Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Educating Boys, part 1

"Boys. I want to open a school for little lads - a good, happy, homelike school, with me to take care of them, and Fritz to teach them."
..."I like it," said Mrs. March decidedly.
"So do I," added her husband, who welcomed the thought of a chance of trying the Socratic method of education on modern youth.
..."I've always longed for lots of boys, and never had enough; now I can fill the house full, and revel in the little dears to my heart's content. Think what luxury - Plumfield  my own, and a wilderness of boys to enjoy it with me!"
                                                          -Louisa May Alcott,  Little Women, Ch 47

Perhaps it is a bit cheeky of me to quote Louisa May like that, but it does echo the sentiments in my own heart. Despite the fact that four boys hardly constitutes a "wilderness". Especially when we know a family with 6 boys and one with seven. Still.

If you want to find out how we ended up homeschooling, you can always hit the link at the top of the blog, titled "How We Ended Up Homeschooling". It tells our story and explains why I, the reluctant homeschooler, am getting ready to start our 8th year as homeschoolers.

Regardless of what many people think, boys and education do go hand in hand. But the education of boys is a delicate thing. Like any wild creature, if you keep them chained up somewhere, they tend to either wither away or learn to bite any hand that comes near.

Boys need 10 things:
  • patience
  • space to move and play
  • boundaries
  • clear expectations
  • challenges/goals
  • praise
  • physical challenges
  • strong role models
  • the chance to be silly
  • love, love, love
I am sure there are more than 10 things boys need, but I like that number, and I am saying it with confidence!

I hear stories all the time of the difficulties parents face with their young sons in formal school. Not that public or private school is a bad thing.

Please, let's be clear - I am not a homeschooling nazi. I do think it is a great way of education, but it does not work for everyone. And there are many wonderful public and private schools. And children get through even the bad ones, and often learn to do well. I was public school educated, and did just fine! I am trying to not step on anyone's toes. I will probably fail. Please take what I have to say with an understanding that I do not judge parents based on the type of schooling they choose. I just want to share my experiences.

1. Patience - Mothering boys needs a great deal of patience. Educating boys often needs more. In some ways, boys are natural learners. Given the right subject they are motivated, hard-workers, and creative thinkers.  Patience is needed to help them through those subjects that they do not take to naturally. Some boys are natural organizers, but many are not. A lot of patience must be given to help boys understand the rules of society and education and how to implement them.
I am naturally a low-energy kind of parent. It took many years to reconcile myself to the loud noises that come naturally to the male gender.
And have I told you about their bathroom?
Patience, patience, patience!

2. Space to move and play -  Formal schooling is often a trial for young boys. Boys of five, six, and seven were just not designed to sit in a classroom all day. Some boys find this more difficult than others. These boys tend to need to get up and move in order to process information. Yes, the way some brains are wired, information is process best when the body is involved. This type of learner is a kinetic learner. Many young boys who are kinetic learners wrongly end up being diagnosed with ADHD, simply because they cannot sit down to learn, especially for hours a day.

I have worked with children since I was 16 - as a day care worker, as a student teacher, as a substitute teacher, as a counselor, a nanny, a babysitter, a teacher, and a mother. I have been with children who probably are ADHD, and they are usually quite different from many other children who are labeled ADHD.

Many young boys simply need more room, more play, more activity, more freedom. Homeschooling has given us the ability to merge the natural needs of boys with the demands of education. Boys can often perform quite well in more serious study if they have the chance to get up and move from time to time. Educating boys well means giving them small breaks throughout the day and bigger breaks to get active.
Boys also need space. Even a small space can be adapted, as long as there is somewhere for a boy to go where he does not have to worry about breaking something or hurting something.

3. Boundaries - Needing to be free to move and play does not mean boys do not need rules. Boundaries for boys are very important. Boys often behave better when they know there are boundaries. Boundaries are the guidelines in which one places one's behavior. For many boys, these boundaries need to be generous, but they do need to be there.

4. Clear expectations - This goes hand-in-hand with number 3. There need to be boundaries, and they need to be made clear. Boys work best when they understand exactly what is expected of them. It is not enough to tell a boy, "Go clean your room" if you have never told him what that means. To him it may mean pushing everything in the closet and throwing all his books in a pile, while you are expecting the books to be lined up, spines out on the shelf.
Spell it out - write it down, go over it with him - tattoo it on his chest if you have to - just make your expectations clear!

  My nephew and a young Young Adult with their ziggurat
Stayed tune for part 2!

No comments: