Help Boys learn Effectively

10 Methods to Help Boys Maximize Their Learning Potential

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

Book Report Guide for 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.

 

5. Bond.

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!

Homeschool of Shame | When I Lose My Temper

Homeschool of Shame | When I Lose My Temper

Losing one’s temper looks different for everyone. For me, it looks like screaming orders at the top of my lungs when I get tired of repeating myself. I mean, why can’t my kids just listen the FIRST time, right?

I’ve quickly realized, I wasn’t the only one struggling to maintain my cool. It’s quite a hot topic amongst moms, especially the homeschool moms in my circle.

I’ve also quickly realized I didn’t want my emotions controlling me. It’s not a great feeling. So, I set out to be intentional about improving this area of my life. And I’ve discovered that 99.9 percent of this change required daily doses of tenacity, self-awareness, and mindset renewal.

Months later, I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my temperament, and I want to share some of the things that have been working for me. Here are seven preventative strategies I use to keep me from losing my temper:

 

 

1. I expect my temper to be tested:

Don’t we all prepare for things when we expect it to come? A wedding? A new baby? A midterm exam? Similarly, I prepare for a test in patience because I expect it. Each day comes with its own challenges. I can recite all the positive declarations I want, but they will not stop the challenges of the day from coming. What these declarations WILL do instead is prepare me for the challenges of the day. They give me the mindset I need to better manage my emotions and resist the temptation to be quick-tempered. Here’s one of my favorite declarations inspired by 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

Today, I choose to be patient and kind. I refuse to be rude, easily angered, or keep a record of wrongs. I will persevere through the challenges that come my way because I know love never fails.

 

2. I realize that I’m in control:

Anger is part of being human. It’s a valid emotion. And, while it doesn’t feel good, the good news is that I get to choose whether it dictates my behavior. I’ve learned that anger is not the problem, but rather what I do with that anger that poses the real issue. I’ve learned my negative response to anger is nothing more than a bad habit that needs to be replaced with good ones. Here are some REAL ways I managed to adopt good habits to dispel anger:

  • Give it to God: If you live with me, or are a close friend, you’ll hear me say MANY times, “God, help me!” when I feel I’m about to lose it.
  • Start declaring love and peace: You’re probably tired of me mentioning “declarations,” but the power of the tongue is a mighty tool.
  • Find the humor in it: Yes, I’ve been known to laugh off anger. Hey, it works!

 

3. I let it out:

Even when I manage to keep my cool and the situation has passed, the anger can still linger. This is when I find a safe space to let it out. If I’m in public, a bathroom stall has never failed me. I pray, I sob, and I wipe my tears and move on. If I’m at home, I take a similar approach but in the comfort of my bedroom. My car has also been my “safe place” to let the tears roll and release some steam.

 

4. I confront the offender:

Sometimes, pent-up anger arises when I don’t confront the offender. Maybe I let my kid off the hook one too many times. Maybe I was overcharged and never bothered to go back to the store to resolve the issue. Small things like this can add up in the stealthiest of ways. Trust me, I never realized how much not speaking up has been the source of my lost temper. What I’ve learned is to not “let stuff go” that actually needs to be addressed. As long as it’s done in love, confronting your offender and resolving issues can be very freeing.

 

5. I take self-inventory:

“What’s going on, Nike? What is the REAL issue?” These are the questions I ask myself after I’ve lost it. What makes this measure “preventative,” even though technically at this point I’ve lost it, is that I can pinpoint certain triggers to be aware of next time around. Sometimes, it wasn’t that I was angry but sad, afraid, or discouraged. Sometimes, I realized the anger stemmed from an insecurity. For instance, when I first started homeschooling, I was insecure about whether I was doing a good enough job. Therefore, a child who refused to do assignments or was simply “not getting it” became a common trigger. Once I identified the trigger, it became less powerful and less likely to prosper against me. Wouldn’t you take the bullets out of a gun you knew would be used against you?

 

6. I take care of myself:

Don’t roll your eyes at this cliché tip. You’d be surprised how much a bad diet and no exercise can affect you. I’m in no way perfect in this area of my life. Sometimes I eat that extra slice of cheesecake and skip that evening workout. But I can say with certainty that the more I do it, the more I’m reminded it’s just not worth it. Why? Because I’m keen on how my mood changes when I do my body a disservice. Exercise is one of the BEST ways to release the stress and negative energy that can lead to a loss of temper. I’ve learned to keep it simple, though. A walk around the neighborhood on a sunny day does plenty for my mood.

 

7. I remember that anger is toxic:

Have you ever seen the rice experiment? A man puts an equal amount of freshly cooked rice into two jars. He labels the first jar “love.” He labels the second jar, “hate.” For a period of weeks, the man spends each day saying positive words to the “love” jar and negative words to the “hate” jar. After just a few days, the rice in the jar labeled “hate” starts to blacken and mold. And after a few weeks, the rice in that same jar is unrecognizable while the rice in the jar labeled “love” still looks good enough to eat. The moral? The words we spew in anger are powerful and toxic.  I try to remember this the next time I want to tell-off someone I love. I picture that “hate” jar, I see their spirit, and I imagine how my words could possibly destroy them.


 

And there you have it. These are six things I actually do that work. With any post like this, I must make the disclaimer that if you’re EVER concerned about your anger, you should definitely seek the help of a professional. There’s no shame in that. But for those who are looking to grow in patience, I highly recommend trying some of these strategies out!

