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Dr. Colleen Carroll of Innovative Reading shares:
Creating a Homework Haven at Home
Back-to-school season (for our friends in the southern hemisphere) and the return after winter break, can be a distressing time. While some of the angst around this return to routine makes sense – after all, days get colder and shorter (or warmer..) and we need to get back to tighter schedules and earlier bedtimes – there are also a few things we can do to ease this transition and actually make it an empowering time for kids.
Many kids dread, and even fear homework.
(And, this is me – Janet – chiming in…note that there is a new trend to minimize or eliminate homework in the young grades. See this study.)
Even the word “homework” can spark anxiety in some children (and parents!).
This is understandable; as kids get older the homework gets harder and the time spent on it gets longer. However, you can be prepared in advance and lessen anxiety by creating a homework sanctuary of sorts for your child to feel safe, even empowered, as he gets his work done.
The following are my top 5 ways to empower your child at homework time:
For a simple, child-friendly checklist to organize a homework haven in your home, download my free resource below: How to Create a Homework Haven at Home.
Kids crave routine; they (and most adults) do best when they know what’s coming next and they can be ready for it. By having a homework routine and a space that is comfortable and efficient, it probably won’t make homework fun but it will make it easier to accomplish and more organized for return to school the next day. This in turn will definitely lessen the anxiety around homework in general and allow your child to focus on some more pleasurable activities each evening, perhaps even a little reading.
You’re invited to join us in the Boys Alive! Private Facebook Group – ask a question, offer support, enjoy an article, laugh and cry with us. We are stronger together!
Yes or No?
Love it or hate it — Homework is back at the forefront of educational debate.
Like so many trends in education, the pendulum swings back and forth.
Every school, every administrator, every teacher has a different take on the benefits of homework.
Every parent has a love/hate relationship with homework! From all the nagging and reminding to the feeling of inadequacy when you can’t remember algebra or how to diagram a sentence.
In a recent article for Lifehack, Maria Onzain reports, “After over 25 years of studying and analyzing homework, Harris Coopers’ research demonstrates a clear conclusion: homework wrecks elementary school students. In his book, The Battle over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents, the homework guru gives details about the relationship between homework and success at different grade levels.”
Giving homework TOO EARLY:
As a mentor to a Somali refugee family, I know that what goes on at home has a big influence on whether homework ever comes out of the backpack. In this family of 9, there is not a consciousness about reading and schoolwork, the parents work outside the home, and English is not their first language. My 13 year old student has a hard enough time at school and he certainly isn’t going to sign on for more difficulty at home (where there is no one to help him anyway) but because homework assignments are graded, he is constantly at a disadvantage.
You helping isn’t seen to be of great benefit in the study, either.
All of the nagging and reminding that accompany homework can escalate into “the epic homework battle.”
This definitely affects parent child relationships – at least it did for me. True confession…I was in 3rd grade and still had not mastered the times tables. My mom quizzed me every night (which I hated) and then she had the “brilliant” idea of hanging the flashcards around my room – right up where the wall meets the ceiling. So, every night – in that “magical” time before bed – I got to recite the times tables. Only I still couldn’t do it… and I was angry and that time with my mom was filled with angst and anger. Not recommended.
If teachers are going to give homework, they must be sure that parents understand how a specific concept is being taught otherwise, they can mitigate any of the positive effects of homework.
Parental involvement should lessen as kids get older. You are building personal responsibility and that includes dealing with the consequences of forgotten homework, reports, and projects. Teach them how to remember their work for school but make it very clear that you will not be bringing anything forgotten to school. THEY will have to navigate and negotiate with their teachers, another great way to learn personal responsibility!
If you and your son are challenged by homework – join the 5-Day “Help! My Son Hates Homework – and I Do Too!” Challenge – you’ll get tips and strategies to make peace with home – once and for all!
Talking with Steve and Rebecca on KXL 101: What do you do when they say, “I hate school.”
Public, private, or homeschooled – it’s important to us that our kids LOVE school – that they go off happily every day to where they will spend about 1,000 hours this year, according to Datalab.
Love it or hate it, school is not only where they learn academics but they’re also learning about:
But what if they say, “I hate school?”
For boys, this may show up in behavior more than words. They may have consistent stomachaches or headaches, they may just not want to get out of bed. Be particularly aware if there’s been a sudden change in his behavior.
Acknowledging his frustrations, fears, and uncertainties along the way. You can also share your positive and negative school experiences, if it helps him feel like he isn’t the only one.
