Tuesday, June 4, 2013

TTD Session #2: Ballistic Homeschooling: Teaching Boys

I have to say that this was one of my favorite sessions of the weekend. Hal and Melanie Young have 8 children and 6 of them are boys, so they have certainly had experience with teaching boys. I loved the way they taught the class together and played off each other. The session was over far too quickly! I will tell you now that some of the comments I will be making below are generalizations and NOT true for every child.

WHY: Because of these 2.

Simon and Jeremiah in their new t-ball t-shirts
WHAT: I learned a LOT. Are you ready? Here we go:

It is true that girls develop sooner than boys...IN SOME AREAS. Girls develop fine motor skills such as writing sooner but boys develop better spatial development sooner than girls. For example, if you put a pile of blocks down in front of a girl, she might build a simple house, but put a pile in front of a boy and you will probably end up with a skyscraper or some other elaborate tower.

Teach what you are teaching: For a lot of boys, writing can take a while to learn and will sometimes cause frustration if they don't feel they are doing it fast enough or correctly. So, if you aren't teaching writing, then don't make them write. For example, if you have them read a chapter and you want them to answer some questions to test understanding, then writing the answers isn't necessary. The answers can be given verbally and you will still know whether they understood what they read or not.

Gender differences in learning: Research has shown that boys and girls learn differently. Girls like quiet, warm, safe, nurturing environments to learn in. Boys, however, like animated, cool, where you can argue your point, have discussion, and be active. They gave the example of the scene in the movie "The Incredibles" where they are sitting around the table and the kids are going bonkers and Mr. Incredible is completely in his own little world. Eventually ElastiGirl yells at him and says "It's time to ENGAGE!"  Boys like you to be animated, loud, and energetic. Also, we need to turn off ALL screens or they will be focused on that.

Using their "big muscles" will help them engage. When I say "big muscles," I mean their legs, arms, etc. Thomas Jefferson wrote at a standing desk because when he was standing he could focus better than if he was sitting. If your boy has been sitting for a long period of time, have them give you 10 on the stairs and they will engage with you better. If you force a boy to sit for hours at a time, towards the end of that time they are more focused on sitting still than they are on studying. Instead let them run around outside or do some exercises, etc. to let them wear off that energy.

Boys and men can think better when there is a little pain involved: One thing I noticed this past year was that if the boys were trying hard to figure out something, they would start chewing on their hands. I would ask them to take their fingers out of their mouth but pretty soon they would be there again. The thinking is that men NEED to be able to think with pain because in the past it was only men who would go to war and if they ever got hurt, they still needed to be able to function and think clearly on what to do next. That made sense to me because they needed to have the presence of mind to get out of harm's way if at all possible. I don't know about you but if I get hurt, I just want to curl up until it goes away.

Boys need to have a purpose or goal: We have all had times where we questioned the necessity to learn something. You can bet that your child will someday ask you that same question. First, make them think about what they are learning. Let's say it's poetry that they are asking about. Well what are they learning through poetry? For one thing, it can help you learn to be concise. You can take a big idea and put it into 2 or 3 lines. It teaches you to use the right words at the right time. So how will that help them in the future? If you want to ask your boss for a raise, do you want to meander all over the place while trying to ask or be concise and get the words out? Concise, of course. If you can give your son a purpose, then their whole attitude will change. Boys need to have a goal.

Boys also like competition: My boys are pretty close in age so I could have them compete against each other sometimes, but if you don't have someone like that, then have them compete against themselves. Time them at a task and then tell them if they beat it tomorrow they can have a treat. The treat doesn't have to be anything big, maybe a piece of candy from the candy dish, but if they are competing, they will generally try harder.

The biggest goal for us as home educators is this: Teach them to LOVE learning. If they love learning, then they will do it of their own free will and you won't have to force them to do it. 

ACTION: This past year I did fall into the habit of having the boys sit for 3-4 hours while we had school and then go let them play when we were done and I will definitely not do that next year. I am planning on working on 1 topic for about an hour and then let them have 15 minutes outside to run off their energy. I am also going to try giving them a goal to shoot for each day.

What are some things that you do with your boys to keep their attention?

Tomorrow I'll be sharing about some writing games that were fun and educational. See you then!

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Today I Kissed an Angel

Today I kissed an angel. I knew it from the start. The first time my angel smiled at me; I gave away my heart.

Today I kissed an angel; This angel child of mine. Though not of my creation, My child by God's design.

Today I kissed an angel. My heart is dancing wild; Our family, by a miracle; Blessed by our angel child.

All I Really Want by Steven Curtis Chapman