Monday, March 03, 2008

Homeschooling: A Boy's Path to Learning English?

The Napa Valley Register has an interesting piece entitled, "What's to blame for differing test scores between the sexes?" Some experts blame low English scores on the brain development of boys (funny, when they blame brain development for the lack of girls in science, women faint and men get fired but I digress) but other experts such as educational consultant Joe Manthey say that schools are responsible:

In an era of high stakes accountability for schools, educators are placing an ever-greater emphasis on raising test scores in English....

For school districts in Napa County, where Hispanic populations are large, this has meant a heightened focus on the needs of English learners, who typically bring down averages on standardized tests.

But while the ethnic gap dominates most discussions of Napa’s state and federal rankings, there is another set of contrasting scores that crosses all ethnic lines.

It’s the gender gap, and at a time when the state and federal government are pushing for improvement in English scores, boys are falling behind.

Educational consultant Joe Manthey, who led a workshop through the Napa County Office of Education about educating male students, cites the almost nonexistent gender gap for home-schooled students in English as proof that schools are part of the problem.

The reason that home-schooled boys score as well as their female counterparts in English is twofold, said Manthey. First, they are more likely to be given a choice in their reading material. Second, “they’re less likely to fall through the cracks,” he said.

Manthey’s research shows that boys are more inclined to read nonfiction than fiction, and are more likely to relate to subjects related to science, sports and stories that revolve around male characters.

“Then you see boys required to read books like ‘The Joy Luck Club,’” he said, referring to the book by Amy Tan about immigrant mothers and daughters.

It’s no wonder, said Manthey, that boys tune out in English class.


Makes sense to me.

61 Comments:

Blogger Larry J said...

I don't know if homeschooling is a deciding factor in learning English. I do know that the choice of reading material is crucial. From my own experience, I was reading below grade level for a short time in the 6th grade. The stuff they had us read at school was terribly boring and this was long before the PC era. A year later, a friend introduced me to the public library. I found all sorts of books on topics that interested me. The library would let me check out up to 10 books at a time for 3 weeks. I went every week, returning 10 books and checking out 10 more - keeping up to 30 books out at a time. It was wonderful. By the end of the 8th grade, I was reading a the level of a junior in college. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but that was also the year I went nearsighted.

5:21 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Kevin said...

I meant to leave this comment last week with the "Are Single Sex Schools Really the Answer?" post Not meaning to hijack the topic here, but it still seems relevant.

In the discussions following the Larry Summers fiasco, I remember reading somewhere that boys catch on to math/science earlier than girls do, and girls catch on to English/literature earlier than boys do. Both tend to catch up with each other (in ability) by 16 or 17, but by then, many girls are convinced they aren't good at math; many boys lose interest in literature. If boys and girls are separated into boys schools and girls schools, then they could be schooled the same content but in a different order, so that neither is put in a position to be discouraged prematurely. So, boys could wait a couple of years before getting deep into lit; girls could wait a couple of years to get deep into math. The result is that more girls may pursue a math/science career, and perhaps more boys would be interested in literature. It takes acknowledging the biological differences to progress beyond them. Failing to acknowledge the differences prevents overcoming them, and both boys and girls are done a disservice.

5:40 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Mark said...

Sadly, so much of school seem to try and lump boys and girls into the same mold (which usually looks like a girls, "why can't boys act more like girls?" is the query the teachers ask) rather than accepting that they are different. My sons HATED reading at school, during the years they were developing a real interest in reading, the schools continuously forced books on them that were unimaginably boring or total turnoffs.

Its also amazing the amount of emphasis that is placed on reading now, my niece is in elementary school and has 2 hours per night of reading and 4 hours on weekends. Basically she is required to read 2 full hours per day, 7 days a week. How many of you adults would appreciate being FORCED to read something someone else decided was good for you, 7 days a week. And
the pages must be signed off each night by a parent and turned in.

2 hours is about half her spare time per schoolday and after a year of that she now hates reading and lies about how much she is reading and her reading skills are going down. What is the response? they increase the amount of reading she must do each night!

Its no wonder reading tends to be low on the interest level, despite the new "emphasis" on it.

5:47 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger DADvocate said...

My experience was similar to larry j's except that my reading skills were always good. One reason they were good was that the elementary school I attended my first 7 years was on the same block as the main city library.

I loved mystery books and literally read every mystery book they had in the children's library plus many others. Choosing my reading material made a big difference.

Today, Accelerated Reader is very popular in school but it limits choices and detracts from the fun of reading categorizing everything by points and reading level.

5:59 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Larry J said...