Above all – be sure you tell him that you believe in him, that together you’ll create strategies to help him be successful, and guide him to be an advocate for himself – eventually he may LOVE school!
For more on boys and “I hate school,” see this blog post.
Back-to-School sales….School supplies filling the shelves…
And, perhaps you, too, itch to buy new notebooks and pencils. Have you seen how many new composition book covers there are? No more plain old black and white!
The real reality though, is GETTING KIDS BACK IN A ROUTINE. You may be fighting it as much as they do but you’ll thank yourself for starting early on the bedtime routine, especially.
Use the “10” Method:
Your challenge is to be consistent!
Use the following sleep recommendations and plug them into your schedule and you’ll know what time they need to be asleep so that they get the recommended amount.
The National Sleep Foundation updated their recommendations in 2015:
The National Sleep Foundation also notes, “One of the reasons it’s so hard to know when our kids are getting insufficient sleep is that drowsy children don’t necessarily slow down the way we do—they wind up. In fact, sleepiness can look like symptoms of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children often act as if they’re not tired, resisting bedtime and becoming hyper as the evening goes on. All this can happen because the child is overtired.”
My teenager stays awake late and then can’t get up in the morning!
Teen’s body clocks change and they do become night owls.
Enlist their help in planning a structured evening/morning routine so they get optimal sleep (catching up on the weekend doesn’t count…)
Some things to watch:
And of course…by now, they should be setting an alarm and getting themselves up without your help! (You won’t be at college to wake them up…)
Lack of sleep is harmful!
Studies show that lack of sleep affects our ability to focus and learn efficiently PLUS sleep is needed to make learning stick so it can be recalled in the future.
Help your kids be their best by helping them get enough sleep this school year!
Margit is our guest on BOY TALK #14 coming out on August 17, 2016. She gives us new insights and strategies to the “diagnosis” of ADD/ADHD. Margit was one of the first adults to be diagnosed with ADD in the early 80s. Since then she has become the “ADD Angel” for many families that she has coached and counseled.
Hear Margit on BOY TALK #14 – Save Your Seat HERE.
Boys, especially, are master of the “I don’t know” response – even without ADD/ADHD in the mix!
Margit writes, “Recently, one of my clients (let’s call him Matt) cancelled calls with me 4 times. I knew why: It was because he knew we were going to do some homework together and he didn’t want to. He wanted to ride his bike (Who wouldn’t?). I asked Matt why he kept cancelling and he said, “I don’t know.” That got me thinking about how, in the past, I would have been slightly irritated at him wasting my time, not accepting my help, and being generally defiant.
We often become distressed by our children’s seeming inability to do simple things, like ask for help, put away their clothes, or turn in homework. We become disappointed and ultimately angry, and we confront our child.
“Why can’t you do this? It’s so simple. Everyone else is doing it with no trouble at all. Why can’t you?”
And you know the response, right?
“I don’t know.”
Gah! Why do they DO that?
ADHD children are very sensitive and having an angry parent is overwhelming to the senses. They may yell at you or try to distract you by talking about your faults. They may hide in their rooms or they may do what you want but give you the silent treatment. ADHD children are rarely able to manage their emotions in the moment, as they’re actually happening. In confusion, frustration, and sadness that they’ve disappointed you, “I don’t know” becomes an easy way to slow things down, to stop the barrage of parental expectations.
Here’s what “I don’t know” really means:
This is why ADHD kids say “I don’t know” so often.
It has little to do with defiance and a lot to do with self-esteem and/or not being able to access information in a timely manner.
The truth is that Matt wasn’t wasting my time. I still had my time.
He wasn’t refusing my help. He just couldn’t handle this particular responsibility.
He wasn’t being defiant either. In fact, his response had nothing to do with me. He was simply postponing relief and prolonging his misery because he didn’t know how to make a different decision.
Change your response:
The solution is to change the way you respond. Believe me, I know this is difficult. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to get an answer that contains some real information!
Instead of being frustrated, put yourself in your child’s shoes.
My childhood experience:
I remember, very well, the absolute confusion and disappointment I felt when I vowed to be good and couldn’t manage to hold it together for even 30 minutes. I had NO IDEA how I got from Point A to Point B, from my vow to my misbehavior.
This isn’t a moral issue or a problem with your child’s integrity. This is an Executive Function challenge. The pre-frontal cortex hasn’t developed enough to handle the demands being made.
