Over the past few months, my oldest son tried a hand at musical theater. That meant extra rehearsals for him and lots of downtime for mom, as I accompanied him.
They performed Beauty and the Beast last week, he was Phillippe, among other characters, and the performance was great. Just in case you’re curious.
During my downtime, I had the luxury of reading one of the books I checked out from the library a couple weeks ago, Boys and Girls Learn Differently! A Guide for Teachers and Parents. I wasn’t purposely looking for this book. It simply fell into my hands while reaching for another book about homeschooling on the same shelf. Nevertheless, the title of this book intrigued me, and I decided to keep it.
Let me paint the picture: my boys often stand when they work, pace when they read, don’t seem to know what walking or a quiet voice is, protest sitting still at any capacity, will mope about writing a book report on a classic novel but willingly write about the history of Minecraft, are drawing and coding fanatics, would rather listen to me read than read on their own, are so video game obsessed that I have to forbid it on weekdays—and the list goes on.
As a woman, most days I just don’t understand them. But I love learning about their unique ways of learning and how I can better facilitate this process. I’m not here to change them. They’re fine as they are. I’m here to change the way I teach them.
Now, I’m no newbie to research regarding learning differences between boys and girls. Yet, this book taught me some new things and gave me great ideas on how I could foster a healthier learning environment for my boys. I’ve also linked other great resources in my post, should you want to investigate a little further.
I’m not here to debate whether boys or girls learn differently. Truthfully, some of the following tips—as proven by research—are useful for children in general. However, I won’t negate that some of the following methods I’ve applied to my homeschool have worked in our favor.
Although I’m looking through the lens of home education, please note that most of my research came from a traditional classroom perspective. So, don’t fret if you’re not a homeschooler, these tips will certainly work for your family or classroom, too!
Here are 10 Methods to Help Boys Maximize Their Learning Potential
1. Forget the desk and chairs.
Trust me—let him move! A boy’s autonomic nervous system causes them to be more alert when they’re standing and moving. Why? Movement activates all the brain cells boys use to learn. Research suggests that children who are more active show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed, and are better test-takers than children who are less active.
2. Schedule learning time after outdoor play or physical activity.
Jumping straight into morning learning may not be your best bet. If your little buddy is reluctant to learning, check back with him after he’s had a little outdoor playtime or physical activity. Why? Other than my aforementioned point about movement activating those “learning” brain cells, a study showed that young children who were given recess worked more or fidgeted less than when they were not given recess. Additionally, a 2016 study found that young boys who spent more time sitting and less time playing didn’t progress as quickly in reading and mathematics.
3. Let him draw it out.
Have your child draw pictures of a story in sequential order before they write a summary. Why? Drawing can be used as a mechanism to help students recall details in a story or text before beginning the writing process. In fact, a study contended students who drew before writing tended to produce more words, more sentences and more idea units, and their overall writing performance was higher than the students who wrote without drawing. This method can also be applied to solving math problems and studying informational facts.
Check out my resource Book Report/Summary Guide for Beginners & Reluctant Writers
4. Pace while you’re teaching a new concept.
Boys typically interpret the world as objects moving through space. We might just hold their attention if we become that moving object. Why? Research suggests instructors’ physical movement increases boys’ focus and engagement during lessons. So, try pacing and using wide-range movements when teaching new concepts.
Young children learn best from whom they’re intimately attached. Therefore, it’s a good idea to intentionally bond with your child to help him reach his academic potential. Why? According to research, the brain needs bonding and attachment to fully grow and learn. Try asking your child about his interests or playing his favorite game with him before starting your lesson. Be sure to give him your undivided attention.
6. Establish a consistent routine.
An unstructured routine can cause boys to lose that sense of security they crave, inhibiting their behavior and learning. Why? While children’s brains need freedom to discover information, they also need structure and order to turn that information into a learning experience. Research shows that boys with a structured routine exhibited better behavior in the classroom. However, boys without good structure or had a recent change in their routine exhibited more stress and behavioral problems than their peers.
7. Eat a good breakfast.
Time to ditch those refined carbs in the morning and give your lad a breakfast that’s high in fiber and protein. Why? Cereal and other refined carb breakfast foods raise glucose levels and cause jitters in boys—in addition to causing them to feel low. Consequently, according to research, boys tend to become impulsive during sugar crashes, spiking behavioral problems. Of course, if your child does any sort of physical activity in the mornings, unrefined carbs are okay to have.
8. Add Omega 3’s to his diet.
It’s a good idea to add Omega-3 fatty acids to your child’s diet to support optimal brain development. Why? Psychiatric and neurological disorders, such as ADHD (a common diagnosis for boys) have been linked to Omega-3 deficiency. Foods rich in Omega-3s are mackerel, salmon, cod liver oil, sardines, and oysters, among others. Got a picky eater? My boys love omega swirl fish oils.
9. Learn Outdoors.
Toss the textbooks and let nature be his teacher. Why? Research suggests the great outdoors helps stimulate the learning brain and resolve behavioral nuances. According to other studies, access to nature has also been shown to decrease the symptoms of ADHD. So, let your child have a change of scenery and go explore hidden treasure in your city or town. Beautiful greenery, flowers, rivers, and waterfalls. Creepy crawly creatures and local wildlife (albeit harmless). Or, simply take your workload and sit on a bench at a beautiful park and let the sunrays delight your child while he studies.
10. Give him power over his education.
Try letting your child help you pick out his curriculum, create enrichment activities, and/or choose the time of day he’d like to work on his lessons. Why? Research shows most behavioral problems in males stem from their desire for attention and power. Therefore, giving your child some power over his education may result in him being more receptive to learning and staying engaged. Just be sure when offering choices to your son that you offer preset options that you can live with either way.
Got any more tips or resource recommendations for teaching boys? Leave a comment below and share the wealth!