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Homeschooled Boys’ Maturity vs. Academics — what about high school?

Are you wondering if your boy's maturity level will affect his academics in high school? Read what I've learned from homeschooling my son over the years.

Overview: Are you wondering if your boy’s maturity level will affect his academics in high school? Read what I’ve learned from homeschooling my son over the years.

We are a family of mostly girls – four of them, to be exact. But we do have one son – he is fourth in the birth order. I don’t know what they say about fourth-born kids, but I do know what they say about boys and the rate at which they mature compared to girls.

And I have come to the conclusion that they’re right.

It has taken me years to fully realize it, though. So this post is a warning, or at least a recounting of a lesson learned the hard way, for anyone who thinks they know better than conventional wisdom, like I thought I did. Even if you don’t see it now, you might want to consider carefully how you deal with your boy’s academic career, especially when he has a summer or early fall birthday.

Are you wondering if your boy's maturity level will affect his academics in high school? Read what I've learned from homeschooling my son over the years.

It all began back in 1999. We had literally just moved to California for my husband to attend seminary there. We had three young daughters, and then I became pregnant again. And I have to be honest and say that after three girls, I was seriously excited to find out we were having a boy. The fact that his due date was in late September didn’t faze me a bit, except to cause me to wonder if he’d end up sharing a birthday with his next older sister, who had also been born that month.

Well, he didn’t; he waited until almost the last day of that month to arrive, and of course I loved everything about having a boy. But BOY, was he active, and loud, and through the toddler years he certainly proved that he had a will of his own…

He was bright, though, and partly to give him something to occupy his mind (other than destruction and loud noises and having his toes painted by his older sisters) and partly to work on the habit of self-control, I began teaching him to read at about four years old. We took our time, but he caught on quite well.

With three older sisters already doing school and then a younger sister also in the mix, it seemed to make sense to start him with kindergarten work the autumn he turned five. For the preservation of my sanity, I needed his day to become more structured. I had talked to people about how it might be best for a boy to wait another year before starting school, but I knew my son was capable of handling the academics; and having never had a boy before, I didn’t fully understand the maturity issue. I had my hands full with five young children and a husband still going to school/working full-time, and I craved what little order I could get. So he joined in for part of the school day with his sisters.

As the years went by, he did fine with the academic work. Sure, he had trouble focusing on anything for very long at a time, and so getting his work done was a bit of a chore — but not because he didn’t understand it. I used to joke about how it was good that he wasn’t in public school, because he would drive his teacher crazy.  Um, he drove me crazy, but I figured it had more to do with who he was (as an individual) than the fact that he was a boy. Somehow I forgot that the fact that he was a boy had a great deal to do with who he was…

Fast forward many years. Academically, my son has done fine. He really does understand most of what he’s doing, and his grades reflect that. Maturity-wise, though, he is not on par with other soon-to-be high school juniors. This shows itself in many ways:

1) His younger sister is the bane of his existence. He is really bothered by her almost every minute of the day. Of course many times she is being obnoxious – but his reaction is much more than the situation warrants.

2) He still has trouble focusing on his schoolwork. He needs fairly constant supervision or he will drop off-task and stay there for hours. He does get decent grades – when he finishes his work…

3) He gets frustrated easily when he doesn’t understand something right away. This can lead to rather severe meltdowns – and I thought girls were emotional! Phew!

Are you wondering if your boy's maturity level affects his academics? Read what I've learned as a result of homeschooling my son over the years.4) His interests are still entertainment-based rather than productivity-based or future-career-based. We have no glimmer of a plan yet for what he should pursue after high school, because his goals are still in the (let’s just admit it, y’all) unrealistic range of designing the next big computer game or becoming the next major rock star. (Not that those are not great careers, and obviously people do them – but in reality, they probably won’t happen to the majority of people that pursue them.  Of course we want our children to dream, but there comes a time when practicality also becomes a factor… at least in my world.)

