Sunday, 27 May 2012

Educating Boys

Who in the world ever came up with the theory that the differences between boys and girls are a question of nurture rather than nature?  In all my days nannying, special-needs-assisting, teaching, and parenting, I have never been given reason to buy into that theory.  Yes there are boys who like playing dressing-up, and will play with dolls - at least, until they learn that it's socially unacceptable... and there are certainly plenty of girls who would rather play with cars, climb trees etc, which is less socially unacceptable (thank you women's libbers).  But there are some things that do seem to belong in the unique domain of parents-with-boys...
Take for example the question of the day from DS1: "Mum, when you go swimming, why doesn't the water go up your butt-hole?"  And when Daddy interrupted my careful but simple explanation, to assert that some people do manage to control their sphincters to 'suck in and expel water', it produced an awe-struck "Can YOU do that?"   The answer may have been 'no', but I guarantee the experiment that DS1 will be carrying out next bath-time...
... and then there was the enthusiastic description from DS2 of the compost toilets that he and Daddy used at the campsite - and who also, when he came home, headed out into the garden with a water gun to spray the trampoline so he could bounce in time to a loud song (sorry, neighbours) that appeared to be titled "get my bum soaking wet!"...
... and then again we have DS3 who obviously when he needs to wee would rather go outside, drop his trousers and sprinkle the lawn than use a flushing, hygenic toilet (I should be grateful I suppose - at least I stand a better chance of the seat being dry next time I need to use it).  He is the best raspberry-blower in the house, and is totally in awe of his big brother's ability to do "armpit farts".

I was chatting to a lovely friend today about the difference between educating boys and girls (she has two boys as well) - being very aware that these are all vast generalisations: of course there is no 'one way' for boys and another single way for girls.  However, just as boys are generally more prone to talking about bums, poo & other less-attractive bodily functions, there are also pithy truths that seem to apply to many more of them in comparison to girls...  (if these offend, or totally do not apply to your beautiful children, feel free to read this as just things I have learned about my own boys, compared to girls I have cared for/ taught)
  • Boys are more likely to get bored quickly (unless they're on the computer, in which case the opposite is true).
  • Boys are less likely to humour you when you think you're delivering an extremely interesting lesson.  It may be humiliating to have them walk off when you're just getting into what you're saying, but at least you get instant feedback on whether they're actually interested!
  • Boys are more likely to need frequent breaks for physical activity.  'Can't sit still' sound familiar?  I was amazed once when we met up with my sister and niece (at the time a 6yo) to do some pottery painting.  She sat still and painted for almost an hour!!!  DS1 (who was 8) concentrated nicely and produced a nice piece, but even he had had enough after about 20-30 minutes).
  • Basically, if you want to get a boy's attention, make the lesson/ topic as gruesome or hands-on as you can... or bribe him with computer games! ;)
Oh, and finally - a friend commented the other day that there seem to be more boys being home educated than girls.  It got me thinking, and I have to say this has certainly been true in the groups we have met up with so far... and I can't help but think there is a reason for this. I must try to find if anyone has done a proper study on this, but meanwhile I can only suggest that perhaps this is because the style of teaching carried out in our schools nowadays is far more suited to girls than boys (in this country they start them in school really early, before many boys' brains have developed enough to take on the communication skills they need to thrive in a school environment - and even in these 'enlightened days' of post-Victorian education, there is still a lot of desk-work required).  Maybe it's a coincidence, maybe it's just Hertfordshire - or maybe boys really are struggling more at school than girls.  The more I think about it, the more I am glad that I get to home educate my boys - even if that does mean I'm going to have to learn a lot more about poo, gore, bogies and other not-very-refined subjects than I might have liked!
PS It's OK - I was the mud-pie building kind of girl... I secretly love the gross stuff too! (maybe not as much as my boys, but enough to keep them happy and me sane).


  1. Sigh... This evening just before bed my DS1 demanded I took a defensive fighting pose, so he could demonstrate how if I blocked his light sabre attack he would then proceed to stab me in the back then slice both my arms off. ... Boys!!!

  2. LOL... way more fun than paper dollies though, hey? ;)

  3. It sounds like my HB is very much like your boys when it comes to learning. I bribe her with dinosaurs though lol! Your boys do sound like they have a fabulous sense of humour though! x

    1. LOL thanks Lisa :) Your HB sounds like my kind of girl ;)
      And yes - the boys are great fun, I'm so glad I get to hang out with them :) xx

  4. I had 2 girls and then a boy and I would say the difference was marked - even playing with the same toys they played differently. For example the duplo train set - the girls made it as quickly as possible and then played with characters getting on with their lives on and off the trains - ds spent ages building it just how he wanted it and then crashed trains on it. Also despite having one very physical girl my son was the one who needed to get out of the house and would drive us all mad if we'd been stuck indoors for a few days in the winter - he was just more boisterous.

    1. lol, I agree :) I took all the little people, trees and buildings out of my boys' wooden train set - they never, ever played with them, just left them hanging about making mess. If I was playing, they'd be the main part of the game, but the boys just weren't at all interested :)