What would happen if we based our education for boys on their interests?
The idea of crafting an education around a student’s interests is a bit novel in today’s world of standardized curriculum and tests. But the concept is sound. As parents (and educators) know, trying to force a child to learn something they don’t find interesting or useful is an exercise in futility and frustration — and trying to keep a child from doing something they’re determined to do is equally frustrating. Some schools, in fact, have introduced personalized learning and Genius Hour because educational leaders have recognized that students learn best when they’re allowed to follow their own interests.
“The number one problem with education for boys continues to be intrinsic motivation,” says Tiffany Soyra, founder of the Novel Education Group (and the “personal educator” of Kylie and Kendall Jenner). Most students simply aren’t motivated to learn what schools, teachers and parents think they should learn. So, Tiffany recommends supporting student’s interests. A boy who’s rebuilding an engine or tinkering with a snowmobile shouldn’t be told, “put away that snowmobile and come inside and do 3 more hours of schoolwork,” she says, as doing so will only discourage his passion and fuel his hatred for school, education and learning. Instead, parents (and educators) should embrace boys’ interests.
“Education and passion are one and the same,” Tiffany says, and giving students more control over what they’re learning can pay dividends.
In practice, you may need to loosen up your academic expectations and broaden your definition of “learning.”. If your son is consistently getting low scores on tests at school because he has text anxiety, and the school refuses to consider alternative methods for him to demonstrate his learning — and you don’t have the resources or ability to choose another school — stop stressing about your son’s test scores. Don’t tell him to put aside his interests and buckle down with the books; instead, support his extracurricular interests. “Whatever activities he’s doing outside of school will likely matter much more to his future than his test scores,” Tiffany says.
“Five years from now, that test won’t matter,” Janet agrees. “What matters is how he feels about himself, how he feels about the system that told him, ‘you’re not good enough; you’re not capable.'”
Positive reinforcement can counter many of the negative messages boys receive in school. “Continue to put the focus on the things they’re doing right,” Tiffany advises. And guess what? Colleges (even elite colleges) care more about kids’ extracurricular activities, interests and passions than their GPA.
In this episode, Jen, Janet & Tiffany discuss:
- How interests and passions can fuel learning and education for boys
- Distance learning & homeschooling
- Out-of-the-box educational options for kids who don’t fit the traditional school system
- Using video games for learning & coping
- How anxiety can interfere with school
- Advocating for your son’s educational needs
- Developmentally appropriate (and inappropriate) education expectations
- Why you should let your son take snow days (even the school plans to hold school virtually)
- What to do about boys who are “behind”
- Why it’s time to stop stressing about your son’s GPA
- How to identify your son’s interests
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:
Novel Education Group — Tiffany’s business
Why You Need to Stop Focusing on Your Boys’ Bickering — BuildingBoys blog post
Fortnite is Not a Waste of Time –– BuildingBoys blog post
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