The Awesomeness of Boys

March 11, 2019, Shirley Blake

Many moons ago, my oldest son Karson started his preschool experience and I was right there with him, serving the supportive role as the extremely passionate mother. Knowing I was going to be very involved we were both very excited about this new chapter in early education. I was looking forward to the more academic and creative art possibilities such as reading, writing, and drawing. Karson was excited about the toys at the facility and playing with his peers. I remember thinking that he would eventually fall-in love with reading and writing because I enjoy it so much. Right? I laugh now because I was in for an eye-opening and humbling experience.

We were knee-deep in his first full-year of preschool and I was feeling a little defeated in the learning progress. My expectations were unrealistic and second I had no real knowledge of the gender differences in learning. I thought if I read to and taught Karson numbers and letters he would learn them quickly. I sang songs and tried to be creative in ways that I enjoyed. He was just not interested. It did not make sense. I reflected on my early childhood experiences: I was an early reader, bilingual and being a fast-learner, I easily soaked up what the teacher taught. Karson was just not interested in my academic pursuits for him. I would frequently vent to my husband as I worried there was something wrong. My husband shared that he did not love reading as a child. I had really enjoyed reading from the start. I had to investigate further. I asked both of my brothers and they agreed that reading, along with early literacy was not engaging to them as little boys. I started to observe the classroom and I noticed that the majority of boys did have different natural interests in the preschool setting, whereas many of the little girls choose to “write” and draw, while the little boys preferred playing with the dump trucks, dinosaurs and blocks during free time. I questioned, maybe it is just a boy thing. Of course, this was just a very limited observation and my personal experience with my son, but I wanted to know more. I went to the local library to get research based materials to tell me the facts. Looking to quench my thirst for knowledge, I checked out various books. There was one book that really stood out, Wired to Move: facts and strategies for nurturing boys in an early childhood setting. This book gave me great information AND settled my worries. It reinforced that my son is simply being who he is. I learned that the majority of boys are very active and have great gross motor (movement) and spatial skills, and that many boys have a very difficult time learning while sitting still. This has to do with “gender biological makeup” and the stage in development that they are in. There is a lot of growth and brain development happening during those early years. In the book, they wrote about a project within a preschool that focused on helping boys learn. The project consisted of changing the way they taught to cater to the boys’ natural skills of gross motor and spatial. This was done through incorporating more movement and strength –based-play to deliver lessons. An example being, instead of sitting for circle time, have them stand and incorporate movement into the lesson. It also spoke to the degree women have heavily influenced and shaped education to serve our style of learning, sitting and listening, which sets boys up at a disadvantage.

Okay here is my disclaimer; this is speaking for the majority within the genders of male/female. There are some girls that learn better through spatial/gross motor skills and boys that learn well sitting and listening. Not the vast majority, according to the research. I read this book about four years ago, but it did help me understand my son and other boys more. There is much data and research out there and it will evolve as time goes on. I appreciate that this particular book helped me to understand my son more, and it encouraged me to learn more about early education with a lens that my son learns better when his strengths are incorporated. Alas, every child has their own strengths and weakness and having the approach of learning what they are interested in versus trying to fit them into your set of interests is helpful for both parent and child.

Karson loves sports and playing outside and I use that to my advantage. For example, Karson loves sports, so we worked to help him learn his single and double-digit numbers by observing sports player jerseys. I have enjoyed figuring out the things that do work. It has been fun to learn from skilled early learning providers. Karson also participated in this program called “Next Steps” where they taught the very interactive multisensory language arts program ZOO phonics, which both Karson and I loved. You can click here to check out the song!
Another YouTube video that you should totally check out to help your child with counting is, “Count to 100!”I will be completely honest that between Karson and I, I’m not sure who loved the counting video more! It is very fun and I am thankful for the teachers at Clemens Primary school for introducing me to the video. I will be introducing it to Samuel soon!

Having sons has made me more aware of the struggles boys face in early learning. Boys are unique and awesome in their own ways! In addition, if it were not for my sons I do not think I would have read as many books about sports, reptiles, and other strange creatures as I have!

If you are interested in learning more about the unique needs of boys be sure to sign up for this upcoming one-night workshop, “Supporting Boys in Early Childhood.”

For additional reading resources, be sure to check these out:
How Boys and Girls Learn Differently– Does your sons fidgeting and wriggling mean he’s checked out at school? Don’t worry — he’s perfectly normal.
Boys Learning– Reader’s Digest
How Boys’ Learning Styles Differ (and How We Can Support Them)

Do not forget your local library:

Corvallis-Benton County Public Library 

Linn County Libraries 

Newport Library

Lincoln City Library