Thursday, April 9, 2009

Do Boys Start Too Early?

Over on Why Boys Fail, author Richard Whitmire has an intriguing link about England's "pushback" against earlier schooling for boys.

It's an interesting story, especially as America contemplates universal preschool
and my home state, Wisconsin, considers mandatory five-year-old kindergarten.

Numerous anecdotal reports and scientific studies suggest that three-, four- and five-year-old boys aren't developmentally ready for formal instruction.

Note that phrase: "formal instruction." No one is saying that young boys can't learn. They can, and they should. But learning in a four-walls environment with desks and worksheets is very different from learning in the real world, and boys (especially young boys) thrive on real world learning.

They like -- need -- to get their hands dirty. To experiment for themselves. To create games and chaos. To run around pretending they are knights or Jedi. To wander through a stream, searching for minnows, crayfish and waterbugs. To stare at a wall for hours.

That's the kind of education young boys need, and the kind they are NOT getting in school.

Putting boys in school at ever-younger ages won't solve boys' educational problems. Letting them live in the world -- as the boys they are -- just might.


  1. As the father of 7 children, including 4 boys, I can tell you that they mature at different ages, boys generally later than girls. Since we've homeschooled all ours in the early grades, we've had the luxury to start them in school only when we felt they were ready. For one of ours, it was age 4, for another, age 8. Interestingly, these are our two best readers and brightest children. One is a National Merit Finalist the other probably will be.

    My experience with boys is that they learn best outside the classroom in the "kindergarten" ages. Generally, starting them in school before age 7 yields a lot of diminishing returns.

  2. I'd say it's the best way for pre-teen boys to learn too, from what I've seen anyway. It wasn't until probably the last 18 months that "sit down" lessons really amounted to much for Padawan Learner (much to my initial dismay, being a "sit down" learning type of person).