One thing you can do to help your child is to say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t give you much time to think about this. I would really appreciate it if you’d take some time to think this over and let me know your answer. I’ll check back with you tomorrow/in an hour/after I get home…”
The moral of the story is:
Don’t take it personally, Don’t assume defiance, Practice patience, Be encouraging, and Give your child or teen the grace and dignity to JUST. NOT. KNOW.
When they DO know, they’ll tell you.”
Talking with Steve and Rebecca on KXL101…
Should music be a part of your child’s education?
Six percent of kids want to be president but 13% want to be musicians.
Music is a big part of our lives but unfortunately, it seems to be the first go in school budget cuts.
YET it is increasingly more clear with each new study that is released that Music Education boosts IQ and changes behaviors – from depression to joy, anger to calm, hate to love. In one study, students who learned to read music and play the piano scored significantly higher on math and science assessments. Another study showed 75% of Silicon Valley CEO’s had instrumental music education as a child!
What about the dreaded MUSIC LESSONS?
Should kids be allowed to quit when they start complaining?
One piano teacher put it like this:
Assess whether they have talent and whether they like to play:
IF talent = no and fun = yes: Keep Playing!
IF talent = yes and fun = no: Find more fun, switch teachers, back off the difficulty level for a while.
IF talent = yes and fun = yes: Add another instrument or add some singing.
If YOU find yourself humming along and wishing YOU had music in your life – consider joining a non-audition choir. In Portland, give SING PORTLAND! a try – a relaxed, open, fun singing environment with a director who believes “If you can speak, you can sing!”
Or are you worried because he isn’t reading YET.
You aren’t alone.
Recently, a dad told me he was worried because, “My son is 5 and he isn’t reading yet…”
I was dismayed to hear this concern… what have we done to our kids by pushing the expectation of reading down into the preschool years?
Age 5 is when he should be playing and figuring out social relationships, NOT sitting with a book and laboring over letters and numbers.
And yes, I know, some young children pick up reading early and read voraciously. They are the exception.
Other kids should not be pushed into this early reading “phenomenon.”
Boys, especially, become a focus of this “he isn’t reading yet” worry from parents and teachers.
Many boys become readers later than many girls – often as late as 3rd or 4th grade.
With LITERACY being the key skill to life-long academic and financial success – we want to encourage boys to become readers but they often don’t feel like they are ‘real’ readers because they don’t read like many of the girls in their class (sitting still, reading a chapter book).
We need to know how to approach reading from a “boy’s-eye view.”
[Which might be tough for moms to relate to.]
There are some fundamental reasons why your boy resists reading but when you know reading “his way” – you’ll know how to get him engaged and excited about reading.
Boys are PHYSICAL.
He needs to move to process what he is learning. He wants to touch things, act out storylines and characters, the more active and adventurous his reading experience, the better.
Boys are VISUAL.
NOT verbal – all those words may overwhelm his brain. Find graphic novels, comic books and shorter stories that have lots of white space on the page to entice his visual system and keep him interested and engaged. Magazines, catalogs, and instruction manuals are also good choices.
Armed with a new perspective about boys and reading, you’ll be able to relax and trust that he will be a reader – on his own timeline.
Pushing him is unproductive and stressful for everyone!
And if HOMEWORK is stressing him out – along with the whole family – Join us for the 5-day Challenge: “Help! My Son Hates Homework – and I Do Too!” for practical strategies and tips that will end the nagging, tears, and slamming doors. Starts February 27th (and its free!) Click on the image below:
Guest Author Valarie Budayr is the founder of Jump into a Book
I love Stuart’s Dad the best. His vocabulary was hilarious and made reading Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms so fun!”
—Emily B., age 11
Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms by Lissa Evans is known around the hallowed halls of Jump into a Book as “The grocery store book.” No kidding ! I was grocery shopping at my local super-market when this cute little book with gizmos on the cover was sitting on top of some tomato sauce jars. Also on the cover was a 25% off sticker and the words Magic, Mystery, & Adventure. Needless to say this little book came home with me and I’m so glad it did.
Ten year old Stuart stumbles on a note daring him to find his great-uncle’s hidden workshop full of wonderful mechanisms, trickery, and magic.
“I have to go away, and I may not be able to get back. If I don’t return, then my workshop and all it contains is yours if you can find it- then you’re the right sort of boy to have it.
Your Uncle Tony
P.S. Start in the telephone booth on Main Street.