I don’t see any of these things as his fault, necessarily. They are just part and parcel of growing up. If anything, they are my fault, for not having the foresight to see what was coming down the pike. For not listening when they told me about boys’ maturity levels vs. girls’. For thinking my son was different than centuries of boys. It was pride, really – and it did a disservice to my son.

And it hit me not long ago that many of these things wouldn’t be as out of place in a high school sophomore as they are in a junior. I realized that the ability to understand the academic material is not the only indicator of where someone should be in school. Maturity level plays a large role in success.

I wonder now what it would have been like if we had started him a year later or held him back a year while he was still in elementary school. And I do think it would have been better for him. But because of his ability to get good grades academically, we didn’t see the need at the time when it would have been best. And now it’s too late. (I don’t know about you, but I don’t think a five-year high school transcript looks too great…)(UPDATE: I’ve since learned that people do this. So it might have been a possibility, after all…)

Further, I think he would be doing even better academically, had he the maturity level to go along with the subject matter he is learning. Chemistry is pretty heavy stuff, after all. Just because you can make the equations work doesn’t mean you wouldn’t understand all the reasons behind them much better if you had the maturity to process them. And the work ethic that comes with that maturity.

But all is not lost. We are looking into Classical Conversations for next year, where he would gain some academic accountability and also perhaps some social maturity. We have also about 99% decided that he will take a gap year between high school and college. I am confident that in time, he will grow into a responsible, hard-working young man. And in the meantime, he’s pretty stinkin’ cute and has eyelashes that a girl would kill for. 🙂

Are you wondering if your boy's maturity level affects his academics? Read what I've learned as a result of homeschooling my son over the years.

So guess what?  They in the “they building” are right when they say that most boys mature more slowly than most girls. I know that now; my son taught me.  But I must confess in all honesty that I won’t mind having him with me a little longer than his sisters.  There is something about raising a boy, who then grows taller and stronger than you, yet still puts his arm around your shoulders… I just melt…

What’s your experience with boys and grade level?  I’d love to hear from those of you that have more than one!

P.S. This post has been written with full support and permission of my son. Which shows maturity on his part, in my opinion. 🙂


I’m linking up with my fellow members of the iHomeschool Network today, as we all discuss “What My Child has Taught Me.”  Click on the picture below to see a host of articles just rife with good lessons!

ChildTaughtMe

Also shared with Hip Homeschool Moms

About the author

Ann Karako

Ann has been homeschooling for 18+ years and has graduated four children (one more to go). She believes that EVERY mom can CONFIDENTLY, COMPETENTLY -- and even CONTENTEDLY -- provide the COMPLETE high school education that her teen needs. Ann's website, AnnieandEverything.com, offers information, resources, and virtual hugs to help homeschool moms do just that. Ann has written Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School: A Step-by-Step Manual for Research & Planning, and she founded the popular FB group called It's Not that Hard to Homeschool High School. She and her family, including two dogs and three cats, live in rural Missouri.

41 Comments

  • Thank you so much for your honesty. We chose to hold my son out of school and extra year. It’s been hard to be the oldest in elementary school, but we think it will serve him well in middle and high school. I knew from an early age that he just needed some extra time at home. I hope I’m still thinking that when he’s 18 a senior in High School!

    • I don’t think you’ll regret it, Kristen! I’m glad you knew early. Since we homeschool, I knew my son would still be at home, which is probably part of what lulled me into a mistaken sense of security. And when they’re tall and talk deep, they are even more fun than the elementary years! I promise you will enjoy the time with him! 🙂

  • My 2nd of 3 boys is a June baby. However, against advice, I started him to public school at 4 due to daycare issues. His kindergarten teacher urged me to homeschool because she couldn’t challenge him. I am a public school teacher, so this was not an option for my family. This boy, now 6, has skipped 1st grade (through testing out) and aced 2nd grade (all A’s and reading a 4.5 level). He’ll turn 7 in June and begin 3rd grade in August. I cried many nights before placing him in 2nd and prayed A LOT. Was it the right decision? I’ll never know the adversary, but we are pleased with his progress. I like your idea of a gap year before college, but I have some years to think about that. Personally, I think it depends on the individual. I believe of I had held him in 1st grade, he would’ve lost interest in learning and became a discipline problem.