2 hours is about half her spare time per schoolday and after a year of that she now hates reading and lies about how much she is reading and her reading skills are going down. What is the response? they increase the amount of reading she must do each night!

In the military, we had a saying for this sort of situation:

"The beatings will continue until morale improves."

Let's hope it won't get that bad for your niece. Has anyone tried to explain to her teacher the negative effects of her teaching style? I'm sure she thinks she's doing the right thing by her students and maybe she doesn't realize the mess she's making of her students.

6:00 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Larry J said...

I loved mystery books and literally read every mystery book they had in the children's library plus many others. Choosing my reading material made a big difference.

I couldn't agree more. I grew up in Huntsville, AL (home of Marshall Space Flight Center) during the 60s, so I was very interested in space and aviation. I read every book they had on the subjects even if the math was way over my head. From there, I branched into 20th century military history and related topics. Being able to choose my books made a world of difference.

As bad as the school mandated reading materials were, I couldn't imagine being forced to read books like "Joy Luck Club". I saw part of the movie and it bored me to tears.

6:06 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Bugs said...

Agreeing with the early readers. History, weird animals, undersea exploration, airplanes - you know, "boy" stuff. At the time, our reading list included stuff like "Island of the Blue Dolphins" which, as I recall, was the story of an Indian girl whose little brother gets eaten by wild dogs. Give me the Red Baron any time...

6:14 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger GawainsGhost said...

The Three Invesigators. Anybody else beside me remember those books? They were great.

When I was a kid I read Tolkien, mysteries and science fiction mostly, but I've always loved great literature. Homer, Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and the rest.

The reason why kids don't like to read these days is because the books that are stuffed down their throats are horribly boring and dull. This is particularly true of the watered-down textbooks in schools.

The problem began when Stanford dumped the Great Books curriculum, with its emphasis on Western Civilization, decades ago. The entire education system, from kindergarten through graduate school, deteriorated after that and is now hopelessly decrepit.

6:28 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Jerub-Baal said...

I can relate part of what Kevin said to the idea of home schooling, the idea of different timing for subjects according to kids' developmental needs. Both of my boys are home schooled, and my nephew as well. My nephew and my oldest son both started reading late. They just weren't interested, until something caught their fancy (in both cases, Harry Potter) and now they both devour books. The biggest advantage of home schooling is the ability to tailor everything individually to the child, and not just subjects but also timing for those subjects. Even the best teachers in the best schools can't do that, they have a whole class for whom they must meet the needs.

7:02 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Marbel said...

My homeschooled boy hated reading when I tried to teach him the conventional way. When we finally found our groove and got going, he was about 8, so was behind his age peers. But by 9 he could read well if it was on a topic of his interest. He sure knows a lot about military aircraft now, at almost 11. This Christmas his favorite gift was the US Army Survival Manual.

He reads a little fiction, sometimes, but it has to be exciting and boyish. But he will also listen to and enjoy pretty much anything I read aloud, including "girlish" classics like Heidi.

7:05 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Alcibiades said...

Amy Tan's The Kitchen God's Wife was probably one of the last books I enjoyed in high school. It went all downhill from there. Some of the material just became outright objectionable to me.

I think the major problem with English class is that they try to combine English composition with English art and literature. My biggest obstacle to performing well was the dreaded "3-point essay". Those essays had a fundamental flaw in that the student had to argue a point about a fictional story. Stories are basically subjective and it was quite difficult for me to write an argumentative essay. It was like trying to argue about a piece of music.

In other classes (History, Economics, etc.), I could write argumentative essays easily. The subject material lent itself to it. I did well enough that I was able to skip a couple of college English courses (via standardized testing).

(Note: In case there is a second "Alcibiades" who regularly posts here, I'm some different "Alcibiades")

7:28 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger 2nd Lt. A .L. Murphy, ret. said...

There they go again !
What utter hypocrisy ! When there is a differential outcome from a test favoring males or classes saturated with boys-- charges of discrimnation against girls fly and equivalent outcomes are enforced by law. Women engage in hand -wringing and blame the patriarchial conspiracy of women-haters !
A biological basis for male superiority-- thats sexist ! How dare you even contemplate such a thing !

And here-- our female writer has no problem at all in not merely positing a biological basis for the sex difference in scores on achievement tests and in class membership-- she states it is "generally accepted in the scientfic community " ! Oh well-- who cares . Boys are just biologically inferior.

The feds forced padding female scores in various tests to generate more female friendly outcomes .
Where are the feds for boys ?
Where are the women's groups so interested in equality ?
Where are all the law-suits filed on behalf of boys ?.. a 5 - 1 ratio favoring girls ! Shocking !


