I’ve been noticing some things in the boys vs girls debate lately, especially in relation to raising sons in today’s society while also homeschooling.
Many equate the idea of success in homeschooling with how well their child can read and write or how versed they are in history or math.
But, what we often fail to recognize is the inherent value in the everyday teachable moments that we encounter as well.
I love homeschooling my boys because it doesn’t just prepare them for tests, but rather for life.
Raising sons today, though, is much different than it used to be. It’s often become more of a boys vs girls thing. Many of the core values that were once revered are now viewed as signs of a close-minded chauvinist.
A giant line has been drawn and it appears we are forced to choose between either raising what society deems an open-minded “feminist” or have him labeled a stubborn boar operating on his “male privilege.”
It’s boys vs girls.
These lines of thinking might work when trying to chum the waters on social media or impact political parties.
But, where do they leave our boys?
How about all the above?
Society has a problem with moderation and it’s hurting our boys and girls.
Today, it’s all or nothing.
Love or hate.
Conservative or liberal.
Us vs Them.
Boys vs Girls.
This mentality is overwhelming and, sometimes, quite frankly depressing.
In the thick of it all one idea surfaces consistently: Girls can do anything.
But, what about our boys?
Boys vs Girls
Girls are being taught that their anger is justified, that it fuels them and is supported by years of past oppression.
They are encouraged to be unstoppable forces to be reckoned with.
Girls take pride in being called “nasty women.”
Boys, on the other hand, are taught that their anger is hostile.
It is abusive.
It is narcissistic.
That it’s “toxic masculinity.”
Boys are also taught that girls can do anything, but the same is not often uttered about boys.
Boys’ accomplishments are constantly undermined because of their sex, whereas girls are hailed as heroes because of theirs.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge advocate for strong, powerful women as well.
But since when does a female’s accomplishment have to be at the detriment of a male’s?
Girl power does not have to equate to boy bashing.
We can (and should) encourage both sexes to succeed.
Across the country, boys are regularly being punished for literally just being boys.
Now, I feel it imperative to stop here and emphasize how hiding behind a cliche statement like “boys will be boys” to excuse actual abusive, malicious, or harmful behavior is not okay.
But, suspending a 7-year-old for throwing an imaginary hand grenade in a made up game is not helping anyone either. Instead, it teaches boys to stifle their instincts regarding play.
And, I believe an effort to reprogram the natural tendencies of boys is afoot.
Today’s boys are being held accountable for the injustices of those who preceded them.
There is much truth to the idea that prevention is worth more than cure.
But, trying to deny our sons of who they are to fit into a safe, albeit emasculated, version of what a man should be is not how to prevent violence.
Shortly after I began homeschooling my sons, I commented to my husband how taken I was with the sheer amount of fellow all-boy homeschooling families I would encounter.
My research showed that statistically the latest demographic characteristics of homeschoolers are an approximately even 50/50 split of boys to girls.
But, these numbers were taken from a survey that is almost six years old. And, I am eager to see what 2018’s numbers will reflect. Because, quite frankly, the last six years seem to have done little, if nothing, for the betterment of the educational experiences of boys.
There has been a dramatic push for girls in math and sciences (as there should be).
Society saw that there was a problem–an area where girls were, statistically, not thriving. So, society changed their approach.
We now specifically target girls for science-based programs.
We demand increased funding and scholarship opportunities for girls pursuing a future in science.
As a result, girls are thriving academically.
But, what has been done to help boys with their continued academic and social problems?
Boys are active. So, we take away recess and confine them to a desk.
Boys like hands-on, interactive real-life work. And, we take away any semblance of risk in a public-school setting.
Today, many times, boys are viewed as a nuisance in school settings because they cannot conform to modern-day policies.
Then, acting in accordance with these very policies, boys are pigeon-holed with behavioral disorders and medication is often prescribed.
The message to boys is becoming clearer and clearer in the traditional school setting: You are not welcome here.
I do not envy young men growing up today.
They are told they are privileged merely for their God-given anatomy and no other reason.
Yet, the justifications that people use to try to support that claim are weak at best and rapidly diminishing.
So, what can be done for our boys in this boys vs girls society?
With out-of-touch policies that are not inclusive to how boys learn and also society telling them to “man up” without bothering to explain what that means, where does that leave our boys?
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One of the beauties of homeschooling for our family is the idea that we take great pride in addressing what it is to “be a man” with our sons every day.
Because, the thing is, being a man is not something that happens from reading a book on feminism or being made to sit out recess.
It’s something that happens in little and in big ways every single day.
As my sons progress throughout their lives, there are five life lessons I hope they always take with them.
Boys vs Girls | Teaching Your Sons
Life Lesson for Boys #1: Do not stifle your inner superhero.
Boys are naturally imaginative and love telling stories.
Allow them the space to do so safely.
Everyone wants to see good defeat evil, and it begins when we are children.
Boys like being protectors, providers, and defenders. Nurture that side.
That is what will make them self-sufficient men with moral courage.
This is what fuels their work ethic and determination to be the best they can be.
