Saturday, August 2, 2008


The Heart of the Matter virtual homeschooling conference is happening this weekend, and it has been awesome!

The best class for me was the last one yesterday. It was by Andrew Pudewa from the Institute for Excellence in Writing, titled Teaching Boys Who Would Rather Be Building Forts. Awesome title, eh?

Did you know that boys and girls are wired differently? Literally neurologically differently. Read Why Gender Matters.

Here are some practical differences including reasons boys and girls don't do well in the same classroom. Now I finally know why I chose to homeschool my boys and am more ambivalent about my daughter. In words not just feelings.

For example, boys don't hear quiet sounds. They don't ignore me. They just don't hear me. Pudewa suggested that if both boys and girls are in a classroom, the teacher should seat the boys on one side and the girls on the other and then stand in front of the boys so they can hear. He said many boys don't do well in school because they cannot hear the teacher. I thought of the wiggly boys in Primary trying to hear quiet women's voices. He also suggested that if our sons cannot sit still to do math, have them stand up to do it. See further down for more reasons.

Boys optimum learning temperature is 68 - 69 degrees. Girls is 74-75 degrees. Note to self: keep heat low this winter and have dd and me bundle up.

Boys eyes have more m-cells which are connected to rods. They tend to track speed and motion. Girls have more p-cells connected to cones which track color and texture. Do you know a boy that draws with black and attempts to draw action? I do! Boys draw verbs in black; girls draw nouns in full color.

That sums up boys in language arts: they recognize verbs. Girls see nouns and descriptors. So when a boy writes a story with info left out, I can't instruct him on adjectives and adverbs. He suggested something like, "Great story. Let's add some action."

How they handle emotions like being upset: Boys stomp around and make lots of noise. They need to stand up if they are upset because they think better on their feet, moving around. So don't make them sit down to talk about it. They can't if you want them to work through it. If a girl is upset, you have to go find her first. He suggested that you can usually find her on the couch with a blanket pulled over her head. Her bedroom in our case. No need to search for a boy unless he took off on his bike.

Related info: Boys react to pain with an increase of blood flow to the cortex. He suggested letting them hurt each other or they will hurt themselves. He recommended explaining to them that girls do not do well with pain so they need to take it out on each other, not on girls! I realized that in our society of today with so many women in positions of responsibility, we don't allow our boys the freedom to do this. How many times have I told my boys to stop wrestling before they get hurt? Shame on me! I'll clear valuables next time (what few I have left.) They have never been badly hurt. (Fight or flight very clear here!)

Related to this info, he told us that boys have to learn interesting, relevant, and applicable information. They see no reason for anything else. Pudewa said the most important motivator was to teach things that were intrinsically relevant. Those things are naturally interesting. He commented that knives and swords are universally interesting to boys. "They will invent them if the never see them." How many moms can attest to that? Keep swords and guns out of the house, and a boy will invent them out of a stick!

If we try to teach our boys something that is not that intrinsically relevant but must be learned, he noted that creative teachers will invent games. But he noted that they must have positive and negative results, otherwise the boys might decide it's not worthwhile and decide to opt out. For example, a teacher might give him a penny for every right answer, but he must pay the teacher $1.00 if he does not play. The rewards must be physical, not mental or emotional. Girls need those, not boys.

No wonder the few all-boys schools in this country have exceptional records. We need more!

Oh yeah, Pudewa suggested martial arts training for teaching boys discipline and focus. Boys have inherently short attention spans, and it helps them develop longer ones. It helps all the way around! I know boys whose parents enrolled them in taekwondo to help them with dyslexia, and it does. He also suggested reading the book, The Five Love Languages.

As I listened to the speaker, I realized anew that those people who have spent the last who-knows-how-long trying to change boys have failed. They have only weakened and shamed boys. When we consciously understand and value boys again, we will change our world. That is fodder for another post though as it relates to another topic.

Oops! The conference is about ready to start!

See here for notes of yesterday's conference in brief.


Anonymous said...

That was so good to read, I have been fighting friends who only have sisters and daughters about how I raise the boys. I am going to have to send them to your blog so they know what I am talking about.
Dawn Beardmore

SingingMamaDee said...

Excellent post! I came to your blog because you mentioned Andrew Pudewa, and I was going to ask you if you wanted to read my interview with him at my blog:

Andrew Pudewa Interview

He chats with me about how his homeschooling philosophy has evolved over time.

BUT now that I have read your excellent post, I was wondering if I could copy it and post it for my readers with full attribution to you as the author and a link back to your blog. What do you think? You can email me at if you agree to share your valuable insights. Thanks!

Diane Lockman
3 Simple Steps to Homeschooling Success