A few years ago, I opened our hometown newspaper and read down the list of valedictorians and salutatorians for our area high schools. The pictures alone told the story: girls had overwhelmingly garnered these top spots–which is great! I’m a mom of two girls, and we want our girls to succeed. But I wondered why so few boys were getting these honors. As a mom to five boys, I wanted to ensure that my boys would also achieve school success.
Because boys and girls are uniquely created, boys and girls learn differently. Numerous studies now back that up. Their brains are wired differently, with varying hormones and chemicals, and also develop at different rates, notes Michael Gurian in Boys and Girls Learn Differently: a Guide for Teachers and Parents.
Even if our children are going off to school each day, parents can help set their boys up for academic success. Given the way boys are designed, here are 7 ways parents can help their boys thrive in school:
1. Set up routines:
For younger boys, make sure they are filling out planners at school. If there are five classes, they should have five entries for homework, even marking when a class doesn’t have homework so the parent can see each class is accounted for. Older boys should know how to work from a syllabus and calendar due dates and exams. Finding a homework buddy for each class can help when there’s a last-minute question about an assignment. Use these ideas to help get organized at home.
2. Feed them well:
Stay away from sugary breakfasts or lunches that will fuel a rush-and-crash cycle. Instead, give your boys healthy choices, including good proteins, to keep their energy levels steady for the school day.
3. Let them move:
After a day at school, boys need to move. It’s difficult for them to come home and dive right into homework. Their focus will actually improve if they get outside time first.
4. Break up homework:
“Telling a boy to sit and do his homework until it’s done can be torture,” says Tricia, an elementary teacher and mom of two. Short lessons work best in the classroom and at home. Break homework into shorter lessons, and let your son shoot basketballs or get a snack and then come back and finish.
5. Let them help:
“Given all the hours for school, homework, and extracurricular activities, parents may be tempted to scale back on the chores. But boys thrive on accomplishment and feeling needed,” says Brian, a father of two and veteran teacher. The responsibility learned in chores can transfer to the classroom.
Parents Brian and Deanne have found that limiting screen time to weekends only has helped their boys use the few hours between school and bedtime well. For older boys, set rules for when cell phones and computers need to be turned off for the night. Consider having a place where all phones are kept overnight or putting family controls on Wi-Fi access. Use iMOM’s screen time tracker to get it under control.
7. Be involved:
Get to know your son’s teachers and school. Is it boy friendly? Here are a few things to consider: Do the teachers allow assignments in reading and writing that interest him? Is your son’s preferred learning style encouraged? Is there enough playground or P.E. time, or is it regularly taken away as punishment?
Which of these could you put into place this year to really help your son thrive in school?