The psychologist is a moron. There is no difference in vocabulary and verbal intelligence in adult males and females. ( Kimura, p.91-101, from Sex and Cognition,1999... " Verbal intelligence as measured on standard tests... is not higher in adult women " p 91, Kimura is an excellant scientist -- and a girl ! ). So his putative physiological basis for a non-existent difference is garbage.
Amazing how our female writer embraces it as ho-hum and acknowledged by all scientists.

Girls score higher on achievement tests and get better grades. Boys score about as well on aptitude tests.
So one cause of the sex difference is the basis for selecting kids to advanced classes-- if it relied more on aptitude, more boys would be selected than presently.

But shouldn't the basis for selection to Advanced English be interest as well as aptitude ? So if boys are as bright but not as motivated, why should there be a problem with more girls in the class. Unlees-- that motivation difference can be cured.

The tests of standard written English show the established female superiority in spelling and grammatical usage ( p.91 ) and on achievement tests. Boys have slightly higher SAT- Verbal scores.

7:40 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger El Duderino said...

I'll see your Joy Luck Club and raise you a Love Medicine, by Louise Erdrich. It was required reading in my ethnic lit course in college, my God what a lousy read.

9:25 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Garou said...

I loved reading as a child, and was outscoring the placement tests by 6th grade or so. But, I had parents who both read, and they allowed me to choose my reading material - nothing was kept away from me under the pretense of it being "too advanced." (IIRC, my parents said, 'Here's a dictionary. Ask if you need more help than that.')

But (and it's a big but) - I HATED reading for my English classes. The books were either beneath me, or they interested me not at all. The same continued through college - I took too many English courses which, judging by the syllabus, sounded interesting, but the reading list would invariably consist of women-centered literature (including a class on the literature of fantasy and science fiction!)

10:16 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger TMink said...

Reading for boys is about content. Adventure, space, pirates, danger, heros, and guns help. Lots of guns! I remember reading C.B. Colby's book with titles like "Revolutionary War Weapons: Pole Arms, Hand Guns, Shoulder Arms & Artillery" or "Frogmen: Training, Equipment & Operations of Our Navy's Undersea Fighters." Man, that was the stuff. That was what turned me on to reading, reading about man stuff!

Trey

10:25 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Val said...

Home schooling in English is an interesting point, and I appreciate Helen posting on this topic.

After barely completing the 6th grade I was "invited not to return" to my rural Montana school. I was illiterate, and could not write a simple sentence. I went to work on a ranch for board and room and $10 a month. I could not read a newspaper.

I began a self home teaching routine. I used a dictionary to read through a volume of history, Mary Queen of Scots. I was able to write a letter to one of my two missing parents.

Gawainsgoast comment I agree with. The Great Books are a complete education.

After a year working full time as a ranch hand, I entered 7th grade in California two years older than other students. I read non-fiction 5-10 hours a day after school.

From a list of "The 100 Greatest Books" I read the non-fiction classics, including H.G. Wells, Outline of History, Einstein, Theory of Relativity, Gibbon, Decline & Fall of The Roman Empire (Vol. I-10), Darwin, Voyage of The Beagle, Hegel, Marx, Hobbs, Kant, Aristotle, Franklin, Descartes, among others.

I read one non-fiction tome every week, and I wore out three hardback dictionaries. Unbelievably, I found myself in honors English in 9th grade. Honors? Initially I thought someone in admistration made a mistake.

My home reading routine continued. Shakespeare (all the plays), Adler, Spencer, Adam Smith, J.M. Keynes, Samuelson, Plutarch, Cicero, Hume, Huxley, Kant, are just a few of the authors of non-fiction classics I carefully read.

I never learned grammar or usage.

As a HS senior I was asked to give lectures in history and physics. Full scholarships were offered to me from UC Berkeley, US Naval Academy, and SJSU.

Does home schooling work? Yes.

Larryj's comment is correct. Let boys choose their own books.

Does home schooling work better for boys? Yes.

Read Ben Franklin's autobiography. Where did Abraham Lincoln go to school? At home. Where did George Washington Carver go to school?

Dadvocate said he "lived on the same block as the library." (Where did Andrew Carnegie go to school... ?)

The failure of K-12 education for boys today, now under the management of women, astounds me.

For four years I tutored college jocks. Kinetic learning (has anyone taught a male who learns kenetically?); graphic learning; analytic learning, are all different than visual or verbal learning. Each male is different.

