Notes and Take-aways from Andrew Pudewa’s Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Build Forts All Day

I thoroughly enjoy whenever Andrew Pudewa speaks. Here are notes from this recent webinar: “Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Build Forts All Day”. This talk was about the neurological differences between male and female. He answers the questions like how we sense and feel differently, and how that changes our teaching. He also discusses motivation and two wonderful secret teaching weapons we all should have. Thank you Andrew!

FIRST PART: Neuro differences between male and female. How we sense and feel differently, and how that changes our teaching.

Hearing & Attention: Most boys need louder sounds to attenuate than girls. This is a measurable studied phenomenon that starts differentiating in newborns. Girls can hear 3x softer than boys on the decimal scale in newborns. At 1-3 years old, girls can hear up to 10x softer than boys on the decimal scale. Barometric pressure, appetite, sleep, temperature, and other issues impact hearing. If you can’t hear what’s going on, you would have a hard time paying attention! If you talk loud enough to engage the boys, the girls might think you’re screaming, yikes! SO, try talking more directly, closer, and with a louder voice to boys.

Vision & Attention: Most males detect speed and direction with greater accuracy, while women detect color and texture with greater accuracy or vibrancy. Convergence of vision, speed, direction, color and texture is how we see and process visual input. This also impacts what we see more easily. Boys prefer to look at things they can see better (movement). Boys tend to draw things in motion… verbs. Girls prefer to look at things they love like horses, flowers, and scenery.

It also impacts the way we perceive the world and write about it. Descriptors, or key words, for males tend to be verbs and adverbs. Descriptors, or key words, for females tend to be nouns and adjectives. You can talk to a boy with an attitude change when you talk to a boy using descriptors that is more in line with their personalities (i.e. “Do you want me to help you add more details to that story?” VS “Do you want me to help you add more action to that story?”.

Stress and Attention. Males have a quicker response to stress with fight or flight, which is regulated by body movement in the sympathetic nervous system. Women have a slower response to stress, and their bodies lower the heart rate and blood flow because the parasympathetic system engages first. We could be giving mixed messages to boys. Boys under stress (stressful work) should stand up and move! Stand at the counter and do your work. Girls under stress may do better curled up in a beanbag when they’re tackling difficult work.

Temperature and Attention. Girls learn best where it’s a little warmer, while boys learn best when it’s a little cooler.

SECOND PART: Motivation. 4 Forms of Relevancy, 3 Laws of Motivation and 2 Secret Weapons

Learning needs to be (1) applicable, (2) meaningful, (3) interesting and (4) relevant in some way, it’s easier to learn. If something is relevant, it’s easier to learn. If it’s irrelevant it’s really hard to learn.

There are 4 Forms of Relevancy according to Pudewa:

  1. Intrinsic: it’s part of who you are… like how boys like weapons and tools. If your children are REALLY interested in something, capitalize on it. Give them opportunities in every way to learn about that topic, because the learning will be very profound to them.
  2. Inspired: it’s environmental… for example, if your family hikes, so you hike all the time, then you will know lots about hiking. Or if your dad loves music, and you want to impress him, so you learn music so you can relate to him. Work hard to inspire your children with those things we love and are inspired by, and outsource the things that you don’t love.
  3. Contrived (games): for example, things you don’t naturally love but you need to learn them anyhow. Create a game to make the learning topic interesting, and have one that’s possible to win, and one in which you experience wins and losses if you have any kind of economic game. Ex: Get Mom’s dollar: A game where the kids fix their own spelling errors. They earn a certain amount based on how many errors they find and fix. Boys seem to be especially wired to these kinds of economic games, and competitive games.
  4. Enforced: you must learn this or you must suffer a penalty. But you won’t get the real learning in this scenario. Students learn fast when they choose to learn.

The three laws of motivation:

  1. Children LIKE to do what they CAN do. And they are always getting better at things, so there is joy in their lives! Allocate 60-80% of their education time learning here, and help them get better.
  2. Children LIKE to do what they THINK they can do. Once they try and are successful a few times, then they like it! Allocate 20-40% of their education time learning here, and help them be successful.
  3. Children HATE to do what they THINK they CANNOT do. Children prefer punishment over failure if they believe they can’t be successful in it. How sad! Kids can fail more than adults can, and are willing to try again. Allocate almost 0% of their education time learning here wherever possible. Instead, back off and go to a simpler level of complexity where they did have success, and when it’s easy, then move up.

