Friday, January 23, 2009

Why a girls school?

Or perhaps more curiously, why are there pictures of a BOY on our girls school website?!

Zera Hall has developed from the Lord providentially placing students in my path. It started with my daughter’s friend home schooling with us for 2 years while her mom was recovering from cancer. Then another friend asked one day if I would be interested and willing to help her out by home schooling her 3 children so she could pull them out of an expensive private school. It seems God has teaching yet for me to do even as my youngest children move towards the end of their home education.

I decided if this was going to continue, I wanted to think more self-consciously about what my classroom should look like. If I accept more students, what specifically am I trying to accomplish in teaching? The answers my husband and I came up with to these questions led to Zera Hall. One of the conclusions we came to is that, while I continue to teach the students I already have, including a boy, the direction I want to move in is toward establishing an all girls school.

God created boys and girls differently, that much is obvious. Any parent quickly learns that the differences go beyond the physical. Girls learn, grow and mature differently than boys. They respond to different kinds of motivations and instruction than boys. There are different areas in which they are more likely to struggle. If there is an opportunity to develop a learning environment self-consciously directed to the specific needs, strengths and learning styles of girls, that is exciting and interesting to me. This is what I aim to create at Zera Hall.

The goal is to accomplish this in two ways. One, I will teach subjects that are particularly interesting to many little girls and endeavor to teach all subjects in ways from a girls perspective. For instance, every summer we have a term doing hands-on math. This past summer we did that through a cooking class. Many boys love to cook too, but I don’t know any 5-year-old girl who wouldn’t love to come to school to put on an apron and learn her fractions with measuring cups! When we learn history in 3rd and 4th grade, we look at the people and their lives, which to most girls is the most interesting part. Boys generally want to know about the wars!

Secondly, I look for ways to teach that take into consideration how girls need to be treated and what they best respond to. This subtle part of teaching just girls includes things like taking into consideration that most girls are much more emotional than boys, that girls often will not speak out or participate as strongly if there is a boy to take charge of the class, and other personality traits characteristic of girls.

I realize that not every one of these boy-girl traits is strictly true of every boy or every girl. However, if we agree that boys and girls are different and can find ways to specifically be helpful to girls, why not teach the girls on their own, in a way most useful to them? There are many reasons why I think girls can excel more if they are working on their own. I’d love to talk with you about my thoughts on gender-specific education, but we’ll have to do that face-to-face as there just isn’t room here! It is sufficient enough to say, I enjoy thinking of ways to make learning a happy experience for a group of little girls and what I can do to get the most into their minds and out of their work in their first four years. Focusing on just their girlish needs and joys make teaching a girls class unique and fun!

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