For six years I served on nuclear submarines. The Navy does understand how to educate men, boys actually.

Larry Summers was exactly right.

Let me itemize several reasons public K-12 education is failing boys.

1. Boys are generally more interested in the visual physical universe than soft fuzzy verbalizations.

2. Boys at puberty are easily visually drawn into women and sex, if sex is available, as it is on HS campuses today, they begin thinking with the wrong part of their anatomy. The failure of women/men to discipline teenage girls regarding visual appearance and sex is the reason separate schools for boys are now needed. If you want boys to graduate stop allowing girls to dress like "Hos", and acting like "HOs".

3. Boys are motivated by status given between males for two types of achievement, athletic and academic. Women are unaware of status values between males, and do not grant or give HS males status.

Males think, act, and visualize the world collectively, communally, within gangs, teams, peer groups, staffs, and grant each other status within these male groups. The major failure of feminized education is the failure to teachers to understand the importance of status between males and reward boys with status within male groups. The majority of women do not grant high status values to other women within peer groups, and identify themselves as individuals first.

Anyone been to a football, basketball, or baseball game recently? Look. What is going on between males? Watch the movie "The Hunt For Red October". What is going on in this movie? Men sublimate their individuality to collective male groups who grant or give status rankings to males within a community. Read Plutarch. Read about Native American Indian tribes; Greek Dems; Anglo-Saxon tribes, and the universe of male status rankings between males will be revealed. Women do not understand it or perceive the importance of status between males.

Men speak and communicate with each other in "one liners", single words or phrases. Heh. Indeed. Ladies, you're not getting it. For men it is a video action world. I read the Instapundit every day. I never go past a "Heh". Instapundit is better than a James Bond movie, because it is relevant to life. What percentage of Instapundit readers are male? Heh?

Try the same single word communication with boys. I guarantee they would tear the school house door down just to get in on the fun.

Home schooling for boys would be a default choice when schools fail. Fix it. Send the Instapundit!

3:13 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Mercurior said...

gawainsghost, i have most of those books, including the ones after hitchcock dies.. jupiter jones, bob and pete. i adore those books.

at school i was forced to read of mice and men, the grapes of wrath, hobsons choice, and analyse them down to nothing. they were boring.

I read fast, i read all the time, sci fi and fantasy mostly, but anything really, just got a survival book how to survive anything. Why i love books so much?

well my dad used to read me a bedtime story chapter, like the old serials, then another, until i wanted to find out for myself what happened next. and it was the three invesitgators. it was getting that basic interest, exciting, scary, all attracts boys to reading. but if you look there are less books aimed at young men, the harry potter books, they have done a good thing by getting more young people into reading. but the other books. like jacqueline wilson are NOT made for boys.

so to summerise. lack of reading matter aimed at boys, no reading by parents (or brothers or sisters). Girls are given more help in schools.

3:54 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

God I remember the Scarlett Letter, and a bunch of other terminally boring books (Moby Dick, Magic Mountain) etc.

Now, give me Count of Monte Christo, or Sherlock Holmes story, or anything by Jules Verne, or Poe's Dupin stories, or nearly anything by Mark Twain, or Heinlein, or other science fiction (like Arthur C. Clarke) and you're in business.

History, and particularly military history? Hell yeah. But the Scarlett Letter? Tedium. To this day the name Nathaniel Hawthorne inspires boredom. And I won't mention Henry James. Oddly enough I like Jane Austen.

4:54 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger KG2V said...

Like whiskey_199, I found the Scarlett Letter a bore back in Jr High, and loved Verne etc.

I had an advantage - Mom and Dad REALLY encouraged me to read. "If you want a book, ask, and we'll get it" (that rule applies to my kids BTW)

I can remember the "How and Why" books when I was real young. A book that I loved in grade school (dated now, but) was "30 days in May, the Indy 500" (told the story of the 1968? Maybe 1969 Indiy 500)

I always loved history. In High School, the start of each year, I'd spend the spare time of the first couple of weeks reading my history text, cover to cover (and got to discover mistakes from having read other books - being able to cross reference later in the year made for easy As, as I could footnote my counter arguments)

Interesting, my son reads better than my daughter at the same age, BUT has little patience for it. He's been diagnosed with ADHD - and I believe it (there are a few other cognitive issues there - for instance, he can't draw a line that goes from one side of the body to the other - stay on either side he is fine - signs of a communications issue between the 2 sides of the brain...)

7:21 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Eric said...

