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Boys and books don’t always go together. Perhaps it’s because a boy can’t shoot hoops with a book or score a touchdown with one under his arm; hence, finding the right book to spark your son’s interest can be a challenge. Here are a few suggestions that might help:
- Take him to the library or book store, or talk to his teacher about books that will interest him.
- James Patterson’s ReadKiddoRead is a good resource with a list of books that appeal to boys (and girls).
- Find a magazine in his area of interest. If he responds well to it, consider getting a subscription.
- Can’t get him away from the computer? Creative Teaching suggests finding a computer or video game that requires a good amount of reading. Search for some online, or visit your local gaming store.
While reading may be structured in the classroom, allowing him to choose his own material at home will bring him a step closer to enjoying it. According to Reading Rockets, it’s okay to suggest something, but ultimately, allow it to be his choice after first making sure the material is appropriate for his age. With your encouragement, your son could discover whole new worlds contained within the pages of a book.
“Mom, do you have a dozen tiny log cabins on hand for my project? It’s due tomorrow.” If you are experiencing chills running down your spine while reading this, you know what this means. Quickly, you dismantle a train set, a Lego village, and a bulletin board. With sweat pouring into your eyes, you arrange a hundred frilly toothpicks to look like trees, build a paper dock with tiny boats, construct log cabins out of toothpicks, and design a rocky beach using real rocks! Vaguely, you remember that this is your child’s project, so you put him/her in charge of…glue. By midnight, the two of you behold a magnificent graphic map of an imaginary island and its hearty inhabitants who, sustained by the ocean and their rich cultural traditions, would astonish the teacher and the whole junior high!
In a hostile takeover like the island project, your child learned a valuable lesson: Mom or Dad will shoulder the burden of responsibility, and all he/she has to do is nod and glue. Middle schools have lists of learning outcomes for their students, and “Expect parents to craft and complete school projects” is not one of them. While you may have shared some “quality” time with your child, the rest of the family had toast for dinner, the dishes piled up in the sink, and the baby went to bed at 10 p.m. without a bath.
You ask, “How could I have avoided this?” Here are some simple ideas that could save your sanity!
- Create a time line. Even if this is a dreaded “it’s due tomorrow” assignment, a time line will diffuse anxiety.
- Outline the steps necessary to finish the project. Insist your child help with this.
- Assign a firm deadline to each of these steps.
- Agree upon a set number of times you will check on the project’s progress. Don’t allow the “checkpoints” to exceed 5 minutes.
- Set up a quiet space, lay out some craft supplies, set a timer, and walk away.
- No, really. You can do it. Walk away!
- Praise your child’s hard work.
Junior high is a place where your child is actively asserting his/her independence and establishing him/herself as distinct from the rest of the family. This growth process also includes learning how to take responsibility for his/her assignments. You can secretly pat yourself on the back when you see that your middle school student decided on his/her own to use real pinecones in his/her diorama of a 100-million-year-old araucaria forest.
If you are like most parents, you’ve heard the questions, “Where does rain come from?” or “How does popcorn pop?” or, our all-time favorite, “Where does the water go when I flush the toilet?” While these questions can sometimes strike fear in parents (Who wants to have to say, “I don’t know,” to their child?), there are many ways to bring science into your lives, and satisfy your child’s curiosity at the same time.
Questions lead to learning, and you certainly don’t want to squash that. If you don’t know the answers to your child’s questions, admit it. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn together and grow your minds in the process. Head to the computer and do a little research together! Talk to your child about his question, and encourage him to do most of the legwork - with your assistance.
You can always try heading off some of those difficult questions before they start: Visit a local children’s science museum. To find one near you, visit the Association of Children’s Museums, or check out this worldwide list of hands-on science centers. Many science museums offer hands-on exhibits and workshops perfect for little, curious minds!
Though we don’t always think about it, science is all around us every day. Talk to your child about some of the things related to science around your home: electricity, the Internet, recycling, gardening, cooking, digestion, etc. The more you talk, the more questions you will likely encourage. But that’s okay. Go back to that opportunity to learn together!
There are endless websites you and your child can visit together to learn about science. Among them are ScienceNews for Kids, Brain POP, Zoom (by PBS), and Science With Me, as well as others. Above all, encourage those questions, frustrating as they may be sometimes. Support his interest in science and learning!