    • Yes, it definitely does depend on the individual and the family. We all make these decisions for our own kids based on the best we know at the time. I concur that when my son was young, spending the time at schoolwork did help challenge him during our homeschool day (so that he wouldn’t be as much of a discipline problem for ME, lol) — it’s only now that he’s older that I see that he would do a better job with his high school level work if he had the maturity to match it. So this article is a caution based on my own experience… but other parents must gauge their child and circumstances and family. Great comment, Rebekah! Thanks for stopping by!

    • Thank you all for your experiences posted!! I have 3 sons; 2 had winter bdays so it was a perfect age to start K & has made school ‘easy’ but emotionally appropriate for them now age 9 & 12. The toughest will be my 4 y old with a Sept bday. Currently planning on a good jr K for fall, with time to decide on the best K placement.

  • I laughed long and hard when I saw the picture at the top of this post, because my 5 1/2 year-old (technically starting K this coming fall) took a Boxcar Children book up with him for rest time today…. and all of last week. He’s flying through them, and all of the curriculum that I have found for next year (that actually challenges him) is supposed to be used for 1st grade. I feel like his mind is constantly on overdrive, and I can just barely keep up. But, all that being said, he is definitely a normal 5 year-old BOY. To that end, I try to keep school a super laid-back affair. Yes, he’s reading chapter books… and figuring out multiplication problems in his head. But I’m not pushing him to do any of these things. And the second he gets antsy or fidgety, off he goes to play! We’re mostly Charlotte Mason around here, which definitely helps. Short lessons, lots of outside time, applicable skills; I think we have the recipe for a boy-friendly education in this house. At least, I hope we do… because we have 2 more of them behind him!

    • It sounds like your home will be a fun place to learn, Meredith! I am always so glad to read about gals who are wiser from the start than I was. 🙂 (That came out sounding weird but I really do mean it!)

  • I enjoyed reading this. My son has a March birthday and was five when he started kindergarten after two years of preschool. Academically, he is high and does well. Maturity-wise and behaviorally, he struggles. Having been raised in an all girl family has made it hard for me to understand his perspective and not be frustrated. My mom was a teacher/administrator and I am a teacher as well, so pressure for him and myself feels high. I just don’t want him to hate school because I started him so young!

    • I know how you feel, Jen! I am a girl, after all, and after the first three children being girls, I didn’t really understand what my son needed. I think if your son does well at academics he probably won’t ever HATE school. I understand about the pressure, too — I will say that as I’ve gotten older it has become easier to not let myself feel that way, to be more transparent about areas where we aren’t stellar. What our children need must come before our own pride, after all… as a parent it is often hard to know what is best for them, though! I’m sure you’ll be watching him and will make the right choice for him as it becomes more evident what that is. Hang in there! 🙂

  • I feel like this post is God smacking my in the face and telling me to trust my instincts. My middle of three boys is in first grade and turns seven at the end of the month. I’m a single working mom, so he is in public school. Academically, he does very well, except for his reading level (currently looking into vision therapy to see if that will help). Behaviorally and maturity wise, he’s a hot mess. This year he was in a 1:8:1 self-contained classroom because he couldn’t handle a regular 1st grade classroom setting. In some ways, he’s come a long way, but we still have far to go. I truly feel he needs to repeat 1st grade, just to give him the time to develop. This one year might be what makes him able to function in a classroom. Unfortunately, his father (and by his father, I mean his father’s new wife), thinks this isn’t a good idea. Therefore, he doesn’t think it’s a good idea. Without them in my corner, I feel like I have no hope, as I’m certain the school is not going to agree. All I want to do is help my son succeed. Thank you for this post. It’s giving me the strength to stick to my guns and do what I know I need to so my son will become the successful person I know he could be.

