Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Book Report

The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do by Peg Tyre
Ben and I read this together at his suggestion. The author was an investigative journalist for NewsWeek magazine. The book goes through every grade from Pre-K to College and identifies how many boys are struggling at every level. She identifies historical (Women's Lib movement) and political reasons (No Child Left Behind and standardized testing) why the problems exist and why it's so unpopular to discuss the problems many boys have.

Some problems she sites are that boys are inherently different than girls, meaning they are naturally very active, even aggressive, they are slower to develop fine motor skills and typically learn to read at a later age, and these differences are often overlooked in the typical expectations boys face in schools. She follows that boys are quicker to get referred for evaluations, get labeled with a diagnosis and get medicated or labeled as learning disabled and get an IEP (or whatever they're called nowadays) or put in special classes. Worse, little boys from Pre-school and kindergarten become discouraged because it's too hard for them to sit still or live up to increasing academic expectations at younger and younger ages and "check out" of school before they've hardly begun.

The problems continue throughout the school years and many boys aren’t even interested in continuing their education through college and many of those who do can’t pass admissions requirements. This is where it got interesting. Colleges are starting to lower their standards for boys just to get them admitted. If their ratio of boys to girls is too lop sided admissions go down all together. So, they end up overlooking more qualified girls to get more boys in their schools. That’s discouraging for EVERYBODY!

She doesn't have any miracle solutions, which I can appreciate. She mainly encourages parents to advocate for their boys. She affirmed that there are many teachers and school officials that are trying hard to find ways to meet the needs of boys, but many are not as most don’t even recognize that there is a problem. Some ideas I gleaned from her if you think you may have a super active little boy are: choose play-centered pre-schools instead of overly academic ones, wait an extra year to have your son enter school, don't assume male teachers are all sexual predators - remember boys like to learn from men, make sure Dad role models reading, and watch out for video game addiction in your son. For schools: one school has a different police officer come every week to read to the elementary kids in full uniform (gun and all), don’t limit recess and lunch times, incorporate movement in the classroom, encourage reading and writing topics that the children are truly interested in, be sensitive to inherent differences in boys – if most of the boys in the class struggle with handwriting, it may be too early to expect them to have as nice handwriting as their female peers.

I think Ben was excited about this book because there were chapters covering the elementary years that he feels depicted what he went through. He was the little boy who couldn't sit still or stay quiet and was struggling enough his mother pulled him out of school and home schooled him for a year in fourth grade. I appreciated learning some ideas to use in my future home school classroom to keep my son's interest.

1 comment:

kristina said...

Hey there! Sounds like an insightful book. I can certainly attest to the high energy of boys cropping up as an issue in school. Jacob has one of the highest energy levels that you will ever see in a child. (I am absolutely serious). Since preschool, it has always been a bit of an issue, with his teachers. The difference between him and other boys is that he is highly focused while doing his school work. Then, in between (on down time, or while changing gears in the classroom) all his saved up energy can come out. I honestly believe that if he were NOT so focused during classroom work time, he would have been given an ADHD label... simply because his teachers don't know what is normal for little boys. At the younger ages, it is almost against their very nature to sit so still.

Interestingly, this year (second grade), Jacob has a male teacher, and he has not once, ever, mentioned Jacob's energy level as a problem (while last year, his teacher had me in tears). When we mentioned it to the teacher, you know what he said? -- "He's a little boy, it's normal". I guess it takes a former little boy to "get" little boys. I think having a male teacher was the BEST thing for Jacob. He has excelled so much this year, his reading level is now at a late fourth grade level, and his math is probably about similar. And what a relief for me, as a mom, not to be getting notes home all the time about his behavior.