Friday, October 28, 2016

Book Club Wrap Up: The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre

Mom2MomEd Blog: Book Review -- The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre
Hello, are you there? Do you remember when we were reading The Trouble with Boys? Yea, us either! It's been that long!

It's another one of those best laid plans gone awry moments. We were chugging along, keeping up on our reading and then BOOM! Life happened. Then it happened again and again until we were so far removed from the book that it was hard to get back to it.

Guess what? We're wrapping it up, FINALLY! I guess we could technically take the easy way out and just let the book fade on into the distance and never bring it up again. 

But, you know what? 

Not only is this book awesome and actually really timely for me, BUT...Peg Tyre, the author (YES, the author), reached out to us during the book club and agreed to let us interview her! 

What?!? When does that happen? We were so thrilled and excited that we wanted to wait for the perfect moment to do that. But, the perfect moment never came, until now!

We're finally wrapping up our reading of The Trouble with Boys and hoping that Peg will still agree to speak with us! We can't wait. For those of you who are interested in reading this book for yourselves you can purchase it HERE.

I won't be able to recap the entire book for you, but I did want to comment on some points that stood out to me. As you should know by now, I have a son who just started kindergarten and I really struggled with the decision about where he would go to school. As an educator myself, I know that it is difficult to meet every child's needs all of the time, but I wanted to make sure that my son has the best chance at success that he can get. This book mirrored some of my fears at the time and also reinforced concerns while offering realistic solutions.

The bottom line is that The Trouble with Boys made me think about education in ways that I hadn't before.

In some of the final chapters, Tyre talks about many topics to keep in mind when sending your sons (and daughters) to school. Boys are typically stereotyped as being less good at reading and writing than their girl counterparts. Do we stereotype them and lump them all into this one specific group? How does that impact their reading and writing success in the long term when we've set them up to fail before they have even begun?

Another important topic to note is the varying development between girls and boys. We tend to look at the obvious ones like physical stature and maturation. However, have we ever thought about the components that we can't see? For example, brain development happens in much the same way that physical development does. It doesn't happen over night, and it happens at different ages for boys and girls. It's a progression and no two children develop at the same rate.

It's our job as parents and educators to make sure that we are paying attention and keeping our expectations appropriate not just for age and gender, but also for where our own particular children are at the moment.

As the parent of a young boy, I found the chapter on video games that boys play particularly interesting. My son has never expressed interest in playing video games and we don't play them as a family, so I haven't really put much thought into this topic to be honest. It seems like there is a split opinion on the impact of video games. Some parents completely ban them entirely while others set limits and place parameters around playing them. Once you open that door by allowing video games into your child's life, have you reached the point of no return? Even though the average gamer is supposedly in their mid to late 20's there is still huge number of impressionable young boys playing video games. Essentially, the concern is how do video games, especially those which are violent in nature, impact the behaviors of our boys? Does it create violence? Does it encourage them to commit crimes because they have a false sense of reality and what consequences they will endure? What long term consequences could gaming have on these young boys?

Tyre states that teachers have found that boys who play video games (not just heavily but regularly) are harder to teach in general. Their attention span tends to grow shorter and weaker. This is interesting to me because in order to play video games for any period of time you must be focused and therefore it would lead you to believe it's actually good practice for lengthening attention spans.

Tyre found that teachers have noted that boys who play video games at home are seeking more instant gratification at school, much like what they would gain from playing a video game.

This isn't to say that video games don't have their place and we should just turn our back on them and ban them entirely. 

It's about using gaming to increase learning and to not allow them to become a barrier against learning. Also, keep in mind that as parents it is our job to teach our children balance and how to prioritize various aspects of their lives.

{{Malea has A LOT to say about video gaming and education!}}

While reading Chapter 16, "Smart boys who get bad grades," I felt my own concerns for my son coming to life. With expectations for academic performance increasing with each coming year, it's difficult for children to not be caught up in the rat race of academics. Girls just tend to weather the storm a little better than boys. 

Why is this? 

Boys are not intentionally set up to fail by teachers and schools, but the current system results in boys being more prone to fail. As a culture, we view sloppy handwriting as a sign of disorganization, poor performance, and even lack of ambition. The examples that Tyre gives for class assignments in this chapter are enlightening. It's amazing to see that, yes, assignments can really be geared towards one gender or another. One example was that all students had to draw a map of the world free hand. The girls were able to complete this assignment, but none of the boys were able to do it. Quite simply, boys tend to be slower at developing organization skills, homework tracking, and just overall neatness and life organization.

The Trouble with Boys ties up all of these concerns and reiterates the fact that educational reform should not be just focused on increasing academic achievement for boys. It's supporting ALL children. 

What can we do as a nation to support all children in learning? One of the biggest things Tyre notes is to stop thinking that girls are still an under served population. While at one point they were in fact, now girls are thriving and boys are lagging behind. Teachers are starting to realize that more needs to be done to help boys, but it's a matter of what. It boils down to this being a larger system issue. We need to make sure that we are starting at the ground level by advocating for our own boys and working within the schools and districts to help make changes. Larger changes will hopefully come from showing that our nation will not sit back and allow any children to lag behind simply because we don't have all of the information necessary to reach all students. 

It's not a choice. 

Children are our future leaders, mentors, and role models. We owe it to them to give them the very best start that we can with their educations. Blaming biology for these discrepancies is just an excuse and we need solutions.

Coming down the pike will be our very first book club interview with Peg Tyre herself. We can hardly wait to share it with you!

Pick up your copy of The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre HERE.

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