From the first Amazon review listed for "The Joy Luck Club":


**QUOTE**

I have been a devoted student of literature for over six straight years now (specializing in American minority literatures), and the other day, I was talking with a fellow colleague and classmate about this book. When she told me, in her "yawny" way, that she felt it was boring, I realized for the first time, that regardless of "smarts," there are actually literature students out there without one iota of literary taste. What a shame.
This book is truly phenomenal and speaks volumes about what it means to be a woman, for better or worse. I cannot recommend this book, or this author enough.

**END QUOTE**

Sorry, but this dour and humorless reviewer has not convinced me to read "The Joy Luck Club" -- much less that any boy should be made to read it.

In fact, if someone had made me read "The Joy Luck Club" I would have plotted revenge.

BTW, the second reviewer offers the male reaction: "...I am befuddled as to why it is a classic piece of literature..."

I was initially befuddled, because I thought "classic literature" involved books which are considered part of the Western canon. Googling "Any Tan" and "Western Canon" together disabused me of that sexist notion. Because the Western Canon "smacks of elitism" it has been revised, and it is now considered a "dialectical process" which must include books written by authors like Tan, who are collectively referred to as "The Other."

Is that clear, class?

(Do I have to be made to read the silly book in order to plot revenge?)

8:13 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Dave Cornutt said...

I haven't posted here much lately, because I haven't figured out how to convince Google to let me have two screen names with the same email address. So I'm posting on this one under my real name -- I'll take that risk here since what I'm posting should be relatively non-controversial.

LarryJ: I too grew up in Huntsville in the '60s, and it is in fact where I live now. My dad worked on the Redstone and Saturn programs, and he used to bring home all kinds of rocket design documents and things. I read them voraciously, even though I couldn't understand very much of it. Like some of the others here, my parents encouraged me to read, and I was already reading before I started school. Dad would read the newspaper with me in the evenings. We'd turn to the comics and he'd let me read as much of it as I could get through, and then he'd quiz me on whether or not I understood what I read. I read a ton of stuff when I was young, and hardly any of it was typical young-boy reading material. I used to pull out an encyclopedia volume, open it to a random page, and just start reading. My parents used to buy all of the Time-Life volumes (back when they were still good), and I absolutely consumed a set of volumes on the sciences. I must have read those things dozens of times. I read reference books. I read my dad's textbooks. I read appliance manuals. Absolutely anything.

By the time I got to the fifth grade, I was going to the library regularly and checking out lots of adult science fiction. I read Asimov, Bradbury, and Heinlen. One of my most vivid memories of that period was reading "Farenheit 451", and having a teacher at school explain the concepts to me. That was the beginning of my political education. In the 10th grade, one of our English reading assignments was "1984". I had already read it, and I aced all the tests on it.

I was fortunate to go to a high school were we weren't fed a lot of twaddle in English. Yes, I had to struggle through "The Grapes of Wrath" like everybody else, and yes, I hated it. But, oddly, I liked Faulkner and still do (although you have to get away from the typical high-school-reading-assignment Faulkner works to really get into his good stuff, like "The Reivers".)

The important part was, my parents encouraged me to read, and provided to me pretty much whatever reading material I wanted. And I don't recall any really silly reading assignments in school -- of course, there were some I liked better than others, but there was no attempt to indoctorinate (well, one, but that's for another post). In elementary school, girls pretty much got girly books, and boys got boy-ish books, and they used neutral stuff to test us with. It worked and everyone was happy.

The real problem with public schools today is that education has been replaced by indoctorination. The feminization of boys, as bad as it is, is still only one symptom of a larger problem.

10:57 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Old RPM Daddy said...

Jupiter Jones, C. B. Colby, How and Why Wonder Books -- boy does that take me back! How about the Mad Scientists Club (their pranks enchanted me). And don't overlook Encyclopedia Brown (I was usually stumped by him, but then again, I never was all that bright)!

11:49 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Bugs said...

mercurior - I remember sitting in freshman English trying to get through "The Pearl" by John Steinbeck. You know, the one where the main character's baby son gets accidentally shot by murderous bounty hunters? I can appreciate the book now, but back then - WTF? Everything they wanted us to read was utterly depressing and hopeless.

The only thing I can figure is that my teachers were 68ers obsessed with politics and social issues, who wanted us to get as excited about that stuff as they were. What they actually did was chase me straight off to the science fiction and fantasy shelves of the school library.

There I found Tolkien; from Tolkien, I learned about the Anglo Saxons, Old English, and Middle English; wanting to learn more about the Middle Ages, I started reading Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples. That began a history reading habit that continues to this day. On the fiction side, after Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, I got into Chaucer and Shakespeare and John Donne. I eventually worked my way through the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries and finally found myself in the 20th, enjoying Animal Farm and 1984 and Brave New World and all the other "deep" stuff my po-faced hippy English teachers had tried to push on me in high school.