  • Wow, Elaine, my heart goes out to you. I’m glad this post was helpful! I can only speak from my own experience, but it does sound like another year in first grade might be beneficial for your son — especially since he is still working on his reading. For that reason, I’m hoping maybe the school will be more understanding than you think. But if not, and he goes into second grade, then he will either start to do better or he won’t. By then maybe the others in his life will understand better what you are talking about, having seen it over more time. I just prayed for you and your son — hugs!! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • This is great! In many ways my son is mature for his age because he is the oldest. I know I can rely on him just about anytime. But when it comes to playing and doing school work, him being a boy really shines thru. I would say that him and his sister, she is 3 years younger, play so well together because they are on about the same maturity level.

    • Yea, there is something about that oldest child, isn’t there? 🙂 Love it that he and sister get along well! Thanks for visiting, Amber! 🙂

  • My son was born September 29th. The cutoff date in our state is Oct 1st. Academically, I knew he was ready for kindergarten. His preschool teacher told me as well. Our plan was to start him in Kindergarten and if he needed to repeat a grade, he would repeat 1st grade since it was full day and he would get more out of it. His 1st grade teacher said he was fully ready for 2nd grade. Right now he is 7 and halfway through second grade. He is reading at a 4th grade level and finished second math by December. I still worry about his maturity but his teacher says he is doing pretty well. He does get frustrated easily if things don’t come fast for him. He gets overwhelmed if he looks at a homework page and doesn’t understand it right away. I do worry down the line but as my mother in law told me, the decision was made, it is too late to change it so embrace it. It stinks he can’t play sports with kids in his class because of the age cutoff. He is the youngest in a slew of kids on our block so he hangs around with kids who are older so I hope they rub off on him.

    • Your son sounds similar to mine. Perhaps yours will develop more maturity over the years as he interacts with the other boys in his class. For mine, one of the benefits of our homeschooling him is we could have chosen to hold him back a grade at any point without any awkwardness, and I think he would have benefited from it. But we didn’t, and now in high school it really is too late. But there is always the option of a gap year after high school. Maybe that would be a way to help your son if he doesn’t ever catch up with the maturity of the kids in his grade level. Thanks for sharing, Michele! 🙂

  • I have 4 sons, the first an end of summer birthday, we never questioned him, our school cutoff date is Dec 1st, so he was well within range. Very bright, did well. Number 2 came along at the end of Dec. I never thought about holding him back until I heard other mothers talking at preschool. I went to his prek teacher and asked what I should do, she (and I) thought he was definitely ready for kindergarten. I am so glad I did not hold him back. Even though 2 of his best friend’s are a full year older than him, he is often the most mature in his group. He is now a freshman in college and doing very well. It really does depend on the child, there is no pat answer. Someone will always be the “youngest” in the class, and that doesn’t necessarily mean the “most immature”.

    • Yes, it totally depends on the child. My post is coming from the perspective of my own experience, and my point is just to express a warning that intellectual readiness does not always equate to emotional readiness. Obviously every mom knows her own child best. Thanks for stopping by, Lori! 🙂

  • I so agree! Boys are unique. I see most every characteristic you mention in my delightful, intelligent, well spoken boy. He is incredible, but he is still a little boy.
    We did not “red shirt” our summer birthday boy (cut-off here is 9/1) because he was bright and energetic, and everyone thought he would excel in kindergarten even as a young 5 year old. He learned to read easily, did well in class, and got along with the other kids. All was good… until it wasn’t.
    Now he is a young teen in class with kids who are 6 months (and in many cases 12-18 months) older than him. He was homeschooled for much of his youth but is now a sophomore in a highly rigorous private school at barely 15 years years old. He has 8 courses each semester and he is drowning. While he can handle each class on its own, he does not have the stamina or maturity to handle all 8 at once. He is an athlete who is now competing for team spots with fully grown 16-19 year olds with fully grown adult bodies. We messed up… we put our son at a distinct disadvantage and now we are rethinking everything.

