The statistics involving boys and education look bleak. More boys flunk or drop out of school than girls, and young males make up more than two-thirds of the students in special education. Across the board, in elementary, high school, and higher education, girls outperform boys in regard to homework and grades, as reported by the Public Broadcasting Service Web site, pbsparents.org.

So who is to blame for, what looks like, boy’s educational apathy? Michael Thompson, coauthor of the book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, believes that boys have too much energy for traditional schools. “More boys have problems with attention and focus than girls…And they are not given enough opportunities [in school] to move around.”

Thompson’s claim may support why boys are three times as likely to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Nevertheless, boys who are not turned off by the lack of movement and activity inside the classroom are often persuaded by societal ills outside the classroom, such as gangs and drugs. So how do we help make school and learning fun for our sons? And how do we teach boys to care about their education despite the obstacles they face in traditional schools and society? Below are just a few ways you can get your sons on the right track.

Select schools that meet your son’s needs

Research schools in your area and find out which ones offer daily instruction most suited for your son’s interests. Consider schools that provide more gym and/or recess activities. Survey schools that offer more hands-on approaches to learning, where students get to create science and social studies projects opposed to just hearing teachers talk. Some schools use song and dance to help students master curriculum. Others utilize field trips and problem-based learning. Such instructional strategies are better geared for boys who are typically more active and take more risks than girls.

Involve your boys in
extra-curricular activities

The Chicago Park District hosts sports programs for kids as young as 4. Such programs will allow your son to expel some energy and have something to look forward to after school. But be sure to tie your child’s extra-curricular activities to their education. Let your child know that in order to participate in after-school karate classes, they must first complete their homework. Also, begin a relationship with your child’s extra-curricular instructor. Make sure he or she is interested in and encourages your child’s academic success. Finally, being involved in an after-school program keeps your child off the street, where so many Chicago Public School students have already become victim.

Expose your boys
to positive male role models

Boys tend to look to the most popular male figures they know to guide their career paths, especially if their fathers are absent in their lives. Most of the men boys admire are sports figures and entertainers. But there are other positive black male role models in our community. Have your son observe male firefighters and police officers; men who serve and protect the community. Many African-American men populate schools in our community, holding positions as teachers, deans and principals. Have your sons look to these men. If you have a hard time searching for role models close to home, guide your son to find them in literature. A former Austin community member I talked to, who now works for the Chicago Police Department, said: “My mother would purchase black history books which were full of stories of people who overcame adversity … like Benjamin Banneker, [W.E.B.] Dubois, and the like.” He attributes many of his accomplishments to those who accomplished so much before him. See if your child will benefit from heroes of the past as well. Survey the Chicago Public Library and your child’s school library for books about positive black male role models and encourage your son to check them out.

Encourage your son to love school and learning. Invest in his education with consistent support and lifelong learning strategies-and enjoy the rewards to come.

To learn more

Find programs for kids, locations and times at the Chicago Park District's Web site: http://programs.chica goparkdistrict.com/programBrowser/.