What that means, I don't know. Maybe that there's nobody like a politically-oriented English teacher for sucking the life out of a work of art.

12:25 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Karen said...

I always intended to homeschool my son, now 7 and 1/2. But it wasn't until I got involved with some homeschooling groups and began doing research about homeschooling that I was able to begin to articulate the reasons why.

The feminization of institutional schools is one reason. As was remarked upon earlier, boys' brains often don't "get" reading until age 7, 8 or even 9. In the long run, it doesn't matter, because they'll catch up (if they aren't turned off!). Forcing boys to try to learn to read at the age that girl's brains "get it" is counter-productive for everyone involved!

I have two different friends from two different school districts who now homeschool because their boys were basically pushed out of school. Their bright, funny, friendly, inquisitive boys were going to fail kindergarten or first grade because they weren't reading yet and were beginning to hate school, crying and asking "am I stupid?"

Well, they are home now, and back to being bright, funny, etc. They are also reading and love to learn. Thank God and Texas for homeschooling!

12:34 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Mercurior said...

bugs, this was in the UK, if i wasnt forced to have read those books, i possibly would have found them ok.. but combined with the forcing was the over analysis of them, not a ripping good read. after that i could never read any steinbeck, or any of the other authors i was pushed to learn. it may have turned me off that entire genre, which possibly was a shame.

we never read "good" books, not books that interested any of us. this was the time when i used to get 8 books out a week and read them all and go back for more. it wouldnt have been so bad if we had a choice of what to read.

12:43 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Bugs said...

I think we got some of the same over-analysis here. Not literary analysis in this case - like looking for symbolism or what have you - but analyzing for "relevance." How does Animal Farm relate to the Watergate investigation? What does Grapes of Wrath tell you about the plight of Mexican cabbage pickers in California? Never mind that they're both damn good stories - that was irrelevant. The real lesson was: great literature is only great insofar as it teaches us that life is really ugly.

What. A. F***ing. Drag.

1:10 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger april said...

I think being routinely forced to read books against your will (especially when you are still learning to read well) is a real deal killer for both boys and girls. You may well be right that public schools choose books that are not as objectionable to girls, but either way it still stinks.

I was homeschooled, and I chose all the books I wanted to read. My mom once told me she would promise to take me to the library every day, if I would ONLY read one book a day. I did not take her up on that deal, because I couldn't stand to limit myself. I didn't read "good" books, though, until I was much older. I missed 6 questions on the SAT so I don't think it hurt my chances too badly!

Now that I' a parent, if I have a book I want my (homeschooled)children to know, I read it aloud. Otherwise, they get to pick their reading materials. I anticipate keeping that policy until they are very good readers, if not forever! Makes for some quality family time, that's for sure.

1:59 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Larry J said...

What I love about these comments is the range of interests in reading materials. To each their own really applies here. While I was in the 7th grade reading about missile guidance systems, others were reading Churchill's history masterpieces, science fiction, fantasy, etc. I didn't get into fiction and science fiction until I was older. My attitude at the time was that if it wasn't true, I didn't care to read about it. Fortunately, tastes in books like tastes in food evolves with age.

Finding books on subjects that interested me made all the difference. My love of reading has paid huge benefits in my life. I'm now doing everything I can to help my young grandchildren learn to love reading. Jason, my oldest grandson (turns 4 in May), loves books and speaks both English and Tagalog. My granddaughter Violet is 6 weeks younger than Jason and has a hard time sitting still to read. I'm working with her to the best of my ability. My youngest grandson is only 20 months old but I read to him every chance I get.

3:00 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Alex said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:32 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Alex said...

I can only speak from my own experience, but I loved Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, stuff like that. High adventure, manly men, pirates, boys love that. Joy luck club? Pfft that's like inflicting Gitmo on boys. Give boys more Tom Sawyer and less feminist bs.

3:34 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Susan said...