 

Have any helpful tips? Don’t be shy! Let us know in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Toddlers and Toys

Toddler Boredom | 10 Ways to Resurrect Old Toys

 

Okay, so let me get this out of the way. The average attention span for a toddler is only 3-5 minutes. By age five, this span increases to a whopping 10-15 minutes. Not very long, huh? I know! It’s no wonder kids seem to run out of things to do so quickly. Nevertheless, I incorporated the following methods to maximize the attention span of my dear children. My boys are now ages 4 and 7, but these straightforward tips have worked for me since their toddlerhood. This week for Toddler Talk Tuesday, I will share simple things you can do to help curb toddler boredom. I hope you find these tips helpful. Enjoy!


 

Toddler Boredom | 10 Ways to Resurrect Old Toys

 

1. Don’t hold onto them. 

Those toys that your children have outgrown or don’t care for? Donate them! Sometimes when the toybox or playroom is overflowing with toys it can be overwhelming for kids, especially the younger ones. Purging toys not only lessens the load and makes playtime more attractive, but helps your children discover those long-lost items they’ve forgotten how much they love. Be sure to involve your little ones in the donation process. Let them know they are making room for new toys in the future. And don’t forget to let your toddler choose a brand-new toy to purchase and include in your donation!

 

2. Keep them in rotation. 

Limiting your child’s toy options may help hold their attention for longer periods—especially when those options are in rotation. Leave your child 1-2 toys to play with and put the rest away for a while. You may find that your child can play for longer periods with just one or two toys. This is because there aren’t a dozen other toys competing for their attention, so your child isn’t rushing to move on to the next best thing. Decide how long you want your rotation to last (every week? every month?) and reintroduce your child to some of the toys you’ve been hiding away. Be sure to keep the cycle going. 

 

3. Organize them. 

Yes! Keep the blocks with the blocks, the dolls with the dolls, the play kitchenware with the play kitchenware—you get the point! Avoid dumping all your children’s toys into one giant toy bin. Instead, get some inexpensive bins (the Dollar Tree is a good place to start) and teach your children how to keep their toys organized and accessible. You’ll be amazed at what a difference this can make during playtime. I recall several meltdowns because certain parts of a playset had gotten lost in the crowded toybox. Organizing toys keeps all those “parts” together, which limits frustration and tantrums. 

 

4. Play with them. 

Sometimes you just have to get on the floor and play with your kids. Doing so is not only great for bonding and building self-esteem, but also gives your child new ideas about how to play with their toys. Show them how to build an amazing tower with their Lego set, how to create an awesome storyline for their toy soldiers or dolls, or how to play a new tune with their pretend (or real) instruments. You may find that your child takes ideas and builds upon them, sparking a new excitement for their toys. 

 

5. Change surroundings. 

Take that play kitchen or workbench station out of the playroom and put it into the family room for a few days. On a sunny day, take a large blanket and place it in the backyard with a few of your child’s beloved toys for a fun toy picnic. During the winter, bring your child’s water table into the kitchen or garage and let them enjoy playing with a “summer toy” during a different season. Sometimes, a different setting can make old toys just as exciting as brand new ones.

 

6. Wrap them!

Yes, you heard it right. Get some fun wrapping paper and wrap some of your child’s toys. Toddlers won’t care that the toy isn’t new. They just love the idea of unwrapping a present! Even better? Give them some extra wrapping paper to wrap the toys themselves. My boys loved wrapping their toys and giving them to me as “gifts.”

 

7. Become a “toy fairy.”

I still love doing this! When my oldest was a toddler, I would sneak into his bedroom while he was asleep and set up his toys in an elaborate display. Trust me, this will buy you some time in the morning! Or even post-naptime! My son would wake up and be so excited to play. These days, since I have my children’s toys on rotation, I simply switch out their toys in the middle of the night for other toys they haven’t played with in a while. It’s like Christmas morning! They never know what toys they’ll wake up to.

 

8. Wash them.

Get a large container, fill it with water and bath bubbles, give your child a toddler-friendly scrubber, and let them “wash” their toys. Make sure the toys are not plush, battery operated, or electronic. They can wash their toys while sitting on the kitchen floor as you cook dinner (place a towel underneath them). Or, like my boys do, they can wash their toys outside in the backyard while you sit on the porch with your favorite book scrolling through Instagram.

 

9. Make them educational.

Place alphabet letters or numbers onto blocks, Legos, mini figures, or dolls and have your toddler arrange them in order. You can simply print out a number or alphabet template, cut them into squares, and tape them onto the toys. If you don’t mind things being permanent, you can even write on blocks and Legos with a permanent marker. You can also have your child group the toys by color; for example, place the red blocks with other toys that are red. Or, try arranging the toys by size. There are so many possibilities and your toddler will love having a little task to do!

 

10. Take them apart.

This is a recent tip I read about in one of my Facebook STEM groups. Whether you have a curious child or a future engineer, old toys that can’t be donated can be safely taken apart for further exploring. Let your child explore what’s inside a stuffed animal, a remote-control car, or that musical toy that plays the same annoying songs over and over. I do not recommend this tip for younger toddlers who still put things in their mouths, as there may be small parts involved. Always remember to provide close supervision.


 

As a disclaimer, I am not an expert. These are just tips that have worked for me and my family. I hope you found at least one of these tips useful. Join me next week for my final post on the Toddler Talk Tuesday series!

Let us know in the comments what you do to help curb toddler boredom!