I have one daughter and three sons. Over the years, my husband and I have been astounded at how unique each child is. What might have worked when parenting one child, hasn't always worked when parenting another, regardless of gender. But, the reality is there are some clear differences in how boys and girls learn. When it comes to boys and school, we have found some common practices that have proven to be particularly unhelpful.
Learn from our trials and errors and reconsider these rules. Getting away from these common educational methods can help your son thrive in his education.
Make him sit still during the learning process
The main floor layout of our house is such that one can run around and around in a circle through the kitchen, living room, and family room, which my children do many times a day. When it's time to work on homework and school projects, they seem to want to utilize the circle even more. For years, I fought them on it, telling them to stay seated until they were finished. I've since discovered that moving around actually helps boys stay focused longer.
Sometimes my sons do their homework standing up or sitting on a large yoga ball, and this helps clear their minds. As shown in a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, movement can increase boys' working memory. Fidgeting really does help children learn, especially boys.
Insist on sending him to kindergarten right on schedule
In many cases, boys develop more slowly than girls, both cognitively and emotionally. The fine motor skills needed for handwriting often come later for boys, as well. If you have a boy with a spring or summer birthday, consider waiting until he is 6 to send him to kindergarten. Giving him another year free from schedules, deadlines, and expectations — with more opportunities for imaginative play — can help him find more success earlier in his kindergarten education. And earlier success helps boys have confidence in their own abilities, which translates into great achievements within, as well as apart from, school.
Expect him to grasp reading skills early on
It is common for girls to learn to read before boys. A study at Virginia Tech University found that the language area of the brain of the average 5-year-old boy is comparable to that of a typical 3-year-old girl. However, the study also found that, typically, boys' math and geometry abilities mature faster than girls'. Be patient, yet consistent, in helping your son practice reading. Turning the monumental task of learning to read into a daily battle of wills is never a good idea, so start slowly and in small doses.
Make sure to get books (both fiction and non-fiction) that will interest your son. Try changing things up once in a while. Read with him using a flashlight in a pop-up tent or under a fort you've made, or sometimes take turns reading pages. Reading every other page in a book can be a lot less overwhelming.
Insist on completing homework right when he gets home from school
A couple of years ago, I made the goal of having my kids complete their homework right as they walked in the door. Armed with their after-school snack and a no-nonsense attitude, I would ignore the moans and groans and make them sit right down and complete their homework. It was nice to get it done early in the afternoon, but my plan soon backfired. My kids — my sons especially — had a hard time focusing on their work; they were tired after a long day at school. This resulted in a lot of frustration for all of us.
Now, I see the benefits of giving kids some time to rest, play and eat before the homework starts. Depending on our schedule, we can't always do this, but this process helped me see that what works for one family might not work for mine. Giving my boys some downtime before starting their homework helps them feel energized and ready to try their best again.
Leave all of the educating to his teachers
Life can feel so busy sometimes that we might inadvertently disengage ourselves from our children's education. We might tell ourselves that their teachers are the educational professionals and have things under control. Many teachers are wonderful and do an excellent job educating our children; however, one of the best ways we can help our sons do well in school is to make their education our own top priority. I have discovered that most of the time, the kind of school your child attends or the kinds of teachers they have are less important than parental involvement.
If you are actively aware of your son's assignments and grades, the concepts he is learning, the friends he is making, and how he feels about school, you send him the message that his education is important to you. Volunteer at the school as often as possible; if you work during the day and can't be in the classroom with him, try to volunteer at any evening activities the school might have. This will help you get to know his teachers and friends, but more importantly, you can quickly get a sense for the challenges and triumphs he is experiencing.