Superheroes represent all that a little boy wants to be–strong, invincible, adventurous, and most importantly – virtuous.
And, while he may never wear a cape and leap tall buildings in a single bound, he might one day intervene when a man is abusing his wife.
He might pull a passenger from a wrecked vehicle.
Or, he might help an elderly person cross the street.
And, he might slay the imaginary dragon under his child’s bed.
And for that, he will be heroic.
The world can always use another superhero.
Life Lesson for Boys #2: Value your intelligence and share your knowledge.
Our boys are growing up in a society that dismisses their mere speech as “mansplaining.”
Can you imagine if the roles were reversed and a sarcastic, quippy term was used to belittle women who shared information of which they were knowledgeable?
Boys and girls alike should always be encouraged to share their insights on a topic.
There is always room at the table for both sides of thought.
Dismissing the idea that a male may possess valuable information or opinions on a subject (even if it is an inherently female subject) is misguided at best.
My sons are taught daily that there is room for all parties at the table–that it doesn’t have to be boys vs girls.
It is how we gain perspective and remain truly open-minded and willing to receive information.
Life Lesson for Boys #3: Foster your love of competition.
Douglas MacArthur said, “Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.”
The passage continues and is equally as good.
I read it when I was pregnant with my oldest son and have loved it ever since. It encompasses many of the ideals that I hope my boys will take with them in life.
My boys compete over EVERYTHING–who is the first to get in the car, who ran the fastest, who performed the coolest trick shot.
And, you know what, I’m okay with that.
Because healthy competition is just that – healthy.
It motivates them. And, It fuels them to do better. It teaches them the value of self-improvement, not self-entitlement.
Equally as important as their natural desire to compete, though, is their ability to be humble about their accomplishments.
It is for that reason that our boys shake hands after a competition and say “Good game. You’ll get me next time.”
Our world has conditioned us into believing that labeling someone a clear-cut “winner” in a competition is somehow harmful.
It is perfectly natural to experience feelings of disappointment at a loss.
But, the lesson to be learned from the concept of losing is in how we handle defeat.
Lowering the bar and handing everyone a trophy does not discourage self-defeatist behaviors. It merely masks them and gives children a distorted view of reality.
Why try when you are going to get the same reward as the person next to you who didn’t?
So, my sons, compete.
Give it your all. And, if you fail (which you will undoubtedly at times), don’t wallow in self-pity. Turn toward the problem and refocus your approach.
And, while you’re at it, be happy for and congratulate the person who came first.
They deserve your encouragement and any accolades they receive.
Life Lesson for Boys #4: Embrace your masculinity.
Being masculine is not “toxic.”
There are certain behaviors like violent outbursts, threats, and physically harming others that are certainly toxic in nature.
These behaviors are unhealthy regardless of the sex of the individual carrying out the act.
Equating toxicity with little boys pretending to sword fight or wrestle with their brothers is irresponsible.
Masculinity is not something we should deny out of fear.
Boys will always crave a little danger.
Rather than denying the biological differences between boys vs girls, teach boys to take healthy risks.
Teach them to use their strength to help others, not hurt.
Show them there is nobility in fighting to defend the weak.
The world needs more protectors.
Life Lesson for Boys #5: Humble yourself to the Lord and your fellow man.
There is no greater or more humbling experience than the moment you recognize your place in this world.
Ground your children in faith.
Surround them with spirituality and teach them compassion.
Model respectful, loving relationships for them.
Explain to them that a “real man” can be the person who fights the bad guys and puts them in jail.
He can also be the guy who helps his wife fold the laundry while they talk about their day.
And, he can be the guy who scores the winning touchdown in the big game or the guy who enjoys a tea party with his little girl.
Most importantly, he can be the man who humbles himself to drop to his knees and clasp his hands together in prayer–to pay respect to an entity far greater than himself, of which he has never seen.
While raising sons over the last few years in our current societal climate, I cannot help but feel like a passenger in a car careening down the road, waiting to see how it all pans out.
For so long, boys have inherently acted a certain way and could do so with few limits like a reckless driver headed for the median.
As a result, we had things like legalized wife beatings and women fighting for the right to vote.
It was negligent.
This was the boys vs girls mentality.
It was the result of antiquated thinking on the part of narrow-minded men that enabled this type of behavior to continue for as long as it did.
And, just like any distracted driver realizing the error of their ways, we grabbed the wheel and changed course.
But, somehow, we missed the mark.
We have overcorrected.
Now, rather than teaching the driver to respect the power of a vehicle– we are just encouraging him to abandon the car and throw the keys in the river.
Rather than modeling healthy masculinity for our boys, society seeks to just remove anything masculine altogether because they feel it is safer.
This is a problem.
And just as I encourage my sons to confront problems head on, I am prepared to face this troubled future of masculinity.
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Samantha Lee is a homeschooling mom and blogger in the Pittsburgh area. As a wife, homeschooling parent, and freelancer, she aspires to grow academically, faithfully, and wholly everyday. Follow her on Facebook!