies moving too.
MONICA – Of course, sure, well I have a background in fitness, and I use to teach fitness classes and that’s all in the past now. But, absolutely, I’m such a better homeschool mom when I give myself a chance to get out. And that has moved from, like I said, teaching fitness to being a runner to now sometimes it’s a one-mile walk. But just getting out first thing in the morning if possible. But sometimes, it’s on that break between classes, where I say okay, you get to, you know, ride your bike in some circles, or you get to do something you’re passionate about, look at your rocks or, do your Legos, and I’m gonna get out and just clear my mind. And oh, my goodness, it may be good for the body, but I believe it is even better for the mind. How that clears my mind. How that… all my inspirations come when I’m moving, and I’m outside especially, but you know, if it takes a treadmill or a stationary bike, whatever it takes, I just really believe that the chemicals that are released in our brain and flooding the body can make a huge difference in our whole day. So…
WENDY – I know that a lot of people… and, I think this may even … I don’t know, I dare say, be more for homeschooling moms. Because the tendency is to lose prioritizing ourselves, you know, because there’s so much that needs to get done, and there’s very little time to fit us… ourselves into it.
But there are fewer things that you can do for your mental, your emotional health, than get your body moving, because of those endorphins that release into your body. The other “good for you” thing to do that works for me is making sure I’m taking my vitamins. I’m so good at putting out my kid’s vitamins. Making sure my kids get their dental cleanings. Making sure my kids get to their annual wellness checkup. But I’ve got this weird bump on my elbow right now and it’s kind of painful and … You’re not supposed to have an extra bump on your elbow. And I was just saying to my husband this morning, How come I’m so good if there’s some weird growth on my kid. I’m getting in that day into the doctor, but for me, it’s been two weeks, it’s getting bigger, it’s uncomfortable, and yet I don’t have the time for it.
So, it’s good for us physically, it’s good for us emotionally, it’s good for us mentally. It’s also good for us to take care of ourselves because it’s good for us relationally with the people in our homes. And sometimes if I’m not taking care of me, then all the boys and their boy-ness and their noisiness, is too much for me to cope with. But if I’m healthy and I have a good… my hormones are balanced, I’m taking my vitamins, I’m getting the walk, I’m getting the time with the Lord in the morning, my ability to cope with boys and noise is much better. It’s much better.
MONICA – Yes.
WENDY – So I know that was a little bit of a detour. We’re not really talking about homeschooling boys, except we are. Homeschool mom, we can.
MONICA – Yes. It’s absolutely essential, and I think that I always say that, you know, we want to believe that it’s just spilled milk, and it, you know, don’t cry over spilled milk. But sometimes when the spilled milk is the only thing going on in our life at that moment, it feels like the whole world. But when we are healthy and balanced, as moms, when we are getting outside, getting fresh air, being inspired, you know, making time, carving out time to meet a girlfriend occasionally. To have a date night. If we are filled up with the Word of God. Then that glass of spilled milk is not the whole world. We can look at it and laugh. We can clean it up. But it’s interesting how sometimes our homeschooling days, if that’s all we’ve got going on, we can blow it up into something that is just everything. And I think that’s when we know we’re out of balance. When we really react a little too much to some of the small things. When we know that we’re probably needing to get out more.
WENDY – I agree.
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Okay, I have two more questions and I don’t want this to run too long, so I wanna hop in. But I’m so glad we put that section in. That may be the most practical solution to one of our homeschooling struggles which is just taking care of ourselves so that we can keep taking care of others. We mentioned briefly helping our children become lovers of good books, and you mentioned your conversation with Andrew Pudewa, and getting in good books helps them love reading.
So, we love reading in our house, the boys are getting older now, so we’re not doing as much reading out loud. But just last month I read Prince Caspian, by CS Lewis with my youngest. We’re reading Jotham’s Journey. We read that last month. Such a good book, so you don’t have to convince me that reading aloud is a good idea. But Monica so often even though we’ve been doing this for years and years, reading aloud, I really am an adamant read aloud-er. I love it. And the boys have loved it too.
