Hey Mom, Want to See My Jungle Gym? How to Homeschool a Boy, Part 2

As I mentioned in the previous post, Saturday was a beautiful day. We had a wonderful time doing indoor/outdoor projects. Toward evening, our third son, 20, invited me to come see the new jungle gym he’d built for himself. I’d seen the scale drawing he’d done in Google SketchUp (a delightful free resource), so I was eager to see how it had turned out.

A jungle gym for grown boys as designed in Sketch-Up.
Bryan’s jungle gym as drafted in Sketch-Up.

We walked down to where he’d built it, and to say I was impressed was an understatement. It’s huge. He demonstrated what each portion of it was for, with plenty of heart-stopping moments. He’s into a sport called parkour, and this is an excellent training spot.

Here is a photo of the completed project in place, and a photo of Bryan walking on one of the poles. I tried it, and let’s just say that “results may vary.”

The boys have spent many happy hours climbing and walking on this big jungle gym.
The completed jungle gym.
Walking along a round pipe isn't as easy as it might look!
Bryan walking on the poles. He can walk all the way across.

What boy-raising lesson can you glean from this project?

Your boys will teach themselves amazing things if you give the time and space to learn what they can do.

Trust me, I didn’t discover SketchUp or parkour, and I’d have never thought of salvaging a bunch of old pipes and fittings to make a jungle gym. I didn’t even show him how to use my camera, take these photos (including the timed one of himself on the bars), or how to upload them into his computer, then transfer them to mine. He has discovered all this on his own over the past 20 years.

Doing is where learning happens

It takes a boy with a boy’s interests to find the thread of an idea and follow it through to the creation of a project he really enjoys. The key ingredient is free time and the liberty to explore, try new things, and yes — get hurt occasionally. It takes trusting that if you provide time, tools, and skills, they will use them. It also takes understanding that education is about a whole lot more than doing school.

Our boys roamed through our patch of woods with sticks and homemade spears, bows and arrows, and wooden guns. These evolved into real bows and arrows and AirSoft guns eventually, but the one rule was that they must never shoot at or near a living creature. They built forts and treehouses, dug trenches, climbed trees, played in the creek, collected rocks, built campfires and played outside — all with a minimum of fuss. They even (gasp!) got dirty.

This was not because because I had great tomboy credentials (if any of my childhood friends are reading this, it will probably be awhile before they rejoin us — they’re probably laughing themselves silly at the thought). It wasn’t because I knew anything about raising boys (I was raised by my grandparents, so no brothers). It wasn’t even because I thought a lot about it.

Remember when you were young?

It was mostly because I just remembered my own childhood, and knew that I enjoyed trying things and being free to climb into the avocado tree or onto the garage roof with a book. I grew up in southern California, so there was rarely a reason to be inside during daylight, and I loved being outside as much as possible. I remembered the joy of being trusted by my grandfather to try all sorts of interesting things, and the utter frustration of hearing too frequent “Be careful!” cautions from my grandmother.

Of course, there are always boundaries that must be established, and they will vary depending on where you live. Our boys were able to roam with a fair amount of freedom, and sometimes they crossed boundaries. Sometimes they did things they weren’t supposed to do. But overall, allowing them to develop their own interests while learning their physical limitations worked well for them. Because they learned how to use their physical skills, and they understood from a realistic basis of experience what they physically could and could not do, they’ve had a very low broken-bone count. Three of them have broken a collarbone while playing sports, and if I recall correctly, that’s all. Not a bad price to pay for confidence, creativity, and coordination!

So, love those boys and trust them to try things. When they learn the possible, they can begin to tackle the impossible, and who knows what they’ll accomplish?

*Note: This series of posts is presented, not in a spirit of “I did it all right,” because no one knows better than I how many things I didn’t do right, but in a spirit of encouragement. I share them because I wish you joy. I also want to encourage you that you can take this opportunity to discipline your own irrational fears so that you won’t pass them on to your children. “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control.” II Timothy 1:7.

2 Responses

  1. April 8, 2010

    […] Hey Mom, Want to See My Jungle Gym? How to Raise Boys, Part 2 […]

  2. October 18, 2018

    […] How to Homeschool a Boy: Part 2 […]

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