Sunday, February 28, 2010

Snapshot Sunday: Organization

For some reason, Boy #4 likes to line his machines up just so. I currently have a line of machines in my bedroom. He has a line of machines along the rug in his room. And his "outside machines" are lined up in the snow. :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Boy Mom Eyes

Having a boy (or 2 or 3 or....) definitely changes you. Case in point: I found myself wrestling with my five-year-old niece today. After years of parenting boys, "wrestle" somehow equals "play" in my brain.

Maybe that's why I found Outnumbered Mom's post, The Paradox of Parenting Boys, so intriguing. Head on over. Take a look. Tell me what you think.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Boys & Healthcare

We've been spending lots of time at the doctor's office lately. Boy #1 has headaches -- sometimes pretty scary, severe ones. He's also been battling strep throat and an upper respiratory infection....which means that everyone is now sniffling and coughing. Friday was the only day this week we weren't at a doctor's office. Of course, I spent part of that morning on the phone, making sure medical records were in place and ready for the next doctor's appointment -- on Monday.

Which got me thinking about boys and healthcare. Boys have plenty of health risks. They're:
  • 3 times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD
  • 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism
  • More likely to have asthma, headaches and depression, at least pre-puberty. (After puberty, girl experience more asthmatic episodes, headaches and depression than boys.)
  • More likely to experience sports injuries, after puberty

But by the time they're teens, boys rarely visit the doctor. Why? Lack of insurance is surely part of the issue; millions of American boys are uninsured. Millions more are under-insured. For them, visiting the doctor means forgoing some other necessity.

Millions of boys also believe that seeing a doctor somehow makes them less manly. Research has shown that men who embrace traditional beliefs about masculinity are 50% less likely to go to the doctor. Somehow, these men have confused strength with stupidity.

So how do we break the cycle? How do teach our boys to value their health? Any ideas?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Online Resources

Remember life before the Internet? We had to go to the library to look up magazine articles in periodical guides, then wade through stacks of magazines in a back room if we needed information for a school report. Martin Luther King Jr's famous "I Had a Dream" speech was something we learned about in school, from a textbook.

Now, millions of articles about millions of topics are available all the time. My children, decades younger than I, can watch Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and see his oratorical skills in action. I can sit in my basement and collaborate with editors on both coasts. My son can learn about real-time fishing conditions . We watch snowstorms roll in and anticipate snowdays before the first flake falls.

The Internet -- as any homeschooling parent will tell you -- is a fantastic learning tool. That's why I'm so pleased to announce Blogging 'Bout Boys' inclusion on a 100 Excellent Online Resources list!

Whether you homeschool or not, 100 Excellent Online Resources for Christian Homeschoolers is a fabulous resource. Everything is there, from math to art to writing resources. There are even links to educational podcasts about astronomy, history and more.

What are some of your favorite online resources?

Monday, February 8, 2010

What Makes a Great Teacher?

Bill Gates is someone I admire. He has billions of dollars and absolutely no financial incentive to ever work again, yet he continues to devote his time, energy and resources to worthy causes, such as global health and, recently, education.

Gates recently committed $45 million dollars to the Measures of Effective Teaching Project, a study designed to identify the characteristics of good teaching. The idea, of course, is to then replicate those characteristics in classrooms across the country.

Not everyone thinks it's money well-spent. Retired teacher James D. Starkey wrote a thought-provoking op-ed for Education Week, an op-ed which is inspiring a fair amount of controversy.

Teaching, Starkey says, isn't about tricks and techniques. Teaching and learning, he says, "happen whenever significant adults interact with and direct children. You can’t stop it."

I argued a similar point in a column I wrote for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last year. And while teachers weren't happy with me (I argued that an interested adult who supports and encourages the children's curiousity is an effective teacher -- whether or not that adult holds a teacher's certificate), I stand by my point. Children are hard-wired to learn. It is virtually impossible for a child to get through a day without learning anything. It's even more impossible when that child is in the care of an attentive adult.

I don't know about your kids, but mine constantly ask questions. Some are rather mundane ("Can I have oatmeal for breakfast?" and some are thought-provoking ("What effect did tanks have on World War II?") All of them -- even the oatmeal question -- inspire discussion and learning.

The debate, though, doesn't stop with me or Mr. Starkey. The debate as to what makes a good teacher will go on and on. Add your voice to the debate. What do you think makes a good teacher?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Doing Nothing

After lunch today, I sat back on the sofa and sipped my soda.

To the casual observer, it may have looked like I was doing nothing. (Especially since I periodically closed my eyes.) But if you looked closer, you would have seen education in action.

In reality, I was helping Boy #2 write a story. He LOVES to draw and last night created his very own super hero and nemesis. Today, he drew an entire cartoon story featuring his characters -- 5 pages with 4 panels each, plus a title page. Since he's not yet an independent writer, I'd promised him that I would help him add words to his book after lunch.

Writer that I am, I pictured narrative sentences. Comic book kid that he is, he imagined sound effects. He asked me how to spell "whoosh" and "beep" and "aaargh!" and a thousand other things I can't even type because I have no idea how to replicate those sounds with letters.

He became frustrated with me. He retreated to another room. I gave him time and space before settling in next to him on the couch. We tried again. I expected him to hand over the pencil at any time -- "You do it, Mom" -- because he hates writing. But he didn't. This was his book, his story, and he seemed determined to do it himself.

Frame-by-frame, he filled in the words. Sound effects. Dialogue. He asked for the spelling of words he didn't know and I replied -- sitting there, on the couch, eyes closed, sipping my soda.

At times, it took all of my patience to sit quietly and repeat the letters. His frames, after all, went from the upper left corner of the page, down to the lower left, then up to the right and down again. His spacing was occasionally non-existent. A couple of his letters were reversed. And he, intent on his project, was often less-than-patient.

My 12-year-old son, meanwhile, kicked off Black History Month by reading three books about the Underground Railroad in front of the woodstove.

I sat on the couch and did nothing....

...except allow my children to learn in ways that suit their natural learning styles. Boy #2 developed fine motor skills, spelling, handwriting, reading, writing and language skills. His story had a definite plot and two distinct characters. It featured a beginning, middle and end. Boy #1 reveled in historical knowledge -- from books I'd selected on a previous trip to the library and left casually laying around the house. Is it a co-incidence that tomorrow we go see The Freedom Train, a musical about the life of Harriet Tubman? I think not.

Real, vital learning is frequently invisible. Often, the best teachers are as well.