Anagrams: Check out this cool Anagram Generator. Did you know A Jumbo Pink Too is an Anagram for Jump Into a Book? Or Oak Bum Join Top…..or Puma Job Oink To..ok..I’m done now.
|n.||1.||A walking or going before; precedence.|
You will be divided up into two groups. If there are a large number of you, go ahead and divide up into three groups. This treasure hunt can be played indoors or for our purposes, perambulation, we are going house to house in the neighborhood. Of course you will only go to houses which are being included in the treasure hunt.
The house everyone meets at to start the treasure hunt is known as the Main house or the Host House. How do you know which houses you’ll be going to? A group of you will be making a treasure hunt map and marking the houses with numbers 1 through 8.
The host or hostess at the Main House will give each team a card with the clue on it.
Once you’ve figured out the clue, go to house number 2 on the treasure hunt map to find the next clue placed on the thing or place you’ve just decoded.
Once you’ve solved the clue at house number 2, go to house number 3 and so on.
Clue # 1: Mold me shape me but don’t leave me out. Here’s the unscrambled answer but please remember to just put the anagram on the clue card. Ployadh (Play doh)
Clue #2: If you were soggy and wet like me you would cry. I went here to get dry. clerestoryhd ( clothes dryer)
Clue #3: If you push all my buttons and use me to call I can reach really far but I’m not very tall. phenetole(telephone)
Clue #4: It isn’t freezing but might be very cold. Don’t stand with the door open, everyone is told . frogeaterirr (Refrigerator)
Clue #5: My name isn’t frosty but he would like it in here. He would be all nice and comfy, with nothing to fear. rfzeere (freezer)
Clue # 6: I have keys but I don’t open a door. You can use me for files, info,games, and more. crumpeto (computer)
Clue #7: Have found a home for goldfish that are never wet. You all love to eat them and you don’t need a net. shacklefords crig (goldfish crackers)
Clue #8: You can use me to be a little bit taller, People who use me are certainly smaller . Lotos (Stool)
READY? Let’s begin (see photos below if you are unsure of the finished product):
Remember how Stuart made the excuse to go over to the triplets to eat mushroom pizza? We couldn’t resist. We love mushroom pizza and we’re sure you will too.
Prepare Deep-Dish Pizza Dough, and set aside.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add pepper, onion, and garlic, and sauté 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, oregano, and salt; sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat; cool.
Spread half of tomatoes over each prepared crust, and top each with half of vegetable mixture. Sprinkle Monterey Jack cheese and provolone cheese evenly over pizzas.
Bake at 475° for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°, and bake 15 additional minutes. Cut each pizza into 8 wedges.
Cooking Light Five Star Recipes, Cooking Light
Publisher and founder of Audrey Press Publishing,
an artisanal publishing house dedicated to producing high quality
books and media for families.
With the school year nearly half over (or just beginning with our southern hemisphere friends) and you may be fed up with tears and frustration about homework at your house.
Do your kids find a million other things to do when it is time to do homework?
Do you nag and nag some more and still it doesn’t seem to get done?
Do they say they don’t have any?
Do they do it – and then never turn it in?
THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO FIGHT ABOUT HOMEWORK!
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently said, “…Free and unstructured play is healthy and – in fact – essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient.”
That’s great but what do you do in the face of school-driven expectations for homework?
1. Do not ask him immediately after school how his day was. You’ll likely get a one-syllable answer! Wait until much later in the evening or until he initiates a conversation.
2. Allow time after school to decompress. Make sure this time involves food, water, fresh air and unstructured play/exercise (and no screens!)
3. Discuss with your child their preferred time and place for homework. Enlist his help in creating that ideal space. Then agree on when he will do the work – after a play time? after dinner? Let him take the lead in deciding.
4. SCREENS come last. Your child may say he needs the computer to do his work. But what can be done before screens come out? He can storyboard before he types that draft (handwriting increases his thinking capacity more than typing); he can go to the library and use encyclopedias (SO old-fashioned I know, but somehow supremely satisfying!). Check with teacher to see how much screen time is actually required.
5. When he is using the computer for homework, make sure he’s got all other browser windows, instant messaging, etc. turned off. His cell phone is turned off. No computer work in the bedroom!
6. Create a system for tracking assignments and projects – short and long term. Boys can be challenged to create a workable system. Implement it and monitor to see if it is successful. The more they can take ownership of the process, the more successful they will be.
Do NOT bring assignments, reports, or instruments to school when you get that call. Your child must be held accountable for forgetting – talking to the teacher may provide just enough discomfort that he’ll be sure to remember it the next time.
