Friday, October 9, 2009

Little Boys - playing in the dirt won't hurt

click image to enlarge

Several years ago I clipped this article from a newspaper or magazine or something.  I'm not sure what its origins were really.  But the message was strong and clear and I knew I would refer to it again and again since I, myself, have four boys and just one daughter.  The article puts it well.  Young boys just don't always fit well intothe mold of a school desk and their hands don't conform well to a pencil and paper.  My boys could make a pencil do many things well except do what it was intended.  A pencil could become a dart aimed at a brother or sister or the dog.  It could become a SCUD missile complete with sound effects.  It could be used to launch rubber bands across the room or to dip wax from the candle in the middle of the dining table.  Once dipped in wax, the pencil could easily be lit on fire.  So many, many things that pencils could do, but to become a writing utensil in the hand of a boy and make it write legibly and intelligently was a most difficult task.  The darn thing would drop instantly out of the

hand, bounce on the floor, and roll off somewhere never to be found that day.  The lead would mysteriously break moments after touching the paper and there would be no sharpener to be found.  Even a mechanical pencil could be made to do many of the same tricks that a wooden one could do and it could disappear and lose it's lead just as easily too.

What's a mom to do when her little boys can't sit still?  I say, work with the wiggle!  That's right.  Let them wiggle and squirm and fiddle around while you read aloud from Rifles for Watie.  Let them build Lego cars and trucks or stack blocks or play Lincoln Logs while you read from Milne's Winnie the Pooh.  I promise (I really do) that your little boys are paying attention.  It may not look like they are listening or soaking anything up, but they are.  Try this experiment and see if I'm right.  When you are in the midst of reading aloud and they are quietly playing , stop reading in mid-sentence.  See if they notice.  (they will.)  Then ask a question about the story, and I'll bet you one of your many mother's hats that they will be able to answer you.  Try it and see if I'm right.

Boys, especially little boys, really must be allowed to wiggle and move and be busy with their hands while they learn.  School desks are mere traps to boys and they don't allow for much freedom other than lifting the lid for a pair of scissors with which to cut the braids of the girl in front of him.  One thing I have learned is that all children, especially boys, do well with short lessons when it comes to school-ish things.  Did you know that the first 10 minutes of any presentation or speech is the most listened to and the most absorbed?  So with a child, a 15 or 20 minute lesson in handwriting or math is plenty if you wish to capture their attention and have them truly learn.  More time than that, and their eyes begin to wander out the window and to the tree fort where the pirates are just now sailing alongside the cargo ship....and you've lost them.  You might as well open the door and set them free to sail.

The other thing I've learned about boys is that they need lots and lots of time outdoors -- thinking their own thoughts, arranging their own battles with the Redcoats, hunting for skunks, hammering nails into another section of the tree fort.  It all goes right along with their education.  Without a hefty amount of free play time and work time, I don't think their brains function right, and they certainly have far too much energy to sit still for long if they aren't allowed to burn it off.  One of my favorite energy burners that often took place when I was at my wits end was laps around the house.  No matter the weather, I'd send them all out the door to take laps.  I designated the number and counted the laps off as they ran past the picture window.  It always seemed to fix the problem and give their brains some added energy for the task at hand.  Plus it was fun!  I'm no psychologist or child expert, but from my point of view, kids need wiggle room, fresh air, and time to romp every bit as much as they need pencils and books.


Laura A said...

Heh, heh. I didn't raise any boys, but I did look after them in Sunday school, and it looked like such torture for them to sit and listen that I always wondered whether the time wouldn't be better spent having them march around the block to "bring down the walls of Jericho!"

I'm glad that yours had such an understanding mother! That must have been funny watching them race past the window! This is a lovely description of idea boy life, in my mind.

hickmomof4 said...

I remember reading this article when I first was homeschooling and it really touched my heart. At the time I only had 2 little boys. now I have 3. although my girl, I think will be a wiggler too. thanks for sharing this. It is great.

Kerri said...

Great post! I came by via Wayside Sacraments. I have four little boys (and a big one too) and I can so relate to this post! Sometimes they can make my eyes cross with all their energy, but they are never dull!

Very true about the legos. I find they remember things better if I let them move at least a little bit. :)

Jeannette said...

Tell your daughter hello from a woman who grew up with four brothers.