So often these days because they’re getting older and they’ve got so many other things they’re into, it feels like I have to fight. If not really fight them, fight for what I am most passionate, and I believe most in. So, opening the Word together, reading good books together, getting mealtime together. I’m too tired of the fight so I really like to, I don’t like to, I’m tempted to just give in and give up, right? Not give up the homeschooling, not give up being their mom, but the things that I value most, it’s like, you know the fight’s just wearing me out.
So, at the end of every podcast episode, I charge listeners to not grow weary in doing good, right? Galatians 6. But in due season, believe we’re gonna reap a tremendous harvest if we don’t lose heart and give up. And reading together, reading the Bible, breaking bread, these are areas that I am committed to keeping on, even if it’s not easy. And not fighting my kids but fighting for these important things. So, my question is what are some of the things that you are committed to keeping up? Even if it’s hard. And it is hard. Even if they push back, and they will push back. Even if you grow tired, and you will grow tired. What are you not going to stop making a priority in your home, and in your homeschool?
MONICA – I love that. That is such an important question that we should all ask ourselves. And you know, to be just really transparent, I think there are times where I do give up the fight. I think for a few days, for a season, I might just be like, you know, with my youngest especially, there’s been times when I’ve been like I’m so tired of fighting him to read every day. But then, I think, the most important thing is we don’t… it’s kind of like… I guess we could compare it to a healthy diet. You know, you might fall off the wagon and eat junk food for a day or two, or over a holiday. But the important thing is you get back on, so I think when you’re talking about this commitment, it’s a lifestyle commitment.
It may not be an “every single day”, but the essentials, starting from the top, would be that time with the Lord. That time doing devotions, praying, reading the Word, that is one thing I will not give up on ever. And I’ve seen the fruit of that with my older boys who now make better priority in their days. And that’s the most fun part of having such a span in the age ranges. I get to look at my older sons and be motivated to keep pressing on with the younger.
WENDY – You do, you know, get that harvest.
MONICA – Yes, oh for sure, I get it all at once. And I need it. God knew I needed it, because sometimes this youngest one, like I said, is a little bit of a rascal. And so, making sure that we are in the word, that I bring him in, and we spend time in prayer and reading the Word is an essential. And again, reading books together and encouraging him to read alone. Because sometimes they get dependent on us and they’re like, no you read to me. But no, there’s a day when they need to start also owning it even if they don’t feel like it.
And one thing I’ve learned with all of this, whether it’s devotions or reading or those meals. I think sometimes as moms, what makes us give up is that we try to shoot for something that’s unreasonable. And we might imagine it has to look a certain way. We all have to be gathered around the set table. You know, and it has to be perfect conversation. Or we have to read for 30 minutes. Well, what I encourage moms to do is just start small. You might sit at the counter for your meal. You might read. Literally, some nights I am so tired I say Levi let’s read one page. And honestly, that one page almost always turns into three or four because we both get into it. But start small, set realistic goals and then stick with that. It’s a lot easier to stick with things if you don’t try to bite off more than you can chew.
So, I would say being in the Word, reading, meals are just one of my favorite times to gather as a family. So anytime we can, we spend dinners around a table together. And then getting them out exercising, as my boys have gotten older and they’re not little anymore, I still tell them, they need to make exercise a regular part of their week. Maybe not every day, but as close to possible as every day, they need to get out and find some way to move their bodies. It’s just something I really value.
WENDY – And I’m reminded as I hear you, and of course, your list of priorities are similar to mine. No wonder we’re friends! But you’re also modeling it, I’m thinking back to you saying, okay, you guys can take a break. I’m gonna get out and get moving. I need this. Cause modeling that, they wake up, they see you there on the couch… I remember talking to you about this time in the Word. Yes, opening it up together at the table. But also, just when they wake up and they’re tumbling out of bed that they see you. And one of the things that I would like to do is, I oftentimes, most of the time, read, okay, all the time, read my Bible in my room. Or when they’re doing some of their independent work, I’ll go into my room and read it. Not just in the morning, but then. So, there’s no doing it, just in front of them.
