Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Day Twenty-One: Educating With Different Genders

He stopped reading mid-sentence and scratched his arm... which reminded him he had biceps... and then he became distracted flexing those beauties. I oohed and aahhed for a moment then traced my finger back over the text to prompt him to commence reading. He continued and I smiled to myself in wonderment over the difference between this young lad and my girls.
Gender differences in your homeschool will cause you to stop and scratch your head unless you're aware that not every curriculum or book or activity will smoothly succeed without at least considering gender. I'm so thankful God created boys and girls the way He did. Their contrasting qualities are interesting and awesome to teach. Having three daughters before a son had surely set me on a one-track teaching style. It took some creativity and advice to be able to alter my thinking in educating all four of my children.
Some children do not fit the typical gender tendencies and that's delightful too. Keep in mind, your daughters may struggle to pay attention and your boys may exhibit language skills earlier. (Just a note: although I am not presently dealing with learning disabilities,, I've taught learning-challenged kids in school and watched friends and family battle with decisions surrounding these. This is where that homeschool support group is invaluable. You're guaranteed to find another family dealing with the same circumstances to a large or small degree.) I love veteran home educators who have a wealth of wisdom when it comes to various issues I encounter.

One such source was our local homeschool convention's keynote speaker, Andrew Pudewa, who addressed the wonderful design of our children in his seminar, "Teaching Boys And Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day". He highlighted the way boys, especially, find it difficult to learn in a classroom designed for doing seat work for long periods of time--quietly--without too much wiggling. He shared humorously about how homeschooling allows boys (and others :) to utilize their own learning style. He paced back and forth in front of the audience, becoming louder at times, and using hand movements like punching the air to speak. He was demonstrating how to keep a boy's attention. It was hysterical. I've remembered some of Pudewa's concepts like, some boys need competition to remain motivated. Others need a calm environment that is not busy with items all over the walls or too much noise in the atmosphere. They need to have the option to stand, lean or move while learning. I've been able to take his, and others' advice, and implement them in my home. We also employ brain breaks, and I try to listen to my children on how they feel they'd learn better.
Since kids are often the best judges of how they learn, their input is important...except when they feel they need candy between math and spelling (yes, that's been an "educational" request :) Oliver always asks for some physical activity before schoolwork. He enters the schoolroom by flipping his body over our reading chair and he sometimes bounces when he's telling me a story. Molly knows that she needs a quiet place to stay on task as the calling out of questions from her siblings throws her off. Emily's excitement for learning first thing in the morning is often squelched if she answers a question incorrectly. Her perfectionist quality makes it difficult for her to feel that it's okay to make mistakes and that she can still be successful the rest of the day. She needs verbal affirmation. Meghan desires a strict schedule and cannot be distracted by her loud, physical brother, who is calling for her to wrestle while she's working on English :) Gender is often a predictor of learning style, but not entirely. My daughters absolutely need quiet or even solitude and my son needs activity between each subject to get his brain functioning well. Once I figured out how my little students each focused best, I had to suppress my ideal of recreating the classrooms I had when I was teaching in traditional school. But, wow, did it ever wake me up to the fact that I hadn't fully been capable of applying this to my dear students who needed it just as much as my own children. There's a model for school, and it can be altered slightly, but it's difficult to apply these principles completely for each child.
The propensity for curriculum content is another difference between genders. My girls, for instance, all loved the stories in the Pathway Readers that I supplemented with their Sonlight readers. I was excited to share these sweet stories with my son, who was an emergent reader, but he became tired of "too many girl parts in there". When I'm planning a unit study, I know I must have active facets in the lessons for my son, while the girls love the crafty applications. Both my girls and boy enjoy movement and art, however, if I designed a study using only one aspect of learning, I'd have a dissatisfied student in the mix while the others would be okay with it. Subject matter is important as well. Our Little House Study was wonderful... as long as Pa's gun, hunting and log cabin building were emphasized for my boy. The girls were happy learning how to make bees wax candles and needlepoint.

Just as learning style and curriculum are considerations for different genders, performance expectations are also critical. If your first born is a girl and she reads at age three and your next child is a boy and he still doesn't even care about reading when he's seven, you have to decide if you're going to allow him the opportunity to learn at his own pace or place the same standard on him that you held for your daughter. It may be the other way around in your family and that is the fantastic diversity God has created in children! In Oliver's case, his fine-motor skills developed at an earlier age than his sisters, while decoding words took longer. I must accept whatever level each of my children is at without comparison to the sibling above them.
Fortunately, home education grants opportunity for the prosperity of your children when it applies to gender. As a parent, you are in the position to know your children well and search out the best curriculum, environment and activities to suit their genders. Enjoy the richness that accompanies your boys and girls! 

No comments: