Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why Boys Fail

This is Sobering...

A coarsened cultural environment has eliminated the heroic ideals that once inspired young men.

Boys, and young men in particular, respond very well to noble purpose but haven’t had much to go on in the past fifty years of our bedraggled history. So many of the young men I see in my classes have mentally and emotionally quit, given up. They are not supported by inspiring ideals that help organize and focus their energies.

Read the rest here.

If you are following the Ambleside Curriculum, rest assured your boys are in for a feast of heroic ideals and noble purpose, in many of the books there. In YR1 and YR2 alone, we read from...

The Bible
Trial and Triumph
Our Island Story
King of the Golden River
Pilgrim's Progress
St. George and the Dragon
Little Duke
Otto of the Silver Hand
Farmer Boy

Would there be a difference in a boy's heart, character, and view of the gospel after feasting on books like these

And what about in the home? What are we teaching our boys and girls in the home?

Growing up in a very dysfunctional family, I learned early to rely on no man. I took pride in my ability to take care of myself. I didn't need anyone. So when I got married and my husband offered to open the door for me, I'd hold it myself and tell him to go ahead. When he offered to bring the groceries in, I'd tell him I could handle it. If I needed to move a piece of furniture, I'd do it myself to the point of hurting myself. I actually thought I was being nice to him by not burdening him with such trouble. I thought he liked that his wife could take care of herself.

Well, many cold nights and years later, thanks to friends with insight and some good books, I can see now that I wasn't being helpful at all. My self sacrifice, what I thought was 'doing for him' was actually robbing him of his chance to be a man. I might as well have been screaming in his face "I don't need you. You are worthless to me."

Oh, and it doesn't end there. I think of all the times I've piped in as he's fixing something, telling him how to do it. And all the times I've told him to be careful as we're driving, or told him what a great job someone else's husband does at so-and-so. I may as well have been saying "You complete idiot!!! How did you ever manage in life without me!? Why can't you be a better man!?"

The truth of the matter is, when I bite my tongue, he does things just fine without me. In fact, I've come to realize that there are a lot of things he does much better than me, when given the chance. And I've also come to realize that when I don't crinkle my brow and nag him and tell him what to do all day, he's more attracted to me and I to him.

Yes, for years I was doing it all by being an independent, self-sufficient woman. But honestly, it was an extremely lonely and tiring gig. Exhausting. I'm still a long way from having learned this lesson completely, but I can now find rest and security leaning on my husband's loving strength. I feel good relying on his abilities, not just mine. I am attracted to his masculinity and the way he takes care of us in the little things like opening the door, carrying groceries, checking the oil and the tires on the car, offering to drop us off while he goes and parks the car.

And as I rely on him, he in turn turns to me for my support. Funny how that works. He would reject my advice when I force it on him. But when I give up control, he trusts me to help him.

Charlotte Mason said Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. The atmosphere in the home is learning grounds for our future men and future women. How I treat my husband is how my daughter will naturally start in her marriage treating hers. And the type of wife I am to my husband will naturally be the type of wife my son will look for.

We can read all the great literature about heroes and noble deeds to our boys, but according to CM, and to common sense, that only accounts for a third of his education. Atmosphere accounts for another third, and training good habits accounts for the rest

In Vol. 2, Chapter 4 Parents as Inspirers, she writes:

An Idea may exist as an 'Appetency.'––Ideas may invest as an atmosphere, rather than strike as a weapon. 'The idea may exist in a clear, distinct, definite form, as that of a circle in the mind of a geometrician; or it may be a mere instinct, a vague appetency towards something, . . . like the impulse which fills the young poet's eyes with tears, he knows not why: To excite this 'appetency towards something'––towards things lovely, honest, and of good report, is the earliest and most important ministry of the educator.

How shall these indefinite ideas which manifest themselves in appetency be imparted? They are not to be given of set purpose, nor taken at set times. They are held in that thought-environment which surrounds the child as an atmosphere, which he breathes as his breath of life; and this atmosphere in which the child inspires his unconscious ideas of right living emanates from his parents.

Every look of gentleness and tone of reverence, every word of kindness and act of help, passes into the thought-environment, the very atmosphere which the child breathes; he does not think of these things, may never think of them, but all his life long they excite that 'vague appetency towards something' out of which most of his actions spring. Oh, wonderful and dreadful presence of the little child in the midst!

Hopefully, we have a little more wonderful than dreadful! Let us not rest on society, school, friends, and the like to provide the right atmosphere for our boys, because they aren't finding it there. The responsibility rests on us as parents to create the atmosphere at home, to give our boys opportunities at noble purpose, to appreciate and respect our husbands when they offer up noble and heroic acts. It's how they're wired.

I'd love to hear what other families have done with their boys to cultivate this. Leave a comment if you'd like to share your thoughts or ideas!


  1. quite humbling! thanks for sharing.

  2. ...loved your post!
    my husband read Raising A Modern Day Knight a long time ago, and it has forever shaped our purpose and perspective in raising boys!
    The fact that they are soldiers of Christ (with armor and all;) really resonates with them concerning spiritual and character issues!
    The books you have listed (and dozens more) feed that God-given 'boy stuff' that is in the heart of all of our fellas...to deny it is there and not to nurture that with books, real-life adventures (big or small), etc. is to deny how God built them!
    Thank you for sharing!

    Carrie Austin does a great job of compiling boys' interest books!
    We are looking forward to doing some with the Jonathan Park series this summer!
    Another good one about men that enlightens your perspective on boys is Tender Warrior by Stu Weber

  3. Thanks Melissa! I'll have to look into those books. Stopped by your blog, your passion really comes through! Looks like you have some fun adventures with those happy boys of yours :) Great to connect with you!