The First Day of School

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.

The Building Boys Bulletin

The Building Boys Bulletin Newsletter gives you the facts, encouragement, and inspiration you need to help boys thrive. Written by Jennifer L.W. Fink, mom of four sons and author of Building Boys: Raising Great Guys in a World That Misunderstands Males, Building Boys Bulletin includes:

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“I learned a lot about helping boys thrive over the past 20+ years — most of it the hard way! I’m eager to share what I’ve learned to make your path a little easier.”   – Jennifer

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10 Responses

  1. I’m a children’s author and visiting some blogs of homeschoolers tonight. As a mother of three boys (now grown) your blog caught my eye.

    I post creative writing exercises for writers, teachers, and parents. I love to ignite the spark of creativity in kids…especially in kids. Please stop by for a visit!

  2. I haven’t posted much lately(due to face book) but I have read a lot of your posts lately. I totally agree with what you have just posted. Give boys(kids) things like this to do and you’d be amazed at what they come up with.

  3. I love that your husband stopped to get hacksaws and duct tape! That is really what it is all about – pay attention to what your kids enjoy and go with it! I love strewing stuff around. I am always looking for things to leave for the boys to discover on their own. Gotta go, younger son is asking for me to help him locate all the colors of duct tape available!

  4. Jan — Thanks for popping in. I stopped by your blog last night and think I’ll give some of your writing prompts a try.

    Elizabeth — Homeschooling is a big, big welcoming world. They styles and techniques vary from family to family, so enjoy your exploration and feel free to ask questions at any time.

    Karie — I hear you on FB! I’ve definitely spent more than my fair share of time on there trying to master the word games. 🙂

    Andrea – I love that he stopped to get hacksaws and duct tape too. As far as I’m concerned, that was a genius move on his part.

  5. I know you were joking about the focal points for creativity and bickering being in the same lobe of the brain, but you may be on to something. It hadn’t occurred to me until you said that, but my kids are rarely bickering when they’re being creative. Interesting.

  6. I love this post. It makes me sad for my own son that I didn’t homeschool. He’d probably have a different point of view about that. But I think he would have been the ideal student. He was far too curious and creative for the more structured classroom. I think he would have thrived in this kind of setting. If had had a do-over there…

  7. Jennifer, this is so great. Our boys do go to school, but this scene reminded me so much of their lovely days at home. We are awash in cardboard and wood pieces and tubes and tools right now as they are in the midst of a long-term project they’ve envisioned!

    Do you have any tips for how to teach boys to use a hacksaw safely?

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