The First Day of School

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Today, kids all around town woke to alarm clocks and backpacks. Mine awoke to a pile of cardboard tubes and hacksaws.

While other kids crammed into desks on a beautiful, perfect 73 degree day, mine were sawing tubes in two. While other kids rose and sat to the sound of a bell, mine created contraptions of their own imagination. While other kids sat through History and Reading, mine learned about the Battle of Fallujah and listened to Huck Finn — and spent the afternoon with great aunts and uncles who lived through the Depression and World War II.

We’re a homeschooling family and today, I was glad.

Dozens of research studies have revealed a multitude of differences in the ways boys and girls learn. For the most part, boys are more active, hands-on learners than girls. Boys learn best when they see how a lesson directly applies to life and boys, biologically, require movement to absorb information.

Cut back to the tubes.

The tubes (and saws) were their Dad’s idea. His office was clearing some space, so he loaded his car with the carboard tubes (think Christmas wrapping paper tubes, but much larger and more sturdy) and stopped by Home Depot to buy hacksaws and duct tape. Then he deposited the supplies on the toyroom for the boys to discover when they woke up.

Their creativity immediately took over — and apparently, the focal points for creativity and bickering are located in the same lobe of the brain, because while my boys were actively engaged, the house was almost peaceful. I say almost because, well, hacksaws sawing through cardboard are not exactly peaceful.

Today, I saw boys learning in a way that suits boys. They were moving. They were using tools. They were creating structures that had meaning in their lives. Boy #1 is working hard to make a fort. Boy #2 has half a robot completed. Boy #3 was inspired by the tubes to finally build and paint the bench he’d wanted to make. (Not exactly a typical first-day-of-school assignment for a first grader).

They kept moving even while learning in a more traditional sense, while watching the Fallujah documentary and listening to Huck Finn. They might have looked like they weren’t learning — after all, there was cardboard everywhere and they continued to saw — but I guarantee, they were learning.

At one point, Boy #1 walked through the toyroom and saw Boy #4 intently sawing a tube. “This doesn’t happen in most houses,” he said.

Nope, I agreed. I wish, though, that it did. I’m willing to bet that most boys would pick hacksaws and tubes over alarm clocks and backpacks anyday.

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