Ostensibly, I was the expert, but I learned from the conference attendees as well. I learned that parents of boys are hungry for information about boys' mental, emotional and physical growth and development. I learned that they're passionate in their quests to support their sons' learning, and frequently frustrated with institutional educational settings that not-so-subtly imply that there must be something wrong with their sons. Many -- if not most -- homeschooling parents of boys have sent their sons to schools, but ended up bringing them back home because school wasn't working out. Either the school squashed their sons' natural love of learning or deemed their sons deficient. Too often, boys who have a hard time sitting down, reading or writing are labeled as troublemakers, slow learners or hyperactive children. Rarely does the school take responsibility for creating an environment that fails to respect the basics of boy behavior and biology.
I also learned that parents of boys grapple with many of the same questions. Over and over again, I heard the same three concerns:
- Boys' predilection to violence and guns. Seeing little boys shoot each other as they play War is unsettling, especially to parents who came of age post-Columbine. Our society is understandably jittery about violence and gun play, and for good reason. But boys have been fascinated with violence forever, and guns, ever since they were invented. Fortunately, a lot of good research suggests that violent play (including gun play) may actually be healthy for boys.
- Boys' difficulty with writing. Most boys are reluctant writers. Part of that reluctance is biologic: Boys' fine motor skills develop at a slower pace than girls', so holding a pencil and forming letters on a page truly can feel like torture to a young boy. The parents I talked to, though, had some innovative ideas for encouraging boys to write. Ever thought of picking up postcards as souvenirs everywhere you go, and asking your boys to jot down their favorite memories of the day? Postcards are much less intimidating than big sheets of paper!
- Boy's apparent lack of interest in reading. Boys in general are not avid readers. But right there, in the middle of my session, sat a young boy reading, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. If your son is reluctant to read, read to him. Check out non-fiction books on topics of his interest. And try comics. After my session, I attending one about learning through comics. In years past, comics were ridiculed as fluff, but for some kids, comics can inspire a whole tidal wave of learning. One homeschooled student even learned Japanese as a result of her love of manga.
Do you agree with my list? What are your top concerns about your sons?