Two Secret Weapons.

One, the emotional bank account matters. ‘Deposit love into the child, so you can live off the interest’ – Suzuki. Build a child up so much, so that when you need to offer a correction, the child can sustain it. No one likes constant correction. Balance the correction. Offer 10 positives before adding 1 negative.

Two, the power of a smile is STRONG!! Be unconditionally excited and appreciative of your child’s efforts! Treat your own kids like you treat other peoples’ kids if you have to, in order to find more patience! Be grateful, acknowledge, see their effort!

His other tidbit – Wow!: Primary grades are when learning decisions are made (K-2), so it’s better to segregate by gender. A learning decision answers the questions like this: “Can I please my teacher or not?”; “Am I good or bad at something?”

For more, see books by Leonard Sax for more (though Pudewa doesn’t agree with everything Sax says):

  • Why Gender Matters
  • Boys Adrift, 
  • Girls on the Edge
  • The Collapse of Parenting

P.S. Pudewa warns not to leave these books laying around the house if your children read anything left around 🙂


The perfect homeschool week

I’m imagining the perfect homeschool week for my family next year.

We would start every day with a healthy breakfast and clean up the dishes right away. We would brush our teeth, and make our beds. Then the kitchen would close.

We would worship God, read the Bible, and do a character study. Then we would go on a walk and picnic somewhere outside.

We would come home by 2pm for rest time. My baby would take a nap. Family story time would begin, with memory work, and art lessons. Clean up to the CC Timeline Song. Prep dinner together, and kids set the table. A little more schoolwork done.

At dinner, tell Dad about our character lesson, play “stump Daddy” with memory work, recite scripture, listen to Dad’s lesson and devotion.

Clean up dinner and table to timeline song.

Reading time before bedtime. Memory work. Reading lesson for our middle child would happen again.

Grocery shopping would happen on Wednesday afternoons. Kids will get lessons in counting money and reading food labels. Meal prep and house cleaning would happen on Thursdays with help from children. Friday we would have afternoon showers and bath, with a last minute spruce up, and the table will get set nicely for a Christian version of Shabbat dinner using easy disposable ware, Saturday’s meal would be prepped and put into the crock pot, and Friday’s roast would go into the oven in a disposable tin. We would entertain friends on Friday night and see how we can minister to others.

Saturday we would have a prepared breakfast such as fruit, and quiche or bekoras. We would skip making our beds. We would go play outside somehow, and we would enjoy a large afternoon meal which I had already prepared the day before.

Sunday, we would start the week refreshed and ready to start again. I would use Sunday afternoon for homeschool prep, meal planning, and bulk item grocery shopping.

Winding down first grade and ramping up my preschooler

I’m already focused on next year’s schooling. This is a result of all the homeschool publishers running sales, and awaiting the new Foundations Guide from Classical Conversations (CC). We are closing out our second full year of CC, and our fifth year of homeschooling, since I ambitiously and unnecessarily started my own homeschool cooperative with some close friends when my firstborn was just 18 months old in Atlanta. It was a glorified play date, but it showed me the beauty of coops – close mom friends, like-minded people, the power of “scale” and positive peer pressure.

I had been in my own coop till my oldest was 4, but in two cities – Atlanta, then Rochester. Then I did two coops run by other people – loved it, and learned a lot! That last year in Rochester, I also did CC at home with just the music CDs for Cycle 1. Seeing the fruit of the teaching methodology, and knowing the benefit of community, I joined my first CC community when we moved to CA the next year for Cycle 2. And here we are ending Cycle 3. For these two years I’ve also belonged to another homeschool coop.

As I consider next year, I realize I’m juggling the needs of a 6.5 year old, 3.5 year old, and a rising toddler. For the first time, we get to repeat a Cycle (Cycle 1), and really add another learner to our one room schoolhouse (my rising 4 year old). As we ease our way into learning that has a little more rigor for my oldest, introducing “the same old” for my second (with a different learning style), and meeting the normal baby needs for my youngest, I have really met the word called “multi-tasking” in ways I hadn’t known it before. On most days my water intake is poor and I haven’t fully taken care of my own needs. I leave room for the fact that I’m coming out of the fog of having a newborn (who is now almost 14 months old), and every three months she leapfrogs her abilities and schedules shift.