    • Yes, that is so similar to what happened to us, Beth. “All was good… until it wasn’t.” It just sort of hits you upside the head one day that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all… But it is good you are rethinking, even if you end up keeping the status quo. We should always be evaluating and re-evaluating for our kids. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

      • Yes! It really is all good until it isn’t. We cruised through elementary and middle with great grades, then high school is when it started to show. Like Beth’s son, my son goes to school with kids 9-12 months older in some cases — he’s a junior now. He was ready academically at five, but in hindsight waiting a year may have been best. I really didn’t feel this way until high school, but now really considering a gap year to help out. Oh, if I only knew then what I know now. Normal teen angst plus school stress is hard on us all:-))

  • It can be hard to remember that some boys mature slower than some girls, especially when sometimes certain girls are slower than boys, haha. But overall, I think it is a good factor to keep in mind. I know my five-year-old brother is still struggling to get his letters down and read, but he’ll get there, slowly but surely.

    • Oh yea, at five that is very common. My son was actually pretty quick about all that, which is one of the reasons I started him when I did… but we shoulda added an extra year in middle school, I think.

  • I honestly felt you were describing my 14 year old son. We began 9th grade this year, but he gets so bent outta shape because he doesn’t quite get it. Maybe we should do some 8th grade work.

  • Yes, we did the same with our summer boy, and I wish we had delayed.
    However, this year, I have seen a ton of growth in his maturity, and I’m really able to look back and cherish all the labor it took to get to this point. I’m feeling rather hopeful these days! Most importantly, we have a wonderful relationship, because we had to take a season of more relaxed learning. We have explored his interests in the community. This has helped a lot too! 🙂

  • I appreciate your post and have some advice :-). I have three boys (17, 15, and 12), all with summer birthdays. They are all brilliant, *and* everything the studies say about frontal lobe development (compared to girls) is very true for them, too. As you know, we can do anything we want with those transcripts. You don’t have to do a gap year if you don’t want to. If your son started doing hs-level work when he had just turned 14, you can simply include those credits in his eighth-grade year column (as so many college-prep schools do now). Then his freshman year would include what he worked on at 15, his second year of high school classes. It’s not at all too late. His transcript would simply look like my nephew’s from a very competitive public school where all the GT kids start on high school-level credits in eighth grade. We’re in TX, and for kids to graduate with the “most distinguished” diploma credentials, they have to start checking them off in eighth grade anyway.

    When things started to get crazy as my oldest hit the teenaged years, a couple of books were great for me. Frances E. Jensen’s _The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults_ (https://www.amazon.com/Teenage-Brain-Neuroscientists-Survival-Adolescents/dp/0062067850/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519149059&sr=8-1&keywords=teenage+brain) was just what I needed, written from the perspective of an MD neuroscientist who had raised two teenaged boys. Also William Pollack’s _Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood_ (https://www.amazon.com/Real-Boys-Rescuing-Myths-Boyhood/dp/0805061835/ref=sr_1_56?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1519149491&sr=1-56&keywords=boys).

    We’re Christians, and these are both secular books. However, I needed something that would tell me from a scientific point of view what a teenage boy (and his brain) is doing. Imo, too many Christian books are people’s opinions with unrealistic expectations for boys. Those kind of books are probably written by parents of girls. I have found that moms of (only) girls can be very judgmental, unappreciative, and ignorant of the wonderful, different way boys develop into the beautiful men we love. My husband could not be a better man/husband (unless he was Jesus himself, lol). He had to go through these stages and mature into the man I’ve loved for 27 years. My job as a mom of boys is to appreciate the journey and learn the difference between what is good and normal, at this stage, compared to what our girl-oriented academic world wants to dictate.

    This is not to say we don’t have extremely high academic goals at my house. My 17-year old, as a junior, is successfully taking 4 AP courses and is on a competitive swim team. His younger brother, as a freshman, is taking his first two AP courses, is on the same swim team, and successfully competes (often wins) in piano competitions with professional-level Beethoven concertos/sonatas. He also plays Minecraft and gets off-task easily during the school day.