If you’re ready for a truce in the homework battles – join our 5-Day Challenge: “Help! My Son Hates Homework – and I Do Too!” You’ll gain tips and strategies – and most of all – you’ll have less nagging, anger, and door slamming at your house. Click on the image to join – we begin Feb 27, 2017.
If it does, you’ll know it. If it doesn’t, keep reading.
You’ll see students working in open spaces supporting active learning, you’ll know that behavior management doesn’t include taking away recess, and you’ll meet teachers who celebrate the unique ways that boys learn differently than girls.
Start looking here:
Boys are in Crisis
A disproportionate number of boys struggle to master basic literacy skills,
sit on the bench outside the principal’s office, get labeled hyperactive,
and receive failing grades. –K.King, Writing the Playbook
Take 5 minutes to watch this video created by a Gurian Institute certified trainer to highlight the alarming statistics that affect our boys every day.
The following statistics from Michael Gurian and others shows the failure of our schools to understand and meet the needs of boys.
Early Childhood and Elementary:
Boys are expelled from preschool at five times the rate of girls.
Boys are 60% more likely to be held back in kindergarten than girls.
Boys are almost twice as likely to repeat a grade.
By kindergarten, one in four black boys believes he will fail in school.
Boys make up 70% of special ed. students.
Boys are 4 – 5 times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD.
Middle School and High School:
Boys are 30% more likely than girls to flunk or drop out of school.
Seventeen year-old boys underperform in reading by 1.5 years of school.
Boys are twice as likely to be suspended as females.
Boys are 4.5 times as likely to be expelled as females.
Black males are 6 times as likely to be suspended as white males.
Athletics is the only extracurricular activity where boy’s participation exceeds girls.
We are. Experts from around the globe and here in America are relentlessly advocating for deep changes in how we are raising boys. We need the groundswell of support like girls experienced in the mid-70’s. I believe this advocacy has to begin with you – parents who are raising sons and who don’t believe they have to fit into a system that was largely designed to educate in the way that most girls learn and that does not fit most boys.
With a predominantly female teaching staff (93% of elementary school teachers are female), many schools just don’t get how boys learn. Boys are active and social. They learn in smaller chunk-sizes and move to mastery later than most girls, especially in reading and writing.
What can you do?
You must educate yourself on these issues – a first stop is the Understanding Your Son 101 self-paced study. Three hours of audio and accompanying pdfs will give you the fundamental knowledge you need to be able to wisely advocate for your son, his peers, and all the boys that come after him.
Share gender-friendly information with your school’s teachers and administrators – when you approach this topic in the spirit of collaboration and support, you’ll find a receptive audience. What teacher doesn’t want to spend less time on behavior management and more time on teaching?!
Ultimately, YOU must be the one to say: I want a better way for my son and all of his peers. Let’s work on this together. Together we can make a school that fits both boys and girls and supports them to be their best!
When you ask about his day was, he says, “Fine.” And that’s it.
When you get him up for school, he has a headache…or a stomach ache…or he just drags his feet and takes forever to get ready.
When you ask about homework, he says he doesn’t have any.
His teacher says he doesn’t turn in his work.
Many parents worry about their sons – from preschool to high school – and their seeming dis-interest in and even hatred of school.
But no wonder…
SCHOOL JUST DOESN’T FIT MANY BOYS…
As Dr. John Medina, of Brain Rules, explains, “Our ancient ancestors were not sitting in a classroom for eight hours at a stretch…If we sat around the Serengeti for eight hours – heck, for eight minutes – we were usually somebody’s lunch.”
We are not adapted to a sedentary lifestyle. As Dr. Medina says, “Physical activity is cognitive candy.”
And boys LOVE that cognitive candy!
Boys, especially, need to MOVE to process their learning.
Our ancestors traveled about 12 miles each and every day:
+They learned while they were moving.
+They made decisions and solved problems while they were moving.
+They created new tools and weapons to suit their purpose while they were moving.
Then, only about 250 years ago, we decided that the BEST way for all children to learn was to be inside, preferably sitting still.
This does not compute for many boys (and some girls, too).
And, indeed, we’d all be better off with some exercise each day!
1. Get him MOVING –
Before and during school advocate for more recess (in any weather). Make sure his teacher knows about brain breaks and boy-friendly strategies. Advocate for movement programs such as BOKS Kids. Their tag line is “active kids = active minds” – and who can’t use more of that?
2. CHOOSE your moment –
Asking that all-too-familiar question, “How was school today?” the minute he gets home or in the car is sure to elicit a mumbled, “Fine.” Instead, WAIT. Give him a protein snack and some water, let him have some physical activity, some quiet time, and then he’ll likely be ready to talk.
