I would like to talk about the final year of Primary schooling for boys. You may be aware that peer pressure tends to peak for boys around the age of 12 in Australia and about 18 months earlier (about 10 ½ years old) for girls. These, consequently) are the ages that bullying also peaks and when security and identification with peers are very important. I will delve into the 10 ½ year old issues for girls later this year but want to discuss the impact on boys at this age (12 years of age).
Firstly parents need to be aware that this is the time to try and make family life happy, stable, smooth, supportive and connected. Boys are going through puberty or pre-puberty and have a great need for love and support. In the media world of television and the Internet where they keep receiving images that men must be stoic, strong and overtly heterosexual; boys often put on armour to protect themselves from ridicule. Boys often act ultra macho and mimic the stereotypical males portrayed in the media – particularly if they don’t have access to, or identify with, males in their daily lives. We must keep communication lines open with them and be there for them as parents and teachers.
In terms of their final year at Primary School it should be a time to celebrate the joy of youth, to question their universe for answers to the puzzles of life and Science. All the qualities of boys should be utilised to make them really appreciate the journey they have had and that final Primary School year must be seen by them as a time to hone their qualities of enquiry, curiosity, competition, honesty, loyalty to families, teachers and friends, affection, sense of fun, exploration, humour, honesty, joy of living and celebration of life. Whether this is termed Year 6 or Year 7 it must be a time where they need to look back with satisfaction.
This final year of Primary School must NOT be seen or used as a preparation for High School.
For boys, in particular, the need to wind up a part of their lives is very important – to appreciate the journey they have been on since starting school and look back with satisfaction on their childhood and where they have come from. We must continue to make children the units of education in the Primary School where schools and subjects revolve around them and not around subjects which are often the units of education in traditional high schools. Primary schools should have a good Transition to High School program in place but this entire year must not be seen as a preparation for something else rather than the celebration of the here and now. Boys live for the moment at this stage of their lives and we should allow them and help them to make this a time to look back on by utilising all their faculties of enquiry and energy as they become the leaders of their Primary schools.
If parents, teachers and schools don’t allow our boys and girls to celebrate this vital time in their lives and involve themselves as leaders of their schools, investigating and exploring their life and world, we do them a disservice. We don’t want to introduce another tail wagging the dog as has been the case with High Schools preparing their students for university entrance even though many students don’t want (or need) to go there. Universities in earlier times dictated the upper high school curriculum and that has resulted in major problems in High Schools.
I would plead with parents to not pressurise Primary Schools to set copious amounts of homework in Year 7 (or Year 6) to prepare their child for volumes of homework the following year in High School. The research into Homework has comprehensively dismissed notions that it somehow prepares kids for further study or makes them eager to excel and go onto further study. In fact it is the reverse! Recent research into homework in the USA is summed up as “a waste of time” and likely to deter kids from further study or aiming too high as the burden of homework seems likely to get worse and many boys who may have considered going on to really successful careers have aimed much lower for fear of never having anytime outside their homework to live and enjoy life.
In my booklet “Homework and the Homework Grid” I explore the homework debate fully and believe that some practice is necessary at home gradually increasing from late Primary School to Year 12 but we should not restrict homework to sedentary tasks and I plead with parents to allow their boys (and girls) to have a childhood outside of their bedrooms.
During 2011 I will continue to offer my two-day parent training courses where schools or parenting bodies can get a minimum of 30 parents to commit to two consecutive days of intensive (but fun) work with me from 9:30 to 2:30 each day for around $175 per person – depending on locality, with the host school providing the venue and light catering. These times have been set to allow parents to drop off and pick up their kids from school if needed and do all the things that busy parents need to do to ensure that families run smoothly. If a school or P&C/P&F are interested in this two-day course, please contact us at the Institute.