As a mother, you have undoubtedly spent many waking hours pondering your children’s development. Perhaps you’ve mused over the kinds of education that would benefit them, worried about where they fit in on social and developmental scales, or trawled the internet for answers relating to a perceived lack of ability. Stop right there; such worries are completely normal and will likely dog you until long after your children have left home and started families of their own. What you may struggle to adapt to, however, are the stereotypes that surround girls and boys as they grow up and enter education. We live in a competitive world, and it is one in which children shoulder an awful lot responsibility. Is there more to this developmental divide than meets the eye? If girls and boys really do grasp the world in different ways, what can be done to support and encourage our children?
The different ways that boys and girls learn: A handy guide
There is certainly a great deal of evidence to suggest that boys and girls learn at different rates and in different ways. Girls are considerably faster and more methodical than boys, whereas boys tend to prefer visual stimuli and problem solving. Why is this, and what can you do to support your children? Now is the time to pay attention to your children’s patterns of learning, develop an understanding of how your children embrace the world around them, and endeavour to do all that you can to nurture that curiosity. Never take your child’s education for granted.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are all subjects that are commonly embraced by boys, perhaps due to the male penchant for learning visually and by using their hands. Indeed, such subjects revolve around pictorial aids including formulas and diagrams, so it’s little wonder that our sons seem to engage so well with the material on offer. STEM subjects offer boys a different way to learn, including repetition, technology, visual guides, and hands-on experience. Girls, of course, can be supported across these subjects and more. Parents and teachers must introduce these topics in a way that will engage girls and suit their learning patterns, while boys should be encouraged to participate in class discussions that exploit their strengths.
Language and communication
When it comes to reading, writing, language, and communication, girls have long had the edge. Although boys are more focused on images and instructions, girls are better able to concentrate on reams of text, memorise words and sentences, and sit still for periods. Experts are quick to note that the hippocampus, which controls emotion and memory, is generally larger in girls, while the left hemisphere, which is responsible for speech and language, is also markedly quicker to develop. Girls generally seem more likely to memorise and retrieve phrases via a mental dictionary. Boys, on the other hand, take longer to solve problems and retrieve such knowledge. This difference has marked implications for how boys and girls are taught, as current educational techniques are often geared toward girls. If you have boys, you can prepare your sons for school by encouraging a love of stories and words that can be visualised, and be sure to communicate with your baby from birth using words and eye contact.
Learning in a single-sex environment
The environment in which your child learns is incredibly important. The right school can nurture a child’s individual academic abilities, encourage their personality to thrive, and ensure that personality and talent are cultivated, but supporting boys and girls when they learn so differently is often difficult. Single-sex schools can help boys and girls to focus; build their confidence, self-esteem, and independence; and encourage them to try harder at the subjects they’d normally find difficult. The Hornsey School for Girls is just one example of an excellent single-sex establishment, and its parents and teachers have noticed how quickly girls come into their own when supported on their academic paths. While single-sex schools are often considered old-fashioned, institutions such as Hornsey School for Girls are revolutionising the ways in which girls and boys are taught, accepting that different children learn in varying ways. Without distraction or competition from the other sex, girls and boys can fare far better in their academic pursuits.
If words, reading, and languages are subjects dominated by girls, physical education and development are areas commonly conquered by boys. Indeed, boys are stereotypically faster to master team and individual sports, and they tend to excel out on the field whereas girls do not. Why is this? Many experts believe that boys’ sporting abilities can be attributed to their cerebellum, which grows eight per cent faster than that of girls. This particular corner of the brain controls movement and coordination, so it stands to reason that boys would be markedly better at such endeavours. Girls, of course, can be equally good at sports, particularly if their parents are determined to support them. As the mother of a daughter, you should ensure that your little one is encouraged to be active and embrace sport regardless of what is achieved or how quickly.
A recent study completed by the University of Bristol determined that boys are twice as likely as girls to fall behind during their early years of education; this is an issue for all parents of boys and their children. However, according to numerous studies relating to intellectual development in children, the flexibility of the brain means that key areas are capable of growing or shrinking depending on how they are used.
Is it possible to alter how well girls and boys adapt to particular subjects by nurturing the relevant area of the brain from birth? Many experts seem to think so, shedding light on the theory that boys and girls are equally capable if they are supported and encouraged correctly. It’s also true that parent/teacher expectations can play a huge part in academic achievement. Girls, as the stronger sex academically, may often find themselves pushed beyond the achievements of boys, leaving both under tremendous amounts of pressure.
However you parent your child, remember this: it’s your job to support your children’s development, nurture their curiosity, and endeavour to answer any questions they may have about the world, in addition to introducing reading and writing, imaginative play, and physical play as early as you can. Boys and girls do indeed learn in very different ways, but that should not influence the way you parent.
Until Next Time… Charlotte x