I agree with all of the posts above: Let boys choose their own reading material and they will enjoy reading. I also agree with the premise that the gaps in achievement disappear with homeschooling. However, and in the interest of full disclosure I will say right now that I am a public school teacher and that most of my experience has been with English Language Learners, most of my students are behind on learning English properly because their parents don't speak English properly and don't always have the time to make sure they read. I have spent the last 13 years of my life doing everything that I know how to do (and when I was out of ideas consulting with others) to help "my" kids learn English. When they have my influence for less than 5 hours a day, 185 days a year, I can't compete with Spanish, or Arabic, or Vietnamese, or Portugeuse, or Bosnian, etc.
I do allow the boys to choose what they want to read, as well as the girls. The whole class is read to, read with in groups that focus on a particular teaching point, and all who struggle have one on one reading time with me at least once a week and with a peer or older student the rest of the days of the week. I guess I'm overreacting! I'm sorry. I just hate seeing articles where the school is to blame when most of us are doing all in our power to help kids whose parents are not capable of homeschooling because of work or poor language skills.
For the record, I think Mr. Manthey may be on to something for older kids---beyond 7th grade, for example, but I don't think elementary kids are best served when dividing them by gender.
My feelings are: Smaller class size (18 or less) in the primary grades, well trained/organized teachers who are willing to put to the test the conclusions of research, parent education for those parents who want to learn English, kids who are met at their own level and not taught on grade level if that material is frustrational for them, teachers who are willing to help the kids move to the next level(s).
I'm sure I'll think of some other things, but being on my soapbox is hurting my feet, so I'll go quietly now. Thanks for the opportunity to rant.

5:56 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger serket said...

Mark: I read about 30 minutes to an hour every day, but the longer I go, the more tired of it I get.

6:08 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Dr. Ellen said...

A lot of school is poorly-done. They couldn't stop me reading (though they tried to keep me from reading "above my age"). But they sure put a dent in my desire to read "literature". I almost got flunked in English one semester for writing an honest assignment. Fit the specs, wasn't what Miss Haag wanted.

And don't get me started about history classes -- history works far better as gossip than it ever does as lists of generals and battles and kings and treaties.

As best I can tell, school is a Procrustean bed, trying to stretch out the lower end of the scale and beat down the upper end.

10:21 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Larry J said...

And don't get me started about history classes -- history works far better as gossip than it ever does as lists of generals and battles and kings and treaties.

For such an important subject, history is perhaps the most poorly taught in K-12. Memorizing dates and places isn't learning history. History is about people great and small, ideas, and struggles. As the late historian Will Durant said,

"Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with from people, stealing, shouting and doing the things historians usually record, while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry and even whittle statues. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river.”

I taught math and science at a small K-12 school for a year. I remember talking to one of my elementary school teacher friends and asking her how she taught math. She said, "Oh, I hate math! I do it as little as possible."

No matter how she may have tried to hide it, the kids pick up on things like that. Imagine trying to teach algebra to 9th graders who had her in elementary school.

8:34 AM, March 05, 2008  
Blogger serket said...

I enjoyed Grapes of Wrath and Mice of Men. I don't remember much about The Scarlet Letter, but it seems like I enjoyed it. One I did not get into was Heart of Darkness. I think I was given a good variety of books. In high school I enjoyed having the teachers analyze the books to point out things I hadn't thought about. I enjoyed Fahreheit 451 and didn't like Brave New World. I liked Anthem by Ayn Rand.

I went to a public school from headstart on through college and I enjoy a lot of the classical literature. With regard to history, I enjoy knowing the dates and names, but that's probably just because my brain seems to remember things better that involve numbers. Of course adding stories to it is also great because it makes it more interesting and allows you to see the significance.

2:19 PM, March 05, 2008  
Blogger Mercurior said...

then serket your school was exceptional.

we were actively encouraged to stop reading "trashy" books, and read the classics.

5:55 AM, March 06, 2008  
Blogger Raventress said...

Oh those poor darlings! Imagine being forced to read about icky girls! I'm surprised their testicles haven't shriveled up and fallen off yet!

10:05 AM, March 06, 2008  
Blogger Marbel said...

While you guys are reminiscing...what about Tintin? I had fond memories of those books and they really helped my boy see the pleasure of reading. Calvin and Hobbes too. My daughter enjoys both, though she generally prefers more "girlish" books.

I'll be looking for the 3 Investigators books - thanks for mentioning them.

10:50 AM, March 06, 2008  
Blogger TMink said...

Raventress, you should care about those little darlings. They will either grow up (or not) to marry your daughter(s) (if you have progeny) or will protect you from armed enemies or will pay for your retirement. Or they will not become socialized and perpetrate mayhem on you and yours.

Enlightened self interest says that you want boys to grow into productive, socialized men. Rather than cast immature aspersions, smell the coffee.

Trey

11:03 AM, March 06, 2008  
Blogger TMink said...

A guy just left my office complaining that kids talking about gangs and disrupting his class are making it difficult for him to learn.