3. What have YOU been doing?
If you’re the parent that has made a well-worn path between home and school, delivering forgotten papers, lunches, and musical instruments, STOP. Yep, just stop. Give him a heads-up that you will no longer be delivering ANYTHING to school and you may just see him become more responsible.
Many boys see mom (and it is usually mom) as hyper-organized and figure they don’t have to be because Mom will take care of it. As I said, just STOP. He must experience cause and effect. He must navigate the social implications of forgetting homework or instrument – with his teachers and peers.
Trust him, he’ll figure it out…but he won’t if you do it for him.
He won’t have ownership of his school life until it is truly his to own!
Overall, school is mostly designed for girls. You must be an advocate for boy-friendly schools. Not sure what that looks like? Here’s help…
BOY TALK Podcast #2: Boy Friendly Schools. Find out what to look for and how to advocate for him.
Talking with Steve and Rebecca on KXL101’s Morning Show:
Who didn’t grow up with Dr Seuss?
Hop on Pop, Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish Two Fish…are all entwined in learning to read and teaching others to read. Dr Seuss was brilliantly funny, clever, and his use of vocabulary made us beloved fans.
Two siblings get the okay from dad to get a pet and arrive at the pet shop only to see how many pets there are to choose from. The book comes with a warning – your children may be asking you for a pet, too!
(And, just to be “politically correct” the publisher advocates that you adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue organization instead of a pet store, which was the popular way to acquire a pet when Dr Seuss wrote this book.)
Dr Seuss books are perfect for young readers… and if you’ve got a child that you’re trying to encourage and inspire to read check out this blog post: “He Isn’t Reading Yet.”
Most boys are not multi-taskers. Their brains are simply not designed that way.
Yet, as they enter middle school and high school – before their brains are fully developed to handle a wide array of tasks – we’re asking them to juggle many different expectations every single day. We want them to be top-notch at multi-tasking.
He’s also thinking about other things:
Add some family expectations:
THEN, top it all off with a big, huge dose of: PUBERTY!
His brain and body are experiencing a complete re-boot. He may be more disorganized, more clumsy, and more forgetful than ever before!
If you haven’t done it before, now is the time to help him implement workable systems.
You know your son best.
Don’t expect that he will automatically understand how to track and follow-through with a new system. Give it time. Let him practice. Let him fail. Give him your guidance from “arm’s length.”
You are helping him to learn and instill habits that will help him in college and life. He didn’t learn to walk overnight, don’t expect him to learn this overnight, either.
Cut the Pressure
If you begin too early to talk about how essential his grades are for getting into college he will shut down.
We both know that he does need good grades but reminding him constantly will only cause him to withdraw and tune you out.
Rather, keep college as a family value from a young age. Keep it in your conversations and he will know that it is your end-goal for him. Hopefully, it will be for him, too.
At puberty, the brain and body are doing a complete re-boot, which means he will development “unevenly.” He may be flying ahead in academics and be far behind in his social development. It may be years before his brain and body catch up to each other. For most males, that will be 25- to 30-years old.
So just because he looks capable from the outside (and indeed he may put up a good front) recognize that he needs help. Step in and guide but do not do for him what he can do for himself!
You’re not raising a boy, you’re raising a man –
and the world needs you to do that well! ~anon.
If you enjoyed this, join us for BOY TALK, a monthly webinar series where we’re talking all-things-boys with parenting experts and expert parents. Learn more here.
“He’s 5 and he isn’t reading yet…” a father worries.
Strong reading and writing skills are essential to academic success and are key indicators for life-long economic success. It’s a fairly recent phenomenon that we’ve started worrying about whether our 5-year olds were reading.
Sure, some boys and girls are reading voraciously by kindergarten, but there are many more who won’t read until much, much later. Most of those children will be boys.
The reading expectations that were once 2nd grade turf have been pushed down into Kindergarten. These heightened expectations are not helping boys who are developmentally still geared toward active, gross motor play and haven’t yet developed the fine motor skills that are key components to reading.
They aren’t ready to “stop, drop, and read” yet.
Many simply aren’t ready to read and no amount of worrying will speed this process.
Boys and girls approach reading differently.
Girls can typically sit quietly and read for long periods. Many boys, on the other hand, don’t see the point in sitting still and reading quietly. They view reading as a “female pursuit” as it is typically mom and female teachers that read with him at an early age.
Boys and girls read for different results.
