Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Relationship between Love and Learning

Something about the idea of M sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day for 12 years of his life in order to *learn* has not been sitting well with me. It’s one of many reasons I’m drawn toward all you homeschooling moms. I seriously wonder how it was ever decided that children should learn this way, especially boys.

My boy isn’t a sit still kind of guy. :) And I’m not sure helping him learn to be that kind of guy is what I really want for him.

I’ve been reading The Minds of Boys: Saving our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life, by Michael Gurian. So far it’s fascinating. The book, as a whole, talks about how boys learn and what needs to change in current teaching practices to help boys succeed in school. In chapter 3 he talks about helping boys learn before they begin school, and what we as parents can do to prepare them for learning.

Interestingly, the first thing he touches on is love and attachment. Apparently affection, *good touching*, and love affect the brain’s development, especially the areas of the brain that involve learning.

“Children with secure attachments are more likely to make learning gains for a biological reason : the organic mechanisms in the brain by which the brain learns require secure attachment in order to grow fully.” (p. 71)

Attachment is defined as the “ongoing process of affectionate caregiving that nurtures the [parent-child] bond throughout a lifetime.”

I’m finding so much good information in this book, and I want to share some of it with you – especially those of you with sons! And I want to record some info here for myself too, since this is a library book and I know I’m going to want to remember a lot of what I’m reading!

Gurian lists 10 ways to promote attachment between ourselves and our sons. These are geared specifically towards boys because, believe it or not, boys and girls are different (seriously!). And these ways work with the average boy brain in mind…

(Number 8 especially stood out to me.)

1. Bursts of Attention – 5 long bursts, several minutes, of undivided attention every day (along with smaller bursts too).

2. Lots of affirmation – notice accomplishments and efforts, give praise and hugs

3. Verbal Mirroring – use words to describe what your son is doing; listen carefully to your toddler, then repeat back to him what he says - “You’re right, that is a big car".

4. Physical Play – playtime is organic learning time for body and brain (this is something I definitely need to work on – my husband is so much better with M in this area).

5. Leadership – let your boy take the lead in activities often, imitate him, play follow the leader and take turns being the leader.

6. Enthusiasm – the feeling of joy is often directed through the temporal lobe of the brain, development of it helps with enthusiasm later for learning. Find things to do together that inspire your son’s enthusiasm and joy.

7. Predictability – Provide consistent, predictable structure and clear limits. This promotes secure attachment.

8. Self-management – Gurian says here, “Implement behavior management strategies that are based on your son’s developmental stage rather than a later or earlier stage. Expecting your son at three to ‘use his words’ when he’s angry will, almost every time, be developmentally inappropriate. He may just need to throw a tantrum (in a safe place), hitting the floor with his fists until he releases his energy.”

9. Choice Making – Do as little for him as you can, making sure he does as much for himself as he can; help him make acceptable choices. Making the right choices builds the frontal lobe in the brain.

10. Appropriate Discipline – no frightening him with yelling (at a young age… at an older age it might be called for, occasionally), or any other inappropriate discipline.

There’s so much in this book that is really speaking to me and helping me to understand M, I’m sure I’ll be posting some more tidbits in the days to come.

Have a beautiful day! :)


  1. Keep it coming! I think I will have to check that book out!

  2. That looks interesting! I'll have to check it out. thanks for posting those bullet points.

  3. These are great tips that can also be applied to girls too! Thanks for sharing. As a former teacher, most public schools have gone away from the "sit behind the desk" structure and are incorporating more interactive learning activities and programs. However, it's really all about which teacher your child is lucky or unlucky to receive. I try to believe for every 1 bad teacher, there are 10 good teachers! I pray that Izzie and Mac will get all the good ones!

  4. Okay, I so need to get that book.

  5. Im SO glad you are leaning towards homeschooling! My reasons for homeschooling could go on and on! But i have yet to think of 1 good reason not to! Other than more free time, which i can get in anyway! There is a GREAT book out there with awesome reasons to homeschool. I think its called Home Sweet Homeschool. I borrowed it from my library and love it. Its very good an i really recommend it :)

  6. Interesting read. All Anna's friends are boys, and it's fascinating to see how different boys and girls are despite our best efforts to raise our daughter "gender-neutral". I had to chuckle at short bursts of attention - somehow I have a hunch that M gets a lot more than that, doesn't he?

  7. Thank you SO much for mentioning this book. With two little boys I HAVE to read this one. I am in the same contemplating homeschooling phase for many reasons. I plant to blog about it soon. :) I am going to see if my library has this book and I will check back with you to hear more. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Thanks for a very insightful post. I am the mother of girls but I feel these principles are important for girls too, particularly my oldest daughter. A loving relationship with a caring adult really does lay the foundation for learning.

  9. What a great list! I really like this! Thank you so much for sharing!

  10. I'm so glad you posted about this book. I'll need this in about a year for Baby boy!
    I think though that the ten things you listed definitely apply to girls as well,

    Number 8 stood out to me too. I often tell Bear to please use her words when she is melting down and I'm trying ot help her and can't understand what she wants!

    I hope you post more from this book.

  11. Hi Nicole

    I am always fascinated by authors who discuss how children learn, especially books that specialise in gender specific information.

    I'll be putting this book on my list for sure. Thank you for sharing it.

    I agree with your opening sentiments in this post. Basically, the current education system was born out of a need that arose during the Industrial Revolution to educate people and there is such resistance to change the way things are done. Although, some schools and educators are revolutionising the way children are being educated. They are starting to see the huge benefits from offering a differentiated curriculum where there is flexibility and schools that are not so driven by testing and assessment.

    I am really looking forward to hearing more about this book and your views on education.

    I hope you have a "beauty full" weekend.

  12. I was sure that I left you a message here. Oh well, I'll tell you again. I LOVE this post. Having two boys, it really spoke to me. Thank you for sharing this book. I have never heard of it but I will definately check it out. BTW, we are still in the deciding stages for homeschooling too.

  13. This is great information. This is so close to the raising techniques that we have used with Selena.

    I couldn't agree with you more about children rather boys or girls sitting for 8 hours a day to learn.

    I always found it ironic how homeschooling can take so much less time "Book work" then in schools, but so much more life learning!

  14. Ooh, thanks! I'll have to go looking for this book!

  15. Hmmm, I am going to have to see about checking this one out from the library too!

  16. This sounds like such a fantastic book for those of us with boys! I'm definitely adding this one to my wishlist. I definitely need to work on more physical play...just like you mentioned, my husband is way better at this than I am, but my son always enjoys it so much!


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