And we’re talking about how you get up, you make a cup of coffee, and out comes Josiah. This was a couple years ago before he went off to college. And he’d give ya the nod, and make himself a cup of coffee, and then he’d walk past you on the couch, out to the lanai. And he would do his. And there came this time where you would come out and you would find him already out there. At least that’s how I remember the story.
MONICA – Exactly
WENDY – And it was such a gift to me. That’s why I love having this conversation with other boy moms and other homeschooling families is, sometimes we find the solutions, by just having conversations together. It’s not, Hey I’m having this problem, what’s the solution. It’s Share your life with me, share your stories with me. Let me get inspired by what you’re having as … what you’re living right now. Oh, I want more of that.
So, thank you so much, Monica. I have one more question, and I think we’re just gonna tag it on now. You have a son who is actually surfing professionally now. He is the same age as my oldest son, so just about to turn 16 in the next year. So, tell us, how does homeschooling a kid with some real unique gifts and a unique need for a lot of time to pour into his training and the ability to travel for competitions. What does that look like? How does homeschooling work for that.
MONICA – Ah, boy! That’s a great question.
WENDY – What homeschoolers would be fit for kids that have unique gifts.
MONICA – It is. And like I said, I tried to always let people know I’m not homeschooling because of surfing, because sometimes people meet you and they’re like, Oh, I get it wink wink, as if you know… you’re not really doing school at all.
But the truth is we were homeschooling before the surfing thing. It’s such a blessing, … and I try to look at it that way. I get frustrated because I see pictures in, you know, online, social media’s great at making you think everybody else is doing it better. But I always imagine that a homeschool family would gather around a table at set hours and have this really beautiful, peaceful homeschool life. And ours doesn’t look quite like I would’ve imagined.
The surf is often best in the morning, so we often have that son out very early in the morning, and he may not get home until close to noon. At which time he’s exhausted. He needs a shower, he needs food, and then we have to really rev our engines and get him focused. And so, it can be really frustrating, but then, if I choose to see it in a different light, I can say, what a gift. What a gift that he gets to be out there surfing. And he gets to be schooled in such a comfortable environment while mom can bring him a smoothie. Or mom can come rub his shoulders and encourage him.
And oftentimes that means he’s schooling into the evening. Sometimes it means he’s schooling on the road, if my husband drives him into Honolulu, which is an hour drive away. We have to be flexible, and I have to say, that’s not in my wiring. I would rather have a consistent schedule, but when we work with him, he’s learning so much through this process, you know, because he is a young professional now. He has to create invoices. He has to talk to his sponsors. He now has a business manager, and there’s a lot of very grownup things going on. And we let him handle almost all of it. We check in. We look at what he’s doing, but he is learning so much. So, it’s a fascinating life. But I’m learning as I go, I didn’t grow up like this. I grew up in a public school and I wasn’t a surfer so it’s all brand new, but I’m having a blast learning as we go.
WENDY – Wow, this is such a great message for me right now. I think next year, my oldest will be in eleventh grade, and he is a musician. And he just had a birthday, and I asked him What do you want for your birthday… Well, I want some more pedals for my pedalboard for the electric guitar. And I really have wanted to learn to play trumpet. So, I got him a rental. I mean it’s a rental. A used rental trumpet. And so, he’s gonna be starting an additional instrument on top of what he’s already doing and he’s leading worship for two churches right now. A couple times a month, each of them.
So, his life is getting really busy, but I just changed his curriculum where he’s doing it online Tuesday through Thursday. And Monday and Friday are more like just study days, if there’s tests coming up, and stuff like that. But we were talking about looking into if one of the churches might have a program for him… or not a program, but an opportunity for him to maybe do an internship for the last few years of high school. Can you imagine, by the time you end high school, having interned in the creative department at a church? If that’s what your gifts are and you think maybe that’s what your career will be, to start dabbling in what that career is. So, Luke is schooling but he’s got a lot of time he’s putting into the development of a career. And that’s kinda crazy that we have the freedom to do that.