Girls read for pure enjoyment. Boy, more often than not, read to discover how to do something. Directions, recipes, manuals, instruction books, graphic novels, dictionaries, and encyclopedias are all exciting reads for boys. They provide information in bite-size pieces and are usually accompanied by pictures and drawings.
Trust your gut.
Is he more interested in active play and less interested in reading? Will he focus with your encouragement? Does he seem interested but still struggles? Consider having his eyes checked by a Vision Therapist. This is more than just whether he needs glasses, it is checking to see that his eye muscles are strong and working in a coordinated way. Some children benefit greatly from Vision Therapy, correcting the issues that get in the way of efficient reading. Check with your eye doctor.
1. Let him move. Playing with blocks, drawing, or even just lying on the floor will help him listen better. Have him help to create a comfortable reading area – include beanbag chairs, pillows, and lots of floor space.
2. Include food! Boys will do pretty much anything if food is involved. Read menus and order pizza. Read recipes and bake a cake.
3. Provide ‘boy-friendly’ reading materials. Give him magazines, graphic novels, instruction manuals, diagrams, maps, catalogs, non-fiction, the sports pages, and joke books. Boys tend to read in shorter chunk-sizes than girls.
4. Show him men who read. Boys often see women and girls reading and think it isn’t for them. Ask the men in his life to share what they read and why they read. Check out guysread.com, their goal is to help boys become “self-motivated, life-long readers.” Consider hiring a high school boy to hang out and read with your son.
5. Turn off the media. Reading comes before screen time, always. Resist Kindles and ipads and encourage hands-on reading materials. Set a timer if you have to. You’ll know you’ve succeeded in capturing his reading interest when he doesn’t hear it ring.
He may not think of himself as a “reader” so be sure to point out to him all the ways that he does read.
Don’t forget to make friends with your local library. He will love having his own library card. They usually have great summer reading programs to give him added incentive to pick up a magazine, comic book, or graphic novel as well as a book.
Read together and keep it active!
Click HERE or on the image to listen to this short video conversation.
Janet talks with Alison, mom of a 6 yo and a 4 yo, “My 6 year old is having a hard time in school. He is bright, charismatic, and a little nutty. It seems like being in first grade means a whole different set of expectations. He hasn’t made friends. He has a hard time listening. He gets up and moves around the room. He has hit some kids. Last week he was sent home twice.”
“If this school isn’t working for him, I’m not sure what kind of school will. It makes me wonder if there is a school out there that is right for him. Does he just have to tough it out?”
Janet reassures: You are not alone. Many boys (and some girls) struggle with school and this is most apparent in a physical way in the younger grades. Young, active children are adjusting to this new context and the expectations of behavior.
Developmental Trajectory – an important recognition of a child’s own developmental trajectory (Not everyone develops at the same rate or in the same areas at the same time – yet we’ve put same-aged children in the same classroom expecting them to be able to do the same things.) Boys are typically 1 to 1.5 years ‘behind’ girls in their development – especially heightened in the younger ages. This levels off and boys do catch up but full cognitive development for boys doesn’t happen until mid-to late- twenties! For girls, it happens in late teens and early twenties.
Let’s put school in perspective. In the ‘olden days’, which wasn’t that long ago…boys (and girls) were active on farms or even if they lived in an urban setting they walked to school, goofing with friends along the way, walking, biking, jumping, climbing, and expending a lot of energy before they were expected to “sit still, listen, and learn.”
What’s a parent to do?
Help your active child before they get to school:
• A mini-trampoline, a basement skateboard ‘park’, a chin up bar – provide acceptable ways to get his energy out at home.
• Walk, bike or skateboard to school – park a few blocks away and go from there – it’ll be a great wake-up for you, too!
• Organize. You aren’t alone – other boys (and girls) crave a physical outlet before school and your teachers may be too busy to make it happen. Check out Boks (Build Our Kids’ Success) for a movement program that you can start at your school.
• Nutrition is essential – include protein and water!
• Help him understand HIS learning style and strategies for success. What helps him be able to focus? Try a fidget or squeeze ball to channel his excess energy.
What’s a teacher to do?
Teachers are busy and striving to do their best. First of all, they’ll see a difference in the wiggly kids as you implement the strategies above. Then, recognize that they likely haven’t been trained to understand fundamental gender-based learning differences. Point them to resources like Boys Alive! and the Gurian Institute who work with teachers showing them how to increase academic achievement while reducing time spent on behavior management.
