Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Book Club Part 3--The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre: Chapters 4 through 6

Mom2MomEd Book Club: The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre, Part 3
Welcome back to the Mom2MomEd BOOK CLUB! We hope you've been following along! If not, don't pass up our FIRST and SECOND posts. 

This week we read chapters 4, 5 and 6 and WOW! They really brought up some hot button issues for both of us. Not only because we are both mothers of boys, but also as parents and community members.
Don't forget to read and follow along with us. We LOVE hearing from you and hearing other perspectives and experiences!

Chapter 4: Preschool Blues
Malea: One of the statements that stuck out to me was, "He was a curious kid, and responding to his temperament, his parents gave him plenty of leeway to explore the world....almost everything that came naturally to Ray seemed to be an affront to his teachers. They didn't seem to understand what he needed."

The system makes parents of children who don't fit the mold fear that something is wrong with their kids--very normal responses and behaviors are suddenly viewed as bad or intolerable, sending parents to seek out the cause of the problem. Parents end up doubting themselves, worrying that their children's normal behavior (considering age and maturity level) are somehow abnormal. Can you imagine how frustrating this is for a child? Not to mention for the parents? Isn't the system supposed to be working with families to provide education and life skills to their children? Instead, both children and families are being alienated by the system telling them that they are "trouble makers" or that something is wrong with them.

Tyre also writes, "It was clear that their bright, perceptive, curious, energetic boy was being bombarded with negative attention from teachers who regarded his natural behavior with thinly veiled impatience....Ray was getting branded as a troublemaker." It's no wonder that so many children are receiving diagnoses of things like ADHD.Teachers are quick to assume behavior is not normal and quickly label boys "over active" or "unable to sit still" if they are not able to do as their female counterparts.

Tyre also investigates whether or not boys actually are more naturally physically active than girls. The findings? Boys actually only moving *a little* more than girls--the difference is slight, leading me to wonder: Are we extrapolating from a small group of extremely overly active boys to create stereotypes about ALL boys? I am far less concerned with why boys are more active or why they seem to struggle more to fit into traditional classroom models than girls.  I am far more interested in how we perceive and respond to these boys.

McKenzie: Let me preface this by saying that chapter 4 made me mad. I think it's a combination of my background in child development and my son entering the public school system this year.
Since my son recently transitioned out of the pre-school environment this summer some of this is fresh for me.

One of the main points that struck me was, "The changing workforce and fear of rising crime have substantially changed the way kids play, making play itself more structured, more adult driven, less imaginative, and less active." Just reading that sentence makes my head hurt.  What logical person would think that this is the right direction to go for children?

This is PRE-SCHOOL....preschool plants seeds....the rest of their life experience helps them grow. Standards for education are not aligned with research in child development and how kids learn.

Since when is pre-school academic based?

The foundation of learning is bound within social skills, communication, and cooperation. Not only are the standards set too high but they are unreasonable. It's even more frustrating that they are set by someone so far removed from families and the classroom that they can hardly be considered practical.

What about kids who learn differently? Or whose parents tend to be less structured and more exploration focused? I tend to be a more free-range parent when it comes to learning. I don't expect perfection, but rather exploration. Am I supposed to change the way that I parent my children so that they can fit into the "educational standard" that someone I don't even know decided was best for my child? 

Chapters 5 and 6: Notes from the Front: Fixing the School, Not the Boy; Kindergarten: The New First Grade
Both of Us: In these two chapters, it’s it pretty clear that our (parents, teachers, administrators) expectations for our children, particularly, our boys, are grossly out of touch with reality.  We push and push more and more expectations on children at younger and younger ages to a point that kids aren't even allowed to be kids in many cases.

Tyre notes, "What I'm finding, is that many early teachers I have talked to, especially ones that don't have brothers and don't have sons, simply don't understand what little boys are like."

Now let that sink in for a minute.  

The very people we are trusting with our children and with their educations don't understand how to work with boys.


Why is this the case? Why is this not being addressed when teachers are completing their education? Why are gender differences not talked about?

Malea:  I recall being in classrooms as a child where we had plenty of free play, open spaces in the classroom where busier, more active kids could move in their play, and quieter more structured spaces for kids that were less active or wanted to play quietly. We had blocks that could be stacked and knocked over in one corner, dress up clothes and make believe in another corner, books and pillows in another corner. We had recess at least twice daily and PE regularly. We had a mix and balance of movement interspersed with our academics. Teachers that had the best control of their classrooms allowed for a mix of physical activity and sitting attentively.

Play is deeply infused with learning and skill building, even if it isn't obvious. Children learn about physical space through play. They learn patterns, numbers, rules and order keeping through games like Red Rover, Follow the Leader, hopscotch, and more. Kids learn the basics of language and vocabulary through all of this play to and it primes them for reading later--the key word being later.

McKenzie: There is so much pressure to be ready for kindergarten. Trust me, I'm feeling it!

There's pressure to be reading, writing, and having higher levels of skills BEFORE children even step foot in kindergarten. There is so much pressure that you have to trust that your child gets a teacher who will support and nurture their learning regardless of what pace or what level they begin at.

You have to trust.

Not only do you have to trust the teacher, but you have to trust a system that makes it impossible to even enroll your children in kindergarten in their FREE and OPEN enrollment processes.  

(You can read about my family’s public school open enrollment experience HERE.)

You then have to hope that your child's teacher will advocate for all children in the face of growing pressures to perform, get scores, etc, even in kindergarten. This is completely unrealistic. Teachers should not have to advocate on that level for students.

The system should be set up for children to succeed.

Honestly, after my past experience and while reading this book, I am poised and ready to advocate. I hate that. I hate that I'm expecting to have to advocate for my child on this level. I hate that I may be dismissed as not knowing what I'm talking about. I hate that I may have to fight on behalf of my son and other children in his classroom.

Have we completely lost sight of what it means to be a child? Instead of adhering to the notion of "let them be little" we are pressuring them to perform. It seems to me that we need to re-evaluate the purpose of our educational system and get back to basics.

Here are 3 Action Items for you to focus on this week with your son (or daughter)...

1.       Pay attention to the impact movement has on your child.  Does your child get antsy when not given enough time outdoors? What happens to their mood and ability to focus if they are inside the house all day or have minimal chances to "burn" some of their energy?
2.       Play with your child and follow their lead. Don't give suggestions, ideas or direct their play. Sit on the floor with them and follow their lead. Watch how they use their imagination and how they explore their environment. Try to do this as often as possible. It's fascinating, we promise!
3.       Pay attention to your expectations. Are you possibly expecting too much out of your child? Are you aware of what an age would be appropriate for your child to react to a specific situation? When they complete chores are you worried about perfection or the process? Be mindful of your expectations and take the time to praise and encourage your child when they are trying.

Remember, you are planting seeds, not growing a forest.

Be sure to check out all of our posts in this series:

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1 comment:

  1. Hi All -- Glad you are enjoying my book. Happy to connect with you. Peg Tyre pegtyre1@gmail.com