All that to say, I’m closing out this year by maintaining my commitments, but I know I’m only doing just ONE coop next year – CC. I’m following God’s calling to downsize my life of activities and upsize my life in quality. I’m removing breadth in exchange for depth and balance. I’ve added a Shabbat dinner and it’s following sabbath rest – it has taken a lot of energy to do this, but it’s been worth it.

Over the summer, I will get down to the business of letter recognition and phonics for my preschooler, and big time lessons in obedience. Spelling, language lessons, handwriting, and creative storytelling for my rising second grader will capture his attention. We will work on drilling math memory too, for the basic arithmetic functions, and work diligently through the rest of first grade Singapore math while we learn abacus alongside together. We will maintain our priorities for learning the Bible, godly character, and scripture memory. And we will add back swimming. If I’m on top of it, we will finish first language lessons book 1, and song school Latin book 1 as well.

I will start building in an exercise and movement regimen for all of us. Right now, my children and husband get it but I’m missing out dearly. I will cut down on the sugar intake, and start cleansing our palates in quite a strict manner.

We will take advantage of the beautiful outdoors and hike and camp, and explore with friends. We will go whale watching, and elephant seal observing, and sea otter snooping. We will watch sunsets and see monarchs migrating. We will traipse through brush-land, and wade through marshlands. We will watch waves crashing and sit beside rivers. We will see plays and symphonies, ballets and orchestras. We will go on dates and have family days. We will be God’s creation and enjoy His creation and marvel at the work of His hands. The heavens declare the glory of God, The skies proclaim the work of His hands. We will exalt Him with our own works and words and adoration.

Piano is the only thing that doesn’t halt or change rhythms from the traditional school year to summer.

When school starts again, I will start my oldest in Veritas Press’ Ancient History and Old Testament & Genesis to Joshua Bible online programs, and we will do CC, spelling and math with more rigor. We will play more games. My middle child will learn how to read and I will learn how to have more balance, joy, and diligence.

In the meantime, we will worship the Lord God Almighty, and we will pray. We will ask God to order our days and plan our steps, because He already has done it. We will walk in obedience.

The Most Amazing Visual Bible Memory Tool You’ll Ever Meet, for Visual Learners (duh!)

I have just outlined the most jaw dropping mnemonic tool for VISUAL Learners related to studying and memorizing scripture.

Here’s the major premise of the mnemonic for you.

By the way, in this Visual Bible Memory World, here’s what the continents are:

  • The Land of Law (North America)
  • The Land of History (Europe)
  • The Land of Poetry (Asia)
  • The Land of Prophets (South America)
  • The Land of Gospels (Africa)
  • The Land of Letters (Australia)
  • The Land of Prophesy (Antarctica)

I’m telling you this, because it’s hard to see in the way that Prezi moves so quickly. But if you label your contents the way I listen, then you could draw a fake equator, almost right across the globe where the top half is the Old Testament, and the bottom half of the globe is the New Testament. Except that you have to put South America above this fake equator. Still, for a visual learner, this works just fine.

Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 8.19.36 PM

Here’s the second example for you.Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 8.19.50 PM

There. I hope you start using this mnemonic devise for you and your kids, and share it with any other visual learners you know. If you went through both slide shows then you will earnestly understand the value of that kind of visualization.

P.S. If you have an auditory learner, they might learn this by repeating after you and hearing you say it. You can also ascribe a quick theme songs to Lands, and Towns if that would help them with the association. Maybe the Land of History uses a Super Hero theme, and each Town uses a different super hero’s theme song. Hear what I’m singing?

If you have a kinesthetic learner, you could build a model world, and a model town as you’re studying. Or, you could make lift-the-door flaps for one chapter you’re memorizing and put a picture behind each door to trigger your memory about that verse, like a lap book. You could associate a certain smell with each Land. Maybe the Land of Revelation smells like peppermint (because we need to wake up when we read Revelation!). Or maybe the the Land of Letters feels like sand (touch some sand because Australia is a huge island), while the Land of Poetry feels like rice (touch some rice because it’s in Asia and Chinese food comes with rice). Can you feel what I’m pushing?

Have fun getting the Word in you!,

Robyn Cooper