3 Quick Tips for Success:
1. Water. When ‘flight or fight’ stress chemicals (adrenaline & cortisol) build up, a child can react too quickly in anger, silliness, or wiggles. Water dilutes these chemicals in 5 minutes rather than having them in one’s system for 2 hours.
2. Brain boosts. It takes less than a minute to increase blood flow and energize students. A quick lap around the playground, jumping jacks in place, or a quick ‘happy dance’ increases breathing, laughter, and attention.
3. More Room. Boys generally take up more space for their play and learning than girls. If there are 4 girls seated at a table, it will be more comfortable to have 3 boys at that same size table. Boys can easily feel overwhelmed with too much visual stimuli – minimize the wall art and ceiling decorations.
With about 93% of elementary teachers being female, there are many who don’t intuitively ‘get’ boys. Advocate for your active sons (and daughters) and support teachers to learn more about gender-based learning differences and how to successfully implement active learning strategies. (They’ll thank you for it!)
Above all, reassure your son that he is not bad and not wrong. He may be in a context that doesn’t fit him. Then it is your job to advocate and change the context! Let me know how I can help!
Is He Going ‘Back-to-School’ in a Boy-Friendly School? –
Are you wondering how he is going to do THIS year? Is he in a boy-friendly school? Does he have a boy-friendly teacher?
A boy-friendly environment looks different.
As academics continue to get “pushed down” into younger and younger grades, boys often suffer. When the early years of play turn too soon to academics – what was once first grade curriculum is now taught in kindergarten – boys struggle to fit into these new constraints and school becomes stress-filled rather than joy-filled. Add to that teachers who are simply overwhelmed by boy energy and you’ve got trouble.
“Every behavior is useful in some context.”
Yet school is often a context that does not fit boys.
I’ve seen first grade boys completely bewildered when asked to follow multiple directions, complete fine-motor tasks, and sit still and be quiet — all at the same time. It is nearly impossible for them, which leads to frustration (melt-downs and/or tummy aches), stress (acting out / being silly) and generally making everyone around them a little bit crazy. It also leads to the dreaded question, “Shouldn’t we be testing him for ADD?”
What does a boy-friendly school look like?
– MORE ‘CHAOS’ – Classes are noisier with kids in motion more often. This is not a “sit still and learn” environment – and you don’t want it to be!
-LESS CLUTTER – Boys tend to be highly visual. Too much visual stimulation can be overwhelming. Boy-friendly classrooms are decorated with simplicity in mind. Rules & assignments are posted visually/graphically rather than just with words. There is more floor space to play, work with clipboards, work on projects etc.
– MORE RECESS/MOVEMENT – In addition to recess there are other opportunities to move during the day – most importantly a time to pause during lessons to get up and stretch or ‘take a lap’ when the wiggles get too overwhelming.
How can you create a more boy-friendly experience for your son (at home and school)?
– MOVEMENT – Make sure he moves before school. Park several blocks away and walk; promote a jump rope or shooting hoops club before school with parents supervising (teachers will be grateful – and girls will love it, too!).
– LITERACY – Reading is the key to success in school and in life. Yet, boys often don’t consider themselves readers. Make sure your son’s classroom has plenty of boy-friendly reading materials – manuals, catalogs, dictionaries, graphic novels, magazines. Boys tend to read for a purpose and read in shorter bursts. Start collecting materials now. (And make sure he sees the men in his life reading!)
– ADVOCATE – Working within a parent organization, you can be the catalyst to begin a conversation at your school about the different ways that boys and girls learn and how to foster a boy-friendly environment (girls benefit, too!) An excellent resource is the book Boys and Girls Learn Differently by Michael Gurian.
When teachers and parents understand that boys need a different kind of structure at school and home, then discipline and behavioral issues decline and school enthusiasm increases. The contexts fit and our boys succeed!
What a great way to begin the year!
YOU must be the advocate for your son.
Boys Alive! has the resources to help you:
1. BOY TALK – Download interviews with parenting experts and expert parents on many all-things-boys topics: The Birds and The Bees; Coping with Grief; Boy-Friendly Schools; Peace with your Preschooler, and more!
2. HOST AN EXPERT – Janet Allison speaks nationally and internationally and creates programs designed for your specific school situation. Her talks are dynamic, engaging, and often have the highest turn-out of any school sponsored parent evening because of the compelling topic of boys! Discuss possibilities with her – EMAIL JANET>> firstname.lastname@example.org
3. JOIN THE CONVERSATION – Our private Facebook group is open to you! Join us as we help each other, share successes, and feature ideas and advice for making life with boys at home and school even more fun and successful. JOIN US HERE>>