This is perhaps the other side of the crises, undersocialized males. No dads, uninvolved parent(s), and so called educated people saying that men are not necessary for the rearing of children.

Last week a doctor in my office sat down with a weary face and told me that she had a new infant as a patient. She went to visit the 15 year old mother who was playing with the 2 month old child of her sister while the 15 year old father of both children sat in the hospital room playing his PSP.

She wept. Just a little, and was confused why. We talked about what looks like the impending death of our culture from within.

I am sure part of my pessimism has to do with not getting enough sleep last night, but I am quite concerned for our culture and civilization, and feminized or feral boys are a large part of the problem.

Trey

12:04 PM, March 06, 2008  
Blogger Mercurior said...

marbel, they can be quite hard to find. the case of the stuttering parrot, the green ghost.

brilliant for boys and girls.

6:15 AM, March 07, 2008  
Blogger Mercurior said...

http://3investigators.homestead.com/files/stories.htm

this is a list of all 43 of the books, i have to read them again now.. ;-)

6:31 AM, March 07, 2008  
Blogger Marbel said...

Mercurior, thanks for the link. I found a few in our local libary, so we'll start there.

Trey, that is a heartbreaking story. I wonder why the doctor was confused by her tears. I'd have cried too, and felt very very angry.

7:59 AM, March 07, 2008  
Blogger caplight777 said...

Late to the discussion so haven't read all comments.
It seems obvious that home schooled boys spend much more time speaking to and interacting with adults so of course their language skills will be higher that their public school counterparts.

11:44 AM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Mercurior said...

the only problem i see with homeschooling, is what is being taught, i know some places have tests to see whats taught, but i am sure some places dont.

so long as there is monitoring say a yearly test to make sure they pass a certain competence level, then i am all for it. There can be so many abuses when it comes to homeschooling, plus benefits.

It is up to the parents to try to teach a varied view of the world, rather than their own narrow views. Thats the danger i see.

But i admit there can be benefits too.

3:11 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Marbel said...

It seems obvious that home schooled boys spend much more time speaking to and interacting with adults so of course their language skills will be higher that their public school counterparts.

That's an interesting observation. Public-schooled kids interact with their teachers, school administrators and other workers, PE coaches, guest speakers who come to their classrooms, etc. Maybe not all on a daily basis. Generally they are required to participate in class discussion and do presentations. Seems like they should be able to develop pretty good language skills in that environment.

so long as there is monitoring say a yearly test to make sure they pass a certain competence level, then i am all for it.

There is a vast range of opinion among homeschoolers about standardized testing. Some folks test even if their state does not require it; some consider it an unnecessary intrusion. In 10 years of thinking and reading about homeschooling, and then actually doing it, I've never come across a parent who was lax about their kids' education and competencies.
(Not saying there aren't some out there; I suppose there probably are.)

4:05 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Mercurior said...

i knew one woman who wanted to homeschool, and unfortunatly she wasnt very clever, she would have let her kids run wild and learn nothing.

as i said there can be problems, and benefits. I worry about children being taught hate, or being taught one view that is at odds to everyone elses.

should radical groups, only teach that this group is scum/less than human. without a basic view of human rights and humanity. thats the biggest worry i have about homeschoolers.

The lack of other viewpoints, in some families the parents will teach a balanced view. in some definatly not. There has also been reports about abuse by homeshooling parents, all these are a cause for concern. thats why i think a basic competence test is probably the best way to go about it. it should give a sign if there are any problems.

Not that i say all at like this, but some will be, and isnt there a duty of care towards these children who are not able to cope with the real world.

marbel i am not having a go at homeschooling, or at you, or at anyone who does it. i just say there can be abuses of that system like any other, and thats what must be guarded against.

10:36 AM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Marbel said...

Mercurior - completely understand your pov, and enjoy the dialog.

3:30 PM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Ana Baptist said...

Some comments:

Each generation of girls seems to enter puberty at a younger age than the previous one. Boys, on the other hand, seem to be developing at the same rate as before. Maybe this has given girls a boost?

Secondly, I have close relatives who are homeschooling their children, a 3 y.o. girl and almost 5 y.o. boy. The boy is reading on a second grade level.

To me as an outsider, homeschooling looks matriarchal. My little boy cousin I mentioned has no contact with adult males on a daily basis, other than when his father comes home from work. And his father works well beyond a 40 hour week to allow his mother to stay home and homeschool.

Now, I realize my relatives don't necessarily represent the average homeschooler. But it is intriguing to me that such an arrangment would produce superior academic skills in boys.

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