MONICA – And I’m thankful that, you know, we are committed to keeping him in the hard classes. I’m not gonna pull away from any of that, because surfing and all of these passions our kids might pursue, are something that may not be forever. I mean, an injury could happen, there could just be a change, of course, God might close a door and I love that we can still give them a great education. And yet letting them spend significant time pursuing what they love to do. It’s just such a blessing, I just really see it as a gift.
WENDY – Well, you are a gift, Monica, and I’m so glad. Every time I speak to you about boys and goodness, we could sit and talk about marriage too, wouldn’t’ that be a fun conversation to have on a homeschool podcast?
It’s just amazing how much we grow as we say, Oh what she’s doing… Oh, that’s my struggle too… Mmm, that would be good for me… Huh, I could try that. And that’s so much what a podcast is all about, is inviting people to just sit in on a conversation between friends, talking about real-life issues, and in this case, homeschooling boys.
So, thank you, Monica. Would you send us out with a prayer? But before you do, you can hop on over to homeschooling.mom to find show notes from this and all podcast interviews. And we will link you to Monica’s social media sites and her book, Boy Mom, and her podcast. You have had an interview with Andrew, haven’t you?
MONICA – I was actually on his podcast, but I’m going to get him on mine as well.
WENDY – Well we will link you over to that. I’ll go do some searching and make sure. There’s all sorts of fun resources for you there. But Monica, where’s the best place for them to find you?
MONICA – Oh, the best place, my website is monicaswanson.com, and that’s where you’ll find everything, if you’re on social media, I hang out a lot on Instagram where I’m @monicaswanson underscore.
WENDY – Okay. Alright. Well, we’ll link them to you. And would you send us out with just a blessing, a prayer, for the boy mom?
MONICA – You bet. Oh Lord, Jesus, just thank you for every mom listening, whether she’s got girls or boys, God, you know what she needs most. And I just pray for those who are raising up these little energetic boys who might be distracted, might not like to sit still, might not well motivated to learn. Lord, I pray that you give those moms every bit of creative energy, of patience, of kindness. You’ve filled her to overflowing so that she has so much to give. I pray that You would give all of us the ability to find and to see in our kids the unique interests, passions, that You have instilled in them from before the time they were born, Lord, and I pray that we would have the openness to look for and discover all of these sweet little gifts in our boys and then to nurture them as they grow up. I pray that we would not grow weary, that we would just press on in the heart and beautiful work of raising these boys so that one day when they grow up we can look back and know that we were part of the great work that You were doing in them. God, I pray for strength, I pray for endurance, I pray for joy, I pray for laughter, and I pray that these moms even when the boys are young, might be able to see, just, what a gift they are. And just energize them and encourage them in Jesus Name.
WENDY – In Jesus Name, Amen. Thank you, Monica, and thank you, everyone, for tuning in today.
MONICA – Aw, thank you. Aloha
WENDY – What a privilege to have these conversations with you each week. You are so busy. I don’t take it lightly that you tune in with me here for a weekly shot of encouragement.
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As we say goodbye, I’d like to say thank you to Great Homeschool Conventions. Every year they host multiple conventions in various regions throughout the US. You can find a location near you at greathomeschoolconventions.com. With dozens of incredible speakers, hundreds of curriculum exhibits, you will be blessed, refreshed, helped, and encouraged. I’ll be in Texas, SC, Ohio, and of course, my home state, California, this year. I hope to see some of you there. Until next week, visit homeschooling dot mom for blog posts to encourage and support you along the way. And remember, Galatians six verse nine, let’s not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap if we do not give up. That’s a promise that I’m taking to the bank every day.
Again, this is Wendy Speake and I’ll see you next week.