    Btw, one of the best pieces of advice from _The Teenage Brain_ for me was that our sons–and it makes no difference how high their IQs are because it’s about developmental stages: when things are connecting neurologically–need scaffolding, help with planning out projects and time management. They still need us to step in and help with the frontal lobe skills as that part of the brain will not be fully functional until even the mid 20s. One of my greatest mistakes (and times of frustration) was agreeing with what *other* parenting advice had said: if you step in too much, they’ll never learn these skills and simply depend on you. The truth is, they don’t have the ability to plan out that kind of higher executive mapping. My boys, left too much on their own, to be in charge of their time, always needed rescuing. Instead we need to provide that scaffolding, as they are continuing to grow in their ability to plan, follow through, and manage their time/focus.

    • Actually, this post was written two years ago, and my son is in the middle of his gap year now. 🙂 But thanks for your book recommendations and all the other great advice! I’m glad to know about the time management/project planning thing — I’ll not feel as guilty any more for helping him with that stuff!

  • Ann!!!
    First off, thank you so much for your weekly emails. They’ve been inspiring me and your latest was meant for me.
    I’ve been “researching” kindergarten for my baby boy, who just turned 5 last week. He is “ready” for kindergarten, as far as the kindergarten screening says, but I can’t fathom putting him in school. However, he’s rough and loud and busy and…I simply can’t imagine trying to teach him ANYTHING that requires him listening or sitting still for 2 seconds. I’ve debated just letting him wait an extra year before kindergarten but couldn’t find the confidence that I needed to stand behind that decision.
    This post is just what I needed to remind me that I know what’s best for my son. Thanks for your help, as always. 😉

    Tiffany

    • Aw, Tiffany, thanks!! You’re awesome!! You DO know what’s best — and it sounds like he needs another year to just hang! You go, girl!!! 🙂

  • My son is a June baby and the only boy with 2 big sisters. You described my son all the way to his eye lashes! He is supposed to be finishing up his freshman year but he is painfully slow. I wish I would have held him back in the early years. I don’t know how to fit everything that he is suppose to be doing into his day. It takes him so long to finish things. I like your suggestion of a gap year. You have given me some things to think about and it is always so good to know that I’m not alone in this. Thanks for your post.

    • I think a lot of boys are like this! The gap year has worked out very well for my son, and he just got accepted to college for next year. And he is motivated to go, which is half the battle, lol!

  • If you do choose CC, you have another opportunity to hold him back. CC’s classes only loosely correlate with grades. My son will be 14/15 next year. Most of his classmates will 12/13, but we needed to hold him back when we started homeschooling a few years ago. I hope he finishes the program, but he will have sufficient credits to graduate at 18 if he/we decide to go that direction instead. Like the author, whatever we decide, my son won’t go straight away to a four year university.

    • Yes, we actually did put him into CC, and he graduated last May. He’s been working full-time this year and just got accepted into college for next year — and I think it will be a good fit. It’s wonderful to see it all coming together!

  • I have one summer birthday boy in high school now. I considered holding him back over the years but he actually is socially mature and he is also VERY tall and struggled with boys his age who were so much shorter making a big deal about it. That really seemed to be one of the biggest reasons in 6th and 8th grade, when we discussed holding back a year, that he wanted to move on. He does fine academically but his personality isn’t competitive or self-driven— hard to separate that out as “maturity” vs, “personality”. We have talked about community college before 4-year or even a 5th year senior year, but at the s point, in 9th, we’re just going one day at a time. I have no regrets about not holding him back; he was and is strongly against it and willing to keep up with his work—

    • I’m so glad you made the decision based on what was best for YOUR son. They are all unique individuals, and as always, what works for one may not work for another. Thanks for your input!

  • Hello! I have a 13 year old who will be going into 9th grade next year. He is an August baby. We choose to put him in school right away. The decision to do so has worked up until this year. I have began to notice a pattern with his work/study ethics. Everything has pretty much came easy to him. But this year there is alot more work/writing to be done. Algebra 1 was a real struggle. To make a long story short I am thinking about putting high school math off until 10th grade. Have him repeat Algebra 1. Hoping by then he will have matured a little and math won’t be such a struggle. I am curious to o ow if anyone has ever done this?

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I’m Ann (aka Annie), a veteran homeschool mom of five. I believe YOU can do this homeschool high school thing!
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